(edited to add: here's a more recent list of fantasy books I'd recommend to a nine-year old boy)
My nine-year old is a picky reader. When he has a book that he wants to read, he reads it, deaf to the world. But in between those books are days upon days when nothing suits him. Like someone taming a wild animal, I leave books scattered around the house, hoping that one or two will be acceptable offerings....
So for parents of children such as mine, who love reading fantasy but aren't quite ready for the big-time tomes such as Harry Potter, here's a quick list of some of the books that truly clicked for him this past year.
The Last Dragon (Dragon Speaker, 1), by Cheryl Rainfield. A medieval adventure that is purposfully written to combine high interest with a low reading level (my review).
Keyholders #1: This Side of Magic, and its three sequels, by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones. Two ordinary kids get caught up in a world of magic (my review).
The Daring Adventures of Penhaligon Brush, by S. Jones Rogan. The story of a brave fox (my son's thoughts at his own blog.)
Flight of the Phoenix (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book I), by R.L. La Fevers. A young boy finds that he is one of a long line of beastiologistis, and sets out with his aunt on a fantastic quest. A fun and fascinating read, with a tremdously appealing cover to boot.
Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaimen. A brave boy faces a frost giant who has transformed the most powerful of the Viking gods into animals (my review).
Rapunzel's Revenge, by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale. Rapunzul's free at last--and she wants revenge! A great graphic novel.
And most recently, and rather surprisingly, the three volumes of The Chronicles of Kendra Kandlestar, by Lee Edward Fodi. Volume three of this series, Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard From Greeve (Brown Books, 2009, 328 pp) was nominated for the Cybils, and a review copy came my way. Of the multitudes of middle grade fantasy books that filled our house this fall, this was the one that attracted my son's attention the most. So I got him the first two books (Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers is the first one)....and he was hooked. These are indeed beautiful books as physical objects--substantial, slightly oversized, illustrated. And even though I would not have gotten them for him myself (because they look like girl books) he loves them. I've read the third book (for the Cybils); come January I'll try to write a real review....
In the meantime, I have to get back to my own reading....twelve more books to go for the Cybils! (and speaking of which, the Amazon links here are set up to benefit the Cybils).