Lately, I've gotten a LOT of requests for book suggestions from friends. Most of them have children between 3rd and 5th grade and have read a lot of the recently released books. Suggesting new books wasn't going to cut it with these kids. So instead, I went back in time. I looked to more obscure, forgotten classics, but also the books I read and loved as a kid (in the 80s!). I couldn't resist throwing in a few of my contemporary favorites, just in case they had somehow missed out on them. Also included is a list of classics that are still popular.
In no particular order...:
Oldies but Goodies
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. Tom discovers a garden that only exists when the clock strikes thirteen.
Her Majesty, Grace Jones and The Boyhood of Grace Jones by Jane Langton. A girl uses her imagination to survive the Depression.
Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (yes, THAT Julie Andrews) (but please read The Secret Garden first!). An orphan girl makes a deserted cottage in the woods her private hideaway and finds peace, beauty, and friendship in nature.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. An adventure reminscent of The Phantom Tollbooth.
The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth. Exactly what it sounds like!
Black and Blue Magic by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Harry Houdini Marco is given the gift of flight and in turn gives the gift of believing in the impossible to others. See my discussion of it here.
The Saturdays and sequels by Elizabeth Enright. Four motherless children alternate having adventures in old New York on Saturdays.
The "Shoes" books by Noel Streatfeild (Ballet Shoes is the best). British orphans need to make their living on the stage.
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. A pampered orphaned city girl moves to live with family in the country and learns to - and that she can - take care of herself.
Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. In this epistolary novel, an orphan writes letters to her mysterious benefactor.
Anna to the Infinite Power by Mildred Ames. Super-creepy book about a girl who doesn't know she's one of thousands of identical clones.
The Girl With Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts. A girl discovers she has the power of telekinesis.
The Anastasia books by Lois Lowry. Laugh-out-loud funny.
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord. A Chinese immigrant girl finds that falling in love with baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers is her route to becoming an American. Very funny, to boot.
For slightly older children
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. Historical fiction about the Civil War.
Dicey's Song and sequels by Cynthia Voigt. A raw, poignant, heartbreaking story of abandoned siblings.
The Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. A motherless girl copes with growing up.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. Anna and her German Jewish family flee their home as the Nazis come to power.
Some more recent favorites
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Calpurnia Tate defies her mother's wishes that she be a proper young lady and instead pursues her love of science, guided by her grandfather.
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm. Another wonderful grandfather-granddaughter scientist story.
Our Only May Amelia and The Trouble With May Amelia by Jennifer Holm. Completely different from The Fourteenth Goldfish, these books tell the story of a pioneer girl in Washington in 1899.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin. Beautifully written books in which the protagonists go on a journey (physical and spiritual) only to find that what they seek has been at home all along. With Chinese folktales embedded in the books, the complicated plot structures make these great read-alouds.
The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech. Neither the peasants nor the royals in this seeking story are fully satisfied.
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. The story of a girl with synesthesia.
Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park. This book, about a Korean-American girl and her male friend who decide to enter a project about growing silkworms in the state fair is really about racism, ethnic identiy, assimilation, what it means to be an American, sustainable farming, and novel-writing itself.
Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park. Another story of a girl who loves baseball. But the subplot of a local soldier who comes home from the Korean War with PTSD makes this a story for older readers.
Twerp and Finding the Worm by Mark Goldblatt. These coming-of-age in 1960s Queens are based on the author's own life and deal with issues big and small, including friendship and religion. A tragedy in the second book may make this more appropriate for older children.
The Magic Half by Annie Barrows and Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder. Time travel and sibling relationships make for fun books. Read more about them here.
Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles. A historical novel set in a tuberculosis sanitorium against the backdrop of World War II.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. A tear-jerker about a brilliant girl unable to talk because of cerebral palsy and what happens when she finally becomes able to communicate.
And just in case you missed these classics (horrors!):
The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Claudia and her brother James run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and become intrigued by the a mystery regarding the provenance of a sculpture.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Tessering, good versus evil, and smart women scientists make a great trifecta.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri. An orphan is taken care of by her hermit grandfather and finds peace, beauty, and friendship in nature.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. An orphan has to live with a distant relative and finds peace, beauty, and friendship in nature. Sound familiar? I strongly recommend reading this one out loud due to the Cockney-accented English of some of the characters.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A pampered child who suddenly experiences a turn of fortune draws on her inner strength to survive.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit. Would it really be good to live forever?
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Classic tearjerker.
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. A puzzle of a book.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Word play and math concepts galore.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Historical fiction about the Salem witch trials.
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. Classic survival story.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. Another survival story.
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Rylie Brink. Caddie does not want to be a proper young lady in 1864 Wisconsin.
Please tell me if this list is helpful! Which of these do you remember reading as a child? What did I leave out?