101 Chapter Books to Read (or Hear) Before You Grow Up

best books for elementary kids

It is worth noting that Grace loves a particular series of fairy books, but I hate them. Hate them. The text is dull and not well written. It’s the book form of candy, empty words without any redeeming intellectual value.

There are probably books in your children’s lives that are the same way.

Why not feed their little brains with good literature instead of junk books?

Just like I limit the junk food in Grace’s belly, I limit the junk books in her brain. I’ll loosen up a little when she’s old enough to read her own books, but as long as I’m doing the reading, we are reading the good stuff.

If I am going to take the time to read to Gracie (and I do, every single day), I want to hear her a book that is stimulating. I want a story that draws me in and makes me want to read just one more chapter! I want it to expand what Gracie knows – either in experiences or feelings or understanding of the world. I want a story with layers  - something she may come back to again as an older kid or even an adult.

There is no junk food here. (There’s also no junk food on my list of  101 Picture Books to Read or Hear Before You Grow Up. )

I’ve read almost every one of these books, either in my own childhood or recently. There are a few I haven’t read but I included to round out the list to 101. I noted where that was the case, and I included them only at the recommendation of someone I respect (most often our favorite public librarian).

 

One more note – Not all of these are appropriate for a 5-year-old. Use your own good judgement to know what your kiddo is ready for.

