Top 25 Best Children's Fantasy Books

Awesome Fantasy Books for Kids to Read
Enchanted Worlds: The Top 25 Children's Fantasy Books Unveiled

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.

Click to view and vote on the crowd ranked version of the Best Children's Fantasy Books list

The Hobbit is one of the most well-loved fantasy novels of all time. Written by J.R.R Tolkien as a bedtime story for his children, The Hobbit is a light-hearted tale, focussing on the exploits of an increasingly adventurous hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Set in the same world as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit ties into and lays the foundations for Tolkien's more famous work. However, The Hobbit, which functions as an excellent standalone book, definitely shouldn't be viewed as an inconsequential novella or tie-in novel. Unfortunately, Tolkien occasionally gets caught up in the minor details of world-building, spending entire chapters on meandering side plots. While this can make for slow read at times, Tolkien's masterful character development is sure to keep the reader hooked from the first page. Bilbo is one of Tolkien's most relatable characters, an unassuming hobbit who is plucked from his comfortable life and thrust into a fantastical world of magic, thievery and battle. In comparison to The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Tolkien keeps The Hobbit grounded in a single main storyline. Instead of trying to save all of Middle-earth, Bilbo and his companions are dedicated to one goal – to steal an ancient relic from a dragon's treasure trove. Since being published in 1937, The Hobbit has stood the test of time, and it remains an incredibly popular novel to this day.

Books in The Lord Of The Rings Series (6)

This series is challenging. Not because it's badly written or because there's a complex world to understand, but because it asks the reader to consider their beliefs and question everything they base their principles on.Why it made this listFantasy often draws on ideas from religion. There's obvious religious symbolism. There's obvious religious influence. And then there's Phillip Pullman. His Dark Materials is a blatant in its cynical view of organized religion – with the Church often playing the part of the villain. This shouldn't put you off though; the series weaves theory-heavy subjects including physics, parallel universes, quantum theory and theology with the personal themes of loyalty, family, love and friendshipEven though it was marketed as a children's series, the themes are equally intense for adults. It's an engrossing tale, with well-written characters and an intriguing plot. But, more importantly, it's an opportunity to think about our own preconceptions. Pullman questions everything in this series – theology, spirituality and knowledge. And he challenges the reader to do the same.It's always impressive when an author can combine fantastical elements like a talking bear with concrete aspects similar to those in our world. Pullman does this flawlessly. The magical aspects of the book are the devices through which he challenges our beliefs and knowledge.It's easy to empathize with the journey of the main protagonist – Lyra Belacqua – as she moves from childish innocence to adulthood and the sense of loss that comes with this growth is something we all experience. That she is such a strong female character is just another reason to pick up this series.
Another classic book that features a story for all ages and genders. Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. Peter Pan is one of those stories that stays with you forever; itâs written for a child, but thereâs a message behind the words for adults too, another layer to the story.What makes Peter Pan particularly interesting is that there is a tiny wee bit of darkness to it; the story features real characters who are flawed. Peter is quite selfish and this has consequences, even in the perfect never-grow-up world he lives in. The tale of Peter Pan is the perfect childhood story and one thatâs hit on an essential element of the human psyche
At this point, there's very little to be said about Narnia that hasn't been put better already. But I have to justify this list somehow, so I may as well try. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe has inspired generations of readers and countless adaptations. Lewis remains one of the most influential figures of the last century, and he will continue to be for years to come. It starts when four children step through a wardrobe and into a fantasy world. A world full of talking animals, centaurs, and fauns. Humans are a rarity, and Susan, Edmund, Lucy, and Peter particularly so. They're the children of prophecy, destined to sit on the throne. Throughout the novel, each of the children deals with their own challenges and comes out changed. Lucy struggles to be believed, Edmund with jealousy, Susan with death, and Peter to control his younger siblings. In this intensely Christian story, Lewis tells of a battle between good versus evil, sacrifice, and maturity. The children live out fifteen years in the world, returning the same age, yet forever changed. Read if you like: Christian fiction, mythical creatures, children's fantasy.

Books in Chronicles Of Narnia Series (3)

Charlie is a poor yet happy child who lives with his mother, father and four old grandparents in a one-room bungalow on the outskirts of town. He is the kind of boy who dreams of a better life not for himself but rather for his whole family. Charlie realizes he may just get the chance to change his life when he finds a golden ticket that will let him visit the great chocolate factory of the legendary Willy Wonka.Why it's on the listWhen it comes to kid's stories, Roald Dahl is an unrivaled legend. Along with his other novel, "James and the Giant Peach", Charlie and the Chocolate Factory stands at the top of the heap when it comes to children's books. This book is a true classic, with a pure sense of magic, storytelling, and imagination. The book is also much better than the movie, in which Willy Wonka becomes the main character, because it tells the tale from young, kind and innocent Charlie Bucket's perspective. It is one of those exhilarating and astonishing reading experiences that makes a deep impression when you are young. Amazingly - years later, this is one of the first books you will choose for your own children.Read if you likeRoald Dahl. This is a classic that we all know a little about. If your only exposure to the story was the movies – you need to read the book now!

