March 10, 2010

Help, Internets!

All parents think their children are brilliant. I'm no exception. I'm obliged to think it and say it but I truly believe my daughter is pretty damn smart. I say this, in part, because she's flying through books and the ones that interest her are way out of her target demographic. We've reached the point at which Mia will tolerate being read only the Oz books. We've read each one of them at least a dozen times. We've just begun Alice In Wonderland. We're tempted to start Harry Potter.

I'm pretty well convinced that people who may eventually become parents should be injected with some innate knowledge upon birth. Like, how to change a diaper, what to do for fever and how that differs from treating a puking kid, and what kids should be reading and at what age. I was born without that knowledge so I need you. Seriously. Help. Or else I'm going to be reading her the latest Harlan Coben or John Sanford thrillers that are sitting on my nightstand. And nothing good would come of that.

What books did you love growing up? And, if you're a parent, what books do your kids love now?

Posted by Chris at March 10, 2010 7:00 AM

I loved Baby-Sitters Club when I was growing up, but it seems Mia is past that already! Start the Harry Potter series. I demand it!

Posted by: Stephanie at March 10, 2010 7:10 AM

Mrs. Coverlet's Magicians... couldn't hear it or read it enough... I'm 57 and still that's the title that comes to mind... and we had a what would be a coveted copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales with ink drawings by some known artist that my mom gave away when we grew up and moved away from home... i can almost remember the order of the stories... and the picture of Ashenputel (?)we had books... (didn't have TV til i was 12) and we LOVED them...the beauty, the call of the wild, incredible journey (another of my favorites)come on seabiscuit... we had what was called companion library books that were 2 books in one... (you knew when you got to the second one cuz it was upside down)... one of my brother's favorites was a boy named george about an indian boy and a radio..

Posted by: theunicorn at March 10, 2010 7:13 AM

Here's a small list for you:

Pippi Longstocking
Mrs Piggle Wiggle (series)
Box Car Children (series)
Mount Rushmore Calamity (remember Flat Stanley?}
Sarah, Plain and Tall
James and the Giant Peach
Cricket in Times Square

Head to the library, take advantage of a great children's librarian!

Posted by: Christy at March 10, 2010 7:23 AM

One of my favorites was a book called 'Flavia and the Dream Maker' by Flavia Weedn. It is a beautiful book. Mia might be past it as it is a children's book, but it worth checking out. The story is much heavier than most children's stories and has a wonderful message about love and family.

Posted by: Ashley K at March 10, 2010 7:25 AM

Madeline L'Engle, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables are all ones I loved as a kid. I've heard some good things about The Ever Breath by Juliana Baggott, and more recently, for a children's lit class I read Ella Enchanted, which was cleverly written and a lot of fun, actually! (I wasn't expecting to enjoy it at 25!) ... I can probably think of more if I have more time heh.

Posted by: Heather at March 10, 2010 7:27 AM

I read a lot of Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley High when I was younger. I also remember trying Isaac Asimov when I was in elementary school, but it just didn't interest me all that much (same with the Lord of the Rings books). I have no idea what I was reading at Mia's age (she's, what 5 now?). I do remember being allowed at school to go into the "3rd grade and above" section of the library when I was in 1st/2nd grade and I think I read a lot of books about dinosaurs? I do remember that I was reading a lot of Stephen King by 5th/6th grade.

You know what? I'll ask my parents if they remember what I was reading then. That'll probably be more helpful.

Posted by: Dawn at March 10, 2010 7:27 AM

Little House on the Prairie! The originals before there was ever a TV show. I loved them.
Nancy Drew books. My mother had the originals from the 1930s onward. We have her to thank for our love of reading and our gazillion bookcases around our houses. There were also Cherry Ames and Trixie Belden that we read too.
My very first book I remember was Hansel and Gretel and I loved the pictures.

Posted by: NancyJ at March 10, 2010 7:36 AM

Charlotte's Web
Stuart Little
Harriet the Spy
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
James and the Giant Peach
Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
Mr Popper's Penguins
Eloise (a quick read, but one of my favorite books to read to the kids)

Posted by: Carolyn at March 10, 2010 7:47 AM

I'll second the Little House series. It starts with "Little House in the Big Woods" and goes through about seven more. I'm currently reading the series to my six-year-old from the set I had as a child.

Also, Roald Dahl is great, but be careful with those. Some can be a little... intense. I'd hold off on HP. I read an interview with JK Rowling where she said she didn't let her own kids start reading those until they were Harry's age when he entered Hogwarts: 11.

My other recommendations:
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Charlotte's Web
Stewart Little

Also, you might want to check with your local children's librarians for age-appropriate materials. Some of the other books/authors your readers have suggested here are great, but not for a preschooler, even if she is interested.

Posted by: Heather @critter chronicles at March 10, 2010 7:50 AM

I'm going to "second" a few of the already-mentioned:
~Trixie Belden series
~Bobbsey Twins series (may be misspelled)
~Madeline L'Engle
~CS Lewis
~Little House series (PERFECT for Mia's age plus bonus of strong female lead character AND Laura's about Mia's age at the start of the series)

Hmmm, will think more and add later...

Posted by: leslie at March 10, 2010 7:51 AM

Okay, sooner rather than later...

How could I forget about Beverly Cleary?!?! My all-time favorites when young and they held up well when re-read to my girls. Ramona is always a favorite character and provides for many "teaching moments" when she misbehaves in the stories.

