Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Books I Won't Let My Kids Grow Up Without -- Junior Fiction

A fellow homeschooling mom asked me a few weeks ago if I had ever considered compiling lists of book recommendations for different age groups.  I hadn't, until then, but it's such a compelling idea that I'm doing it!  I'm starting with junior fiction because it's what Sam is reading right now, so a LOT of it is flowing through my house.  I intend to do lists of picture books, early readers, middle-grade fiction, and YA in the future.

By "Junior Fiction" I mean longer chapter books aimed at kids around ages 8-12.  Obviously, some kids might be ready for this level before age 8, and continue to enjoy these after they're older than 12.  I mean, I still enjoy them now, and I'm almost 3x12.  But this is the age group I think of them as geared for.  I do read books from this list aloud to my daughters, who are 4 and 6 right now, and they very much enjoy them too.

This is entirely based on my own reading experience and what Sam is attracted to right now -- he's 8, and an avid reader.  Most of these I love so much, we own a copy.

All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor (I liked the whole series)

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (and the rest of the series is great too)

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (I haven't read the rest of the series yet, but I expect it's good)

Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard (and the sequels are good too, as well as his other dog books)

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley (my favorite book for many years -- the sequels are okay, but not as lovely as the first)

The Borrowers by Mary Norton (and the rest of the series is dear to my heart)

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (and the whole series is good fun)

By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman

The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz

Caddie Woodlawn and Magical Melons by Carol Ryrie Brink

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

The Four-Story Mistake and the rest of the Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright

Half Magic by Edward Eager (and his other books are good too)

The Happy Hollisters and the resultant series by Jerry West

Henry and the Clubhouse and the rest of the Henry books by Beverly Cleary

Henry Reed, Inc by Keith Robertson (the sequels are fun too)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Homer Price and Centerburg Tales by Robert McCloskey

Jingo Django by Sid Fleischman

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (really, all her horse books are delightful)

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (Sam's just starting them and really liking them!)

Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars by Ellen MacGregor (and the rest of the series is fun)

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (the sequels are good too)

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (and the two follow-ups are good too)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald (and the rest of the series is great fun too)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (the two sequels are also enjoyable)

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

Ramona the Pest and the rest of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary

Rascal by Sterling North

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (the rest of the series is nice too)

Smoky the Cow Horse by Will James

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (I like all her books, but this one especially much)

Stuart Little by E. B. White

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

There are other books in this age range I really dig, but that I'm either forgetting now, or don't like well enough to recommend them to everyone.  This is a good start, anyway.

Do you have any recommendations for this age group?  We're always looking for new books!  


  1. Great list! And ten cheers for The Phantom Tollbooth and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.

    Additions? May I suggest The Moomin books by Tove Jansson, My Father's Dragon books by Ruth Stiles Gannett, and Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books (they're a little more complex but good read-alouds for any age!). Any of Caroline Dale Snedecker's books are excellent as well, full of compassion and insight.

    Oh and I remember Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh! It's been sooo long. I'm going to go and see if I can find it right now!

    1. Cleopatra, thanks for the recommendations! I'll check my library to see if they have those.

  2. SUCH a fantastic list of books. It has so many of the books I loved and that my kids have loved as well. The Betsy-Tacy books are all good. I am slowly collecting them all now for my daughter.

    My kids loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Flight of the Doves by Walter Macken is a great book. I reread it recently and it stands the test of time. My son also really liked The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken is also full of adventure. It has a few sequels too. Oh, and The Magic Summer by Noel Streatfeild. She wrote all the Shoe books too. I'll stop now. I just get kind of excited about books for kids and I love hearing about kids who like to read.

    1. Jennifer, thanks for the recommendations! I've got some of Elizabeth George Speare's books on my next list, the one for Middle Grade fiction, including TSOTB, which I loved too.

  3. Love this list! So many I grew up with and absolutely loved.
    The entire Betsy-Tacy series is amazing, but once you get past the fourth book they're not exactly junior fiction anymore. Great books but probably more suited to teenagers. They still remain some of my favourite books ever. :)

    1. India, thanks! That's good to know about Betsy-Tacy. I went to college in Mankato, MN, where Maude Hart Lovelace was from -- next time I go back to revisit my old stomping grounds, I'm definitely going to the MHL museum there.

