Thoughtful Thursday: You’re simply the best!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsI was scrolling through my Facebook news feed when I saw an interesting post: A link to a news article with the comment by my friend, “I can’t believe they didn’t include Harry!” Several other people had commented agreeing that no Harry was a huge oversight. My curiosity piqued, I clicked the link to discover The Guardian‘s list of top ten heroes from children’s books (it’s a slideshow). Now, this is a list chosen from all children’s fiction, and not just fantasy, but I was surprised to see that Lyra Belaqua from Phillip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials was the only character from a fantasy novel. And while I may not insist on Harry Potter being on there – I always thought Neville was the true hero of those stories – I did not agree with the inclusion of Lyra (I wasn’t that impressed with The Golden Compass, honestly) and thought that there would be other better heroes to be picked from among the ranks of fantasy greats.

In no particular order, my list:

  1. Harimad Sol, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  2. Princess Cimorene, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede
  3. Sadima and Hahp, A Resurrection of Magic series by Kathleen Duey
  4. Lucy, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  5. James, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  6. Sandry, Tris, Daja and Briar; The Circle of Magic quartet by Tamora Pierce
  7. Menolly, Dragonsong and Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
  8. Meg Murray, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  9. Will Stanton, The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper
  10. Neville Longbottom, Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

(Note to self: Must write reviews for The Blue Sword, James and the Giant Peach, and the Dragonsong books.)

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSo, dear readers, I ask you, what do you think of this list? Have I not included your favorite character? Do I have impeccable taste? Have I included someone so insufferable that you feel you must lob a crusty roll at my head in protest? If you had to pick a top ten list of children’s and YA fantasy heroes, who would it have to include?

We’ll include you in a drawing to win a copy of Bite Me: A Love Story by Christoper Moore, a decidedly not YA novel which Stephen loved and reviewed. If that doesn’t float your boat, you can also pick a book from our stacks.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. I can totally see why they didn’t choose Harry, actually. And I’m surprised they chose Lyra. I liked The Golden Compass but never made it through the second book for a number of reasons…one of them being that Lyra (who I initially thought of as a pretty strong character) becomes totally subservient to the male protagonist that appears.


    1. Alanna, The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

    2. Magpie Windwitch, Dreamdark Series by Laini Taylor

    3. Percy Jackson, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

    4. Briar Moss, the Circle books by Tamora Pierce

    5. Daine Sarrasri, The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce

    6. Cimorene, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

    7. Cara Hunter, The Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville

    8. Sophie Hatter, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

    I don’t think I can think of anymore right now. But so far, after about 12 years of fantasy books, no one has beaten out Alanna. I doubt anyone ever will.

  2. I hated Lyra. What an annoying character. Some others to consider:

    * Coraline, Coraline by Neil Gaiman
    * Bod, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    * Liesel Meminger, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (not really fantasy)
    * Holly Short, Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer (not human…does the hero have to be a child to count?)
    * Will Parker, The Tripods series by John Christopher

  3. Neville is wonderful. I wish the seventh book had been Neville Longbottom and the Awful Carrows.

    How about Polly from Fire and Hemlock–I plug that wonderful book every chance I get–oh, and Laura from The Changeover…and I think my favorite of all time may be Kate Sutton from Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard. Love her to death. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. More coffee is called for.

    I liked following Lyra but didn’t like Lyra, if that makes any sense. She’s an interesting person to read about but she’d probably annoy me in person.

  4. I also lost interest in Lyra in the second book of the series.

    And interestingly, as much as I love Tamora Pierce, I’ve never read the Alanna books. Maybe I should bump those to the top of my TBR list.

  5. @ mike: Yes coraline!! haha

    love Lucy and James :)

  6. Alanna is and always will be my first choice for this! I loved the series when it first came out, and its still the best in my opinion.

    Lyra annoyed me. A lot. I’m not a fan of His Dark Materials.

    I loved Gemma Doyle from A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.
    Angharad Crewe is also one of my top picks.

    And apparently my brain is still asleep because thats all I can come up with!

  7. Atreyu from The Neverending Story! Still my favorite children’s fantasy book ever.

    And I’d actually cast my vote for Lyra. I enjoyed His Dark Materials very much, although the first book is much, much better than the next two.

  8. This is kinda tough one, at least for me ’cause I don’t guess I read children’s literature that I recall -not past the picture books anyway. Maybe its my generation or maybe just the local that I grew-up in, but I really don’t remember much in the way of that genre when I was a kid.
    I read Tarzan and Conan, and I do think that I idolized those characters, but I don’t guess they fit the criteria for this discussion…hmm
    All I’m coming-up with is Samwise from LotR.

  9. Anonymous /

    I’d perhaps include Harry Potter in the list…if it were a list of children’s book heroes whose friends do all the hard work and who just shows up to take credit because he has a cool scar on his head. (I admit, that might be a pretty small list, but Harry would be at the top of it.)

