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Beyond Harry Potter

By TheophileEscargot in Culture
Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 11:11:17 AM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

First it was simple word-of-mouth, then a massive marketing campaign; but the result is that J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books have become a staggering success, ending up in millions of households that would never normally have seen a children's fantasy book.

Even so, the Harry Potter books exist within the children's fantasy genre. They share many ideas with other children's fantasy books; and like any other work they take a lot of inspiration from their predecessors. This article is a discussion of, and a guide to, some other authors and books in this genre.

Diana Wynne Jones has dominated the field for decades, writing more than thirty books, according to a fan website. One of my favourites as a child was Eight Days of Luke. This is the story of an orphaned boy, David. While David enjoys life to the full at his boarding school; he dreads the holidays, which he is forced to spend with his bitter and resentful aunt, uncle and cousins. When he recites a curse, David becomes involved with a set of mysterious and mystical characters. "Eight Days of Luke" bears re-reading as an adult. Although I didn't realise it as a child, the characters Davis meets are familiar figures from a certain mythology.

Describing all the Diana Wynne Jones books would take up a long article in itself. Some of my other favourites included The Homeward Bounders, a book about a group of people forced to wander between parallel universes. The Chrestomanci series of books, beginning with Charmed Life deal largely with a young wizard learning about magic. I'm too old to have read them as a child, but Howl's Moving Castle and A Tale of Time City have also been recommended.

There are a couple of authors whose books are somewhat darker and more complex than Diana Wynne Jones's, aimed more at teenagers than children. One series is the The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. This again is a fantasy series set in the real world, which is a common theme within the genre. A similar author is Alan Garner, whose books had a particular appeal to me, as they are largely set in an area a few miles from my childhood home. The sequence begins with a book whose brilliance belies its odd name: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

Another of the contemporary authors in this genre is Ursula Le Guin. Le Guin is better known for her adult books, which are somewhat heavy going; but her trilogy The Wizard of Earthsea is definitely more readable, though again probably better for teens than young children. "The Wizard of Earthsea" inspired some characters in Terry Pratchett's books. His Discworld books need no introduction, but he has also written books aimed primarily at children, notably the Truckers books, and a series beginning with Johnny and the Dead.

One of the classic books of the time was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, now part of a quartet of novels. The story involved travelling through a space warp, and its use of the word "tesseract" caused many a math teacher to wonder about their younger students' knowledge of multidimensional geometry.

Some other authors arrived on the scene too late for my childhood, but are highly recommended by others. These include Philip Pullman was the author of the His Dark Materials sequence, set in a universe where science, theology and magic are closely allied. Patricia Wrede's dragon books, beginning with Dealing with Dragons, are also recommended.

These contemporary authors in turn owe a debt to some of the authors of the past. Bestriding this narrow world like a colossus is of course, the figure of J.R.R. Tolkien, who practically invented the modern fantasy genre with The Hobbit. A close friend of his was C.S. Lewis, who is more famous for his Narnia books, beginning with "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", than for his adult books. I found that the Narnia books are less palatable to read as an adult, though I loved them when I was a kid. This could be because they contain a lot of Christian allegory, which I was pretty much oblivious to then. An interesting recent Guardian article contrasts Tolkien and Lewis with J.K. Rowling, partly attributing Rowling's success to the absence of allegory and angst in her books. Going back further we find the classic author E. Nesbit, author of the excellent Five Children and It, first published in 1902.

Finally, the Harry Potter books owe a great deal to another children's genre: the boarding school story. Possibly the most familiar are the "Billy Bunter" books by Frank Richards, now sadly too sizist for widespread popularity. I also enjoyed the similar "Jennings" books by Anthony Buckeridge. The "The Hobbit" of this genre seems to be Stalky and Co by Rudyard Kipling.

This has not been an exhaustive list of children's fantasy books, just a brief trip through my befuddled memory, aided by helpful suggestions. If I've missed out something you love, please mention it below!

Since most readers seem to be North American I have used amazon.com links where possible. However, several these books are listed as out of print on amazon.com, but are readily available from amazon.co.uk, which does deliver internationally.

Unfortunately, there's a limit on the poll options. I've eliminated those authors who I think are better known for adult books. Write-in votes welcome!


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Best non-JKR children's fantasy author
o Susan Cooper 6%
o Alan Garner 6%
o Diana Wynne Jones 10%
o Madeleine L'Engle 27%
o C.S. Lewis 41%
o E. Nesbit 3%
o Philip Pullman 3%
o Patricia Wrede 1%

Votes: 65
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Diana Wynne Jones
o fan website
o Eight Days of Luke
o The Homeward Bounders
o Charmed Life
o Howl's Moving Castle
o A Tale of Time City
o The Dark is Rising
o Susan Cooper
o Alan Garner
o The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
o Ursula Le Guin
o The Wizard of Earthsea
o Terry Pratchett's
o Truckers
o Johnny and the Dead
o A Wrinkle in Time
o Madeleine L'Engle
o quartet of novels.
o Philip Pullman
o His Dark Materials
o Patricia Wrede
o Dealing with Dragons
o J.R.R. Tolkien
o The Hobbit
o C.S. Lewis
o Narnia
o Guardian article
o E. Nesbit
o Five Children and It
o "Billy Bunter" books by Frank Richards
o Anthony Buckeridge
o Stalky and Co
o suggestion s
o amazon.com
o amazon.co.uk
o Also by TheophileEscargot

Display: Sort:
Beyond Harry Potter | 75 comments (75 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
A Wrinkle in Narnia (4.37 / 8) (#1)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 08:50:37 AM EST

If anyone here is considering reading the books that come after A Wrinkle in Time, be aware that they get weirder and weirder. I remember enjoying the second one somewhat but being entirely baffled by the third. Looking back on them (I haven't read them since I was in my early teens) they seem like they were experimental fiction targetted at kids.

