Please welcome author G. A. Morgan with her list of Top 10 Favorite Fantasy Adventures. The final book of her own fantasy adventure series, The Five Stones Trilogy, releases today called The Kinfolk!
I’m thrilled to be giving away 3 SIGNED copies of The Kinfolk to 3 winners. Please see Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter. If you follow me on Instagram, I’m doing more book giveaways there as well.——————
Greetings readers of Pragmatic Mom! Thank you for encouraging your kids to read fantasy. The great news about fantasy-adventure books is that kids tend to devour them. The best ones, in my opinion, tell a riveting story with relatable characters, but offer—at the core—some irrevocable, universal truths.
With technology ever-present and Hollywood bringing to screen many of our favorite stories, it’s more important then ever to have reading choices that are broad and deep; that offer exciting narratives but are also thought-provoking and linger in the imagination long after childhood is over. They also should appeal to both girls and boys.
That’s what I tried to accomplish in The Five Stones Trilogy, and these are the qualities I looked for when creating this list. By and large, the books in this list are appropriate for ages 8-14 (and beyond!), depending on reading ability, and my list gets “older” as we move down it.
I have purposefully excluded the most popular titles (such as Harry Potter, Rick Riordan’s series, The Lord of the Rings: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, etc—all of which are excellent) in favor of going a little farther afield. I hope this inspires you to journey into unknown territory, and maybe even to Ayda where The Five Stones Trilogy is set. After all, what is fantasy for if not to escape the known and set out for new horizons?
Top 10 Fantasy Adventures
1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Milo is bored, bored, bored by everything: his house, his homework, his life is a waste of time. When a tollbooth suddenly appears in his room, Milo decides to drive through it because he can’t think of anything better to do. On the other side, he is taken on a truly funny and fantastical journey through different lands (such as Dictionopolis, The Doldrums, Digitopolis) accompanied by a giant dog named Tock (from whom he learns the truth about time) on a quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason and return them to the Kingdom of Wisdom. Other important language and mathematical concepts are humorously woven together. transforming learning into its own wild ride. Juster shows that daily life can be an adventure all its own—and the farthest thing from boring, I love this book, and often reread it because it seamlessly transports young readers from their normal lives into an alternate and thoroughly entertaining universe. I keep looking for a tollbooth to appear at my house. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
2. Children of the Red King: Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
This is the first book in an 8-book series by a British writer that came out around the same time as Harry Potter and was somewhat overshadowed. The two series feature similar themes on the surface: Charlie Bone is a seemingly average 10-year-old boy who discovers suddenly that he has some amazing powers: He can hear the voices of people in photographs and paintings. Turns out, he is a descendent of an ancient magician (the Red King). His cruel grandmother conspires to send him to a school for other magical children (Bloor’s Academy) where he learns about his powers. In this first book, Charlie helps to find a missing person and begins a long adventure to free his father who is under an evil spell. Charlie Bone would be a much more popular hero had he not been revealed to the world alongside his literary cousin; but far from competing, this series complements the Potter world and both my sons (one is a big reader, the other not so much) could not put it down. The magic is well-thought-out and feels accessible and Charlie Bone is a wonderful everyday hero. The books are very easy to read and move quickly, which is inspiring to a child who finds reading frustrating. [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Pretty much anything in Roald Dahl’s canon is tops on my list, but I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the best. It inspired me as a young reader, and as an adult writer. In this story, a poor, hungry, young boy wins entry into the fabled chocolate factory in his blighted town. The chocolate factory is owned by a strange little man named Willy Wonka, and run by his hard-working, singing band of Oompa-Loompas. Charlie brings his grandfather (who otherwise would still be abed with his three other grandparents) and together they tour the factory alongside a group of other naughty and greedy children. Misadventure abounds, made all the more hilarious by Dahl’s wacky humor, and Charlie learns a great deal about what it means to be a generous person in a selfish world. There is so much to love about this book, including Dahl’s inclusion of Charlie’s extended family and his tongue-in-cheek indictment of bad parenting. Every kid loves to read about candy, and the characters in this book are as scrumptious as the treats Dahl describes. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
