Middle Grade: Speculative Fiction

Speculative fiction can often be described as “what if” books, where an author reinvents a law or rule of our society or world, and then writes from there. The genre of speculative fiction enjoys immense popularity and captivates a diverse audience. Within this genre, readers are exposed to an expansive array of themes, such as fantastical or futuristic settings, space exploration, supernatural elements, apocalyptic scenarios, reimagined historical narratives, and much more.

Storytelling is a defining hallmark of Native culture, it has deep-rooted significance as an integral part of our rich traditions. It is crucial not only to depict Native stories from past and present perspectives, but to also incorporate the unique lens of speculative fiction into those narratives.

Book cover of Lei and the Fire Goddess

Lei and the Fire Goddess


Malia Maunakea (Native Hawaiian)


Curses aren’t real—at least, that’s what twelve-year-old, part-Hawaiian Anna Leilani Kamaʻehu thinks when she listens to her grandmother’s folktales about sacred flowers and family guardians. So when Anna goes back to Hawaiʻi to visit her Tūtū, she has no interest in becoming the heir to her family’s history; she’s set on having a touristy, fun vacation.

But when Anna accidentally insults Pele the fire goddess by destroying her lehua blossom, a giant hawk swoops in and kidnaps her best friend, and she quickly learns just how real these moʻolelo are. In order to save her friends and family, Anna must battle mythical creatures, team up with demigods and talking bats, and evade the traps Pele hurls her way.

Book cover of Sisters of the Neversea

Sisters of the Neversea


Cynthia Leitich Smith (Musgocee Nation)


Lily and Wendy have been best friends since they became stepsisters, but with their feuding parents planning to spend the summer apart, what will become of their family—and their friendship? Little do they know that a mysterious boy has been watching them from the oak tree outside their window. A boy who intends to take them away from home for good, to an island of wild animals, Merfolk, Fairies, and kidnapped children—a boy who calls himself Peter Pan.

In this Indigenous retelling of Peter Pan, young readers will enjoy embarking on a journey full of mythical creatures and magical elements. Leitich Smith expertly subverts the flaws of the original story into strengths, while remaining firmly rooted in the magic of the story.

Book cover of Tiger Lily and the Secret Treasure of Neverland

Tiger Lily and the Secret Treasure of Neverland


Cherie Dimaline (Metis Nation of Ontario)


Tiger Lily and her community, the Indigenous people of Neverland, possess a unique ability: they can choose to grow up. But for now, Tiger Lily is enjoying being thirteen, spending time with her grandmother and exploring alongside her horse and her friends. Then Tiger Lily uncovers a plot by two of Captain Hook’s pirates, who are searching for a mysterious, powerful treasure. Determined to protect Neverland, Tiger Lily sets out on a very grown-up mission: find the treasure first, and keep it out of the pirates’ reckless hands.

In this Indigenous reimagining of Peter Pan, readers will delve into the Indigenous community of Neverland, with Tiger Lily taking center stage. Dimaline uses this opportunity to right the gross misrepresentation of Native people from the original classic.

Book cover of The Storyteller

The Storyteller


Brandon Hobson (Cherokee Nation)


Ziggy has ANXIETY. Partly this is because of the way his mind works, and how overwhelmed he can get when other people (especially his classmate Alice) are in the room; and partly it’s because his mother disappeared when he was very young, making her one of many Native women who’ve gone mysteriously missing. Ziggy and his sister, Moon, want answers, but nobody can provide them.

Once Ziggy gets it in his head that clues to his mother’s disappearance may be found in a nearby cave, there’s no stopping him from going there. Along with Moon, Alice, and his best friend, Corso, he sets out on a mind-bending adventure where he’ll discover his story is tied to all the stories of the Cherokees who have come before him.

This book is an epic hero’s quest that is “reminiscent of a folklore anthology” (SLJ) and tied to Cherokee stories.


Speculative Fiction is a popular genre for young readers, and it’s important that readers are offered varied perspectives. This list offers those diverse pathways for delving into the expansive realm of speculative fiction.

Headshot of author Stacy Wells

About the Author

Stacy Wells

Stacy Wells, an enrolled member of Choctaw Nation, is a youth librarian serving families and their children from birth to teens. She is the Executive Assistant for the American Indian Library Association, on the steering committee for the North Texas Teen Book Festival, and is a community advocate for kids with dyslexia. Stacy’s debut picture book, STRONGER THAN co-written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is forthcoming in 2025 (HarperCollins/Heartdrum). She lives in Texas with her family.