BEYOND HARRY: Books for readers who love Harry
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 Rings.
The Hobbit is accessible to younger
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
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
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.
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
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
Diana Wynne-Jones. Superbly written, with wonderful
plot twists. Some (Fire
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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