Books in Charlie Bucket Series (1)

Yes, we're talking about that book about bunnies. No, we haven't lost our minds. Take note: This isn't a children's book, despite it being about fluffy animals. If you've read Watership Down, you'll understand it's on the list. And if you haven't, you're wrong. It's impossible not to be moved by this tale – even if it is about rabbits.Why it made the listThe themes that underpin the plot of this book – of survival, of the influence of storytelling and of man's destructiveness – get deeper as the plot of Watership Down progresses. This is due to the personalities of the rabbits: As you get to know them, you'll not only identify with them, but feel for the things that happen to them. And, while they have some anthropomorphic elements, Adams hasn't erased their animalness in favor of human characteristics. That is to say, there are no bunnies in waistcoasts. Or squirrels smoking cigars. There's never a moment when you forget that you're reading about rabbits, but there's also never a time when you won't be able to identify with them.Adams has created a well balanced novel here: When it gets too dark, he throws in some humor. When the rabbits share their fables, it's because they're relevant to the action at that point in the plot. When the adventure becomes harrowing, there are moments of reflection. It's a rare writing skill, and if it's the only reason you pick up this book, you won't be disappointed.The action never stops moving, which – considering the intense emotions the book will inspire in you – is both a blessing and a relief. Watership Down may not be fantasy in the most obvious sense, but it's a classic and deserves to be on any ‘Best of…' lists.

Books in Watership Down Series (1)

Similar Recommendations

Coming Soon...
This was Mieville’s first foray into YA fantasy and boy was it a good one; he manages to subvert the standard fantasy formula, giving the reader a story that’s both new and completely unexpected in some ways. There is a subtle message here to the reader: don’t wait for someone to save you, seize the initiative and challenge the authority if you have your doubts about the veracity of something. Un Lun Dun is a strange, wonderfully wacky world with vivid characters and creatures popping out of every page – from the omni present evil “smog” seeking to destroy the world, to the flying buses that sail through the air, to the umbrella wielding hero that floats in and out of the story like the sentient umbrellas he commands. Highly recommended for readers of any age, though it’s particularly cute for young readers who’ll get a kick out of the whole zany story.

Similar Recommendations

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

Yes, everyone has probably read this. In fact, these these may have been the books that got you started reading fantasy in the first place. These books do make for a good read and as the series progresses, the plot gets darker and darker. Read the books, you'll enjoy them. They are not what I consider the best of the best in the fantasy genre, but they are a far cry from the worst! Highly recommended reading for those looking for a nice introduction into the fantasy genre.
An awesome movie, but an even better book. It’s a delightful book for children and adults too – a true tale for all ages. What’s specifically awesome about this story is that it gently mocks the traditional fairy tale, yet still keeps the charm of the "happily ever after" fairy tale. You won’t go wrong reading this one to the kids – that is, if they don’t grab it out of your hands to finish reading it themselves!
If there is one childrenâs classic your kids should read and only one, than it should be Alice in Wonderland. Itâs a book thatâs influenced an entire generation of pop culture â including movies, video games, books, language, and more. To NOT read this book is to deprive yourself of a strong cultural point of reference. What is there to say about the story other than a girl goes through a rabbit hole and finds herself in a wonderland. Like many of the best childrenâs classics, this book can be read on two different levels entirely â a simple childâs adventure story in a magical land or a metaphorical journey of double meanings, symbolisms and clever wordplays. There is a hidden story behind the story itself. This is why the book is so brilliant. It offers something to everyone; as a child you enjoy the wonderful and imaginative tale of a girl saving a magical kingdom, and as an adult you read into a story thatâs more than a story.

Books in Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Series (1)

With a foot in both Science Fiction and Fantasy, A Wrinkle in Time is a bridge between reality and fantasy, a meeting place for adult and child readers alike.  Meg leads the adventure with her younger, gifted brother and her secret High School crush on her heels. Though she is your typical insecure, average-looking teen she is clearly gifted, but grappling with her identity as anything effectual let alone valuable to anyone. Surrounded by her brilliant parents; her father recently disappeared while experimenting, her mother is the beautiful scientist slash stay at home mom; and her little brother the certified genius status and brainier than them all, she feels completely ordinary and unexceptional. While her little brother may "have all the answers" he is very much in need of her protection, and Meg isn't afraid to take a punch or swing one. The three mysterious, powerful guides through this fantastical journey are all female, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit, though we also run into the "Happy Medium" who is genderless. With clear, humorous narrative and believable characters this series, which also includes A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilted Planet, are great examples of lit featuring strong female lead characters without it feeling contrived or like the author is making a "statement." They just are who they are and drive the story forward. It's no wonder it's a classic.

