by Clive Barker Clive Barker's first children's novel, The Thief of Always is an instant classic. It is the familiar story of a haunted, Demonic House that offers children all their wildest wishes in exchange for their soul. One child braves this house and steals back his companions from the clutches of the evil entity. Younger children who read this might be shocked at the creepiness of the Big Boss Bad in the story but it does condition them to be wary of anyone who offers you the moon because there is always a catch for such offers. A life lesson that should be instilled into young readers so they can deal with any Big Boss Bad when they encounter such situations.
Abarrat is the title of another children's novel by Clive Barker about a magical archipelago in the middle of nowhere where Candy Quakenbush has her adventures. The novel is an reimagined flux of Neverland, Alice in Wonderland and all sorts of weird and fluffy adventures. The islands in the archipelago of Abarrat only appear at certain hours of the day and disappear for the next island in the 25 hour clock of the legendary realm of Abarrat.
11. Leviathan series (Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath)
by Scott Westerfield
Scott Westerfield's Leviathan is a steampunk-themed adventure starring heroine, Deryn Sharp, a girl residing among the English Darwinists, who is the pretend-pilot of the biowhale, Leviathan, a living airship. Alek, is a boy piloting a German Clanker--machina constructs of war who in unfortunate circumstances meets Deryn and both go through hijinks to save their countries. Both kids meet up while caught in World War 1 of their alternate earth setting. The worldbuilding is well thought out and the contrast between a mechanica steampunk industrial nation and a bio-engineeered craft user society is where the book really shines. The Leviathan ship is an ecosystem almost like the Macross villains, the Zentraedi, with various creatures serving the functions of weapons, energy providers, and alarms. The politics in the setting fuel the story into classic war adventure between young soldiers using over-the-top war machines and war creatures--the meat of this YA steampunk novel.
As a tale about the disparate and extreme nature of an environmental conflict, where two technologies vie for supremacy and two young heroes come of age as they use their wits and courage to save their realm and themselves. War adventure is always fun to read for kids fascinated about world conflicts and this book gives them plenty of heroic deeds to enjoy in a sumptuous, eye candy-world setting. For kids who want to write stuff like it. they get an adventure story that shows the craft of worldbuilding.
12. King Rat, and Railsea
by China Mieville
The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a classic fairy tale that has been re-imagined as an urban fantasy by China Mieville. King Rat is his first novel and it also may be his best in my opinion just because it grooves in ways only kids would enjoy as they follow the life of the young heir to the city guardian, the King Rat. The story unfolds against the backdrop of the late 90s music scene where young adults are heavily into the electronic dance music scene where enterprising club DJs are putting together mixes of jungle music--drum and bass, dance music. In the middle of all those warehouse parties, the malevolent Pied Piper is out on the streets of London killing people and plotting to devour more souls. King Rat is a horror story with plenty of stuff only kids would find cool--eating from the dumpster and relishing the taste of a rotten apple because of the hero's keen rat senses--avoiding the lure of the devil's pipes by listening to the Amen beat, the standard breakbeat bass line of remixed music.
Even if the novel was published in 1998, the story still reads like a tale from today's urban setting. Cool horror, if you want your kids to know where China Mieville comes from as a young writer, get them this immortal classic.
Railsea, on the other hand, is China's third YA novel, and a reimagining of Moby Dick, where instead of whaling ships, we have trains that traverse desert dunes to hunt giant monster moles. This is another steampunk adventure that kids will love and maybe prime them for reading Moby Dick when they get older. It has all the cool monsters China always puts in his fantasy novels and his heroes are unlike anything anyone has ever written as strange and heroic characters.
13. Neverwhere, and Stardust
by Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere is a gothic adventure tale similar to Alice in Wonderland where a man discovers denizens of London underground, a strange and fantastic realm below the city where a girl with a special power--literally opening doors to other worlds--is in mortal danger from a scheming infernal entity, who is tasked as the guardian of the city, but is actually plotting to steal the girl's power to regain entrance to a holy place. The adventures of Door, the girl who can enter and exit between worlds, is fraught with murderous traps and dangers lurking everywhere but the story's heroes match wits with their adversaries and come out of it as more than just friends. Stardust, Neil's second YA novel, is a coming of age story where the heir of a kingdom is hidden among a gypsy carnival while a star falls down to earth, near the gypsy carnival, because a crude and evil king struck it down from the heavens. The star takes the form of a girl after recovering from her rude disturbance, walking with a limp because of the bad fall and is looking for a way to return back to the heavens--she encounters the prince heir as a gypsy boy and they help each other in a cat-and-mouse game to avoid three murderous witches hunting down the star in an attempt to steal and eat its girl's heart to stay eternally youthful. This is one of Neil's subversive fairy tales where happy endings are the best when there is sadness at the end, even after vanquishing the big bad of the story.
14. Incarceron, and Sapphique
by Catherine Fisher
This novel went under the radar given that Mazerunner got made into a movie and this one did not. But Incarceron is a better novel because it offers kids not just a video-game like automated booby-trapped maze, but an entire booby trapped prison world from which its young heroes must find a way to escape. If you are weaning your kids to enjoy reading about dealing with dire environments and situations where quick thinking and teamwork save the day, Catherine Fisher's Incarceron is your book for them.
Catherine Fisher exposes a reader who wants to write about such adventures to worldbuilding, crafting a seamless and believable world that is a living clockwork prison. Sapphique is the sequel to this novel and reveals what happens once our heroes get out of their prison world.
