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5 Kids’ Book Recs for Hidden Worlds Fans

Maggie and Abby's Neverending Pillow Fort by Will Taylor
Maggie and Abby's Neverending Pillow Fort by Will Taylor

Surprise journeys into magical hidden worlds have been a kids’ book staple for generations. Classic examples include Wonderland, Neverland, and Narnia, but if those are the only “through the looking glass” names that leap to mind, then we’ve got you covered with a bookshelf refresh.

Portland’s LAIKA Studios created a modern take on the format when they adapted Neil Gaiman’s 2002 book Coraline for their first film, striking audience gold with the sinister story of a young girl granted access to a secret world that appears to offer everything her heart desires… at least at first.

LAIKA will be returning to those literary roots in their next film, Wildwood, based on the 2011 Colin Meloy novel, in which 12-year-old Prue sets off into an enchanted forest lurking at the heart of Portland in hopes of rescuing her crow-napped baby brother. We’ll have to wait a bit for that, though, so for now here are five up-to-date “beyond the wardrobe” books guaranteed to satisfy any reader’s craving for hidden doorways, secret realms, and electrifying adventures already in progress.

THE GAUNTLET (Karuna Riazi)

12-year-old Farah and her friends must battle and decipher their way through an intricate mechanical city of deadly traps after an innocent-looking board game makes them its newest victims. Think fast-paced, steampunk, Middle Eastern-inspired Jumanji.

The Gauntlet

THIS WAS OUR PACT (Ryan Andrews)

This gorgeous graphic novel follows outcasts Ben and Nathaniel as they bike after their town’s floating lanterns on the night of the Autumn Equinox Festival, slowly slipping into a dreamlike, uncertain world that may or may not overlap our own. Miyazaki fans, this one’s for you!

This Was Our Pact


11-year-old Thom Ngho is strong. Super strong. And it’s making fitting in at middle school (not to mention soccer practice) impossible. When her attempt at fixing things accidentally frees the powerful trickster Monkey King from prison, Thom is forced to race through the heavens themselves to reach the only beings who can set things right before her mistake demolishes the actual entire world.

Girl Giant and the Monkey King


British-Nigerian tween Onyeka has always gotten a little too much attention for her extraordinary hair, but even she doesn’t learn how truly extraordinary it is until the day her hair rescues her best friend from drowning… on its own. Suddenly confronted with the news that she’s a member of a secret, superpowered group called the Solari, Onyeka is whisked off to the Academy of the Sun in Nigeria to learn as much as she can as fast as she can—because someone has terrible plans for the Solari, and Onyeka may be the only one who can stop them.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun


Set in Seattle! 12-year-old best friends Maggie and Abby think their summer is made when they discover a way to magically link up their pillow forts (hello midnight snack raids). But everything changes when a strange kid appears in Maggie’s fort with a summons. Turns out there’s a whole kingdom of linked-up pillow forts stretching around the globe, and the kids who run it enforce strict rules to keep everything hidden from the grownups. Now Maggie and Abby must race the clock to meet the Fort Alliance’s wild demands—or lose their fledgling network, and maybe their friendship, forever.

Maggie and Abby's Neverending Pillow Fort

All books are intended for readers 10 and up. Where to find them? We love Elliott Bay Book Company!

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Learn more about Hidden Worlds: The Films of LAIKA at MoPOP.

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