Books in Time Quintet Series (4)

Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world -- where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets. This is another thrilling, triumphantly imaginative series from Garth Nix, the best-selling author of THE SEVENTH TOWER, SABRIEL, and LIRAEL.  Garth Nix in his Abhorsen, tells the chilling story of a girl's search for her father, a search that will take her into the very heart of death's realm. The Keys to the Kingdom is a very different sort of tale, a wild adventure that spans the very fabric of space and time.In this tale, an 11-year old boy accidentally becomes master of the universe and wild adventures proceed. With a rich, slightly weird world and great cast characters, this is a fantasy series that every kid will love. The world is extremely imaginative and the writing is superb.Fans of imaginative fantasy (especially fantasy that merges the fantastical, magical word with the familiar world) will find plenty to love about this series. It's a non-stop adventure that gets more interesting and gripping the further you get into the series. There's a bit of a dark, gritty edge to the series too. One of the best young adult / children's fantasy series currently out there and one that can certainly be enjoyed by the adults tooLess dark than the Abhorsen trilogy, this children's fantasy series is great for adults and kids.
Alexander's Wales-inspired epic fantasy offers little in the way of originality when compared to the novels of today. It's a simple tale of Taran, a pig farmer who has always wanted more, and gets more than he's bargained for. But as is common in these stories, execution is the key, and this author has it down to a tee. The Chronicles of Prydain is an adventure novel at its core, detailing the fight and journey a band of heroes against evil. There are some incredibly strong characters, from half animals to princesses and soulless warriors. There's no Mary Sue characters in this book, each defined as much by their flaws as their weaknesses. But that doesn't mean they have no redeemable qualities, and many of their internal journeys are about finding those. Despite this, none of them reach the depth of Taran, which is where Alexander's true mastery shows. He manages to create a feeling of care for the character despite his clumsiness and irritability.Taran is not a stalwart warrior with no emotion, he's fragile and still learning. Still, he has such a strong presence that Alexander never has to describe his face. Read if you like: Lord of the Rings, adventure, diverse characters.

Books in The Chronicles Of Prydain Series (5)

A true classic and not at all like the movie. Because of the popularity of the movie, many assume the book and the movie are the same; but this is not so. The book is far superior to the movie and is a thoroughly entertaining read. It makes for perfect reading to your kids right before bedtime and hey, you might even find yourself slipping off to read it on your own time. With quite a few of the current crop of children’s fantasy books tending towards the dark side of things, it’s nice to have a fun, entertaining read that makes you feel good at the end of the day. Appropriate for all ages.

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.

Similar Recommendations

If you are

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.

Before famous director, Hayao Miyazaki turned Howl's Moving Castle into an animated film, it was an enchanting novel written by Diana Wynn Jones. This novel follows the life a young girl who is destined, as the eldest of three daughters, to fail if she ever pursues success. In a world where the tropes of most modern fairy tales are accepted ways of life, Jones' protagonist, Sophie, must learn to shape her surroundings instead of being shaped by them. Initially, Jones' Howl's Moving Castle appears to be clichéd. Sophie is cursed by an evil witch before stumbling upon a living, breathing castle inhabited by a wizard called Howl, on the outskirts of the magical Kingdom of Ingary. While this narrative may stay true to many classic tropes of the fantasy genre, such as magic witches and talking objects, Jones' novel features a memorable setting, unique characters and a striking plot. The subtle, Victorian prose, similar to that of novels like Jane Austen, allows the reader to establish a vivid and in depth image of each character. Furthermore, the magical Kingdom of Ingary is perfectly developed, with Jones giving just enough information to build a mental picture while still allowing her readers to run their imaginations wild. While Miyazaki's film and Jones' novel follow the same premise, they differ greatly in plot and characterization, making them almost two entirely different stories. If you've enjoyed either version of this tale, you'll likely enjoy the other as well.

Books in Howl’s Moving Castle Series (2)

