Top 25 Best Children's Fantasy Books
Fantasy books are great for younger children, because fantasy involves imagination and suspension of beliefs about reality -- a feat that children have a natural aptitude for. Fantasy literature is appealing to children and can introduce them to the joys of reading from a young age. Children's fantasy novels can help develop positive reading habits in children that they will keep for life.
It seems like every publisher is trying to cash in on the Harry Potter phenomenon; the YA/Children's section of the bookstore is packed with all manner of children's fantasy books. Not all of them are good; in fact, most of them are quite bad. Just because a book is written for a younger audience does not give the author an excuse to write lazy, derivative dreck -- which many currently do. This list aims to remedy that, giving you a selection of the best of the best in children's fantasy literature.
I've selected the Top 25 best children's fantasy books that are guaranteed to please younger kids under the age of 12. These are nice, clean fantasy books for kids that you can read with your children. A few of the books on this list may have some violence and adult themes, but younger children can certainly appreciate the book from a young child's perspective. Quite a number of the books are children's classics and can be read both by children and adults; there's something for both audiences.
For a similar list that targets a slightly older audience (i.e. the Young Adult audience) in the 12 - 18 age range, take a look at the Best Fantasy Books for Young Adults. The books you think are missing on this list are probably on that list.
Children's Fantasy For Adults
Many of the best children's classics (or YA classics) tell a double story -- a story for children and a story for adults who read through the lines. This is perhaps the dividing line between a mere “story” and a classic work of literature. There is something to find in the story no matter what stage of life you are in – child or adult. Each read-through can provide a different layer of interpretation to draw from. There are many children's fantasy novels out there, but only a few works that actually transcend the age barrier and become a tale for all ages.
Young Adult Fantasy vs. Children's Fantasy
There is overlap between Young Adult fantasy and Children's fantasy books, but there are some marked differences too. For one, Chidren's Fantasy books are aimed at young readers under 12 years old, while Young Adult Fantasy is marketed torwards ages 12 - 18. It follows that the themes and stories present in YA (Young Adult) fantasy may feature teenage protaganists, grittier settings, darker themes and more mature subject matter. Unfortunately, publishers just lump most YA fantasy and children's fantasy books together under the same marketing category (as Young Adult fantasy).
September 2012 Update: Vastly updated the list with new entries (taking some of the list's comments into account) to make it a Top 25 list instead of a Top 10, removed books that are more suitable for a slightly older audience to the new Best Young Adults Fantasy Books list.
Books in Chronicles Of Narnia Series (3)
Books in Charlie Bucket Series (1)
Books in Watership Down Series (1)
For a somewhat similar take on an “alternate reality London”, give Simon R. Green’s Nightshade series a read too. Also Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim series
Books in Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Series (1)
Books in Time Quintet Series (4)
Books in The Chronicles Of Prydain Series (5)
The Neverending Story is a perfect example of how badly a film version of a beloved book can go. For people who hadn't read the book, the film was probably enchanting. For everyone else, it's confusing. (Can we please talk about the luck dragon that was less dragon and more a flying puppy?) But the book is a complex exploration of power and how it corrupts even those with the best intentions. Why it made the list It's not often that you'll read a book where the integrity of the character you root the most for is as annihilated as it is in The Neverending Story. You'll have read about characters that fall from grace, but more often than not, it's a result of an external force. In this book, it's Bastians' good intentions that drag him down. And that's what will get you. Because we assume that, should we be given the power to change things, we'd do it for the better. But when you have that power and can have anything, how do you keep your moral compass intact? It's translated from a German Text, so the language isn't always the smoothest, but the creatures you encounter as you're reading are full of life. Ende has an imagination that could rival Green Lantern's, and it's clear on every page.
a fan of The Neverending Story (you know, those sort of magical books you loved as a "kid" that were full of adventures where heroes always win and the boy always saves the girl and the unfairness of life is eventually balanced out by the end of the novel; that is,until you grew up and got a job and realized that never really happens), The Princess Bride would appeal to you. The Chronicles of Narnia, though not a standalone, are another set of books that delight the inner child. Shall I also mention the obvious Harry Potter series? And let's throw out The Hobbit while we're at it.