A list of 10 books for children—beyond Harry Potter—filled with coming-of-age lessons, mystery, magic, and fictional delight.
Over 500 million copies of Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide, and not just in English. The famous series has been translated into over 80 languages since it was first published in 1997. It’s easy to see why Harry Potter is such a big hit with kids and adults alike—the themes of magic and fantasy, wizards and otherworldly creatures, adventure and valor, friendships and love are incredibly powerful.
But it’s been 25 years since Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone was released. There are many other authors who have sparked the imagination of children with their ingenious tales. So with this list, we’re going beyond Hogwarts and introducing coming-of-age, mystery, magic, and fictional books that you can read to (or with) your kids.
Note: We’ve included literature for young readers as well as for teenagers. Check the appropriate age group to pick the most suitable books.
Top Picks for You
My teen niece loves Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl. It’s an eight-book series that follows 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl II, who is a criminal mastermind. In the first book, he and his butler kidnap fairy Holly Short, a recon officer of the Lower Elements Police, for a ransom to restore his family fortunes. It’s a funny, imaginative, and fantastical book for parents and kids to enjoy together. As the series progresses, Artemis develops into a more morally forthright character and befriends Holly, often partnering with her to save the world.
The Serpent’s Secret
You don’t often read books about a young Indian-American girl slaying dragons. Inspired by Bengali folktales, Sayantani Dasgupta’s book takes young readers to New Jersey, where 12-year-old Kiranmala finds out she’s a princess when her parents vanish into a different dimension. Now she has to solve riddles and slay interdimensional demons with the help of two princes. It’s got mythical creatures, humor, and a young girl finding her roots. There are more adventures awaiting Kiranmala—the series has two more books that you can read with your middle schooler.
The Blue Umbrella
It’s a classic children’s book in India. Written by Ruskin Bond in 1980, The Blue Umbrella is a short story of a girl who loves her blue umbrella. She lives in a village where a shopkeeper wants said umbrella, and the story revolves around this one prized possession. I read this when I was young, and it’s a simple, sweet tale with no frills—that’s the charm of Ruskin Bond, who often writes for a young audience. This one’s perfect for middle-grade kids.
Where The Mountain Meets the Moon
Taiwanese-American illustrator and writer Grace Lin takes inspiration from Chinese folklore for Where The Mountain Meets the Moon. It’s a fantasy book that introduces readers to a young Minli. She lives in the valley of Fruitless Mountain with her family. After working hard all day, at night, her father narrates her tales of the Old Man on the Moon—a source of joy for her. To change her family’s fortunes, she embarks on an adventure to find this man.
Legends, magical creatures, and beautiful illustrations will keep young readers invested in the book as they follow Minli on this journey of self-discovery. There are lessons, emotions, and friendships, and Minli’s mother also gets a character arc.
A sweet read-aloud book by Shelly Anand, Laxmi’s Mooch addresses body hair and body positivity. Little Laxmi notices hair above her lips and all over her body while playing with her friends in school. As a woman of Indian descent, I understand Laxmi’s self-consciousness. But her mother helps her understand that most people have a mooch (mustache in Hindi) and gives her examples of influential women who had facial hair, too. More suitable for a young audience, it is an empowering yet endearing book about self-love and embracing our bodies.
Julieta and the Diamond Enigma
A nine-year-old Julieta is a known troublemaker. She travels to Paris with her dad, who works at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, to get some pieces on loan from the Louvre. It’s all fun until the father-daughter duo finds a thief stealing a priceless diamond. Her dad becomes a suspect in the crime and can possibly lose his job, so the enterprising Julieta races to solve the mystery of whodunnit. Julieta and the Diamond Enigma is perfect for kids (and their parents) who like history, art, and travel.
Eleven-year-old Scoob is in trouble with his dad, so when grandma arrives in a Winnebago, he packs up his bag and leaves for a cross-country road trip. She hands him the Green Book, a travel guide used by Black people in the 60s to know what hotels, restaurants, and other businesses would serve them. Scoob’s white grandmother depended on it while traveling with his black grandfather.
Scoob is biracial, and this is the first time he realizes that the world hasn’t been friendly toward people of color. On this road trip, Scoob learns about the country’s history and his own family’s past. Clean Getaway is a good book by Nic Stone to continue the conversation about race and the Civil Rights movement with your kids. Suitable for middle-grade children.
How It All Blew Up
How It All Blew Up is a story of an Iranian-American teenager, Amir Azadi. For the 18-year-old, it is difficult to come out to his Muslim family, and the bullies at school don’t make his life any easier. So, he runs away to Italy and befriends people who help him accept his sexual orientation. However, on his way back home, he is interrogated by U.S. customs, and the narrative goes back and forth as Amir and his family members share their stories as a way of “How did we get here?” This coming-of-age book by Arvin Ahmadi is about acceptance, but there is also racial profiling and homophobia discussed in the book. It’s meant for young adults.
Who Put This Song On?
Morgan Parker’s book is loosely based on her own life. The story is about a 17-year-old Morgan, who is a person of color in a white school and neighborhood. It is 2008 when Obama is running for president, and Morgan is dealing with anxiety and depression, getting bullied at school, and struggling with religion.
The book addresses racism, religion, and mental health through the eyes of this teenager who loves emo music and doesn’t quite fit into a box. Forming friendships and finding herself, Morgan learns to dance to her own tunes. This book is intense, but it’s also humorous. Teenagers will find relatable moments in Morgan’s school experiences.
Lock and Key
Sarah Dessen is a young adult author with more than 12 titles to her name. In this 2008 novel, the Illinois-based writer brought to life Ruby, a 17-year-old who is abandoned by her mother and forced to live with a sister she hasn’t seen in years. Ruby clings to her past life and refuses to accept help, wearing the key to her old home around her neck as a way to hold on. As she leans on her sister, her brother-in-law, and her new friends, she begins to heal and move on.
The heartfelt story revolves around family and love and what it means to have a loving home. The issues of abandonment, abuse, and alcohol are discussed in the book, so it’s recommended for young adults.
I read Sarah Dessen a lot when I was a teenager, and her books were comforting to me. I also enjoyed Along For The Ride, which is now a Netflix film.