Favorite Fantasy for Kids

February Fantasy Month Banner

Here we are at the end of the month already! What a wild, fabulous ride this Fantasy Month was! I am beyond thrilled at how much fun this was, and a HUGE thank you to all my dear bloggers who helped make it possible and worked so hard on their ends and really made this entire event super easy on me! Seriously, this entire month went off without a single hitch!

I also want to thank all of YOU, dear Readers, for joining us on this epic quest to make it the best Fantasy Month ever! To everyone who faithfully played the hashtag game, joined in the blog tag, and left wonderful comments on all the various blogs… this event wouldn’t work at all without you. Thanks for your support and help in making Fantasy Month worth doing!

I will be back to announce the Fantasy Month Giveaway Winner next Monday, but then I’ll be taking a hiatus from online stuff in general for a while as, Lord willing, we will be moving into our new house before the end of March, and so there will be a frenzy of last-minute finishing touches (mostly closet shelving), as well as packing and unpacking and general mayhem and chaos for a while. And then I really do need to get working on Turrim Archive book 5! So… all of that means I’ll be a little quiet for a bit.

Today I am closing out our Fantasy Month fun with a list of my favorite fantasy books to read with children. One of the reasons I fell in love with the fantasy genre was because my dad read so much of it to us kids throughout our growing up years. I already talked a little bit about children and fantasy in my post about Fairy Tales, but it is so important to read to our kids. And I think it’s important to read them fantasy. I shared a C.S. Lewis quote about that… but how about we hear from someone else on the subject? Someone who had nothing to gain from the recommendation?

 

But where should I start? And what are some good, wholesome fantasy stories that I can read with my kids that will teach them moral lessons as well as take them on epic adventures of imagination?

I’m so glad you asked! As a side-note, all of these recommendations are also ones that my dad read to me as a kid (except for the James Riley ones, those I only discovered last year), and now I am enjoying going through many of them with my own kids (haven’t made it through all of them yet, but we’re working through the list!)… so these are all very personal recommendations.

 

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

You can’t go wrong starting here. And while I personally enjoy reading these books in TRUE “chronological” order (where you stop before you get to the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and you go read The Horse and His Boy before reading the final chapters of TLTW&TW… that’s a little hard core if you’re starting out by reading these to your kids)… so instead I recommend reading them to your kids in published order. That means you start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first. Let them experience the wonder of Narnia first by stepping through the wardrobe with Lucy. Let their imaginations soar as you read them the tender allegory, and introduce them to the stunningly beautiful story of redemption with the Pevensie children.

Then move on to the more adventurous stories of Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the Silver Chair. Then go back in time a bit and read The Horse and His Boy, followed by The Magician’s Nephew, and ending with The Last Battle. It is a journey I guarantee you’ll enjoy taking with your kids.

These are wonderful books for children that are also enjoyable to read as an adult… so it should be a delightful experience for the whole family… even if not everyone is as avid a fantasy fan as… well… me!

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Even if you never read them The Lord of the Rings… The Hobbit is a fantasy staple! Written more for children and in a less archaic style, I know lots of people who love this book even if they don’t love fantasy as a general rule. There is a timelessness about this story about a young hobbit whose life gets upended by a horde of unexpected visitors and the adventure he gets swept up in.

A gaggle of dwarves, a mysterious wizard, more scrapes and dangers than you can count… and at the end of it all…. a dragon might be waiting! This is an adventure I’m sure your kids will enjoy you taking them on from the comfort of your couch (or wherever you best like to read together!)

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

I enjoyed reading this with my daughter when she was only about 4 years old. Most of it went over her head because there are a lot of bigger words in this book, but she seemed to enjoy it anyway, and I’m a big fan of expanding vocabularies! Another classic, this story is such a beautiful one about having faith and staying strong even when you’re the only one who can see the truth. An all-time favorite of mine, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

This sweeping epic saga has everything a fantasy book needs and more. Follow Taran on his coming-of-age journey. Together you will make friends, rescue a damsel… who… wait… did she even NEED rescuing? fight villains, gain a little wisdom, and learn that the true measure of a person’s worth has little to do with your last name and everything to do with what you do with the talents and circumstances that life hands you. Another favorite from my childhood, I recently re-read this series for myself and found that they aged quite well and were every bit as awesome as I remembered. Can’t wait to read these with my own kids!

The Light Princess by George MacDonald

I mentioned this in my list of original fairy tales, so I’m not going to rehash it here, but this one is such a beautiful story it definitely deserves to be on this list. There are puns (“light” doesn’t mean exactly what you might think it does) and a bit of an allegory as well with a sweet happily ever after at the end, like all good fairy tales should have.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Another classic fantasy tale, if you’ve only ever seen the play or movie, I feel that you are severely missing out. (I know it was originally a play). But the book has such a fun narrative style that is both whimsical and yet contains an ever-so-gentle bit of snark, for example, “John’s Neverland had a lagoon with flamingoes flying over it, while Michael’s Neverland had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it.” Which is one of my favorite lines from any book, ever, and never fails to make me laugh when I think about it.