As for Xian themes in Narnia--yes, they are there. But they are only overpowering in The Last Battle which is pretty much just straight Cruci-fiction. The Magician's Nephew features Creation but unlike TLB it is humorous, interesting and short and therefore well worth the read. The other books are largely overt-religion-free. Even moral-free for large stretches (I'm thinking here of the Marsh Wiggle [respectawiggle] and the Monopods [Dufflepuds]).

Play 囲碁
Respectabiggle (4.66 / 3) (#14)
by Sanityman on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 10:37:23 AM EST

I also found _Dawn Treader_ and _The Silver Chair_ to be the most whimsical and enjoyable of the series.

There's an interesting quote from CS Lewis to the effect that good children's literature is still worth reading as an adult; bad children's literature is not worth reading even as a child (afraid I can't find a reference on the web, it's probably from _Present Concerns_). I was reminded of this when so many adults started reading JKR - she does deserve her success IMHO.


If you don't see the fnords, they can't eat you.
"You can't spray cheese whiz™ on the body of Christ!"

[ Parent ]
Literature, for kids, not kiddie liter (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by isdnip on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 07:48:37 PM EST

I really like that CS Lewis comment you cited! My oldest child is now eight and I've been exposed to a lot of "kid lit" over the past eight years. Much of it is surprisingly good and even enjoyable by adults, once you accept its terms. Much of Dr. Seuss (whose books are written for various different ages) is very clever and works on multiple levels -- I set One Fish Two Fish to music and sing it at bedtime to my daughter.

The Potter books work on different levels too. My kids like it, and I like it. They're basically mysteries -- you kind of know that Voldemort "done it", but it's not at all easy to guess just what he plans, or who his agents or avatars are. Plus the very creating use of setting, and passable characterization.

I agree that the Narnia books are harmed by too much religiosity, especially The Last Battle (which is awful), but they're still fun. I note the homage that JKR pays; The Magician's Nephew features Digory Kirke, while HP4 features Cedric Diggory. I don't think it's a coincidence.

L'Engle's Time Quartet has some religion too, and varies in quality. But I do recommend A Wrinkle In Time.

My son likes Judy Blume, but they're basically easy fun, not on the same level.

[ Parent ]
Horse and His Boy (none / 0) (#60)
by KnightStalker on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 03:22:34 PM EST

The Horse and His Boy (apart from being the only book where no one from Earth goes to Narnia) contains some very strong elements of redemption and conversion, the trinity, discipline from God, and other Christian doctrines.

I'm thinking particularly of the scene where Aslan (unseen) repeats to the boy "I am who I am" (or something equivalent) three times in different voices.

[ Parent ]

Christian Themes in Narnia (none / 0) (#70)
by Robert Uhl on Fri Nov 16, 2001 at 05:29:44 PM EST

I have been since earliest youth a very great fan of C.S. Lewis' work, both fiction and non-fiction. The Chronicles of Narnia are IMHO perhaps the finest fantasy for children of a certain age (The Hobbit being for younger children and The Lord of the Rings being for older ones). But I've never considered that The Last Battle was particularly Christian in its theme, as opposed to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which is almost explicitly Christian (God dies for the sins of another, is resurrected and proceeds to destroy the armies of evil).

I disagree that they are moral-free in spots. To me, much of the message of Narnia is that one must live a Christian life. Even the parts which seem to be irrelevant are illustrating various virtues: love, tolerance, joy, happiness &c.

[ Parent ]

Oh and another thing (4.12 / 8) (#2)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 08:53:24 AM EST

I can't believe Alice isn't in here.

Play 囲碁
Alice? (3.66 / 3) (#4)
by tombuck on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 09:00:24 AM EST

Who the f*** is Alice? (as the crap song went)

Anyway, am I the only person who has never read the Alice books... being only 19, it's not like my childhood was (is?) that long ago.

Give me yer cash!
[ Parent ]

You should (5.00 / 4) (#5)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 09:10:38 AM EST

I especially recommend Martin Gardner's "Annotated Alice" (actually, this has been updated to include both books as well as new annotations as of 2000). Some of the annotations are boring but some are very interesting indeed. Much of the supposed nonsense is really just daily English life circa 1860 and vice versa. Plus a lot of mathematical and scientific commentary, plus pointing out of themes and connections. Highly recommended.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Ah yes, Alice (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by TheophileEscargot on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 09:12:07 AM EST

Um... Er... she must have... er... slipped out. Yes, that's right. Or something.

