The adults who spend their time discussing the pros and cons of hobbits vs. elves and the ones who ponder if they’d succeed better as a part of House Lannister or House Martell are the ones who likely started their lives gobbling up some geeky chapter books. The more dragons, magic and time travel, the better.
Luckily, the market is ripe with such chapter books for the next generation. This list will help you continue to promote all things magical, adventurous, scientific and historical once your kids have blown through the most obvious choices, like Harry Potter.
The Marvel Super Hero Adventures by MacKenzie Cadenhead
Crystal, a member of the Offspring Facebook Group, says she loves these chapter books for early readers and pre-readers because of how well they balance artwork and story. In fact, she said, Spider-Man’s Sand Trap was the first chapter book her three-year-old sat through.
Princess in Black by Dean Hale and Shannon Hale
Crystal also touts the art and story balance of these tales of a prim, proper princess who also happens to dress in all black when she sneaks out of the palace in titles like The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare and The Princess in Black and the Bathtime Battle.
Science Comics by Falynn Koch
Group member Jackie’s kids especially love graphic novels like Science Comics, with topics ranging from the digestive system or crows to skyscrapers or rocks and minerals. The website promotes the books’ beautiful illustrations and wide age appeal, “whether you’re a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a 30-year-old with a secret passion for aeroplanes.”
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
When Redditor u/Phinnegan asked for book recommendations for their 10-year-old son who was looking to follow up Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, u/princessminx24 shared a variety of suggestions. Among those suggestions: the His Dark Materials trilogy, which follows heroine Lyra Belacqua. In this world, our souls are animals who travel with us, and Lyra must go on a mission north to find her kidnapped best friend.
Pre-Discworld books by Terry Pratchett
Another u/Princessminx24 suggestion was Pratchett’s children’s books, which feature talking rats, tiny people who live in a carpet, and witches. These stories would transition well to the author’s “Discworld” series for teens and older readers.
“I teach children of this age group, and these are my go-to recommendations for children (and parents) who have exhausted the standard classics and are looking for something entertaining yet appropriately challenging.”
The Last Kids on Earth series by Max Brallier
This recommendation comes from Lifehacker’s parenting editor, Meghan Walbert, whose son recently discovered the animated series on Netflix and told her, “These are based off a book series. I need to read these books.”
The series, which is billed as Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets “The Walking Dead,” follows a teenager and his friends as they find themselves fighting to survive in the aftermath of the Monster Apocalypse.
The Guardian Herd series by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
“Once every hundred years, a black foal is born, prophesied to either unite or destroy the five herds of flying horses that live in Anok—fated to become the most powerful pegasus in all of the land.
Star is this black foal.”
That’s the opening description of the first book in The Guardian Herd series, which Walbert also recommends in honour of her niece, who was so obsessed with the story that she read them over and over until her copies fell apart and had to be replaced.
Books for history lovers
Offspring group member Clovis calls her kids “history buffs,” and her list of favourite chapter series reflects that:
Horrible Histories by Terry Deary. These books are part history, part joke books with titles like Awful Egyptians, where readers learn “why people worshipped a dung beetle, which pharaoh married her grandfather and what the ‘Shepherd of the Royal Backside’ had to do,” according to its website.
American Girl, especially the Girls of Many Lands books. Each book is about a 12-year-old girl living in a specific time and location, like Isabel, who lives in England in the 1590s and is too adventurous for her proper Tudor society.
“I look for books with vivid language that bring historical moments into perspective,” Clovis says. “This has been especially great for getting a non-famous, non-rich, non-important person’s view of history. History feels closer to reality than pure sci-fi but exotic enough to feel like you’re entering a new world. And of course, they dig the adventure and the sense of urgency the characters experience.”
For lovers of fantasy and fairy tales
Joshua, also from the Facebook group, highlights a number of fantasy, adventure and fairy tale books that his eight-year-old enjoys:
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, is a fantasy-adventure book based on a Chinese folk tale about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon.
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, by Diana Wynne Jones, follows Chrestomanci, the enchanter and British government official who enforces magical law.
Dragonbreath, by Ursula Vernon, is about the fearless dragon who just happens to be unable to breathe fire.
Hamster Princess, by Ursula Vernon, follows Harriet Hamsterbone, a princess who also loves cliff-diving and fractions.
Ballpark Mysteries, by David A. Kelly and Mark Meyers, features a whodunnit, set in and around the baseball diamond.