You’re never too old to fall in love with the magic and mystery that make fairy tales come to life.

High school students (and adults) still love to be surprised by an author’s imagination, to feel like they’re part of a story where the seemingly impossible happens on every page.

Mix in some romance, some fierce competition and a little bit of danger, and you’ve got my last fairy tale pick:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Grades 9-12, Lexile: 950)

Have you ever read a book that just rattles around in your head for a while after you’re done with it?

The Night Circus is one of those books for me.The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Last summer, I went to visit a close friend in Boston. I don’t really like buying t-shirts or coffee mugs as souvenirs, so I asked my friend to take me to his favorite local, independent bookseller, and we swapped reading suggestions. Instead of bringing home a dorky little keychain, I picked up The Night Circus and ended up flying through half of it on the plane ride back home.

What struck me the most about this Victorian fairy tale is how powerful Morgenstern’s imagery is. The Night Circus tells the story of two magicians bound in a competition that takes place at the titular Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams. Morgenstern’s imagery illustrates the magic of the ever-growing circus beautifully as Marco and Celia show off their abilities and create more and more elaborate exhibits, all while falling deeper and deeper in love.

Aside from making a great mentor text for imagery, The Night Circus could also be used to teach narrative structure. Morgenstern broke the story into five parts, with two interweaving timelines and three points of view throughout. While that may seem complicated, the book never comes across as sloppy. It’s organized in a way that makes the story feel organic and comfortable to read.

And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the actual, physical pages of this book. They’re dense and smooth and creamy, and the ink that forms the words is dark and rich. This would just be a minor fact if it didn’t contribute to the aesthetic of the story and the circus. Students could analyze visual storytelling and design elements or just enjoy the feeling of these pages between their fingertips.

Either way, you and your class are going to love The Night Circus.

Looking for younger fairy tale recommendations?

3 Elementary Fairy Tales

2 Middle School Fairy Tales