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So I have a 5 year old boy, turning 6 in 2 months. We've been reading Harry Potter as bed time stories, and it has been great. We've gotten to book 5 now and it has started to be more grown up, I think. He doesn't really understand most of it anymore and it's getting pretty dark.

So, we want to find something else to read. This is challenge though, as most searches I make, find "kids" stories for that age. I want something where I can read for 30 (or so) minutes every night, on the same story, and he can immerse himself.

So, what are you guys doing? Any recommendations?

We are considering starting with the Narnia books but I have no idea if he's old enough to grasp that (I never read them myself).

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    If Mathematics.SE can have a very accepted/hot question on acceptable books to read for a child, I don't see why we can't. I'm voting to leave this open. – SomeShinyObject Nov 14 '17 at 1:54
  • @SomeShinyObject From our help center "Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site" and are disallowed. From Meta.SE the too broad close reason is for "Questions that lack any specificity at all. Now we're in a situation where there are multiple "correct" answers because there are no criteria for proving anything incorrect! Questions [...] often become not just too broad but overly opinion-based." This is a recommendation question and falls under that definition (IMO). – Becuzz Nov 14 '17 at 13:18
  • @SomeShinyObject I did. And I was just trying to back up my thoughts. Guess we will see where this goes :) – Becuzz Nov 14 '17 at 14:20
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    I've seen "community wikis" on other "stacks". Would turning this into a wiki be a good option? (I'm not really sure how that works, but it seemed as if it might fit.) – BunnyKnitter Nov 14 '17 at 21:10
  • Growth is all about reaching for something just beyond what you grasp now. I was a teenager before I understood the Narnia books as christian allegories, but they were still a great read (and are still some of my favorite books). Unlike many current children's books, they don't hesitate to deal with hard questions. The stories are all expressed from a child's or young teen's view point, in a manner that is reasonably consistent with how a child of the era would have reacted in the situations. If he's good with Harry Potter, he should be fine with Narnia. – pojo-guy Nov 15 '17 at 3:35
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I read the hobbit to my 3 year old and she was into it. She still is. I don't think old enough to grasp is really an issue. They may forget over time but so long as they enjoy it while you read it then I say it's ok.

Right now we're on goosebumps. A little less intense. Not at all scary. And both my 5 and 7 year old girls seem to enjoy them.

Used bookstores always have kids books too and I try to encourage the whole - child chooses for themselves - thing. Often they choose weird things way below their reading level so sometimes it's a good idea to have other options.

Many "classics" have condensed versions for this reason. Treasure Island, for example. We sought those to avoid things being too kiddy, if you know what I mean.

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You might try taking him to the library and letting him pick out a book of appropriate length (a chapter book will give you more mileage than shorter books) for you to read. It's a good way to allow him choices, and find out what he is interested in and encourage a love of reading. Don't be disappointed if what he picks out isn't what you would have wanted him to want, it often works out that way.

He is a bit young to appreciate them, but when he gets older you might try the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander (my daughter loved hairy, unkempt little Gurgi) and possibly David Edding's Belgariad series, in addition to Narnia.

  • +1 "letting him pick out a book of appropriate length" – Mister Positive Nov 13 '17 at 19:23
  • There is nothing wrong with choosing a book you believe or know he will love. So long as you don't prevent him from choosing a book when he wants to. – Wildcard Nov 14 '17 at 12:07
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I can't recommend Diana Wynne Jones highly enough.

Her books are better than Harry Potter in so many ways and she has SUCH a prolific imagination—I have 32 books of hers on the shelf next to me, and omitting the three books of short stories, they are set in 17 completely disconnected "universes." Most are standalone or semi-standalone; I did a tally just now and there is a series of 6 books, a series of 4, one of 3, and two of 2. And the works in the series are really standalone as well. (Except for Book Four of the Dalemark Quartet—you will cheat yourself if you haven't read the first three. But it doesn't really depend on them even then.)

Her works are all original and unique—her career spanned from 1966 steadily through the decades to 2010, interrupted by her passing in early 2011 at age 76.

If your son enjoyed the early Harry Potter books, I would say start with The Year of the Griffin—a wonderful, joyous story that I would say does an even better job of showing the wonder of an academy of magic than J. K. Rowling ever came close to. (And I've read the entire Harry Potter series several times and loved it. But DWJ is a league of her own.)

The Year of the Griffin is actually a sequel, but don't let that worry you. As with most of Diana Wynne Jones's sequels, it is another story set in the same world following different characters (new characters and some who were secondary characters in the earlier book), rather than a continuation of the same story.

Another good starting candidate is Power of Three.

Or Howl's Moving Castle. Or The Lives of Christopher Chant. Or The Homeward Bounders.

She does have a couple books not suited for young children. Avoid: Deep Secret, and A Sudden Wild Magic—but read them yourself!

Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline, Stardust, American Gods), who was a good friend of hers until she passed away, said her books are a joy to read aloud—I may dig up the quote later, but he said her books unpack very tightly with scarcely one word wasted in a thousand, and reading to yourself it's easy to miss things without realizing it.

Edit: Found the quote.

One of the privileges of having kids is that you get to read out loud to them, and reading Diana out loud is a delight. Her books unpack very tightly, with scarcely a word wasted in a hundred thousand, and reading them silently it's easy to miss stuff without knowing it.

Neil Gaiman, September 2002

The comments on this blog post are also filled with people singing her praises.

