Is your child eager to read the Harry Potter series, but is not yet ready for some of the darker elements, especially in the later books? Fortunately, there are many wonderful books for kids who are not yet ready for Harry Potter!
Harry Potter is 11 when he first goes to Hogwarts, and when he first made an appearance on bookshelves, readers grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. But now that the entire series is available to read straight through, young readers may find themselves overwhelmed by book four, either by reading difficulty, length or subject matter.
We've put together this list of books for the youngest Harry Potter fans. Magic abounds in these titles, which are suitable ages 8 and up, or 7 and up for advanced readers. For younger readers, this list of early chapter books about magic will be very helpful!
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If you shop online, you can still support independent booksellers if you do do so through Bookshop. You can find this Not Ready for Harry Potter book list, as well as our "What to Read if You Like Harry Potter" list on Bookshop here.
MORE: For titles that are suitable for older Harry Potter fans, try this list of Books Like Harry Potter.
THE MAGIC HALF (series) by Annie Barrows
Miri is sandwiched in between 2 sets of twins. Her family has just moved to an old house and one day after being sent to her room for inadvertently injuring one of her older brothers, she finds part of a set of old glasses. When she looks through them she is transported back in time to 1935 where she meets Molly, an orphan living with her rather sinister relatives. Miri and Molly must work together to help Molly escape "back to the future" and when they do they discover the most surprising thing of all! (I simply cannot give it away!) Molly's cousin, Horst, reminded me of Harry's cousin Dudley!
MATTER OF FACT MAGIC SERIES by Ruth Chew
Ruth Chew wrote about 30 books in the 70s and 80s. Several have been republished and more are currently in the works. The plots revolve around normal children discovering strange happenings in their neighborhoods - like magic trees or enchanted fudge from friendly neighbors who turn out to be witches.
THE WORST WITCH (series) by Jill Murphy
Like the Harry Potter books, this series takes place at a boarding school for magic kids. In the introductory novel, Mildred begins her first year by getting a black cat and a broom. Poor Mildred is not exactly the most skillful, coordinated witch in her class and her cat is a common tabby! She mixes up potions and spells, causing all sorts of chaos (and fun, of course). This is fun for kids and is also at an easier reading level than the Harry Potter books.
TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE (series) by Jessica Day George
Every Tuesday the castle adds a new feature; it could be a room, or a turret. Celia spends her time exploring and mapping the castle. Celia's brother is off at wizard school and when their parents travel for his graduation, the castle comes under attack. The castle aids Celia and two of her siblings as they try to keep the marauders at bay. The idea of a living castle is wonderful it does rather remind one of the magic world of Hogwarts.
HALF MAGIC (series) by Edward Eager
This classic series should be read by everyone. A group of siblings discover a coin that grants only half a wish. The children must work together to make complete wishes and then navigate the unexpected outcomes. Delightful.
JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER by Bruce Coville
The Magic Shop Book series reminds me of Olivander's shop in Diagon Alley. Jeremy is not a wizard, but the eccentric shopkeeper insists he take home a mysterious box. Inside the box is an egg which hatches into a small dragon, and now Jeremy must quickly learn how to take care of it. (Think: Hagrid!)The dragon cannot stick around forever, though, but tending him helps Jeremy discovers new ways of navigating the perils of tween-dom. There are several books in the series, all with children who suddenly come face to face with something magical.
CURSED (series) by Bruce Coville
Angus is bound by a curse to the girl, Alex. Angus is a mischievous brownie with an extreme penchant for neatness, while Alex is the messiest creature he has ever encountered. Alex and Angus set out to break the curse, but it won't be easy. This book is hilarious, if read aloud (as we did), offers parents plenty of opportunity for dramatic reading in silly voices. Be sure to also get the companion books, Hatched and Trolled.
THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES by Julie Edwards
Three siblings travel to a magical land with the help of their "scrappy caps" and a wise Professor. Along the way they meet some fantastical creatures, some of whom do not want them to arrive at their destination. As in Harry Potter, there is a villain who turns out to be not quite villainous after all.
BLISS (series) by Kathryn Littlewood
Harry Potter has his book of spells and so does the Bliss family, only all the Bliss spells are recipes for enchanted baked goods (now that does sound like bliss!). When the parents go out of town, a mysterious relative comes to visit and the children aren't sure whether or not to trust her with their secret. After the cliff-hanger of an ending you will want to follow up with the sequels, A Dash of Magic, and Bite-Sized Magic.
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (series) by L. Frank Baum
The Oz books are must-read books for kids and kids can read all 14 books in a row without having to be concerned that the age appropriateness of the text will advance as it does in the Harry Potter series. Because Baum's Oz books are in the public domain, there are some terrible versions out there. Be sure to get the books with the original text and full color illustrations.
THE BOGGART (series) by Susan Cooper
We loved reading aloud this hilarious book about an invisible, magical and mischievous spirit. The Boggart lives in an old Scottish castle but he accidentally gets transported to Toronto when he is gets trapped in an old desk. He has fun making mischief in his new digs but soon he feels homesick and searches for a way to get back home.
DRAGONS IN A BAG (series) by Zetta Elliott
One day, Jaxon's mom leaves him in the care of Ma, a woman who he thinks is his grandmother but is actually a witch on a baby dragon delivery mission. Ma takes him on as her apprentice and they travel to a magical world. When they are all set to return to Brooklyn, Ma is accidentally left behind and Jaxon enlists the help of his friends to take care of the baby dragons and rescue Ma.
MORE: Dragon Books for Kids
THE MAGICIAN'S BOY by Susan Cooper
A young magician's assistant waits patiently for the time when his employer will tell him he is ready to learn magic. When the magician's Saint George puppet disappears, the magician throws the boy into the "Land of Story." On his hunt to find Saint George, the boy meets familiar story book and nursery rhyme characters.
BEYOND THE PAWPAW TREES (series) by Palmer Brown
Anna Lavinia's father left home to chase a double rainbow and left behind a mysterious silver key. Anna Lavina sets off "beyond the paw paw trees" that populate the walled garden of her home in search of her dad and the meaning behind the key. Her journey starts with a marvelous train ride which takes her to a place full of wondrous inhabitants. In the sequel, The Silver Nutmeg, Anna Lavinia travels to an upside-down mirror land where instead of gravity, there is "the tingle" (!). Kids not yet ready for Harry Potter will enjoy these magical books that are reminiscent of Alice and Oz.
THE LEGEND OF HOBART by Heather Mullaly
The charming, wry humor manages to be both hilarious and moving. Hobart dreams of going to the King's School for the Education of Future Knights. He doesn't have a sponsor to nominate him, so he sets out to prove his mettle by accomplishing some heroic deeds. He can't rescue any damsels, because they already know martial arts and can save themselves. Instead, he goes on a quest to slay a dragon. But the quest ends quite unexpectedly and Hobart's deeds have us all thinking profoundly about the nature of heroism. Quietly and humorously, wonderful. Also recommended as a read aloud.
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