Fantasy books for a nine-year old girl, who likes a bit of scary stuff, and a giveaway

Today is Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day (well, why not?), and I would like to thank all the writers of science fiction and fantasy whose books I like for writing them. And I would like to thank the public library, the publishers and the writers who send me review copies, my friends and family (at least the ones who give me presents) and my employer, for making it possible for me to read them.

To celebrate today, I have a list to offer.

In my boy's third grade class, there is a girl who reminds me of my 9 year old self. She walks down the halls to class, late, her nose deep in a book (it was a Nancy Drew the day I saw her), and she exaggerates her weekly reading report (her mother had to point out to her that it was not possible for her to have read 15 hours in one day, even though it might have seemed like that much). I struck up a chat with the mother a little while ago, at Ocean/Cultures of the World museum day (after I had dutifully admiring my son's flour paste angler fish sculpture), and promised I would make a book list of fantasy books that are a bit scary for her.

This is part one of that list--books that I loved when I was that age (aka, the late 1970s). Part two, modern slightly scary fantasy books, that I wish I had had when I was young, will come soon (or whenever). When I was nine, we lived in the Bahamas, and so my list has some English books on it, that sadly never became popular over here in the US. So it is not an entirely useful list for my son's friend...but they are all such good, good books.

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken.
Moominland Midwinter, by Tove Jansen (my favorite in the series, although my son suggests Comet in Moominland)
The Talking Parcel (aka The Battle For Castle Cockatrice), by Gerald Durrell.
The Phoenix and Carpet, The Enchanted Castle, and The Story of the Amulet, my favorite E. Nesbits
Seven Day Magic, by Edward Eager (Half Magic, says my son).
Fog Magic, by Julia Sauer
The Ghosts, by Antonia Barber
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Edwards (I love this book. And I feel like I might be the only person who does).
101 Dalmations, and its sequel, The Starlight Barking, by Dodie Smith. (Forget Disney--these are great books).
The Cuckoo Clock, by Mrs. Molesworth
Marianne Dreams, by Catherine Storr (so beautifully scary....those terrifying stones....)
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle
Green Smoke, by Rosemary Manning

And finally,

The Little Broomstick, by Mary Stewart. If you haven't read this one yet, please do! It's about a lonely girl who finds herself with a magic broomstick, that takes her off to sinister school for magic. Here' s a review I wrote about it a while back.

I love The Little Broomstick. So much so, that I buy extra copies when I see them. So in honor of all the great science fiction and fantasy authors out there, I am giving one away--please leave a comment by Tuesday, June 30th, at midnight!

Does anyone else have recommendations for great fantasy books for a nine year old girl that would have been available in the late 1970s? (Like I said, I'll move forward in time with my next list...)

Here at Tor, you can find 100s of recommendations offered in response to the question “I’m thirteen, I’m a girl, and I like fantasy and some science fiction. What should I be reading?” I really am put out that I had to read the same books over and over, while kids today have so many great books to choose from.

And coincidentally, Anamaria at Books Together is looking for recommendations of "scary magical adventure books" for an almost nine-year old. I'd like to hear what people say too! I was writing my list with a girl that age in mind, but the only one that I wouldn't press on my son is The Little White Horse--I don't think he would appreciate all the lovely descriptions of clothes....


  1. How about The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle? Maybe a little hard for a nine-year-old, but I've loved it for as long as I can remember. The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs? That could be considered more than a little scary. The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren? Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH?

  2. I remember reading The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles years ago and I loved it!

  3. Thanks for the suggestions, Penny! When I read The Last Unicorn, I was 12ish, and found it too disturbing to really love. I should go back and try it again! The others I have never actually read...sigh.

    And Paradox, I'm glad I am not the only one to have loved TLOTVGW!

  4. It's been too many years since I read them so I don't remember how scary Dianna Wynne Jones' books are, but I did love Charmed Life, Power of Three, and the Lives of Christopher Chant. I also liked Susan Cooper's Greenwitch series. Another fantasy series that your young friend might like if she hasn't already read it is Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet. That series didn't come along until the eighties, but I still have students reading them constantly. And I second Penny's suggestion for John Bellairs' books for scary!

