Book-lovers everywhere know the satisfaction of finishing a great read, and there’s an extra-special feeling that comes from completing a favorite story for the umpteenth time. In our house, the plot and characters of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series are well-known and cherished, and our copies are dog-eared and well-loved. I hope we never get too old for the magic of Hogwarts.
In my fledgling career as a librarian, several people have asked me to recommend “something like Harry Potter” for them to read after finishing the series. With all the books in our beautiful library, it should be easy to find something that fits the bill, right?
Well, that’s trickier than it seems.
For starters, there’s no doubt that Harry Potter has deeply influenced our culture. Consider the following questions:
The fact that these questions even make sense is a testament to the impact of Harry Potter has had.But what makes Harry Potter so great? It stands out among fantasy for a number of reasons. The magic of Harry Potter extends beyond the pages into a vast and vibrant community which continues to flourish: think of the theme parks, merchandise, fan-fiction sites, screenplay sequel, and soon-to-be dozen feature films – and this is more than a decade and a half after the publication of the last book in 2007.
Harry Potter is very relatable and accessible to readers of virtually all ages, from grade school to adult. Everyone who has read the series was convinced that they could be a witch or wizard themselves, with magic lying dormant in their veins: I know I was. And we’ve all met real-life versions of: Draco, the arrogant bully Hermione, the book-smart know-it-all Luna, the eccentric weirdo Lupin, the cool teacher and valuable mentor Fred and George, the set of joking pranksters Moaning Myrtle, the specter that haunts the local bathroom (…okay, maybe not that last one.)It's a tall order for any series to reach the same caliber as Harry Potter. But I think it’s healthy to branch out a little bit and take a chance on some rising stars that haven’t hit the same heights as Harry Potter – at least not yet.Below are some suggestions for Harry Potter read-alikes (librarian slang for books with similar elements). I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
12-year-old Callum Hunt's father attempts to keep him from the Magisterium, a school where young mages are trained. Despite his best attempts to fail the entrance exam, Cal's inherent magical ability gets him accepted, and he begins the first of five years of his training.Whereas Harry Potter goes to school in the UK, Cal lives and studies in the US. But both series include a trio of students who learn to develop their magical talents and face dangers from all sides. I found Magisterium to be faster paced and more modern than Harry Potter. It hits the spot for a coming-of-age story with fantasy elements and unexpected twists.
During a medieval and Renaissance era in a fictional land, four young misfits enter a strict temple community and become magicians-in-training, each in a different form of magic. Together, the newfound friends learn to harness their hitherto unexplored inherent magical abilities.Circle of Magic delves deeper into interactions and combinations of different forms of magic than we ever saw in Harry Potter. The books are also considerably shorter than Harry Potter, which makes for easier reading. But if the story ends too quickly for your liking, fret not; Circle of Magic is followed by a sequel quartet, The Circle Opens (with the original cast as fully qualified teen mages) as well as a stand-alone novel The Will of the Empress (which takes place several years after that).
Charlie Bone is an ordinary boy who lives with his widowed mother and two grandmothers. But when Charlie realizes he can hear people in photographs talking, he is swept into an ages-old magical battle against the descendants of the ancient and powerful Red King.It’s easy to see why Children of the Red King made it onto this list. It features a school for young magicians in the UK (Bloor’s Academy for Gifted Children), which reminds us a great deal of Hogwarts. And despite significant plot differences, these two fast-paced stories both center on a magical war between good and evil. Especially recommended for younger Potterheads.
Oscar Wilde said it best: “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”
When I was learning to read, I was taught that books are written to be read from left to right. I bet that you were taught the same thing. Did you know though that sometimes books don’t follow that rule? It’s true! Some books are meant to be read backwards and forwards, bottom to top, or right to left.
Books that you can read backwards and forwards have always made me smile. Here are a few fun books that don’t follow the rule to read left to right:
Big sister thinks that her little brother is the worst: he’s so annoying and will not leave her alone. Little brother thinks that his big sister is the worst: she is always bossing him around and telling him what to do. It is so fun to see how each part of this sibling relationship views the other half, and the appreciation they come to have for one another, in this book you have to read from both left to right and right to left to fully understand.
