Why magical stories keep young children reading

Published on: 03 May 2023

Certain stories can stir the imagination and fly their readers away to wonderful new worlds! Here, Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch author Derek Keilty shares some of his favourite magical stories for children...

Why magical stories stay with us

Why do children love magical stories so much? I think it’s because they transport them to a new world that completely deviates from their own. Kids can find fun and mystery in fantasy settings that exaggerate the more mundane attributes of life. For a young person, a typical day is up and off to school, lessons, homework etc. But what if instead it’s a young witch who goes to ‘witch school’ and who, one stormy night, in a terrible panic, finds herself struggling to think of the magic spells lesson her teacher taught the class last week, after her parents go missing? Add a broomstick in place of a bike or scooter and, hey presto, it’s time to take to the sky and explore a mysterious land full of sorcery and surprises.

Growing up, some of my favourite books were The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, The Witches by Roald Dahl, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. Stories filled with magical worlds that defied the laws of physics. Though the authors were careful not to push the boundaries too far, as the story still has to be believable.  

My current favourite early chapter books, the area in which I’m writing at the moment, are the Isadora Moon books by Harriet Muncaster, the Naughtiest Unicorn series by Pip Bird and David O’Connell and the ‘fangtastic’ Amelia Fang by Lauren Ellen Anderson.

'First readers' for young ones migrating from picture books are so important as they can help children catch the reading bug early, so they grow up to become life-long readers.

Isadora Moon, illustrated by Harriet MuncasterIsadora Moon, illustrated by Harriet Muncaster

Characters to remember

Magic can hook kids into a story in the same way as humour or scary bits, and combining all three is a sure-fire winner! And, of course, they give authors, like those mentioned above, the chance to create wonderfully memorable characters, who are the most important thing of all, as I tell pupils during my creative writing workshops around schools. I’ve been doing school and library events for over twenty years and still love it. It’s a lot of fun as well as rewarding helping the children to create characters and story plans during workshop sessions, hopefully inspiring and encouraging them to not just keep reading but also to have a go at writing magical stories of their own.

I finish with a quote from Roald Dahl’s last book, The Minpins:

“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch by Derek Kielty and illustrated by Magda Brol, is out now.

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