You don’t have to be too grown-up to imagine yourself in a gorgeous fantasy world filled with elves, dragons, fairies, and hero-eating beasts. You just have to be old enough to listen to a bedtime story. These five picture book picks are brimming with magic and adventure, and just might be your kids’ first foray into fantasy. These tales might even inspire them to play or create their own worlds and escapades in Dungeons & Dragons one day, or kick off a lifelong love of the fantasy genre.
Come to the Fairies’ Ball
This beautifully illustrated tale by Jane Yolen and Gary Lippincott puts readers in an enchanted forest where the king and queen of the fairies invite one and all to an extravagant ball. Fairies in this book are both winged and wingless (bearing a striking resemblance to elves), and each page has something new to discover in the fantastical art.
Come to the Fairies’ Ball is also a spin on the classic Cinderella tale, but instead of a fairy godmother coming to the rescue, the distressed fairy who needs a gown for the ball saves the day herself.
This tale of bravery and adventure, written by Allan Baillie and illustrated by Wayne Harris, actually starts in a way that a D&D undertaking might begin: “Come on! You’ll be a hero, a great warrior, and epic knight.”
As the narrator and reader embark on their journey, they’ll encounter snarling monsters and spooky forests teeming with wicked witches and werewolves. As a result, DragonQuest is probably best suited for older kids, who will appreciate the detailed drawings and twist ending.
Glubbery Gray, The Knight-Eating Beast
This lighthearted story by Beth Kander and Bret Kenyon, illustrated by Jesse Labbé, is both a counting lesson and a hilarious cautionary tale. A triumphant party returns from capturing a ferocious beast, but they’re too busy celebrating to notice it’s eating them one by one during the journey home. The silly rhymes and cartoon characters of Glubbery Gray The Knight-Eating Beast will give kids the giggles and spark imaginations.
There might not be any words in Journey, but Aaron Becker’s dazzling illustrations tell the tale all by themselves. A girl discovers that all she needs to embark on an adventure is her imagination and a pencil—sound familiar, D&D fans?
The elaborate illustrations are meant to be pored over, with excitement, enchantment, and a little bit of danger lurking on every vibrant page. And the book’s sequel, Quest, shows kids what any D&D player knows: an adventure is always more fun with a friend.
Spells, a whimsical tale from Emily Gravett, puts magic at kids’ fingertips. A small frog happens upon a spell book, but the pages are mixed up and torn in pieces. Can he put together just the right spell to turn into a handsome prince? Kids will love creating their own spells to see what happens to the hapless frog in this picture book that can be read time and time again.
Do you have a favorite bedtime tale of fantasy and heroics? Let us know your picks in the comments!
Featured image credit: Journey by Aaron Becker, © Candlewick
All other images courtesy © Candlewick, Pelican Publishing, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and WordSong