My son loved the Percy Jackson series. I’ll admit, it’s not my favorite series in the world, but I’ll give it this: it’s fast paced, adventure-laden and Rick Riordan’s writing style has serious kid appeal. I’m not complaining. It’s also one of those gateway books and I am all for that. So, if your children liked The Lighting Thief and the other Riordan books, here are some reading recommendations to hand out while they are flushed with a love for reading.
Let me assure you these are not all books about Greek mythology. In fact only one (aside from the other Riordan titles) has anything to do with ancient mythology. Plus, I didn’t just choose books that are “Like Percy Jackson.” I’m all for getting kids to read different kinds of books and genres! The thread that holds these chapter books together: they are fast paced stories of kids (or in one case, cats) on life changing, suspenseful adventures. Some are fantasy, some are even historical fiction. They are all terrific.
MORE: I purposefully made this list entirely different from my What to Read After Harry Potter list so please check out that list for more titles along these lines!
(Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Kane Chronicles, and Heroes of Olympus. Here’s the thing. I have not read any other of Rick Riordan’s series. I do not plan to. However, my 10 year old has read every single one. He has read them all at least twice. He says they are great. When I asked him for further details, he maintained that the plot of all the series was essentially the same except that instead of Greek mythology the books take place in Norse, Egyptian and Roman mythological worlds, respectively. So there you go. If your kids like Percy Jackson, they are sure to like the authors other series.
The Fog Diver by Joel Ross. Both my son and I tore through this book. In a world where a deadly fog covers most of the earth, the population lives high on the mountains. A boy named Chess, with fog in eyes, has the uncanny ability to survive in the fog. He and his friends scavenge for goods from past worlds by diving off a floating boat. They are determined to save their adoptive mother, who is suffering from fog sickness but Lord Kodoc is on the hunt for Chess, whose abilities he both fears and desires for his own purposes. This may all sound very melodramatic, but it makes for a very exciting story. Don’t forget the follow up book: The Lost Compass.
The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey (Trilogy). Jaxter Grimjinx is the eldest son in a family of thieves. When a trick goes bad and magical misfortunate starts to rain down on the city, Jaxter sets off to find the ingredients to counteract the spell. This is a great book full of interesting characters, magical moments and lots of suspense. I’ve read the first in the series, my son raced through the first two and is now eagerly awaiting the final book in the trilogy, which he has on hold at the library.
Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen by Eve Yohalem. I just finished reading this historical fiction novel. In 17th Century Holland, Petra runs away from her abusive father and accidentally ends up as a stowaway on a merchant vessel headed towards the Dutch Indies. A mulatto boy, Bram, helps her to disguise herself as a boy and Petra uses her healing knowledge to help the ship’s surgeon. She gains the trust of the crew but when they discover she is a girl at the same time a mutiny takes hold, both she and Bram find themselves in grave danger. This is an extremely suspenseful novel with vivid descriptions of life on a 17th century ship. (Let’s just say, I’m really appreciating my tiny apartment right about now.)
The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein. Billy is spending the summer with his mom. While she works on her dissertation, Billy explores the library of Dr. Libris, whose house they are renting. Strange things start to happen. He starts to hear sounds as if the books have come to life. When he rows out to a mysterious island he finds all the characters come to life, in what turns out to be a bizarre experiment in imagination run by Dr. Libris. I found the plot to be a crazy jumble of events, but my son really enjoyed it.
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. (Trilogy) There is definitely some dark imagery in this subversive re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel. A sly and snarky narrator offers warnings, observations and opinions on the action. This story in which the siblings journey on to try and find a set of decent parents somehow manages to merge 8 different Grimm fairy tales into one cohesive tale. An engaging story, but not for the faint of heart.
Mark of the Thief. I put Jennifer A. Nielsen’s False Prince trilogy on my list of books that Harry Potter fans will enjoy, and this is the first book in what is proving to be an equally engaging series. Nic and his sister are slaves in mines just outside of Ancient Rome. When Nic discovers an ancient bulla that once belonged to Julius Caesar, the bulla infuses him with a power. He becomes both a target and a pawn in a political conspiracy. I am on pins and needles for the second book, Rise of the Wolf, to be published in January!
The Apothecary (Series) by Maile Meloy. This is fantastic and both my son and I are awaiting the third book, due out shortly. The action is set in 1952 against the backdrop of the cold war. In London, 14 year old Janie befriends Benjamin, the son of a mysterious apothecary. Benjamin wants to be a spy and enlists Janie in his efforts. When his father disappears, Janie and Benjamin get caught up in a plot involving a magical book called the Pharmacopoeia, spells which allow humans to turn into birds, Russian spies, and unbelievable potions. I couldn’t put it down!
