Brilliant inclusive middle fiction fantasy

Magical powers, mythical monsters and strange other worlds are popular with young readers aged 8-12, who seek adventure, wonder and understanding through fantasy stories. Fantasy books can also be a great vehicle to represent a full and inclusive range of relatable characters and diverse mythologies.

Here are some of our favourite fantasy books that champion cultural and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity.


Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

When Lalani Sarita’s mother pricks her finger and falls ill with deadly mender’s disease, she gives twelve-year-old Lalani an impossible task – leave the island of Sanlagita and find the riches of the legendary Mount Isa, which towers on an island to the north. Generations of men and boys have died on the same quest. How can a timid young girl survive the epic tests of the archipelago?

Inspired by Filipino folktales, this is a classic heroic quest story full of mythical creatures, wondrous plants and dangerous adventure. For ages 9 and up.


Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Thirteen-year-old Min comes from a long line of fox spirits, but her mother insists that none of the family can use any fox-magic and must appear human at all times. When word arrives that her older brother Jun is suspected of deserting the Space Forces to search for the mystical Dragon Pearl, Min runs away from her home planet to go undercover as a Cadet on a spaceship where she befriends a young non-binary troll. She’s forced to use her fox-magic more than ever before as she gets closer and closer to some galaxy-sized secrets.

This unique sci-fi/fantasy blends fast-paced space opera with dragons, ghosts and other aspects of Korean mythology. For ages 8 and up.


Ubby’s Underdogs: The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon by Brenton McKenna

It is the late 1940s and Broome is still recovering from WWII. Ubby, a smart, street-wise Aboriginal girl, is the leader of a small rag-tag gang known as the ‘Underdogs'. Trying to make a name for the Underdogs, she meets Sai Fong, a Chinese girl just off the boat from Shanghai. From the moment Ubby and Sai Fong meet they find themselves thrown into bizarre adventures full of myths and legends and everything from ancient mechanical demons to fantastic beasts – and secrets never before exposed.

Author Brenton McKenna draws on his Malaysian and Aboriginal heritage to create this unique Australian graphic novel brimming with action, friendship, history and magical intrigue. For ages 10 and up.


Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan

When a fierce quake strikes the remote island of Bluehaven, and her father disappears, Jane Doe is thrown headfirst into an epic quest to bring him home. Her father is lost in the Manor; a dangerous labyrinth of shifting rooms, infernal booby traps and secret gateways to other worlds. And Jane has to find him fast, because someone else is searching for him. The fate of her world, and maybe all worlds, rests on her shoulders… Jane is joined in her mission by her pyromanic friend Violet and the enigmatic Hickory, as she battles the Manor and evil villain Roth.

This exciting fantasy read hurtles along at breakneck speed, and the gentle romantic feelings that blossom between Jane and Violet develop further in book two, Jane Doe and the Key of All Souls. For ages 11 and up.


Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

Asha lives on the family farm with her mother in rural India. Her father works in the city, but when the money he sends stops and a debt collector arrives, Asha must try to save the family and their property. Guided by a majestic lamagaia bird which Asha believes to be the spirit of her grandmother, she and her best friend Jeevan attempt to cross the Himalayas and find her father in the distant city.

This is a vivid and atmospheric story set in contemporary India. Asha is a delightfully confident heroine who must learn to get along better with her friend, while learning more about her spirituality, ancestors and burgeoning magic. For ages 9 and up.


The Whispers by Greg Howard

Eleven-year-old Riley’s mother went missing months ago and no one in his family will talk about it. Bullied and living in a small town where Christianity looms large, Riley is weighed down with guilt over his crush on a boy. He stakes all his hopes in ‘The Whispers’ from his mother’s favourite story – magical creatures that grant wishes if you leave them offerings. An ambitious plan sees Riley heading into the woods with two friends and his dog, to communicate with The Whispers and get his mother back.

This gently unfolding mystery explores the painful real-life challenges of a tween with imagination, magic and humour, touching on serious themes of grief, prejudice and self-acceptance. For ages 10 and up.


Children of the Dragon: The Relic of the Blue Dragon (Book 1) by Rebecca Lim

When Harley Spark picks up a dusty old vase on the street, he has no idea he is about to unleash unpredictable forces of magic and history. The vase releases Qing, a Chinese girl from a long-ago dynasty, who has special abilities and a desperate mission to find her lost sisters. Harley and Qing cross the globe, getting tangled up in a complex web of organised crime and family secrets.

Funny, thrilling and full of action worth of a kung fu movie, The Relic of the Blue Dragon is a highly enjoyable mash-up of ancient Chinese myth, modern-day setting, and an Australian family with Chinese heritage. For ages 8 and up.


Sea Sirens by Amy Chu & Janet K Lee

Vietnamese-American girl Trot surfs with her cranky one-eyed rescue cat, Cap'n Bill, while keeping an eye on her nearby grandpa, who has dementia and likes to fish. One day Trot and Cap'n Bill wipe out on a massive wave, and get sucked down into a magical underwater kingdom where an ancient deep-sea battle rages between Sirens and Serpents. The beautiful Sea Siren mermaids are under attack from the Serpent King and his slithery minions – and Trot and her feline become dangerously entangled in this war of tails and fins.

This beautiful graphic novel was inspired by L. Frank Baum’s The Sea Fairies. It weaves Vietnamese mythology, fantastical ocean creatures, and fast-paced adventure into a sweet and magical story. For ages 8 and up.

Leanne Hall is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Kids. She also writes books for children and young adults.

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Asha & the Spirit Bird

Asha & the Spirit Bird

Jasbinder Bilan

$16.99Buy now

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