  1. Meet Kirsten and other American Girl books – I haven’t read all of these books, but I’ve read enough to see that they’re good. Grace and I read Meet Kirsten because Kirsten is very similar to the people who lived in Walnut Grove, Minnesota (where Mary and Laura lived for a few years). She’s in the same time period and same general location, so Grace was instantly interested in the books. The series includes lots of different girls in lots of different time periods. If they’re all as well done as Kirsten, we’ll be reading this series for months.
  2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – You know Huck Finn, right? It’s the story of a 13-year-old boy who isn’t entirely literate but goes on an adventure with a runaway slave. It’s an amazing story that everyone should read at least once. (Note: This one is definitely best for older kids. There is a good deal of controversy surrounding this book’s use of a certain racial slur, but I think it’s fodder for a frank discussion about how people have been treated in the past. There are some really enlightening reviews focused on race on Amazon if you want to read more about that.)
  3. The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green – Stealing from the rich, giving to the poor, you know the story. This isn’t a Disney story; it’s real literature rich with adventure.
  4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – This is a classic, right? Tom is a mischievous boy who gets into all kinds of scrapes. Boys and girls will both love the story.
  5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – Forget what politically correct adults think about this story and read it for what it is – a silly story from the dreams of a little girl. As is always the case, the book is so much better than any movie version ever made.
  6. Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates – This is a book for older kids, about Amos Fortune, the son of an Africa king, and his journey through slavery and out the other side. It’s excellent, triumphant.
  7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – Dear, sweet Anne. Red-headed Anne Shirley was as much a part of my childhood as Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved her stories. I still love her stories. I still have the boxed set of these books in my basement, waiting for Grace to be big enough to listen to them.
  8. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond – “They’re like a vintage slice of life in London as seen through the eyes of a bear from darkest Peru.” (Recommendation from Cathy at Nurture Store.) I also love the blurb on the back of this book: Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington–a most endearing bear from Darkest Peru–on a railway platform in London. A sign hanging around his neck said, “Please look after this bear. Thank you” So that is just what they did.
  9. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo – I haven’t read this one, because it was written after I was in middle school. Winn-Dixie is a big ugly dog who helps a very lonely little girl in need of a friend.
  10. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – Black Beauty is a horse in turn of the century England. His story includes adventures aplenty, but its real value comes from its heart. Even preschool kids will understand the kindnesses and cruelties portrayed through the situations in this book.
  11. The Borrowers by Mary Norton – My boss told me that this was one of her favorite books when she was a kid, and she read it to her kids. It’s a series of books about a wee family who lives in the floor of a house.
  12. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson -”This was the first book to ever make me cry. It’s a heartwarming but sad story about carving out your refuge both physically and emotionally away from bullies and the harsh realities of being a kid. It’s about friendship and standing up for what is right as much as it’s about loss.” (Recommendation & review from Allie at No Time for Flash Cards)
  13. Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah Howe – I haven’t read this one, but our librarian loves it. The story is about a dog and a cat and a vampire bunny named Bunnicula. According to the reviews on Amazon, it’s really funny.
  14. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink – Caddie Woodlawn was more tomboy than Laura Ingalls Wilder, always finding adventure in places she shouldn’t have been to begin with. Based on the author’s grandmother, Caddie Woodlawn is a story I loved as a little girl.
  15. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – This was the very first chapter book I read aloud to Gracie. It is so good! She loved that there was a movie adaptation (the old Gene Wilder one, not the new one, which I’ve heard is not appropriate for little kids), and she loved that we found Willy Wanka candy at the grocery store. We finished this one in less than a week.
  16. The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop – A 10-year-old boy finds a magical castle in the attic. I haven’t read this one, but it reminds me of the Indian in the Cupboard which appears below.
  17. Charlotte’s Web by EB White – I remember weeping at the end of this book. It was the first time that I experienced such strong emotions from a book. There’s a really nice animated movie of Charlotte’s Web, too, but the book is the best version.
  18. Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth and Elizabeth Gilbreth Carey – I bet you know the Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt move based on this book. The book, however, is the real life, laugh out loud funny story of the Gilbreth family who lived in the very early 1900′s.
  19. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden – This is a really nice story about a little boy and a handful of animals (including a cricket, obviously). It’s great for little kids because there’s nothing traumatic or scary, just a rich and elaborate iteration of the Country Mouse, City Mouse folk tale.
  20. Christy by Catherine Marshall – I remember reading this story to my little sister. It’s about a 19-year-old girl who leaves home to become a teacher in a (comparatively) primitive town in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. This one is probably best for older kids; it’s almost 600 pages.
  21. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker – I haven’t read this one, but it’s on our list after Mary and Laura. I can’t wait to dive into the story of a third grade girl who seems like Fancy Nancy’s older, misunderstood cousin. It’s also the beginning of a series.
  22. The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh by AA Milne – I read this to Grace when I was pregnant with Allie, so I guess I read it to both of them. I love Pooh Bear’s overly simplistic view of the world. Even little kids will be able to see his foibles and find comfort in his friendship with Christopher Robin. You’ll see some parallels with Disney movies and stories, but the original is (as you might have known) much richer.
  23. Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary – This is a collection of letters written by a little boy to his favorite author over a period of four years. His parents divorce, he moves to a new school, he gets picked on all the time, and he learns to deal with his confusing life through writing.
  24. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli – This is a Newberry Medal winner about a teenage boy who becomes crippled and learns there’s more to him than his body. It’s probably best for older kids because the story develops slowly and includes a lot of language that littles won’t understand.
  25. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – Repeat it with me: There is a movie based on this book, but the book is so much better. It’s essentially a Cinderella story, but a marvelously rich version.
  26. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald Sobol – This was my first mystery book experience. I could never figure out the whodunnit, but I really liked reading the stories and being surprised at the end.
  27. The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant) by Avi – I haven’t read this one, but I really adore the author, Avi. Every Avi book I’ve ever read has gripped me from the first page to the very last, and the reviews of this on Amazon look really great. It’s a modern fable about the meaning of life.
  28. Freckle Juice by Judy Blume – Everyone has read this, right? It’s an elementary school classic about a little boy who wants to have freckles and thinks he can get them from freckle juice. I chuckle just thinking about it. Even the littlest of preschoolers will get the jokes and enjoy this one.
  29. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel – This book is required reading for every single early reader ever. It was one of the first books I ever read, and I bought it for Grace before she could even sit up. Frog and Toad are different and love each other completely. The book is actually five short stories, and it’s the first in a series of four books. You’ll read them all, I’m certain.
  30. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg – I read this when I was in the fourth grade. I still remember the aging picnic table where I sat at recess and read. (I think I just gave myself away as a giant anti social nerd, didn’t I?) It’s the story of two kids who run away from home and live, undetected, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a whole week.
  31. A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal by Joan W. Blos – I love journal-style books. This one is about a thirteen-year-old girl in 19-th century New England. When her mother dies, she has to learn to take care of her house and her family.
  32. Ginger Pye Eleanor Estes - This is a book about a little boy and his very smart dog. Everything is great until the dog is stolen!
