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Books for young readers (5 and up), or to read to your children

Once in a while, requests for books appropriate for really young kids to read, but challenging, come in. Following are books my daughters read and enjoyed before third grade or so. YMMV...

Featured non-fiction

These are in order of book title, mostly. Our prejudice is to let our kids read/listen to whatever they choose, so I can't guarantee total absence of "mature" themes.

Featured fiction

All book reviews for readers in this age group


jjj here I am in searchForBooksByAge conceptAge = 1 vocabAge = 1

12 books met your specifications:

TitleAuthorConceptual difficulty ageVocabulary difficulty ageGenreYear of publication

Bat Poet, TheRandall JarrelChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1997
 Kind of like "Are you my mother?" but with an artistic consciousness. Encourage your children to read this before they get too mature. A lovely simple story of a Poet and yes, he does happen to be a bat, who is looking for his Audience.
  In context....

Dark Dreamweaver, The (Chronicles of Remin)Nick RuthChildren 5 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 This is a COOL book. It is a story about a boy named David who meets a wizard cursed into the life cycle of a monarch butterfly. David has to help reverse the curse to save the little wizard's world, the dreamland of Remin.

There are many neat, zany characters who jump in to help throughout their long journey, which leads deep into the depths and mysterious places of this new world.


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  In context....

Molly Moon's Incredible Book of HypnotismGeorgia ByngChildren 5 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 "Why don't they make books like THIS one into movies?," my 12 year old exclaimed. I was listening to this book on tape and dear daughter, who had read the book a few years earlier, was lured into listening.

Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism like Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure, which we read a while back, narrates the story of Molly Moon, an orphan, and her best friend Rocky.
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  In context....

My Father's DragonRuth Stiles GannettChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1948
 Three whimsical tales; adults may feel that they are so whimsical that the plots become downright arbitrary, but the story involves young readers and the words are not hard. The hardcover presents the intricate black-and-white illustrations beautifully.

Peter PanJ.M. BarrieChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1903
 Almost every child makes up a fantasy place with all of the things that they think about. Some of these places are 'made' alone; sometimes brothers or sisters or friends help. The book Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie is about one such place.
  In context....

Prince of the Pond, The: Otherwise Known as De Fawg PinDonna Jo NapoliChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfairy tale1992
 A deeply imaginative, if sad, deeper look at the story of the Frog Prince.

In this version, narrated by the frog who becomes the prince's wife while he is a frog, the prince gradually adapts to his watery environment and becomes content in his amphibian incarnation.


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Princess and Curdie, TheGeorge MacDonaldChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction, fairy tale1873
 A parable that preaches unquestioning loyalty to an inherited monarchy and being hospitable to strangers.
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Princess Bride, The William GoldmanChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction; adventure/fairy tale1987
 Everyone in the family loves this book, and we might just love the movie more. But that's because we know that Mandy Patinkin can do no wrong.
  In context....

Rowan of RinEmily RoddaChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1993
 A Quest, gently told; a good chapter book for a young/new reader.

In Questing to the top of the mountain with six fellow villagers to obtain water for his village, Rowan, a frail, young shepherd, gains confidence and courage.


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Trumpet of the Swan, TheE.B. WhiteChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1970
 I won't label this a book about matter-of-factly overcoming one's disabilities; it's so much better than that. I guess what it really is is a book about how one voiceless swan found his bliss (and his voice), and it provides lessons in how we can find ours. The book on 4 CDs narrated by the author is worth many listens.

-- Emily

  In context....

Wolf StoryWilliam McCleeryChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1947
 A great book to read aloud to your child about a father who tells his son a story. Especially wonderful if you know NYC and its suburbs well enough to recognize the venues the boy and his father visit.

Charlotte's WebE.B. WhiteChildren 8 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1952
 Updated Sept. 11, 2006:

My then-10 year old daughter fixed her eyes on me, eyes that implied that she'd just realized that a Truth had been withheld from her, and she was going to get to the bottom of it.

"So, Mom," she said, "It seems as if what a fiction book is about is not really what it's about. Is it?"

"Hmmm," I answered. "What you mean is that a story is not just about its plot. Sometimes, often, in fact, a story has a message and the message is conveyed by the plot, but also by the author's choices of words. The message is sometimes called the theme of the book. It's what the author wants you to learn from reading the book. It's why authors go to all the trouble of writing books."

Which brings us to Charlotte's Web. Charlotte's Web has long been a favorite of mine and my daughter enjoyed listening to it for a year or two when she was very young. But when dear daughter (dd) was around four, her best friend was diagnosed with a disease that was, at the time, almost always fatal. We happened at the time to be listening to the audio book version of Charlotte's Web as read by the author, E.B. White. So, there we are in the car, listening, and dd asks, "Is L. going to die?" I turn the tape player off and answer that I don't know. Dd says "I don't like Charlotte's Web. And what did Cinderella's mother die of?"

I explain that in those times long ago, nearly everyone was more likely to die but that women of childbearing age were particularly at risk. Dd asked, "So, are you going to die? Am I going to die?" ....

For years after that conversation, dd did not willingly read or listen to Charlotte's Web. I believe that this is because, more than any other children's book that I have read, Charlotte's Web is about death as a normal consequence of living. And, no, I'm not saying that children/people never die in books, but they die romantically as in At the Back Of the North Wind or they die unexpectedly young at the hands of Evil Doers or they die off-screen, like Cinderella's mother. (Dd's friend lives and thrives, thank goodness.)

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