If you like Jeff Noon, Automated Alice is pretty good tho.
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

The Books of Magic (4.00 / 6) (#3)
by menozero on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 08:57:41 AM EST

What about The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, and Paul Johnson (DC Comics/Vertigo)?

Yes, it's a comic book, so what? No, Tim is not Harry. And now he's a bit older. Yes, it's for mature readers, of any age.

Some links on dmoz.

E. Nesbit (4.00 / 5) (#7)
by bil on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 09:13:02 AM EST

E. Nesbit's works can also be found here including "Five children and it" curtesy of everyones favourite project Gutenberg.


Where you stand depends on where you sit...

Also, James Blaylock (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by TheophileEscargot on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 09:20:54 AM EST

I had to resist putting him in, 'cos he doesn't technically write children's books. However, the man is a whimisical genius.

The Last Coin is my personal favourite.

Another interesting one is The Stone Giant which happens to feature an enthusiastic pie-eater and reluctant hero called Theophile Escargot...
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death

Aha! (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 10:14:33 AM EST

"The Last Coin" is indeed very good. I couldn't remember the name or the author so I'm glad you reminded me. The whole scene at the beginning with the neighbor's cat had me in stitches and for some reason "Weetabix" strikes me as very funny as well. I'll have to check this out of the library again.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Yeah (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by TheophileEscargot on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 10:22:02 AM EST

But it's milk first, then sugar! That's the only way to eat Weetabix.

Lots of good stuff there. I liked the helium-filled chef's hat disappearing into the distance...
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

Also (3.80 / 5) (#9)
by Zeram on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 09:24:24 AM EST

portions of Piers Anthony's work would be good for kids. I remember reading The Apprentice Adept series and the Xanth series when I was young.
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
and also (4.00 / 3) (#10)
by Zeram on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 09:25:45 AM EST

to a degree Robert Asprin's myth series.
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Deja vu (3.50 / 2) (#11)
by spiralx on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 10:06:53 AM EST

This exact same question came up on a mailing list I was on last night, and exactly the same things were recommended - Piers Anthony's Xanth series (if you can handle very bad puns) and Robert Asprin's Myth series.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Piers Anthony and Xanth... (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by chipuni on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 03:25:57 PM EST

Piers Anthony has done some wonderful, strong fiction, like Macroscope. The first three books of his Xanth series, Apprentice Adept, and Incarnations of Immortality series were good... but keep people away from the later ones of his series.

A lot of them show his sexual fetishes. In the later Xanth books, all main characters (usually one main male with four or five females) get naked. He's got a fetish for young ladies' panties (The Color of Her Panties is the title of his fifteenth Xanth book.) He has few strong female characters.

Some of his other series are far more blunt. Even when I was 17, I was disgusted at his 'Space Tyrant' series, where his chapters alternate between explicit sex (including rape) and explicit violence (including cannibalism). In short, ask around before you buy a Piers Anthony book.
Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.
[ Parent ]

Yeah really (4.00 / 1) (#42)
by Zeram on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 08:35:02 AM EST

I read Firefly when I was like 16 and I think I almost exploded from blushing so much.
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
The Potter books are inferior (3.45 / 11) (#15)
by itsbruce on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 10:47:56 AM EST

Many of the books and authors listed above stretch the imagination, explore darker aspects of human thought/behavior and/or even have strong sexual undertones. Harry Potter is retro whimsy in comparision. Billy Bunter with magic. Fantasy-lite. I really loathe it.

--It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.

Pardon me (3.00 / 3) (#16)
by itsbruce on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 11:20:01 AM EST

For expressing an opinion.

--It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.

[ Parent ]
OT: Don't take it personally (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by Karmakaze on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 12:12:58 PM EST

If you look at DesiredUserName's Ratings, you will notice he uses a boolean rating style. Everything is either a 5 or a 1. As insulting as it feels, he's not going to change his style just because it bothers other people.

[ Parent ]

Kinda boolean (2.33 / 3) (#27)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 02:16:19 PM EST

Actually, I just never think to vote unless something strikes me as really good or really dumb. When I first read itsbruce's comment I didn't think it really contributed anything except "HP sucks" so I rated it 1. Later I realized it pointed out the dark side of other children's books which *is* worth something so I thought maybe I'd give it a 2 but then never got around to it.

In any case, he's simply wrong that HP doesn't have any dark stuff. It's just not in the first book. And making comments about a series you've obviously never read will never get you a 5 in my book...

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Of course! (none / 0) (#49)
by itsbruce on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 05:37:03 PM EST

Of course, I could never had read any of it because otherwise I would obviously agree with you, There just couldn't be any other explanation.

--It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.

[ Parent ]
Disagree, FWIW (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by sab39 on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 06:12:40 PM EST

I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree about Harry Potter. I've only read the first book, and even though it couldn't by any stretch be described as "deep" or "dark", it certainly stretches the imagination.

Even reading it as an adult, it appealed to my mind as well as my love of a good story. For example (I'll try to phrase these abstractly but be warned, they could still be considered very mild spoilers in the same sense that knowing that "The Sixth Sense" had a surprise ending, without knowing what, would be)

There's a section in mid-book where (if you're moderately alert) you realize that you need to look back to a previous event to see it in a new light - or perhaps you have to think really hard to even remember what that previous event was.