4. Mary Poppins by PL Travers
I’ve added Travers’s masterpiece because it was the first book I read as a child that made me think magic truly existed. Mary Poppins alights into the rigid world of the Banks children and becomes their nanny. She is very peculiar, and strange things begin to happen to the children almost immediately (Starting with her seemingly bottomless travel bag). As she leads her charges on fantastical adventures in the city of London, life becomes richer and more fun, and their parents cheer up and begin paying more attention to them. This is an old classic, and it stands the test of time. It is a great reminder that how we perceive our reality makes our reality. A note of sadness underpins the story because we know it won’t last: Childhood is magical and fleeting, and leaves us as suddenly as the wind that changes and sweeps Mary Poppins away. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A Newbury Medal Award winner, this book begins in a very dark place, so if you have sensitive children be forewarned. A toddler Nobody (Bod) Owens escapes the man who murdered his biological family and is raised in a graveyard. He is adopted by a family, befriends a human girl, and is taught some very special talents by the many fantastic spirits that populate the place. As Bod grows into adolescence, he faces the certainty that he must move into the land of the living, which, ironically, feels more uncertain and threatening then life among the dead. I love this book for its subtlety, its rendering of community and adopted family, and its lesson that moving beyond one’s comfort zone is how one truly begins to feel alive. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Another classic, out of a different time, this novel features a thirteen-year-old heroine named Meg Murry, who travels through time and space with her younger brother (via a “tesseract” or a wrinkle) to rescue their scientist father being held prisoner on another planet. In the doing, they are tutored by a celestial being, known as Mrs. Whatsit, on the perils facing the Universe (the Dark Thing). This book transformed science fiction into its own YA genre when it was published in the 1960’s, and has never been out-of-print since. It deals with some very complicated and grown-up themes (for instance, quantum physics) in a very relatable way. The action and dialog are more dense then what contemporary kids are used to, but this is why it is on my list. If you have a voracious reader in your family, he or she will welcome the opportunity to dive down into L’Engle’s fiction and get utterly lost in her imagination. It is a captivating book. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
7. Watership Down by Richard Adams
A tale that was published fifty years ago but holds more meaning then ever in our era. A community of rabbits faced with the imminent destruction of their warren go off in search of a new place to live, the fabled Watership Down. They face many dangers and temptations (including betrayal) along the way until they reach their destination. This is animal fantasy (in which main characters are anthropomorphized creatures) at its most searing and best. The story examines friendship, survival, and character in an utterly believable way—and holds a pretty unforgiving mirror up to humans. It depicts the epic struggles between freedom and control, sense and sensibility, and the rights of the individual, and is a wonderful unfolding of the hero’s journey. I am in awe of the many levels achieved by this seemingly simple book. A must-read. [middle grade, ages 12 and up]
8. His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
If your child has torn through the Narnia Chronicles, she or he is ready for this fabulous trilogy. Lyra, the heroine, is looking for her friend, who has been kidnapped by the sinister Magisterium, which operates in an alternate universe. In Lyra’s universe, everyone is irrevocably bonded with a spirit animal, or daemon. In childhood, one’s spirit is evolving so a child’s daemon is ever-changing. Adult daemons are constant (this is one of Pullman’s best motifs). Lyra discovers that the Magisterium is taking children and removing their souls (by cleaving apart their bonds with their daemon) so they cannot be touched by “dust”, which is tantamount to free will. The dark themes in this book are truly scary and meaningful, but the wonderful action and character move you through them and leave you wanting more. Luckily, there are two more books in the series. A movie was made of the book, but I encourage you to have your child read the book. It is so much better! [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
