Tag: jonathan rogers

14 Fantasy Stories That Nourish the Soul

A quick note before we get started: you can still enter the Slugs and Bugs giveaway! I have two copies of Sing the Bible, Vol. 3 to give to two of you. You can enter to win one of them here.

That is all.


Good fantasy stories have always felt to me like feasts worth savoring. Those are the stories I reread every few years, the ones that make sense of our world by introducing me to worlds utterly different from ours. I was never able to pinpoint exactly why that should be, though, until I encountered this passage in GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy:

When we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. . . . These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.

There is something about the delightful aspects of other worlds that makes our own seem more miraculous. We live in a world made from words, and it is filled with lemon-yellow tanagers, intricate columbine, and bugs that, when nudged, roll into armored balls. Is that less amazing that a world where the housework is finished with a wand? On the days when we’re folding laundry by hand, not magic, it seems so. But the best stories remind us of those moments when we first saw snow fall from the sky, and it seemed that anything could happen.

14 Fantasy Stories That Nourish the Soul | Little Book, Big Story

I must point out, of course, that not all fantasy stories are good or beautiful. But there are so many that point toward the beauty of our world, toward the beauty of order (sometimes by contrasting it with chaos), in a way that makes young readers hungry for the good and beautiful. This list features many of my favorites—the stories I reread every few years and share eagerly with my daughters. I hope you find a few new favorites here, too.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis | Little Book, Big Story

What better place to start a list of adventures than with The Chronicles of Narnia? This series has children all over the world tapping at the back of closets, hoping—just hoping—to reach Narnia. C.S. Lewis was adept at writing in a half dozen different literary genres, but he shines when writing for children. (Read the full review.)

The Peter Nimble Series, by Jonathan Auxier

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier | Little Book, Big Story

This series begins with the story of Peter Nimble, a boy blinded as a baby when ravens pecked out his eyes. It continues with the story of Sophie Quire, a bookmender mending books in a city that burns nonsense. But this is not dark, heavy reading. There is exuberance here, and light and bravery and courage! There’s an enchanted horse-cat-knight and a vanished kingdom and a professor named Cake. (Read the full review.)

See also: The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge | Little Book, Big Story

It is not a coincidence that one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite books landed on our shelves and became one of our favorites, too. In it, Maria Merryweather finds herself in the wonderful (and mysterious) valley surrounding Moonacre Manor. Adventure of the loveliest sort ensues. (Read the full review.)

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien | Little Book, Big Story

This classic is the granddaddy of the fantasy genre. Bilbo Baggins—not merely “a” hobbit, but The Hobbit, the first hobbit—steps out his front door without a handkerchief and finds the world of Middle Earth far bigger than he expected. (Read the full review.)

See also: The Lord of the Ringsby JRR Tolkien

The 100 Cupboards Series, by ND Wilson

The 100 Cupboards series, by ND Wilson | Little Book, Big Story

Henry York discovers ninety-nine cupboards of varying sizes and shapes hidden under the plaster of his bedroom wall. Each door leads to a different place, including (but not limited to) Endor, Byzanthamum, Arizona. The first book in this trilogy is fun (and delightfully creepy); the second and third books are unforgettable. (Read the full review.)

See also: Anything else ND Wilson has ever written.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton | Little Book, Big Story

Quirky and charming, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic introduces us to Persimmony Smudge, the perfectly named heroine of Trafton’s adventure. When she learns that her island is in danger, she sets out to warn the other islanders, but they don’t believe her. (Can you blame them?) This is wonderful read-aloud for all ages. (Read the full review.)

See also: Henry and the Chalk Dragonby Jennifer Trafton

The Redwall Series, by Brian Jacques

The Redwall Books, by Brian Jacques | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah is currently at work on an “about me” book: you know, “I was born,” “I started school,” and so on. It may not surprise you to learn that “Lydia discovers Redwall” is one of the milestones she saw fit to include, as well as “I finished the Redwall series.” That’s a snapshot of our family’s affection for these books. (Read the full review.)

The Green Ember Series, by SD Smith

In a few short pages, Heather and Picket (both young bunnies) lose everything and find themselves adrift in a wood corrupted by war. Where will they go next? What will become of them? S.D. Smith tells a story that reads like a modern novel, but is, at its heart, an old-fashioned tale of honor, courage, and hope. There are five books in the series now (not pictured: The Last Archer and Ember Rising), but I’m behind on my reviews! Egad! (Read the full review.)

