written by Barbara Saylor, www.storyhourlibrary.com
Barbara is the author of DEVELOPING CHARACTER:Teaching Character Using Popular Children’s Story Books (available on her website and amazon.com)
Do you know what your children are reading?
It can be a challenging task to be certain your children are reading novels that are appropriate in language and content. I’m providing a list of some of my favorite novels that are more seasoned and are often overlooked for more recent and popular publications.
BE A PERFECT PERSON IN JUST 3 DAYS! by Stephen Manes
(80 pages, fiction, humorous, 4th grade reading level)
When a book with the title Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days falls on Milo’s head at the library, he decides to take the book home and follow its instructions. The instructions include doing hilarious things like wearing broccoli around his neck.
THE BFG by Roald Dahl
(207 pages, fiction, humorous, 4th-5th grade reading level)
The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) spends his life blowing happy dreams to children. Sophie, an orphan, and the BFG concoct a plan to save the world from nine mean giants.
CASTLE IN THE ATTIC by Elizabeth Winthrop
(192 pages, fiction, fantasy, 5th grade reading level)
William receives an amazing gift…..a toy castle complete with a drawbridge, a moat, and a tiny silver knight. Magically, the knight comes to life when William picks it up; and William is suddenly off on a fantastic adventure to another land and time.
FOG MAGIC by Julia L. Sauer
(107 pages, fiction, fantasy, 5th grade reading level)
Greta loved walking in the fog, and one day she found herself taken back in time that existed only through the magic of the fog.
FRINDLE by Andrew Clements
(112 pages, fiction, fantasy, 5th grade reading level)
When Nick learns about how words are created, he gets a clever idea. Why should a pen be called a pen? Why not call it a frindle? Nick’s new word creates hilarious results.
FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg
(168 pages, fiction, mystery, adventure, 5th-6th grade reading level)
When Claudia and her younger brother, Jamie, decide to run away from home, they decide that the Metropolitan Museum of Art would be a good place to live. So they hide out there and get caught up in a mystery involving a statue.
HATCHET by Gary Paulsen
(186 pages, fiction, adventure, 5th grade reading level)
Thirteen-year-old Brian is flying on a single-engine plane on his way to visit his father, and then the plane crashes. Brian is the sole survivor and finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a windbreaker and a hatchet.
HOLES by Louis Sachar (Newbery Award Winner)
(240 pages, fiction, social issues, 5th grade reading level)
After Stanley is sent unjustly to Camp Green Lake, a detention camp, he is forced by the warden to dig holes in an old dried up lakebed. The warden claims that he has the boys dig holes to build character, but Stanley soon figures out that there is more going on than character building and sets out to dig up the truth.
THE HUNDRED DRESSES by Eleanor Estes
(80 pages, fiction, social issues, 5th grade reading level)
This powerful, timeless story centers around the ridicule that a young Polish girl faces at school when she wears the same dress to school every day while claiming to have 100 dresses at home in her closet.
THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD by Lynne Reid Banks
(227 pages, fiction, fantasy, 4th-5th grade reading level)
A nine-year-old boy receives a plastic toy Indian, a cupboard, and a key for his birthday and becomes involved in a magical adventure when the Indian comes to life.
ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS (ages 9-12) by Scott O’Dell (Newbery Award Winner)
(177 pages, historical fiction, 5th grade reading level)
This novel is based on the true story of a Nicoleno Indian girl living in solitude between 1835 and 1853 on a small island off the coast of Southern California. It’s a story of Karana’s survival, strength, and courage–and vivid descriptions of island life.
JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER by Bruce Coville
(151 pages, fiction, fantasy, 4th-5th grade reading level)
Twelve-year-old Jeremy Thatcher stumbles into a magic shop and leaves with a small dragon egg which hatches into a dragon that only he and Mary Lou can see.
JULIE OF THE WOLVES by Jean Craighead George
(Newbery Award Winner)
(170 pages, fiction, adventure, 5th grade reading level)
A 13-year-old Eskimo girl runs away from home to avoid an arranged disagreeable marriage and becomes lost in the Alaskan wilderness. Slowly, she is accepted by a pack of wolves who becomes her family. She depends upon the wolves and things her father has taught her to survive day by day.
THE ORDINARY PRINCESS by M.M. Kaye
Princess Amy received a special fairy gift….ordinariness. When her parents arrange a royal wedding for her, she runs away and becomes a kitchen maid at a neighboring palace and meets a prince just as ordinary (and special) as she.
PEPPERMINTS IN THE PARLOR by Barbara Brooks Wallace
(208 pages, fiction, mystery, 6th grade reading level)
Emily has fond memories of her Aunt and Uncle Twice’s mansion, Sugar Hill Hall. But when Emily goes to live with them, everything has changed. Uncle Twice is missing and Aunt Twice is a prisoner in her own home. Something is very wrong, and Emily is desperate to find out what is going on, but time is running out.
SKINNYBONES by Barbara Park
(128 pages, fiction, humorous, 4th grade reading level)
Author Barbara Park has updated the text of this award-winning novel and made it even more hilarious. Alex “Skinnybones” Frankovich is the smallest player on his baseball team but is famous for his big mouth. Alex knows he’s gone too far when he brags his way into a battle of skills with T.J. Stoner, a cocky Little League legend with a perfect hitting record.
STONE FOX by John Reynolds Gardiner
(96 pages, fiction, adventure, 4th grade reading level)
Ten-year-old Willy needs to win the dogsled race so he can use the prize money to pay the back taxes on his grandfather’s farm so his grandfather doesn’t lose the farm. But that means winning against the legendary Indian, Stone Fox, who always wins.
THERE’S A BOY IN THE GIRLS’ BATHROOM by Louis Sachar
(208 pages, fiction, humorous, 4th grade reading level)
Bradley Chalkers is the oldest kid in the fifth grade, tells big lies, and picks fights with girls. No one likes him except Carla. Carla is the new school counselor and thinks Bradley can change. But when no one likes you, believing in yourself can be one of the hardest things to do.
TIME FOR ANDREW: A GHOST STORY by Mary Downing Hahn
When he goes to spend the summer with his great-aunt in the family’s old house, eleven-year-old Andrew’s fantasies of ghosts and the past become real when his great-great-uncle (also named Andrew), who lived at the beginning of the century and died young, appears.
WAIT TILL HELEN COMES: A GHOST STORY by Mary Downing Hahn
Molly and Michael dislike their spooky new stepsister Heather but realize that they must try to save her when she seems ready to follow a ghost child to her doom.
(a little spooky)
WATCHDOG AND THE COYOTES by Bill Wallace
Sweetie, a Great Dane, is very gentle because he knows he is off to the pound if he misbehaves. When a burglar comes, he wags his tail. But when coyotes come calling, he tries to make peace…..but his friends are in danger. What should he do?
THE WISH GIVER by Bill Brittain
When a strange little man promises he can give people what they ask for, some young believers in magic each make a wish. Their wishes come true in unexpected ways.