Similar character is Junie B. Jones-- that series was very popular with my younger daughter (who is now 17).

Posted by: leslie at March 10, 2010 7:57 AM

Our son is like Mia. He beyond the "kiddie" books. He will tolerate them but he likes the chapter books by far and away.

He loves the Magic Treehouse series and we have read Beverly Cleary (Ralph the mouse series and the Tales of the 4th Grade Nothing, etc). He also had been read Peter Pan books co written by the humorist David Barry.

I have thought about Harry Potter but I still think he is too young (he will be 5 in April). I have my eyes on some Newberry Award books that I loved (Ginger Pye for instance). I agree with or 2nd many of the idea people provided. L'Engle, CS Lewis, Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, etc...

Oh he loves those books with the pick your own ending and Brown Detective books!

There are SO many options!!

Posted by: C at March 10, 2010 7:59 AM

A lot of my favourites have already been mentioned so I'll endeavour to offer some of the lesser

Loved all of the Roald Dahl Classics, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory atop that list. Other notable titles are:

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner and One Hundred Million Francs by Paul Berna, a foretaste of my adult love of crime fiction!

Stig of the Dump by Clive King

The Willard Price adventure series, might be politically dicey given they're all about hunting animals for zoos but rollicking tales nonetheless

Elizabeth Enright's 'The Saturdays' Series. At least, the Saturdays is the first book... there are 3 others.

The All of a Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor, a series about a New York Jewish family which seemed rather exotic to a New Zealand farmer's daughter!

The Moomin books by Tove Jansen - not sure if they're still around but an introduction into children's fantasy stories. Finnish, if memory serves.

Ooh, and of course Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstockings!

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

Remember me to Harold Square - Paula Danzieger

I could go on and on, children's literature is one of my favourite things and it pains me that my collection is in boxes in New Zealand instead of here!!

Posted by: Deeleea at March 10, 2010 8:02 AM

I adored the Anne of Green Gables series, and I think they'd be right up Mia's alley difficulty-wise. Give it a shot. They're wonderful.

Posted by: Catherine at March 10, 2010 8:13 AM

At about her age, my mom and I started reading the Little House on the Prairie series. I also remember reading a lot of Ramona Quimby, Encyclopedia Brown, Choose Your Own Adventure books. Beverly Cleary. I could go on and on, I think.

Posted by: stephanie at March 10, 2010 8:26 AM

Here's what we've read recently: Swiss Family Robinson, Dr. Doolittle, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Did anyone mention The Chronicles of Narnia? I read the first few to Elliot while he was way to young to understand and I know this because he was still a nursing infant. :) Call me weird, but I wanted to make sure he loved books!

Posted by: Elizabeth at March 10, 2010 8:29 AM

I would agree with any of the Roald Dahl books. Matilda was a particular favorite of ours. The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books are lots of fun, although some nay-sayers complain about how it makes parents look like idiots, but kids think that sometimes anyway so I don't see any harm.

Posted by: Jessie at March 10, 2010 8:50 AM

A lot of these are repeats from above, but here's my list:

Babysitter's Club
I LOVED Choose Your Own Adventure books
Ramona Quimby
Judy Blume books
Anne of Green Gables
Black Beauty
The entire Frances Hodgson Burnett line (The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Little Princess)
Nancy Drew/Sweet Valley High/Bobbsey Twins(although reading any of these three as an adult can be PAINFUL)

As I got older, I was obsessed with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (still am, actually), but that might have to be saved until she's a wee bit bigger...

Posted by: NGS at March 10, 2010 8:52 AM

The Little House on the Prarie series are great. My kids liked Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Goosebumps, Babysitters Club, and pretty much anything they could get their hands on. Harry Potter was right up there too.

Posted by: Kris at March 10, 2010 8:59 AM

This is hard. I am dealing with a similar situation with my daughter, who just turned 4. In short, if you are really truly looking for opinions or advice, I think one should generally not indulge a child's overly mature tastes. Kids spend their entire childhoods wanting to do things that are made for kids slightly older than them (2-year old wants a 2-wheeler bike, 4-year old wants an iPod, 6-year old wants a bra, 8-year old wants earrings [or maybe I am naive, a belly-button ring? GAH], 12-year old wants to read Seventeen magazine, and so on.) And a very important part of a parent's job is to s-l-o-w them down.

Mia may very well be ready for big kid chapter books. But that doesn't mean she needs them, or would even benefit from them. Childhood is for playing, and silliness, and that is where a lot of learning happens. So even though my 4-year old chooses to read Demeter and Persephone (what genius decided that belonged in a Best-Loved Childrens' Stories collection, anyhow?), I force her to listen to Where the Wild Things Are, too, because it is still entertaining, and it still feeds her fantasies, and therefore, it is still valuable. She mumbles about them being too short, and yet she listens in rapture when I insist.

I have more thoughts on this (like, if you introduce 'tween books now, what would she read as a 'tween? And if she were overly precocious when she started Kindergarten, she might be terribly bored with the curriculum and develop a negative attitude about school, which is a very real risk) but I will try to stifle myself.

I hope none of this comes off as rude or preachy. I love, love, love kids, and in fact I have a BS in child development, and I just worry about our kids' quickly vanishing childhoods. IMHO, we should avoid the temptation to help them grow up any more quickly than necessary.

Posted by: Sabrina at March 10, 2010 8:59 AM

I'll be using the comments as a suggestion list -- I love the Internets!

