Five favourite children’s books with a sprinkle of magic

Published on: 12 May 2024

Author Radhika Sanghani recommends five brilliant stories with just a hint of magic.

Growing up, I loved reading books with worlds that looked similar to my own – but where there was one big difference – a magical one.

It didn’t matter to me exactly what that magical difference was; I just loved that it existed. And now as an author, I’ve chosen to write a children’s book that does exactly that!

The Girl Who Couldn’t Lie is all about Priya Shah, a 12-year-old dealing with the pressures of balancing schoolwork with her gymnastics career, the emotional stress of her parents arguing more than ever, and the fact that her crush Dan Zhang still hasn’t noticed her. Priya handles everything by pretending she’s absolutely fine all the time.

Until she puts on a bangle left to her by her grandma before she died and suddenly everything changes. Because Priya finds that she can no longer lie. She has to tell the full truth to everyone in her life – her family, her best friends Sami and Mei, the school bully, and worst of all, Dan Zhang.

Priya’s life completely changes as she is forced to be honest, and even though things go very, very wrong at times, she eventually learns the power of speaking her truth – all with the help of a little bit of magic.

Here, I’ve put together a list of my top five children’s books that have a similar sprinkling of magic in them. They range from historical classics to contemporary findings, but they all have something magical to say…

Matilda by Roald Dahl

This is probably one of my most-read books because I never get bored of the story of Matilda Wormwood, who was unfortunate enough to be born to terrible parents but was lucky enough to have the most amazing talents. Not only is she super smart (and very importantly, an avid reader), but Matilda soon discovers she has magical powers where she can make things move simply using her mind.

It leads her on a journey to try and take down the awful Miss Trunchbull, as well as introducing her to the lovely Miss Honey. It’s a beautiful story of courage, humour and friendship, and I think every child should read it!

Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

This is the tale of Asha, who goes on a journey to save her family when her father disappears and her desperate mother is about to lose their home to loan sharks. With the help of her grandma’s spirit, who has come back to her in the form of a bird, Asha embarks on a journey through northern India, facing scary adventures, all with her best friend Jeevan by her side.

They end up in terrifying situations, but every time they’re about to lose hope, the spirit of her grandma guides them onwards until they discover the strength inside of them. Even though Asha’s goal was to find her father, above all, she ends up finding herself.

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

This childhood classic tells of the adventures of Joe, Beth and Frannie as they take their cousin Rick up into a magic tree they’ve discovered at the bottom of their garden. It’s filled with unforgettable characters, from Moon Face, Silky the fairy and Mr Watzisname, not to mention the terrifying Sandman who could end up trapping the children in dream lands if they don’t escape his powers to put them to sleep.

No matter how long it has been since I’ve been engrossed in these stories, the characters are always with me, and it’s inspired me to always look out for unexpected magic.

A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived in the New Land to begin a New Life – but it’s nothing like Meixing imagined, and she feels lost and confused in her new school and world. When something truly awful happens, the only thing that saves Meixing from total despair is their new house, with its magical glasshouse and a black and white cat in a bowtie.

This unusual story is based on the author’s childhood, and is filled with a message of hope – that with the help of friends, kindness and a little bit of magic, everything will be okay in the end.

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

There’s a lot of magic in this book, as it’s based in a fantasy world full of wonder and fear, but it’s also an addictive coming-of-age story of a girl called Luna whose magical abilities start to be revealed as she turns 13.

Luna ends up facing battles and evils she never imagined she’d come across, and makes friends that help her along the way. It’s a beautifully written story of friendship and enchantment, and I simply couldn’t put it down when I read it!

The Girl Who Couldn’t Lie by Radhika Sanghani is out now.

Topics: Features


Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles.

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