The story of a boy who won’t grow up, and a young girl on the edge of childhood who must decide whether or not to follow his example… this is more than just a tale of children pretending to battle pirates in a magical land of fairies and mermaids, it is a tale of what it means to be a child, and the vast difference between “child-like” and “child-ish.”

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye

Meet Princess Amythest Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne of Phantasmorania whose final fairy godmother, dusty from travel and truly appalled by the lack of sense her colleagues have shown in their gift-giving decisions, decides to gift this youngest daughter of the king with the decree, “You shall be ordinary!”

Everything changes for Amythest… from then on known as simply Amy… but she really wouldn’t have it any other way. She is comfortable with her plain brown hair, upturned nose covered in freckles, and gray eyes… so long as she gets to climb out of her window and go play in the forest – unlike her six older sisters who always have to worry about their complexions and which boring prince or duke they shall marry.

But when Amy’s lack of suitors becomes apparent, her parents decide to take drastic measures to hire a dragon for princes and knights to try to defeat in order to win the princess’s hand… for by the time they do, her parents reason, it will be too late for them to back out, even if she DOES look ordinary. But this is a plan Amy just can’t agree to, and so now she must take matters, and her life, into her own hands. For the good of her future… and the kingdom… because a rampaging dragon can cause QUITE a lot of damage!

Just recently read this with my kids and they ALL loved it.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

I’ve talked about this series before and mentioned it in my fairy tales post so I won’t say a ton more about it here. It is one of my favorites forever and I love it to pieces. I love the humor, the characters, the dragons, the magic system, and all the fairy tale references. I also love that the main trait of the main character is her pragmatism. You don’t see that in many characters, and I love how the author pulled it off and made it endearing.

Dragon of the Lost Sea by Lawrence Yep

This series is a truly glittering diamond in the rough. So very few people know about it, but it is another favorite of mine. The main character is a displaced Princess of Dragons with the ability to shapeshift into human form. On her quest to recover her people’s stolen homeland, she meets a mistreated orphan boy named Thorne and they end up teaming up together. Shimmer doesn’t think a human has a lot to offer, but Thorne proves her wrong time and again.

This beautiful tale of unlikely friendship, redemption, and self-sacrifice is one you won’t want to miss. As an added bonus, this series has a somewhat far-eastern feel to it, which is somewhat unique as well as highly enjoyable.

Half Upon a Time by James Riley

If you enjoy fairy tales and lots of humor mingled with your adventure, then you will love James Riley’s “Half Upon a Time” trilogy. Meet Jack (no, not Jack and the Beanstalk Jack… actually, his son) as he prepares for life as a hero of fairy tales…

…or not. See… Jack doesn’t do so well at hero-training.

But then a real-live princess drops out of the sky and into his life, and it’s up to him to help her. (At least, he thinks she’s a princess… that’s what her sequined t-shirt says, anyway). Problem is, this princess isn’t from around here… and she’s not used to the world of fairy tales and the way things work there.

Intrigued yet?

I’ve only come to this series recently, but it has quickly made it onto my Top Favorites list. So fun and funny! And if you make it through these and enjoy them, then head right on over to James Riley’s OTHER series, “Story Thieves.” That one is about a young girl named Bethany… whose father is a fictional character.

Because of this, she has the rare ability to actually jump INSIDE books and wander around in the plots, interacting with the characters. Unfortunately, it also means that she somehow made her father disappear INTO a book when she was little… though she didn’t know what she was doing then.

When Owen, a boy at her school, discovers her secret, his enthusiastic nature encourages her to take him into a book and that he’ll help her find her father… well… all SORTS of mishaps start to occur!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Last on my list is a little more sci-fi than fantasy… but I still think it deserves its place here. This book is simply gorgeous. I just finished reading it to my kids and it was every bit as powerful as I’d remembered.

I honestly don’t know if I have the words to express how much this book means to me. The first time my dad read this one out loud to me, I was about 6-8 years old, and I remember we had reached about the halfway point and I decided I absolutely couldn’t wait any longer to find out what happened. So during the afternoon when he was at work, I got the book down off his nightstand and curled up with it in my room and finished it. I remember vividly how hurt he looked when I told him what I’d done, I think maybe he thought I wouldn’t want to continue listening to him read it or something… but it wasn’t that. I still very much DID want him to read it to me, and he did continue until we finished, but it was the first book I can remember where I HAD to know what happened next. It was the first time I encountered a book I literally could not put down until I reached the end. If I had to attribute my life-long love of reading to a single book-experience… it would have to be that one.