Some chapter books I loved that my 5-year-old enjoys as well are the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.

Posted by: Julie at March 10, 2010 9:11 AM

Definitely anything by Roald Dahl. I was a voracious reader as a kid her age and read everything I could get my hands on. Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were my favs as a kid, but I'd stay away from Witches by Dahl cause it might be a bit too scary for her still. Also I don't necessarily agree that Babysitter's Club is appropriate for a kid Mia's age. I thought they were great, but reading them back now? So painful, and there was so much drama! Honestly, I think anything before the "teen" section at the bookstore is fine. Harry Potter obviously is great, but you can go up to age 12 and she'll still get a lot out of the books. And when she's older, she'll re-read them and discover things she didn't understand before and it'll be a like reading a whole new book.

Posted by: Rachel at March 10, 2010 9:19 AM

Wow, those are great suggestions. I particularly loved Roald Dahl when I was younger. Also, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler were two of my all-time favorites from elementary school.

Posted by: Trish at March 10, 2010 9:23 AM

I second Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and Roald Dahl books and Beverly Cleary. Sideways stories from Wayside School is silly and hilarious. So are the Amelia Bedelias. Nate the Great books. Judy Moody books. The Little Prince. Ira Sleeps Over.

In addition to chapter books, there are some really really great, more "advanced" picture books out there- Patricia Pollocco writes lovely books, as does Steven Kellogg. Oh! and Eloise! SO FUN.

Early HP would be fine, but she's probably still a little young for some of the themes that start cropping up in book 3 and beyond, so I might hold off to start lest you tear through the first ones and then have a little girl calling you the meanest dad in the world for refusing to read her the one where Cedric Diggory dies until she's a little older.

I agree, too, that Babbysitters Club is fun- but not yet.

Dear god, I clearly have a lot of thoughts on this matter. I'll stop now.

Posted by: pseudostoops at March 10, 2010 9:42 AM

I think the earliest book I can remember is Ramona Quimby: Age 8. There might have been a few Ramona books. There are others that I can't remember the titles of but I can see the covers in my head. I'll have to ask my parents...

By the time I was 9 or 10 I was reading constantly...Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Twins/High, and these Sweet Dreams romances -- I read TONS of those. We all did. There was also this series of books, each one titled the lead girl/woman's name. These were all historical romances, so you would learn about history and different cultures. Of course 'Laura' is my favorite, but she was a spunky feminist in NYC in the early part of the century. I could relate. ;) In every story the girl was torn between two men. She always 'thought' she loved the 'bad' guy, but always ended up with the nice one. You might want to wait until she's a bit older before letting her read these. :)

Posted by: laura at March 10, 2010 9:43 AM

Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew ... maybe get her interested in poetry. I love that you're raising a book lover!

Posted by: Fraulein N at March 10, 2010 9:43 AM

I'll second Deeleea's suggestion of the All-of-a-Kind Family books and Julie's of the Betsy-Tacy books. I loved them and Lilli loved them. I read them to her when she was about 4 or 5.

Re Sabrina's suggestion about also still reading the shorter books, my sister-in-law is a first grade teacher and she told me the same thing. She said the shorter books have a wider variety of good vocabulary that you might not get in a chapter book like say, Junie B. Jones.

Posted by: Kelley at March 10, 2010 9:44 AM

I loved reading when I was a kid and my obsession has only grown as an adult. As a kid some of my favorites were:

Madeline L’Engle books
Nancy Drew
Charlotte’s Web
The Secret Garden
CS Lewis books
Roald Dahl books

My daughter (who will be 9 next month), HATES reading. I can't get her to read anything for longer than 10 minutes (and we've tried a variety of genres). It's so frustrating to me because I could sit and read literally all day. Quite often after she's in bed, I dive into a book and don't come up for air until 6 hours later.

Posted by: js at March 10, 2010 9:47 AM

-From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
-The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
-My Father's Dragon (Trilogy) by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Posted by: Tracy H at March 10, 2010 9:51 AM

Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events books are seriously good. And *smart* -- lots of vocabulary that's introduced in interesting ways. However, they're also dark, so Mia may still be too young for them. I would suggest giving the first one a read to see what you think.

When I was a kid, I really enjoyed a Lois Lowry series about a girl named Anastasia Krupnik. They're a little more quirky and less shallow than stuff like the Babysitter's Club. Also, if you want to start mysteries, I LOVED The Three Investigators.

Posted by: Jaime at March 10, 2010 10:07 AM

Asimov's Nightfall anthology and I Robot would be my recommendations on top of the already great list. When I was a little older my Dad read the Iliad and the Odyssey, which was fantastic but a little violent at times ( go figure ).

I'd also recommend the Choose Your Own Adventure series; you can pick them up on Amazon, and she might really get a kick out of them.

Posted by: metawizard at March 10, 2010 10:07 AM

The shoe books. Dancing Shoes. Ballet Shoes. By Noel Streatfeild. All of them. Then there's The Secret Garden and The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. And she might be just a little too young, but My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is an AMAZING BOOK for adventurous little girls. I used to dream, dream, dream about that book. And in fact, I just read it again. Oh! And The Westing Game is a mystery by Ellen Raskin.

And Hardy Boys books area WAY better than Nancy Drew. She's sappy.

Posted by: k8 at March 10, 2010 10:08 AM

Oh! And I totally second, third and fourth all the Pippi Longstocking books. Swoon! And the Cheaper By the Dozen books. There's a whole series! And of COURSE you have to get her started on Little House on the Praire. Or as we referred to it LHOTP.