  5. I love The Little Broomstick, too! How did I miss your review of it? Here are some other fantasy books a 9 year old girl might like, from my childhood library: The Wizard in the Tree by Lloyd Alexander; The Changeling (and other books about The Land of the Green Sky which I just found out about and have not read) by Zilpha Keatley Snyder; The Secret Country and its sequels by Pamela C. Dean; and The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (1980s, I couldn't resist).

    And thank you so much for linking to my request for recommendations! Will post a list of my own soon, too.

  6. I think all of mine are English and Australian, so not sure how useful, but here goes: Eric Linklater, The Wind in the Moon; Penelope Lively, The Whispering Knights; Patricia Wrightson, the Nargun and the Stars; Ruth Park, Playing Beatie Bow; Diana Wynne Jones, The Eight Days of Luke and Wilkins Tooth; Alan Garner, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath; Dahlov Ipcar, A Dark Horn Blowing; Lloyd Alexander's Prydein series.

    It's my favourite genre, I think, slightly scary fantasy books for nine year old girls.

  7. I must have read The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles 3 or 4 times as a child (along with other "quality" fantasy). My librarian mom was rather non-plussed at my love of this book. Frankly, I'm terrified to read it now as an adult - but again, why would I need to do that when I can remember everything about it?

  8. I will add The Missing Persons League by Frank Bonham. Out of print but you can still find copies on Abe Books for a buck or so. I can't tell you how many times I read that book! Fresh in 1976. Still stands up, I think.

  9. Okay so this isn't fantasy, it's more fairytale retelling, but I loved The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. It's not scary in the slightest, unless your 9-y-o is terrified that a sensible fairy will appear and condemn her to being ordinary.

  10. You are the only person I've ever met who has read THE CUCKOO CLOCK -- I loved it (and many others on your list). I have NOT read the Gerald Durrel one and I bet I would love it, nor have I read the broomstick one. Thanks for posting this, I'm always looking for really good books....have you read MISS HAPPINESS AND MISS FLOWER by Rumer Godden (not fantasy, but...)? I think you might really like it -- but be SURE to get an edition with the full notes and illustrations by Jean Primrose. One more: GRIMBLE, by Clement Freud -- not categorizeable (if that's a word).

  11. Thank you all for the great recommendations, and for adding more to my own reading list!

    For instance, I haven't read Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, although I love Rumer Godden, nor have I read The Ordinary Princess, or lots of Penthe's suggestions, or The Missing Person's League, and I know I need to read more Tamora Pearce...whee!!!

  12. If you haven't read Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, you're in for a treat. My favorite Rumer Godden children's book (I'm still waiting for someone to build me a Japanese dollhouse. Maybe Leo will build one for Milly). The sequel is Little Plum.

  13. I would love to get my hands on _The Little Broomstick_. I just finished reading another Mary Stewart book from the 1980 to my 9 year old daughter-- _A Walk In Wolf Wood_. She loved it. It had been one of my favorites as a young girl, too. Thanks for the list!

  14. I will second Ordinary Princess and Missing Person's League, both books I read to pieces as a kid. I'll add Girl with the Silver Eyes to the list as well. And while they're not terribly scary, anything by Ruth Chew is excellent.

  15. Coming by late to give support for Penthe's Playing Beatie Bow, because not only is a good book for this age but it's also a timeslip story, which I know you're fond of!

    I adored The talking parcel when I was a child, but it sadly looks like it is out of print. Sadly for new readers, and sad for me as my copy is very old and battered!

  16. Thank you for this review. The Little Broomstick sounds delightful. My 10 year old daughter would love it. She's a Nancy Drew fan like your son's classmate. She also loves The Worst Witch stories, by Jill Murphy. Netflix has movies based on the books too.

  17. I'd second Joan Aiken if you want slightly (or more than slightly) scary fantasy. And what about L. M. Boston's Green Knowe series? Although I think some of the "scary" parts could more accurately be described as awe-inspiring (except maybe Enemy at Green Knowe).

    I'd be careful about recommending Tamora Pierce for a 9 yr old. In all of her series there's usually a romantic element in the 3rd or 4th book as the character grows up. Song of the Lioness especially. So make sure you know how the girl's parents feel about "romance" scenes. I usually recommend Circle of Magic to younger kids and the Tortall series for 12 and up.

  18. Here's a fantasy for you: Magic in the Alley by Mary Calhoun


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