In his dedication to his goddaughter, Lucy, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis wrote:
I wrote this book for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it off, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be.
This quote has always made me think of my Nana, and all the many books we shared together. So in honor of Grandparents Day, here is a list of fun fairy tale classics for those young and old enough to read together and enjoy.
Series to Share
Getting hooked on a series as a family is (in my personal opinion) one of the most amazing things ever. So if you feel like getting swept away in epic tales of adventure, here are just a couple of my favorite classic fairy tale series.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
As we kicked this post off with C.S. Lewis, the first classic fairy tale series I’ll be recommending is The Chronicles of Narnia.
While almost everyone is familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the other six books in this classic series are just as exciting and breathtakingly well told. The books tell the story of not just the victory of the Pevensie children over the White Witch, but chronicles the entire history of Narnia from beginning to end, with exciting adventures of old and new characters that populate the world with each book.
Now, there has been some dispute over what order to read these books in ever since they were republished with an actual number order on each. The original publication order of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia is listed below.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Horse and his Boy
- The Magician’s Nephew
- The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis himself is quoted as saying that if he had to choose an order to read the books in, this would be the way he would read them. However, he also says in that same quote that as he didn’t actually plan the series out beforehand, in fact he didn’t even think it would be a series at all, that it doesn’t really matter which order they are read in.
Personally, I take Lewis’s view. After all, does it really matter how you get through the wardrobe, as long as you get there together?
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
This classic series may be a little less well known than The Chronicles of Narnia, but Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence is an iconic work of fantasy. A true good vs. evil tale where the forces of the Light are always at war with the forces of the Dark, each book is its own exciting tale, falling seamlessly into the next, all leading up to an epic final battle.
The series itself centers around several characters who are destined to fight together for the Light in its current conflict with the Dark: The Drew children, Simon, Jane, and Barny, Will Stanton, Bran Davies, and Merriman Lyon who brings all the children together. Merriman is the only character that appears in all five books of the sequence, with the others appearing both together and separately throughout the series until the last book where they all come together for the final battle. The order of the books is listed below.
- Over Sea, Under Stone (9780689840357)
- The Dark is Rising (Newbery Honor, 1974) (9780689829833)
- Greenwitch (9780689840340)
- The Grey King (Newbery Medal, 1976) (9780689829840)
- Silver on the Tree (9780689840333)
While the reading order of this series is a bit more rigid than The Chronicles of Narnia as each subsequent book assumes you know things that appeared in the previous books, like C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper didn’t actually plan this to be a series. In fact almost ten years went by between her writing Over Sea, Under Stone and The Dark is Rising.
But whatever way you choose to read them, you and your reading companions will be swept away and see exactly why The Dark is Rising Sequence is still so well-loved.
Stand Alones to Share
As fun as it can be to get swallowed by a series, sometimes you are looking to get swept up in one single adventure, that doesn’t need a sequel to make it epic. So here are some awesome classic fairy tale standalones to read together.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
While there is no magic in the traditional sense, France Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden creates an atmosphere of awe and wonder akin to that of discovering a fantasy universe. Mary, our heroine, is sent to live with her absentee uncle and while searching for ways to entertain herself, discovers a secret garden to explore and escape to. It’s a delightful tale of friendship and adventure, as well as the power of imagination.
I read The Secret Garden over and over again as a young girl with my grandmother, Moppy, (that’s her and me in the photo at the top of this post) and it’s a story that has always resonated with me. Moppy would take my sister and I out into her big back yard to the rose garden and we used to pretend to find our own secret gardens when we were exploring and having spectacular imaginary adventures. It has been one of my favorite stories my entire life.Sarah
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
All of my coworkers will tell you that my favorite book is Peter Pan and while working on this post, Marielle asked me why it was my favorite, a question I hadn’t really been asked before. There are two main reasons why: when I was little my mom had cancer and I thought if I didn’t grow up, she wouldn’t get worse and possibly die (she’s alive and well today) and when I wanted to have short hair and be a tomboy, I was bullied and I would use the argument that Peter is always played by a tomboyish girl as a way to make myself feel invincible to the bullies. Ultimately while I’ve come to discover that Peter is a jerk now that I’m one of the dreaded grown ups, Peter Pan and Neverland were always a wonderful place to escape to when I was little.
Both of my grandmothers grew up during World War II, one in Nuremberg, Germany, the other in Philadelphia. Both of them could overwhelmingly relate to the idea of wanting to escape, to run away, from the circumstances of their childhoods. When I became obsessed with Peter Pan as a child, they both indulged me; my Grandma letting me watch the many film adaptations over and over (the Mary Martin Broadway production is my favorite), and Moppy by acting out the story with me whenever I asked. I take great delight these days in telling the story of our basement stage productions, with my best friend, a boy, playing Wendy, and our little sisters playing John and Michael while I was, of course Peter Pan. My parents, uncle, and Moppy alternated the villainous roles of Mr. Darling, Captain Hook, and the crocodile. Pretending to fly like Peter never failed to offer hours of entertainment for elementary school me.Sarah
So dear readers young and old alike, whether you want to jump into a series or head off into one spectacular adventure that stands on its own these books are a great place to start.
Now, go gather your grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren and start your own epic quest in a Read Aloud for the whole family.
Happy Grandparents’ Day from all of us here at the Towne Book Center!