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Children's literature and fantasy

Updated on February 17, 2013
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Using the Amazon link.

 * It is important to encourage children to read, so I have linked some of the best books available through Amazon for you.
* Toys and games encourage children in creative play and assist their development. Look for toys that are educational and toys that are simply cute and cuddly. Consider what game your child can make from a toy rather than what movie it is linked to or what it costs.
* Adults love to read too and science fiction/series fantasy bridges the reading gap between adult and childhood reading. However, parents may wish to check books over before they give them to teenage readers. Many modern books contain battle scenes, romances and supernatural elements... your family will have a policy as to what attitudes and values you wish to see portrayed in literature. 
* finally - some health and family books have been included, mostly for you parents.

How well do you know your Children's books?

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What is Fantasy?

Todorov (1973:107-123) suggests that childhood is one of the factors that blurs the distinctions between the self and other objects. Thus fantasy stories appeal to children and appear to make sense to them. Moreover, C.S. Lewis (1966:29) believes that a child’s longing for a fairytale world is a form of longing for the unknown, which enriches and creates possibilities in the world that is known.

There are several commonly accepted genre of fantasy, "Animal Fantasy" which centres around the lives of lovable talking animals and "Modern Fantasy" which focuses on adventures in other worlds and magical events. I am inclined to add a third genre, that of "Human and Animal Fantasy", which mixes human and animal characters. Another genre of fantasy may be "High Fantasy" which features hero's who combat evil and save the known world.

Crocker (Hale 2009:57) defines Animal Fantasy as a genre which “shows animals inhabiting a second reality…in which the animals communicate freely with each other” and suggests this genre has it’s roots in folk tales. Examples of this genre would include, Aespos' Fables, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and Wind in the Willows.

In technical terms, Modern Fantasy (Crocker in Hale 2009:51-52) “starts when a flaw appears in the fabric of a self contained world” and this rift often has its origin in the human mind or imagination. The genre of Modern Fantasy features battles between good and evil and fantastic elements such as “shape-shifting” are common. These elements have their roots in myth and legend. Examples of this sort of fantasy include the Harry Potter series and much modern science fiction.

"Human and Animal Fantasy" follows additional genre rules specifying that the story must have both human and animal characters. Thus Charlotte’s Web (White 2002) fits the genre because of the roles played by Fern and the other humans in addition to the animal characters; but Redwall(Jacques 2007) does not fit because the mice and other field animals are anthropomorphized into their own society and there are no real roles for humans. Other examples of Human and Animal Fantasy include John Brown Rose and the Midnight Cat, and Carbonel: Prince of Cats.

High Fantasy often features a number of medieval trappings, such as the presence of kings and queens, sword battles and travel on foot or by horseback. Holy quests, gods and powers are included to distinguish this genre from that of historical fiction. Much of the high fantasy genre draws upon the Arthur saga (Le Morte d'Artur by Thomas Mallory) and epic poetry. This genre is popular with adults, but the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis is suitable for children.

How can fantasy be educational?

Fantasy feeds a childs imagination and encourages creativity. The enjoyment that the genre engenders promotes reading and enhances literacy. Moreover, the fantasy genre may be used for didactic (or teaching) purposes. Jackson (1981:3-4) explains that fantasy may subversively express a “desire” for something that is oppressed by society. For example: A treatise on cruelty to animals would have limited appeal to a child; however a fantasy celebration of closeness between the children and their pet may be given an element of excitement as the children are able to save animals from someone with cruel intentions.

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Books that have inspired film

Children love the Harry Potter series, and if they only see the movies they miss a great opportunity to develop their reading skills by spending time with the lovable young wizards and witches of the Hogwarts community.

These books are ideal for adults to read to younger children of 6-8.

Their size and depth makes them suitable for independent reading by 9-12 year olds with good concentration.

The series is complete now, so children can have the satisfaction of reading the story to its conclusion - and they will be able to do this before the final films are released in the cinema.

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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An Original Author:

Garth Nix has written the enigmatic and dramatic Keys to the Kingdom series in which a special child must perform quests in an alternate world to save those he loves in this world. There is an adventure for every day of the week and with the completion of Lord Sunday the series is now complete. Reading age estimate = 9-12 years.

Mister Monday

Grim Tuesday

Drowned Wednesday

Sir Thursday

Lady Friday

Superior Saturday

Lord Sunday

For older Children:

In addition to the Keys of the Kingdom series, Garth Nix has written some sophisticated character driven teenage fantasy starring developing magic users who must come into their power and take on roles of responsibility in order to right their unique society. The Abhorsen series is especially good for Teenage girls.




Worth a look - writer Dianna Wynne Jones

Dianna Wynne Jones mixes fantasy with humour to create unique stories for children.

Suitable for children from around 9-12 years of age.

Howl's Moving Castle

Castle in the Air

House of Many Ways

Charmed Life

Witch Week

are a few of her intriguing titles.

Ursuala le Guin

Also known as a writer of young adult / all ages fiction, Ursula le Guin's Earthsea trilogy is considered suitable for 12-15 year olds.

A Wizard of Earthsea

The Tombs of Atuan

The Farthest Shore


Tales from Earthsea

The Other Wind

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Hale, E. 2009b “Study Guide: ENCO 310/410: Children’s Literature: Picture Books and Fantasy”, (Contains notes by Crocker, B. revised by Rutherford, L.), University of New England, accessed from Blackboard Learning System 27-7-2009

Jackson, R. 1981 Fantasy: the literature of subversion, Methuen, London

Lewis, C.S. 1966 Of Other Worlds: essays and stories, (Ed. Hooper, W.), Geoffrey Bles, London

Todorov, T. 1973 The Fantastic: a structural approach to a literary genre, The Press of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland


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