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alisha

Fantasy for Sensitive Middle Schooler

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Hi Everyone, I'm looking for fantasy series' for my sensitive middle schooler. He's going into 7th grade, but isn't able to read books with a lot of suspense, evil, death, things like that (we're working up there, but...). He loves adventure stories, and recently finished the first Lord of the Rings book, but he only finished it because he knew the story and knew how it would end, so that got him through the tense-ish parts. He doesn't want to continue the LOTR series-yet, so I'm looking for other options for him. He is reading at or slightly below grade level, and generally gravitates toward things like Dragon Masters Series in order to stay away from the tense stuff. He has requested key words such as dragons, magic, wizards. (if this helps)

Everything I can find (Book of Three by Alexander, Percy Jackson, Ranger's Apprentice by Flanagan) seem not only a little over his head, but too much suspense and bad things going on.

Anyone have any suggestions for me? I prefer series, so we can keep reading once we find something that works before we have to go searching again, but give me your suggestions either way.   

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First, that's extremely impressive if he is reading at/below 7th grade level, but made it all the way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- those are long books, and they are at high school reading level. 😄

re: fantasy book suggestions without suspense, evil, and death... Well, "peril", suspense, and danger are a huge part of fantasy genre works esp., because those are elements of the "quest adventure" and many fantasy works have some sort of quest/adventure. And more recently written works tend to really have a lot of death and dark events. So that's a tough one.

What about going for works at a below grade-level of reading. Or that were written much longer ago, like in the 1950s (so not as intense/dark)? Or that has a lot of humor in it to keep it lighter? Below are some ideas.( OOP stands for out-of-print. so you'd likely have to look for a used version if interested.)

Dragons -- some of these are young elementary level
Dragon Breath series (Vernon)
Dragon in the Sock Drawer (Klimo)
How to Train Your Dragon series (Cowell)
Dragonology (Drake)
Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans (Yep)
Dragon Slayer Academy series (McMullan)
Dragon of Lonely Island books (Rupp)
Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher (Coville)
The Reluctant Dragon (Grahame) -- humorous short story
The Book of Dragons (Nesbit) -- collection of humorous short stories
The Book of Dragons (Hague) -- collection of excerpts from books with dragons
Book of Dragons (Manning-Sanders) -- OOP book; collection of fairytales all about dragons
Dragon series (Yep) -- #1 Dragon of the Lost Sea, #2 Dragon Steel, #3 Dragon Cauldron, #4 Dragon War
Dragon Keeper series (Paul) -- can read the above books and work up to this one
Dragon Rider (Funke) -- work up to this one

Magic
Secrets of Droon series (Abbott)
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series (MacDonald) -- humorous
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Dahl)
Half Magic, Magic By the Lake, Knight's Castle, The Time Garden, Seven Day Magic (Eager) -- humorous
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Norton)
The Unwanteds series (McMann) -- start with more "tame" works and work up to this one
The Phantom Tollbooth (Juster) -- humorous
Book of Charms and Changelings (Manning-Sanders) -- OOP book; collection of fairytales
Book of Magic Animals (Manning-Sanders) -- OOP book; collection of fairytales
Book of Magic Adventures (Manning-Sanders) -- OOP book; collection of fairytales
Book of Marvels and Magic (Manning-Sanders) -- OOP book; collection of fairytales
Book of Enchantments and Curses (Manning-Sanders) -- OOP book; collection of fairytales

Wizards
Moongobble and Me series (Coville) -- (Moongobble is a Magician) Dragon of Doom; Weeping Werewolf; Evil Elves; Mischief Monster; Naughty Nork
So You Want to be a Wizard series (Duane)
Secret of Platform 13 (Ibbotson) -- a gentler/kinder sort of Harry Potter; may still need to work up to it
Book of Wizards (Manning-Sanders) -- OOP book; collection of fairytales all about wizards
Book of Sorcerers and Spells (Manning-Sanders) -- OOP book; collection of fairytales

Edited by Lori D.
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The Wings of Fire series is a big hit here, but it may be too suspenseful. 

Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles feels like gentler fantasy, with wizards/witches/dragons, but the language is more advanced than Dragon Masters (which my kids also loved).  It may also skew a bit feminine, especially the first book.

My girls also loved Funke's Dragon Rider, but the villain is a bit scary. But Funke's Igraine the Brave is a slightly more comical/magical story. 

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9 minutes ago, withgrace said:

Has he read the chronicles of Narnia?

We tried that for a Read Aloud about 4 years ago and it didn't go well, so now they're afraid to begin it again. It's in my plans to re-try soon, but at least start it as a read aloud, so we'll see. Thanks!

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Thanks everyone! This is SO very helpful, I've already put a bunch of books on hold at the library, and will keep the list to continue exploring! Thanks!

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2 hours ago, withgrace said:

 TH Whites King Arthur series: The Once and Future King?


Yikes no! Not for a sensitive reader. There are some grisley scenes of killing a unicorn, and some other rather ugly moments. Definitely wait until high school for a sensitive reader.

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I think some of Lori's suggestions are likely to feel really young to him. Droon and Moongobble, for example, are Magic Treehouse level chapter books. We read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle aloud when my kids were around age 6. I think most on level 7th graders would roll their eyes at it unless they had a particular sort of sense of humor. And I would say that the Diane Duane's So You Want to Be a Wizard might be too dark. It's definitely filled with tense moments, including a parent death, as the series goes on.

I'll strongly second Edward Eager and E. Nesbit and anything old fashioned in that vein though.

The first author that occurs to me is Diana Wynne Jones. Her stuff is rarely really scary or creepy in a traditional fantasy way. She writes complex, twisty plots. Try the Crestomanci books (Charmed Life or The Many Lives of Christopher Chant are good starting places) or Howl's Moving Castle.

He might also enjoy Terry Pratchett, which often has a much lighter feel.

Cornelia Funke's Dragonrider is an easy read, but quite a long one that's very gentle as these sorts of books go. She has some others that are on the lighter, younger side, but watch out for Inkheart, which turns very dark. And I'll second that How to Train Your Dragon might be fine. It's silly with an odd, slightly crude style and usually read by younger kids, but can be appreciated by older ones. Also, while they're very much "girl books" look at Patricia Werde's Enchanted Forest series that starts with Talking to Dragons. They're a bit funny and irreverent rather than tense.

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Seconding Terry Pratchett, and plugging in my all time fantasy novels of middle school, the Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper. High vocab level, great suspense, low pain/death/sadness.  

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My 6th grader really enjoyed The Impossible Quest from Usborne.  He requested the rest of the series which has only happened two other times in his life.  One of those other times was another Usborne series called Axel and Beast, which is sort of sci-fi and has a homeschooled main character.  

I don’t sell Usborne, my kid just really liked those books!  

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