  33. Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry – Gooney Bird Greene is the new girl in school (as I was over and over and over again), and she loves to tell stories. You’ll really like her stories, too.
  34. Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Read through this one a little ahead of your kiddo as you may decide to drop some stories. These can get a little gruesome by today’s standards, but most are still appropriate for the early elementary set.
  35. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fizthugh – Oh, Harriet. Harriet is an 11-year-old aspiring author who documents her brutally honest observations in her secret notebook. And then a classmate finds it and reads the whole thing out loud. Can you feel the trauma?
  36. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – I thought I would hate this book, but I had to read it for a literacy festival when I was in the seventh grade. It’s about a 13-year-old boy who’s on his way to see his dad in a tiny airplane when the plane crashes. He’s lost all by himself in the Canadian wilderness.
  37. Heidi by Johanna Sypri – Heidi is a 5-year-old orphan sent to live with her grandpa in the mountains. But then she’s sent away again, to be the playmate of a little girl in town. The rest of the story is about how she tries to get back to her grandpa.
  38. Holes by Lois Sachar – A teenage boy gets sent to a detention camp (through no fault of his own, of course), and he discovers mystery and intrigue.
  39. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell – As the title might suggest, this is about a boy who eats worms (on a bet). I remember reading it as a kid, and I loved it.
  40. The Hundred Dresses by Elenor Estes – This story was written in the forties, but it is as true for today as ever. A bullied girl tells the class that she has a hundred dresses – even though she wears the same threadbare one to school every day. Her family eventually moves away (because of the torment), and the rest of the kids are left to deal with their own behavior. This is a really powerful story.
  41. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – As a kid, I was a sucker for a stranded kid who survives on her own story. This is one of those, about a 12-year-old girl on a Pacific Island.
  42. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks – My grandpa died when I was 12, and this was one of the last stories I shared with him. He loved the Old West, cowboys and Indians. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to read it to Grace because it makes me more than a little teary to even think about it. It is a really wonderful story.
  43. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl – We haven’t read this yet, but I loved it when I was in elementary school. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m sure the book is better. James lives with his crazy aunts who don’t understand him and gets mixed up with magic, mystery, and adventure.
  44. James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot - Grace loves these stories about animals. This book isn’t a chapter book so much as a series of short stories from the author’s real life veterinary practice in the countryside of England.
  45. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – This is a shorter version of the Bible. Every story leads to the coming of Jesus. I never thought about the stories in this way. Grace loves it, and it makes me think, too.
  46. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes – Pride leads to a fall. This is a story about a teen (I think) who suffers a crippling injury. It’s set in the Revolutionary War in Massachusetts. Also, it’s probably best for older kids, maybe 10+.
  47. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George – My mom loved this story, me not so much. It’s a lost in the wilderness survival story about an Eskimo girl (teen?) who’s accepted into a pack of wolves.
  48. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – You know the Disney movie, right? This is the British book version, which is (of course) infinitely better.
  49. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling – This isn’t so much a chapter book as a book of unconnected short stories. Grace loves these because they’re about animals. I read them on my own when I was in fourth grade (not sure why, but I remember reading it on the playground), but I’ve been reading them to Grace since she was three.
  50. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Greene – You know this story already. Sword in the stone, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Merlin the magician. This particular version is rewritten a bit to be appropriate for kids.
  51. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards – I’d heard this one was really good, so I ordered it from the library. We’re just on chapter two, but I’ve loved it so far, and closing it each night is a struggle. It’s written by that Julie Andrews. You know, Mary Poppins and Sound of Music.
  52. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket – I’ve never read this series of books, but they’re highly recommended by our librarian. She says they’re a lot like the early Harry Potter stories.
  53. Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody – This is an autobiographical story of a 9-year-old boy whose family leaves New England to take over a Colorado ranch.
  54. The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – If you’ve been a Feels Like Home reader for any length of time, you are well familiar with our Mary and Laura obsession. We’ve been reading this series since January. We’ve finished the original 9-book series and moved on to On the Way Home, a memoir Laura wrote about moving from South Dakota to Missouri with Almanzo.
  55. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett – This is another of Grace’s favorite stories right now. It’s a classic, about a little girl whose rich father sends her to a fancy boarding school. When he dies, the mean headmistress basically enslaves her.
  56. The Littles by John Peterson – A family of tiny people lives in the walls of a regular family. Forget the creepiness and go with the story. Of course, problems arise and the Littles have to figure out a way to solve them.
  57. Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne – This is the beginning of a ginormous series. Two little kids (in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania!) find a magic tree house and have adventures all through time and space. These are awesome for younger kids, maybe kindergarten through second or third grade.
  58. Mary Poppins by Dr. P. L. Travers – Is there a book in all the world that’s not better than its movie adaptation? I think the movie adaptation of Mary Poppins is positively splendid, but the book is even better.
  59. Matilda by Roald Dahl – Matilda is a five and a half year old genius whose parents are idiots and whose school principal is a bully. She prevails, as you might have imagined. Your kids will love her.
  60. Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey – My boss loved this one as a kid. It’s about a doll made from sticks and a hickory nut, left all alone to survive the winter. She finds that she’s not alone at all when neighbors come to her aid.
  61. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry – This is a story that could be real about a place that really is. Horses aren’t my thing, but my sister loved this book.
  62. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary – Every single human being in America should have read this story as a kid. It’s ubiquitous. Grace was introduced to Ralph S. Mouse through a Scholastic book on DVD thing that she got for Christmas, and she loved him. The book is next on our list.
  63. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater – For us, the Jim Carrey movie came before the book. Grace adored that movie, and the book only made the story better. On the other hand, please don’t judge this awesome and classic story by Jim Carrey. It’s so much better than that.
  64. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien – Oh, how I wanted this book to never end! An innocent family of field mice (one sickly) are saved by highly intelligent rats who’ve broken out of the National Institute of Mental Health. There are sequels to prolong the wonder of talking mice and their clever rat cousins. I might have to go get this from the library because writing about it makes me want to read it all over again.
  65. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald – Everyone loves Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle loves everyone right back. She lives in an upside down house, her backyard is full of buried treasure, and everything she does is fantastic! I devoured this in a couple of days when I was in about fourth grade.
  66. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George – Sam runs away from home – for real – and lives in a tree in the mountains. I told you, a lot of survival stories.
  67. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene – This is actually a series of books written over almost 100 years. Old or new, the books are about a little girl who solves mysteries. I could never figure them out, but I loved the suspense.
  68. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – A 10-year-old girl describes life as her family tries to save their best friends – a Jewish family – by smuggling them out of Nazi-controlled Denmark.
  69. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper – The main character of this story has cerebral palsy. She can’t walk or talk, but she is brilliant and wants to share her mind with the world. Fascinating and excellent. Best for older kids, maybe fifth grade and up.
