So, your little munchkin has munched through all seven Harry Potter books in record time and their hands are now empty. But what should they read next to keep the reading (and peaceful bliss) going on and on?
It’s a question that countless parents have asked the internet. I’m speaking from experience here. Before J. K. Rowling put pen to paper I was a ten-year-old boy who was allergic to reading. I was a complete embarrassment to my ex-Primary-School-Teacher-turned-School-Librarian mother. After reading the Harry Potter series I was converted. I used to be a book-sloth and now I’m a book-worm, and it’s all thanks to Hogwarts and Hippogriffs and Hufflepuff.
It’s a hard act to follow. Book One is the third bestselling book of all time (only beaten by Tolkien’s masterpiece and some French picture book). So then, here it goes . . . my five suggestions for the next magical middle-grade series that’ll keep kids reading.
5. Skulduggery Pleasant Series by Derek Landy
This seems to be what many parents nudge gently towards their kids. I can testify to this having eaten through the series myself as a young lad. It’s top-notch.
Derek Landy has created a wonderfully imaginative character – a skeleton detective sorcerer who drives a Bentley and flings fireballs at his enemies with the best name you’ll ever hear . . . Skulduggery Pleasent. This is another ‘magical subculture hidden from the rest of society’ kid’s fiction series, but here’s what makes it better than the rest. The author has mixed the magic we all crave with wise-cracking wit that’ll make everyone laugh.
“So you won’t keep anything from me again?” He put his hand to his chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die.” “Okay then. Though you don’t actually have a heart,” she said. “I know.” “And technically, you’ve already died.”
And it’s set in Ireland, which I found very refreshing.
This twelve-book strong series contains a trill-a-minute and a laugh-a-second. It came out just as Harry was graduating from Hogwarts, and just as well as no-one wants to be forcibly retired. But unike Harry, Skulduggary hasn’t retired.
4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan
Now here’s a great middle-grade series to rival Potter.
Are you a bit weird in school? Maybe you don’t fit in. Maybe you’re a target for bullies or get into trouble a lot or sucked at reading or have dyslexia. Well, Rick Riordan is here to tell you that it’s okay . . . truth is, you’re probably a demi-god with powers that enable you to zap those bullies and save the world from a catastrophic war between the gods.
The plot is sensational (it goes at a mile a minute). The writing is sensational (this guy knows how to write fast-paced thrilling action). The characters are sensational (seriously, mixing Greek gods with 21st century New York makes for entertaining stuff). The monsters are, well, pretty good too (as you can imagine, this book is jam-packed with mythical creatures and celestial beings).
Percy Jackson will draw you in just as much as Harry Potter and will make you laugh twice as much.
3. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series Quintet Series by Michael Scott
Now here’s a familar name to Harry Potter fans.
If you’re looking for an epic adventure where myths and legends come to life then you’re in for a treat here. Inside this series you’ll find a 600-year-old alchemist who performs magic, a 2,000-year-old vegetarian vampire along with cameos from Joan of Arc, King Tutankhamen, and Queen Elizabeth I, to name a few. In this universe the myths and legends are all real, they’re all immortal and they coexist with our modern world. Furthermore, there are more twists and turns than a centipede could count on its arms and legs.
This magical series is six books long and each is the size of the longer Potter books, like the Goblet of Fire. They contain everything we all loved about the world of Hogwarts and Hagrid – magic, mystery, and the battle between good versus evil.
2. The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
This next book series is quite possibly the love child of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter.
Clary Fray is a 15-year-old trying to find her place in the world – is she goth, a punk, or perhaps a half-angel kick ass demon slayer? Turns out she is the last one. Vampires, werewolves, demons and angels are everywhere and it’s up to her and the Shadowhunters to keep the peace. Clary has got much to learn if shes going to defeat the evil villain called Valentine (not quite as good of a villain name as Voldemort, but just as twisted and detestable).
The author has masterfully created a vivid, believable parallel world of Shadowhunters and demons full of three-dimensional characters, punchy dialogue, and fascinating magical elements that will keep the pages turning all night. This is urban fantasy at it’s best!
1. The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin
And finally, if you’re wanting to level up your kid’s magical fantasy reading, then here’s an excellent series to get their teeth into.
This is the tale of Sparrowhawk – a young boy who will become the most powerful wizard to have ever lived. Anyone for a dragon fight? Raising the dead? Awesome shadows underneath the waters? Amazing magical discoveries? It’s all here.
The magic inside these pages is simply wonderful – dare I say it, better than anything you’ll see in Hogwarts. The world of islands is gorgeous. But most importantly, it’s Sparrowhawk that I love the most. This young kid has gone through so much. All his bad decisions lead to wisdom, and all the while, the magic grows and surges and becomes something amazing.
Everyone has got to grow up, even Harry Potter! Rowling’s books are plot-driven team-based struggles with some deeper themes woven in. On the other hand, Le Guin’s tales are woven around the metaphysical. They are a deep dive into themes of morality and spirituality making this series very profound indeed.
“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
That’s good stuff! Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.