The Fantastic Five

Posted in books, classics by jrahman on November 10, 2019

The kids are going through the classics of the genre, taking us along with them.  That’s, well, fantastic!  Not only are these books great to get children into reading, but they also open the mind to imagination, to worlds that are like ours and yet are not, and things that aren’t possible in ours are very much so in the realms of fantasy.  In those worlds-that-aren’t-quite ours, kids can see the actions and choices of characters and infer the morality or lack thereof.  As they grow older, children can re-read these to decipher the nuances and ambiguities.  Not just children, but grown ups too can read these imagined worlds and appreciate the fictions we tell ourselves in our own world — imaginary stuff like nations, religions, profits and losses, gender and racial identities and such like.

Of course, there is something to be said about coming across books serendipitously, as was the case for us in our childhood.  But we still wondered whether there might be a good order in which five classics of the genre could be introduced to kids over a number of years.

We would begin in Narnia.  And we would read them through the chronological order — that is, we would begin with The Magician’s Nephew, not The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which would be the second book, to be followed by The Horse and His Boy. Yes, I know that these books are heavily inspired by Christianity.  Nonetheless, kids getting lost in a magical land is still a darn good introduction to the genre.  And understanding the sexist and racist undertones upon re-reading at a later age would be a great experience.

The nearly-ten read the whole series when he was eight, and the nearly-eight will hopefully try next year.  I have vague recollection of the BBC series on BTV in the early 1990s, but didn’t watch the recent film series.  The kids don’t seem interested.

The older one has just started The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.  The Middle Earth would be the next world in our journey.  With more of an action adventure, The Hobbit is very much for the early tween.  But after reading this, we would take a break before the quest for the ring begins.

This is because, before that adventure is embarked upon, it would be good to be visit a couple of other worlds.

Both kids have, of course, visited Hogwarts.  The older have watched all the movies, though the last few had some scenes skipped.  The younger is yet to venture beyond the first couple.  She has listened to the first being read by mummy.  He has read the first three on his own.

One can always return to these stories, and the Stephen Fry rendition is perhaps one of the best audiobooks around.  But it might be better to break the series, to let the story sink in.  We would suggest a break after the first couple.

That would be the time to introduce His Dark Materials.  Not the whole series, just the first book.  By the end of Northern Lights, the tween reader would be attuned to shocking twists underpinned by complex moral choices, and concepts of fear and loss, which will prepare them well for the next three Harry Potter books, which should be read in tandem with the second Dark Materials book.

We are yet to start watching the new TV series, let alone introducing to the kids.  Perhaps in a few years.  By which time they will have finished reading the first Lyra trilogy and all seven Potter books.  In their teens by now, they will be ready for (reading, we will have watched the movies much earlier)  The Lord of the Rings.

When the thousand plus pages on the Rings have been read, it would be time for A Song of Ice and Power and The Book of Dust. The second series will have completed by then, though I fear the it’s the rushed TV series that will be all we will have for Westeros.

Suggested order;

8-10: Chronicles of Narnia

9-11: The HobbitThe Philosopher’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets

10-12: Northern Lights, The Prisoner of Azkaban

11-13: The Goblet of FireThe Subtle KnifeThe Order of the Phoenix

12-14: The Half-Blood PrinceThe Amber SpyglassThe Deathly Hallows

13-15: Lord of the Rings 

14-16: A Game of ThronesA Clash of KingsThe Book of Dust

15-17: Rest of A Song of Ice and Power


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