  70. Owls in the Family by Farley Mowatt – “Owls in the family is a Canadian classic. It’s all about boys and their pets but in this case the pets aren’t as run of the mill as you may have at your house. Mowatt brings the Owls to life as characters in their own right and his masterful storytelling is both exciting and timeless. Fantastic , wholesome book for the whole family.” (Recommendation & review from Allie at No Time for Flash Cards)
  71. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – You know the story. The book, however, is a real treasure. I promise that you will enjoy it as much as your kids – and it’s as good for a 5-year-old as for an 11-year-old.
  72. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – When I read this in the fifth grade, I really appreciated the main character who was bored, bored, bored with life. And then a magic tollbooth showed up in his bedroom and things started to happen. Yahoo!
  73. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingren – I don’t remember whether I read this as a kid or not (I probably did), but here’s what Amazon says about it: Tommy and his sister Annika have a new neighbor, and her name is Pippi Longstocking. She has crazy red pigtails, no parents to tell her what to do, a horse that lives on her porch, and a flair for the outrageous that seems to lead to one adventure after another!
  74. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter – Have you ever heard someone called a Pollyanna? It means to be excessively cheerful or optimistic. The term comes from this book, about a little girl sent to live with her mean aunt.
  75. Poppy (Tales from Dimwood Forest) by Avi – The last time I looked for Poppy, it had gone out of print, but it’s back! It’s about a very little mouse who has to go on a dangerous adventure to save her family. It’s so good on many levels, and it has great suspense and action. And you know how I feel about a strong female heroine. AND there are several sequels, which I know you will read because you won’t want your time with Poppy to come to an end.
  76. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald – Princess, castle, pauper boy, evil goblins who try to take over everything. Sounds classic, right? This book, written in 1872, inspired JRR Tolkien, Madeline L’Engle, and Lewis Carroll.
  77. Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary – Ramona Quimby was my character of choice for almost all of second grade. I couldn’t get enough of her and her family. This is the first in a series of at least eight books.
  78. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – This one is best for older kids. It’s a exciting story, though, of a shipwrecked kid who lives for 28 years on his own. This story was written in 1790, but kids today will like it anyway. You can get abridged and unabridged versions.
  79. The Root Cellar by Janet Lunn – “A young girl is sent to live on a farm with relatives she barely knows and discovers that their root cellar holds more than vegetables for winter. This time traveling book had me on the edge of my seat and searching for non-fiction sources about history, too. Not only is this book about history, it’s also about finding a place where you fit in and friends who understand you.” (Recommendation & review from Allie at No Time for Flash Cards)
  80. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr – Oh, the tears. There’s no way I could read this one out loud. Grace would say, “Stop reading, Mom. You’re crying too much and I can’t understand the words.” Not that she’s said it before or anything. {ahem} {when Jack died in On the Shores of Silver Lake} {and other times too}
  81. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlin – I remember devouring this book as a kid, maybe fourth or fifth grade? It was before the Glenn Close movie came out (which is also excellent, similar in a lot of ways to Little House on the Prairie), because I remember watching the movie with my mom and comparing. Set on the prairie in 1910, the story is about Sarah (who describes herself as plain and tall), a woman who answers a newspaper ad to become a widower’s new wife and mother to his two kids. The story of how they learn to be a family is tender and emotional (but in a really good way). Even little kids will appreciate the story, and it is an awesome history lesson about turn of the century life in the midwest.
  82. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I’ll be honest. I have never liked The Secret Garden. The story is simple and classic. A crippled and sickly little girl’s family dies, leaving her all alone, to be shipped off to an uncle in another country. She finds a secret garden within the walls of his home, and she is determined to explore it.
  83. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – I’ve never read this one, but our librarian recommended it for upper elementary kids. What would you do if you found an abused puppy? Return it to a life of beatings? Keep it? Tell your parents? That’s the story.
  84. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar – This is a strange book about a strange school full of strange kids who do strange things. I loved it when I was little (partly because of all the things they did that you just can’t do.
  85. The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting – You know the gist. A peculiar man can talk to animals and has all kinds of ridiculous adventures. Everyone loves it.
  86. Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski – I read this story about a little girl whose family moves to Florida to start a strawberry plantation as a kid. They suffer hardships, violence, and danger. It’s about real life, not a fairy tale.
  87. Stuart Little by E.B. White – Stuart Little is a mouse who is part of a human family. When his friend, a bird, goes missing, he goes out looking for her and finds a great adventure.
  88. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls – In Oklahoma at the turn of the century, a 14-year-old boy and his grandpa try again and again to trap a bunch of monkeys that have escaped from a carnival, to earn the reward money.
  89. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss – Written in 1812 about a family who gets shipwrecked on an desert island, this is a must-read among must-reads. It is not to be missed, seriously.
  90. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume – This is the first of five classic books about a boy named Peter and his annoying little siblings.
  91. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar – Imagine you’re the kind of kid who lies and cheats and picks fights. Imagine that you’re the most hated kid in school. How would it feel if an adult took an interest in you and believed you could change? Could her support make you a better person?
  92. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – Originally published in 1883, this is the original pirate tale. It’s a violent story full of questionable decisions and colorful characters. Central to the story is a treasure hunt, and you’ll love the action and suspense. Probably best for older kids.
  93. The Trolley Car Family by Elenor Clymer – This seems to be out of print, but I think it’s available used and may be at your local library. I read The Trolley Car Family as a kid, and I think it’s just great. It’s about a family who survives despite bleak circumstances.
  94. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White – This story is about a mute young swan who learns to communicate using a trumpet his father stole for him. It’s about overcoming challenges, being yourself, courage, honesty, and love.
  95. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi – When I was in seventh grade, I holed up in the school nurse’s office with this book. I don’t remember why (was I sick or did I just want to read?), but I remember being absolutely and totally immersed in the story. Charlotte Doyle is a teenage girl, unexpectedly the only passenger on a transatlantic voyage in 1832. She seeks counsel in the ship’s captain, only to be betrayed and tried for murder. It’s an unusual tale of murder and mystery. I highly recommend it.
  96. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt – If you could live forever, would you? The Tuck family drank from an eternal spring and now “enjoys” the blessing of eternal life. A little girl runs away from home to live with them, and she contemplates drinking from the spring. Because it deals with issues of life and death, Tuck Everlasting is best for older kids.
  97. The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman – There’s no way that Grace is ready for this one yet, but it’s a really great story that won a Newberry Medal in 1987. The main characters are Prince Brat and Jemmy, his whipping boy – an orphan who takes the prince’s beatings when the latter misbehaves. Jemmy plans to run away, and Prince Brat comes with him. Trouble finds them, and they try to make their way back to the castle.
  98. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – Written in 1908, these are the enchanting adventures of Mole, Mr. Toad, Badger, and Ratty. They’re lovely especially for the very young.
  99. The Witches by Roald Dahl – This is a favorite from my childhood! Three witches hate children and turn a little boy into a mouse. This was made into a good movie starring Angelica Huston.
  100. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – In 1687, Kit is forced to leave Barbados to live with a Puritan aunt and uncle in Connecticut. Desperate to fit in with her new family but terribly homesick, Kit befriends an old woman who’s a suspected witch.
  101. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – This was published in 1900, the first in a series of 14 books. It’s the original Wizard of Oz, the book about which the movie was made.
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Comments

