Blog – Posted on Friday, May 17
The 60 Best Fantasy Books for Kids
No matter how old you are, it’s never too early to start reading fantasy — especially with so many incredible works out there! And of course, bolstered by a kid’s imagination, these stories can truly come to life… which arguably makes children the ideal audience for the genre. 😄 But we think there's something for everyone on this list of the 60 best fantasy books for kids. Even if you're an adult, you're sure to see some of your childhood classics here!
Fantasy books for toddlers and preschoolers
This section consists of picture books and other simple stories designed to introduce very young children to the world of fantasy. From talking animals to raining spaghetti, these books are sure to elicit delighted giggles from kids aged 2-5.
1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett
In the town of Chewandswallow, nobody ever goes grocery shopping. All their food simply falls out of the sky — pizza, pasta, peanut butter, you name it. The citizens seem to have it made in the shade (of a meatball-filled cloud)... until some unfortunate weather patterns start to wreak havoc, and they wonder whether edible precipitation really is such a blessing after all.
2. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
We all know that humans love tacos, but you might be surprised to find that dragons love them even more! Join these mythical Mexican food aficionados as they devour tacos of every shape and size, with every ingredient except one: spicy salsa. Which, naturally, causes tummy troubles (and fire-breathing hazards).
3. Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
“Look sir, look sir, Mr. Knox sir. Let’s do tricks with bricks and blocks, sir!” So begin the troubles of the long-suffering Mr. Knox at the hands of the Fox in Sox, who goads Knox into participating in his increasingly complicated tongue-twisters. Don’t worry, though — Knox gets the final (and very difficult-to-pronounce) word in this story by the erstwhile Mr. Theodor Geisel.
4. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Four-year-old Harold has a purple crayon and not much else. But with his artistic talents and a little imagination, he’s about to turn his world into a masterpiece worthy of Van Gogh.
5. If I Built a House… by Chris Van Dusen
If you could build your dream home, what would you put in it? Our narrator, Jack, has it all planned out, including — but not limited to — a flying room, a racing room, and an aquarium room. This tale of ultimate wish fulfillment will no doubt resonate with both inventive kids and their Extreme Home Makeover-loving parents.
6. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
“One thing leads to another” has never been more true. A boy gives a mouse a cookie… which makes the mouse want a glass of milk… which makes him want a straw, then a mirror, and so on until he’s right back where he started with another cookie. And if that doesn’t sound like “fantasy” to you, then riddle me this: when was the last time you got a cookie request from a mouse?
7. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
One of the most iconic Christmas stories of all time, The Polar Express tells the tale of a young boy who steals away on the eponymous midnight train. But he has no idea what magic awaits him in the North Pole, where he’ll get the privilege of meeting Santa Claus himself. (Of course, if you’re a parent, maybe don’t mention that fact that this one’s on our “fantasy” list.)
8. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
This largely visual story, full of Mauric Sendak’s evocative illustrations, follows a young boy named Max who dares to venture “where the Wild Things are.” After proving his own ferocity, Max becomes king of the Wild Things — but soon enough starts missing home, where a hot supper awaits him.
9. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
In the Hundred Acre Woods lives a bear called Winnie-the-Pooh, who enjoys an idyllic existence of honeypots and gentle adventures with his friends. This first volume of sweet stories by A.A. Milne is sure to bring a smile to your face whether you’re young or old.
10. Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Uni the Unicorn desperately wants to find that most elusive of mythical creatures: a little girl. Everyone keeps telling her that humans don’t exist, but they won’t stop Uni from dreaming. She knows that if she keeps imagining all the wonderful things they could do together, that this magical girl will come to her... and as it turns out, Uni's best friend isn't quite as far away as she thinks!
Fantasy books for elementary schoolers
These chapter books and novels involve more complex storylines and fantasy elements, such as systems of magic and backstory for major character and plot points, often expanded throughout series. Suitable for kids aged 6-10.
11. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Long before Harry Potter, there was Ged: a wizard of Earthsea. Earthsea is a world of islands where magic prevails, but darkness also threatens. Ged must learn to master his own innate powers and battle this darkness, which takes the form of a “shadow creature” that our hero accidentally unleashes during a duel. Le Guin’s rich worldbuilding and excellent characterization are simply unparalleled, and this first installment in the Earthsea series sets the reader up with high expectations for the rest of her hybrid fantasy/science fiction saga.
12. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time revolutionized fantasy when it was first published in 1962, and continues to find many devoted readers today. Thirteen-year-old misfit Meg Murry’s life is turned upside down when a strange woman appears in her kitchen, claiming, “There is such a thing as a tesseract.” This seemingly simple statement sends Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their intrepid friend Calvin on the adventure of a lifetime. They must travel through time and space on a quest to find Meg’s lost father — who was studying tesseracts before he disappeared.
13. The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
A brilliant new take on monsters and magic, The Adventurers Guild follows young residents of the land of Freestone, where people can join guilds according to their career aspirations. Our heroes, Zed and Brock, have concrete plans to join the Mages Guild and the Merchants Guild respectively. That is, until they’re pulled into the thrilling yet dangerous “Adventurers Guild” — whose purpose is to fight the otherworldly beasts that threaten Freestone and its citizens.
14. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Down the rabbit hole! This classic by one of the first architects of modern fantasy (the others being Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) tells the tale of seven-year-old Alice, who follows a white rabbit to a land of strange biscuits, smoking caterpillars, mad tea parties, and of course, murderous queens. If you haven’t read it already, it’s a fantastic introduction for any child (or adult) to magical, nonsensical fantasy.
15. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
For one of the most interesting hero’s journeys in YA, look no further than Artemis Fowl. This eponymous book introduces him as a rather unlikable character — a preteen supergenius who uses his talents to kidnap a fairy for ransom. But as the story delves into Fowl’s character and family history, the reader understands his proclivity for crime, and feels compelled to track his unorthodox narrative all the way to the end (of the eight-book series).
16. The BFG by Roald Dahl
When eight-year-old Sophie is kidnapped through her window by a giant, she thinks she’s done for. But by a miraculous stroke of good luck, she hasn’t been taken by just any old monster; she’s in the company of the “Big Friendly Giant,” who eats vegetables (namely, snozzcumbers) rather than people. As Sophie and the BFG get to know each other, they hatch a plan to thwart the other cruel, human-eating giants — with aid from none other than the Queen of England!
17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Whether you prefer the Gene Wilder adaptation or the Johnny Depp remake, we can all agree that the original story is pretty superb. Young Charlie Bucket gets the chance to visit the sequestered Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and see what really goes on inside its walls — and within the brain of the eccentric Wonka himself, who (in true Dahl fashion) has a rather dark sense of poetic justice.
18. Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Dragon Slippers centers on a peasant girl named Creel, whose family sacrifices her to a dragon in the hopes that a courageous knight will fight the dragon, marry Creel, and shower them all with riches. But our independent young lady has other ideas, specifically involving a pair of slippers and a political plot that could change her kingdom forever.
19. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Another strong heroine features in this splendid Cinderella retelling. Cursed to be obedient, young Ella learns to manage her affliction until one day, her wicked stepsisters show up and force her to obey their every command. However, despite the presence of a handsome prince, no one can say this is a “damsel in distress” kind of tale. In the end, Ella saves herself, and therein lies the true enchantment of her story.
20. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
A witch lives in the forest near the village of Protectorate where, each year, the villagers leave an infant sacrifice to keep her at bay. Little do they know that the witch is actually benevolent… and that she feeds the babies starlight and delivers them to new families on the other side of the forest. That is, until she accidentally nurses one of them with moonlight, and must keep the girl (whom she christens Luna) in order to control the power within her — if she can.
21. Half Magic by Edward Eager
When siblings Katherine, Mark, Jane, and Martha find a strange-looking coin on the sidewalk, they don’t think too much of it. But an offhand remark soon leads them to realize that this is no ordinary coin, but a talisman, which will grant them exactly half of each wish they make. This, naturally, leads to some hilarious hijinks as they struggle to master its “half magic.”
22. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Of course, in terms of children’s fantasy, you can’t do much better than the Boy Who Lived. Join Harry in Sorcerer’s Stone as he discovers his true identity as a wizard, begins attending Hogwarts, and grapples with the forces of ultimate evil, all at the tender age of eleven.
23. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
If boy wizards aren’t your thing, you can always try middle-aged hobbits. Bilbo Baggins and his dwarven compatriots journey “there and back again” in The Hobbit — bravely soldiering forward in the face of mortal peril, all in hopes of restoring the dwarves’ lost kingdom (which was taken long ago by the dragon Smaug).
24. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Though the 2004 Miyazaki adaptation brings Howl’s Moving Castle to life with incredible vibrancy, you can’t miss this original work by Diana Wynne Jones. Sophie Hatter lives in a world of magic, yet can never seem to grasp it for herself. But that’s before a witch transforms Sophie into an old crone, and she must find a way to break the spell. From there she’s thrown headfirst into the mind-bending world the wizard Howl, his fire-demon Calcifer, and of course, his ever-unpredictable moving castle.
25. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Meggie and her father have always lived a quiet, ordinary life among their books. However, everything changes when a mysterious man named Dustfinger shows up. Meggie soon unearths a hidden family talent: both she and her father can bring characters to life simply by reading their stories aloud. Action and excitement ensues as the father-daughter team attempt to prevent fictional villains from harming their real world, and strive to recover Meggie’s mother, who was trapped in a book many years ago.
26. Isadora Moon by Harriet Muncaster
Great for the younger set, the Isadora Moon series is part spooky, part sparkly, and all spectacularly unique. Our heroine Isadora is a half-vampire, half-fairy who’s just trying to live her normal (well, paranormal) life. In the first book, Isadora Moon Goes to School, Isadora faces a very serious, identity-defining decision: should she go to the school for fairies, or for vampires?
27. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl’s first full-length children’s fantasy book, James and the Giant Peach follows young James, a boy who’s mistreated by his evil Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. But when an enigmatic stranger gives James a handful of enchanted seeds, James may finally find his means of escape — in the form of a magically grown giant peach, which he and his insect friends fly all the way to New York City!
28. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Another absolute legend of fantasy, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe introduces readers to Narnia, a glorious world under siege by the wicked White Witch. The Pevensie children, who unearth Narnia in the back of a wardrobe, must help the victims of the witch’s reign of terror. Luckily, they have help in the form of Aslan: a majestic lion, and Narnia’s true ruler.
29. The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osbourne
Join Jack and Annie on their myriad adventures in the imaginative Magic Treehouse chapter books! Each installment sees the kids traveling to a different time and place in history, and having to complete a mission in order to get back home. And where better to start than with the Cretaceous period in the first book, Dinosaurs Before Dark?
30. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Jacob Portman has always loved his grandfather’s wild tales of monsters and strange children, but of course he’s never believed them… until he stumbles upon the titular home himself, and learns the truth about these “peculiars” and the danger that constantly looms in their world.
31. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Young outcast Bastian Balthazar Bux begins to read a book called The Neverending Story, which takes place in the magical land of Fantasia. As he grows increasingly absorbed by the characters’ exploits, Bastian realizes that he himself is becoming a character. He soon enters the realm of Fantasia, where he can imagine anything and it will come true. But will Bastian use his powers wisely — and can he ever return to his own world?
32. No Flying in the House by Betty Brock
Six-year-old Annabel Tippens lives a somewhat unusual life. For instance, rather than parents to take care of her, she has Gloria — a talking dog who’s just a few inches tall. Of course, Annabel doesn’t think of herself as unusual… until it’s revealed to her that she’s not just a girl, but a half-fairy! But with this knowledge comes great responsibility, and Annabel has to choose between two lives: fairy or human?
33. My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
In Gracie Lockwood’s world, the mundane meets the mythical. Dragons burn down department stores, mermaids live along local beaches, and “Dark Clouds” consume people when they die. This diary begins when Gracie and her family set off for “The Extraordinary World,” where they believe they can keep her younger brother from being taken by a Cloud. Gracie records everything that happens on their journey, both ordinary and extraordinary.
34. The People in Pineapple Place by Anne Lindbergh
What if you met a group of people that only you could see? This is both the plight and the privilege of August Brown, who discovers the people of Pineapple Place — seven children who are invisible to everyone but him, and with whom he enjoys some fantastic (and time-traveling!) adventures.
35. Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
Though most of us have enjoyed the tale of Peter Pan through Disney, this book (a novelization of the original stage play) continues to be a well-loved fantasy favorite today. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to fly through Neverland, play with the Lost Boys, and narrowly escape Captain Hook, Peter and Wendy — which is now over a century old! — lays it all out in delightful detail.
36. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
A young, bored boy named Milo goes through the “phantom tollbooth” and emerges in an exotic world of countless curiosities, which reignites his sense of wonder. Lovers of puns and wordplay, rejoice: if you haven’t already read The Phantom Tollbooth, the prose alone is sure to tickle your funny bone.
37. Rainbow Magic by Daisy Meadows
This prolific and popular beginning-reader series concerns a group of fairy friends who’ve gone missing, and a couple of human heroines who must recover them — lest Fairyland turn gray!
38. Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott
Beginning with The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet, the vividly imagined Secrets of Droon series follows a trio of friends — Eric, Julie, and Neal — who uncover the land of Droon in Eric’s basement. When they meet the princess of Droon and vow to help her rescue her mother, our heroes are set on the adventure of a lifetime, during which they’ll discover their own unique abilities and the paramount power of friendship.
39. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
From the author of Holes comes this gut-busting low-fantasy anthology about a school that’s more than a little topsy-turvy. Each chapter is titled after a different character and provides a brief vignette — and from a teacher who turns her students into apples to a girl who survives a 30-story fall, you certainly can’t say that Wayside School is ever boring.
40. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
Similar to Narnia, the Spiderwick Chronicles series centers on a group of siblings who discover a society of fairies right in their own backyard. However, they soon realize that they’re in over their heads, especially as humans were never meant to find out about the fairy world.
41. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
If you enjoyed DiCamillo’s quaint small-town novel Because of Winn-Dixie, you’ll love Despereaux’s innovative fantasy premise even more. A mouse named Despereaux aspires to rescue the lovely Princess Pea from a rat called Roscuro, who has imprisoned her in her own castle’s dungeon. It’s a touching story of love, courage, and going after your dreams — even when everyone else thinks you’re too small to achieve them.
42. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Would you want to live forever? This simple yet haunting question forms the premise of Tuck Everlasting, the tale of a family that becomes immortal after drinking from an enchanted spring. Ten-year-old Winnie Foster happens upon the Tucks in the woods and bonds with the youngest son, Jesse (who’s actually 104). But with a suspicious yellow-suited man on their heels, the Tucks can’t stay for long, and Winnie must make a choice: will she, too, drink the spring water and go to live with the Tucks… forever?
43. The Uncommoners by Jennifer Bell
Perfect for those with “a Hogwarts-shaped hole in their lives,” this series is sure to sweep you off your feet — and down into a secret underground city called “Lundinor.” This is where our young heroes Seb and Ivy will discover the truth about their family, and the irrepressible forces of evil with which they must now contend.
44. Watership Down by Richard Adams
An utterly unique hybrid of Beatrix Potter and Robinson Crusoe with just a pinch of fantasy, Watership Down revolves around an intrepid group of adventurers: rabbits traveling to their new home. If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of Hazel, Fiver, Blackberry and their epic odyssey to a hill called Watership Down, you’re in for an unforgettable treat.
45. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Her family may be poor, but young Minli is rich in imagination, and especially loves hearing her father’s imaginative stories. Little does she know that she’s about to live out a legend of her own — complete with a wise old sage, a dragon companion, and a treacherous green tiger, as she strives to bring good fortune and happiness to her impoverished village.
46. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
There’s no place like home… and for readers both young and old, the familiar-yet-fantastical adventures of Dorothy and her trusty friends in the land of Oz is a go-to literary home. From traversing the yellow brick road to melting the Wicked Witch of the West, the iconic scenes of Baum’s original masterpiece simply cannot be beat.
Fantasy books for middle schoolers and older
We’ve categorized these fantasy works as “for middle schoolers” and older based on their having slightly darker themes and more advanced language. However, note that elementary schoolers may enjoy them as well — it all depends on the reader!
47. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
An epic bildungsroman spanning five books total (including The Black Cauldron, which Disney infamously animated in 1985), the Chronicles of Prydain follow young pig-keeper Taran as he attempts to prove himself and fight the evil Lord Arawn and his army of the undead.
