Recommended reading
November 22, 2012 11:20 PM   Subscribe

If you like Terry Pratchett, you'll love... ? (You are 10.)

My daughter loves Terry Pratchett. Fortunately, he has like 35 books or something. But unfortunately she's already read most of them. He's great for her because:

1. Magic
2. Funny
3. Books are long (she reads his grown up books) so she doesn't finish them in one day
4. They are almost all totally kid appropriate, even though most are ostensibly written for adults.

She also loves the Oz books, and I think one thing she really responds to about both of these is that they are wacky adventures that somehow lack a real feeling of peril. She doesn't like scary.

Any ideas?

(Yes, we are very intimately acquainted with several local children's librarians, and often ask their advice, but I'm opening it up to metafilter for more ideas, especially for books supposedly for adults but that can work for kids)
posted by latkes to Media & Arts (65 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Robert Rankin
Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy
posted by elephantday at 11:22 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I presume she's already tackled Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, Eragon, the Hobbit, Percy Jackson, and all things Tamora Pierce?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:23 PM on November 22, 2012

Thanks for quick answers! For the sake of establishing her taste:

She tried Potter too young and now won't because remembers it as scary.
Ditto Narnia (that was my fault) but she actually read a couple.
Liked the Hobbit.
Likes but doesn't love Tamora Pierce.
Seems to be a bit of a snob about the Dark Materials and Percy Jackson books? Or maybe just doesn't like the covers?
posted by latkes at 11:25 PM on November 22, 2012

Jasper Fforde, I think. I can't remember if he has adult themes/language or not, but his wit and intrigue was of a similar ilk.

And Douglas Adams, of course.
posted by taff at 11:27 PM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

See if she takes to the Harry Potter audio books. Those might pique her interest enough to go back to the books (which I wholeheartedly recommend).

What about Ender's Game? Does she like science/computers? She might enjoy Artemis Fowl too.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:29 PM on November 22, 2012

At that age I got into Neil Gaiman via his collaboration with Pratchett on "Good Omens". The novel adaptation of "Neverwhere" was great to me and I started in on Sandman shortly thereafter.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:30 PM on November 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Daniel Pinkwater's older-kids stuff, like Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, etc.
posted by xil at 11:32 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

She might enjoy The Hounds of the Morrigan. Unlike the Discworld books, it's a children's book, but it's also funny and inventive and I remember loving it at that age. I was also a big, big fan of Diana Wynne Jones' stuff (Howl's Moving Castle is a good one) and I'd second Good Omens.
posted by littlegreen at 11:33 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Jasper Fforde would be too confusing for most 10-year-olds, I think, and also I would be surprised if she's already read the Austen and Shakespeare and whatnot that you need to get the jokes in his most famous series (if it's the Tuesday next series...none of his three main series seem kid-friendly to me).

I'd try Dealing with Dragons etc. by Patricia Wrede. Also, how about Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series? They definitely have lots of funny, light moments (much less dark than my other favorite series before I moved to adult books, The Dark is Rising).

Pinkwater is strange and funny, and Diana Wynne Jones is good, too.

(I tried LotR around age 8 and hated it, but loved it at 12, so she may yet enjoy LotR/the Hobbit and Harry Potter. :))
posted by wintersweet at 11:36 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

John DeChancie's The Castle Perilous Series
posted by Sophont at 11:44 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Artemis Fowl! Sure, I always feel like I'll be laughed at for this, but while it's not great literature, it's very smart and entertaining and immersive. I am still very fond of them.

Diana Wynne Jones, absolutely! Since Howl's Moving Castle has been mentioned, let me chime in for the Chrestomanci series.

I started to read Neil Gaiman at 11, but I was preternaturally mature having read HP at 6, and Gaiman is frankly quite dark, with some sex, so maybe not yet?

P. S. the older UK editions of Artemis Fowl have much better covers, the new ones look terribly ugly, and kind of like Percy Jackson covers.
posted by undue influence at 11:45 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Redwall. All books as Brain Jacques.

The best books I read as kid and I read them all.

Also Good Omens by Terry P and Neil Gaiman.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:50 PM on November 22, 2012

Jonathon Stroud's Bartleby books.

Perhaps Philip Reeve.
posted by smoke at 11:50 PM on November 22, 2012

The wackiness of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events might appeal. They can be scary but they're sort of ironically self-aware scary, maybe that'd be okay?

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman and Timothy and the Dragon's Gate by Adrienne Kress.
posted by Georgina at 11:52 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Baum's non-Oz books.
posted by brujita at 11:57 PM on November 22, 2012

I remember reading Diane Duane's "So You Want To Be A Wizard" at that age and loving it.