  1. says

    I think this is the best list of it’s kind that I’ve seen yet. (Goodness, that sounds a little spammy.) Most lists have a bunch of books I’ve never read, or specifically chosen not to read, and missed some of the really good ones. You have a few of those, but you have SOO many good books that I love, and quite a few that sound like things I want to read and have my kids read. I also love the Emily books by LM Montgomery, and Gene STratton Porter is also a great choice for older kids. Especially Freckles.
    Thanks so much!

  2. Lisa M says

    You should consider including “The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread” by Kate DiCamillo. I read it to my 7-year-old twin boys who just loved it. We did have to have some discussion about the poor servant girl with “cauliflower” ears, so that was a little uncomfortable. We did not see the movie.

    Also, my boys loved “The BFG” by Roald Dahl, particularly the made-up words the BFG used. It was quirky and perfect for boys – lots of action and giants eating people and whatnot.
    Lisa

  3. says

    I love children’s book lists! This one is filled with many of my favorites. If I could add any (that I didn’t notice on the list), I would definitely add The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis), Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls), The Railway Children (E. Nesbit), The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton), The Black Stallion (Walter Farley), The Hobbit (Tolkien), Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome) and Little Lord Fauntleroy (Frances Hodgson Burnett). Some of those were childhood favorites, and some I only discovered in recent years.

    • Kelly says

      I whole heartedly agree with Debbie N’s additions! Where the Red Fern Grows was a favorite of mine…I still love it! Also, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Tayor (I would recommend that one for older children though as it deals with some hard situations with race in the deep south), Homer Price by Robert McClowski, Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace, Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen, All of a Kind Family by Sidney Taylor, Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, Sarah Witcher’s Story (based on a true story) by Elizabeth Yates, Stone Fox by John Renolds Gardiner, Gone Away Lake By Elizabeth Enright, The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson, A Dog Called Kitty by Bill Wallace, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.

      Most of these were favorites of mine growing up, some I have discovered with my children. All are well written. Highly recommend adding these to your list with your daughters.

      • says

        Thanks for all the great suggestions! I was sure Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was on the list; I’m not sure why I took it off. I remember writing a summary for it! I haven’t heard of any of the others before, but I’ll be sure to check them out. Thanks!

        • Christina Taylor says

          So many of your 101 are sitting on my shelf waiting to be shared with my littles!!!! Definitely find A Dog Called Kitty.. You’ll love it. I also loved reading 5 Little Peppers (And How They Grew), and Second-Hand Magic is a must read! There are so many good books, so little time!! I want to read as many to my kids as possible before they prefer to read alone!

      • Haley says

        All wonderful books; I’ve read and loved most of them. Castle in the Attic was a favorite, and ALL the American Girls as well.

        Others I would include:

        *Maniac McGee — for older kids, since it deals with white/black friendships in America, but it is an EXCELLENT book.

        *The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander (particularly The Black Cauldron and Taran Wanderer) — also older, but sooooo sooo soo good. Welsh-based fantasy story and coming of age, and there are moments that will probably bring tears.

        *Time Cat — Lloyd Alexander. Gareth the cat has 9 lives, meaning that he can take his human to visit 9 different places and times. I loved this as a kid and I still love it.

