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Top 25 Best Children's Fantasy Books

Awesome Fantasy Books for Kids to Read

Fantasy books are great for younger children, because fantasy involves imagination and suspension of beliefs about reality -- a feat that children have a natural aptitude for. Fantasy literature is appealing to children and can introduce them to the joys of reading from a young age. Children's fantasy novels can help develop positive reading habits in children that they will keep for life.

It seems like every publisher is trying to cash in on the Harry Potter phenomenon; the YA/Children's section of the bookstore is packed with all manner of children's fantasy books. Not all of them are good; in fact, most of them are quite bad. Just because a book is written for a younger audience does not give the author an excuse to write lazy, derivative dreck -- which many currently do. This list aims to remedy that, giving you a selection of the best of the best in children's fantasy literature.

I've selected the Top 25 best children's fantasy books that are guaranteed to please younger kids under the age of 12. These are nice, clean fantasy books for kids that you can read with your children. A few of the books on this list may have some violence and adult themes, but younger children can certainly appreciate the book from a young child's perspective. Quite a number of the books are children's classics and can be read both by children and adults; there's something for both audiences.

For a similar list that targets a slightly older audience (i.e. the Young Adult audience) in the 12 - 18 age range, take a look at the Best Fantasy Books for Young Adults. The books you think are missing on this list are probably on that list.

Children's Fantasy For Adults

Many of the best children's classics (or YA classics) tell a double story -- a story for children and a story for adults who read through the lines. This is perhaps the dividing line between a mere “story” and a classic work of literature. There is something to find in the story no matter what stage of life you are in – child or adult. Each read-through can provide a different layer of interpretation to draw from. There are many children's fantasy novels out there, but only a few works that actually transcend the age barrier and become a tale for all ages.

Young Adult Fantasy vs. Children's Fantasy

There is overlap between Young Adult fantasy and Children's fantasy books, but there are some marked differences too. For one, Chidren's Fantasy books are aimed at young readers under 12 years old, while Young Adult Fantasy is marketed torwards ages 12 - 18. It follows that the themes and stories present in YA (Young Adult) fantasy may feature teenage protaganists, grittier settings, darker themes and more mature subject matter. Unfortunately, publishers just lump most YA fantasy and children's fantasy books together under the same marketing category (as Young Adult fantasy).

September 2012 Update: Vastly updated the list with new entries (taking some of the list's comments into account) to make it a Top 25 list instead of a Top 10, removed books that are more suitable for a slightly older audience to the new Best Young Adults Fantasy Books list.

Click to view and vote on the crowd ranked version of the Best Children's Fantasy Books list


The Hobbit

(J. R. R. Tolkien)

From the Inside Flap Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeless dwarves. Soon Bilbo was drawn into their quest, facing evil orcs, savage wolves, giant spiders, and worse unknown dangers. Finally, it was Bilbo alone and unaided who had to confront the great dragon Smaug, the terror of an entire countryside ...  J.R.R Tolkien's grand fantasy masterpiece and precursor to Lord of the Rings: An utterly magical adventure that appeals to both kids and "grown up" kids. Tolkien wrote this fantasy book for his kids -- and for your kids too. This book is especially great when you read it to your kids: the magical, far away look in a child's eyes as you read this story out loud is worth every penny the book costs. This is one of the best children's fantasy books you can get!

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A series that appeals to both children and adults theres a story for each contained. Parallel universes smash together when Lyira, a young girl, seeks to rescue a friend who was abducted, uncovering a secret conspiracy that centers on the nature of existence and what it means to be alive. 

Theres a lot of elements that the kids will love, with talking bears, angels, ghosts, and more unique creatures. Theres also a lot of complexity to the novel for the adults to appreciate including a take on existence and an attack on the role of God. 

You might not like this one if you are religious. Otherwise, one of the best children's fantasy tales out there.

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Peter Pan

(J. M. Barrie)

Another classic book that features a story for all ages and genders. Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. Peter Pan is one of those stories that stays with you forever; its written for a child, but theres a message behind the words for adults too, another layer to the story.