Also, depending on your feelings about Piers Anthony, she might enjoy the first few Xanth books.
posted by dotgirl at 12:00 AM on November 23, 2012

The Mad Scientist's Club series was written and set in the 1960's. From the wikipedia page "In contrast to the supernatural, mystical, romantic, or preachy moral elements usually found in children's books, The Mad Scientists' Club books build their plot devices around science, mechanical inclination, a do it yourself ethic, and some good-natured pranks, making the boys in these books sort of junior precursors to MacGyver - or a fictional counterpart to the real-life Rocket Boys."

Stanisław Lem's The Cyberiad. Robots have adventures in a pseudo-Medieval universe.
posted by Sophont at 12:06 AM on November 23, 2012

Douglas Adams is the obvious analogy comedy wise to the Pratchett books, at least in my mind. Neil Gaiman's Good Omens is a brilliant piece of work, and I don't remember it as being especially inappropriate for kids.

What hasn't been mentioned that I used to really love is the Garth Nix 'Old Kingdom' series. It's not all that humorous (though there are some brilliantly funny moments that have a certain dry humour that might be appreciated), but it definitely brings in the Magic, they're fairly long and they were some of my favourites when I was growing up.
posted by ElliotH at 12:06 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ysabeau Wilce, Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog.

Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Sarah Rees Brennan, Unspoken.

Jasper Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer. Everyone else here is talking about his novels for adults, but this is his recent young adult novel.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:10 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Old Kingdom series is great, but the entire world centres around hordes of ravening undead and demons. Way, way too scary.
posted by smoke at 12:11 AM on November 23, 2012

Diane Duane is perfect for this age. The writing level is right and there's lots of humour in the books.

Dianne Wynn Jones is similarly right for that reader: Charmed Life is probably a great entry point and the start of her major series. Archer's Goon and Power of Three are stand alone personal favourites. Howl's Moving Castle, I'd save until later.

Both have a semi-rural English sensibility similar to the Pratchett books, especially his juveniles.
posted by bonehead at 12:17 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about The Phantom Tollbooth? Not scary at all, involves an adventure without real peril, and it's full of wordplay, absurd situations, and clever humour. I liked it a lot when I was in elementary school.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:25 AM on November 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

One I haven't seen mentioned here yet is Tom Holt - a similar style to earlier Pratchett - fantasy, humorous, lightweight - but he does do other genres as well (notably his take on EF Benson's Lucia books which are awesome for different reasons). Try "Expecting someone taller" for example.
posted by BigCalm at 12:37 AM on November 23, 2012

I'd veto Tom Holt till she's a bit older - while I agree with BigCalm that the books are great, he's really dark and very adult in some places.

Don't forget Gaiman writes for children - Coraline and The Graveyard Book are aimed at children.

Garth Nix and the Old Kingdom books are fantastic and totally worth getting her.
posted by Jilder at 12:44 AM on November 23, 2012

What about taking her to the adult library and letting her pick? That is what I loved most as a kid. I was the only big reader in my family so managed to collect 12 library cards to use! The best thing was that nobody ever looked at my books so I could read about cowboys, fantasy, crime, history, religion, anything I wanted without feeling bad or being questioned.
posted by meepmeow at 12:48 AM on November 23, 2012

Laws of Magic series by Michael Pryor
posted by latch24 at 12:56 AM on November 23, 2012

Sorry, here is the link: Laws of Magic

He has also released the first book in a new series called The Extraordinaries that interests me... *scurries off to purchase*
posted by latch24 at 1:03 AM on November 23, 2012

Nthing Dianna Wynne Jones, but suggesting The Merlin Conspiracy.
posted by thylacinthine at 1:59 AM on November 23, 2012

Has she read the Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin?
posted by lizabeth at 2:17 AM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding Gaiman: Neverwhere, Coraline.

And maybe try William Goldman's The Princess Bride? I was about 11 or 12 when I first read it, so if not now, maybe in a year or two?
posted by mochapickle at 2:21 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "Bartimaeus" books by Jonathan Stroud are good.
posted by Prof Iterole at 3:23 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing Diana Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, Lloyd Alexander, Douglas Adams.

Humour without the fantastical elements: P. G. Wodehouse, Damon Runyon?
posted by Coaticass at 3:29 AM on November 23, 2012

Nthing Diana Wynne Jones. Also Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines series is great, but not much humour and might be a little too old.

