Top 5: Pre- Harry Potter Reads

As I wrote yesterday, Harry Potter books (and movies) can be pretty scary and intense for younger children. If your child is intrigued by magic and fantasy, but you’re not certain she or he is quite ready for Hogwarts, here are a few fantasy titles they may be more comfortable with.

(Click on the titles to see full reviews.)

Top 5: Beginner Fantasy Chapter Books


1. The Cuckoo Clock by Mrs. Molesworth – age 5+

A very sedate and old-fashioned (1877) story about a girl who visits some magical places and learns to behave herself a little better.

2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – age 5+

Quite different from the movie – a rambling, weird tale with a few scares and dustups along the way. (NB. some violence: see full review.)

3. Half Magic by Edward Eager – age 5+

One of my childhood favourites. This and other titles by Eager are lovely stories about children who come across something magic and mess things up a little. Slightly old-fashioned but charming and full of insight about sibling relations.

4. The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit – age 6+

Snappy and very funny short stories, each about a very unique dragon.

5. The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit – age 6+

Nesbit books like The Enchanted Castle and Five Children and It inspired Edward Eager’s work, and are similarly about children who acquire some kind of magic and mismanage it with amusing or chilling results. This title in particular has one very creepy sequence.

And Two bonus titles… Rather long and wordy, only for the most hardy listeners (and readers).

6. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – age 6+

Find an abridged version if you can. (But NOT a Disney version!) The plot is captivating, but the original novel is a very dense read, and tangled with tangents.

7. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald – age 6+

Goblins living under a mountain plot to kidnap a Princess, but she is aided by the ghost of her great-great-great grandmother and a courageous miner boy. Another very old classic, creepy and intriguing, but a trifle loooong and slow to get going. (Not sure if there are any abridged versions out there.)

As you can tell, my tastes go to the older, classic novels. I must start reading some newer books!

If you have any suggestions for early fantasy books, new or old, please share them!




Jack Prelutsky, poems

Peter Sis, illustrator

HarperCollins, 2002

40 pp.

Age: 5 +

Interests: poetry, animals, birds, word play, nonsense, maps, travel

Next: Edward Lear’s The Quangle Wangle’s Hat and others

Also by this poet/illustrator team: The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, Monday’s Troll, The Gargoyle on the Roof

Also by this poet: The New Kid on the Block and many others


The Man Who Walked Between the Towers


The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

by Mordicai Gerstein

Roaring Brook Press, 2003

34 pp.

Age: 5+

Interests: history, biography, street performers, New York, circus

Next: another book about tightrope walking – Mirette on the High Wire; another true story of daring – The Glorious Flight


The Glorious Flight


The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Blériot

by Alice and Martin Provensen

The Viking Press, 1983

38 pp.

Age: 5+

Interests: history, biography, inventors, airplanes, France

Next: science/invention biography – Snowflake Bentley; more about France in this era – The Invention of Hugo Cabret; artistic style – look up works by Henri Rousseau


Hey, Al


Hey, Al

Arthur Yorinks, text

Richard Egielski, illustrations

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986

28 pp.

Age: 5+

Interests: birds, dogs, city life, travel, adventure, vacation, New York, magic, apartments

Other Titles by this author and illustrator: Homework, What a Trip!


Noah’s Ark


Noah’s Ark

by Peter Spier

Doubleday, 1977

46 pp.

Age: 5+

Interests: bible stories, animals, boats, wordless books, religion, God

Also by this author/illustrator: People, Circus, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, London Bridge is Falling Down, Christmas!


Father Christmas


Father Christmas

by Raymond Briggs

Hamish Hamilton, 1973

28 pp.

Age: 5+

Interests: Christmas, Santa Claus, winter, comic books/graphic novels

Also by this author: Father Christmas Goes on Holiday, The Snowman, The Mother Goose Treasury, Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age and his Search for Soft Trousers


Sam, Bangs & Moonshine


Sam, Bangs & Moonshine

by Evaline Ness

Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966

36 pp.

Age: 5+

Interests: cats, imagination, tall tales, storms, ocean, storms, pets, single parent

Other books illustrated by Evaline Ness: All in the Morning Early, A Pocketful of Cricket, Tom Tit Tot


Always Room for One More


Always Room for One More

retold by Sorche Nic Leodhas

illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian

24 pp.

Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965

Age: 5+

Interests: Scotland, folksongs, poetry, hospitality/generosity


The Kingdom Under the Sea


The Kingdom Under the Sea

written by Joan Aiken

illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

Jonathan Cape, 1971

104 pp. – 11 stories

Age: 5 +

Interests: fairy tales, folktales, Eastern European folklore, magic, princesses, princes, mermaids

Also by this illustrator: Haunted House, Meg and Mog series

Also by this author: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series


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