    I’d throw in a third vote for Coraline, and I’d also want to include Eugenides, from The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and Conspiracy of Kings, all by Margaret Whalen Turner. That is a complex and interesting character.


  10. If they we’re going to nominate a Roald Dahl character, where is Charlie? How’d Matilda get the nod and not him?

  11. Anonymous /

    Sabriel, from Garth Nix’ Aborsen set.
    That’s one tough kid.

  12. It’s such an interesting question, Ruth. What makes a hero? And do we want kids reading about classic heroes or antiheroes, or tragic heroes with fatal flaws? One of the more memorable boy characters I remember reading about is Bud, not Buddy, which isn’t fantasy. And for girls’ it would have to be the girl from the Secret Life of Bees. I thought Percy Jackson was an excellent fantasy classic hero.
    Then we also have to figure out what it means to be a children’s book because my number one choice would be Ender from Ender’s Game who is one of the memorable characters of all time. But it’s probably a YA book about a child rather than a children’s book per se. Thx for making me think. S

  13. Justin, I think the reason Charlie didn’t make it is because he so frequently gets overshadowed by the other kid characters – Veruca Salt, and Violet Beauregard and Augustus Gloop and Mike TV. (Spelling is from memory.) His quiet integrity probably doesn’t shine as bright as some of the other characters on this list.

  14. A little off topic, but thinking about Roald Dahl and how much influence he had on me as a child, I remember another book that was probably single handedly responsible for inspiring my love of words and reading and that was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

  15. I didn’t read a lot of fantasy when I was growing up. The only thing I really remember reading was the Tom Swift Junior series since the used book store near me had a batch of them.

    The only ones I can think of that hasn’t already been mentioned are Martin the Warrior from the Redwall series and Will from the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

    @Justin, I remember reading The Phanton Tollbooth and really enjoying it. It was very different from anything I had read before.

  16. I don’t read quite enough YA to be able to give you a list of 10 but I would certainly include The Xanth series by Piers Anthony. I gobbled them up as a young reader and they fostered my current love of fantasy. But one hero, not an easy choice ’cause each book lets a different character shine. AND I learned a ton of vocabulary – the books are full of puns!

  17. Ruth, how DARE you steal my favorite characters! Just for that I will not eat hop scotch crunchies or an icecream sundae with hot fudge sauce for you. :evil: hehehe

    •Harimad Sol, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
    •Princess Cimorene, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede
    •Sandry, Tris, Daja and Briar; The Circle of Magic quartet by Tamora Pierce
    •Meg Murray, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
    •Will Stanton, The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper

    I will say that as much as I like the Harry Potter novels I do not think that I would add a single character to this list because, frankly, in some of the books I do not like their attitude.
    But if this were just a list of characters that I liked from YA books I would add in Eragon, Hermione, Nevil, Percy Jackson, Martin the Warrior from the Redwall series(even though he was a mouse), Zahra from The Windseeker, Alana of Trebond, Kel from Protector of the Small, Rebekah/Beka Cooper… and on and on.
    I will post a better list later tonight or tomorrow.

  18. Taran from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series (he might even be my number one)

    Ged from LeGuin’s Earthsea series


    Menolly, Meg, and Will Stanton absolutely

  19. Ruth – I don’t recognize the Duey books, but I’d agree with the rest of your list. I’d add
    Lady Aerin from Hero and the Crown.
    Tallie from Mind Call by Wilanne Schneider Belden
    Cecilia and Kate from Sorcery and Cecelia
    Faris and Jane from College of Magics
    The kids and parrot from Enid Blyton’s Adventure series
    Dane is my favorite of the Tamora Pierce books set in that world
    Love the circle books
    Gennie is my favorite of the Potter characters.

    I loved the Phantom Tollbooth. It was wonderful to have a book that played with language. Too many more to mention. Just wanted to add my two cents. Thanks for the question it brought back some fond memories.

  20. I’m in agreement with Sarah: Ginny Weasley’s the best HP character,
    And with Bill about Ged.

  21. It’s been interesting looking at everyones choices. I don’t think there are any I didn’t like, only a couple I didn’t recognize. I never could see the original list, so I’m not sure what the Guardian had to start with.

    Ruth – you must read the Alanna series.

  22. I can see how you would want to include Neville but I would have included Harry though. I haven’t read that much YA as of late but the first names that pop in my mind for this list are.

    1. Harry Potter by J.K Rowling
    2. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
    3. Kelandry – Protector of The Small series by Tamora Pierce

  23. I’m not extremely well read in YA, but I support Neville and I’ll also throw in Seth from Malice by Chris Wooding (the Comic book/novel). Great story and what a hero.

  24. I’m a little late on picking this one, but with our further delay:

    Our lucky winner is………Sarah

    Don’t want this book (have you lost your mind?) or Live in the UK? Visit the FanLit stacks.

    Please contact Justin within 5 days after contest ends.

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