Someone mentioned Robert Rankin: he has a lot of fairly explicit sexual material, not suitable for most 10-year-olds unless you're incredibly liberal.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:44 AM on November 23, 2012

Seconding Piers Anthony.
posted by Specklet at 4:15 AM on November 23, 2012

The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, although there's definitely an element of peril, so maybe in a year or so? (I was ten when I first read them, mind)
posted by halcyonday at 4:30 AM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree with the suggestion of Diana Wynne Jones. Her works range from books for very young children, to older children, to young adult so which ones to start with would be worth a post in itself. I think the Chrestomanci books, starting with Charmed Life would be a good place to begin.

I love Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books myself (Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen) but I would think they'd be far too scary for her at the moment and would leave them a couple of years.
posted by Azara at 4:54 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely Diana Wynne Jones! The Chrestomanci books are great, along with Howl's Moving Castle, Dark Lord of Derkholm, and Homeward Bounders. She also wrote The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which upends fantasy cliches much like Pratchett does.

I also loved the Crown Duel/Court Duel books at that age. Fantasy with a strong female lead.
posted by sonmi at 5:48 AM on November 23, 2012

Diana Wynne Jones. Seriously. Seerrriouslly. I regret that I didn't read her until I was an adult. Start with Chrestomanci -- there's a reading order on wikipedia which is different from both the chronological and the publication order, although it's not critical.

I know a lot of people are suggesting Gaiman, and I certainly got my Discworld start on Good Omens when I was your girl's age BUT that guy is scary. He is a scary dude. Neverwhere and Sandman gave me nightmares. Hell, Coraline gives me nightmares now. Stardust might work for her, but it's pretty un-funny in comparison to Pratchett.

A bit of an off-beat recommendation: when I was her age and devouring Pratchett (but finding traditional high fantasy confusing and scary) I adored James Herriot's vet books. I have no idea why -- I wasn't a particular animal lover and had no desire to be a vet. I think maybe it was because they are humourous and light, and bad things can happen but they're very peaceful about it? Frankly, I think if my parents had known THOSE were the books I was sneaking off the grown-up bookcase they'd have been very confused. I had the omnibus editions and they were hella long.
posted by AmandaA at 6:38 AM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Brandon Sanderson's mistborn trilogy - it's got kind of the same playfulness in the writing as Pratchett, but isn't as silly.
posted by zug at 7:38 AM on November 23, 2012

To counter the Piers Anthony recs, the dude is a creepy pedo and it comes through in his writing.

Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy, on the other hand, is indeed delightful.
posted by elizardbits at 7:51 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll strongly second Diane Duane, Patricia C Wrede, Brian Jaques, James Herriot, and Susan Cooper. Also might suggest Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time? Ten might be on the early side but I read it around then and enjoyed it.

Also, a couple of the above suggestions are great books but I am not sure they pass the "not scary" filter. Personally I think it's probably good for a book to scare you, a little at least, but if you truly want to stick with that filter I'd be careful with Ender's Game (contains pretty extreme kid on kid violence, as well as the more subtle but explicitly discussed in the text plot point that (SPOILER) Ender's childhood/innocence is being sacrificed and adults are knowingly putting him in real physical danger for a supposed greater good.)

I'd also be careful with Gaiman. He is one of my favorites but even Coraline and Stardust, both of which are for kids, could be scary to a ten year old. (SPOILER: Coraline features the super-creepy "Other Mother" and her efforts to sew black button eyes onto the protagonist - Star Dust has witches and murder)

The vast majority of Douglas Adams will probably go over a ten year old's head, but the stories are goofy enough that she might like them anyway.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:52 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and one more! No magic but plenty of funny and an 11-year-old girl protagonist who decides to run away from home in comfort by hiding in the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.

Actually, mining the list of Newbery Medal winners might be a good idea, though that starts to get outside the genre contraints you mentioned.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:03 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thirding Piers Anthony early Xanth novels.
posted by Argyle at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2012

Hey, these are great so far, thanks.

I should have emphasized: the suggestions that are not conventionally known as kids books are the most helpful because she's already read so much of the available children's and YA literature. She has read a lot of Dianne Wynn Jones already for example. So Piers Anthony, Robert Asprin and Douglas Adams are especially helpful. Also kids book that are older so therefore we may not have come across them, like the Mad Scientists Club mentioned above, look especially good.

posted by latkes at 9:02 AM on November 23, 2012

Oh man, I loved the Mad Scientists' Club books when I was a kid. One caveat is that they fail the Bechdel test extra-super-hard: there are basically no female characters at all. (I don't remember any overt sexism, though, FWIW.)

