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36 Best Fantasy Books for Kids

Fantasy can be vital for kids.

“Fairy tales are more than true—not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
—G. K. Chesterton

And the world these days has its share of dragons.

 

36
Howl’s Moving Castle
by Diana Wynne Jones – 1986
Book 1 of 3 in the Howl’s Moving Castle series
8-13 years

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

This is also a great movie.

“Jones’ inventiveness never fails, and her conclusion is infinitely satisfying.”
—School Library Journal

35
Eragon
by Christopher Paolini – 2002
Book 1 of 4 in the Inheritance Cycle
10 years and up

Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.

Eragon was written by a sixteen-year-old, which is an impressive achievement, but it shows. Kids will enjoy this more than adults.

“An authentic work of great talent.”
—The New York Times Book Review

34
Rise of the Earth Dragon
by Tracey West – 2014
Book 1 of 18 in the Dragon Masters series
6-8 years

8-year-old Drake is snatched up by King Roland’s soldier and taken to the castle. He is to be trained as a Dragon Master. At the castle, he is joined by three other young Dragon Masters-in-training: Ana, Rori, and Bo. The Dragon Masters must learn how to connect with and train their dragons—and they must also uncover their dragons’ special powers. Does Drake have what it takes to be a Dragon Master? What is his dragon’s special power?

“Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.”
—Kirkus Reviews

33
Dread Nation
by Justina Ireland – 2018
Book 1 of 2 in the Dread Nation series
13 years and up

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities. Jane studies to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

“Abundant action, thoughtful worldbuilding, and a brave, smart, and skillfully drawn cast entertain as Ireland (Promise of Shadows) illustrates the ignorance and immorality of racial discrimination and examines the relationship between equality and freedom.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

32
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill – 2016
9-13 years

Winner of the 2017 Newbery Award

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge—with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

“Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick . . . Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

31
The Dragonet Prophecy
by Tui T. Sutherland – 2012
Book 1 of 7 in the Wings of Fire series
8-12 years

Clay and his friends have grown up under a mountain, secretly raised by the Talons of Peace to fulfill a mysterious prophecy. The five young dragons are destined to end the war that’s been raging between the tribes of Pyrrhia—but how they’ll do this, none of them knows.

But not every dragonet wants a destiny. When one of their own is threatened, Clay and his friends decide to escape. Maybe they can break free and end the war at the same time—or maybe they’ll risk everything.

“Dramatic battle scenes, double-crosses, and one seriously deranged queen makes Wings of Fire a series that should have broad appeal for middle-grade fantasy fans.”
—Booklist

30
Nyx
by D. M. Livingston – 2013
12 years and up

Nyx, a sarcastic, mildly homicidal fairy, is hurled into the Inferno, but instead of damned souls and devils, she finds only a group of confused, young human witches.

It’s hate at first sight.

But Nyx and the witches, whose magical skills are not quite polished, must work together to survive the ravages of Hell, and then the demon-infested nightmare Earth has become.

The motley crew searches for the Keys of Iron, Flame, and Sorrow, which will (hopefully) close the Gates of Hell. However, the dark queen Morda, who opened the Gates by tricking Lucifer himself, takes a special interest in obliterating the bickering group.

That is, if they don’t obliterate each other first…

“Quite similar to the style of Neil Gaiman, the dialogue is witty and irreverent compared to other fantasy books on the market.”
—Book Worm

(Full disclosure: I’m the author.)

29
Artemis Fowl
by Eoin Colfer – 2001
Book 1 of 8 in the Artemis Fowl series
9-14 years

Twelve-year-old Artemis is a millionaire, a genius, and above all, a criminal mastermind. But Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of the bedtime stories—they’re dangerous!

28
Ogre Enchanted
by Gail Carson Levine – 2018
8-12 years

Evie is happiest when she is healing people, diagnosing symptoms and prescribing medications, with the help of her devoted friend (and test subject) Wormy. So when Wormy unexpectedly proposes to her, she kindly turns him down; she has far too much to do to be marrying anyone. And besides, she simply isn’t in love with him.

But a certain meddling fairy named Lucinda has been listening in, and she doesn’t approve of Evie’s rejection. Suddenly, Evie finds herself transformed from a girl into a hideous, hungry ogre!

Stuck in this new and confusing form, Evie now has only sixty-two days to accept another proposal—or else be stuck as an ogre forever.

“Longtime fans and new readers alike will devour this.”
—Kirkus Reviews

27
The Last Kids on Earth
by Max Brallier – 2015
Book 1 of 7 in The Last Kids on Earth series
8-12 years

“Forty-two days ago I was an ordinary kid, living an uneventful life. But now it’s TOTAL MONSTER ZOMBIE CHAOS and I’m battling beasts on a daily basis. Crazy, right? But I know exactly how to make it through the zombie apocalypse.”