Don’t watch the movies. They’re awful. Simply…. awful. Even if they weren’t based on a beloved book, the movies would be bad (especially the new one, which is an especially horrible specimen of movie-ness with its stilted acting, psychotic directing, and lack of any discernible plot). I beg you, don’t judge this book by its movies!

A Wrinkle in Time is a story about a girl and her brother who must go on an arduous quest to find their missing father, who disappeared without a trace a few years ago. Along the way they will make strange friends, battle an evil darkness, and discover the true meaning of love and family… all woven around a theme of good vs. evil and wound with threads of Biblical truth. This one is truly an epic and glittering diamond in the sci-fi/fantasy genre.

~ jenelle

10 Comments

Sarah Pennington

Great choices! I’ve read almost all of these — though some of them I didn’t discover until after I was a teenager. That said, Narnia, the Hobbit, and A Wrinkle In Time were all pretty significant in my childhood as well. I’m pretty sure my parents were reading me Narnia before I was six, and The Hobbit is one of the first long books I distinctly remember having them read me.

A couple books I would add to this list: The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber (not exclusively a children’s book, but delightful for any age) and Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci Chronicles (which I did not discover as a child but absolutely plan to read to my children (or my sister’s children, as the case may be) as soon as they’re old enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality). Possibly also Howl’s Moving Castle, but that may be more of a YA book than anything.

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jenelle

I haven’t even heard of The Thirteen Clocks! (Though I have heard the name James Thurber) so I’ll definitely check that out.

I love Diana Wynne Jones very much, but like JK Rowling, her themes can be a little more on the mature side of MG, so they are ones I’m waiting on until my kids are a bit older. Though my oldest is definitely approaching that age, and getting to a point where she appreciates more complex stories, which is awesome. She and I listened to the audio book of Charmed Life a little while back and that was fun.

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Sarah Pennington

Yeah, it’s hit or miss whether or not people have heard of it. Highly recommend, though! Very quotable.

Yeah, that’s fair. That’s why I only said Chrestomanci and not some of her other books (which definitely are YA and not MG).

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Tessa LaBuff

I’ve read a few of these and heard of the rest! What list of fantasy would be complete without Tolkien and Lewis? I liked the first book in Patricia Wrede’s series, but I didn’t care for the second one. A bit too predictable.
Children’s fantasy are often better, in my opinion, though the fantasy for YA and Adults are still alright. And this is such a great list!

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jenelle

I agree that the second book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles wasn’t the best – though I enjoy it anyway, but I love book 3! Book 4… is really good, but also kind of annoys me because: spoilery reasons.

And yes, Tolkien and Lewis are my top recommendations always in the fantasy genre! :)

Thanks for joining the Fantasy Month fun!

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To be a Shennachie

I would like to read the Prydian Chronicles again. The only problem is that I think I’ve somehow lost all books but the first. I’ll have to work on piecing my collection back together.
I also remember enjoying the Ordinary Princess– I liked how the character’s names were based on semi-precious stones.

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jenelle

Oh sadness! My set is in the storage unit, but we are finally moving into our house soon and I’m looking forward to putting my library all back together again! And the first thing I’m gonna do is read the Prydain Chronicles to my kids…. and hopefully my husband, as well! :)

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Christine Smith

Yes to ALL of these!!! Although I’ve yet to read The Light Princess, The Ordinary Princess, Dragon of the Lost Sea, or the Half Upon a Time books, but they’re ALL things I want to read. I also have a terrible confession: I’ve only ever read the first Prydain book. AND IT IS A TRAGEDY. I didn’t discover those books until way later in life, which makes me sad. But yeah, I’ve been trying to collect them so I can read the whole series altogether.

But you hit on so many of my favorites. Narnia, The Hobbit, Peter Pan, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Such magical tales! I love how you’ve read them with your children. That is so special. <3

Also, Fantasy Month has been SO MUCH fun!!! Huge thanks to you and all the other bloggers who made it happen. I'm sad to see it go! D': But it's made my fantasy-loving heart happy!

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jenelle

You should totally pick up the ones you haven’t read! They are SOOOOOOO fun. And the great thing about children’s fantasy is that it’s short and easy so it won’t even take any time at all! I think all told The Ordinary Princess only took about an hour to read out loud.

WUT?! Seriously, you’ve only ever read the first Prydain book?!?!?!? How is that even possible???

I have a confession to make… I made a bit of a mistake with this post. I haven’t actually read all of these with my kids….. I had a list of books that I had read with them, and then later I came back and added a bunch of books that I had forgotten I love… um… but forgot to amend the part of the post where I said I’d read them all with my kids… LOL #facepalm so… I have read them myself, and I fully INTEND to read all of these with my kids, and I have read MANY of them with my kids already, but we’re still working our way through. :) :) And it is special. :)

I’m glad you enjoyed Fantasy Month! It’s one of my favorite things every year, and I so enjoyed getting to read everyone else’s posts this year, too! At least we have the Simaril Awards to look forward to later this year!!! :)

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