Posted by: k8 at March 10, 2010 10:09 AM

the books my kids loved most, by far, are the redwall books. brian jacques. mia is a little too little. i started reading them to them in first grade and they started reading them in second grade. buy hardcover. ours read, read, read, and reread them.
they are all big readers (which i consider one of my parental triumphs). my youngest still rereads them. and she is 24, and law student at georgetown law.

Posted by: tineke at March 10, 2010 10:10 AM

Growing up in Australia, all the books I can think of are British (or Australian) and I am not sure if you have them there:

Enid Blyton - Wishing Chair series, Enchanted Tree, various others

AA Milne - House at Pooh Corner etc. (from the Winnie the Pooh series).

Oh and Wind in the Willows is a good one too.

Posted by: jacqueline at March 10, 2010 10:10 AM

Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles (4 books) were my favorite as a child. One of the main characters is a princess, but a total feminist. She breaks all the molds and wants to do things her way. They are hilarious, definitely a lot lighter than L. Frank Baum, though. If she loved him, she might think these are a little too sweet?

Posted by: Megan at March 10, 2010 10:16 AM

I am currently reading the Judy Blume books to my daughter, she is 5. Also Tales of Despereaux.

Posted by: DeAnna at March 10, 2010 10:17 AM

Reading everyone's lists brings back so many memories from being a kid. So many of those books I read over and over. I have nothing else to add to the list.

Posted by: Adi at March 10, 2010 10:23 AM

You have alot of great suggestions here. Including the thought that we should help our kids slow down a little. I think there is merit in that, but I also know that sometimes our minds thirst for more, and there are plenty of child appropriate books out there. Indeed, there is a veritable plethora of children's literature that is never even explored these days and is considered old fashioned or outmoded. I would caution on being mindful of theme. I love the HP books myself, but agree with the commenter that the theme gets very heavy after the 3rd book and it might be best to wait that one out.
That being said let me share with our MY favorite children's book.
Have you ever heard of the Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster? My husband introduced me to this book. 5 is a little young for most kids, and you'll have to look at at and judge for yourself. But even if you decide to wait, write it down. It's amazing.

Posted by: varinia at March 10, 2010 10:24 AM

Pippi Longstocking and Little House on the Prairie are two that stick out.

Posted by: Sarah at March 10, 2010 10:24 AM

I just went to and checked out if you have Enid Blyton there. Wow - you do and they are quite highly reviewed. Yippee!

I also echo the thoughts of Sabrina (I am also a teacher). There are so many good kids' books out there that encourage imagination and fantasy, (like the Wizard of Oz, the books I suggested etc...) that you do not need to reach for the older themed books just yet. I don't want to embarrass or single out anyone above, but some of the suggestions, imo are actually harmful choices, not helpful.

Like anything - check them out yourself before introducing them to Mia.

Posted by: jacqueline at March 10, 2010 10:25 AM

I agree - the Little House books are great. I also LOVED Nancy Drew. Ask Mia what she'd like to read/hear/learn about. Her answers might give you some good direction towards books to choose. And I'll tell you this, as they get older, the dilemma is still the same. My 13-year-old son hates to read, but will read books that have elements that set my teeth on edge - swearing, etc. It's so hard to balance what they will actually read vs. what you think is appropriate. Right now I'm going, within reason, with if he'll read it, I'll buy it.

Posted by: Traci at March 10, 2010 10:31 AM

I loved the Beverly Cleary books. Judy Blume was pretty good too, though she has adult books as well and don't read her Are You There God It's Me Margaret.

Posted by: Rose Winters at March 10, 2010 10:46 AM

I really liked Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

Posted by: julie at March 10, 2010 10:52 AM

I was always a fan of Andrew Lang's fairy books. Some of the tales are a little out there, so you might want to read them ahead of time! I also loved Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

Posted by: Hope at March 10, 2010 10:55 AM

Lots of great suggestions here. I work in a small, independent bookstore (I had to clarify that bit), and there's a series called The Sisters Grimm, but I haven't read any of them so I can't really recommend them per se. But put those on your radar.

I definitely agree with the Little House and Anne of Green Gables series, and anything by Beverly Cleary.

Mia might enjoy Redwall by Brian Jacques, although it might be a bit "old" for her. You'll be the judge.

Too bad I'm not at work right now, or I'd make a much longer list!

Posted by: Alison at March 10, 2010 11:08 AM

Everything by Roald Dahl
Wrinkle in Time Series
His Dark Materials Series
Encyclopedia Brown books
Three Investigators
EB White's books

I'd also highly recommend calling/e-mailing/visiting your local library's children's librarian. They are enthusiastic specialists whose job is to be able to answer just such questions.

Good luck!

Posted by: Somewhere in the Midwest at March 10, 2010 11:17 AM

Haven't read through all the comments so forgive any dupes but the Cleary books were my favorites as a child. All the Ramona and Henry books were fantastic. Ribsy is the first book I remember that made me cry. Poor lost dog! :D

Let's see, what else? Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing
How To Eat Fried Worms
James and the Giant Peach
Ralph Mouse
The Trumpet of the Swan

Posted by: Patricia at March 10, 2010 11:18 AM

Edward Eager's Magic Series
The Great Brain Series
The Berenstain Bears (They have chapter books, too.)