9. A Wizard of Earthsea/The Earthsea Chronicles by Ursula Leguin
Ah, be still my heart. This first book in the Earthsea Chronicles is the deep dive into everything wonderful about fantasy and science fiction. It traces the history and mistakes of Ged, the greatest sorcerer on Earthsea, who was once known as Sparrowhawk, and his struggles to restore balance to a world dimmed and divided by his actions as a youth. There is so much action and adventure in this book, including magic and dragons and sacrifice, that it is a gold-standard when it comes to the genre, but it also explores the volatile power of language. This book catapulted me into writing my trilogy, and I love LeGuin’s ability to create real, believable characters. If you read my trilogy, you will see that my main protagonists all face their own rites of passage, as Sparrowhawk must face his. I was very inspired by this monumental writer. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
10. Dune by Frank Herbert
Last, but not least, I welcome you to the desert planet Arrakis, to the world of Dune. One of my all-time favorite books. As soon as my children were old enough, I gave them copies. It is not a fluffy read—there are very complicated and interesting motifs running throughout the book, and its themes of dynastic control, greed, and violence rival the more adult Game of Thrones. Young Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto and his wife, Jessica, a Bene Gesserit witch (think of Jedi before there were Jedi) is the heir apparent to the throne on Arrakis and its rich supply of “spice”, a substance that allows paranormal visions. But greater things await Paul on Arrakis, including whether or not he is the long-awaited prophet Maud Dib, who is destined to bring water and life back to the planet. If you have a Star Wars fan in your house, they will love the Dune series (it has gone on and on). I would never have become a writer if not for this book. It creates a world so real, and so rich, I would often be surprised to put down the book and discover I actually lived in this one. [adult, ages 12 and up]
3 SIGNED Book Giveaway: 3 Winners!
Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to win one of three signed copies of The Kinfolk. USA shipping only.
G.A. Morgan is the author of the fantasy-adventure series The Five Stones Trilogy. The third book, entitled The Kinfolk, is being released today, available here. The first two books, The Fog of Forgetting and Chantarelle, are also available at a bookstore near you, or online. To learn more, check out her website or follow her on Twitter @GAMorgan1.
“An emotionally resonant adventure.” —The Wall Street Journal
“This is a fast moving, vivid fantasy novel which will be enjoyed by readers of varying skill levels.” –VOYA Magazine
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p.s. Related posts:
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
19 thoughts on “Top 10 Fantasy Adventures for Kids”
We are reading the Golden Compass right now.
Oh… that’s such a good book! Hope you are enjoying it with your kids!
My son is young, so we read aloud chapter books to him, he really enjoyed My Father’s Dragon and loves Roald Dahl.
I love My Father’s Dragon! I love that you are reading chapter books to him!
My older kids loved The Inheritance Cycle series (Eragon), the younger kids are fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.
My husband LOVES the Eragon series but strangely none of our three kids read it… it’s never too late to try though. Two of my kids like fantasy adventure books.
Wonderul selection, as always, Mia!!
Thanks so much Maria but I can’t take credit for this list!
I can not believe I’ve never read the actual P.L. Travers Mary Poppins books. I must do so. I loved The Compass. But, was disappointed in The Wrinkle in Time, although it was the first fantasy book.
I’ve enjoyed Shannon Messenger’s “Keeper of the Lost Cities” series, the fifth sequel will be released Nov. 1. — this series is as good as the Harry Potter series. I also enjoyed Jennifer Alvarez’s “The Guardian Herd” series and Bruce Coville’s “Unicorn Chronicles.”
Emma is reading The Hobbit right now 🙂
Wow Mary Anne! She’s a terrific reader! That’s quite a undertaking! I’m so happy that she’s ready to tackle it! Lord of the Rings trilogy next? It’s a tad scarier though!
This is such a great list! My son and I are really enjoying the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente!
That’s new to me Hannah! Thanks for your great book suggestion!! I’ll let my son know about it.
We have read most of these, but I see several I need to pick up. Our son loves fantasy.
My son too! 🙂
We love the Wrinkle in Time series.
I loved it as a child too! My kids haven’t taken to it sadly though! I going to try with my son though!
I love Harry Potter! Such a good series for all ages.
I have two Harry Potter fans in my house! It’s now practically a classic!