Al Capone Does My Shirts (series) by Gennifer Choldenko. Unlike most of the books on this list, there is no fantasy element to this novel — no magic potions, no alternate universes or mythological creatures. It’s just plain good fun. The year is 1935 and 12 year old Moose and his family move to Alcatraz after his father gets a job there. Moose’s older sister is autistic and their mother attempts to get her into a special school while Moose gets wrapped up with crazy money-making schemes dreamed up by the warden’s daughter. This is fast-paced, realistic fiction that has big heart and big humor.
The Giver (Giver Quartet) by Lois Lowry. 12 year old Jonas lives in “The Community” in which sameness is valued and everyone’s life is pre-determined by the elders. Jonas learns the truth, however, when he is designated as the next “Receiver of Memory”, the only person who is allowed to learn about the past and the outside world. There are some heavy issues in the book, but the message is clear: freedom for people to learn and follow their own path, despite pain and chaos, are more valuable than ignorance and safety. That’s a lesson I want to teach my kids.
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet). This classic series hardly needs an introduction. If your kids have read Percy Jackson and the other Riordan series, and they haven’t yet read L’Engle’s books, give them a copy of this timeless book.
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keattey Snyder. This Newbery Honor book is on many “top kid novels of all time” lists. A group of friends hang out near an old curio shop and engage in some imaginary world building. Mysterious and suspenseful, it will be especially loved by kids who like all things Egyptian.
Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santo and David Teague. This story is historical fiction mixed in with a bit of magic. Margaret’s family has a secret: they can time travel. Margaret has made a promise never to use this power, but when her father is wrongly sent to jail she breaks her promise. Margaret goes back to 1938 when the local mining corporation was exploiting the workers and a union movement is gaining steam. She hopes to affect the events which led to the young Lucas Biggs to turn into the heartless Judge Biggs who sentenced her father to death.
Holes. Stanley is sent to a boy’s detention camp, where boys are sentenced to digging 5 foot holes all day in an effort to build their character and reform their ways. Stanely and the other boys come to realize that the rattlesnake nail polish-wearing warden of the center is actually using the boys to look for long lost buried treasure. Quirky and ironic storytelling has made Louis Sachar’s award winning book a modern classic.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 If I put this book on enough lists, eventually everyone’s kid will read it! Well-behaved 9 year old Kenny and his not-so-well behaved 13 year old brother, Byron, navigate family (the “Weird Watsons” as Kenny refers to them) and school life in Michigan until their parents decide that Byron needs to spend the summer with Grandma down in Alabama. Together they set off on a road trip. Shortly after arriving in Birmingham that community is devastated by the infamous church bombing. Curtis handles the theme of racial tension so well (and it’s not the main focus of the book, family life is the main theme), that I have no reservations recommending this book for kids ages 8 and up.
Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier by Ying Chang and Vinson Compestine. In 1970s Maoist China, 13 year old Ming and his family lives in a remote village. Local farmers uncover a terracotta statue that comes to life and talks to Ming. Ming and the statue uncover a plan that will destroy Ming’s father so Ming braves the tomb (in a sort of Indiana Jones kind of way) in order to protect his father as well as the cultural legacy of the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution. Because of the complex political references in the book, I’m recommending this for ages 10 and up. But it is very exciting.
Warriors (and numerous spin-off series) by Erin Hunter. Okay, I have not read these books. They are about clans of cat warriors, and that is all I have to say about that. However, my son and all his friends have DEVOURED them. And there are several spin off series, all containing zillions of books. So, I imagine if your children have not yet encountered the Warrior series, check a few out at the library.
Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer. (Series) It’s been a really long time since I read this book, and I’m rather surprised that I’ve not mentioned it before. It was actually my husband who told me about Artemis many years ago. This is a science fiction series about a teenage criminal mastermind. Artemis starts out as an anti-hero, capturing an important fairy and trying to restore his family’s fortune. But things don’t go exactly has he planned. (They never do, do they?)
- Books for 10 Year Olds
- Books for 11 Year Olds
- Fairy Tale Chapter Books (No Princesses!)
- Classic Books for Tweens
- Books for kids who like the Warriors series
- Books for kids who like The Chronicles of Narnia
I publish a new book list every Monday. See them all in our book for kids index, and subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss future editions.
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