What makes Peter Pan particularly interesting is that there is a tiny wee bit of darkness to it; the story features real characters who are flawed. Peter is quite selfish and this has consequences, even in the perfect never-grow-up world he lives in. The tale of Peter Pan is the perfect childhood story and one thats hit on an essential element of the human psyche

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With a Martin-esque plot and Jim Butcher pace, The Axe and the Throne is a definite "must read" for even the pickiest fantasy fans.

In his stunning debut, Ireman has built the type of world so vivid and engrossing that leaving it at the end is agony. In spite of leaning toward grimdark, where authors often enshroud every scene in depressing darkness, there is no lack of cheerful moments or brilliant scenery. Yet the pangs of near-instant nostalgia that come after you put down a book like this have less to do with the inspired setting, and far more to do with those who inhabit it. 

From savage, unremorseful heroes, to deep, introspective villains, the cast of this story is comprised of believable characters capable of unthinkable actions. And it is these characters -- the ones you wish you could share a drink with or end up wanting to kill -- that forge the connection between fantasy and reality. Keethro, Titon, Ethel, Annora. These are names you will never forget, and each belongs to a man or woman as unique as they are memorable. 

No book would be complete without a its fair share of intrigue, however, and there is no lack of it here. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and Ireman's masterful use of misdirection leads to an abundance of "oh shit" moments. Do not be fooled (or do -- perhaps that's part of the fun) by storylines that may appear trope-ish at first. This is no fairytale. 

Available on Amazon & Audible, Barns & Noble, iTunes, Google, and Kobo.


This is the ultimate series for younger readers. It's got talking animals, children protagonists, evil witches, adventures galore, and the clash between good and evil. This classic is completely safe for the kiddies and can be appreciated by all ages. 

I grew up on this series as a kid and I've been a fantasy book reader ever since. These are the ultimate children's fantasy books, packed with unforgettable characters and a moral (if hidden religious) message. You certainly can't go wrong giving these or reading these to your kids.

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Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

(Rohald Dalh)

(Charlie Bucket)

When it comes to childrens classics (and fantasy classics at that), its hard not to include this book at or near the top. Like Dahls other seminal classic, James and the Giant Peach, this is a story full of imagination, adventure, zany characters, and a moral lesson for children and adults alike. Its a novel thats inspired not one movie, but two. This is a surely one of the best childrens books ever written and deserves a prominent spot on every childs reading list.

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A well written and imaginative adventure yarn that will keep both the kids and adults captivated. It’s a “simple” tale about talking rabbits fighting to save their home but there’s a lot going on beneath the hood. You can read this as a child, then read it as an adult and experience a completely different tale. The book was first published in 1972 and is now considered a classic – but it’s one that your kids will love.

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Un Lun Dun

(China Mieville)

This was Mieville’s first foray into YA fantasy and boy was it a good one; he manages to subvert the standard fantasy formula, giving the reader a story that’s both new and completely unexpected in some ways. There is a subtle message here to the reader: don’t wait for someone to save you, seize the initiative and challenge the authority if you have your doubts about the veracity of something. Un Lun Dun is a strange, wonderfully wacky world with vivid characters and creatures popping out of every page – from the omni present evil “smog” seeking to destroy the world, to the flying buses that sail through the air, to the umbrella wielding hero that floats in and out of the story like the sentient umbrellas he commands. Highly recommended for readers of any age, though it’s particularly cute for young readers who’ll get a kick out of the whole zany story.

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This is one of those series that appeals to all ages. For the one person out there who has not read it, do yourself a favor and find out just what all that hype was about. The series starts off pretty light-hearted, but gradually gets darker as Harry ages.

This is a great series for all ages, from young children to adults. Children under 8 will appreciate listening to the books read out loud -- either by you or the audiobook which really brings the story to life.

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Princess Bride

(Cary Elwes)

An awesome movie, but an even better book. It’s a delightful book for children and adults too – a true tale for all ages. What’s specifically awesome about this story is that it gently mocks the traditional fairy tale, yet still keeps the charm of the "happily ever after" fairy tale. You won’t go wrong reading this one to the kids – that is, if they don’t grab it out of your hands to finish reading it themselves!