Her characters are SO real and SO vivid, and her writing SO excellent, she has no rival in the field of children's/young adult fantasy.

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Everyone already made great recommendations. If you don't mind some smaller more episodic books, I LOVED the Baily School Kids as a kid, and our super tiny library had many of the books. They're all kid appropriate from what I remember.

Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle might be another one, since he's in to Harry Potter and magic / wizards and stuff. I've heard DWJ's works are all great but I haven't read most of them myself to know how kid appropriate they are, otherwise I heard great things about Archer Goon.

Maybe when he's a bit older and a little slightly jaded, he might find the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett entertaining. At least Hogfather. (Christmas themed, but doesn't have to be read during christmas)

  • +1 for Terry Pratchett later on! I was actually introduced to his Discworld-series at age 11 or 12, and while a lot of it most likely flew right over my head, I always felt the writing was managing to be very fluent while being far from simple; surprisingly easy to read! – Layna Nov 14 '17 at 6:15
  • Yes, DWJ is fantastic; see my answer for a love song in praise of her. :) Archer's Goon is a good one, though not the best example of her excellence. I will second Bailey's School Kids—100% age appropriate and I LOVED them around age 7–8. (Along with Animorphs, when I got a little older.) But unlike those books, I kept my DWJ collection to this day and even expanded it, and I still reread them periodically. :) – Wildcard Nov 14 '17 at 12:13
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I'd go to your local library and ask a librarian. They were always MORE than happy to help me when I was a kid and asked for recommendations.

(I'm going to list a few that haven't been mentioned yet, I'd encourage you to take a brief look at them at the library to check age-appropriateness.)

My mum and I read the Nancy Drew series together when I was a kid. They also had a "male" version that I never liked but your son might: "The Hardy Boys".

Redwall - a big series about talking animals (You would probably enjoy it too. I think.)

The Animorph series

Eragon (not the best written, but a fun story)

Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist is a YA series by him. A fun read and I recommend ALL his books for you to read.

Beatrix Potter's book/short stories are fun reads! (She wrote Peter Rabbit, but also a lot of others.) (They may be a bit simplistic compared to the Harry Potter series but it could be fun to read one and then watch the cartoon of it)

Tamora Pierce was one of my absolute favourite authors as a kid. Lots of books and series by her. Most of them focused around a heroine as opposed to a hero which may be partly why I liked them so much, but they are worth a look/try.

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My comment expanded a little beyond a comment. So, here we go:

Do you have a public library nearby? At that age, you can easily browse the selection there together with him!
Spontaneous thought: Artemis Fowl is often mentioned alongside Harry Potter, but while I even as an adult love Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl never clicked. Percy Jackson may work, but may be a bit above his level, as well; your judgement to make.
At libraries, you also often find the Greek classics in a more child-friendly version, those just may click with him! Just try out a few things, and see what works best.

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Terry Pratchett has written some children's books. The Gnome trilogy would be right for 6 years old.

They are shorter than most of his other books, and they have chapters so that a parent can read to the end of the chapter and then say good night. The stories avoid adult themes. They are sold as children's books. A child who can deal with the early Harry Potter books can certainly cope with the Gnomes.

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I think the best answer here so far is SnyperBunny's "ask a librarian." Note that you can try both the public library and the school library; and you can

  • go in person (either you or your child can do this)
  • phone (this might not work so well with the school library)
  • email

Additional suggestions:

  • Amazon's suggestions: start by pulling up a book you particularly enjoyed reading with your child. Amazon will give you a horizontal, expandable list of suggestions (based on an enormous database based on extensive tags). Reader Reviews can be sorted by reader usefulness votes. You can ask specific questions of the community, e.g., "Does this book contain material that would trigger a spider phobia?"

    Note you can made adjustments to the personalize recommendations that you get when you are signed in: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=13316081

  • Google, for example:

    books to read if you like harry potter

  • Public library catalogs these days also function as a database that is quite easy to query. It's worth spending an hour at the library (possibly without your child), for a librarian to help you learn to use it well. Note, these catalogs can generally be queried from home over the internet.

  • Public libraries often have a display of leaflets with lists of suggested titles on particular topics, such as "new baby," "adoption," "mixed race experience," "bullying," "if you like Harry Potter," etc. (Note: if your library doesn't have this feature yet, or if it doesn't have a list on a topic you're interested in, step up to the plate! Create one or more lists yourself, and offer your contribution! Public libraries face ever more challenging budget crunches and this is a great way to volunteer a small amount of time.)
  • You could browse lists of books that won awards, for example Newbery.

Although I think the best approach to this question is to focus on tools for parents and children to find books for a particular purpose, I will throw in some bonus suggestions. These are mostly authors who have written multiple titles, but I'll also include some individual books that seem particularly related to the type of books you've enjoyed so far, or that are hefty enough on their own.

  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (you might want to begin, for a boy, with Farmer Boy -- but I've had great success with the whole series with a boy)
  • The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (a little bit dark -- I vaguely remember that the bad guys each had a particular unpleasant animal hidden inside)
  • The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (you get completely absorbed in the world the author creates, and it's a hefty book)
  • Bruce Coville (has a bunch of different series, at different levels; sorry, I don't remember which one is which)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events series (one of my children has been reading these to his younger brother over time; very absorbing; I think it might have the right level of darkness you are looking for)
  • Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Pinkney (collection of substantial biographies, well written and absorbing)

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