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BEYOND HARRY: Books for readers who love Harry Potter

BEYOND HARRY: Books for readers who love Harry Potter

 

[Code: B=especially suitable for boy reader; G=especially suitable for girl reader; YA=more for the teen reader]

 

1. The classics

 

Tolkein, Hobbit and Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit is accessible to younger readers.  Lord of the Rings (YA) takes some patience, and many Harry fans find the opening of the series slow and dark at first.

 

C.S. Lewis, Narnia books.  If your reader did not like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, try A Horse and his Boy, my favorite, and one which concentrates on a single--very interesting--child hero.  Older readers might like Lewis's extremely Christian and allegorical science fiction series which begins with Out of the Silent Planet (YA).

 

E. Nesbit.  The most prolific author of British children's fantasy.  Die-hard fantasy lovers should be warned that some of her books are NOT fantasy--the Would-be-good series, for example.  Her books feature plucky British Victorian children who sometimes come close to being caricatures but always manage to come off somehow.  Most plots involve multiple children in large, warm families.  My favorites: Five Children and It, Harding's Luck, The Magic City.

 

 2. Near-classic

 

Roald Dahl.  A master of dark humor and unexpected plot twists, Dahl's fantasy books usually feature persecuted children and ogre-like adults.  The Charlie books have been a bit over-exposed; try Matilda.

 

Edward Eager.  A light-hearted American version of E. Nesbit; like her, he writes some non-fantasy titles.  Very witty and engaging books.  My favorites: Half-Magic, Knight's Castle.  Accessible to younger readers.

 

L. Frank Baum, Oz series.  I never went for these, but many children do--and if they like them, there are a LOT of them.  G

 

Lloyd Alexander, Prydain series (begins with The Book of Three).  The adventures of an assistant pig-keeper and a princess in a setting based on Welsh legend.  Alexander's other books are uneven; these are superb.

 

Madeleine L'Engle.  Much more science fiction than fantasy, and can be a bit heavy on the allegory.  Some non-fantasy titles, although characters from her books reappear in other books, crossing from one genre to another.

 

L.M. Boston, Green Knowe series.  Lucy Boston's beloved series begins with a lonely boy discovering ghostly companions in a magical old house.  Thanks to A. P. McBride for reminding me about these!

 

3. Highly recommended

 

Susan Cooper: The Boggart and The Dark is Rising series.  The Boggart is very imaginative and funnier than the series, which involves a group of  modern children caught up in an Arthurian legend.  The second book in the series, Over Sea, Under Stone, is a masterpiece of children's fantasy.

 

Diana Wynne-Jones.  Superbly written, with wonderful plot twists.  Some (Fire and Hemlock, virtually a romance) more suited to YA readers.  For Harry fans, I recommend the Chrestomanci series, about a Victorian magician; Dogsbody, narrated by a star who has been punished by being reborn as a dog; Eight Days of Luke, a poignant take on Norse myth with an engaging schoolboy hero; Howl's Moving Castle, featuring a young girl who has been turned into a crone (recently an anime-style movie release).

 

Ursula LeGuin, Earthsea trilogy.  One of the best fantasy series for young readers ever written, featuring an alienated young hero whose training as a wizard goes dreadfully wrong.

 

Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword.  Great for horse-lovers; the heroine is kidnapped by desert nomads whose magician-king has foreseen that she will save his people. G

 

Joan Aiken, Wolves of Willoughby Chase and sequels.  Not fantasy (except that they are set in an England which never existed); like Dahl, Aiken pits resourceful children against unspeakably villainous adults. Alan Garner, The Owl Service.  Dark and compelling modern fantasy based on Welsh legend.

 

E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Not fantasy, but the setting (the Metropolitan Museum, where the heroine hides out after running away from home) creates the same sort of magical atmosphere.

 

Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted.  One of the best retellings of Cinderella ever.  G

 

Eva Ibbotson, The Secret of Platform 13.  In this humorous tale, as in the currently popular movie Shrek, the 'monsters' are the heroes, venturing from the magical world into ours to rescue a lost child.

 

Sylvia Waugh, Mennym series.  Not just for girls, even if it is about dolls who come to life.  Very funny and poignant.

 

Natalie Babbitt, The Search for Delicious.  Comical tale of a mermaid's quest; accessible to younger readers.  G

 

John Christopher, The White Mountains and sequels.  Superb science-fiction series about a boy who pits himself against aliens who have enslaved the earth.  Makes 'Animorphs' look like the back of a cereal box.  B

 

Megan Whalen Turner, The Thief.  This stunning book, with one of the best endings I've ever read, is narrated by a young pick-pocket and set in a version of ancient Greece where the gods are real.  The sequel, The Queen of Attolia (YA), is darker and verges on romance; it, too, is superbly plotted.  The King of Attolia (YA), a third book, is just out.

 

4. Current favorites with preteen/young teen readers

 

Patricia Wrede.  A local Minnesota author, whose witty and imaginative books about a princess who takes refuge with a clan of dragons are accessible to fairly young readers.  G

 

Susan Fletcher, Dragonsmilk.  For hard-core dragon lovers.

 

Tamora Pierce.  Several series, usually with feminist heroines, all in a quasi-medieval setting.

 

Brian Jacques, Redwall books.  Mighty medieval magical mice.

 

Philip Pullman, Golden Compass and sequels.  Brooding, metaphysical fantasy about the nature of god and the boundaries between worlds, with a hero and heroine who are not always very likable.  Perfect for adolescents in their darker moods.

 

Ioain Colfer, Artemis Fowl.  Cool-headed boy crime lord meets high-tech leprechauns.  Very funny, but the sequels are not as good as the first book.  B

 

Suzanne Collins, Gregor series.  A boy ventures down beneath the earth into a world of goblins and giant rodents.  B

 

K. P. Bath, The Secret of Castle Cant.  Wry, edgy fantasy set in a Joan Aiken-like world of threatening adults and complex children.  Features a feisty and delightful maidservant heroine.

 

5. School stories--not fantasy, but some Harry fans like the school setting as much as the magic

 

Owen Johnson, Lawrenceville Stories.  Dated, with lots of slang, and hard to get hold of, but these are the classic American tales of boys at boarding school.  Some truly hilarious episodes.  B

 

Enid Blyton.  The queen of the boarding school story, this British author is nearly unknown in the US.  My daughter devoured her girls' school books--the Malory Towers series and the St. Clare series.  G

 

Noel Streatfield.  The Shoe books (Circus Shoes, Ballet Shoes, etc.) feature children who are suddenly thrust into intensive training for performing arts--sometimes in school settings, sometimes not.  G

 

Kipling, Stalky and Company.  The ultimate boys' school book, now dated and reeking of British colonialism, but still a comical and true-to-life portrait of boys' friendships.  B