For the past year or two, I’ve been reading Harry Potter to my seven year old daughter for a bedtime story. It started out at about her level, but by the fifth book it’s definitely at a teen level because of dark themes, including sadism and torture. (Professor Umbridge, I’m looking at you.) We’re up to the last book, and I’m avoiding it. Not just for the adult themes, but also for fear of what to read when we’re done. After all, when she’s misbehaving, the only threat that always works is to threaten that we won’t read Harry Potter that night.
Happily, my friend and coworker suggested The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. It’s the first of a four-book series about a no-nonsense girl named Tiffany Aching who wants to be a witch, and how she teams up with a band of fairies whose three skills are fighting, drinking, and stealing.
That was the first book I’ve ever found that can compete with Harry Potter. And boy have I tried. We’re already on the second book (A Hat Full of Sky), and I’m not sure which series she’ll want to finish first.
If you have a child under the age of 10 who has not yet read all the Harry Potter books, I strongly recommend The Wee Free men as a speed bump after the first two books.