But other than that, they'd be great for this. The plots are basically all "Wouldn't it be totally awesome to do X?" — where X tends to be stuff like "build our own hot air balloon" or "build a remote-controlled fake sea monster and try to convince people it's real" — so there's no actual peril but lots of fantasy value for kids with less boy-scout-ish hobbies. And they're funny in a "wacky hijinks ensue" sort of way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:06 AM on November 23, 2012

I don't think early Xanth is as innocent as the people recommending it remember. It's not as overt as it later becomes, but there's still some pretty screwed up stuff in there right from the beginning. Furthermore, early Xanth just leads to later Xanth.

So you want to be a Wizard, however, is pretty great, less funny, but very imaginative, and well-written.

She might like some of Michael Kandel's books. Strange Invasion and In-between Dragons have a similar whimsy that lots of kids like about Daniel Pinkwater, but it's a little more grown-up.

(Michael Kandel is the guy who translates Stanisalaw Lem, including the ingenious Cyberiad and The Futurological Congress, which you may want to have on hand for her in later life, after she gets over The Hitchhikers Guide and starts getting into Kafka. I expect some R.A. Lafferty at this time would also be appreciated.)

Lloyd Alexander Prydain or Westmark too serious/short?

Has anyone read Catherine Valente's books yet? I've heard good things.
posted by wobh at 9:15 AM on November 23, 2012

For older books in the kids' fantasy genre, I'd suggest looking at the My Father's Dragon series, The 21 Balloons, and Half Magic, all from the mid 20th century.

And maybe Edith Nesbitt, though those books — from the very beginning of the 20th century — have some stuff that stands out now as weirdly insensitive or casually racist. (The children travel through time to visit some "Red Indians"! The baby is almost kidnapped by Gypsies!) It's a bit like Kipling in that regard, so if you were down with The Just-so Stories when she was younger you'll probably think these are fine too, and vice versa.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:38 AM on November 23, 2012

Scattered thoughts: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper is pretty dark, though the other books in the series might be perfect. L'Engle's books are also fairly dark, but also excellent and worth it (A Swiftly Tilting Planet is my favorite, because unicorns). Speaking of unicorns, at that age I loved Bruce Coville's Into the Land of the Unicorns. I'd also recommend his magic shop books, particularly Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. Philip Pullman is really, really good; she has no reason to be snobby about them. They are, however fairly dark (dealing with the death of God) and feature an upsetting death of a significant, sympathetic character in the first book. She would probably really, really like the Patricia C. Wrede dragon books. I read them at that age and they were hilarious. I think she'd also like Edward Eager's magic books--there are a whole bunch, starting with Half-Magic. It's a funny, cheeky, loose magical "series" (you can read them in any order) that really deserves more eyes. They'll probably be a quick read for her, so I'd just get her a box set of the whole thing. I like Garth Nix, but like Susan Cooper, he's pretty dark in a general atmospheric sense. Ditto Gaiman. Scary guy. But I'd also recommend Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon series. Yolen in general is great. She really hits the spot for sophisticated ten year olds.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:42 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was gonna suggest Xanth too, if only to give her something to look back on in bemusement when she's learnt more. You need to love a few things that are kinda crap in retrospect.
posted by egypturnash at 10:44 AM on November 23, 2012

Seriously? Xanth starts off average and just gets worse and worse, with progressively more sex doesn't it? (It's a long, long time since I read them though, so maybe I'm confusing them with some other series, also I bailed out entirely at some point along the way.)

How about Ursula le Guin's stuff? Not just the first Earthsea books (which start out as simple adventure stories with (IIRC) Buddhist underpinnings but the sequels invert everything in the first few books...) but also the Gifts/Voices/Powers series (Annals of the Western Shore) which are fantastic, although perhaps not to everyone's taste.
posted by pharm at 11:26 AM on November 23, 2012

Rachel Hartman's Seraphina, and Nthing Daniel Pinkwater. I loved The Dark Is Rising, but the Mari Llwyd in Silver On The Tree scared the bejeesus out of me as a kid.
posted by sculpin at 11:39 AM on November 23, 2012

When I was her age, the Dragonriders of Pern books rocked my world. I read the first three and the Harper Hall series and just loved them.
As McCaffrey added more and more books to the original six, I got less enchanted by them, but I was also getting older and developing better taste in reading material.
posted by Brody's chum at 12:03 PM on November 23, 2012

Once and Future King? Maybe a bit old but I loved it around 11-12.
posted by Cocodrillo at 12:13 PM on November 23, 2012

Oh I don't know why I didn't think of this before, I read Song of Sorcery by Elizabeth Scarborough when I was that age, and loved it. It's like a light, humorous fantasy. Your daughter would probably enjoy it.
posted by smoke at 1:03 PM on November 23, 2012

nthing Gaiman (esp. Graveyard Book and Stardust), Douglas Adams, Princess Bride, Dragonriders of Pern.

