This is a summer reading list for young adults who want to explore fantasy and imaginative fiction without resorting to the current small handful of blockbusters. This list has some classics that might otherwise be overlooked, and some contemporary books that are just terrific. If you are looking for some really good fiction for the kids to read this summer this list can help.
A Wrinkle in Time - (Newberry Medal Winner) This is simply a beautiful book that has blazed a trail in modern children's fantasy by putting forward a story of several children embarking on a grand adventure; In this case to rescue their father. There is some fascinating and thoughtful stuff in this book like living stars and tesseracts. It is a perennial favorite and on every librarian's list.
A Wizard of Earthsea - Written by Ursula K. Leguin this is the first book in a series called The EarthSea series. Short and light but extraordinarily beautiful. This first book in the series follows a young boy named Ged as he goes from being a simple goat herd to a powerful wizard. It is simply beautiful and it brings forth some wonderful and magical themes such as the concept that everything (including dragons) has a secret name. And if you know the secret name you can control the thing (including dragons).
The Hobbit - This probably shouldn't be on this list but it is so good that I can't leave it off. With the absolute enormous success of the Lord of the Rings movies this book may be overlooked but I consider it better! It is also in the works to be a movie.
Five Children and it - This is one of the most popular books written by Edith Nesbit who is often credited with creating the whole genre of children embarking on fantasy adventures. Her books are in the public domain now and can easily be found for free. The theme of this book is: Be careful what you ask for. You may get it! That's the message in this delightful tale of five youngsters who discover a bizarre sand creature that grants wishes. There's a catch, of course: the wishes come undone at sunset, and worse yet, things often get out of hand!
Dragonflight - This book is a little more complex than earlier ones I have cited here and it tends toward being more of a novel for grownups but it very suitable for teens. We are introduced to a complex world of dragons through the main character Lessa. This book is often credited with being the book that has launched many a young girls writing career. It is the first book in a trilogy of books called The Dragon riders of Pern series.
A Princess of Mars: - The first novel in the Edgar Rice Burroughs series and currently in the initial stages of being written into a movie or animation that will be made by Pixar. This is the first book in a series called John Carter of Mars and it is good rollicking fun in the tradition of the old pulp magazines. It is a favorite for young boys who like sword fighting big monsters.
Contemporary fantasy and fiction
When it comes to modern fantasy fiction for teens there is an enormous selection to choose from and that, in itself, could be an obstacle. Here are summaries of some of the more popular ones and I have also picked some that are currently slated to be made into a movie.
Artemis Fowl Series - This series of books takes a little bit of an unusual position as far as children's books go because Artemis Fowl himself is a twelve year old genius and a criminal mastermind. The author of these books calls them Die Hard with Fairies! And the books are often characterized as being a high-octane and rip-roaring ride. It is a wildly popular series of books with a big website and even a wiki. There are currently five books in the series with the first being simply titled Artemis Fowl. The sixth book "The Time Paradox" is set to be released in July of 2008.
Here, there be Dragons - The title itself is rather mysterious and harkens back to another time. This was the phrase that cartographers used to write in patches of ocean that were unexplored. The basic premise of this story will really resonate with teens that are fans of fantasy itself because it starts with the unusual meeting of three young strangers John, Jack, and Charles on a rainy night in London. We later find out these three young men are J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams.
The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches - This is a series of books that takes place in a world of magic and secrets called Ruin Mist. This book was slow to start but word of mouth turned it into a best seller. It is one of those relatively little known books and series that is very satisfying.
Septimus Heap - If magic and wizards are of strong appeal this series of books make a great alternative to Harry Potter. The Main character (Septimus) is the seventh son of a seventh son and the main line of the story follows two children switched at birth: a boy destined to be a wizard and a girl destined to be a princess. There are currently four books in the series and the first book has been picked up by Warner Brothers and is currently being made into a movie that is scheduled for release in 2010.
Any of these books or series will launch teens and young adults on a remarkable adventure into strange fantasy worlds and no joystick or keyboard is required.
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