Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Suggestions Needed for 6 to 12 Year Olds

From time to time, I get letters from moms desperately searching for good fiction for their children. It's a pretty common problem among us Catholic homeschooling moms with veracious readers on our hands. They go through books like water and we're kept on our toes searching out acceptable literature. Books that are well written, fun to read, and raise up their hearts. Is it really so much to ask?

Here are a couple recent letters:
I am hoping you can help me by offering some specific suggestions for authors that I could allow my 12 year old daughter to read. I currently dread library time because the books that I look over are so full of "stuff" that I have to say no. She reads very quickly and is looking for more books similar to [Regina Doman's]. We have read all of [Regina Doman's] books and the first JPII book (and anything else I can find). Do you have any suggestions of authors who write in modern times that I can give to her? "I can't stand not being able to read--you're soooooo mean!" can only be heard so many times. I completely understand her need--I am like that also. Unfortunately, as a child, I had no monitoring and I was well-versed in all things Harlequin (to my true misfortune). Thank you for any help you may be able to offer.

And also

I have tried to find a guide in Catholic homeschooling sites about this question I have but not finding much. I thought of asking you.

My daughter is 6 yo. She is reading so well right now that I am worried I can't keep up with providing good literature ... I know it sounds silly but last night I brought home the James Harriot Treasury for Children and she read one hour before bed and one hour in the morning and she finished it! Her reading comprehension is really good but I am still surprised and unsure. We read a lot at home and have bookshelves full of books. I also grew up like that, but I wasn't reading the Little House in the Prairie series by myself at 6 years old! This morning she just asked me if she could start Charlotte's Web. Last night I brought home all the books for this year's curriculum, but I think she'll be done with them in a couple of months ... What do I do?

Let's help these two moms out. What are your suggestions?


Anonymous said...

For the six-year old, you could start with lots of books on the saints to get her started and build a faith foundation for when she's older and reading more variety. She'll be able to baptize the secular books. TAN's books by Mary Fabyan Windeatt are very good. Also see Ecce Homo's Glory of America and History Mystery series. Then Ignatius Press has the Vision series. Pauline books also has some good titles. If she likes historical fiction Bethlehem Books has a lot of great books.

Frances said...

I'm not sure if they fit into "in modern times" but I loved Dick King Smith's books with animal characters when I was 10/11/12. I'm surprised to find that he's been writing "farmyard fantasy" for nearly 30 years - there might be some duds in the mix, but many of his books have been popular and, to the best of my knowledge, safe.

Dawn said...

Mine have enjoyed Lloyd Alexander's series and also A Wrinkle in Time, The Giver by Lois Lowry. A great resource I have found is Books That Build Character by William KilPatrick and Gregory and Suzanne M. Wolfe. This book was written in 1994 and has some modern titles as well as classics.

Anonymous said...

For the twelve year old girl i would suggest tryreading the Hobbit. Beverly Cleary's old romances are easy reads but great stories from the 50's(Jean and Johnny and the Luckiest Girl. When she's a little older i suggest ARms of Love and its sequel Surrender(which are about courtship). Any book by Shannon hale is also good. Another suggestion is find a list of the 100 best books for college bound students and pick out some of the easier ones. Favorite classics for that age are Animal Farm, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, all the Little house books.

Anonymous said...

I suggest the Betsy-Tacy series, the All of a Kind Family series, the Great Brain series, and the Shoes series by Noel Streatfeild (Theater Shoes, etc.) I guess these would maybe be for the 6yo since the 12yo is looking for modern and these don't fit that bill.

Maybe the 12yo would like the Austin books by L'Engle (Meet the Austins, The Moon By Night, etc.). Those are set in the 60s and 70s, I think. I haven't read those since I was a girl, so Mom may want to have a look at them first.

Heather said...

Kolbe Academy has literature programs for grades 4-6 and 7-8. I'm not suggesting these moms need to buy the programs, but the books are listed in the catalog (some of which are already suggested here). Those pages are printable for free.

They also sell a reading list, broken down by grade level, for around $7.

Jen Ambrose said...

I second Betsy-Tacy, for both ages. The highly literate 6-year-old can enjoy those up to Betsy and Tacy go Downtown, and the 12-year-old might like the high school and beyond Betsy books. I did when I was 12.

Anonymous said...

Mine tend to move toward SF/fantay as they approach 12. They love anything by Eion Colfer, Terry Pratchett, William Sleator, and Rick Riordan. My daughters enjoy Stephenie Meyer, but you might want to check the books out for content (they're love stories about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire -- very light, sometimes funny.) For the younger set (closer to 6 than 12): mine enjoy Erin Hunter (the Warrior series,) Frank L. Baum (Wizard of Oz series,) and L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables series.)They've all enjoyed Lois Lowry. You might want to google "Newberry Medal Winners" for more ideas.

Anonymous said...

Another possibility ... the Junior Great Books series (

For younger kids, they tend to be folk tales which one can integrate into a social studies lesson. For older kids, they're thought-provoking and encourage divergent thinking and insight into character.