Posted by: ticknart at March 10, 2010 11:21 AM

I read everything I could get my hands on, but I liked mysteries, so Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, Three Investigators. Also, maybe Anne of Green Gables. That's a series so it might keep her busy for a bit. There's tons of series out there for kids now.

Posted by: Brooke at March 10, 2010 11:41 AM

You're talking to someone who grew up on Aesop's Fables. I'm not sure if that's helpful. :)

I also read a lot of translated Western classics (maybe simplified a bit for kids) such as The Three Musketeers, Oliver Twist, Moby Dick, and Robinson Crusoe.

And there were also these education manga/book series we had. Essentially a condensed life stories of all of the world's important people played out in 4 pages of manga each e.g. Beethoven, Ghandhi, Napoleon, President Washington, Marie Curie, including Thailand's own heroes. Too bad they don't make them in English. They were sooo cool.

Posted by: oakley at March 10, 2010 11:50 AM

I taught myself to read at three, was in novels by 5, and always read my sister's books, never those for my age group (she's 4 yrs older). I detested being read to, because I wanted to do it myself.

You know Mia best. There's lots of older themed books I read when I was young and I loved and understood them. In fact, they helped feed my brain when I was reading way ahead of my peers and was bored stiff in school. I'm not advocating that you start reading her something WAY beyond her, but if you think she can handle it, go for it. That's the beauty of books-you can skip parts, or read ahead, etc. (I loved the Oz books, btw) Jake is a reader too-his nightly reading is Hub's fourth yr university textbooks (he's 14)

I do disagree with a commenter above; reading her tween books now doesn't mean she won't have anything to read when she's a tween at ALL. I read voraciously all through school (still do) and the amount of books out there isn't stagnant. There's trillions! New ones are always coming out! As a kid if I were held back on my reading, I would have been very frustrated and angry. I *needed* to read. It fed my soul and in no way did it make me grow up faster.

With all of the books that are recommended, you can look up a synopsis to most of them online (or ask) and people can give you the general story, or if there are parts that might frighten/be too much for Mia.

Anyway, books? many, so little time. The ones I'm recommending though don't have any older themes that I remember.

Anne of Green Gables (Of course, I'm Canadian!)
Sarah, Plain and Tall
Chronicles of Narnia
Little House on the Prairie
Owls in the Family

Jake really loved The Fire Within series. I haven't read them, but he says they are wonderful and not scary at all. (around gr. 5 level)

Posted by: Scatteredmom at March 10, 2010 11:55 AM

We enjoy finding those books with the banner at the top that says "I can Read" and a number on them such as 1, 2, or 3. Also, my daughter is into The Littles and the Magic Tree House series right now. She is 6.

Posted by: Brad at March 10, 2010 11:59 AM

I loved Judy Blume (Come on! Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great??? Awesomesauce.), Beverly Cleary, and don't forget Laura Ingalls Wilder! The Little House books are a rite of passage for every little girl.

Posted by: kalisa at March 10, 2010 12:10 PM

Grace just turned 8 in February. She reads voraciously and can highly recommend the Geronimo Stilton books (though she maturely notes this could be for a younger crowd) and the Clementine series of books. She reads these on her own. I like to read to her my faves from my childhood, most mentioned here (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jacob Two Two, etc etc)
And I totally agree with the reader who mentioned kids shouldn't be reading above their age level too much.
Oh, Diary of a Wimpy Kid series also a huge hit. And Captain Underpants (ahem).

Posted by: meanie at March 10, 2010 12:12 PM

Oh - and my son liked the Boxcar children and the Lemony Snicket. My sister read the Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys series but I was never into mystery.

Posted by: kalisa at March 10, 2010 12:13 PM

I was the same way! I totally agree with everyone- Little House on the Prairie is the best series! I also remember enjoying Bed Knobs and Broomsticks.

It's hard to remember, because I began reading and wanting books super above my age, too. I don't know about the slowing her down that everyone seems to be recommending. I'm not saying start reading her It by Stephen King (which I think I read at 9 or 10), but since she seems to like the stories, I don't see a problem with slipping into the higher aged group books. When I was four or five my mom likes to talk about how I was distinctly PISSED when people would give me books for my age group. I thought they thought I was dumb.

Posted by: caleal at March 10, 2010 12:46 PM

Wow, you've gotten some fabulous suggestions! I was going to suggest something a little different. There's a book called "Flat Stanley" and it's something she could take to school. The premise is a boy (named Stanley, duh!) is flattend and gets to travel to all kinds of places. What we did when my son was young was have his classmates each make Stanley's, then we hooked up with a same age class in Toronto, Canada who did the same. Each child received a new Stanley and they kept him for a week, taking him wherever they went and photographing him in different places. After the week was up, they sent Stanley back with his photos &/or hand drawn pictures. The teacher and kids absolutely loved it. The teacher then had the kids write a little story about their experience.
You can obviously do this with a class anywhere, I just happened to have a friend with a same age child in Toronto.

Posted by: LaineyDid at March 10, 2010 12:46 PM

Oh, I forget to mention that the teachers had them write a little introductory note with the Stanley they were sending - just telling the other child about where they live, what their school is like, ect.

Posted by: LaineyDid at March 10, 2010 12:48 PM

The Trixie Beldon series , love those books I still pick them up used if I happen upon them.

Posted by: michelle juhase at March 10, 2010 1:06 PM

Here would be my selection for a young girl:
Judy Blume books (but beware, she also has a serious out for older teen girls)
Nancy Drew
and James Patterson has a childrens series out that I bought for my son.