There's a "spot the message in the apparently meaningless text" puzzle (albeit a fairly easy one, as befits a teens/kids book).

The way that the final conflict plays out is clever, and you're given time to try to figure it out before it's explained to you (I didn't - it's by no means obvious, except with hindsight).

And there's -- yes -- a surprise, "damn, gotta read the book again" ending, just like "sixth sense" (apologies for my lack of imagination in describing what kind of spoilers up above...) - and even though I'm only part-way through doing so, there are definitely things that you only notice second time through.

All in all, while it's certainly not "heavy", I wouldn't say it was "lite", except in the sense that it's great fun to read. It's certainly best read with your brain turned on, which is more than I can say for many books.

And everyone who's read all the books tells me that they only get better :)

"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]
Not dark? (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by frabcus on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 07:45:07 PM EST

You haven't read the fourth book. It's very dark.

[ Parent ]
Over time (none / 0) (#55)
by odaiwai on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 12:49:47 AM EST

The HP books get progressively darker over time as Harry grows up. Goblet of Fire is *much* darker than sorcerors stone. There's several deaths in it, and, well, give it a read.

Rowling has said that Goblet is the longest one of the seven, as it was something of a hump in the story arc.

-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
Lemony Snicket... (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by chipuni on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 11:27:13 AM EST

For wonderful, very silly, children's literature, I highly recommend Lemony Snicket and his books 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'. He writes with the same sense of humour that Edward Gorey draws with. (His illustrator was very influenced by Mr. Gorey.)

The plots are simple: Take three very intelligent, likeable, and resourceful children, and put them into the worst situations that he can think of. He promises no happy endings, no happy beginnings, and very few happy moments in between.... and the books, for all that, are hysterically funny.
Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.

freaking UKians (1.25 / 4) (#18)
by alprazolam on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 11:32:22 AM EST

judy blume

Not a fantasy writer surely? NT (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by TheophileEscargot on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 11:37:35 AM EST

Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]
didn't realize (2.00 / 1) (#21)
by alprazolam on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 11:41:17 AM EST

you were only talking about fantasy. i don't really think i'd consider harry potter in the fantasy genre to tell you the truth.

[ Parent ]
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (4.57 / 7) (#20)
by itsbruce on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 11:40:52 AM EST

"The Little Prince" is possibly the single most amazing children's story I have ever read (yes it is fantasy: accountants from another planet, talking flowers, what more do you want?). It manages the difficult trick of appealing to young children as well as older ones while having plenty of deeper layers. It's also one of those rare books that attempts to look at the world from a child's perspective and succeed: the story of the author's childhood drawing of a boa eating an elephant, which adults see (to his frustration) as a picture of a hat, is wonderfully observed.

I re-read it at least once a year.

--It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.

Good one (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by TheophileEscargot on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 11:52:40 AM EST

Amazon link here

Quote page for Saint-Exupery here.

...perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away...

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

"The Little Prince" appealing to childre (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by bgarcia on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 01:51:11 PM EST

"The Little Prince" ...(is) appealing to young children as well as older ones while having plenty of deeper layers.
I read "The Little Prince" as a 10-year-old. For the record, I must say that I did not find it the least bit appealing.

I haven't read it since, but I still have my copy, so I should probably try reading it again to see if I like it any better now.

[ Parent ]

Well, I did (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by itsbruce on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 02:25:04 PM EST

So where does that leave us? It will not be to every child's taste but it is accessible to young children, to like or dislike as they choose.

--It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.

[ Parent ]
Stephen King (4.20 / 5) (#24)
by lvogel on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 12:20:28 PM EST

I started reading his books in 5th grade. The majority of his books have central characters that are kids or young adults; I could always find myself relating to the characters. I read every one of his books in my local library, which was about a dozen in my hometown of Thompson Falls, Montana.

To me programming is more than an important practical art. It is also a gigantic undertaking in the foundations of knowledge.

a caution though. (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by garlic on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 12:45:15 PM EST

king also puts a sex scene or two into a lot of his books. I started reading his books around the same age as you (starting with firestarter) and I know when I read some of them that Mom wouldn't have liked it if she knew what I was reading.

A good point, however, is though King does horror, most of his novels end with the good guys winning. This can be much less disturbing than some other horror authors.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

IT (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by rusty on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 03:51:59 PM EST

Yeah, there's King that's OK for kids, and then there's King that really isn't. I read IT in fifth grade, and despite being largely about kids, I really didn't get it. The parts I did get utterly freaked me out, and I was generally left with the impression that Evil Runs Amok and the world is a hideous hateful place.

I should really read it again and see what the hell it was about.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

King for Kids (none / 0) (#59)
by defeated on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 01:22:15 PM EST

I liked "IT", but I think I was in the 7th grade when I read it, so I had a couple of years up on you.

A King book that shouldn't present any problem for younger kids, in terms of readability or risque scenes (unless I mis-remember) is "Eyes of the Dragon."

[ Parent ]
Dear me (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by itsbruce on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 05:20:33 PM EST

When I was twelve I was caught by a teacher reading a book called "In Praise of Older Women". The only thing my parents didn't like about that was the pompous letter he gave me to take home.

