Harry Potter is a hard act to follow. My older son (12) has now read all seven books, some on his own and others we have read aloud together. It is our habit to read together at bedtime and, since finishing Harry Potter, it has been a bit of a struggle to find books that we both like. We have been spoiled. Before HP we were content to read books that appealed only to him (I discovered to my surprise that it is possible to read a whole Scooby Doo book while thinking about something else the entire time.) After HP we are always a bit disappointed if we can’t find books that we both like.
He loved Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, both of which I hated. He considers “Where’s Waldo” a book but I do not. I love Asterix the Gaul; he is lukewarm about him and doesn’t get the jokes. We started the Odyssey but it was hard going for both of us last thing at night. We tried A Series of Unfortunate Events but somehow that never caught our interest. We tried the famous five and the Hardy boys but again, nothing inspired us.
When we were ready to give up he found Percy Jackson. What a boon that was, not just one book but a series of six! It kept us going for over a year. From page one of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief he was hooked. He read on his own (a true compliment to the author) and we also read them all together. These books also passed the acid test of adult/child appeal—will the adult read the books alone? The answer was a resounding yes. Both mum and dad read all of them, with or without the child present.
When we finished book 6 we had the post-Harry Potter problem all over again. Luckily the author of the Percy Jackson series is still writing—we read and enjoyed The Lost Hero, which takes up the story where Percy left off, and now we are left waiting for the next installment in that series.
Now that we know we like a good series (it saves us looking again for about a year), we look for these when we go to the bookstore and luckily there are plenty to choose from. The shelves in the pre-teen literature section seem to be creaking with choices, but it is not always easy to find something good. After a few false starts we have finally found another author we both really like and we are now well into Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series. Both boys are now reading these voraciously. However they have one problem for bedtime reading—the stories are too exciting. We were up until after midnight finishing the second book, and sometimes Iain cannot sleep after we finish our nightly installment.
For me, the genius of JK Rowling was her ability to create a story that appealed to children and adults on many levels. It was a great adventure, it was an epic good vs. evil tale, and it had deep themes of friendship, heroism and ultimately the power of redeeming love–themes that strike a chord that is age-independent. The stories of Percy Jackson and Fablehaven do not really come close to that but they are great adventures in their own right. They certainly kept us all engaged and excited about what was going to happen next. In all cases we could not wait to read the next installment.
So, whether you have a pre-teen or not, you might like these books as well.