Friday, June 26, 2009


Aaaahhh . . . fantasies. Everyone needs to indulge in an absorbing fantasy every once in a while. After all, life would be rather boring if we each didn't escape to our own little corner of our minds every so often. Admit it, you have fantasies. We all do; it's all just a matter of how "interesting" they really are or choose to become.

I'll even tell you that the opportunity to escape into another world, another life, offers one of the reasons that I truly enjoy reading. There's something incredibly appealing about slipping into another being's reality for just a few minutes or hours at a time.

In the past, I haven't really enjoyed reading traditional adult fantasies, though. They all seemed too heavy on science fiction which I'm really just not into. Perhaps because I taught upper elementary grades or since Curly Girl adores fantasy novels, I have tended to focus on fantasy books targeted toward children and young adults. So here goes . . .

Angela's Top 10 Fantasy Books and Series:

10. Eragon series by Christopher Paolini

I have to admit that I haven't actually read this series, but I included it since everyone else in my family adores it. Even though haven't read Eragon, Eldest, and Brisinger, I've heard large chunks of them read aloud while Patrick was reading them to Curly Girl (when she was younger) or to Car Guy (now). After reading them with her father in the past, Curly Girl has since read the series on her own, and Car Guy is absolutely obsessed with the world of dragons portrayed in the books. My seven-year-old has even renamed his sword Eragon and frequently struts around the house acting like his newfound hero. Hubby and Curly Girl place this series between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings difficulty-wise, with it definitely evoking shades of Tolkien.

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

After much prodding from Curly Girl, she and I read The Hobbit aloud in the spring. My daughter had already read the book twice before, but knew I probably wouldn't pick it up unless she asked me to read it aloud with her (our nightly bedtime ritual). I enjoyed it, and especially found it funny to send my children into giggles by raucously singing the dwarves' songs aloud. I'll definitely need to read The Hobbit again though to tap into a deeper level of meaning within the book, and I also plan to read Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy fairly soon.

8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
I first read A Wrinkle in Time as part of a Children's Literature class that I took years ago, but enjoyed it again when I read it aloud to my fifth grade class a while later. It's a great traditional young adult fantasy complete with different worlds and time travel. L'Engle also speaks of deeper ideas though, like the importance of being true to yourself and the danger of conformity.
A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time complete L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time quintet.

7. Stuart Little by E.B. White
Who doesn't love E.B. White? How can you not love Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web? Stuart Little is partially a sentimental pick. It was the first chapter book that I read aloud to Car Guy (He was three at the time.). After listening to the book, Car Guy kept asking for a pet mouse. Since I really didn't want a mouse in the house, the mouse request morphed into a hamster, then a guinea pig, and finally into our rabbit, Nibbles, that we have now. Even if you have seen the Stuart Little movie, read the book. It is such a delight.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
I'll admit that The Giver isn't one of my favorite books, as in "Oooh, I just love to lose myself in it," but it is one of the most thought-provoking books I have read. In this Newbery winner, Lowry creates an alternative world in which she examines the role of free choice and mind control in a society, euthanasia, psychotrophic drugs, and the purpose of families and citizens to a country's security. Heavy stuff, reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale, but for a younger audience. Due to the novel's content, I would only recommend it for middle school students and up. In the interest of full disclosure, I have written and published a literature guide on The Giver (

5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Pure fun and delight! Car Guy and I just finished reading this together and thoroughly enjoyed it. Dahl's books are exactly what children's fantasies should be- imaginary worlds, amusing characters, and unadultered joy. Even if you have seen the movie (and who hasn't?), read the book. As usual, the book and movie differ in several aspects. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also makes a great read aloud with early elementary children. Car Guy and I enjoyed it so much that we began reading Dahl's James and the Giant Peach the other day.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Love them, love them, love them! Curly Girl, Car Guy, and I read the entire series together, often tackling several chapters a night because we just couldn't put the books down. You can read The Chronicles of Narnia on so many levels of fantasy or allegory, and they are interesting to all ages. I admit that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite of the series, and The Horse and His Boy ranks as my least favorite of the group. It is also interesting to note that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were close friends who inspired each other to write The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings series.

3. The Harry Potter
series by J.K. Rowling
Who doesn't love the Harry Potter series?
I'm sure you've already read all seven of the books, but if you haven't you must do so immediately. I still tease my husband about his refusal to read Harry Potter several years ago on the grounds that it was a kid's book and too babyish for him to waste his time on. Needless to say, once he started reading the series he quickly zipped through the first three books and has since escorted Curly Girl to several midnight book-buying parties to purchase the next installments in Harry's adventures. Curly Girl and I are now anxiously awaiting the day when Car Guy and his dad finish reading Brisinger, so she and I can read Harry Potter aloud to Car Guy. I can hardly wait to see how he soaks up the books. Btw, The Prisoner of Azkaban marks my favorite volume in the series.

2. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

I'm going to admit that I engaged in some serious fantasizing and enjoyed some interesting dreams while reading Meyer's sensual series. Come to think of it, I may need to break the books out again soon. Thinking that a young adult vampire series was below me, I didn't read the saga for quite some time. Once I cracked open the books, I was completely sucked into them, though, and spent many late nights agonizing about the merits of Edward vs. Jacob. (In case you're wondering, I'm definitely an Edward girl- the more dangerous and forbidden, the more appealing.) Yes, the books are hot, in a sexual-tension-leave-it-up-to-your-imagination sort of way. In my opinion, the first two books (Twilight and New Moon) are fine for middle grades students, but I'd hold off on Eclipse and especially Breaking Dawn until the high school years.

1. Tuck Everlasting
by Natalie Babbitt
Beautiful, thought-provoking, engrossing, a masterpiece- I truly can't think of enough accolades for this book. Babbitt's novel is worth
reading purely for the book's imagery. When teaching, I always used Tuck Everlasting to explain precise, descriptive language to my students. Amazing book which makes the reader question how much he/she would give up (love, family, friendships) to live forever or to choose die as mortal humans do. Yes, I have seen the movie of Tuck Everlasting, and it doesn't even compare to the book. Read it; you'll love it. I promise. In the interest of full disclosure, I have also written a literature guide for this novel (

I hope you have found a fantasy novel or two or three to read by yourself or with your children. Inspired by my list, I think I'll try reading an adult fantasy book soon. Perhaps I'll start with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or something along that line. Or maybe that's just my vampire fantasy rearing it fangs again.

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