King's erotic scenes are very mild. I don't really understand people who are happy for their kids to read gory horror but not sex.

--It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.

[ Parent ]
Him and Michael Moorcock (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by Fubar the Clown on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 12:57:18 PM EST

I recall reading "The Knight of the Swords" and I was in fifth grade; and to this day I often envision the Gods men worship in terms of Moorcock's image of Arioch lolling naked and picking his nose while laughing at a fight between demons.

Granted, Moorcock's stories are often very dark, but I like the way they make me think. And Elric helped keep me sane when putting up with school bullies.

Coming soon from Megafarce Records: Antipop Superstar by Fubar the Clown
[ Parent ]

Arioch (none / 0) (#57)
by defeated on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 01:03:41 PM EST

I read the Elric books when I was in the 6th grade just because I was into the whole fantasy/sword and sorcery thing. A couple of months ago, I scrounged around and rounded up all my Moorcock paperbacks and re-read the whole Elric saga, and wow! There's a lot of stuff I missed the first time around, some really dark and disturbing moments that flew right over my 11 year old head. Very cool.

[ Parent ]
Slightly OT: further Potter books? (3.25 / 4) (#30)
by sab39 on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 03:46:51 PM EST

Sorry to post a vaguely OT question but I'm guessing a lot of Potter fans are reading this discussion :)

I've heard that the most recent HP book (Goblet of Fire) is "what the first three were all leading up to" (I read this in an interview with the guy making the movies, who said that he couldn't wait to make "Goblet of fire". The same article suggested that it might even become two movies by itself). OTOH, in the first book (Sorcerer's/Philosopher's stone) Harry is told that he will be at Hogwarts for 7 years (I don't think that's a spoiler for anyone who hasn't read the book).

So my question is, is "Goblet of Fire" the climax of the series, or are there three more to go?

In answering, please be gentle with spoilers because I've only read the first one (and other people reading your response might not even have read that, of course). And yes, I liked it, and I'm 25. You got a problem with that? :)

Thanks for any information,
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

Slightly OT: further Potter books? (none / 0) (#32)
by dave_d on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 03:54:49 PM EST

Supposedly, there's going to be seven books also - one for each of his years at Hogwarts.

[ Parent ]
Even more OT (none / 0) (#33)
by Eimi on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 03:55:29 PM EST

IIRC, the inside jacket notes for GoF describe it as the "pivotal fourth chapter in the seven book series", or something like that. Having read it, it's definitely *not* the end of the series, but rather more like Empire Strikes Back. To say much more would be a spoiler, but it's definitely not the end.

[ Parent ]
At least three more to go... (none / 0) (#36)
by chipuni on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 05:22:34 PM EST

Harry Potter at Hogwarts still has three books to go after The Goblet of Fire. However, that book does foreshadow a possible job for Harry after he leaves Hogwarts...
Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.
[ Parent ]
Story arc pre-planned (none / 0) (#46)
by frabcus on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 07:51:39 PM EST

To further clarify, the full 7-book story arc has been pre-planned by J K Rowling. She isn't making it up as she goes along; the entire series will form a coherant whole.

[ Parent ]
Book 5 (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by beleriand on Wed Nov 14, 2001 at 12:00:42 PM EST

Book 5 will be called "Order of the Phoenix"

I guess they had to take it of amazon because there where allready somany pre-orders..

[ Parent ]
re: Slightly OT (none / 0) (#71)
by odin on Sun Nov 18, 2001 at 04:38:30 PM EST

I have no real official knowledge, but my guess would be that the first three books were leading up to the fourth not so much as a climax, but that in the 4th-7th books the real story will be told. The first three were mostly to get people used to the characters and the world. Some pretty heavy stuff happens in GoF, and I couldn't imagine the whole series have taking off so well if it had happened in the first book. Kind of like having a pilot to see if anybody is going to tune in to the show.

[ Parent ]
Other predecessors (4.00 / 3) (#34)
by Jonathan Walther on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 05:00:47 PM EST

Tom Browns Schooldays is really the "boarding school story" that got things kicked off. I wouldn't be surprised if the Shannara fantasy series by Terry Brooks had some influence too.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

Roald Dahl (4.71 / 7) (#38)
by persimmon on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 06:38:08 PM EST

Really, the first HP book reminded me most of Roald Dahl. The amusingly horrible family/fantabulous world without horrible family reminded me of Matilda, Boy, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among others.

It's funny because it's a blancmange!
TOO Roald Dahl... (none / 0) (#58)
by defeated on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 01:16:08 PM EST

Actually, while I admit to being a Harry Potter fan, I hated the first half of the first book because it read like the author was trying to hard to write like Roald Dahl. Rowling's characterizations of the more distasteful characters (Dursleys) seemed like they were inspired by Dahl, but she overdid it. RD would have used just a few elegant words and phrases, and you would have known these were rotten people (see "The Twits" or the the parents in "Matilda" for reference). JKR shoves it in your face, "oooh, see how nasty bad these people are???"