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Trilogy, by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (Trilogy), by Grace Lin | Little Book, Big Story

Grace Lin’s trilogy is a mixed media collage: fantasy, fairy tale, and historical fiction all overlap to create story infused with the colors, flavors, and textures of Lin’s Chinese and Taiiwanese heritage. These books are beautiful from the first page of the first book to the last page of the last one. (Read the full review.)

A Wrinkle in Time Quartet, by Madeliene L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle | Little Book, Big Story

I have reread A Wrinkle in Time every few years since I was in college, and there is a good reason for that. It’s a beautiful book, and the three subsequent books don’t disappoint. (The remaining four books do disappoint a bit, though. Alas.) (Read the full review.)

The Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers

The Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers | Little Book, Big Story

Jonathan Rogers retells the story of King David, but in a swampy, fantastic setting, and he gets it just right. (It’s worth reading this trilogy just to meet Feechies.) These books also make a great introduction to fantasy for kids who are a bit sensitive, because they aren’t as intense as many other fantasy stories can be. And they are excellent. (Read the full review.)

The Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling

The Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling | Little Book, Big Story

If The Hobbit is one of the grand-daddies of the fantasy genre, then Harry Potter is the father of the genre as we know it today. J.K. Rowling’s series displays beautifully the contrast between a character who cultivates a mighty gift for good and one who exploits his gift for his own ends. And it does make one hungry for trifle. (Read the full review.)

Breadcrumbsby Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu | Little Book, Big Story

Anne Ursu retells the story of the Snow Queen here, but in an inventive way. Her world is a dreamy, almost-creepy fairy-tale land that merges with the recognizable world in surprising ways. She also deals quietly with issues of divorce and cross-cultural adoption in this book. How one book manages to be all those things, I don’t know, but this one does and it’s beautiful. (Read the full review.)

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson

The Wingfeather Saga & Wingfeather Tales | Little Book, Big Story

This series is one of my favorites. I cannot speak glowingly enough about it. Go forth and read all four books (and don’t forget to finish the feast with Wingfeather Tales!). (Read the full review.)


Have I missed any of your favorites? Which fantasy books do you love and return to?

Wingfeather Tales | Andrew Peterson (Editor)

There’s a spot on our porch I check every time I come home—to the left of the door, on the girls’ stripey chair. If I’m going to get a package, that’s where it will be, and if there is a package there, then it is probably full of books. There have been a lot of packages there lately, because, as I write, it’s nearly Christmas and I loathe going to stores (I drank the online shopping Kool-Aid early and never looked back).

But a few weeks ago, I found a package on the stripey chair that said not “Amazon Fulfillment Center” on the return address but “The Rabbit Room,” and I knew that something very, very good was about to happen to me.

I was right. Stickers and posters and patches happened, as well as a signed paperback copy of The Warden and the Wolf King. Happy little girls with their hands full of stickers and posters and patches happened. But I dug into the package looking for one thing and one thing only: Wingfeather Tales.

Wingfeather Tales, ed. Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

When Andrew Peterson ran his most recent Kickstarter campaign, one of the stretch goals was this collection of short stories set in Anniera, but written by a handful of my favorite authors and illustrators (if you’ve read anything by them, then they’re probably your favorites, too): ND Wilson, Jennifer Trafton, John Hendrix, Justin Gerard, Jonathan Rogers, to name a few.

That, I thought, looking at the line-up, is going to be awesome. But even with “awesome” as my starting point, I still completely underestimated Wingfeather Tales.

The Wingfeather Saga & Wingfeather Tales | Little Book, Big Story

The stories the authors turned out differ wildly in tone and style: some are comic, some epic, one is a narrative poem, one is a novella so devastating that I still can’t think about it without feeling an uncomfortable tightness in my throat. At least two of the stories cleverly link Anniera up with the worlds of other beloved books; one tells a story we’ve all been wanting to hear. The authors clearly enjoyed being set loose in the world of the Wingfeather Saga.

The Wingfeather Saga & Wingfeather Tales | Little Book, Big Story

I think I expected this book to be a fun sort of honorary member of the series, maybe a collection of extra material that would be pleasant to read, if not as good as the saga itself—sort of what Chronicles of Avonlea is to the Anne of Green Gables series. But Wingfeather Tales is its own beautiful contribution to the Wingfeather canon, so vivid and enjoyable that I can’t imagine rereading the full saga without re-reading the Tales, too. And that is beyond awesome.


