If you loved: The Chronicles of Narnia

1024 683 Writer and the Wolf Editorial

A blog series hunting out modern middle grade and YA fiction for authors who need to update their knowledge of the kidlit market but aren’t sure how to move beyond the traditional ‘classic’ cannon and their own childhood favourites. Because children and their books aren’t the same as they used to be!

Title: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Author: C.S. Lewis | Published: 1950 | Genre: Fantasy

A book that crops up at least once a month in my author questionnaires is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series published in the UK in the 1950s. It’s a hugely popular novel amongst lots of the writers I work with who adored it as kids and were inspired to go on and write their own magical stories for children. That’s fantastic! Any book that sparks a love of literature and gets you fired up to write your own novel is special and I’m so pleased it brought you here! Remember, though, that the children’s book market has changed A LOT since 1950 and The Chronicles of Narnia series isn’t a great indication of what’s being published now and how you might hook an agent with your own manuscript.

If you’re going to explore the modern children’s fiction market (which you absolutely must if you’re querying your novel), why not start with one of your childhood favourites and go from there?

I was going to go hunting for some great modern readalikes for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for you but then I came across this excellent BookTrust article and didn’t think I could do much better myself! So, have a read through this and start building your TBR pile. I’ve picked out a few of their suggestions below but check out the article for more detail.

Some of these books are older than I’d usually recommend but many are the first in a series so their sequels will be more relevant for today’s market.

If you loved: The Chronicles of NarniaThe Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
Published by Chicken House on 07/07/2016
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / General
Pages: 320

Arianwyn fluffs her witch's assessment - instead of qualifying, she's declared an apprentice and sent to remote Lull in disgrace. Then her arch-enemy, mean girl Gimma, arrives on holiday determined to make her life a misery. But as a mysterious darkness begins to haunt her spells, Arianwyn realizes there's much more than her pride at stake ...

If you loved: The Chronicles of NarniaThe Polar Bear Explorers' Club by Alex Bell
Published by Faber & Faber on 31/10/2017
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic, Juvenile Nonfiction / Animals / General
Pages: 336

It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer - tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk - but Stella really, really didn't want that to happen, just the same.
Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .
When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?
A gorgeously imaginative middle grade fantasy adventure combining the best of Peter Pan, Lemony Snicket, Northern Lights and Alice in Wonderland.
'A magical adventure of friendship, bravery and derring-do in a richly imagined world.' The Bookseller
'A fantastic frosty adventure.' Sunday Express
'Wintry, atmospheric, highly imaginative fantasy.' Metro
'The most huggable book of the year . . . An (iced) gem.' SFX

If you loved: The Chronicles of NarniaPrisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on 23/08/2017
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 282

Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the crown prince. Her parents are outcasts from the royal court, her sister is banished for theft of a national treasure, and now Valor has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Demidova, a prison built from stone and ice.But that's exactly where she wants to be. For her sister was sent there too, and Valor embarks on an epic plan to break her out from the inside.No one has escaped from Demidova in over three hundred years, and if Valor is to succeed she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If the plan fails, she faces a chilling fate worse than any prison ...An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable.

If you loved: The Chronicles of NarniaThe Lost Magician by Piers Torday
Published by Hachette UK on 06/09/2018
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 384

'If you can imagine it, it exists ... somewhere.' The new spellbinding fantasy adventure from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Last Wild trilogy.

1945. They have survived the Blitz, but when Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry step through a mysterious library door, it is the beginning of their most dangerous adventure yet. They discover the magical world of Folio, where an enchanted kingdom of fairy knights, bears and tree gods is under threat from a sinister robot army.

The many stories of the Library are locked in eternal war, and the children's only hope is to find their creator - a magician who has been lost for centuries.

What they find will change not just their own lives, but the fate of the world, for ever ...

An ode to the world of Narnia, The Lost Magician is a classic in the making from one of the UK's most talented children's authors.

Praise for Piers Torday:
'the new master of books for children who like magic and modernity with their lust for adventure' - The Times

If you loved: The Chronicles of NarniaTwelve Nights by Andrew Zurcher
Published by Penguin UK on 05/04/2018
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 448

Twelve Nights is the perfect fantasy novel for fans of the magical worlds of Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett.


Kay felt everything change in the room around her.


Kay's father is working late- as usual. Fed up, her mother bundles Kay and her sister into the car, and drives to his Cambridge college to collect him.

But, the staff say nobody by his name has ever worked there.

When they return home, Kay discovers a card left on her pillow:

Will O. de Wisp, Gent. F.H.S.P. and Phillip R. T. Gibbet, Gent. F.H.S.P. K.Bith. REMOVALS.

That night, Kay is woken by voices at her window: the voices of Will and Phillip, the Removers. But they are not human. And Kay shouldn't be able to see them. Except she can...


Andrew Zurcher has created a world as captivating as Lyra's Oxford and Alice's Wonderland. Join Kay and the Removers on their incredible journey.

If you loved: The Chronicles of NarniaDragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas
Published by Canongate Books on 06/04/2017
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Action & Adventure / General
Pages: 352

IF YOU HAD SECRET MAGICAL POWERS, HOW WOULD YOU KNOW? After the Worldquake, Effie knows about magic - time in her grandfather's library has made sure of that. But there's still much she has to learn. About the Otherworld. And about the Diberi, a secret organisation with plans to destroy the entire universe. Effie and her school-friends are the only ones who can stop them . . . and time is running out.

If you loved: The Chronicles of NarniaThe Wild Folk by Sylvia Linsteadt
Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd on 31/05/2018
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 416

In the land of Farallone, City boy Tin and Country girl Comfrey are guided on a quest by two young hares.

Their task is to save the mystical Wild Folk from destruction. But the Wild Folk don't trust humans, and the children face impossible challenges and meet extraordinary creatures as they battle to save the land they love.

A timeless and magical fantasy adventure.

If you loved: The Chronicles of NarniaNevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Special Edition) by Jessica Townsend
on 14/01/2020
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 512

An instant New York Times bestseller!
"A Harry Potter-esque adventure." --Time Magazine
A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world--but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks--and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart--an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests--or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
Perfect for fans of the Harry Potter series and Neil Gaiman, this fast-paced plot and imaginative world has a fresh new take on magic that will appeal to a new generation of readers.

If you want to explore further, check out portal fantasies – a subgenre of fantasy where the protagonist enters a new world via some sort of door or object (like a wardrobe!). If you were drawn to the Christian themes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe you could browse some modern middle grade and YA Christian fiction.

Thanks so much for reading, lovely writer! Want empowering, feel-good writing chat and fairy dust in your inbox? Plus receive a PDF of my recommended writing craft books for children’s and YA writers (including go-to genre guides and Children’s Lit MA reading list) AND £20 Wolf Credit to spend with me! Sign up today!

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes