Eight Fantastical Books That Center Black Tweens

These eight middle grade fantasy titles, with a plethora of magical elements and many stories inspired by folklore or tradition, put Black protagonists at their center.

Montage of details from the eight covers showing depictions of the tween protagonists.


These eight middle grade fantasy titles, with a plethora of magical elements and many stories inspired by folklore or tradition, put Black protagonists at their center.

Alston, B.B. Amari and the Night Brothers. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9780062975164.
Gr 3-7Amari’s older brother has mysteriously disappeared, and her only clue to his whereabouts is a ticking briefcase she finds in his closet. This leads Amari on an adventure to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, where she encounters an abundance of fantastical creatures, as well as allies and foes. This action-packed adventure story brimming with magical creatures, friendship, and a healthy dose of #BlackGirlMagic is guaranteed to thrill fans of middle grade fantasy.

Barron, Rena. Maya and the Rising Dark. HMH. ISBN 9781328635181.
Gr 5-7Strange things begin to happen to comic book-loving Maya, who discovers that she is no ordinary girl, but a godling, a half-orisha. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark. When he suddenly goes missing, it’s up to Maya and her two best friends to save him from the Lord of Shadows. Barron expertly weaves a nail-biting adventure featuring a diverse cast and elements of African folklore that is sure to excite any reader.

Bourne, Shakirah. Josephine Against the Sea. Scholastic. Jul. 2021. ISBN 9781338642087.
Gr 3-7Josephine had always successfully scared off her father’s girlfriends by pranking them, but her father’s newest girlfriend, Mariss, is not going to be scared off easily. Surprisingly, Mariss is a River Mumma (that Josephine accidentally summoned), and now Josephine and her friend Akhai have to defeat Mariss before her father pays the price. This entertaining read features a determined heroine and is filled with many references to creatures from Caribbean mythology.

Getten, Kereen. When Life Gives You Mangoes. Delacorte. Oct. 2020. ISBN 9780593173978.
Gr 3-7Clara’s life on the island where she lives is usually idyllic, with her days spent playing with her friends and eating mangos. The only thing wrong with Clara is that she doesn’t remember what happened last summer. With a new girl coming to live on the island, old friends falling apart, and a surprising revelation, this summer is going to be one that Clara will never forget. The story’s twists and turns will grip middle grade readers right up to the jaw-dropping ending.

Henderson, Leah. The Magic in Changing Your Stars. Sterling. Aug. 2020. ISBN 9781454934066.
Gr 3-7When rap and dance-loving Ailey freezes during an audition, his grampa tells him a secret about a chance he regretted not taking. Transported back in time thanks to some magical tap shoes, Ailey has a chance to help Grampa change his stars. In the process, learns the importance of not giving up and trying again. References to Black Excellence abound in this heartwarming tale of family, magical realism, and living a life without regrets.

Mbalia, Kwame. Tristan Strong Destroys the World. Rick Riordan Presents. Oct. 2020. ISBN 9781368042383.
Gr 3-7In the second installment of the "Tristan Strong" series, Tristan returns to Alke and encounters even more characters from Black Folklore, such as Keelboat Annie, Mami Wata, and a powerful new adversary called the Shamble Man. The Shamble Man kidnapped Tristan’s grandmother, requiring Tristan to join forces with new and old allies to save her. This excellent continuation introduces even more Black folk heroes, while taking readers on Tristan’s journey as he comes to terms with the events of the first book.

Okorafo, Nnedi. Ikenga. Viking. Aug. 2020. ISBN 9780593113523.
Gr 4-8Nnamdi, still grappling with his father’s murder the year before, is given an Ikenga that grants him superhuman strength and senses. Nnamdi uses them to tackle the crime plaguing his community, but he must learn to control these new powers. Superhero fans will especially enjoy this action-packed origin story that delves into important topics like managing tough emotions and processing grief.

Royce, Eden. Root Magic. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9780062899576.
Gr 3- 7After her grandmother dies, Jez and her brother, Jay, learn their family’s root magic. These lessons come in handy as Jez is faced with opposition in many forms, from the racist deputy that harasses her family to the dangerous spirits that live near her. The focus on family traditions, friendship, and being true to oneself will delight and inspire readers.

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