In addition to the complex fantasy sagas for older readers that typically dominate this list, this year we recognize two gentler, illustrated chapter-book fantasies -- just right for genre fans at the younger end of the spectrum. All were published during the last 12 months. -- Jennifer Mattson

Bell, Hilari. Rise of a Hero. 2005. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (0-689-85415-3)
Gr. 7-10. Following up The Fall of the Kingdom, originally published as Flame (2003), this second book in the Farsala Trilogy enriches dynamic action and a setting steeped in Persion mythology with themes of resistance and hope.

Delaney, Joseph. Revenge of the Witch. Illus. by Patrick Arrasmith. 2005. Greenwillow, $14.99 (0-06-076618-2).
Gr. 5-8. On the threshold between fantasy and out-and-out horror, Delaney's deliciously creepy tale, which pits a novice evil-binder against a bloodthirsty witch, will garner devotees to the Last Apprentice series.

Di Camillo, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Illus. by Batram Ibotoulline. 2006. Candlewick, $18.99 (0-7636-2589-2).
Gr. 2-4. Di Camillo's latest displays the same gift for sensitive fantasy that earned The Tale of Despereaux a 2004 Newbery Medal; color plates extend the classic feel of the novel, about a vain toy rabbit's lessons in humility and love.

Funke, Cornelia. Inkspell. 2005. Scholastic/Chicken House, $19.99 (0-439-55400-4).
Gr. 6-9. Bookworms will devour Funke's latest, which transports characters to the perilous land of an enchanted novel. The smooth balance betweenphilosophy and fast-paced adventure places this a notch above its predecessor, Inkheart (2003).

Knox, Elizabeth. Dreamhunter. 2006. Farrar/Frances Foster, $19 (0-374-31853-0)
Gr. 10-12 In New Zealander Knox's first installment in the Dreamhunter Duet, family secrets and startling phenomena are set against the particulars of an alternate turn-of-the-century society.

Melling, O. R. The Hunter's Moon. 2005. Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 (0-8109-5857-0)
Gr. 8-11. Book 1 in the Chronicles of Faerie deftly juxtaposes contemporary reality with mystical happenings, as 16-year-old Gwen races around Ireland to reclaim her cousin from the dashing king of the fey.

Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. 2005. Little, Brown/Megan Tingley, $17.99 (0-316-16017-2)
Gr. 9-12. The best of the recent cropof YA titles featuring bloodsucking immortals (see the Read-alikes column on p.56), this brooding love story intertwines the life of a typical teen girl with that of an alluring, tormented vampire.

Pullman, Philip. The Scarecrow and His Servant. Illus. by Peter Bailey. 2005. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-81531-7).
Gr 4-7. Worlds away from the His Dark Materials series, Pullman's latest novel, illustrated with effervescent line drawings, will entrance middle-grade readers with a picaresque romp about an orphan-and-scarecrow duo.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. 2005. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $29.95 (0-439-78454-9).
Gr. 5-8. Assigning a grade range to this behemoth is a mere formality. After all, the world watches every time Harry reappears to grapple with destiny and incalculable evil. This installment proves that he still deserves its gaze.

Stroud, Jonathan. Ptolemy's Gate. 2006. Hyperion/Miramax, $17.99 (0-7868-1861-1).
Gr 6-9. In this colossally entertaining climax to the Bartimaeus Trilogy, Nathaniel and Kitty continue to battle demons with the djinni whose caustic commentary never runs dry.

American Library Association
Top Ten Fantasy Books for Youth
Booklist, May 15, 2006
Volume 102, Number 18