[ Parent ]
Two more... (4.40 / 5) (#40)
by cpt kangarooski on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 01:17:14 AM EST

...that should've been on here: *The Last Unicorn, by Peter Beagle Which is quite good, pretty close to the movie (he wrote the screenplay) but sans the songs. and *One for the Morning Glory by John Barnes Which I liked just as soon as the characters began referring to the 'The Book Of Things That Are Not Good To Know At All' and its companion volumes. Pretty funny really, though I'm still working on figuring out some of the end

All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
The Last Unicorn (none / 0) (#65)
by woofbot on Wed Nov 14, 2001 at 11:52:40 AM EST

Although I do enjoy both the book and the movie, I find the focus of the story in the book much more interesting. The movie tends to dwell primarily on the unicorn with Schmendrick acting as a supporting character. In the book on the other hand, Schmendrick's character is much more significant and developed. Instead of simply being a bumbling magician, he is a magician cursed to lived until he finally learns how to cast true magic. I don't know that his age is ever mentioned but you get the impression that it is fairly significant. Regardless, it definitely casts a more interesting slant on his character.= -Woofbot

[ Parent ]
HP was different (5.00 / 6) (#41)
by hughk on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 05:33:49 AM EST

We always had in the UK a tradition of boarding-school stories (yes, I remember the Jennings books as well). However they did not sell outside the UK.

With HP, the appeal is really international and there is a very good subtext within the books (the kids tend to ignore the rules but in the end achieving something good).

I have a Russian wife with two Russian children. When I first brought them to Germany where I now live, my kids had to wait before they were allowed into school. They had few contacts outside the family.

My daughter (aged 15) read HP& The Goblet of Fire in English and loved it. She then went back to read the other three and then the "Goblet of Fire" again. She would not have come into contact with the marketing machine and she still though the books great. It is actually now translated into Russian too.

Some of the particular points is that the school is co-ed, so there are figures for both girls and boys to identify with. Books like Jennings, Bunter, etc were based on boys boarding schools. Boarding schools in the UK are privately run and are quite expensive and are thus for the children of the privileged. It is clear that in the HP world, the school has at least a good cholarship system so that families like the Weasley's can send their 6 or so there.

The other point is that the books are very well written. They have comedy, drama and suspense and can be called as 'page-turners'. I don't begrudge the author one penny for the number of children she has reintroduced the joy of reading to.

LOTR is good to but its appeal is to older kids and adults. The sheer size has put of a lot of people, but maybe the films will encourage more readers.

An(other) author you missed (5.00 / 3) (#43)
by Pimp Ninja on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 01:41:51 PM EST

Diane Duane, writer of the excellent "So You Want To Be A Wizard" and four other wonderful books in the same series.

Thematically, similar to Harry Potter - they're set in the real world, where a child (children) get powers that make their lives much more bearable than the slightly unpleasant circumstances that they began in.

Seems to be a regular theme of these books, which may explain their popularity, and certainly explains why i got into it :)


If we demand from them without offering in return, what are we but better-
dressed muggers holding up the creative at the point of a metaphorical gun?

Strangely enough.. (3.50 / 2) (#44)
by mindstrm on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 07:24:25 PM EST

I just started readin the Harry Potter books a couple days ago.. a gift from my Mother.

I'm 27 years old....

I just absolutey am glued to them. Well written, consice, clean, and not too dumbed down. Good writing all around. I can't wait to get home and read the next one.

I dread the day I finishe the last book available...

Andre Norton (4.00 / 4) (#47)
by dzimmerm on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 10:50:26 PM EST

I loved reading Andre Norton's works. Many of them were aimed at children and young adults. Her witch world series of books were particularly this way. She also had a lot of straight sci-fi, most of which had the protagonist as a young man or woman.


Anne McCaffrey, others... (5.00 / 4) (#48)
by BlueGlass on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 03:31:13 AM EST

I agree with most all of the suggestions by others. I would add Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall trilogy, particulary the first two books, Dragonsong and and Dragonsinger. They are particularly enjoyable for those with a musical inclination (which I have). They feature a strong female protagonist, one that both boys and girls seem te able to identify with, and they are eminently readable. Like all good "children's/young adult" books, adults enjoy them too. I first read them in 6th grade, and now look forward to reading them to my niece (that's my excuse for reading them again :P ).

McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books are also excellent reading. Though more adult-oriented, I and my friends read them in middle school.

Zilpha Keatly Snyder wrote a large number of excellent books, like (The) Changeling, Below the Root, and The Headless Cupid. Like McCaffrey's books, I still love reading 'em. They tend to feature ordinary kids, sometimes in an ordinary setting, sometimes in a fantasy settings, who have to deal with rather intriguing situations.

H.R. Hoover is also an often overlooked author, who wrote a number of good books, many of which are unfortunately out of print, such as the Rains of Eridan and Children of Morrow. In addition to being a talented writer, I believe that Hoover is/was a biologist, so while the books are interesting and readable for kids, they also have a level of detail and accuracy that many kids' books lack. The detail is not obtrusive or detrimental, but it made me really enjoy reading the books over and over as a kid. I am now trying to track down used copies of some of them. Many libraries still carry them.

