There are memories that seem magical in hindsight, plus everyday occurrences that are magical when a person possesses the right frame of mind to perceive it so. The following tales contain fantasy and magic, but also beautifully depict elements of the extraordinary in everyday life.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
This dream-like novel is told from the point of view of an unnamed protagonist, visiting his childhood home for a funeral. While there, he wanders down a lane and finds the Hempstock’s farmhouse, and an air of familiarity for the place, with its cows and pond. Then he remembers. He remembers his seventh year, where he met eleven-year-old Lettie Hempstock, who showed him the ocean at the end of her lane, how it protected him from the monstrous things he could not understand. Lettie was older and appeared to know everything in our young protagonist’s eyes: how to summon, how to bind, and how to carry the ocean in a bucket. This novel explores the realm of troubling and strange childhood memories that fade into adulthood, but are always there, waiting to resurface.
Time of the Locust by Morowa Yejide
Much of majestic and imaginative novel takes place from the point of view of Sephiri, a young boy with autism, who begins to exhibit extraordinary behavior when he begins to draw, with total accuracy, an extinct species of locust and Black Plains penitentiary. As his mother Brenda tries to understand this behavior and connect with her son, she recognizes Black Plains, where Sephiri has never been, and where Sephiri’s father Horus has been imprisoned. Non-verbal Sephiri tries to understand his existence in his imaginative World of Water, where a mysterious yet familiar-looking man visits him. At the same time, Horus is forced to endure solitary confinement, and he begins to imagine he is on a boat talking to a young boy. Are Sephiri’s and Horus’ imaginings real? This novel contains beautiful imagery of how the mind frees the suffering of Sephiri and Horus, imprisoned in their separate worlds.
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Maggie is attending public school for the first time, joining her older brothers in as she enters ninth grade. Maggie and her brothers were home-schooled by their mother until they reached high school, and Maggie is struggling to adjust to this new world since their mother has left the family just before this important milestone. While her older brothers Daniel, Lloyd, and Zander are busy with their own high school lives, Maggie seeks to make friends outside of her family for the first time, with whom she can share a secret her family does not know. A ghost that only Maggie can see follows her around town and often visits her house, yet never speaks to Maggie, even as she tries to find out what the ghost wants. While the ghost is a motivating factor for Maggie’s actions in this graphic novel, what this tale perfectly depicts are the emotions and struggles of fitting in as a teen in a new world, and the supernatural element is treated as normal and not extraordinary.
Among Others by Jo Walton
Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Among Others is part magical tale, part meditation on science fiction and literature, as our hero, Morwenna, is an avid science fiction reader and experienced in true magic. At the beginning of the book, we meet Morwenna when her life has gone through a total upheaval, having just survived a battle against her mother’s dark magic, leaving her injured, her twin sister lost, and now living with her estranged father. Taking solace in books, Morwenna frequents the library and joins and science fiction book club, and many classic authors are discussed in depth and in passing, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Robert Silverberg, Poul Anderson, Anne McCaffrey and many more. When her mother’s dark magic begins to manifest again in her new life, Morwenna has to prepare for one final confrontation with her mother, who has been consumed by madness and darkness. All of Morwenna’s experiences with literature, magic, and the mystical you sometimes spot out of the corner of your eye form a magnificent tale.
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
"One night each week he was allowed to leave his father, his mother, and his younger brother Tom asleep in their small house next door and run here, up the dark spiral stairs to his grandparents’ cupola, and in this sorcerer’s tower sleep with thunders and visions, to wake before the crystal jingle of milk bottles and perform his ritual magic. He stood at the open window in the dark, took a deep breath and exhaled. The street lights, like candles on a black cake, went out. He exhaled again and again and the stars began to vanish. Douglas smiled."
Thus begins the summer of 1928, where Douglas Spalding discovers that he is truly alive, makes lists of rites, ceremonies, discoveries, and revelations of this magical summer, when sneakers make you run as fast as an antelope, when blank fortunes are dispensed from the fortune teller machine, when a human is also a time machine, and when dandelion wine is made to bottle the essence of a summer. Bradbury’s poetic language make magic out of the ordinary. This book is also the most perfect story of summer.