It’s never too late (or too early) to get your child hooked on books, and fantasy books can be a great place to start. According to Tracey West, the author behind the much-loved Dragon Masters Book Series, “reading fantasy books helps readers learn how to use their imagination, and to think about what might be possible outside of the world we know.” Beyond epic battles between good and evil— magic, wizards, and dragons (oh my!) are a mainstay in the fantasy realm. Ultimately, it comes down to “Magical creatures and adventurous plots, rooted in ideas or concepts that children can immediately connect to, such as family and friendship,” West says. These are the key ingredients that you’ll find in any great fantasy book.
As an author of a bestselling Scholastic fantasy series, West shared some valuable insight into her creative process. “I tend to begin by creating characters, and then imagine what kind of magical world they might live in, and what challenges or problems they might have in that world that would lead to adventures,” she says. Think back to when you were a child playing make-believe games with a friend (i.e. assigning roles and embarking on an adventure). West describes her writing process in the same light. “The story just begins to unfold in my head. I might start by imagining the world or environment and who might inhabit it.”
Unlike a video game or movie which lays everything out for you—from the characters to what the world looks like–West says that “books make us exercise our brains a bit more to imagine those things on our own. And when kids can do that, they can apply it to all sorts of things, such as solving problems or creating inventions.”
Fantasy Books for Young Readers
Hold on to your seats, kiddos (and moms!). Cornelia Funke’s storytelling abilities, combined with a fantastical plot, will captivate you from beginning to end. The main character, Meggie, finds herself in a real-life adventure when her father Mo reads aloud from a book called Inkheart summoning an evil ruler from the confines of fiction into their living room. Have we piqued your interest yet?
Tracey West’s Dragon Masters series (part of the Scholastic Branches line of books) is a serious fantasy series for beginning readers not quite ready to conquer traditional chapter books. The first installment, Rise of the Earth Dragon, is jam-packed with excitement as 8-year-old Drake is snatched up and taken to a castle to be trained as a Dragon Master. The fast-paced plot thickens as he and the other Dragon Masters must learn to train their dragons and unlock their special powers.
Considered a classic of children’s literature, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia contains it all. Set in the fictional world of Narnia, readers are taken on a journey as the lead characters explore mythical places full of magic and talking creatures. The central roles are played by children, making it easy for kids to place themselves alongside their captivating adventures.
Calling all Potterheads! ‘Member the first time you cracked open Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone and couldn’t put it down? Just as you were enchanted by Platform Nine and Three Quarters at King’s Cross Station (surely, it must exist!) and Hogwarts, now it’s your child’s turn to step into the wizarding world and learn of “the boy who lived.” *gasps*
Story Thieves presents an interesting POV—a story within a story—as Owen witnesses his classmate Bethany climbing out of a book at the library. (She’s in search of her missing father!) In exchange for keeping her secret, Owen convinces Bethany to take him into the new Kiel Gnomenfoot book so that he can save the day and be a hero.
Fantasy Books for Middle Schoolers and 13-Year-Olds
Before there was Harry Potter, there was Sparrowhawk, an awkward boy with a connection to the wizarding world (sound familiar?). In this first installment of the Earthsea series, Sparrowhawk discovers his true name and fate as a wizard’s apprentice. A deadly battle with an evil creature, among other challenges, frames this coming-of-age tale.
If dragons and wizards aren’t your cup of tea, then Artemis Fowl will be a nice change of pace. This thrilling fantasy book centers around Artemis Fowl, a twelve-year-old millionaire, genius, and criminal mastermind. Justtttt when you think fairies are harmless—well, think again. After kidnapping a fairy, Captain Holly Short, Artemis is in for a rude awakening as he attempts to restore his family fortune.
Don’t just stop at Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring (fear not: we’ve linked the entire boxed set for you to #AddToCart). Beginning with the Hobbit and continuing through The Lord of the Rings, these are among the most epic fantasy novels you will find. And we’re not just saying that because they’ve made the leap to the big screen.
Once you’ve finished the Lord of the Rings, a good series to fall into next is Eragon. Tag along with 15-year-old Eragon as he discovers a blue dragon egg and follows the path toward Dragon Rider. This epic series—ripe with magic, glory, and power—is captivating enough for teens and young adults.
Incredibly inspiring and courageous characters—two extraordinary rabbits named Heather and Picket—make this tale a memorable one. Adventure abounds as kingdoms fall and tyrants threaten to wreak havoc. One Amazon reviewer writes: “The intrigue and suspense, had him (11-year-old son) begging for ‘just one more chapter’ almost every evening!”
Described by many as a modern-day fairy tale, Coraline is a dark fantasy novella for all ages. Upon moving into a new flat, Coraline decides to go exploring one day. Behind a door, she discovers a brick wall that leads to the “other” world—and thus, a different version of her life where everything appears to be far more marvelous. But there’s a twist… will she ever be able to escape?
If your child enjoys twists and turns, fantasy elements, and magical animals then this adventure story will be a hit. Who doesn’t love a tale revolving around an enchanting street cat on a mission to save the day?! Even better when the cat in question is picked to be a younger wizard’s familiar spirit (aka, an animal guide with supernatural entities).
Need more reading recommendations beyond these fantasy books for 5th graders? Check out the best kindergarten books to build your five-year-old’s library.