A reference question on fantasy for a Grade 6 Harry Potter hater

I don’t want to be redundant with these reference question posts, but I can’t help but jot something down when I find myself handing over a giant stack of books to a hungry lil’ chidler.

Tonight a Grade 6 gal came in looking for some good fantasy books.  The staff member on the Information Desk called me out to field this one.  I joyfully skipped away from my current duty of something boring and administrativey to help out.

Fantasy is a tough genre when it comes to recommending things as it can mean very different things to different people.  This is how it went down:

What she had already in her book bag:

  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

This was a big tip-off.  No Susan Cooper/Tolkien/Brian Jacques/Monica Hughes for this gal!

What she told me she likes:

  • All Roald Dahl (oh, now we’re talkin’!)
  • Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy (d’oh!  I’ve never read it!)
  • Candy Apple and Poison Apple series (hmm…the plot thickens)

What she nixed right off the bat:

Before I recommended anything we had a bit of general chat about what’s super popular in the fairy tale/fantasy genre right now.  She expressed immediate disdain for the following:

  • Harry Potter (never read it, doesn’t want to)
  • Princess Diaries series (she read some and they got “too boring”)
  • Spiderwick Chronicles (no explanation, just a scrunched up nose)
  • The Graveyard Book (she tried it but never got into it)
  • A Tale Dark And Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (I told her about the plot and she was promptly horrified)

Further adding to the challenge was that she has seen almost every movie made in the history of the world.  This means she has seen lots of the terrible, terrible movie versions of very unterrible books.

What I recommended:

From what she told me, I was getting a distinct British humour/fairy tale/more-complex-book vibe from her (the Apple series aside).  Here’s what I recommended. I’ ve put them into categories here because organization please me.

For their cheeky Dahl-esque humour:

  • Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (she loved the movie so I gave her Book 4 as the movie roughly ends around Book 3)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
  • Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce (after hugging it and saying “I almost don’t want to give this to you because I want to take it home again and read it”)

For their fairy tale-ness:

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull
  • Inkspell trilogy by Cornelia Funke
  • Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley

Plug for Canadian fantasy:

  • Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel

Wild Card:

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (it turns out someone bought this for her and she hasn’t read it yet!)

What she noticed on display and took:

  • Witch’s Business by Diana Wynne Jones

Now that I’m sitting here writing this post, I can think of so many more, but the poor dear had to carry her bag home so I think that was quite enough for one visit.

Very interesting how these things play out…and this may be the first child I have ever encountered who claims to like fantasy, but loathe Harry Potter.

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