Wingfeather Tales
Ed. Andrew Peterson (2016)

The Wilderking Trilogy | Jonathan Rogers

“I like mysteries because they’re scary, but you always know they’ll turn out right.”

So said our eldest child, not realizing that her words ushered in a new era of reading for our family. This era—in which we can read about the defeat of Voldemort, Smaug and Gnag the Nameless without sending little ones to bed with the kindling for nightmares—is one that I have looked forward to for a very long time. I have hoarded stories for it in the hope that, when this new era dawned, we’d be prepared, and though Lydia made her observation casually over breakfast, I spent the better part of the next two weeks pulling this book and that one off the shelf, wondering if she might be ready (at last!) for The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. Or The Hobbit. Perhaps The Wingfeather SagaMaybe?

But at the same time, I was reading The Wilderking Trilogy myself and enjoying it immensely, so I started there: I nonchalantly handed her the first volume and asked her to tell me what she thought.

She appeared at my elbow an hour later and wondered if I had, perhaps, finished the second book yet.

The Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers | Little Book, Big Story

Jonathan Rogers’ books are set in the fictional realm of Corenwald and follow the story of young Aidan Errolson, who confronts gators, meets feechiefolk, and receives a surprising message from Bayard the Truthsayer. Aidan’s story is a retelling of the story of King David, hitting the major plot points but interpreting each one with a swampy, fantastical touch.

I loved the books from start to finish, with just one reservation: in the whole series, there are less than a half dozen female characters, and none of them stick in the story for more than a few pages—even the crowd scenes are notably devoid of ladies. I didn’t know what to make of this, especially given the fact that there are a few fascinating women to choose from in the biblical account of David’s life (see: Michal and Abigail). The good news, though, is that my daughter was so caught up in the story that she didn’t even notice the absence of girls—and for a girl who loves fancy things and books with ringletted heroines, that’s saying something.

The Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers | Little Book, Big Story

The Wilderking Trilogy, then, is a great series for kids who, like Lydia, are just dipping their toes into the exciting sea of adventure and fantasy stories, and who may have, like Lydia, turned eight this past week (and celebrated with freshly pierced ears and a trip to The Trampoline Zone—though not in that order). They’re action-packed but not too intense, and some of the characters are profoundly memorable (see: Errol and Dobro). And they are hilarious—perfect fodder for a summer read-aloud.

Update (5/22/18)

We read this series aloud as a family, and do you know who else noticed the absence of girls? No one. But who loved the books, got all the jokes, and can’t wait to read them again? Everyone! In fact, I loved these books even more after reading them aloud (those Feechie accents are fun). So, I may have been needlessly picky in my review and that needed clearing up.


The Wilderking Trilogy
Jonathan Rogers (2014)

Saint Patrick | Jonathan Rogers

I found my copy of Saint Patrick  in the vast and vaguely arranged “Religion” section of my favorite used bookstore, and based upon the cover, size and topic of the book, I expected a snappy, action-packed narrative—the man was captured by pirates, after all. What I found instead was a drier, somewhat academic story, with details on the relationship between Ireland, England and the Roman Empire. There were pirates, but not of the swash-buckling sort. High seas, but not a whole lot of adventure upon them.

So why, you ask, do I recommend a book that I just described with words like “dry” and “academic”? For that, I refer you to Charlotte Mason:

It is a great thing to possess a pageant of history in the background of one’s thoughts. We may not be able to recall this or that circumstance, but “the imagination is warmed” . . . The present becomes enriched with the wealth of all that has gone before.

– quoted in When Children Love to Learn, ed. Elaine Cooper

Saint Patrick | Little Book, Big Story

Reading biographies to our children is a great way to color this “pageant of history,” and biographies like Saint Patrick, though not dressed up for quick consumption, contain the depth and detail that make a figure’s story breathe. This book is only half biography, with the last half of  the book dedicated to Saint Patrick’s own writing. That was a treat: I found it quite enjoyable to read his works with the memory of his biography fresh in my mind.

Saint Patrick | Little Book, Big Story

Some of you have kids who will love reading Patrick’s story straight from the pages of this chapter book, while others have children who might benefit more if you read it for yourself and then livened it up by telling the story aloud. Either way, the faithfulness of God runs right through the middle of Patrick’s life, and his obedience sowed seeds that bore a bounty of fruit over the course of generations. His is a story worth remembering, and I’m thankful that a series like “Christian Encounters” puts the biographies of figures like John Bunyan, Jane Austen and Isaac Newton upon our family’s shelves.


Saint Patrick
Jonathan Rogers (2010)