Maureen, here's a suggestion ... How about a Junior Great Books-type series with a Catholic emphasis?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is helpful, but here is a link to a blog post I did last year about our book club with our book lists for the past several years.
It does not include this years books, but so far this year they have read:

Call it Courage
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The Hobbit
Snow Treasure

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no one has mentioned CS Lewis, though I'm sure the older kids already have read them. I first read the Narnia series when I was 7-8 (and again multiple times as I've grown older, including once last year). I've learned more and more each time. The 12 year old might be ready for some of Lewis' other works now, including the Space Trilogy and the Screwtape Letters.

Also, you might look into some GK Chesterton. Many of his works are dense, but I know a publisher (Penguin?) has compiled all of his Fr. Brown mysteries into one volume. They might be accessible to someone who is 12.

I would also suggest a volume of Ray Bradbury short stories, if your older one is interested at all in science fiction. They are 99% free of sex and overt violence, and continually explore the ethics and morality of man in unfamiliar environments.

Finally, most people don't know that there was a series of Mary Poppins novels (I believe 6 in total). Also, I remember a series of thick volumes involving Peter Rabbit going to school to learn about nature, birds, etc. (The class was taught by Mother Nature.) They were written by Thorton Burgess, and would be good for the 8-12 crowd.

If I had my free summers as an adolescent again, I would read most of the fiction novels published in the Dover Thrift series. There are some great works in there that I didn't read until I was an adult, even though I had heard a great deal about them. Plus, they cost $1-3 apiece, so they are affordable if unavailable at your library.

One piece of advice, however, for the mother of the 12y.o. You are certainly correct to monitor and restrict what your daughter can read. However, you may have to allow her to have access to some "cheap fiction" from time to time. While it is important to read great works of fiction, sometimes your brain needs some easy, quick fiction as a break.

Blessed Knitter said...

My six year old loved the Encounter the Saints series published by Pauline Books and Media. Other favorites are the Boxcar children series, the Bobsey twin series, The Mouse and the Motorcycle trilogy, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, Heidi and Lost in Peter's Tomb by Dianne Ahern. Other suggestions are the Anne of Green Gables series and the Little Women series.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I'm not as well versed in fiction as I used to be! But I'll try to throw out a few titles I enjoyed and which our children have read. But they are not contemporary books, unfortunately. However, for romance and adventure she could check out:

Adam of the Road

Mara, Daughter of the Nile (used to be my favorite)

The Red Keep (

Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal (

The Crystal Snowstorm and sequels (The Letzenstein Chronicles) (

Indian Captive: the story of Mary Jemison

The Father Brown Reader by G.K. Chesterton and Nancy Carpenter Brown is a good introduction to Chesterton.

I would check out all of Bethlehem Book's titles - they have some fun ones.

And of course I'd recommend Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and C. S. Lewis's Narnia series, Alice in Wonderland and Little House on the Prairie. But I assume she's read all of these?

Also check out Maureen's book For the Love of Literature.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is wonderful. All the Mitchells books are good By the Great Horn Spoon is very entertaining.
The Penderwicks
The Narnia books

And, not for the 6 year old, but for the 12 year old All of a Kind Family books We have been enjoying the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series. It is extreme fantasy in that the main character basically discovers he is an Greek hero. If you are ok with Greek mythology and fantasy, the books are great fun. I am pretty conservation, but I am looking forward to the next installment as much as the kids are!

Mayor of Beesburgh said...

I would recommend titles by Thornton Burgess (Dover Publications). My kids, even the 7yo who reads very well, thoroughly enjoy his stories.

Anonymous said...

Two titles our kids have enjoyed recently:
The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald
The Princess and Curdie, George MacDonald

Anonymous said...

I enjoy perusing the selections listed at They have wonderful fiction and they are very ethical about the choices that they offer.

For the 12 year old: ( I have to admit that I have been on a fairytale/fantasy reading spree the last couple months. Theses are some of the gems I found that I LOVED and that were clean )

Have you tried Robin McKinley? I have enjoyed everything I have read of hers: Hero and the Crown and the Blue Sword are WONDERFUL! Beauty is the retelling of Beauty and the Beast for an older audience. All of these are very clean, well-written and exciting.

The Book Thief

The Boy in Striped Pajamas

Princess Academy and Goose Girl by Shannon Hale are also wonderful - amazing adventure/fairy tales that are extremely well-told and again very clean

Gail Levine is one of my personal favorites Ella Enchanted (the movie was NOT a good representation of the book), Fairest, all the princess stories..
She is an amazing author - lots of fun fantasy with strong feminine heroines who make good choices or learn from their mistakes (These are great for the 6 year old as well)

My kids LOVED the Enchanted Forest series (Dealing with Dragons, Calling on Dragons - there are 4 I can't think of all their titles)

Bella at Midnight - Diane Stanley (Good for both the 6 and 12 year old - both my daughter and the 2 boys LOVED this book)

We are huge fantasy readers. We have loved all of these. I hope you find one or two that you enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Has anyone mentioned E. Nesbit's books yet? I read those aloud to the kids between 6 and 12. Loved them.

Shannon said...

Go to and check out their book and audio selections. I always use my Chinaberry catalogue as a guide at the library.Some of their audio books are amazing!

