But that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about Fantasy with a capital F. Fantasy in general, sure, but Middle Grade Fantasy too, as this is Project Middle Grade Mayhem, after all.
Fantasy comes in a lot of flavors. High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, and Grimdark, just to name a few. There's even Young Adult Fantasy, and Middle Grade Fantasy. But what does all of it have in common? Well, it's imaginative. It's escapist. It's other-worldly.
Sometimes that other world is right under our noses, like in Neil Gaiman's NEVERWHERE, and sometimes that other world is simply under our cities, like in Hilary Wagner's NIGHTSHADE CITY, but always it's something secondary to reality, something fascinating, and dreamlike, and dare I say? Poetic.
Before I go on, listen to George Martin of Game of Thrones fame talk about his love of fantasy:
See what I mean? Who wouldn't rather finish out their days in one of those fantastical lands? Sure, some of them are rife with danger, but they're also so alive with color, and passion, and verve, and beauty.
I haven't personally written any stories I would truly call fantasy (or Fantasy), at least not yet, but I've always loved to read it, and I hope to someday have the courage to try my hand at writing it. My father instilled his love of reading in me from an early age, after reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings aloud to us children. From there my elementary school teachers introduced me to Lloyd Alexander's Prydain, and Padraic Colum's King of Ireland's Son, and countless other tales of myth and magical mystery.
These stories awoke something deep within me. Not just a love of story, but a kind of sense of a safe haven in imagination. A place to go when I had a bad day, or life got me down, or something difficult occurred that I needed time to unpack. Not to say that running away from all your problems forever is the wisest way to lead your life, but sometimes a little escape can help you catch your breath again.
I'm a big fan of most of the famous Fantasy tale-spinners, the Tolkiens, the Le Guins, the Martins, the McCaffreys, but I'm really enjoying discovering what a wealth of modern Fantasy there is, especially being written "for children," and especially for Middle Grade Readers.
I have recently loved books like IRON HEARTED VIOLET, by Kelly Barnhill, and FROSTBORN, by Lou Anders, and I certainly enjoyed NIGHTSHADE CITY, KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, and THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING, back when I read those titles.
What are some of your favorite Middle Grade Fantasy novels? What is one you think I should absolutely read next?