        *The Westing Game — a murder mystery. Super, super fun whodunit and really clever.

        *King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry — about a stableboy for a Sultan and one remarkable young horse. I enjoyed this one growing up.

        *Second the motion for All of A Kind Family! — about a Jewish family on New York’s Upper East Side at the turn of the century. It’s sweet and charming.

        One thing I will say about reading this list, I hadn’t realized that Hundred Dresses was written in the 1940s. Knowing that actually makes it more powerful. Wanda’s family is Polish (“No more call ‘polack”), and if the setting is in the 1940s and not earlier, they would have immigrated after WWII. As in, after surviving the Holocaust (the Reich planned to exterminate Poles as they had done Jews, just over a 50 year period instead of immediately). And then the girls treat her so badly and she’s so nice to them back GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

        Way to go, the LIST made me cry! I hope you’re happy!

        It is a wonderful list though so two thumbs way up.

    • says

      I swear I had Where the Red Fern Grows, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry on the list. They must have gotten lost in a save or something. At any rate, thanks for the suggestions! I’ll have to compile all of the additions into another list. :)

      • Kelly says

        Another great one I forgot to add to the list (seriously, where is my brain? I JUST finished reading this one with my kiddos.) is Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. And all of the Thornton Burgess animal books are great as well, especially for younger children just starting to sit still for chapter books!

  4. says

    What a great list! Reading over it felt almost like visiting with long-lost friends. My mother was a librarian, so I was around books ALL THE TIME. I can’t remember when she started reading these books to me, I was so young; and I continued reading them (more like gobbling them up) for myself as soon as I was able. I am making note of the few books on here that I haven’t read so I can get them and read them as soon as possible. Thanks for such an inspiring post!

  5. says

    I’ve read all but 2 on your list and can so appreciate how hard it is to make a list of ONLY 101 books. There are just so many that I enjoy reading for myself and to the kids. I’m especially a big fan of read-alouds that are older but classic – Magic by the Lake, Last of the Really Great Whangdoodle, Mixed up Files, Pippi, etc. Such a nice list – so many books, so little time :)

  6. Virginia says

    I wouldn’t compare to Harry Potter, though. I read these aloud with 3 different kids, and they are such a feast of sheer laughter…so fun! Lemony Snicket is brilliant at connecting with kids. These are dark tales but so incredible, and so funny. His vocabulary lessons are also very funny. If you just give one to a youngster and let them read it, you will miss all the fun. And they may as well, if their comprehension level isn’t ready.

    Where the Red Fern Grows is so good, it will enchant and even make you cry. And Despereaux? I’d read that again and again for it’s beauty! Can’t wait to read it to my youngest granddaughter.

  7. Nellie says

    Jumped over here from the Equipping Women in Business Page! Thanks for creating this book list! So many my children have read but so many we need to check out of the library still left on the list!

  8. says

    Great list. I am always looking for a good book for my kids to read. Many of the books have been read by my girls. Those that they haven’t read are now on their list to read. Thanks

  9. NinaBean says

    Many great choices thank you. I would have to add Summer Of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls and Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

  10. says

    The Tale of Despereaux is REALLY GOOD!! I love Holes, Mouse & The Motorcycle, Number the Stars, and I LOVE the Whipping Boy. It has some excellent lessons. I LOVE the series “Girls to the Rescue” by Bruce Lansky. Each book contains a collection of stories, – fairytales, fables, and true stories, of GIRLS being the heroes in unique circumstances. I LOVE this series!! (For younger readers, about the same level as Number the Stars)
    I need to read a lot of the books on this list..I have faint memories of “100 Dresses” but that was WAY long ago.
    (PS – one good story is I Am David by Anne Holm. It is about a young boy who escaped from a 1950s labor camp, explores the world around him, and finds God through a unique series of events. It is well-written, has lifelong lessons, inspiring characters, and a thrilling storyline!

  11. says

    Happy to say that I’ve read a lot of these books and have read them to my daughters. It’s so hard to find a favorite, but The Borrowers, The Wind in the Willows, Matilda and The Little House on the Prairie Series are on the top of my list. I liked to read books that had characters of other cultures (I’m white) and mix up fiction and non-fiction.

  12. Melissa says

    There are so many wonderful titles! I was wondering/hoping you or another of your readers could help me find a book from childhood since everyone is so versed.

    I can’t remember the title or author, and I remember reading it in elementary school – roughly 1980 – 82. It begins with a girl and her little brother in the botanical gardens/zoo looking at the flowers on a very hot summer day. They are bored and looking for a place to cool off. The brother picks one of the flowers and they are chased out of the gardens by the groundskeeper. They end up in the museum because it’s cool there and find an exhibit of an old log cabin. It’s behind glass so they can’t touch anything. The girl gets a headache from the smell of the flower in the close space and crushes the flower against the glass. Suddenly the glass disappears and they’ve traveled back in time to pilgrim times and they have these great adventures.

    Someone please tell me they remember this.

  13. says

    Bookmarking this post because sadly there are a bunch of books on here that I have never read, Peter Pan being one of them. Thank you for sharing this list Tara.