Also you will love No Catholic home ought to be without stacks of these books!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes our society is so focused on getting kids to read, we reward the mere act of getting through books. If your child is an excellent reader and likes to read, I would focus on exposing them to different types of books. "Fast" children readers are often just reading for plot points without noticing the real literary qualities of the book. Bad fiction also mistrains a child to read only for plot points. Try upping the amount of biography, non-fiction, poetry, and plays. Insist on real literature. (Bpnus suggestion: Brian Jacques)

Anonymous said...

As a fellow voracious reader, I have felt the pain!

For the 12 year old, I second most of what's been mentioned and would add the following:

Anything, anything by Elizabeth George Spear: The Witch of Blackbird Pond is her most well-known title, but she has others.

Anything by Carol Ryrie Brink of Caddie Woodlawn (love that book!) fame

Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper

Calico Bush - can't remember the author's name (yes, I have a historical fiction slant happening here)

Johnny Tremain - I liked it, but I've hear others complain

The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald

The Indian in the Cupboard series

Some titles that may be a little harder to get ahold of:

Rumer Godden wrote some beautiful children's books Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and Little Plum

Noel Streatfield of the "Shoes" books fame wrote a book called The Magic Summer

The Good Master by Kate Seredy

Anonymous said...

I have been wracking my brain for suggestion for the six-year old.

Trouble is, I don't remember very much of what I read at that age.

One suggestion does come to mind, though.

How about The Just So Stories? And if she likes them then Rikki Tikki Tavi and Toomai of the Elephants.

[BTW, more for the 12 year: Kim- it was my favorite at that age.]

Anonymous said...

For the 6-year old I highly suggest Tale of Desperaux. Wonderfully enjoyable book. I also loved all the Wizard of Oz books around that age.

Anonymous said...

The National Endowment for the Humanities has a good list here. Also, First Things magazine has a good article this month with suggestions here. Finally, some of my favorite books when I was that age included Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; The Mad Scientists' Club series; the Great Brain series; and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

Anonymous said...

Try The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo. Somewhat sad in parts, but a lovely story.

Sparki said...

I'm currently reading all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books with my six-year-old. She can read a lot of Little House in the Big Woods by herself, but needs help with the later books -- it's fun to read them together.

My 9-year-old reads at the high school level, and we've found that modern fiction at his reading level is filled with stuff that's either boring for him (dating issues) or inappropriate for his age (teen angst, sexual identity, rebellion, etc.) So we've been sticking to the classics -- youth novels written prior to 1970 are almost always "clean" and usually have a lot more excitement to them. He's read edited-for-youth versions of Robinson Crusoe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Swiss Family Robinson, the Hounds of the Baskervilles, etc., along with the complete Chronicles of Narnia. Mostly, though, he gets the most enjoyment out of historic fiction (Civil War, Revolutionary War, etc.) and anthropology books like the First Facts series that delves into ancient Rome, ancient Greece, Vikings, explorers, etc.

Anonymous said...

For the 6 yr old, all the Edward Eager books, like Half Magic and Magic by the Lake, are great. Sonlight Press has some really good reads by age, and they will tell you which ones are religious in nature if you worry about reading anything anti-Cathoic. For the 12 year old, all the Rosemary Sutcliffe historical fiction is good, and all the Seton books about his adventures with wilderness and nature are intriguing. L M Montgomery of Anne of GG fame also wrote a whole cartload of other books with creative strong girls as main characters. The Emily books were esecially good. How about Freckles, Girl of the Limberlost (both available online.) If you want to time travel a bit, you can read the old L T Meade books online--I bet she wrote 20 of them. Some are about boarding school, some about families who lose their money and have to cope with real life. Happy reading!

Anonymous said...

I suggest Elizabeth Coatsworth for the 6-year-old, such as "Away Went Sally" and "The Wanderers" (about an Irish monk and the orphan he raises). The entire Sally series, set in Colonial America, is available from Bethlehem Books.

Other odds and ends that may be of interest to 6-year-olds:

* East of the Sun, West of the Moon
* Maeterlink's "The Bluebird" (a play, but there are prose versions)
* James Thurber's "The 39 Clocks" and many of his other stories
* George MacDonald's Princess and the Goblins, Princess and Curdie, and The Golden Key

12-year-olds are tougher. It's hard to find good modern books. (In my day, we had the Judy Blume tripe - not wholesome!)

A couple of things come to mind: Leonard Wibberly's The Mouse that Roared and The Quest of Excaliber, which deal with issues of Christian ideals, duty, etc. They're not exactly "modern" in that they are set in the '60s, but the breezy style is fun.

I can recommend Mark Edwards' "The Saint's Bones". I don't know if he'll ever write the rest of the series, but this book is a stand-alone. It's set in a Catholic high school, but that's mostly to justify the colorful characters (including Sister "Methusaleh" and the sinister villain).

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention a few. For the 6 y.o, Tomie de Paola books are great. The stories are entertaining, and the religious ones are quite illuminating. They can also be quite useful for an older child to analyze for basic theology classes ("The Clown of God" for instance).