  4. Let's see how many of these I have read.

    All-of-a-Kind-Family ~ A wonderful story.

    Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard (I have only read the sequel, Outlaw Red.)

    The Black Stallion by Walter Farley (I have only read 1 & 2)

    The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Love the 19 originals.)

    The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz

    Caddie Woodlawn and Magical Melons by Carol Ryrie Brink (I've only read Caddie Woodlawn.)

    A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

    The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien :)

    Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (my older sister has this book but I haven't read it yet.)

    King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (I LOVE all of her horse stories.)

    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (Mel and I are in the process of introducing our little siblings to them. We are 5 chapters into TL,TW &tW.)

    Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (the sequels are good too.<<<<< YES!!!)

    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (Loved this story.)

    The Railway Children by E. Nesbitt (Me LOVESSSSSS!!!)

    Rascal by Sterling North

    Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (the rest of the series is nice too)

    Smoky the Cow Horse by Will James

    1. Erudessa, I'd say you're well-educated when it comes to junior fiction! Read Johnny Tremain post-haste. It is wondrous.

  5. The Courage of Sarah Noble - Alice Dalgiesh

    1. Thanks, Ruth! I'll see if my library has it.

  6. All-of-a-kind family is so sweet. I reread that just the other day, actually. :-D Sarah Plain and Tall is darling too - and my 7-year-old sister loves Betsy-Tacy.

    Pippi Longstocking !!!!! I LOVE THAT BOOK. :-D I also loved some of Astrid Lindgren's other books as a kid - including Madieke of the Red House. (I translated the Dutch title - I'm not sure what the English title is, ha.)

    I definitely spotted some favourites. ;-) I would have added the Little House books, though - Little House just WAS my childhood and I'm forever endebted to those. :-)

    ~ Naomi

    1. Naomi, I didn't know Astrid Lindgren wrote anything besides the Pippi books! Must find. Must find.

      The Little House books will be popping up on the next list, fear not. I just find them a little above this age group.

  7. LOTS of favourites on this list.
    I find it interesting that you find the Little House books a little above this age group. I received the whole set when I was seven and ate them up. :)
    I would add the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. My ten year old loves them.
    There are some books here that I want to look up for our children.

    1. Jennifer, it's probably because I had all the Little House books read aloud to me when I was littler, and didn't read them myself until I was probably 10 or 12.

      I know I read some of these younger than 8, and Sam's been reading a lot of them since he was 7, so it's kind of just a general age range. I didn't read the Narnia books until I was a teen.

      Anyway, thanks for the recommendation! I'll see if the library has it. Hope you find some here your kids like!

  8. Let's see...I've read

    The Black Stallion
    The Cabin Faced West
    Carry On Mr. Bowditch
    Caddie Woodlawn
    The Cricket in Times Square
    Johnny Tremain
    The Railway Children
    Smoky the Cowhorse
    Sarah, Plain and Tall

    ...and all the Marguerite Henry, E.B. White and Boxcar Children books (the original nineteen) and the Chronicles of Narnia. I read The Hobbit once but don't have clear memories of it.

    A few other favorites of mine:

    Swift Rivers by Cornelia Meigs
    Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
    Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John
    The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    A Little Princess, ditto
    The Journeyman by Elizabeth Yates

    Plus the original Winnie-the-Pooh books, and Mr. Popper's Penguins. And I'm probably forgetting a bunch more. As you can see, it's easy to get carried away talking about books, especially if you spent most of your childhood with your nose buried in one...! :)

    By the way, have you read Marguerite Henry's San Domingo, the Medicine Hat Stallion? It seems to be lesser-known among her books, but it's one of my favorites (and basically a Western!).

    1. Elisabeth, I think I've read every single Marguerite Henry book -- and most of them more than once. San Domingo was a good one! My favorites were the Misty books and King of the Wind. And The White Stallions of Lippizza, though I don't remember the plot of that one anymore.

      I do love A.A. Milne's books, but I think of them more as read-alouds. Mr. Popper's Penguins is fun! I've got the two Frances Hodgson Burnett books on the next list, I believe. I'll have to see if my library has the others you mentioned. Thanks!

  9. What a wonderful walk down memory lane this post was! Brought back so many memories of your childhood, along with your brother's. All those weekly visits to the library, and evenings reading together. So many great books in the world, and lots of them are in my classroom library now. I'm really glad you are carrying on the tradition with your kids.

