The best books with portals for children and young adults

The Books I Picked & Why

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes

Book cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Why this book?

Perhaps the most iconic of all portal fantasies, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe firmly established the trope of children discovering a new world of wonders and terrors through an innocuous, everyday item. This story of a land of humans and talking animals under the spell of the Winter Witch is truly epic, but the scene that puts a spell on me is far more intimate – Lucy’s pushing through the clothes in the old wardrobe to emerge into a snowy forest with a street lantern and a friendly, parcel-clutching fawn by the name of Mr. Tumnus. 

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By Neil Gaiman

Book cover of Coraline

Why this book?

A portal book that’s properly spooky. Frustrated like every child by her parents, Coraline opens a door she’s been warned not to open and meets her Other Parents in an adjacent apartment. The Other Parents are just like hers except they have buttons stitched over their eyes (I mean, what? If you aren’t freaked out by the idea of that…!?) A fabulous novella that’s much more than creepy, as we discover the true feeling between Coraline and her parents and even her compassion for the Other Mother.

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Northern Lights: His Dark Materials 1

By Philip Pullman

Book cover of Northern Lights: His Dark Materials 1

Why this book?

Northern Lights is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, a dazzling series in which portals enable movement between parallel worlds including a steampunk version of our own and the strange, desert city of Cittagazze. It features one of the niftiest magic items ever conceived in the form of the Subtle Knife, which can divide subatomic particles and create new portals. How cool is that? Northern Lights with its gypsies, zeppelins, and armoured bears in Arctic snowscapes is my favourite of the trilogy.

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Tom's Midnight Garden

By Philippa Pearce, Jaime Zollars

Book cover of Tom's Midnight Garden

Why this book?

A gentler book, exquisite in its handling of the relationship between quarantined Tom and Victorian girl Hatty, whom he meets in the garden of his aunt and uncle’s house when the clock strikes thirteen. This book came second in the all-time Carnegie vote in 2007 – which shows how this tale of friendship with its perfect ending has truly stood the test of time.

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The Lightning Thief

By Rick Riordan

Book cover of The Lightning Thief

Why this book?

A fabulous blast and a great introduction to Greek mythology. Percy’s dyslexia and ADHD are causing him problems at school and when one of his teachers morphs into a monster his mum takes him to a special camp on Long Island where he can learn who he truly is. The riotous quest that subsequently unfolds takes Percy across the United States and to two of the best portal locations ever – Mount Olympus (on the 600th floor of the Empire State) and the DOA Recording Studios in Hollywood, which gives entry to the Underworld.

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