Fantasy Favourites From Abarat To Oz!
© Pierre Vinet/New Line Productions
By David Marc Fischer
© 2009 Scholastic Canada Ltd. V001
Fans of hobbits and Harry Potter have had a magical effect on the world of fantasy fiction. We take you inside this exploding genre where the impossible is possible!
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eroes and heroines. Dungeons and dragons. Swords, sorcerers, witches, and warlocks. It’s the stuff of fantasy fiction, and it has cast a powerful spell on teen readers everywhere. “Fantasy fiction has helped sculpt the person I am today,” says 17-year-old Nick Feitel, who enjoys fantasy sagas from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic. “I think I became a lot more creative as a result of reading these impossible stories.”
Fantasy books have frequently dominated the U.S. Young Adult Library Services Association poll of young readers’ favourites. Books on the Top Ten list have included Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen, and Holly Black’s Title: A Modern Faerie Tale.
POTTER POWER Why is fantasy so popular among young readers? Many credit a boy with a
lightning-bolt scar and a knack for riding broomsticks. When J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book hit U.S. bookstores in 1998, no one could have predicted its impact. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (“Philosopher’s Stone” in Canada) topped the best-seller lists, where it was quickly followed by every other book in the series. The boy wizard you grew up with continued to set sales records. In its first 24 hours on sale, Harry Potter and the
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Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the series, sold a record 8.3 million copies in the United States. After Harry hit the scene, demand for fantasy novels increased. The number of fantasy books purchased for teens went up 22 percent in
the four-year period from 1999 to 2003, according to the research firm Ipsos BookTrends. “We’d all forgotten how exciting that kind of fiction could be,” said publisher Philippa Dickinson in Publisher’s Weekly, Spring 2004.
Today, publishers print more fantasy books than ever. They even have a special name for the current crop of thick-as-a-brick spellbinders fighting for your attention. It’s “big fat fantasy” fiction— “BFF” for short.
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Abarat by Clive Barker, 2002. From boring Chickentown, dive into the forgotten world of the Abarat. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, 2004. Beware, matey! Pirates ahead! Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, 1865. The great, original romp with a rabbit—and Alice! Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, 1977. Cat’s life turns upside down when he arrives at Chrestomanci castle. Children of the Lamp by P.B. Kerr, 2004. When teen twins get their wisdom teeth, they discover they’re genies! Circle of Magic: Daja’s Book by Tamora Pierce, 1999. Four strong girls, outcasts at home, earn respect for their powers in an enchanted land.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954-1955. If you love the movies, you have to read the books! The Once and Future King by T.H. White, 1958. A great version of the King Arthur legend. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, 2002. An adventure as twisted and magical as the streets of the city it’s set in—Venice, Italy.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, 1968. Three great books are followed by a fourth with a different point of view. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900. The book’s even wilder than the movie!
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ENTERING WORLDS Rebecca Bass, 17, is caught up in the excitement. “I was into the Chronicles of Narnia [by C.S. Lewis] when I was, like, 8,” recalls Rebecca. “I just liked the idea of going into a wardrobe and coming out in a totally different world.” A few years later, she fell for Rowling’s books too. Rebecca says she loves the way fantasy blends the
impossible and the possible. “It’s like your life—plus one,” she says of Rowling’s gift for combining realistic, believable relationships— such as Harry and Ron’s friendship—with horrifying spells, villains, and monsters. This fantasy fan says she prefers the books to movies. “In a movie, everything is spelled out for you,” she explains. “Much of the appeal
of a book is that you can imagine things and make things look the way you want them to look.”
