Books labelled children’s fantasy are not just for children. There is much in them for adults to enjoy as well. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is one of the best known and beloved, but a number of other books have qualities that appeal to all ages as well.
The Hunger Games
This popular series by Suzanne Collins is set in a future dystopia where young people are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the populace. It is a thoughtful and sophisticated look at the politics of revolution and the ways in which ordinary people get caught up in larger events. Katniss is a believable and nuanced character to whom both children and adults can relate.
The Moomintroll Books
Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books have been a beloved fantasy series internationally for decades. Set in the forests of Finland, these gentle tales about imaginary creatures including the Snork Maiden, Snufkin, Little My and Moomintroll himself have enchanted children and adults alike. The tales are deceptively simple and in fact are well-written with a sense of melancholy running through many of them.
The Northern Lights
Fantasy books for adults often do not grapple with questions as complex as Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights series. Pullman’s fantasy world resembles our own but includes armoured bears, witches and magic as a part of every day life. Quantum physics and questions about the nature of God never slow down the rollicking adventure but will keep adults as intrigued as the children for whom the books are meant.
Neil Gaiman is a hugely popular writer for adults, and his books for children such as Coraline and The Graveyard Book will appeal to that same audience. In Coraline, a lonely little girl finds a mysterious door that opens into another world where different, kinder versions of her parents live, yet they have black buttons for eyes and grow increasingly sinister. The Graveyard Book tells the tale of a young boy named Nobody growing up in a graveyard and the ghosts who care for him there.
Most people know about classics for all ages such as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland; others include C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy. All of these are exceptionally well-written books that have stood the test of time and contain enough depth to appeal to adult audiences as well as children.
Other Good Choices
Adults can browse other good books to read in the children’s section including Tamora Pierce’s novels of adventure featuring teenage girls as protagonists, Robin McKinley’s skilful retellings of fairy tales and Lemony Snicket’s clever Series of Unfortunate Events. While books for children are often seen as simplistic and lacking the sophistication of novels written for adults, the best can hold their own against adult novels. Quality writing and characterisation and lively, interesting plots that appeal to all ages make fantasy books for children as engaging for adults as for their original audiences.