I think it is so wonderful when a child loves to read early on. Cause after they hit college they may never want to read again. lol

Posted by: soccermom at March 10, 2010 1:29 PM

I worked in my elementary library growing up, so I had more access. I read all the time. What I remember reading the most was Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer and such.

If Mia is fine with you reading to her, try harder material. She will probably love it, most kids her age just love having their parents reading to them. Harley loved us reading to him, especially Harry Potter.

Use to look-up childrens books of various ages to give you more ideas. Enjoy, I miss reading with Harley. I feel giving your kids the gift of reading is a great thing. Far too many kids just don't have it.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at March 10, 2010 1:29 PM

Anything and everything by Roald Dahl; even his autobiographies (Boy and Going Solo) are amazing. I enjoyed them growing up as well as my kids.

My daughter (the youngest and currently 7) has always adored Kevin Henkes' mouse books.

I also highly recommend Betty Brock's No Flying in the House. Mia will adore it.

Posted by: fauve at March 10, 2010 1:30 PM

I know Disney is the bad guy for most people, but my 6 year old absolutely loves the Pixie Hollow series they've come out with. They don't annoy me like many others in this age group do.

Some of my favorites were "The Ordinary Princess" by M M Kaye (good review at And, they're a little old fashioned, but I read The Bobsey Twins series by Laura Lee Hope over and over again.

I loved the Chronicles of Prydain by Llyod Alexander, but the amazon description says it's for grade 5-8. I remember reading it younger. Same with the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. Keep them in mind for the future. Great books!

Posted by: ktjrdn at March 10, 2010 2:06 PM

honestly I think appropriateness is based on the kid!

My oldest (now 10) read all 7 of the Harry Potter books by herself the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade. When I quizzed her on the subject matter, she knew the answers.. so I knew she wasn't just flipping through the pages. :) At 10, this girl has a book in every room, 2 that she carries to school (one for the bus ride to school and one for the ride home) and then has 2 or three checked out of the library at a time. Sometimes they are Novels that take her 4 or 5 days to get through and some are just small chapter books that she can finish in an hour or so. Recently she read Old Yeller - loved the book.. then she came out of her room with tears streaming down her face. I LOVE that she can get so attached to the characters in a book!

Some other books she loved since she was little(er)
The secret Garden
Alice in Wonderland
Treasure Island (although to quote her "the pirates scare me)

I think the name of the book is "Peter and the Starcatchers" it's by Dave Barry.

I'll ask her tonight what she remembers reading when she was younger..

Posted by: molly at March 10, 2010 2:22 PM

Any Roald Dahl books are great (at least all the ones I've read and I've read quite a few).
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series) by Jeff Kinney
Junie B. Jones (series) by Barbara Park
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Horrible Harry Series by Suzy Kline

Posted by: Magnolia Mom at March 10, 2010 2:25 PM

Roald Dahl. We just recently got a box-set from Costco, and I noticed that Amazon said they were getting it soon.

We also just got a bunch of old mystery books from the library sale that are a LOT of fun, and some Tom Swift, which is hilariously hokey sci-fi for kids.

Posted by: heels at March 10, 2010 2:32 PM

I second the nomination for Ramona books. They were my favorites as a kid. And they're pretty timeless. Also, Judy Blume. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge. Another of my favorite series was Bunnicula.

Posted by: statia at March 10, 2010 2:49 PM

I read "Smith of Wootton Major" and "Farmer Giles of Ham" by Tolkien (all dialouge in a very British accent). Just keep the idea of stretching the imagination.

Posted by: joss is boss at March 10, 2010 2:51 PM

"The Wind in the Willows"

She'll love it. You'll love it. It's funny, and nothing seriously bad happens to anyone.

Posted by: Aaron at March 10, 2010 3:20 PM

Is she doing the reading or are you? My 4.5 year old LOVES the Magic Tree House series and anything by Roald Dahl.

Posted by: Michelle at March 10, 2010 3:21 PM

Charlotte's Web
Stuart Little
Harriet the Spy
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
James and the Giant Peach
Ramona series by Beverly Cleary
Mr Popper's Penguins
The Little House on the Prairie Series

Posted by: Maribeth at March 10, 2010 3:51 PM

Definitely Laura Ingalls (there are so many!) Anne of Green Gables (although those are pretty serious books in terms of length) but definitely, definitely the Mossflower/Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Forest creatures (mice/otters/etc) fighting the bad guys (cats/rats/etc), great imagery, great for kids!

Posted by: Anna A at March 10, 2010 4:02 PM

Confession: I didn't read what's listed - because I'm gonna duplicate stuff anyway, I'm sure.

For my four year old, we actually bypass the fiction section altogether. She has mad love for dinosaurs and we go right to nonfiction kids books and she selects books about dinosaurs - sometimes about dinos in general and sometimes about a particular kind (deinonychus is the latest, I think - I'm sure I spelled that wrong). THERE ARE TONS of books out there - and when she's taking a break from dinos... she picks another animal to learn about.

My seven year old is reading at a 5th grade level so I struggle for her - to find books that are challenging, yet, not too far out of her age level content-wise. She loves Wimpy Kid and Ramona - and her teacher said not to push her to the challenging stuff at home if she just wanted to read whatever for fun. Kid blows through two or three chapter books in a day, so she basically reads what she can get her hands on.

I loved Judy Blume, Dr Seuss, the Ramona books (Hey, that might be fun to read to Mia)...

