If Your Kid Liked Harry Potter, Try These Books Next
When your kids depart Hogwarts and take that last train ride back home to Platform 9¾ they may be itching to read a new magical adventure.
If your child was enthralled with reading the Harry Potter series there is no reason for them to leave the enchanted world of Harry Potter behind.
There is an assortment of charmed books for children of all ages. Here are expert suggestions for parents helping their children seek their next fantasy adventure.
It’s More Than Wizardry
Harry Potter’s appeal to young readers is more than magic, wizards and dragons, say book experts.
“For kids, being Harry Potter and being a wizard and saving the world and making new friends is a universal theme,” said Justin Azevedo, youth material selector at Sacramento Public Library in Sacramento, Calif. “Harry Potter is about magic, but it is really about a child finding out he is special and being chosen for something greater.”
More than the magic and wizardry of Harry Potter are the friendships that are formed between the main characters. “When I look for a book for that Harry Potter reader I look for that deeper story,” Azevedo explained.
The series of events Harry Potter is thrust into keeps young readers engaged in the story, said Shelley Diaz, reviews manager and teen editor at the School Library Journal in New York City, one of the largest reviewers of children’s books in the country.
“Look for a book with story lines that kids are able to interact with the characters,” said Diaz.
Early Elementary Books
Kids in early elementary school typically read beginning chapter/easy reader books and are drawn to stories about heroes who are on a quest and are fighting monsters and defeating evil.
"The Princess in Black" series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale falls under this category, Azevedo said.
“It is a book about a young princess who wears pink dresses and has tea with the duchess, but also secretly puts on a black costume and fights monsters to keep the kingdom safe,” he said. “A little boy comes onto her secret and the story is just fun.”
"Dragon Breath" by Ursula Vernon is an early chapter book younger elementary kids will enjoy. “It is about a young dragon going to dragon school that has elements of the Harry Potter structure,” said Azevedo said, adding the book’s illustrations make the story even more interesting for kids.
"The Spiderwick Chronicles" books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black are fantasy/adventure read-a-likes for Harry Potter readers. “This is a great example of low fantasy, which is a fantasy place that takes place in the real world — just like Harry Potter— but then there’s this special secret world,” Azevedo said.
Another good fantasy pick for younger readers are books by Aaron Becker. There are three books in Becker’s series, starting with "Journey."
“It’s like a portal fantasy where a little girl draws a door on the wall and walks through it to find another world,” Diaz said. “It is a very much like in Harry Potter where this new world is almost parallel to our world but there are different rules and a hint of magic.”
Older Elementary Readers
The older elementary kids are starting to explore stories about self-actualization, Azevedo explained.
“They are getting into the concept of there being bad in the world that needs to be avoided or defeated,” he said. “Plot is still a key factor for this group, but older elementary kids want something exciting with a twist and a climax and a satisfying resolution.”
Older Elementary Books
"The Dark Is Rising" series by Susan Cooper introduces kids to the notion of evil.
“These books are based on Arthurian legends,” noted Diaz. “Kids become friends and have adventures together as they are trying to ‘save the world.’ It is dark vs. light; the bad guys vs. the good guys. There are a lot of similar themes in Cooper’s books that we see in the Harry Potter books.”
Another good selection is "Septimus Heap," a seven-book series by Angie Sage.
“It’s about a boy who finds out he has powers,” Diaz said. “It’s about his apprenticeship and how he figures out how to use those powers. There are wizards and adventure very similar to the tone and theme in Harry Potter.”
If you’re looking for super funny and sarcastic, Diaz recommends "The Skulduggery Pleasant" series by Derek Landy.
“These books are about a skeleton detective and a group of friends who stop evil forces to save the world," she said. “There’s mystery in there mixed in with magic.”
Middle School Readers
Strong and repressed emotions are an important aspect of middle school-aged books.
“We are starting to get into adolescence and angst,” Azevedo said. “Kids who are in middle school are seeing that this age and this time sucks for everyone not just for them.”
"Middle school is also a time when kids start developing really important friendships,” Diaz said, suggesting parents look for stories that involve stories about defeating evil and kids escaping danger just like Harry Potter.
Middle School Books
Author Rick Riordan has written a number of series to this point, including "Magnus Chase and the Guards of Asgard," a trilogy about a teen boy who lives alone on the streets of Boston because his mother told him he needed to run. This fantasy adventure reveals Norse history and the discovery of a weapon that has been lost for thousands years
. “This is the first place I would absolutely send middle grade readers,” Azevedo said.
Another historical fiction collection for middle graders that are beautifully written and have element of fantasy and mystery are books by Frances Hardinge.