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If there is one childrens classic your kids should read and only one, than it should be Alice in Wonderland. Its a book thats influenced an entire generation of pop culture including movies, video games, books, language, and more. To NOT read this book is to deprive yourself of a strong cultural point of reference. What is there to say about the story other than a girl goes through a rabbit hole and finds herself in a wonderland. Like many of the best childrens classics, this book can be read on two different levels entirely a simple childs adventure story in a magical land or a metaphorical journey of double meanings, symbolisms and clever wordplays. There is a hidden story behind the story itself. This is why the book is so brilliant. It offers something to everyone; as a child you enjoy the wonderful and imaginative tale of a girl saving a magical kingdom, and as an adult you read into a story thats more than a story.

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A children's fantasy that explores the idea of human limitations through the adventure of the two children protagonists. This is a kid's tale through and through; it's intelligent, complex, and there are a lot of relevant themes explored in the book. Of course, all that stuff is for the adults. On the kid's side of things, it's got all the requirements for a five-star read: drama, action, adventure, humor, a bit of romance, richly drawn characters, a strange yet fascinating plot, and heartwarming story underpinning the whole thing: a pair of kids searching time and space for their father. This is a classic that you might read when in 4th grade but you will still remember 50 years later.

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Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world -- where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets. This is another thrilling, triumphantly imaginative series from Garth Nix, the best-selling author of THE SEVENTH TOWER, SABRIEL, and LIRAEL.  Garth Nix in his Abhorsen, tells the chilling story of a girl's search for her father, a search that will take her into the very heart of death's realm. The Keys to the Kingdom is a very different sort of tale, a wild adventure that spans the very fabric of space and time.

In this tale, an 11-year old boy accidentally becomes master of the universe and wild adventures proceed. With a rich, slightly weird world and great cast characters, this is a fantasy series that every kid will love. The world is extremely imaginative and the writing is superb.

Fans of imaginative fantasy (especially fantasy that merges the fantastical, magical word with the familiar world) will find plenty to love about this series. It's a non-stop adventure that gets more interesting and gripping the further you get into the series. There's a bit of a dark, gritty edge to the series too. One of the best young adult / children's fantasy series currently out there and one that can certainly be enjoyed by the adults too

Less dark than the Abhorsen trilogy, this children's fantasy series is great for adults and kids.

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This series is a rung lower than Lord of the Rings and maybe a few notches under Chronicles of Narnia; think of it as a light epic fantasy geared specifically to kids. These books were first published over 30 years ago and won buckets full of awards. The novels set a standard of excellence in fantasy literature for children. The best way to explain this series is to take Lord of the Rings, toss in a shade more comedy, inject a bit of Welsh mythology into the story, throw in a coming-of-age theme and aim the whole thing at kids. And while the series targets kids, adults will also quite enjoy the series too. 

Like all good literature, it's a story that can appeal to all ages. There's a cast of interestingly quirky characters and a fast-paced plot that will keep you turning the pages without pause. 

Your children will fall in love with these adventures. 

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The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz

(L. Frank Baum)

A true classic and not at all like the movie. Because of the popularity of the movie, many assume the book and the movie are the same; but this is not so. The book is far superior to the movie and is a thoroughly entertaining read. It makes for perfect reading to your kids right before bedtime and hey, you might even find yourself slipping off to read it on your own time. With quite a few of the current crop of children’s fantasy books tending towards the dark side of things, it’s nice to have a fun, entertaining read that makes you feel good at the end of the day. Appropriate for all ages.

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The Neverending Story

(Michael Ende)

A story that your children will wish never ends. The movies are based on the books, but only follow the books loosely (and sometimes, not at all). Basically, reading the books is a completely different experience. Like other children’s classics (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan), there are themes in the stories that apply to life, regardless of age. The Neverending Story is literally a story within a story, and behind this story is the story itself. It’s a story of vast imagination and colorful characters of adventures and magic and saving the world and maybe a princess as well. A lovely and enduring story that’s entertained a generation of children.

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A clever spoof on the classic fairy tale clichés and one done in such a way that it will have your kids laughing all the way through. Jones’s story is a rather funny twist on some of the conventions and she’s not above poking fun at them from time to time. Her characters are an elderly heroine, an evil wizard that’s actually not so evil, and a bumbling apprentice. Beneath the hood of this funny fantasy there is quite a lot of depth. The heroine Sophie is a complex character; as the story progresses, you begin to see the full picture of who she is and you understand her behavior. 