Posted by: Sarah at March 10, 2010 4:20 PM

Anything by Roald Dahl. Lemony Snicket books were fun; we read them to our then 5 year old. Now she's 6 and my husband is reading The Lord of the Rings to her. I would think that they were over her head, but they started with The Hobbit and are now into the second Lord of the Rings books and she loves them. So much for my instincts.

Posted by: NG at March 10, 2010 4:38 PM

Agree with previous commenters about Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables and the Magic Tree House series. Warning about Junie B. Jones - IMHO Junie is an obnoxious brat. My daughter's first grade teacher reads them to her class during story time and then we have discussions at home about how Junie's behavior is inappropriate, and why we *don't* act like her. Same goes for some of the female protaganists in Roald Dahl's books.

Posted by: michelle at March 10, 2010 4:46 PM

As a former kindergarten teacher *shines diploma* I would suggest the Magic Treehouse Series...they're at a good level comprehension wise.

But for me and mine, I really LOVE anything by Roald Dahl. James and the Giant Peach was read so much that I went through 3 copies as a kid. The stories are so vivid with just a little side of wicked!

Don't forget the Little House on the Prairie Series, or Charlotte's Web & Stuart Little. Trumpet of the Swan is wonderful too.

Hank the Cowdogs are fun too...

I would steer clear of many of the Newbury Award Winners--they have been pretty dark as of late and are pretty broad comp wise.

sorry if I've repeated any for you--I couldn't got through the 76 before me!

Posted by: Rachel at March 10, 2010 5:05 PM

Lynne over at Sugarcity journal just did the same thing, getting folks to help her with this exact same problem! That's a link to her list which I agree with wholeheartedly. :)

I'm so glad to know there are more readers in the world! Our daughter is around the same age as Mia and I really think having parents who read obsessively is the key to having a kid who we have already had to take a flashlight away from at night. *sigh What goes around comes around as they say. ;)

Posted by: tulip at March 10, 2010 5:17 PM

OH! I forgot Babymouse!! She's a great character and the graphic novel format is fun to read and great for early readers that want to read for themselves. There are a whole bunch of them and we are buying them whenever we come across them.

Posted by: tulip at March 10, 2010 5:20 PM

EVERYTHING Enid Blyton. You can't go wrong. Good wholesome reading. And there is tons of it. Avoid John Sanford for as long as you can.

Posted by: Cath at March 10, 2010 5:56 PM

I volunteer in the library on Thursdays when my 8 year old is in the school library and have to make many book suggestions. I also have an 8 year old and a 10 year old. One is a reader, one not so much.

My very best suggestion would be Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (and her other books too). I read Despereaux out loud to my daughters and it is a perfect book for the spoken word. You'll enjoy it too. The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, and The Talking Earth are books that I fell in love with as a kid and now they are my daughter's favorite two books. You can't go wrong with books with a young girl who ends the book feeling empowered. My younger daughter loves Diary of a Wimpy Kid but I don't think they work well for reading out loud. The Boxcar Children and The Indian in the Cupboard are good ones too.

As for books to stay away from... I don't allow my kids to read Junie B. Jones. I know that makes me a big meanie but I can't stand the idea of them reading books about a snotty kid with terrible grammar while they are trying to learn how to speak properly.

Hope that helps.

My 10 year old told me I have to suggest Boy by Roald Dahl too. She loved it.

Posted by: Amanda at March 10, 2010 6:14 PM

I loved the Nancy Drew books!

Posted by: Haley at March 10, 2010 7:00 PM

Astrid Lindgren also wrote a bunch of other books besides Pippi Longstocking that I recommend. I think all the books about the children of Noisy Village would be great for kids Mia's age, as well as the books about Lotta. Ronia the Robber's Daughter was one of my absolute favorites and my kids at summer camp (aged 9-12) absolutely adored it, but I think this is also a great book once Mia is a bit older.

Posted by: Catharina at March 10, 2010 7:42 PM

Besides the wonderful choices already mentioned above, consider a set of fairy tales. I had a collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales, barely translated from the German (Cinderella was still called Ashenputtel), with lovely dark pen-and-ink drawings. They weren't Disneyfied in any way -- the evil stepmother danced in the red-hot iron shoes and everything -- but I loved them anyhow. You might not want that particular set of fairy tales or that particular translation if scariness is an issue, but traditionals are great because as you re-read them at different ages, you pick up different things in the stories. I used that copy of Grimm's right through high school in my English and drama classes.

Posted by: Kat at March 10, 2010 9:05 PM

My mother thought childrens books were the debil, so she only read us The Hitchhikers Guide, Asimov books and Alice In Wonderland. It is the one thing that quackpot ever did right,

Posted by: Mr Lady at March 10, 2010 9:36 PM

A lot of these have already been suggested, but...

Little House on the Prairie
Anne of Green Gables
Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, Emily's Quest, also by LM Montgomery
Ramona books
Geronimo Stilton books aren't bad.
There are 8 thousand fairy books by Daisy Meadows. I'm not saying they're very good, but I'm pretty sure there's Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy. My Lauren got to be a Puppy Fairy.

Posted by: chrissie at March 10, 2010 9:54 PM

Roald Dahl books were always a favorite of mine. And lest you think it's to porn-y sounding, the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (if I remember right she was a friendly neighborhood witchy type who helped kids) series was great. Of course it was well over 20 years ago that I read them but I'm positive they're much older than that.

One of my biggest hopes for my child is that he loves to read!!!