“She writes complex stories but there is always a main character that has an adventure or something to solve,” Diaz said. “All her books are always so different than the one before but all keep to the theme of good overcoming evil; banning together with other people; and solving a problem to save the world.”
High School Readers
Teens become extremely passionate about their convictions. “For high school readers, the plot remains important but so is emotion,” Azevedo said. “Students at this age are looking to see themselves and to feel.”
Jumping over obstacles and hurdles are common in books targeted for high school readers.
“Older kids are drawn to the complexity and darkness of the later books in the Harry Potter series,” Diaz noted.
High School Books
Azevedo steers high school Harry Potter fans towards the "Seraphina" books by Rachel Hartman because they play with this notion.
“It is a high fantasy, completely fantastical world,” he said. "The book is centered on a young adult who considers herself an outcast and normal and is thrust into something greater because of her talents she didn’t know she had.”
"Akata Witch" by Nnedi Okorafor is about a teen who lives in Nigeria and discovers she comes from this background of witches and doesn’t want to have these powers.
“She does not want to be this magical being and there is tension between wanting to be a regular kid and having this great power,” described Diaz. “People have actually called Akata Witch the ‘Nigerian Harry Potter.’”
Teens will also enjoy Okorafor’s sequel to this book, "A Cocktail Warrior," she noted.
Another series that is often compared to Harry Potter for this age group is Lev Grossman’s "The Magicians."
“Basically, this is Harry Potter in college,” Diaz said. “School Library Journal gave this a very strong review.”
Family Story Time
Parents can read wordless fairylike picture books with the youngest of kids, as well as with first-, second- and third-graders who can use their imaginations to make up a story based on the images they see, Diaz said.
"Tuesday" by David Weisner is one of those books, and like Harry Potter it has very strange, whimsical and adventurous things going on.
“There are frogs jumping on lily pads and using them as flying carpets,” Diaz explained.
Azevedo‘s pick for picture book readers is "Nobody Likes A Goblin" by Ben Hapke.
“It is about a goblin who is best friends with a skeleton and one day a party of adventurers come in and take the skeleton because the skeleton is a monster,” he said.
“Now, the goblin has to go on a quest to find his skeleton friend. This is a really interesting thing of flipping the hero quest on its head because the hero is a monster that nobody likes because he is a goblin. It is a sweet story about friendship.”
Favorite Fantasy Books
There are many fantasy books marketed toward kids, but Azevedo and Diaz have their favorites.
“'A Face Like Glass' by Frances Hardinge is one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read for any age,” Azevedo said.
In this book certain objects are created to remove memories, make you hallucinate and convince you to trust the wearer — even if they are evil.
“It is especially great for teen readers because it is neither too dark nor too sophisticated and it is not condescending or ‘dumbed-down,’” he said. “It is masterful and fantastical from beginning to end and I just want to find any reason to get it into any reader’s hand.”
Diaz highly recommends Daniel Jose Older’s series, which kicks off with "Shadowshaper." This series is set in Brooklyn, where a girl discovers she has the power to use her art to shape shadows and fight demons.
“It is a lot of finding out you are special and you have a role in saving the world,” she said. “It has the same elements of Harry Potter where there is a villain and a hero, there’s magic and teaming up with friends.”
Older’s books are for older teens because of a romantic element, noted Diaz. “This is one of my favorite fantasy series,” she said. “Its character development is really strong and there are a lot of themes that are relevant to teens today.”
Harry Potter Fandom
For those kids who fall into the Harry Potter fandom category, basically fans who participate in Harry Potter activities and entertainment that revolve around the series, both Azevedo and Diaz recommend they read "Carry On" by Rainbow Rowell.
“Rowell reimagines the Harry Potter storyline in her books,” Diaz said. “She plays around with the troupes of Harry Potter and does it in a very smart and funny way.”
Know What to Ask For
Azevedo noted there are tons of other books that offer a similar experience to the Harry Potter series.
Parents and kids need to know what to ask librarians when they need help looking for that next Harry Potter-like book. “Ask for books where characters are having a normal day then the ‘fairy portal’ opens up,” he said.
The universal desire to discover that you’re special is also a key element to ask for in a book. One of the key components of the Harry Potter series is the student acceptance letter Harry receives from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which brings Harry the news that he is unique.
“That kicks off the whole thing,” Azevedo said.
Decades of Magic
Harry Potter has been on children’s bookshelves for 20-plus years.
“Literally, people who grew up with Harry Potter are now introducing the books to their children,” Azevedo said. “Part of that is the books themselves, but a part of it is this fandom that has grown up around them. Something about these books speak to people.”
Harry Potter and books similar in tone are all about "that idea of being special and finding out where you belong," he said. “It’s about finding your people, finding your friends and banding together.”