Reading this book from left to right you discover the story of hedgehog too spiky to receive a much-wanted hug. Reading this book from right to left you will find the story of the tortoise too bony to be hugged. Both problems are solved when the two stories meet in the middle and hedgehog and tortoise find one another. This book is full of the most darling illustrations and is not one you will want to miss out on.
Start from the top of this story and join in on an adventurous journey from outer space to the deep ocean. Or start from the bottom of the story and climb from the depths of the sea to far away planets. The top to bottom reversibility of this book makes it one that is just too fun to pass by.
Reading this book forwards will tell you about some of the mamas in the animal world and how they love their babies. Reading this book backwards will tell you about some of the papas in the animal world and how they love their little ones. Reading this book in either direction provides you with a sweet look at how parents both human or animal love their children and would do anything for them.
Aunts are good for all sorts of fun things, like going shopping, watching the late night show or buying you cotton candy. Uncles are good for fun things like going on the roller coaster, building forts and telling silly jokes. Read this book from either end to discover all the great things that aunts and uncles are best at. Also, be sure to check out the other reversible books in this series about the things that other relatives are good at.
Parenting confession: my kids watch YouTube videos. A lot of YouTube videos. Some days, probably too many. If you are a parent that has succeeded in keeping toy unboxing videos, random family vlogs, and disembodied hands playing with children’s toys out of our life, I sincerely applaud you.
If you, like me, have resorted to some time with semi-creepy animated characters singing nursery rhymes (I’m looking at you, dead-eyed Little Baby Bum kids!) in order to make dinner or clean or just have a moment to yourself, this post is for you.
As I started writing this post, I realized that either I have too much to say about books or my kids watch way too many things (surprise! It’s both!). I’m going to split my responses into multiple installments. Today, we tackle Blippi.
When my oldest turned five, his interest in Blippi waned and I thought maybe we were rid of that bespectacled monster. Sadly, my two-year-old has taken up the mantle and is a die-hard fan.
My oldest loved Blippi for his tours of various vehicles, especially the construction equipment. If you have a child that loves construction equipment, I direct you to this list of construction books for toddlers. However, my younger son loves Blippi for his goofiness. He loves the antics: the voices, the slapstick, all of it. And so that’s probably why he loves the following books:
I could really have listed any of the Elephant and Piggie books. They are all a hit with my boys. This one is a favorite, though, because of all the hilarious sounds the reader needs to make as Piggie with a trumpet.
Mo Willems does so many great things with these books. The varied typography is genius, because even non-readers can see the shape, size, and color of the text and interpret the tone. My kids can always tell when a character is yelling, when they are sad, when they are excited. Add to that fact that Piggie is almost constantly in motion. She’s jumping, she’s cartwheeling, she’s flying around because someone else is yelling, she’s racing to get the next thing. Piggie is a kinetic character, and matches Blippi’s sometimes frenetic energy.
We’ve done enough repeat readings of these books that the two-year-old will narrate them to himself. So sometimes, when he asks for Blippi, we give him Piggie; usually, he doesn’t mind.
Similarly, I could list most David Shannon books here, but my toddler’s favorite is No, David. Again, there’s a goofiness here. David gives some (naughty) examples of ways to play. I’d like to think seeing David’s various “problem” behaviors lets my children live vicariously through him so they don’t have to do it themselves (they can enjoy David’s splashy bath without needing to have their own), but I think I’m delusional. I just also know that my boys think this book is hilarious. My five-year-old actually loves to voice the mother, and I worry that it’s an impression of me, and then I question all of my life choices. It’s fine.
My final recommendation shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but I think one of the appeals of Blippi for young kids is the way he explores lots of different places. He goes to aquariums and zoos, he goes to parks, he goes to play places. Sometimes he just goes to a grocery store or a car wash. Blippi does his best to make even ordinary places into spaces for exploration and play (did he have to do it in that voice, though?).
My favorite character for finding play in ordinary spaces is Curious George. I’m not even a snob about him; even though I love Margret and H.A. Rey’s original books, I also very much enjoy the PBS kids show and the numerous books to come out of it. I love George as a character, and I think he offers that creative exploration that kids are looking for when they turn to Blippi.