Magical realism is my favorite genre. I just love the idea of magic right under my nose in the real world! Sadly, there are no fairies in my backyard or ghosts in my attic, but reading about them makes their absence more bearable. Here are my top 4 magical realism picks that readers of all ages will enjoy!
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
My sister got this book for Christmas around two years ago, and I stole it from her as soon as she finished it. It follows 14-year-old Molly and 10-year-old Kip, two Irish siblings, who flee to England to escape the Irish Potato Famine. Since their parents are gone, Molly and Kip must work to support themselves. The only work they can find is at the Windsor estate–which, according to the inhabitants of the village around it, is haunted. At first, the Windsors themselves cause more problems than the supernatural, until Molly sees a strange man watering the front lawn by night.
The Night Gardener incorporates elements of Gothic novels and ghost stories. The protagonists grow throughout the course of the story, and even the minor characters are well fleshed-out. Auxier’s writing evokes a powerful sense of place and raises questions about ambition and sacrifice. Next time you’re in the mood for goosebumps and a good yarn, try The Night Gardener.
Bad Machinery #1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison
My graphic-novel loving art teacher/ step-aunt recommended this series to me, and I love it!
Kropotkin, a Russian tycoon, has bought Jack, Linton, and Sonny’s favorite football (soccer) team. The three boys take it upon themselves to figure out why the football club suddenly seems to be cursed. One such curse is Mrs. Biscuits, an elderly lady whose apartment stands in the way of the new football stadium. Shauna, her best friend Lottie, and Lottie’s new friend Mildred take Mrs. Biscuits’ side against Kropotkin. The groups of girls and boys, who happen to be rival sleuths already, race to solve the mystery surrounding Kropotkin, Mrs. Biscuits, and Tackleford City Football Club.
John Allison, British webcomic artist extraordinaire, had spent about 10 years writing comics set in Tackleford, a fictional Yorkshire town where magic lurks around every corner. He set Bad Machinery, his series of graphic novels for young readers, in Tackleford as well. The characters are distinct and hilarious, and I laughed out loud after every page. The Case of the Team Spirit is a delightful new take on the classic “mystery-solving kids” genre.
The Various by Steve Augarde
A friend gave this to me after she went to England. It’s not too well-known in the United States, but it should be!
12-year-old Midge has been dumped at her uncle’s farm for the summer while her mother travels the world with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. After discovering a tiny injured pegasus in the barn, Midge’s world is changed forever. Somehow her past and future are linked to the Various, tribes of faerie-like people who live in the woods. When Uncle Brian considers selling the farm, Midge must balance her family life with the concerns of the Various.
The storyworld of The Various is fantastic. The five tribes of the various have their own unique dialects and mannerisms, most of them based on old English or Celtic. Augarde still manages to make it easy to remember which tribe is which, and the ordinary world setting complements the fantasy elements. If you’re into macabre faerie stories, or if you want a fun summer read, I’d recommend The Various.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood
I’ve loved this series since I was in fourth grade. Every time I reread it, I love it even more!
15-year-old Penelope Lumley has just graduated from the Swanburne School for Poor Bright Females when she gets a job as a governess at Ashton Place. Her three pupils, wards of Lord Frederick Ashton, were literally raised by wolves. Alternately conjugating Latin verbs and fleeing for their lives from bands of pirates, Penelope and her students are swept into a mystery involving an ancient curse, a perfectly nice young playwright, a fortune-teller, and Penelope’s long-lost parents.
With a plucky heroine to root for and endless unanswered questions, all five books of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place are wonderful. Wood alternates between Penelope’s point of view and that of an omniscient narrator who comments on the present era as well as Penelope’s. Bits of Penelope’s English lessons make their way into the narrative, and readers learn about iambic pentameter and synonyms as they read the story. Chock-full of Victorian charm, with well-developed characters and a gripping plot, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place is impossible to put down.
What do you think of the books on my list? What are your favorite magical realism books? Let me know in comments!
Featured image from Unsplash.