Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Suggestions: Please Help

Sonja from Switzerland asked in the Comments section a short while back if I'd offer some reading suggestions for her three kiddos, ages 7-12. They're Narnia and Star Wars fans, but at least one of them also likes detective and animal stories. They all read slightly below "grade level," for whatever that's worth. I thought I'd throw out a few here, but I'm hoping some others will chime in.

In return, Sonja is offering all of us roundtrip tickets to Switzerland, and an all-expenses-paid vacation in a bucolic chalet high in the Swiss Alps! With cheese! And chocolate!

Okay, maybe not. Let's just help a mama out of the goodness of our hearts, shall we? ;-)

For a child who loves mysteries and detective stories, I'm thinking of ...

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (Oh! There is finally a fourth novel in the series, coming out in April!)
Rapunzel's Revenge and its sequel, Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

For a child who loves Narnia/Star Wars (i.e. fantasy stories with clear depictions of good vs. evil), I'm thinking of ...

The Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
The Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan (haven't read these myself yet)

For a child who likes animal stories, we like ...

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The Fledgling by Jane Langton
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert O'Brien

For a child who wants stories of kids "just like me," -- i.e. strong, believable characters in somewhat realistic settings, I'd suggest ...

Frindle by Andrew Clements
The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill
Sideways Stories from the Wayside School by Louis Sachar (So funny!)
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Hope that helps, Sonja! Does anyone else have some fun-and-worthy middle-grade reading suggestions that might fit these categories?


  1. For animal stories: "Summer of the Monkeys" by Wilson Rawls
    To mix detective/mystery with kids just like me: The "Great Brain" series by John D. Fitzgerald

    I'm a little saddened about not being able to take that trip to Switzerland ;) but figure I'll get over it by watching this list grow and then printing it off for my own kiddos.

  2. All 3 of my boys were so in love with "The Great Brain" series by John D. Fitzgerald -- set in late 1800's Utah and narrated by the younger brother of "the great brain", a boy who was constantly up to hijinks that drove his parents crazy. Highly recommended! Especially for boys. My kids are now in their 20's and 30's, but they still remember those books.

    1. Mindy and Libby: Yes! The Great Brain is terrific! I loved those books as a kid and Ian has recently enjoyed the first two as well.

  3. What do your readers think of the Warriors series by Erin Hunter? K's friend is reading it, I have not checked it out for suitability yet, but the reviews seem good. http://tinyurl.com/6uqt366

    I had never heard of the word "arc" before in describing a set of books. Must be the new in thing :)

  4. I too am saddened that we will not be going on the trip:) Do we at least get chocolate as a consolation prize?:) Okay, I will purchase my own sub-par chocolate that simply cannot live up to Swiss chocolate:( Love the recommendations though! Great idea:)

  5. Oh, this is so cool! I have not heard of most of these writers or books and it will be fun looking into them. And I feel so prepared now - what a good feeling. Thank you, thank you!

    And I'm really sorry that I can't have you all over... but if any one ever happens to come to the Zürich area (we do see the mountains from here and the chocolate and cheese are lovely), I'd love to show you around.

    1. Glad to help, Sonja! Hope we can make it over there some day ... ;-)

  6. There is a wonderful author named Hilda Lewis (I found her as a child next to CSL in the library) -- she has several books but my fave as a middle-grader was "The Ship That Flew", about a magic toy ship that grows and takes 4 kids on various semi-historic adventures. I also loved E.Nesbit's books and Edward Eager, of course! (Any book with 4 siblings worked for me and my 3 sibs.)

    See also Anne of GG and the Emily books, both by LMMontgomery, and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George...esp My Side of the Mountain. Excellent!

    1. Melissa, I've never heard of Hilda Lewis (sob!), but based on your taste in authors, I clearly need to look her up! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Frances Hodgson Burnett? I loved The Lost Prince, although The Secret Garden and A Little Princess are better known.

    Rosemary Sutcliffe. Historical novels for children - from Warrior Scarlet (my favourite as a child, based on a Bronze Age tribe) to Eagle of the Ninth (a Roman legion in Britain)

    Not sure what the reading age should be on them, but they are great classics. Also Dick King-Smith who has written a wide range of books for a wide range of reading ages (he was the author of 'Babe.')

    1. Gillian, I'm glad you mentioned Rosemary Sutcliff. My husband is becoming a huge fan of hers, after having read a couple of her historical novels with my son (they do bedtime read-alouds together).

    2. :-)

      I read and re-read Warrior Scarlet as a child, so it is great to hear of others becoming a fan, too. I love children's fiction that is good quality and great for an adult to read - when it is only classified as 'children's' fiction because the protagonist is young.