Choosing High Quality Children's Literature/Modern Fantasy
By Heidi Payne and Andrea Schmidt
Introduction to Modern Fantasy
Modern fantasy is literature written by a known author that is set either in a make-believe or imaginary world in which places, people and creatures could not exist,and/or have events that could not possibly happen such as tiny people, talking animals, or traveling through time.
Categories of Modern Fantasy
According to C. Huck, S. Hepler, J. Hickman, B. Kiefer (Children's Literature in the Elementary School 1997) there are several categories of children's modern fantasy books.
The category of animal fantasy is often given to stories about animal characters that still maintain their animal characteristics, such as Wilbur in Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, who lives in a barn and eats slop, but also displays human characteristics such as being able to talk with other animals.
Toys and Objects
This category is about toys and objects that have a secret life with or without the knowledge of their owner. For example the Velveteen Rabbit who wants to become real and of course the well known and loved Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne.
This category is about humans who are extremely tiny. They have human traits and have real human situations but are just little. Some examples are The Borrowers by Mary Norton and Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen.
Unusual Characters and Preposterous Situations
This category is about strange and unusual characters such as Willy Wonka, Mary Poppins, and the Mad Hatter. These types of characters portray human characteristics but put themselves in strange situations. Some books that fall into this genre would be Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.
Imaginary Worlds begin in the realm of reality then move rapidly into a world of make believe where situations seem impossible but still have a realistic quality. For example Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
Books under this category capture the attention of children because they enjoy the different types of characters and places that appear in supernatural books. Places such as Hogwarts school found in the Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling are intriguing in the minds of its readers.
Time warp books start out in the "real world" with characters who find a way to travel back in time or to the future. In the book The Golden Hour, by Maiya Williams, four children find themselves in the middle of the French Revolution while trying to discover the secrets surrounding the town and the abandoned Owatannauk resort. In Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt, Winnie falls in love with Tuck who is a character that has the gift of everlasting life, a person from the past must now help a friend in need.
High fantasy includes popular books like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis. These books involve the battle between good and evil and their characters may include elves, dwarves, witches, dragons and other mythical beings as well as humans. High fantasy books typically have a quest for a lost or stolen object of power that the protagonist and antagonist need for different reasons and purposes.
Science Fiction books are those that contemplate future worlds and may often include space travel. Readers will find real scientific information included in these books. Literature books such as A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle or The Giver by Lois Lowery are included in this category.
Related Links for Children's Modern Fantasy Literature
Modern Fantasy Reading List
East by Edith Pattou (2003)
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (2003)
A Stranger Came Ashore by Mollie Hunter (1975)
Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
The Goodness Gene by Sonia Levitin (2005)
The Golden Hour by Maiya Williams (2007)
The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
Easy to Read Books
Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe (1983)
The Magician's Boy by Susan Cooper (2005)
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1965)
Witch Twins by Adele Griffin (2001)
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin
The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman (1899)
Monster Mama by Liz Rosenberg (1993)
Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg (2002)
- Huck, C., & Hepler, S., & Hickman, J., & Kiefer, B., (1997). Children’s literature in the elementary school. Times Mirror Higher Education Group, Inc.
- Tunnell, Michael O. and Jacobs, James S. (2008). Children’s Literature, Briefly: Fourth Edition. Pearson Education, Inc.
- Modern Fantasy Fiction Books
- Children's Fantasy Book List
- Children and Young Adult Modern Fantasy
- Modern Fantasy