48. The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz
Twelve-year-old Alex Knight was born into a society of supervillains, and has never questioned his place among them. But one day, just as he’s setting off on his first nefarious mission, he saves the life of a Ranger of Justice… and starts wondering whether a life of crime really is his destiny. Centering around this fantastic antihero and ruminating on complex issues of good and bad, The Cloak Society is recommended for the highly thoughtful reader.
49. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Penned by Paolini when he was only 16, Eragon tells the story of a simple farm boy whose life changes forever after he finds a mysterious stone — which (spoiler alert) turns out to be the egg of a dragon.
50. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
“Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” So reads the message left by Alice’s mother, who otherwise disappears without a trace. Of course, Alice has no choice but to venture into that forbidden land to find her — encountering an array of strange creatures and inexplicable phenomena along the way, in a journey not unlike a twisted version of #14 on this list.
51. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Lyra Belacqua is the brilliant heroine of His Dark Materials, an elaborate supernatural and religious fantasy in which she and her “daemon” familiar must defeat forces of supreme evil… including the first angel himself, who goes by the moniker “The Authority.”
52. The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
On the day he turns eleven, Will Stanton discovers that he’s no ordinary boy, but an “Old One” destined to go up against the powers of The Dark. Which is — you guessed it — rising. If you love elaborate mythological fantasy featuring adolescent chosen ones, this is the series for you.
53. The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
Speaking of adolescent chosen ones: Carter and Sadie Kane are descended from Egyptian magicians and pharaohs, but they only find out when their egyptologist father is taken by the god of mischief, Set. Now the siblings must harness powers they didn’t even know they had to rescue their father, and indeed all of North America, before Set annihilates them.
54. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
When Thomas wakes up in “the Glade,” he has no memory of who he is or how he got there. But as our hero quickly learns, his past doesn’t matter so much as his dire present. He and the other “Gladers” are trapped by a complex maze and lethal creatures called Grievers, which draw ever closer to them. And of course, the only way is through the maze; luckily, Thomas's strange telepathic powers might just be able to help them.
55. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Another fantastical series from the mind of Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Olympians begins with The Lightning Thief, in which the eponymous Percy becomes aware of his true roots — namely, that he is the son of Poseidon. Percy begins attending “Camp Half Blood” for young demigods, and soon enough he and his friends (including a daughter of Athena and a satyr) must embark on a quest to prevent an all-out war among those deities they call Mom and Dad.
56. Redwall by Brian Jacques
In Mossflower Woods, the food chain works a little differently. Instead of being prey, mice work together with cats and owls to defeat their ultimate enemies: snakes and rats (obviously). Our hero in Redwall is Matthias the mouse, whose courage and cunning help him in his quest to find the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior (also a mouse) and defeat Cluny the Scourge, a diabolical rat who wishes to take the land of Redwall for himself.
57. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
Based on legends surrounding the actual historical figure of Nicholas Flamel (i.e. not the Harry Potter character), this book follows teenage twins Sophie and Josh, who realize that Josh’s boss “Nick” is none other than the famous alchemist. They’re soon swept into a series of thrilling escapades around the globe, as they try to untangle a prophecy that could destroy them all.
58. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Seraphina is a young musician serving on the court of Goredd, where humans and dragons coexist diplomatically — if not entirely happily. But Seraphina has a secret: she herself is half-dragon. And when a member of the royal family is murdered, seemingly at the hands (talons?) of a dragon, Seraphina must protect herself while getting to the bottom of the mystery… before the killer strikes again.
59. Sabriel by Garth Nix
Another titular heroine, Sabriel also possesses an extraordinary (if slightly macabre) talent: she, along with her father, can communicate with the dead. And it’s her father’s job as the Abhorsen to make sure that they’ve all been laid to rest in a place called the “Old Kingdom.” Only one problem: Sabriel’s father has gone missing, and now Sabriel must venture into the Old Kingdom to find him and restore him to his balancing role as the Abhorsen… before Death can tip the scales too far.
60. Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
What can we say? We just can’t resist all these awesome female protagonists. The Song of the Lioness series focuses on Alanna, a plucky young girl whose only wish is to become a knight. So she trades places, She’s The Man-style, with her twin brother Thom so she can attend knight school — and from there is launched into a sequence of super-cool medieval adventures, during which she proves her merit as a knight many times over.