Originally published 4/6/09, updated 4/15/2011:
For any parents or doting uncles out there, here is a list of books I've personally read and highly recommend. These will draw in the young mind and foster wholesome imagination, creative thinking, as well as moral fibre. I've got several young friends & cousins who have served as my "test audience" over the years, too. All but one of them are BOYS, the oldest of whom is now a teenager. SO if they like it, you know it's good! I hope to upload full reviews of all of these relatively quickly. If there are books you think I've left off, please comment or email me!
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, The Horse & His Boy (personal favorite), Prince Caspian, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, the Last Battle, C.S. Lewis (my gateway books of choice!) :)
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick - the illustrations make this book a unique experience
- Michael Hague's Favorite Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Anderson- this is my favorite version because Michael Hague's illustrations are amazing. It also contains my favorite HCA tale, "The Snow Queen," as well as all the other classics you love ("The Little Match Girl," "The Ugly Duckling"). My friend Kyle & I used to read these aloud to each other in college.
- The Borrowers, Mary Norton (and all its sequels)
- The Castle in the Attic, Elizabeth Winthrop
- The 21 Balloons, William Pene du Bois
- D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
- Roverandom, and The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
- Tatsinda, Elizabeth Enright
- The Princess & the Goblin, At the Back of the North Wind, The Wise Woman and Other Stories (contains the wonderful "Double Story of The Lost Princess" among other gems), and The Princess & Curdie, George MacDonald
-The Harry Potter books 1-3, J.K. Rowling
- 1001 Arabian Nights
- Dinotopia, James Gurney- I find that the illustrations appeal to me more than the story-line!
- Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine
- The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo
- The Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three, the Black Cauldron, The Castle of Lyr, Taran Wanderer,(my favorite!) The Foundling and The High King (Newberry Award), Lloyd Alexander
- The Arcadians, Time Cat- also by Lloyd Alexander
- Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadowtheives, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
- Redwall, Mossflower, Martin the Warrior, the Legend of Luke..., Brian Jaques - the whole series is good, but after a while they all start sounding the same. I'd start with the first written because they are truly original.
- On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness,North or Be Eaten!, The Monster in the Hollows Andrew Peterson (final sequel is due soon!) - so far, each book is better than the last
- Meet the Austins, The Moon By Night, The Young Unicorns- Madeleine L'Engle (The Young Unicorns is especially wonderful)
- The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare
- A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet (my favorite book of all time!), Madeleine L'Engle
- The Spiderwick Chronicles, Holli Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
- Dragon King Trilogy: In the Hall of the Dragon King, Warlords of Nim, The Sword and the Flame, Stephen Lawhead
-The Cooper Kids Adventure Series: The Door in the Dragon's Throat, Escape from the Isle of Aquarius, The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey, Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea, The Tombs of Anak, The Secret of the Desert Stone, The Legend of Annie Murphy, Flying Blind or Mayday at Two Thousand Five Hundred Feet, Frank Peretti
- The Ranger's Apprentice Series, John Flanagan- fun, especially if you have a grasp of European culture, geography & history
- Dragon Rider, Cornelia Funke
-The 100 Cupboards, Dandelion Fire, The Chestnut King,N.D. Wilson (the first one is ok, but the second and third are AMAZING. Wow. I was so sad they were over. I am looking forward to reading them again.
- The Wilderking Trilogy, Jonathan Rogers (a fellow Furman University alumnus!)
For a bit older audience:
-Fablehaven & sequels (5 books in all), Eric Mull
- Percy Jackson & the Olympians Series (5 books), Rick Riordan- not to the caliber of Harry Potter, but funny, fast-paced, and full of reincarnated Classical myths (WONDERFUL accompaniment to a Classical curriculum)
- The Kane Chronicles (The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire in print), Rick Riordan- I'm concerned that he will be writing a volume every 6 months, as that usually means quality will plummet. However, the first two are great! :) These do for Egyptian legends what Percy Jackson's adventures do for Greek mythology.
- The Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero Rick Riordan- so far so good- sequel is due October 11th, 2011.
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien (OF COURSE!!)
- The Giver, Lois Lowry (sequels: Gathering Blue, Messenger. Be prepared to discuss this book, as it could be one of the strongest appeals against communism short of Orwell's Animal Farm!)
- The Children of Hurin, J.R.R. Tolkien --be prepared to cry.
- Anthem, Ayn Rand
- Inkheart, Inkspell & Inkdeath, Cornelia Funke
- The Heir Chronicles: The Warrior Heir, The Wizard Heir, The Dragon Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima
- The Trophy Chase Trilogy: The Legend of the Firefish, The Hand that Bears the Sword, The Battle for Vast Dominion, by George Bryan Polivka -- although I don't agree with some of its pacifist leanings, it's well-written, refreshingly Christ-centered, and all this without being cheesy!
- The Seventh Tower series, Garth Nix
- Many Waters, Madeleine L'Engle
- The Echorium Sequence: Song Quest, The Crystal Mask, Dark Quetzal, Katherine Roberts
- Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums, Anne McCaffery (be very careful of other Dragonriders of Pern books, some of which normalize homosexual relationships-- they aren't the focal point ever, but still... be careful. This trilogy I've just outlined is great, though)
- Harry Potter series (all 7 books including Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, & Tales of Beetle the Bard), J.K. Rowling
-The Door Within Saga: The Door Within, The Rise of the Wyrm Lord, The Final Storm, by Wayne Thomas Batson
-The Arm of the Starfish, Dragons in the Waters, An Acceptable Time, Madeleine L'Engle (I do not recommend House Like a Lotus)
-The Inheritance Cycle: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Christopher Paolini (the concluding volume is due out Fall 2011)
- The Abhorsen Trilogy: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, Garth Nix (another one due 2012)
-Fiddler's Gun, Fiddler's Green, A.S. "Pete" Peterson (A. P.'s older brother)
- The Hunger Games & sequels Catching Fire & Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
Lastly, these are picture books for your youngest audiences
1. Tikki-Tikki-Tembo, Arlene Mosel
2. The Lost Princess, George MacDonald
3. The 5 Chinese Brothers,Claire Huchet Bishop
4. The Littles and their Friends, John Peterson
5. The Lightlings series, R. C. Sproul
6. Beautiful, Oops!