by Alexandra Morris, Bookseller

One of my all-time favorite memories is sitting curled up beside my brother on the itchy beige carpet of our childhood home, gazing up in absolute wonder as our mom read to us from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. (Being exactly who I am, I used to snatch the book off its shelf each morning, read ahead during freetime at school, then put it back at the end of the day thinking my mom was none the wiser).

What turned you into a bookworm? Was it Harry Potter? Maybe Judy Blume? The Hunger Games? The Giver? The stories we read or have read to us as children have remarkable staying power. Maybe it’s the way kids can read the same story over and over and over again without ever tiring. Maybe child-minds are just better at absorbing things. (Maybe, just maybe, kid’s books are better than grown-up books. But you didn’t hear that from me.)

Perhaps the most magical thing about those memories, though, is the fact that my brother and I could sit side-by-side without trying to destroy each other. We were classically opposed little twerps. One of us studious, quiet, and well-behaved; the other distracted, loud, and hyper-active. But in those stories of magical wardrobes and sibling betrayal, there was something that could capture us both.

And so, for your quarantine pleasure, here are some fantasy titles slightly more recent than C.S. Lewis which lend themselves beautifully to a family read aloud—whether it’s just you and your little one or a whole house of kids from 2 to 20, these are books the whole family can (and should!) enjoy together:

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

Our May 27th Middle Grade Bookclub pick! This is the story of Bronte Mettlestone, age 10, whose absent parents have just been murdered by pirates. In their will, they leave their daughter extremely detailed instructions for an adventure in which she is to visit all 11 of her eclectic aunts, alone. I adore this book because while it’s whimsical and fun in a Dahl-esque way, it’s also a really beautiful story about a complicated family processing complicated grief. Charming, funny, and deep (but never morbid!), Bronte is a heroine for all ages.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Tristan Strong just lost his best friend, and now on top of everything else, he accidentally punched a hole in the universe. As in all the Rick Riordan Presents stories, Tristan goes on a mythological adventure. What sets this book apart from others I’ve read from the same imprint is that in addition to exploring the rich cultural mythology of West Africa, Tristan also encounters folk heroes from the American tradition (like John Henry and the Brer Rabbit) who were deeply inspired by those original myths.
The Wizards of Once

The Wizards of Once

For generations, Wizards and Warriors have fought for control of the forest. A Wizard and a Warrior could never be friends—unless. This is the story of Xar, a Wizard boy with no magic; and Wish, a Warrior princess with a growing collection of forbidden magical objects but no athletic skills. It has all the flashy elements of a classic quest tale, with that signature Cressida Cowell turn-around (you may know her from the How to Train Your Dragon books). Full of childlike and captivating illustrations, this is perfect for an over-the-shoulder read along.
The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom

The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom

This final title definitely leans towards younger readers; I’d say kids under 10. While it has the same whimsical-Britishness as Bronte Mettlestone, it deals more closely with story tropes like tragic orphans and chosen ones and wicked witches. What’s fun about Birdie Bloom is that the narrator is the book itself—as in the actual, physical book you are holding. The pages talk to you throughout and employ the use of footnotes, which is a neat way to introduce that format to kids. The only reason I hesitate to recommend it to older readers is because it’s so adorable they may become fatigued. But seriously, it is very cute and very fun, and very good for blooming bookworms.
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