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“Every society has its stories of magic and heroes, people who go out from home and come back changed, or to change things. Fantasy connects with that.” — Author K.V. Johansen, in Canadian Children’s Book News, Spring 2008
with thanks, Annick Press
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WRITING MAGIC For authors, writing fantasy can be just as magical as reading it. Adult-thriller writer P.B. Kerr tried his hand at writing fantasy with his kids’ novel Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure. It was a chance, Kerr says, to let his imagination run wild: “I just wrote. To some extent it was like being a child again myself.” For The Thief Lord author Cornelia Funke, writing
fantasy is also an enchanting experience. “I get the feeling, when I am writing, that I am more than just myself, that I open up, inhale, and experience what is not me,” Funke says. “I express what everybody feels, fears, and wonders about.” Author Tamora Pierce shares similar feelings. Pierce’s recent Tricksters Series includes strong female Cornelia Funke
warriors. She discovered Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring when she was in the seventh grade. She remembers being overcome by “the grandeur and the passion” of the hobbit saga. “It just swept me up and dumped me safely and securely in another world for as long as I was reading it.” Yet some aspects of The Lord of the Rings books left Pierce unsatisfied. She was, for example,
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unhappy that the female warrior Eowyn gave up fighting. Pierce says she wanted to read about women warriors, but they were hard to find in books. So she started creating resilient heroines of
her own. “It was a way to paint the world as I wanted it to be,” Pierce recalls. Suzanne Collins, author of Gregor the Overlander, also feels the power of writing fantasy. “Oh, I’m very happy
in the Underland,” she says of the bizarre realm of giant rats, bats, roaches, and spiders that she introduced in her Underland Chronicles series.
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Suzanne Collins wrote for children’s TV for years. Gregor the Overlander and its sequel were her first novels.
©Cap Pry or
Meet Suzanne Collins
Q. How did you get the idea for Gregor? A. I ’d been walking around New York City thinking about Alice in Wonderland. I got this image of a boy falling down, down, down beneath the city and encountering a giant cockroach. Q. Why do you write for young adults? A. Y oung people are the best audience possible. They will consider new ideas. Q. What do you like to read? A. I am crazy about Greek mythology. The people and the gods experience a wide range of human emotions in a magical world.
—David Marc Fischer
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With so much new interest in this age-old genre, could we be living in a new Golden Age of Fantasy? Pierce used to reject the concept, but lately she’s had second thoughts. “It’s hard to compare some of what’s being done to things
Some people criticize fantasy fiction as being childish. Ursula K. Le Guin disagrees. “Fantasy, fairy tales, and myths—all the stories that use our imagination—are the oldest kind of story we tell, and probably the most important kind,” says the acclaimed author of the Earthsea Cycle. “Only through them can we understand certain matters at all.”
These days, some teens are doing the “telling” themselves. Two well-known young fantasy authors are French teen Flavia Bujor and American Christopher Paolini. Paolini is author of the bestselling boy-meets-dragon tale Eragon, which he began when he was only 15. “I wanted to write a story that I’d enjoy reading myself, using elements from fantasy books I’d read growing up plus ideas of my own,” Paolini says.
Ursula K. Le Guin
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like The Wizard of Oz, The Once and Future King, and Tolkien,” Pierce says. “But I’ll tell you: there are some amazing books being
published out there.” Pierce can reel off dozens of new works that could be tomorrow’s classics. And could today’s crop of
young fantasy readers grow up to write even greater fantasy fiction? Le Guin has no doubt about the answer: “Absolutely!” n
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Many Worlds Don’t pass by the fantasy shelves just because you’re not crazy about magic wands or dragons. Fantasy is a wide genre with lots of variation. That’s because when it comes to the imagination, there really are no limits!
Classic fantasy, no wizards
In his Tales of Redwall, author Brian Jacques delivers up all the heroes, quests and swordplay you’re looking for in a classic fantasy. His world has a medieval flavour—but its “people” are animals!
In Redwall, the animals have all the traits and customs of human beings. Sherlock in Smart Dog by Vivian Vande Velde can reason and speak, but otherwise, he’s a pretty normal (and funny!) dog. Then there’s Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing and Sharon Stewart’s Ravenquest, where the authors base their imagined animal cultures on research and facts about bats, ravens, and wolves.
In the end, the point of fantasy is just a rollicking good read. Here’s a few more titles and authors to get you started on your next adventure!
The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones: At night, Christopher travels from the Place Inbetween to many different worlds. He thinks he’s dreaming. So how come his pajamas are so grubby? Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves: Joey has a bad sense of direction. He’s been lost before… but never in another universe! A multipleworlds fantasy with a science fiction twist.
travels in search of her fencing teacher, who has been kidnapped by pirates. Peter and the Starcatchers by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry: Read this if you want to know how Peter Pan met Captain Hook! —Laura Peetoom
Alex and the Ironic Gentleman by Adrienne Kress: Alex has to match wits with a string of unusual characters as she
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