  14. Grace Hoover says

    Your information on The Secret Garden is a little off. It is Mary’s cousin who is weak and sickly, not Mary. Also the garden is not within the walls of the house, it is a locked, walled in garden outside (among many other walled in gardens left unlocked). It is a really beautiful story about choosing love and life over fear, anger and hatred.

  15. Lynn says

    Like the list. My daughter really loves to read and has easily read half of these. I would add to it the Box Car Children.

  16. Meaghan says

    The BFG (big friendly giant) by Roald Dahl is another of my childhood favorites I didn’t see on this list

  17. says

    Amazingly thorough list! I recently did a clear out of books from my girls’ bedrooms. We are book readers so you can imagine that many books on your list were on their shelves. Faves…the Files of Ms Basil Frankwiler (I know I mangled this title!), Harriet the Spy, the Magic Treehouse, and the Indian in the Cupboard. Great list!!

  18. Becca says

    Great list, but I’d highly recommend adding “Frindle” by Andrew Clements. I taught elementary school for 9 years and now have a masters degree in library science with am emphasis in children’s lit. It’s one of my all time favorites. Also, you might try the Emily series by L.M.Montgomery. :-)

  19. Laurie says

    Such a wonderful list. A couple of titles must be relatively new, because I don’t recognize them, but overall, they bring back such great memories for me. I can’t wait to start introducing some of these titles to my grandson. We still have many of these books packed away from my kids’ days of reading. I’m glad others suggested some of the titles I hoped/expected to see on your list.

    An author I never seem to see on lists like this, but I really think should be is Zilpher Keatley Snyder. She wrote the Egypt Game and my very favorite, the Velvet Room. I don’t remember how many times I read that book when I was young. Many of her books are no longer in print, but I awhile back, I managed to special order many of the titles for my own kids and I have them all on a shelf, waiting for my grandson. When I was a children’s librarian, I made sure the school had a copy of each one I could find. It wasn’t long before the kids were borrowing them.

    Thanks for the list

  20. Christie says

    This is a wonderful list; and I “second” many of the suggestions listed in the comments =) Another great one to add is Naya Nuki. It’s the story of the Shoshone girl who was kidnapped at the same time as Sacajawea. Except that instead of being sold and married to a fur trader, she was enslaved by another Indian tribe 1000+ miles from home. And at the age of ~12, she escaped and survived a solo-trip home. There is a very happy ending to this one, and my boys never wanted me to stop reading!

  21. says

    A great one i would include is the Girl Who Could Fly, wonderful and unexpected. Also, the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis, a Skype visit with her is worth every penny.

  22. Deb Mishler says

    Great list Tara! I just found 3 Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books at a yard sale that Seth is enjoying. I hadn’t heard of them before but thought I’d seen them on your list so I picked them up and I’m really glad I did. They kind of remind me of the old Uncle Wiggily books I read growing up. :O)

  23. Emily says

    Stone Fox is another great chapter book. I read it to my second grade class this year and they loved it.

  24. Christine says

    “that” Julie Andrews Edwards also wrote one of my very favorite books called “Mandy”. I also love the author Andrew Clements. Most of the books I’ve read by him were awesome-Frindle, No Talking, Things Not Seen… Perhaps not for the youngest ones as well.
    Thanks for the list from this mom and 3rd grade teacher!

  25. Erin says

    What a great list! Would love to see some Madeleine L’Engle books on there – A Wrinkle in Time, any of the Austin family series (in particular, A Ring of Endless Light). Thanks for putting this together – I’d completely forgotten some of them, and I’m glad to be reminded!

  26. Audrye says

    Thank you, thank you for recommending Ella Enchanted. It was my favorite book as a teen & I still enjoy it now at 26. :) The movie was such a poor representation of the book.

  27. says

    Thanks for the list! It’s a good one. It inspired me to post the “suggested summer reading list” I made on my library website for the summer. It’s a list based on my opinion. :) I finished a book called “Dovey Coe” today that is worth a read.

  28. Angeles says

    First, thanks for this list – it’s filled with books I loved, read and re-read, and have read to my daughter. She’s 17 now, but I think there are a couple we’re going to check out and read aloud to one another anyway. :)

    Secondly, your link within this post that’s supposed to go to the chapter books links right back to this post. Bummer.

  29. Inez Kelley says

    What a fabulous list and brought back so many memories. I loved Peter Pan, The Little Princess, Harriet the Spy and many of these growing up. I would also add Old Yeller and The House Without a Christmas Tree to your list.

    • says

      Oh, Old Yeller. I left that one off on purpose. I know a lot of people like it, but I can’t handle the trauma of the shooting even as an adult. I’ll have to look for The House Without a Christmas, though! Thanks for the recommendation!

  30. Megan says

    This is a great list and I love the additional suggestions as well. I didn’t read them all but I didn’t see Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis mentioned. I taught upper elementary school for 12 years and this was my favorite read aloud. It is such a fantastic book. I am a big fan of this author in general but this book is my favorite.

  31. Patty says

    I’m so glad Miss Hickory made the list. I thought I was the only person who really enjoyed this sweet book.

  32. Shayna says

    I am 32 and read “Out of my Mind” last year when I picked it up at thrift shop. The book is absolutely fantastic. Makes you stop and think twice about the person that you see that is incredibly physically handicapped. Many people don’t realize their mind can be sharp.