Last, and not just for geeks, is the excellent The Mad Scientist's Club. It's hard to describe, but it's terribly entertaining, and most of the stories are blueprints for hijinks that would no doubt get some poor kid labelled as a terrorist nowadays. In other words, very fun stories. And it's just been reprinted this year! With some luck, the other two books by the same author, featuring the same theme, will also be reprinted soon.

Other great authors. (none / 0) (#62)
by BooBoo on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 06:36:51 PM EST

Although, not necessarily children's authors, Esther Friesner and Terry Pratchett are great for teenagers, and most of them are hilarious to boot. The Discworld series is fantastic, and Ms. Friesners "Majyk by Accident" and "Gnome Man's Land" series are some of the most entertaining pieces of fiction I've ever been exposed to.

Of course, my favorites are the "Fairy Tale" series of short story compilations by Terri Windling and Eilleen Datlow. Any series of books that takes a handful of fairy tales and rewrites them for adults, the way they were supposed to be enjoyed, is perfection in my eyes.


On tattoos: FUCK YEAH, IT HURTS!!!

[ Parent ]

Tolkien and Modern Fantasy (4.33 / 3) (#51)
by MrAcheson on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 01:32:54 PM EST

Yes, Tolkein is the 800 lbs. gorilla of fantasy, but to say he created the genre is fundamentally incorrect. Tolkein has made essentially two major contributions to fantasy and these are:

(1) The universe. There are hundreds of books written in minor variations on Middle Earth. This means there is a Tolkienesque subgenre to fantasy fiction. These books of course include anything based on D&D, but also Tad Williams fantasy "trilogy" Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and others. If you look closely this is simply Tolkien with names changed.

(2) Fantasy writing conventions such as three book trilogies and to some extent the world map. Basically all fantasy fiction has been influenced in this way.

Basically you have to realize that while Tolkein has had a major influence on fantasy fiction, that others influence on fantasy is highly underestimated and that tolkein in no way "invented" the genre. Modern fantasy is also heavily based on pulp fiction which predates Tolkien or is completely unrelated to him. Most notable among these is Robert E Howard's Conan short stories.

These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.

Not invented... (none / 0) (#52)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 04:05:12 PM EST

practically invented.

The other important precursor I think is The King of Elfland's daughter by Lord Dunsany.

There's also an interesting argument in Trillion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss, that modern SF and fantasy are the linear descendent of "gothic" novels like The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole.

Even so, I would say that Tolkien largely defined the terms of the modern fantasy genre, largely by using his academic knowledge of Anglo-Saxon and Norse epics to reinvent them as popular entertainment, rather than scholarly curiosities.

I can't regard Robert E. Howard as being as influential as Tolkien. Much as I like short stories, modern fantasy consists largely of vast Tolkienesque epics. Howard was somewhat vague about his worlds, whereas the obsessive detail of Tolkien is a large factor in his appeal. Conan is also basically an amoral "noble savage", whereas Tolkien's strict, black-and-white morality dominates the fantasy genre. Another factor is Tolkien's total separation between reality and fantasy-land: Conan was allegedly set in the distant past, and even in Dunsany Elfland interacted somewhat with "the fields we know".
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

Brian Jacques (5.00 / 3) (#53)
by BloodmoonACK on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 06:13:40 PM EST

This series is what started me reading - it was as addictive to me as Harry Potter seems to be to kids nowadays. Same thing with my brother and sister, too; after reading these books we became avid readers of all genres. His Redwall series is great. They're set in a fantasy world of animals (namely, mice and badgers being the good guys and cats and ferrets being the bad guys) set in some sort of medieval era. Try 'em, they're good :)

"It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner

TOTALLY! (none / 0) (#61)
by Mango on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 05:08:57 PM EST

I have to agree BloodmoonACK, Brian Jacques is up there on the fantasy author chain. I started to read them when I was 9 and I still enjoy reading them. I'm glad someone thought of acknowledging him. :-) Not many adults and children have heard of him. I have to agree too, those writers that Theophile described are really good as well..
[ Parent ]
Lloyd Alexander (5.00 / 3) (#54)
by woofbot on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 10:42:09 PM EST

Llyod Alexander is probably one of the more overlooked youth fantasy authors out there. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on you point of view), he is best known for his story The Black Cauldron, which was made into a Disney film back in the 80's I believe. BC was actually only the second of 5 books that make up the Chronicles of Prydain, a series that traces the development of one Taran Assistant Pig-Keeper as he truly grows to manhood. Over the course of the five books, you do really get to understand the main characters yet the pace remains quick and reasonably light. Definitely a series worth reading at some point.

Wow. I'd forgotten these (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by bil on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 09:32:47 AM EST

I hadn't thought of these books for years but they are great childrens stories, based on celtic myth, in the same way that Tolkein is based on Anglo-Saxon stories, or maybe even closer (the black cauldron itself is straight out of celtic stories for example).

I seem to remember the last book in the series was very dark, lots of big battles and deaths. I might have to hunt them down and give them another go.


Where you stand depends on where you sit...
[ Parent ]

You beat me to it... (none / 0) (#72)
by minusp on Mon Nov 19, 2001 at 12:53:24 PM EST

I was about to chime in with just the same...
I read these early on and just couldn't bear to read "those hobbit books" afterward. Too much goopy sentimentality, compared to the Chronicles.

