Upper Elementary Book Club – Fantasy and the Hero’s Journey

For the month of November, the Upper Elementary Book Club voted on which genre to explore. And the winner is: fantasy and the hero’s journey! Each of the novels below offer nontraditional takes on traditional fantasy or fairy tale elements. Upper Elementary readers will follow characters through adventure and danger as they face their fears, overcome seemingly impossible obstacles and find their true heroic selves.


In the mythical town of Zombay, a young orphan named Rownie is determined to find his missing brother. Like all the town’s orphans, Rownie lives in the house of an evil witch named Graba, who uses him as a servant. As he is out on one of Graba’s errands, Rownie meets a troupe of goblins who travel and put on plays, an activity which is strictly forbidden in Zombay. When Rownie learns the goblins can help him find his brother, he escapes Graba’s house and joins their troupe. What follows is an adventure that is sometimes very dark, sometimes funny and always exciting. Goblin Secrets combines elements of fairy tale magic and steampunk fantasy to create an incredible world filled with unforgettable characters.

Breadcrumbs is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” set in modern-day Minnesota and told from the perspective of 11-year-old Hazel. Hazel’s life is not easy. She is adopted and the only dark-skinned person in her family. She doesn’t have many friends and is misunderstood by her teachers. And her father left. The one thing Hazel had was Jack, her best friend. But one day, out of nowhere, Jack stopped talking to Hazel. Everyone tells Hazel that boys and girls just grow apart, that it’s just a part of growing up, but Hazel knows better. She knows that Jack is cursed and she sets out into the terrifying, snowy woods to find him. Breadcrumbs blends a classic fairy tale with mythology, pop-culture and literary references, and real-life problems into a rich and emotionally powerful story.

On her twelfth birthday, Farah and her two best friends must go on a quest to find her little brother Ahmed, who is lost inside an ancient and magical game. Inside the game, the friends find themselves in Paheli, a land full of beautiful Islamic architecture and a bustling market that remind Farah of Bangladesh and India—places that are part of her family’s history. The friends must face the game’s challenges and defeat the Architect to rescue Ahmed and escape. With the help of a lizard and the pilot of a hot air balloon, the friends face all sorts of magical, mythical creatures, as well as the Architect’s spies. The Gauntlet weaves Islamic culture and history together with fantasy and adventure to tell a story of family, friendship and loyalty. This book is also the first book of a series, so readers can follow even more of Farah’s adventures!

Lola Budge is not like other wombats. She is inquisitive, curious, chatty and bored. All she wants to do is explore. So when all the other wombats are asleep, Lola sneaks out of her burrow to explore Tassie Island, to find out what else is out there in the world. She meets a platypus with a secret message, but doesn’t understand it. She heads back to her burrow and finds the other wombats, including her family, being carted away in a cage by the Tasmanian devils. Lola’s mother sees her from the cage and shouts out to her to find her uncle. Lola sets off to find him, alone and afraid. Along the way, she meets Melvin and Blue, a rat and a baby penguin, who join her adventure and help her find her true courage and strength. Braver is pure anthropomorphic fantasy, filled with fun, quirky characters and lively adventure.