Classic fairy tales have always been popular among children, but sometimes the antiquated language and settings can seem foreign. These new novels are just as magical and otherworldly while also being fresh and fast-paced, highly appealing to 2018’s kids.

Into the Nightfell Wood

By Kristin Bailey; Katherine Tegan Books/HarperCollins; 359 pages; $16.99

Wynn had sad experiences in the “Otherworld” — her mother died, and her father wanted to get rid of her because it took her too long to think and her thumbs were shaped weird. With the help of the Fairy Queen, Wynn and her brother, Elric, ran away to the land Between, and Wynn loved her new life as a fairy princess … for a while. She enjoyed all the beauty and all the circles (fairies love circles), but now it’s just the same thing day in and day out, and nobody needs her for anything.

Into the Nightfell Wood

Things pick up in Kristin Bailey’s whimsy-filled tale, Into the Nightfell Wood, when the grief-stricken Fairy Queen allows their kingdom to be weakened and Wynn escapes into the Nightfell Wood. Kids will enjoy the adventure and cheer on Elric as he follows and tries to save his little sister. Real-life setbacks of fear, prejudice and evil play a role, with lots of witches, elves, woodland animals and monsters.


By Pete Hautman; Candlewick Press; 303 pages; $16.99

Beginning with a deadly storm ala The Wizard of Oz, Peter Hautman’s gripping novel for middle-grade readers, Otherwood, is a modern tale with a beloved grandfather/grandson relationship, an activist mother and boy who witnesses something unbelievable in the woods one day.

At this point, the known and unknown, reality and what might be all mix together, and Stuey and his friend Elly Rose try to make sense of it all.

Magic is certainly a key factor in Otherwood, and also sins of the past, grief and consequences. But the real magic comes when friendship, loyalty and forgiveness bind loved ones together.

Fortune’s Magic Farm

By Suzanne Selfors; Imprint/MacMillan; 290 pages; $15.99

More magic exists in Fortune’s Magic Farm, the wonderful new tale by Suzanne Selfors, which this time follows Roald Dahl’s tendency to lean on quirky darkness and whimsy.

Isabelle lives in rainy Runny Cove, in a world turned gray. A mysterious stranger arrives with promises of an inheritance, and invites Isabelle to a place full of sunshine and magic. Her new home is a farm with cherries that cure ills and fronds that make her fly, but is she truly happy?

Readers will find out when Isabelle returns to her gloomy home to try to use the new magic to stop the rain.

Already awarded several accolades including the Junior Library Guild Award, Fortune’s Magic Farm is delicious and darkly comical.

A Stitch in Time

By Daphne Kalmar; Feiwel and Friends; 167 pages; $16.99

A sort of a Cinderella story of a put-upon girl who summons the strength to move mountains, Daphne Kalmar’s Donut is an 11-year-old geography whiz who keeps her taxidermied mice hidden in her late mother’s hope chest. Her beloved pops also passed away, and all she’s got now is Aunt Agnes, who wants to drag her to Boston.

Donut will have none of it; she can’t stand to leave her beloved Vermont woods with memories of her pop, so she and her best friend do all they can to hatch a plan.

Kalmar’s evocative writing in A Stitch in Time and the book’s classic good looks and fairly short length help make it a girl-power fairy tale for modern kids.

My Father’s Words

By Patricia MacLachlan; HarperCollins; 133 pages; $15.99

Deceased parents play a role in many fairy tales and Disney movies, and also in beloved Patricia MacLachlan’s latest, My Father’s Words. A shorter, easier-to-read tale for kids 8 to 12, the book introduces siblings Fiona and Finn, who lose their father to a terrible accident. Their mother is grieving, but their friend Luke encourages them to volunteer at an animal rescue center, where they meet Jenny and Ralph, two “impossible” but sweet dogs in need of comfort.

Poignant and spot-on, MacLachlan magically knows giving comfort to other living things helps with the grieving process. Heartwarmingly, the kids’ fathers’ words give them hope, and help them help the dogs and themselves.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.