With a new film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit due to hit theaters this December, it’s understandable that many parents will be excited to share their love of fantasy literature with their children. I know my first thought when I saw the trailers for The Hobbit was, “I should read that book again!” There’s a certain magic to recapturing the literature of your childhood and sharing it with your own kids.
But, what do you do once you’re through Tolkien’s beloved book? Fortunately, there is a wealth of fantasy novels out there for you and your kids to explore. So much so, in fact, that you’ll probably never get through all of it.
The list below features four books (and series of books) appropriate for young audiences that you may not have read before. So, if you’re looking for something new to expand your kid’s fantasy collection, read on.
4. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
This tale of a young girl named Hazel who must save her friend from the evil Snow Queen is an exciting and beautifully written modern fairy tale that blurs the line between the mundane lives of middle schoolers and the fantastic, dangerous world of their imaginations. Set in a modern day town, this novel takes its protagonist out of the ordinary world and into an enchanted forest populated by a cast of fairy-tale inspired friends and enemies. It’s a classic hero’s journey appropriate for ages 9 and up.
3. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
Fans of semi-obscure Disney films will be familiar with the somewhat controversial 1985 animated adaptation of “The Black Cauldron,” but should be encouraged to explore Lloyd Alexander’s original books, which are much richer and powerful in content than Disney’s animated version.
The Chronicles of Prydain is comprised of five books that follow the heroic rise of the assistant pig-keeper Taran. This tale of good versus evil takes the unassuming Taran from his humble origins to the height of power, while drawing from Welsh mythology for its rich, magical setting. These books feature some dark imagery, and are appropriate for children ages 11 and up.
2. The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
These classic books follow the life of the powerful wizard Ged from his unlikely beginnings as a blacksmith’s son in a backward village to becoming the most powerful wizard in Earthsea. Ged’s heroic journey runs the gamut from youthful pride, to self-assured adventurer, to wizened mentor in the span of this series, and presents young readers an exciting collection of adventures.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s sometimes sparse writing cuts to the heart of each story without getting bogged down with extraneous details, which makes these stories particularly accessible to young readers. Her exploration of the themes of taking responsibility for one’s actions, the struggle of right versus wrong, and self-sacrifice resonate with the reader and build a compelling cycle.
These books are a great read for adults who love fantasy, but are still appropriate for kids as young as 10.
1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
This powerful novel, which was adapted for an animated feature in 1978, follows a population of displaced rabbits as they wander in search of a new home after their warren was destroyed. Driven by the visions of a young rabbit named Fiver, the anthropomorphic rabbits face dangers and trials as they seek their own promised land.
Watership Down is notable in its detailed portrayal of the rabbit’s culture, which features its own language, mythology, poetry, and proverbs. It explores themes of religion, faith, abuse of power, and heroic action as the rabbits face dangers posed not only by man, but by their own kind as well.
This is a must read for any fans of fantasy, and is a moving introduction to the genre for younger readers. Watership Down does contain some violence, but is appropriate for readers 11 years and older.