    1. Mom, yes, so many of these are books I grew up with :-) Thank you for introducing me to them in the first place!

  10. SO HAPPY you included "The Phantom Tollbooth"!!!! I read that book when I was seven and it literally changed my life. I just wouldn't be the person I am today, had I not read that book.

    Have you ever tried "The Door in the Wall" by Marguerite D'Angeli? It was one of my favorite books when I was in the 8-12 age range. Great story.

    Also, "Madeline Takes Command" is pretty cool--I think the authors name was Ethel C. Brill? Don't quote me on that :-) And the "Dr. Doolittle" series is fantastic, too.

    1. Jessica, I must confess that I don't like The Phantom Tollbooth. It's the one book on here I would not merrily read again. But I suspect this is because I read it as an adult, because everyone I know who read it as a kid looooooooooves it.

      The Door in the Wall is on the next list! I bumped it up a little higher mostly because Sam tried it recently and made the same faces about it that he made over a couple other books I have bumped up to Middle Grade because they seem more serious or more intense or more dense.

      I did like the Dr. Doolittle books as a kid, especially the first one. Thanks for the recommendations!

    2. Funny how that works . . . Has your son had a chance to read it yet? Me, my older brother, and my younger sister all read it as children and absolutely loved it, but I have another younger brother whose reaction was more "meh." I wonder sometimes if it has something to do with personality . . . Because so far, all the kids in our family who've liked it have been intuitive types, and the one who didn't is most indubitably a sensor type. (That's just a random theory though. I could be completely off-base with that.)

      That makes sense! Yes, "The Door in the Wall" is a bit more intense, now that I think about it. (Brother Luke is awesome, though. IMHO.)

    3. Jessica, he hasn't read it yet, but it's sitting on the shelf waiting for him :-) It probably does have a lot to do with personality -- I think I've never been a fan of books where everything represents something else (why I'm not a huge Narnia fan) or else just embodies one particular idea or characteristic.

      I think The Door in the Wall is more serious and less about the rollicking adventures, and you need to be just a bit more mature to appreciate that.

    4. Right! Whereas I was probably the biggest Narnia fan that ever walked this earth . . . to the point where I was literally furious when the movies came out, because "they changed everything!!!!" Narnia and The Phantom Tollbooth--that was my childhood, pretty much :-) I also love "The Man Who Was Thursday," another allegory where everything represents something.

    5. Yeah, my hubby loved Tollbooth and Narnia, and he's an INTJ, as opposed to me being an ISFJ, so maybe you're onto something there.

  11. I wish I could recommend you some of the books I read as a kid, but ofcourse they were Dutch and most of them by Dutch authors... Of your list, I only recognize The Black Stallion which I read as a kid, I didn't learn about Narnia and The Hobbit until much later, when I was in my 20s

    1. Birdie, I did enjoy Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and The Wheel on the School as a kid -- I think I have the latter on my Middle Grade Fiction list. But on a whole, I don't know a ton about Dutch lit, alas :-(

    2. And I must admit that I don't know those....

    3. Annnnnnnnnd that's probably because a bit of Wikipedia digging shows that Hans Brinker was written by an American, and Wheel by a Dutch-born American. They both take place in Holland, and my mom called them "Dutch books" when I was a kid, so I always assumed they were actually Dutch and translated into English :-o So no wonder you don't know them!

    4. Phew... *wipes forehead and is glad she's not a bad Dutch-woman*

  12. It is probably better in a younger category, but -Then the Troll Heard a Squeak- was my step daughter's favorite bed time story for 3 or 4 years from about age 5. I think some of the attraction was her mom allowed her to bounce on the bed to the rhythm of the words :^) I know the Harry Potter stories are controversial, but I started reading them to her at age 7,and she was fascinated! We got through 5 1/2 volumes before her mom had a twinge of jealousy & decided *she* would finish reading them aloud. And didn't. I don't think K ever finished them alone. Her favorite read alone series was Lemonity Snickett

    1. Thanks, Kelda! I'll see if the library has The the Troll Heard a Squeak.

      I love Harry Potter, but I want my kids to be a bit older before they get sucked into them, simply because the last few do get really intense. So I'm saving those for around age 14, I think.

      I read the first Lemony Snicket book, but not the others -- it amused me, but didn't enthrall me, I guess.


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