Classic Books Like Harry Potter
Looking for books like Harry Potter that stand the test of time? Here are some classics!
I recently wrote a lens on what books to read after finishing Harry Potter, called You're Finished with Harry Potter. Now What?. That lens was about books that have come out in recent years, but it has since occurred to me that there were a lot of books I read in my youth that had a similar feel to them. These are not going to be exactly like Harry Potter, obviously, because most of them came out in the 1970s, but there's something about each of them that reminds me in some way of J.K. Rowling's famous Harry Potter. Hopefully you will be able to find a few classics that you missed back in the day, and maybe even let me know of some I've missed!
The Wrinkle in Time Quintet - by Madeleine L'Engle
I loved these books from an early age, and bought them for my daughter way too early in her life. My copy of A Swiftly Tilting Planet from when I was a child was literally in tatters from reading it so many times.You've probably read all these also, but it's a great idea to revisit them at some point. Why not now? They really hold up after all this time.
What is great about these books, aside from the obvious love the family shares for each other, is the introduction of science. It was from The Wind in the Door that I first learned about mitochondria. Imagine my face in science class years later when I found out mitochondria were real! These are fantastic books, and they will stay with you for a lifetime.
The Dark is Rising series - by Susan Cooper
I read this when I was young, and I clearly loved it, but I had completely forgotten about it. One day I took my daughter to the local library and I noticed Greenwitch displayed, and it all came flooding back to me. Honestly, I might have passed it by, but it had the same cover, and I recognized it instantly. Right then and there, I checked out the first two books and re-read them. They are so good, and clearly not written just for kids.
Will Stanton, the main character in The Dark is Rising book (the second in the series, and probably my favorite) finds out he is an immortal. He's the last of the "Old Ones" who are dedicated to fighting evil in the world.
There is a good amount of Arthurian legend brought to life in here as well, starting in the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. You'll find Merlin and Arthur both by the time you get to the end. All in all, a fascinating series.
The Westing Game - by Ellen Raskin
Truth be told, I never read this when I was a kid. I'm not sure how I missed it back then, but I did. I read it a year or so ago after realizing it had won the Newbery Medal. This book has more in common with a series like The 39 Clues rather than Harry Potter, but I liked it so much, I'm including it anyway. A millionaire has been murdered and his will stipulates that the person who figures out who killed him gets the inheritance. I will say I figured it out about 2/3 of the way through the boook, but probably that's because I read it as an adult. In any case, it's a great, quick read, with lots of quirky characters and a very interesting mystery. There's even some discussion of the stock markets, in a simplified, age-appropriate way.
The Phantom Tollbooth - by Norton Juster
This book is for anyone who enjoys wordplay. There are puns everywhere, and plays on words. It's great for learning the difference between, say, "weather" and "whether." The main character is a very easily bored boy named Milo who one day puts together a phantom tollbooth in his room, which takes him to a magical world called the Kingdom of Wisdom.
Can anyone resist a book with a place named Dictionopolis? I can't. It's really a fun read, and kids will learn a lot about language along the way. That's always a bonus.
The Chronicles of Narnia - by C.S. Lewis
No list on this subject would be complete without The Chronicles of Narnia series. Chances are you've already read these, but just in case you haven't, they tell the story of the Pevensie children, who discover a whole new world inside their wardrobe. In that world they are heralded as heroes and saviors, and are led to greatness by the wonderful lion Aslan. Later books detail individual trips to Narnia, as well as visits by other members of the family. I confess I remember The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe best of all, and some are better than others, but it's worth it to read the entire series.
There's a ton of Christian ideology buried in these books; Lewis was a Catholic and his works show it. However, I totally missed all this when I read it as a child. The story of the selflessness and wisdom of Aslan ring true regardless of one's individual religion, and should definitely be read by anyone who loved Harry Potter.
What else do you remember from your childhood? Let me know!