15. Measle and the Wrathmonk
by Ian Ogilvy
If you have kids who enjoy wacky character names in a Harry Potter-ish, magician boy, coming-of-age tale they will love the Measles books by former British TV actor, Ian Ogilvy. Measles is actually Sam Lee who is constantly taunted and oppressed by his guardian,
a mad sorcerer who plots his demise. The colorful rhyming prose and zany characters plus the slightly subversive sense of humor make this a pop book series to collect and own. It has been translated in 30 countries and kids from all over the world have written to the author, Ian, how much they love his characters and how they can't put down his story. Only J.K. Rowling and a few authors like Terry Pratchett have had this kind of response from child readers so you know you are reading something special. If you want your kids to have fun while reading about kids growing up in situations where they are oppressed but turn the tables around--Measles is a great role model for keeping a sense of humor and always knowing that what goes around comes around.
There are other books in the Measles series so complete them all and enjoy Ogilvy's endearing characters and cardboard villains--any enemy that kids encounter in real life are just cardboard creeps anyway--the book will also be a good example of writing rhyming prose and coining good names.
16. Every Time We Meet at the Dairy Queen your Whole Fucking Face Explodes, and Sweet Story, and Spider Bunny
by Carlton Mellick III
If you allow your kids to watch Nickelodeon and shows like Itchy and Scratchy or Cow, then getting them the gross children's stories (Bizarro) of Carlton Mellick III should be just fine. The three novellas listed here have heroines who have very strange circumstances--one has her face exploding when she is stressed (Every Time...Face Explodes), the other finds the end of the rainbow and wishes for candy to rain everyday which causes the end of the world (Sweet Story), and the last one is about a TV cartoon character from a scary fruit cereal commercial that grabs a group of friend into its cartoon world and tries to eat them alive (Spider Bunny).
Mellick is one of the acclaimed pioneers of absurdist fiction, a subgenre known as Bizarro, and he is popular for painting lyrical stories in wacko scenarios with equally ridiculous characters. Nothing bad for the kids to read here. If you like Bizarro or absurdist fiction like Gogol, Mellick has plenty of other novellas for older readers as well.
17. The Quincunx
by Charles Palliser
The raison d'etre for reading is to experience other people's lives and learn how it is living and breathing in their shoes--The Quincunx, by Charles Palliser, is a Victorian-themed mystery about an inheritance robbed from a boy via schemes and plots of murder and skullduggery by several families. It might as well read like Les Miserables but may be a better adventure than the classic. Since Filipinos love melodramas or dramatic mystery stories, this one is right up our alley and the writing is easy enough to follow for one to wade through all 800 pages to discover how the young boy regains his birthright from the family that robbed him of it. For kids who have developed a reading habit and enjoy page turners, The Quincunx is their book. In the Palliser novel, kids read about how good, honorable people can be in the most dire of situations as well as know how depraved, selfish people can behave when their greed gets the better of them, The Quincunx is that doorstop book that you can toss your hungry reader looking for a page-turner of a mystery.
18. The City of Silk and Silver
By Mike Carey, Louise Carey and Linda Carey
In the storyteller style of the Arabian Nights, Mike Carey and his wife and daughter collaborate to write tales about a city set in a mythical city of Bessa. The City of Silk and Steel previously titled The Steel Seraglio. In the book, each author tells a tale of how 365 concubines of the Sultan's harem are exiled from the city of Bessa by an evil usurper and take up arms to form a Steel Seraglio to retake back their home.
For kids who may not be of age to read The Arabian Nights story collection, which has some bawdy tales, The City of Silk and Steel offers the same storyteller lyrical style that is beloved by kids of all ages and offers a tale where heroines are those who rise above the situation and do what is noble and honorable, using their wits to outsmart the dishonorable and vain hypocrite-the despot, the tyrant, and the greedy usurpers of authority.
19. Earthdawn: The TalismanEarthdawn: The Talisman is an out-of-print story collection set in the FASA universe of Earthdawn, a role-playing game, that should see light of day again simply because it is one of the best, end-of-the-world story anthologies. In the fantastic world of Earthdawn, horrors--a kind of monster similar to the tentacled nightmares of H.P. Lovecraft are breaching through the plane and will completely overrun the world of the elves, humans, dwarves and giants, so leaders of the various kingdoms lay down magical seals that will protect underground safehouses from the Horrors. Unfortunately, these seals and other spells to combat the Horrors are sold for a usurious price such that only those who could afford them could be saved from the horrors.
The Talisman is an amber pendant where the fairy assistant of a scheming wizard, is imbued with the magical protective seals and other spells to counter the Horrors, but is trapped and shrunk down to size to fit an amber pendant to be worn as an early warning device.
The Talisman is passed on from one place to another as the denizens of the world wait out the apocaplyse, from its onset until the horrors go back to their dimension. Each story in the anthology is part of a timeline: the peoples preparing for the apocalypse with wards, fighting each other to steal wards they cannot buy, waiting out the apocalypse in underground cairns--some of which get breached by the Horrors and the residents get massacred, and an end where the Horrors that infest the world go back to their plane except for one nasty big mofo that binds itself to the wall of a city to feed on its people--where a heroic dwarven woman uses the Talisman to destroy this final Horror and free the fairy wizard's assistant.
The stories are accessible enough for kids to read and each story stands on its own, Each transition story marks the passage of time as people of the realm wait out the Horror Apocalypse is something kids can pick up on as budding writers and enjoy as readers for an awesome epic story that is an instant classic by itself amidst all the generic fantasy stories out there.
These are just a few novels and book series, as well as reader tomes you can get for your kids. They represent a wide range of reader tastes from extremely zany, to the bizarre humor of the Nickelodeon generation, to classic reading that is still timeless as good stories for kids. Go out and start getting those books and any other tome you deem that your child will love. If they request for a particular book, do go out of your way to search for it and build your kids' library as an investment in smarter, braver, honorable heroes of the future.