Welcome to the first installment of our Top 100 Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Each installment will feature a different category showing the top ten books in that category. For this first outing, we decided to focus on the top childrens books.
Top Science Fiction Children’s Books
The Hobbit cover Alan Lee courtesy Tolkien Society
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Susan Cooper’s five book series The Dark is Rising takes its themes primarily from Celtic and Norse mythology. It follows the struggle between good or The Light forces and the forces of evil or The Dark. This series of books has been popular with younger readers since the 1960’s and has earned the coveted Newberry medal. For young readers just finding their way into the world of fantasy, these books are highly recommended.
Redwall by Brian Jacques
Brian Jacque’s 20 (so far) novel series follows a group of anthropomorphic animals who are the dwellers of Mossflower woods and Redwall Abbey. These are fantastic books to introduce younger readers to fantasy. In fact, they’re popular amongst both younger and older readers alike. While the stories are relatively simple, they are still filled with all the elements of good fantasy, such as legendary warriors, fierce battles and tragic losses.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Follow the yellow brick road. Sure as an adult you might not be able to think of Oz without at once associating it with an MGM musical or a certain current Broadway hit. While experts will point out the many political themes that run through the course of the book, such as the yellow brick road representing the gold standard, like many readers this book (along with the 13 others) with its array of witches, talking animals and winged monkeys, was one of my first forays into the world of fantasy.
Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
While the Wizard of Oz was one of my first forays into fantasy, Lloyd Alexander’s five book series, The Chronicles of Prydain was the series that cemented my love of fantasy. With its roots found heavily in Welsh mythology, Alexander’s story follows Taran an assistant pig-keeper who must join the fight against the evil Arawn lord of Anuvin, and discover his destiny.
Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin’s Earthsea books while apparently to adapt for the screen, does just beautifully as a series of novels. Unlike many fantasy books, Le Guin truly creates her own world and cultures, without the need to rely on Celtic mythology. The world of Earthsea consisting literally of a sea with an archipelago of hundreds of islands, it is a world quite different to our own.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I had thought of adding the whole series here, but some books were better than others, and if I were to introduce a reader to one book in this series, it would probably be this one. Sure Prince Caspian has Reepicheep, a warrior mouse, while the White Witch Jadis gets to run amok the streets of London in The Magician’s Nephew, but this is the book that started it all, and religious overtones aside, once you go through that wardrobe, you won’t want to go back.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
It’s been over 140 years since Alice first fell down the rabbit hole and still this classic captures the hearts of children everywhere. Part fantasy, part literary nonsense, it continues to be popular with both children and adults. Carroll’s work has influenced many genre authors such as Neil Gaiman and Tad Williams.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Many have referred to Pullman’s trilogy as the Anti-Narnia, but that would be an oversimplification. While it’s true that Pullman is an atheist and many of his ideas of religion can be found in this book; at its center, the books are about growing up. Set against the backdrop of a spectacular multiverse and featuring armored bears, what more can a science fiction/fantasy fan ask for?
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
What can I say, Lord of the Rings is essential reading for any fantasy fan, and if you’ve read that, you’ve surely at some point read The Hobbit. With dragons, wizards, goblins, dwarves and great battles, it’s easy to see why this is such a well-loved story.
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
We had a hard time deciding who would top off this list, but in the end it could only be Harry Potter. Since the release of the first book, the adventures of the boy wizard Harry and his Gryffindor companions have had readers both young and old clamoring for more. Rowling’s book literally made reading “cool” again. It’s quite possibly the only children’s book that had to be released with an “adult” cover so that adults in Britain could be more inconspicuous about their love of Harry Potter. Even now that most people know how the books end, there’s still fans wanting more. With a blockbuster series of movies and a Harry Potter theme park, it’s clear Harry Potter is here to stay.