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So You Want To Be A Wizard

(Diane Duane)
(Young Wizards)

A compelling book that touches on a lot of issues that face kids. It’s also a pretty damn exciting story about two kids learning how to be wizards. It’s a cozy story with some great characters doubling in as some strong role models for kids.

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James And The Giant Peach

(Rohald Dalh)

From the Inside Flap. Roald Dahl's children's classic will be rediscovered with wonder and delight in this handsome gift edition with all-new black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Honor Book artist Lane Smith (who also designed the characters for the Disney animated film). 

How James escapes from his miserable life with two nasty aunts and becomes a hero to his new insect family, including Miss Spider, the Old-Green-Grasshopper, the Centipede (with his 21 pairs of gorgeous boots), is Dahl-icious fantasy at its best." I first heard this story, read to me by my 1st grade teacher, when I was five; it's stuck with me ever since. This is a classic tale that reaches out to all ages, races, and religions. Even after two decades, it's left an impression on me. It's not the standard children's fantasy book that you may be used to, but it's still a great read that every kid will love. Get a copy of this book and read it to your kids; it's a tale worth sharing and a memory that your children will have for the rest of their lives! If only all children's fantasy books could be as good!

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Where The Wild Things Are

(Maurice Sendak)

A strong series for kids looking for a bit of adventure fantasy. It’s not deep or particularly complex; it’s not a classic that tries to teach you something grand as you read. But what it is a wild action-packed adventure that will keep the kids coming back for more.

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The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

(Alan Garner)

(Tales of Alderley)

This is a spellbinding tale in the tradition of Tolkien. The author crafts the story as a retelling of the legend of the cave of the sleeping king an ancient Scandinavian folklore tale. Its a story that is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings with wizards, dwarves, goblins, and even elves. Garner draws heavily from Norse and Celtic mythology, infusing quite a bit of it into the backstory of the novel. Theres even a bit of Narnia in here as well with the story incorporating the British school kids transported to a magical world to save the day conceit. But this is no copy of Tolkien or Narnia its a fantasy tale thats completely unique in its own right.

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A young adult novel with an ample amount of charm. Inkheart is through and through a very character-driven novel and one that takes a bit of reading to get into. Its not as action packed as some fantasy with splashy magical effects and giant battles thrown around every few pages. But the strong characters more than make up for the slower paced reading. Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy this story.

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Amazon Book Description  From a strikingly original voice in fiction comes the story of Artemis Fowl, a very unusual hero. Artemis combines the astuteness of Sherlock Holmes with the sangfroid of James Bond and the attitude of Attila the Hun. But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of LEPrecon Unit. These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories. These fairies are armed and they're dangerous. Artemis thinks he's got them just where he wants them, but then they stop playing by the rules ...  Someone described this series as Harry Potter meets Die Hard -- an apt description indeed. But parents fear not: this is not Harry Potter with bloody effects turned on, it's a rip roaring tale that sucks you in. As an anti-hero, Artemis is an unusual character in children's fantasy. It's the bad guy's turn to win for once and in this book, you will find yourself rooting for the spoiled, imperious, but somehow likable boy-genius criminal Artemis Fowl. Darker then Harry Potter and hilariously funny (at times), The Artemis Fowl series is a must read.

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Action, sword fighting and adventures but with the heroes and villains of the tale mice, badgers, and other talking animals. Redwall is a fast-paced action series for kids that’s wonderfully entertaining. 

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This one takes place in the fictional city of The Castle which is surrounded by a great wall.

The books are light reading and don't take themselves too seriously. A good amount of action and adventure and a great mix of fun characters. Lots of magic, cloak and dagger plot stuff, and a whole range of unique creatures populating the world.

A great series for children and maybe even an adult or two.

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A strong series for kids looking for a bit of adventure fantasy. It's not deep or particularly complex; it's not a classic that tries to teach you something grand as you read. But what it is a wild action-packed adventure that will keep the kids coming back for more.

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