James and the Giant Peach is about a little boy named James, whose parents died, and now lives with his wicked aunts. One day, someone suspicious gives him a bag of green things to make something spectacular, but James accidentally loses them, and all of them disappear. When a peach tree in the garden suddenly grows a giant peach, his crazy adventures begin. Why it's on the list Dahl is always a treat, and his books are easily able to stand up to the test of time - children always love an evil-good guardian that always gets what they deserve while the suffering child gets to show us all what kind of good-hearted hero he is, and have a grand adventure too. The book also sneaks in a wonderful lesson about never giving up, finding out who is important in your life, and hanging on to them forever. The other vital lesson that it teaches is even though life may have been horrible in the beginning it is all about giving back. This short story is written in the same style as most of his other works. Not everything about people or life is pretty -- but there's always something to learn from it. Dahl uses vivid imagery, fun language, and immerses the reader. Read if you like Any Roald Dahl books. Adventure. Fun.
A strong series for kids looking for a bit of adventure fantasy. It’s not deep or particularly complex; it’s not a classic that tries to teach you something grand as you read. But what it is a wild action-packed adventure that will keep the kids coming back for more.
While vacationing with their Mother's ancient nurse in Wales, young Colin and Susan come to learn of the Legend of Alderley, a story of mystery and magic. Obviously, at first it's simply an enjoyable story, an integral part of the countryside's peculiar charm. And then an odd woman, who some call a witch, attempts to lure them into her car. This is just the start of the excitement and danger. When bizarre creatures come scuttling from the Devil's Grave, Colin and Susan quickly realize that the stories are real and the only thing that can help them now is an old but precious family heirloom of Susan's.Why it's on the listThis tale is well paced and well written. Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter in an easy-reading book written for kids but just as great of a story for adults.It's an exciting fantasy tale, the more so because it is woven into the hidden nooks and crannies of our own modern-day world - unlike Tolkien and Alexander. You never know when you might look behind a standing stone, only to find a stromkarl chanting a spell while other passers-by would see nothing but a little man humming to himself. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is, all in all, full of noble and wicked characters whose endless battle leaks over into the world of men and sweeps up the two children, carrying them along in a tide of calamitous events. Luckily they are aided by their friend Gowther old and wizened farmer who, even though he is surrounded by the cynicism of his world, is still able to have faith in the old ways.This is a delightful little book and one that is guaranteed to keep readers, young and old alike, absorbed through a rainy afternoon. The author has a gift for story-telling and a lovely, slightly quaint style reminiscent of Tolkien or Lewis, and his sensitive use of language really helps to bring his vision and imagination to life. He also paints his scenery and settings beautifully, so that the reader is transported without much difficulty into a world of dark mines and loathsome goblins, deep mysterious woods and enchanted knights.Read if you likeClassic Fairytales.

Books in Tales Of Alderley Series (4)

A series of books about books…what more could an avid fantasy reader want? In her Inkheart series, Cornelia Funke takes everything that is enchanting about reading, and creates a hard-hitting story about a book binder who can read fictional characters to life. When the protagonist's mother disappears into one of her father's stories and she, herself, faces the wrath of a fictitious villain; Meggie must do everything she can to save her mother and her life. This page-turning series is driven by a simple and smart idea – what you write can come to life – and appeals to a very large audience (e.g. anyone who loves reading). Despite the simple premise of the Inkheart series, Funke had a difficult job of making each character feel as though they literally come to life in front of the reader's eyes. However, using eloquent prose and wonderfully detailed descriptions, Funke has done just that, producing a richly imaginative world that portrays each character down to the finest detail. Throughout the entirety of this series, the plot treads water on a number of dark themes, making this a heavier read than other popular fantasy series. However, this book isn't a grim or depressing read and it's darker sections are balanced by witty dialogue and one of Meggie's ever-cheerful companions.

Books in Inkworld Series (2)

Amazon Book Description  From a strikingly original voice in fiction comes the story of Artemis Fowl, a very unusual hero. Artemis combines the astuteness of Sherlock Holmes with the sangfroid of James Bond and the attitude of Attila the Hun. But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of LEPrecon Unit. These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories. These fairies are armed and they're dangerous. Artemis thinks he's got them just where he wants them, but then they stop playing by the rules ...  Someone described this series as Harry Potter meets Die Hard -- an apt description indeed. But parents fear not: this is not Harry Potter with bloody effects turned on, it's a rip roaring tale that sucks you in. As an anti-hero, Artemis is an unusual character in children's fantasy. It's the bad guy's turn to win for once and in this book, you will find yourself rooting for the spoiled, imperious, but somehow likable boy-genius criminal Artemis Fowl. Darker then Harry Potter and hilariously funny (at times), The Artemis Fowl series is a must read.

Books in Artemis Fowl Series (7)

Action, sword fighting and adventures but with the heroes and villains of the tale mice, badgers, and other talking animals. Redwall is a fast-paced action series for kids that’s wonderfully entertaining. 

Books in Redwall Series (21)

This one takes place in the fictional city of The Castle which is surrounded by a great wall.The books are light reading and don't take themselves too seriously. A good amount of action and adventure and a great mix of fun characters. Lots of magic, cloak and dagger plot stuff, and a whole range of unique creatures populating the world.A great series for children and maybe even an adult or two.

Books in Septimus Heap Series (6)

A strong series for kids looking for a bit of adventure fantasy. It's not deep or particularly complex; it's not a classic that tries to teach you something grand as you read. But what it is a wild action-packed adventure that will keep the kids coming back for more.

Books in The Ranger's Apprentice Series (11)