Raise your hand if you want to have magical powers like Harry Potter and attend Hogwarts? Yeah, me too. Since I can’t figure out a way to make that happen, reading books with characters who have magical powers is my back up plan. It is not as satisfying as actually having the power to fly, but it is the best I can do.
In my experience, readers have strong opinions about magical fantasy books; they either love them or hate them– no in between. If you are like me and love them, it might be because magic gives readers a feeling that they can control their world. Of course in most stories, using magical powers does not always solve problems; it usually creates problems, which then creates excitement.
The list below typically works well for upper elementary aged readers with a few exceptions. You can also find magical book suggestions on the fairy tale book list, which I posted earlier.
Truly Magical– These books have characters who can perform actual magic like turning people into statues or disappearing or flying. If the characters can not perform magic, then the setting is a magical world or the sub characters have magical powers.
11 Birthdays and sequels by Wendy Mass
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series by Frank L. Baum
Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas
Winterling series by Sarah Prineas
The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew (out of print– check your library)
Magickeepers series by Erica Kirov
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Mary Poppins series by P. L. Travers
Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Savvy and Scumble by Ingrid Law
The Tail of Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler
Magical Objects– In these books, the characters live in a world that is more or less like the one we know. There is an object that creates magic. It might transport the characters to a different world or allow the characters to do something that would otherwise not be possible. I noted the “magic object” in parenthesis below.
The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull (the candy)
Half Magic by Edward Eager (the coin)
The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne, younger readers (the treehouse,)
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series by by Betty Macdonald, younger readers (the remedies)
Tuesdays at the Castle and sequel by Jessica Day George (the castle)
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (the water)
The Shadows by Jacqueline West (the paintings)
Almost Normal– These books have characters and settings that are pretty realistic, but there will be one or more characters with a trait that is unusual. It’s not exactly magic, but it is close.
What the Dog Said by Randi Reisfeld
The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer
Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan
The Princess Academy and sequel by Shannon Hale
Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl
On My “To Read” List
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane
The Key and the Flame by Claire M. Caterer
** Sewing Sister is in town with her girls for a visit. I would like to thank my nieces for their help with this magic fantasy book list.
One of TheRoomDad’s best friends, affectionately known as Uncle Burrito at our house, visited a few months back and asked me about book recommendations for his 2nd grader. His daughter is a crazy good reader and not only finishes books at mock speed, she also reads at a level that is much higher than an average 8 year old. He said that she finishes books on the ride home from the library or book store, and the book never even makes it into the house. He wanted book ideas that might slow her pace a little but also have content that is suitable for a 2nd grader.
How do you help your child pick a book when they are reading at a higher level than their age?
First of all, it is OK to read below reading level. It increases fluency, supports comprehension, and minimizes frustration. In fact, I often encourage reading at the low end of a child’s reading range when reading for pleasure or during “free reading” time.
Think about books you loved as a child and recommend those titles. I find that classic books stand the test of time very well, and I think the content is not nearly as “edgy” as some literature that is published today.
Find a series that your child loves. This is a great way to buy some time before you have to come up with more titles. If you can find a series with a good first book, chances are the content will stay at about the same level in all of the books.
Not only can you follow a series, you can also follow an author. But, some authors write for a young and older audience, so pay attention. Think about Judy Blume’s Forever versus Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
Read the book jacket or online summary of a book. If the synopsis mentions death, destruction, or “coming of age” (translation = puberty or romance), that is a red flag that the content may be for an older child.
Our library has a new eReader service. You can check out books through your iPad, and they download to your device. The book is deleted from your iPad on the due date. This won’t slow down your speedy reader, but it will reduce your visits to the book store and library.
Here are a few book options that are high reading level for the grade but “clean” content.
Advanced 1st/2nd Grade Reader:
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, 4.9
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, 6.5
The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull, 4.6
Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, 5.9
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin, 3.8
Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary, 4.1-5.7
The Indian in the Cupboard series, 5.5-6.1
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards, 7.3
The Lemonade War series, 3.4-4.5
Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 4.3-5.3
The Million Dollar Putt by Dan Gutman, 4.5
No Talking (5.0) and School Story (4.7) by Andrew Clements
Poppy and Friends series by Avi, 3.5-5.8
Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, 3.5-5.9
The Secret Garden (6.8) and The Little Princess (4.0) by Frances Hodges Burnett
The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett, 4.3
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica George, 3.0
Who Was series by various authors, 3.0-4.0
Advanced 3rd/4th Grade Reader:
Far North by Will Hobbs, 6.8
How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, 5.7-7.4
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, 8.1
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, 6.1
The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, 6.3
Urchin of the Riding Stars by M.I. McAllister, not leveled
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, 6.2
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (sequel has a little romance), 5.0
Remarkable by Lizzie K.. Foley, not leveled
The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch, 5.3
The White Mountains series, 6.1
The Wizard of Oz series by Frank Baum, 6.9
I included a reading level for each book/series on the list. This is a guideline only. 4.3 is roughly where a typical student would be in the 3rd month of 4th grade. For more information on leveling books you can read this article on the Scholastic website. Not only are books leveled by content, they also look at the length of words and sentences. More words with lots of syllables might bump up the reading level. So, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, which has words like Papilionaceous, earns a higher level.
One of my students loaned me a book called The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. You might recognize the author name as one of the Glee actors (yes, the TV show). The book sat on my nightstand for over a month before I finally picked it up. The student was starting to ask questions, and I was getting embarrassed. I judged the book by its cover– or rather the actor/author name and had pretty low expectations, but I needed to be able to make a few comments to my sweet student about the story. I was pleasantly surprised. It is a fun spin on the “ever after” of all of the best fairy tale characters.
Throw a library card, and you will hit a fairy tale spin off book. The books are everywhere right now, and I am hooked. Here is my suggested list. I have read only a few and most are on my “to read” list. Which one should I read next?
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (Enchanted series)
The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley (The Sisters Grimm series)
Happily Ever After by Anna Quindlen
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Rapunzel, The One With All the Hair by Wendy Mass (Twice Upon a Time series)
A Tale Dark and Grimm series by Adam Gidwitz
The Wide Awake Princess by E.D. Baker (and others by this author)
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (Woodcutter series, mixed reviews)
Entwined by Heather Dixon
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
And a picture book that I thought looked fun…
Honestly, Red Riding Hood was Rotten by Trisha Speed Shaskan (and others in this series)