Posted by: Allison at March 10, 2010 11:27 PM

Too many comments for me to read them all, so I apologize in advance if I'm repeating anyone else.

So Mia is what, four? I think it's important to remember that even though she is able to read way above her level, that doesn't mean books like Harry Potter (the later ones, especially) are appropriate for a kid her age. Imagine if you read them to her now when she's still too young to really get it - then in a few years when she would really enjoy them she may not be interested since she's already "read" them. The librarian in the children's room at your library should be able to make some great age AND reading-level appropriate suggestions that hold her interest and challenge her intellectually without being too mature.

Here are a few of my favorites from when I was a kid - with a couple of my niece's faves (she's 7) mixed in:

The Little House on the Prairie series
the Ramona books - I got my niece started on these right before kindergarten and she loves them (really any of the Beverly Cleary books are great - "Socks" is fun, so is "Ribsy")
The Cam Jansen series (my niece really likes these)
All of A Kind Family
Charlotte's Web
Pippi Longstocking
The Secret Garden
The Magic Treehouse series
Nancy Drew mysteries
Roald Dahl

The Anne of Green Gables books were some of my favorites when I was a kid (in fact, I still love 'em), but I would say all except the first book might be too mature for her. Not that anything terrible happens (well, the last in the series is about WWI, so some bad stuff does happen), I just think a 4 year old would be bored with them.

Posted by: erin at March 10, 2010 11:36 PM

Jeanne Birdsall. Also? Edward Eager and E. Nesbit. I also highly 2nd Ronia the Robber's Daughter. Check out A Child's Delight, by Noel Perrin. It's chock full of great overlooked selections and you'll enjoy reading it too (he wrote, A Reader's Delight, too).

I think you have enough comments here to last until Mia's 30 but if you run out I have any number of extra recommendations I could make. :)

Posted by: Jessica Davenport at March 11, 2010 12:48 AM

I loved the mouse and the motorcycle books when I was about 6. Also anything about horses- Black Beauty, The Black Stallion (and all of the various spin-offs from it), and who knows what I would have gotten my hands on if I'd been given a better chance. By 9 I was bored with Stephen King- I'd read about 20 of his books at least 4 times each.

Oh, and the Ramona books- I was really into those as a kid too.

Posted by: Debra at March 11, 2010 6:25 AM

Roald Dahl (especially Matilda, which is about a girl that loves to read ;-))

His Dark Materials (though she probably should be a little older for that)

Pippi Longstockings, absolutely, must must must read, she rules!

And to recommend you some non-English language stuff (translated into English of course):

Tonke Dragt mixes sci-fi, fantasy and social engagement with puzzles, gorgeous illustrations and lots of excitement. Some of her stuff has been translated such as her knight novel "the letter for the king" and the "towers of february" (I adore that one, it is magical)

Jan Terlouw wrote the excellent Winter in Wartime, which plays during WW2 in Holland

His "how to become king" is an absolute classic, though it may be hard to get your hands on that one. (though very easy to get in Spanish somehow..)

Thea Beckman writes historical novels for kids and I adored them when I was a kid

Paul biegel is also lovely

Michael Ende is German and wrote the novel NeverEnding Story (you may know the movie)

Posted by: mikkie at March 11, 2010 6:55 AM

Not much help here, but we have a nephew who has listened to "Where the Wild Things Are" often. This has been going on for over a year now.

Posted by: cassie-b at March 11, 2010 1:52 PM


Here's a children's literature blog that might be helpful too:

Posted by: Somewhere in the Midwest at March 11, 2010 3:38 PM

Hi Chris
Isabel and I have done Ramona the Pest, she loves it because Ramona is just entering Kindergarten, also liked Alice in Wonderland and the Mary Poppins series. We saw that show when it was here and she loved them after the show. My sisters and I did the whole Little House series by 2nd grade, and I intend to get to those as soon as I can get over to my mom's and pick them up.

Posted by: Stacie at March 11, 2010 8:46 PM

there was a series of books that my mom got for me when I was her age that were biographies of people like Marie Curie, Margaret Meade, Albert Schweitzer etc... I cant remember who published them (they were hard back white bound books (usually 50 pages or so) that I can remember a series of 15+ of em in my play room that I read over and over again) Ill see if Mom knows who wrote/published them and let you know...

Posted by: stinkerbell at March 12, 2010 5:39 PM

I was the same way, so my mom and I started reading the Narnia series, Little Women, Little Men, the Moomintroll books (these are so great), Hugo and Josephine books by Maria Gripe, and of course the Little House series. I read those books over and over and over. Some of the Judy Blume books for younger kids would be good, as well as the Ramona series.

Posted by: Erin at March 13, 2010 12:22 PM

Astrid Lingren's "Lotta" is super and just right for her age, I think.

I haven't read them myself but my daughter who is 6 loves Roddy Doyle's books for kids (well known adult author - do you know him?) - they seem to be very funny as far as I can judge from the giggles emanating from her room.

"Daisy" by Kes Gray is super as well - I have read those and they made me laugh - they come in picture book and novel form.

Can endorse a lot of the other suggestions in the comments as well. To be honest though, I would have thought "Anne of Green Gables" or "The Little House on the Prairie" series would be pretty tough going for a four year old and I would think that Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling are all a bit scary. But you know your girl best.

Posted by: Anne at March 17, 2010 9:56 PM

I forgot - Kay Thompson and Hilary McKnight's Eloise books - really fantastic.

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