Enchanted worlds, magical creatures, exciting quests, heart-stopping battles between good and evil: fantasy fiction offers so many winning elements for readers of all ages, adults and children!
Reading fantasy fiction can also have significant benefits for kids.
Reading books that offer a different way of looking at the world helps to build empathy in children.
Fantasy quest stories are all about heroes facing challenges. Often these are not merely physical challenges, but tests of moral strength and courage and choices between right and wrong: a really positive model for kids.
And, because it’s not set in our world, fantasy fiction provides a filter through which kids can read about – and think through – big issues, which would otherwise feel more threatening or confronting. The ‘distance’ between our world and the fantasy world provides a sense of safety. (Consider the issues raised by the Death Eaters’ treatment of muggles in the Harry Potter books.)
Most importantly, fantasy fiction is exciting and fun to read, which means that many kids want to read it. And reading for pleasure is an end in itself, with huge academic, emotional and social benefits.
Here are ten fantasy series for primary school readers. Have your kids tried these? (Click on the titles or covers below for more information about each.)
Beginning with Australian authors …
The Deltora Quest books are short, fairly easy reads set in an imagined world. They’re quest stories with wonderful fantasy elements (magical gems, evil overlords) and lots of twists and turns. Kids love the mysteries and puzzles within the stories.
The original eight Deltora Quest books were followed by ‘mini series’ set in the same world: ‘Deltora Shadowlands’ and ‘Dragons of Deltora’. And a brand ‘Star of Deltora’ series was launched earlier this year.
The series is much loved by boys (particularly) and girls for its fantastic action sequences and vividly detailed battles, as well as its classic ‘good versus evil’ theme and imagined historical setting based on the British Isles.
Author John Flanagan used to write for TV, and that’s reflected in his strong plotting and story structure. He originally conceived of Ranger’s Apprentice for his then twelve-year-old reluctant reader son: he wanted to prove that reading was fun (and that heroes aren’t necessarily big, muscly types).
This new series (Book One was released in mid 2015) was created by a young brother-and-sister writing team. Five years after the death of their parents, poor farm boys Neleik and Ervine Fyrelit witness the kidnapping of their beloved little sister, Skye. Determined to rescue her, the Fyrelit brothers set off on a journey into darkness.
Readers are enjoying this series for the adventure elements, unique characters, fantastic monsters and magical creatures and the highly detailed alternate world (one scene where our heroes surf on a lake using motorised surfboards is a particular favourite with fans!)
A blend of fantasy quest and adventure-at-sea, the Mapmaker Chronicles series is full of adventure and suspense. To quote blogger Kirsty Manning-Wilcox (The Reading Tree):
‘Buy it immediately for any lad over eight who is a keen reader. A quest, a reluctant hero, shenanigans on the high seas, monsters, maps, overcoming self-doubt and the power of friendship (and forgiveness). What more could a boy want? You know you are onto an absolute winner when your son tries to look for the next book in the series on your iPad. When queried, Mr 10 said: “That was just the most amazing book. When can I get the next one?”’
Set in a beautifully imagined version of Ancient China – a blend of history and magical, fantasy elements – this series is about the young people who are destined to be dragon keepers.
The books explore big themes of courage, love, power … Acclaimed fantasy novelist Tamora Pierce says,
‘I was gnawing fingernails and ignoring my own writing as I read, eager to find out if the companions would succeed in their quest… I recommend this book to any serious fantasy reader!’
The Keys to the Kingdom
More challenging reading than the other series listed here, this clever seven-part sequence moves between our world and other realms. It’s suspenseful, often witty, and rich with detail and features two wonderful lead characters: shy, asthmatic schoolboy and unlikely hero Arthur and capable, determined, stubborn and irreverent Suzy Blue – a denizen of the other worlds.
And looking overseas,
We simply can’t make a list of popular fantasy series without including the classics Harry Potter (parents of primary schoolers, be aware that the content becomes more sophisticated and darker in later books in this series) and Narnia! Others to try include:
Inspired by (and very true to) Greek mythology, the Percy Jackson series is enormously popular for its fast pace, action, humour and likeable characters: Percy – a demigod (half mortal and half Greek god) – and his friends Annabeth and Grover.
How to Train Your Dragon
Set in the Viking world, the How to Train Your Dragon books follow the adventures of the spectacularly-named Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third. Good for both confident and reluctant readers, they’re funny, exciting and imaginative, with the kind of humour that boys of around 7 or 8 find irresistible. There are illustrations and graphics throughout.
Which fantasy books do your kids enjoy? We’d love to hear your suggestions in comments below.
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