Fantasy written for a younger audience and usually features young characters. These characters tend to have something special, like an ability or object. The uniqueness of a character is often a point of identification for the reader. Fantasy is imaginative and opens up worlds of possibilities for all readers and children especially. For this reason there are many children's books written in the Fantasy genre. The other worldly nature and sense of wonder particularly appeal to this age group.
Juvenile Fantasy (at least the best ones) is frequently for adults as much as for children. There are layers to this sub-genre, a layer that will be engaging to young readers and to their parental units too. This characteristic also makes Juvenile Fantasy stories timeless because if you read them at different stages in life you will likely have a new experience with the story and gain a deeper understanding of your favorite childhood characters.
That's the best the sub-genre has to offer, but there are other stories that are not so timeless. Stories that fall into this end of the spectrum are not necessarily well-written and they don't bring anything new to the genre. Many of these are just trying to capitalize on the mega success of Harry Potter and therefore are weak and lack any depth. So, we won't talk about them because Juvenile Fantasy does have some great stories to offer children and those who are young at heart.
Variable. Magic has a place in Juvenile Fantasy simply because of its endless possibilities and sense of wonder. But, not all Juvenile Fantasy develops a magic system, sometimes the magic is just the power of imagination and that is awesomely powerful.
Variable. Lots of Juvenile Fantasy tries to have a lesson of some kind, something readers can take away and apply to their own lives. The lesson doesn't have to be something grand and life altering—it can be a lesson on accepting differences—but a worthwhile lesson. Not all Juvenile Fantasy tries to incorporate pedagogy though, some just want to entertain. Regardless, the kid will be reading.
When adults read children's literature an interesting thing can happen. Most of these stories are told through the eyes of a young person. Kids can be pretty smart, clever, and even surprising. This lens provides an opportunity to reconnect, reexamine, and experience things anew.
High. Juvenile Fantasy is very good at creating a protagonist who child readers will identify with. The protagonist usually goes through a coming-of-age journey and so readers will develop an understanding of the character's motivations and psychology.
Moderate. Plot keeps the story moving in Juvenile Fantasy. And while there are likely to be twists, turns, and reveals within the story, the plot itself is not likely to be too complex.
Plot complexity tends to increase with the age of target audience. For example, in the Harry Potter series, the complexity increases with each book. This characteristic can be attributed to the maturation of the protagonists as well as the target reader. In series Juvenile Fantasy this progression is especially common because kids can grow alongside their favorite fantasy characters.
Low. Violence is not a key component of Juvenile Fantasy. If there is violence it is not graphic and is kept at a G rating.
Young Adult Fantasy. Defining the cut off of Juvenile and YA fantasy is difficult and so there is a bit of grey area between them. Indeed, many books are classified under both sub-genres. Most sub-genres can be made child friendly and reader will find a good selection on any Juvenile Fantasy shelf.
Coming of Age. Juvenile Fantasy often features a coming of age story.
By C.S. Lewis. Narnia is an enchanting world and the young protagonists become great heroes who can cross from our horribly mundane world into the wonderfully magical world. This series has epic battles of good vs. evil, talking animals, and inspiring friendships.
By J.K. Rowling. Possibly the biggest children's fantasy series ever. Incredibly popular and appeals to a huge range of audiences, the story of Harry grows with readers.
By Michael Ende. The protagonist is a shy and awkward boy with a grand imagination. He becomes a character in a book where he takes on a mission of heroic significance.
By T.H. White. A bit of King Arthur and Merlin for children. This book adds a bit of education and a bit of humor to the ancient legends. 5. Mary Norton, The Borrowers. An imaginative story about a teeny tiny family living under the floorboards. Their world is turned upside down when a human discovers their existence.
By Mary Norton. An imaginative story about a teeny tiny family living under the floorboards. Their world is turned upside down when a human discovers their existence.
By Christopher Paolini. The first book in the adventurous Inheritance Cycle, introduces young readers to a young boy with a dragon for a friend.
By Philip Pullman. This series follows two world hopping children through fateful adventures as they try to save the world—all of them. Mysterious, heroic, magical, breathtaking, this trilogy has lots to offer.
By Diana Wynne Jones. A journey of discovery and wonder. This story is part fairy tale, but flips some of the typical conventions—like the main character is an old lady.
By Madeleine L'Engle. The first book in the Time Quintet, this book introduces readers to siblings Meg and Charles Wallace. A wonderful book with action and adventure all wrapped up in a heartwarming tale.
By Eoin Colfer. Artemis is an unusual protagonist in Juvenile Fantasy because he's an anti-hero—he's rich, spoiled, smart and a criminal mastermind. A thoroughly engaging series with a sly wit.