Remember, regime change begins at home.
[ Parent ]
one must not overlook... (4.00 / 2) (#63)
by CodeWright on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 07:31:35 PM EST

While Tolkien is the eternal grandfather figure for children's fantasy, the work of Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Ursula LeGuin (only for Earthsea) are excellent.
Other books that one must not, under any circumstances, overlook:
  • "The Chronicles of Prydain" by Lloyd Alexander (The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King)
  • The Dragonriders of Pern Saga by Anne McCaffrey
  • The Shannara books by Terry Brooks
  • Farmer Giles of Ham by JRR Tolkien
  • The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
  • The Belgariad and Mallorean series by David Eddings
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldsen
  • The Milieu series by Julian May
  • The Krondor books by Raymond Feist
  • The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny
  • The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
  • The first few in the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
  • The Chronicles of Majipoor by Robert Silverberg
  • The Thieves' World books by Robert Lynn Asprin
  • The Elric of Melnibone books by Michael Moorcock

Not suitable for children? (none / 0) (#67)
by avdi on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 05:43:43 PM EST

At least some of these don't seem to be children's fantasy at all. I've read some of the dragonriders books, and I certainly wouldn't read them to my kids (5 and 6); much of it would go over their heads and some of the themes are innapropriate (IMHO) until they are at least in their teens.

While I haven't read the others you mention, I've heard about several of them, all in the context of adult fantasy. In particular, from what my wife has told me, there's no way I'd read the Elric books to my kids.

Now leave us, and take your fish with you. - Faramir
[ Parent ]
appropriate age (none / 0) (#68)
by CodeWright on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 11:27:35 PM EST


I read almost all of those books before I was ten, starting around age seven. Heck, I'd already finished Umberto Eco's 'Name of the Rose' by the time I was nine.

[ Parent ]
Martin (none / 0) (#73)
by yanisa on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 05:23:26 AM EST

While I'm not disputing the brilliance of Martin's work (best fantasy after JTTR imho), I doubt that his books, depicting among other things rape, murder and torture, are quite appropriate for children. And, BTW, as ASOIAF is fairly new, I seriously doubt it that you've read when you were six - unless you're like twelve now. Yan

I think this line's mostly filler
[ Parent ]

the devil is in the details (none / 0) (#75)
by CodeWright on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:21:51 PM EST

Please note that I said I'd read *almost* all of those books at a young age. Although I had read some of Martin's earlier work at a young age (short stories based on the Flyers), I only recently discovered the Ice and Fire series.

[ Parent ]
Children's fantasy, not general... (none / 0) (#74)
by Elkor on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 08:36:41 AM EST

I certainly wouldn't say the Thomas Covenant books are children's books. Of course, I also don't understand why people like them. I personally found them boring.

Likewise, the Thieve's World books are more adult oriented, though of course kids can read them.

Just my opinion, Mileage may vary based on child.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Joan Aiken (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by M0dUluS on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 11:44:25 PM EST

has a pretty good series of fantasy books starting with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Of those that I've seen mentioned so far they probably are closest to Pullman's "Dark Materials" than any others. That is, they have the same "alternate history" mix-n-match feel. There are about 7 books in the series and I think that she is still adding to them.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
Philip Pullman (none / 0) (#69)
by Fryboy on Fri Nov 16, 2001 at 01:49:16 AM EST

Hi, I'm an 18 year old, and a fan of sci-fi. Soon after reading Lord of the Rings for the first time I was given, for my birthday, the Philip Pullman trilogy "His Dark Materials" as mentioned in the article. It was, I have to say, fantastic. It didn't pale in comparison, instead, it explored *different* options of a fantastic universe. I thorougly reccomend it. Harry Potter however, angers me. I was lent all four books at once. And, to my dismay, I couldn't put them down. Took me a night to finish each one, except the fourth which took me two nights. It angers me because even though I could see that they were badly formed books (the fourth one to a lesser extent), they were addictive. It boils down to this - 90% of the book, pretty much all except the last few chapters - details Harry and his friends' exploits in the universe. There they are, pottering around (excuse the pun :)), getting into trouble, getting out of trouble and generally having a lot of fun with magic. We like this - its funny, and its well written. A few pages before the end, JKR realises she has to relate it back to the plot, and after a brief series of events, everything is wrapped up in a "nice little package", to quote the Simpsons. This is less evident in the fourth, where she had a greater time span over which to develop the plot, and therefore write a *better* book. This, however, only serves to highlight the stereotypical, 2D nature of the characters. And, to add insult upon injury, she did not finish the fourth book. There is no ending. So smitten was I with this that, after retriving the book from where I threw it, decided to write myself a Harry Potter book, just to get it out of my system. Soon after I had scoped out a plot, fitting nicely into the universe and continuing the story, does she announce the title of the fifth book. And lo! I had predicted the next book. Breaking new grounds into plot twists this series is not. Don't get me wrong - I love the series, its thoroughly engrossing and I'm sure the movie will be filled with fanciful eye candy. But if JKR would like to grip, and keep, the large adult audience the books have spawned, I think a little more sophistication is required. Fryboy

Beyond Harry Potter | 75 comments (75 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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