Getting Started: What to Read in Fantasy

So you’re not a children’s fantasy reader but would like to get stick your toe in some pixie dust?  Here’s my handy dandy list of some fantasy faves and classics that can start you off!  There’s plenty of children’s fantasy out there to choose from, and most –if not all of these–should be available  on library and bookstore shelves.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum –One of the first and most famous classics of American children’s fantasy.  It’s a great book to start with, and you might be surprised how much the story differs from the movie.

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White — A classic fantasy that unwinds a small-scale story of a pig and a spider.  Fantasy stories don’t have to have to be full of mythical creatures and splashy magic.  Sometimes all you need is a literate spider and some talking barnyard animals to make one of the most beloved of children’s stories.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine –What if the only reason Cinderella was good and obedient was because she had to be due to a magical curse?  Feisty and rebellious Ella does everything she can to be her own person.  Can she find a way to set herself finally free?  Fairy tale retellings make for some great fantasy, and since they often feature familiar characters and storylines, they can be a more comfortable introduction for new fantasy readers.

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy–Not all fantasy is super serious or meant to pull on the heart strings.  Sometimes humor, silliness and an adventurous romp are the order of the day.  This delightfully  funny story of four Prince Charmings from four famous fairy tales is fantasy with fizz!

Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce –Alanna disguises herself as a boy in order to pursue her dream of becoming a knight.  This book is a personal favorite, full of swords and sorcery, and many of the traditional tropes of epic fantasy.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner –This multifaceted fantasy is less about magic and more about politics and kingdoms.  Marvelous storytelling  and  complex characters make this a challenging, but rewarding read.

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin –Great fantasy stories can spring from all corners of the globe.  Chinese mythology and the story of a young runaway combine in the village of Clear Sky.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins–Before her Hunger Games fame, Suzanne Collins penned a series of books about a boy from NYC who gets sucked through a basement vent into an underground world full of giant rats, bats and cockroaches.  The resulting story one of breathless adventure that has pulled in many reluctant readers.

So You Want to Be A Wizard by Diane Duane–Harry Potter isn’t the only wizard in contemporary fantasy!  When Nita finds a book in her library titled ‘So You Want To Be A Wizard’ her life will never be the same.  Great New York City urban fantasy.

These are just a very few of the books out there in children’s fantasy.  I purposely tried to keep away from too many of the obvious titles to provide a little more variety, but I hope future lists will help fill in the gaps!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on February 28, 2013, in General Posts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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