Ten brilliant books about fairies and fairyland
Published on: 08 December 2023
We at BookTrust appreciate the magic of a story about fairies, and how it can capture a child’s imagination. We asked Peter Bunzl for some recommendations.
I love fairy stories. When I wrote Glassborn I wanted to create a fantasy adventure that combined historical detail with traditional myths, legends and tales of the fae and fairyland. Here are some books I have enjoyed that I think do the same thing, plus a few set in contemporary worlds that are also beset with troublesome Fairies.
Fairy Spell by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
A lovely picture book for older readers about the story of the Cottingley fairies, and how, in 1917, two little girls convinced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the world that fairies were real. Evocative illustrations, photographs and newspaper clippings supplement the story. If you are interested in historical picture books, this is a good one.
The Chimeseekers by Ross Montgomery
A brilliant portal adventure for 9+ about a boy called Yanni and his cousin Amy, who must travel to fairyland with the help of a changeling and rescue Yanni’s baby brother, who has been kidnapped by a wicked fairy lord. Inspired by the movie Labyrinth, it is full to the brim with Ross’s witty, zippy writing, and is a cracking adventure to boot!
Fablehouse by E. L. Norry
A beautiful, thoughtfully-written tale for 9+ of four Black mixed-heritage children, GI babies, living in a fictional post-war care home surrounded by forests and cairns, who get entangled with Arthurian knights and evil fae from other times and dimensions. I love the detailed fantastic and realist world and the camaraderie of Heather and her crew of Roamers.
Otherland by Louis Stowell
Short, snappy and full of zingy one-liners. This is one of the funniest kids-go-to-fairy-land middle grade book I’ve read. Louie Stowell is a comic genius. Pacy and distilled to perfection. Kids will love this irreverent adventure, with age-appropriate (8+) LGBTQ representation.
The Sky Beneath the Stone by Alex Mullarky
A wonderful contemporary fairytale portal adventure for 10+ set in the Lake District, taking in traditional myths and stories from the area, with great age-appropriate LGBTQ representation, and an ending that involves peace and understanding rather than a big battle. You can even visit the places in the story as there are map coordinates at the start of each chapter!
Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna
A cosy magical story for 9+ of witches and faeries. Lots of faerie and witch lore and some great world-building makes this a very enjoyable read. There are Enid Blyton and Worst Witchvibes. The main character Cassie is a relatable heroine, called ‘a brick’ by her friends. There are run-down boarding schools and girl guide japes aplenty, and the story is beautifully paced, making it a very pleasant read.
Wilder than Midnight by Cerrie Burnell
A fantastic read. Three strong heroines. Wild woods, wolves, hidden royalty, magic. Its interesting new take on classic fairytale motifs reads a little like Angela Carter for 9+! I loved it a lot.
Like a Charm by Elle Mcnicoll
A classic fantasy novel for 9+, and a great companion read to A Kind of Spark. It takes magic and witchcraft and places them in the real world. Ramya, the dyspraxicheroine at its centre, discovers the magical secrets of her family, and takes up her grandfather's investigations into the incredible fairytale creatures that inhabit the city of Edinburgh.
The Elemental Detectives by Patrice Lawrence
Imagine a version of Rivers of Londonfor 9+ set in the Georgian era with two young Black heroes and you will get some idea of the vibe of this book. Marisee and Robert face down the supernatural creatures of London to defeat the Shepherdess and the sleeping sickness she has laid over the city. An action-packed adventure, full of historical detail about Georgian London.
The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
This young adult book is like a cross between the Hunger Games and a portal fairy tale fantasy. Every teenager in Ireland will eventually be ‘called’ to fairyland for three minutes and four seconds to face the brutal and terrible sidhe – fairies who rejoice in hunting down and killing and maiming of children in awful ways. Nessa had polio as a youngster and has only the full use of one of her legs, but that just means she trains harder at her Survival Academy, so determined is she to be the one who survives The Call. An edge of the seat thrill ride of a read that you won’t want to put down.
Glassborn by Peter Bunzl is out now.