Like a lot of parents, we started reading the Harry Potter books to Ada when she was quite young. In hindsight, she was too young, and we shelved most of them until she was 7. She diligently waited until after each book was finished before we all watched the relevant film together, and one birthday she went with her dad and best friend to see the WB Studios.
When we finished the final book, Ada was pretty devastated. They’re not the best books in the world, and I’ve still only read bits of them as we take turns to read to either one of the children each evening, but they did a very good job of introducing her to a whole world of magic and adventure. So when they were finished, I knew we needed to find some other books that could help Ada to find joy in someone else’s world-building talent again, even if they didn’t immediately fill the void.
So naturally, I did what anyone over the age of 30 does when they need recommendations for things: I asked Twitter, and the good people who use it delivered in spades!
I compiled a list of the recommendations we had that day. We have read some of these now, and have some more of our own to add that we have found along the way. Sometime it hasn’t worked out, normally because the language in them is a bit advanced, and if the language isn’t at their level of understanding it can really kill a child’s enthusiasm for any story, no matter how exciting or seemingly well-written. I’m actually quite surprised by how many books are supposedly pitched for one age group and yet feature combinations of words that even the cleverest 8-year-old will struggle to really comprehend and contextualise. Another problem is when they are set so far from the world we live in that the children can’t imagine themselves as part of it.
I have offered some very short comments on the ones we’ve read so far, but the intention is to offer a series of short reviews on them. Unless stated, these were all read to our daughter from about 7.5, but mostly aged 8. We’ve read some gems, recently.
*we have read these
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel – Michael Scott
*The Edge Chronicles – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell. We started the first of these, but they seem to be more suitable for a slightly older child.
Barimaeus Sequence – Jonathan Stroud
The Supernaturalist – Eoin Colfer
The School for Good and Evil (Series) – Soman Chainani
The Books of Bayern – Shannon Hale
*A Series of Unfortunate Events (Series) – Lemony Snickett. Ada has actually been reading these to herself, sporadically as there are about 13 books.
*Charlie & the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Ruby in the Smoke – Phillip Pullman
Shadow in the North – Phillip Pullman
Tiger in the Well – Phillip Pullman
The Tin Princess – Phillip Pullman
Wild Magic – Tamora Pierce
Mirror Dreams – Catherine Webb
Crestomanci (Series) – Diana Wynne Jones
*Percy Jackson (Series) – Rick Riordan. We had these as audio books. A great introduction to the myths of Ancient Greece.
The Bartimaeus Trilogy – Jonathan Stroud
*Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer. We didn’t get on very well with this, and abandoned it after maybe a third of the book.
Dragonrider Chronicles – Nicole Conway
Shiverton Hall – Emerald Fennell
The Phanton Tollbooth – Norton Juster
Téméraire (Series) – Naomi Novik
*Nevermoor (Series) – Jessica Townsend. These are great!
Sabriel series – Garth Nix
*Inkheart (Series) – Cornelia Funke. These are also great! Then they got a bit too advanced in terms of how dense and detailed they are so we’ve stopped mid-way through the second book.
Magnus Chase (Series) – Rick Riordan
*Kane Chronicles (Series) – Rick Riordan. We have read the first one, it features gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt.
Redwall (Series) – Brian Jacques
Coraline – Neil Gaiman
*The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman. We have started this as an audio book, but think we could prefer it in print.
Tortall – Tamora Pierce
The Dark is Rising (Series) – Susan Cooper
A Girl called Justice – Elly Griffiths
Children of the Red King (Series) – Jenny Nimmo
Whitby Witches – Robin Jarvis
The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray – Chris Wooding
The Belgariad – David Eddings
Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine
So you want to be a wizard – Diane Duane
Obernewtyn Chronicles – Isobelle Carmody
Septimus Heap (Series) – Angie Sage
Crater trilogy – Homer Hickam
Mary Russell (Series) – Laurie R King
Keys to the Kingdom (Series) – Garth Nix
The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Sevenwater Series – Juliet Marillier
Discworld – Terry Pratchett
Eva Ibottson books
Black magician trilogy – Trudy Canavan
Warriors – Erin Hunter
The Mennyms – Sylvia Waugh
The Clockwork Dark trilogy – John Claude Bemis
The Prince who fell from the Sky – John Claude Bemis
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles – Patricia Wrede
Deltora Quest – Emily Rodda
The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke
The Stravaganza series – Mary Hoffman
No Flying in the House – Betty Brock
Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
Wildwood Chronicles (Series) – Colin Melody
Summoner (Series) – Taran Matharu
The Girl of Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Cat Valence
Unwritten – Tara Gilboy
Our more recent finds:
Starfell (Series), by Dominique Valente. We read the first one to Ada, and she has read the second one to herself. It features magic, adventure, and mystery.
The Explorer, by Katherine Rundell. A wonderful book set in the rainforest, about a group of children trying to survive and find their way home.
Rooftoppers, by Katherine Rundell. We bought this on the strength of The Explorer, but it didn’t quite live up to it.. it’s good, but a bit meandering. Ada got a little bored.
The Beast and the Bethany, by Jack Meggitt-Phillips. This is great so far, apparently going to make a storm as a series of books to be turned into a series of films..
The Wild Way Home, by Sophie Kirtley. This is an *amazing* book. Lyra was very taken with it and its world, and I will be writing something proper about it soon.
Amelia Fang (series), by Laura Ellen Anderson. Lyra loves these books. They’re a step up from Isadora Moon – they are a bit longer but fairly similar in the kinds of happenings.