If she likes Douglas Adams and is willing to try more sci-fi, maaaybe Charles Stross? X-Files meets Dilbert. May be a little over her head.

Hunger Games?

Sunshine by Robin McKinley is an amazing vampire YA novel that has a really fun system of magic, snarky witty female protagonist, and not-annoying vampires. One sex scene, though if your daughter is as precocious as your description has led me to believe, she'll be fine. (I was reading the same kind of stuff when I was 10-11.)

If she's starting to get into serious (i.e. not funny) fantasy, I always recommend Daughter of the Forest, the first in a trilogy by Juliet Marillier. Breathtaking prose, ethereal magic/druidism based on Irish folklore, amazing love story. I read it when I was 11 and have reread the trilogy every year since then.
posted by wintersonata9 at 1:42 PM on November 23, 2012

A major Nth for Diana Wynne Jones - no one has mentioned Dogsbody yet and that is my favorite of hers.
posted by moons in june at 2:34 PM on November 23, 2012

Sharon Shinn's young adult books?

I haven't read her YA stuff but I have read most of her other stuff. Even some of her Twelve Houses books could work for kids but NOT the Samaria books.
posted by fiercekitten at 3:49 PM on November 23, 2012

Malinda Lo's books? David Eddings' Belgariad?

I started reading Anne McCaffrey then, but as an adult I think the sexual politics in them are really screwed up.
posted by wintersweet at 7:44 PM on November 24, 2012

Hey all, these are great. I've ordered a few things from the library and will work my way through most of these.
posted by latkes at 8:05 PM on November 24, 2012

Hey Xanth lovers and haters: I read maybe 6 or 7 of these in my early teens. I remember enough about them to remember they were trashy and fun. Is there some particular cut-off of when they start really sucking?
posted by latkes at 10:10 AM on December 1, 2012

One thing that makes Goodreads scores problematic for reading suggestions is that sequels enjoy very steady grade inflation as more readers drop the series, leaving only trufans. But you might use drops in readership as a hint that there's a problem around any noticeable break points. For Xanth, that goes something like this:

1 > 2-3 > 4-6 > 7-9 > 10-13 > 14-17 > 18-19 > 20-22 > 23-25 > 26-31 > 32-35

I think that's a lot less meaningful for the more recent books, but people have had decades to catch up on the earlier books, if they'd wanted to.

Incidentally, I have a clear memory of reading up to 5, not sure about 6-8. And sure, they were trashy fun at the time they were coming out. But they're pretty thick with boys checking girls out and contemplating their worth in problematic terms right from the start. Without being too critical of the series, I just think there are too many other options that are better.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:53 PM on December 1, 2012

I think Xanth started to wear out its welcome for me after around #7. I kept reading longer than that out of habit. Or maybe that's just when I started to notice that they are really not all that good.

Also I am suggesting them in part BECAUSE of their badness because I think everyone needs a few books that they loved as a kid and are embarrassed about loving when they're adults. It's a valuable lesson to realize that something you loved is kind of terrible.
posted by egypturnash at 9:00 PM on December 3, 2012

More updates:

Mad Scientists Club
Flora Segunda

Into the Land of the Unicorns
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Cyberiad (this was exactly what I was hoping for when I posted this question - thanks!)
All the Douglas Adams books

If I didn't mention your recommendations its probably either because she'd already read it or we couldn't find it at the library.
posted by latkes at 2:17 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You may have found it already, but Girl Who Circumnavigated ... has a sequel out with three more planned. Enjoy!
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:38 PM on March 25, 2013


How about Un Lun Dun by China Miéville? I wouldn't recommend his other works to a pre-teen: much too dark & gory. Un Lun Dun deliberately inverts all the tropes of a 'hero quest' novel just because, and China has a joyous time with it, without any of the "that character you cared about, I just killed her off just because life is cruel and unfair" tropes that feature in his other books.

The How To Train Your Dragon books are fun & aimed at about your daughter's age. There's also about ten of them at this point in time!
posted by pharm at 6:17 AM on March 27, 2013

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