Magical Realism, Fantasy, & Mystery

English 1 Independent Reading

Book Talks & Checking Out Books

Your librarian will discuss the differences between the genres of magical realism, fantasy, and mystery.

You may also look through the book stacks. Don't ask the teacher or librarian, "Will this book work?" Instead, explain why you feel the book might meet the requirements of the assignment and see if the teacher/librarian agrees!

Magical Realism

  • set in the realistic modern world
  • examples of magical elements: levitation, flight, mind-reading, living beyond human lifespan, witch-like abilities, unexplained time travel (no machine)
  • magic is unexplained--it "just is."
  • examples from children's literature: Holes by Louis Sachar and Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo


  • set in "fantastic" world, or exists parallel to our modern world
  • characters may not be human, or may interact with nonhumans (giants, monsters, elves, fairies, etc).
  • depends on magic, folklore, and mythology
  • does not depend upon science to explain the impossible: that's the difference between fantasy and science fiction
  • examples from children's literature: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis


It can be a tough call. If you are unsure, go through the elements of each genre again. Ask a friend. Ask a parent. Ask a teacher. Ask a librarian. You might need to finish reading the entire book before you feel ready to make a judgment call.


  • realistic setting, may be modern or historical
  • centers on the solving of a mystery, typically a suspenseful mystery where the characters are in danger
  • crime mysteries solve murders, thefts, kidnappings, and other various crimes
  • detective mysteries feature a character with great powers of observation that all allow him or her to make connections others cannot. Ex: Sherlock Holmes
  • examples from children's literature: the Nancy Drew series, the Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler and A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy.


You can check out digital copies of current YA books for a period of 2 weeks on OverDrive. You can download them to your devices or home computer. You can’t print these titles or have the copy to keep. Here’s how to access these:

  • Visit our OverDrive site.

  • Type your student ID number.

  • Click "Explore" at the top and choose "Mystery and Suspense".

  • “Borrow” the book

  • Download to a device or read on your computer.

Certain public domain titles are available in unlimited quantities from OverDrive. You can download these to your devices or read them on your computer. You don't have to check them out, so once you download them you have them forever. Free!

Here's how:

  • Visit our OverDrive site.

  • Type your student ID number.

  • Click "Explore" at the top and choose "Classic Ebooks".

  • Under Browse Subjects, choose "Mystery and Thriller" or "Science Fiction and Fantasy".

  • Download to a device or read on your computer.