26
Inkheart
by Cornelia Funke – 2003
Book 1 of 3 in the Inkworld series
8-12 years

Imagine it were possible to bring the characters from a book to life. Not like when you listen to an audiobook with such enchantment that the characters seem to jump off the pages and into your bedroom…but for real. Imagine they could actually climb out of the pages and into our world.

Then imagine if those characters brought their world into ours.

This is the story of young Meggie, who lives a quiet life alone with her father Mo, a bookbinder, until one cruel night when Mo reads aloud from Inkheart, and an evil ruler named Capricorn escapes the boundaries of fiction and lands in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books.

Somehow, Meggie and Mo must learn to harness the magic that conjured up this nightmare. Somehow they must change the course of the story that has changed their lives forever.

25
The Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo – 2003
7-10 years

Winner of the Newberry Medal

Despereaux Tilling is a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. Roscuro is a rat who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. Miggery Sow is a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives.

“[A] tale with twists and turns, full of forbidden soup and ladles, rats lusting for mouse blood, a servant who wishes to be a princess, a knight in shining—or at least furry—armor, and all the ingredients of an old-fashioned drama.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

24
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
by C. S. Lewis – 1950
Book 1 of 7 in the Chronicles of Narnia
8-10 years

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

A perennial favorite, this is a wonderful series of books that gets bogged down by heavy-handed Christian allegory near the end.

23
The Maze Runner
by James Dashner – 2009
Book 1 of 4 in the Maze Runner series
12-17 years

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.

“Wonderful action writing—fast-paced…but smart and well observed.”
—Newsday

22
Over Sea, Under Stone
by Susan Cooper – 1984
Book 1 of 5 in The Dark Is Rising series
8-12 years

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that—the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril.

“Beautifully told…superbly written.”
—New York Times

21
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs – 2011
Book 1 of 5 in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series
11 years and up

A mysterious island.

 An abandoned orphanage.

 A strange collection of very curious photographs.


A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

“Riggs deftly moves between fantasy and reality, prose and photography to create an enchanting and at times positively terrifying story.”
—Associated Press

20
Magyk
by Angie Sage – 2005
Book 1 of 8 in the Septimus Heap series
8-12 years

Septimus Heap, the seventh son of the seventh son, disappears the night he is born, pronounced dead by the midwife. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across an abandoned child in the snow—a newborn girl with violet eyes. Who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to the Heaps’ beloved son Septimus?

“Fun, mystery, and rollicking characters.”
—VOYA (starred review)

19
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
by Robert C. O’Brien – 1970
8-12 years

Winner of the Newberry Medal

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service.

18
Phoebe and Her Unicorn
by Dana Smith – 2014
Book 1 of 11 in the Phoebe and Her Unicorn series
8-12 years

This comic series is the closest thing I’ve ever found to Calvin and Hobbes in years. It’s hilarious and despite the title, is definitely not just for girls.

It all started when a girl named Phoebe skipped a rock across a pond and accidentally hit a unicorn in the face. Improbably, this led to Phoebe being granted one wish, and she used it to make the unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, her obligatory best friend. But can a vain mythical beast and a nine-year-old daydreamer really forge a connection?

“This is a really cute book that is cleverly written…very relatable to girls ages 8 to 12…”
—Time to Play Magazine

17
The Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan – 2005
Book 1 of 5 in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series
10-14 years

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life.

“An adventure-quest with a hip edge.”
—School Library Journal

16
James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl – 1961
8-11 years

After James Henry Trotter’s parents are tragically eaten by a rhinoceros, he goes to live with his two horrible aunts, Spiker and Sponge. Life there is no fun, until James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree and strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Inside, James meets a bunch of oversized friends—Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the great adventure begins!

“All the gruesome imagery of old-fashioned fairy tales and a good measure of their breathtaking delight.”
—Kirkus Reviews

15
The Golden Compass
by Philip Pullman – 1995
Book 1 of 5 in the His Dark Materials series
10 years and up

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal—including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want.

But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other…

“Superb . . . all-stops-out thrilling.”
—The Washington Post

14
The Book of Three
by Lloyd Alexander – 1964
Book 1 of 5 in the Chronicles of Prydain
8-11 years

Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper is thrust into a dangerous adventure and is joined by an engaging cast of characters, including Eilonwy, the strong-willed and sharp-tongued princess; Fflewddur Fflam, the hyperbole-prone bard; the ever-faithful Gurgi; and the curmudgeonly Doli―all of whom have become involved in an epic struggle between good and evil that shapes the fate of the legendary land of Prydain.

“The author draws his figures with the … touches of irritability, doltishness and contrariness that leavens with high good humor the high fantasy.”
―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

13
Pawn of Prophecy
by David Eddings – 1982
Book 1 of 5 in the Belgariad series
11 years and up

I discovered this book when I was in middle school and went absolutely nuts over it.

Long ago, so the Storyteller claimed, the evil God Torak sought dominion and drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But that was only a story, and Garion did not believe in magic dooms, even though the dark man without a shadow had haunted him for years. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved—but did not know?

For a while, his dreams of innocence were safe, untroubled by knowledge of his strange heritage. For a little while . . .

12
The Ruins of Gorlan
by John Flanagan – 2011
Book 1 of 10 in the Ranger’s Apprentice series
10-13 years

They have always scared him in the past—the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom.

Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied.

“Rather than creating a host of strange creatures and magical powers, Flanigan concentrates on character, offering readers a young protagonist they will care about and relationships that develop believably over time.”
—Booklist (starred review)

11
A Wizard of Earthsea
by Ursula K. Le Guin – 1968
Book 1 of 6 in The Earthsea Cycle
12 years and up

Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

“The magic of Earthsea is primal; the lessons of Earthsea remain as potent, as wise, and as necessary as anyone could dream.”
—Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman

10
Coraline
by Neil Gaiman – 2002
8-12 years

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

“A magnificently creepy story… Coraline is spot on.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

9
Watership Down
by Richard Adams – 1972
11 years and up

Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special rabbits on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

“Spellbinding…Marvelous… A taut tale of suspense, hot pursuit and derring-do.”
—Chicago Tribune

8
Out From Boneville
by Jeff Smith – 1991
Book 1 of 9 in the Bone series
11 years and up

Bone is one of the top five graphic novel series ever created. I read all nine books to my kid, and he stills goes back to them.

After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins—Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone—are separated and lost in a vast, uncharted desert. One by one, they find their way into a deep, forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures. Eventually, the cousins are reunited at a farmstead run by tough Gran’ma Ben and her spirited granddaughter, Thorn. But little do the Bones know, there are dark forces conspiring against them and their adventures are only just beginning!

“I love BONE! BONE is great!”
—Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, Futurama, and Disenchantment

7
A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle – 1962
Book 1 of 5 in the Time Quintet series
10-14 years

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

“An exhilarating experience.”
―Kirkus Reviews

6
B. Bear and Lolly: Catch That Cookie!
by A. A. Livingston – 2014
Book 2 of 2 in the B. Bear and Lolly series
4-8 years
Best friends B. Bear (formerly known as Baby Bear) and Lolly (short for Goldilocks) are hard at work inventing a Porridge Perfecter, but the Gingerbread Man races by and smashes their machine into pieces. With their hopes of the perfect porridge dashed, B. Bear and Lolly cook up a plan that would serve the Gingerbread Man just right.

“Forget the scared little girl who burgled the bear family, Lolly is an inventor with pluck.”
—Library School Journal

5
The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster – 1961
8 years and up

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

“A classic… Humorous, full of warmth and real invention.”
—The New Yorker

4
The Wee Free Men
by Terry Pratchett – 2003
Book 1 of 5 in the Tiffany Aching series
10 years and up

The first in a series of Discworld novels starring the young witch Tiffany Aching.

A nightmarish danger threatens from the other side of reality. . . .

Armed with only a frying pan and her common sense, young witch-to-be Tiffany Aching must defend her home against the monsters of Fairyland. Luckily she has some very unusual help: the local Nac Mac Feegle—aka the Wee Free Men—a clan of fierce, sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men.

Together they must face headless horsemen, ferocious grimhounds, terrifying dreams come true, and ultimately the sinister Queen of the Elves herself.

“An enthralling and rewarding read.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

3
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak – 1963
4-6 years

Winner of the Caldecott Medal

A true timeless classic, this imaginative tale should be on every child’s bookshelf.

2
The Amulet of Samarkand
by Jonathan Stroud – 2003
Book 1 of 4 in the Bartimaeus series
10-14 years

Bartimaeus, the djinni narrator of this book, is hilarious. Strongly recommended.

Nathaniel is eleven years old and a magician’s apprentice, learning the traditional art of magic. All is well until he has a life-changing encounter with Simon Lovelace, a magician of unrivaled ruthlessness and ambition. When Lovelace brutally humiliates Nathaniel in public, Nathaniel decides to speed up his education, teaching himself spells far beyond his years. With revenge on his mind, he masters one of the toughest spells of all and summons Bartimaeus, a five-thousand-year-old djinni, to assist him.

But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely, and when Nathaniel sends the djinni out to steal Lovelace’s greatest treasure, the Amulet of Samarkand, he finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, and rebellion.

1
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J. K. Rowling – 1997
Book 1 of 7 in the Harry Potter series

If your kid (or you) hasn’t read Harry Potter yet, what are you waiting for? There’s a reason it’s insanely popular.

One reply on “36 Best Fantasy Books for Kids”

Wow, what a list ! I have only read 7 of the 36 but I recognize many of the books, especially the ones made into movies. I read _The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe_, _The Maze Runner_, the excellent _Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH_, _Watership Down_, the wonderful _A Wrinkle in Time_, the awesome _Where the Wild Things Are_ that I read to my kids, and the most excellent _Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone_.

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