    I have a book suggestion, but it’s for much older children, like teenagers: “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher.

  33. emily says

    I love the list! And I second (or third) many of the comments.

    The Westing Game
    Zilpha Keatley Snider
    Boxcar Children
    A Wrinkle in Time

    I’d also suggest some books by Anne Lindbergh (my favorite people “The People in PIneapple Place”: http://www.amazon.com/People-Pineapple-Place-Anne-Lindbergh/dp/1567924115

    And my favorite, still of all time: “The Diamond in the Window.” http://www.amazon.com/Diamond-Window-Hall-Family-Chronicles/dp/0064400425

  34. says

    This is an awesome list! I have been scouring the web for good books for my 5th grade daughter and this is going to be a very helpful list. I am wondering if you know of a resource that alerts parents to possible conflicts to family beliefs? Like if a book would be suitable for a child raised in a Christian home?

    Thanks again! Looks like this took a lot of work:)

  35. kristy says

    I love this list. Perhaps an additional hundred could be added with all the suggestions! My daughter and I really loved The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. The story of a glass rabbit and his journey from owner to owner.

  36. says

    LOL, you had me at hating the fairy series. I KNOW of which you speak. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one trying to get their daughters to turn to other options. My kids love the Mr. Putter series by Cynthia Rylant (beginning readers) and the Boxcar Children. Which fortunately has a ton in that series.

    • says

      I have a little secret. I let my daughter get one of the fairy books out of the library – I told her she could have her dad read it to her at bedtime. And he’s reading it! (She tried to read it on her own, but she’s not quite able to yet.) She quit hounding me about the books, and I didn’t have to read it. Score! ;)

  37. Jenny says

    I’ve got to add the original Boxcar Children book. That is my favorite book ever and my daughter loved when I read it to her as well.

  38. says

    This is a great list–one I’ll bookmark and refer to when we are looking for something to read.

    I concur with your librarian that Bunnicula is good. I’d be careful with Nancy Drew. Some of them are good, but the quality is uneven. Like the Hardy Boys books, the early ones were better than the later ones, and the new series are plain awful. Kids who like mystery/detective books would also like Sherlock Holmes.

  39. Emily S says

    Great list! Thanks for sharing. I would also recommend The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall. Charming stories about a charming family. Great read aloud.

  40. Mary Rynsburger says

    Thank you for this great list! My daughter and I are looking for some new reads. We (or she) have read a lot of these books and I we have loved them too.

    We also really loved The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (I read them to her, and they inspired such great discussion!) And some of my favorite reads have been the American Girl History Mysteries (stand-alone books, there are 22 in the collection–not the ones associated with the Historical Character dolls), those were such a great way to discuss the history of our country.

    Thanks again!

  41. Fran says

    Great list! I noticed lots of classics that I read when I was younger and which my own children have enjoyed reading. If you are interested in adding to the list, I highly recommend the children’s novel, The Bloody Book Bag Ordeal, by C. Maguire. It is hilarious. My girls loved it!

  42. Emily Elliott says

    Thank you so much for this list. My 4 year old and I are heading to the library this week to start our reading adventure. I would like to recommend The Giver by Lois Lowry. It is an emotionally deep book that opens discussion on a myriad of social topics. A must for reading with older children. I read it in the 5th grade (without a parent) but did not fully begin to comprehend many of the issues discussed until much older. I am a Christian and believe this is a great book for discussing God’s plan for the world and how we can distort this plan when we separate our lives/societies from His good will.

  43. Cathy says

    I love this list – I’m a 5th grade teacher and am always looking for read-alouds that will keep the interest of boys and girls. I would also add Frindle and Wrinkle in Time

  44. Marcella says

    Thank you for all of your time putting together such a wonderful list! My mother read many of these books to us 7 children when we were young. I am trying to do the same for my sweet kids. We are starting The Swiss Family Robinson this week! I am so grateful for your hard work. It has helped me to increase our book list of must reads. I could not remember several of the titles of the books Mom had read to us, but I remembered the stories. You helped me find many of them! Thanks

  45. Laura says

    This brings back some memories. I loved Freckle Juice – but back then I loved everything Judy Blume wrote. I was excited to see Nancy Drew on here and was surprised not to see the Hardy Boys, I loved both of them.

    Thanks for this post. I’ll be saving it for future reference.

  46. Jacqui B says

    Love the list. Another book you might want to consider is Hitty — Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field. Hitty is a very small wooden doll with a perpetual smile who was carved in the early 1800s out of mountain-ash (for good luck) by a kindly peddler and given to the young daughter of a New England sea captain. This charming story is told in the first person by Hitty. During her first century as a toy she survives incredible dangers, countless owners (not all nice little girls, either) and numerous narrow escapes. Such a good book. I actually first read this as an adult and loved it!

  47. Patty Rose says

    A little known book that I have always loved is MVP by Douglas Evans. My third graders loved it all six years I taught! http://smile.amazon.com/MVP-Magellan-Project-Douglas-Evans/dp/1590786254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402540403&sr=8-1&keywords=mvp+by+douglas+evans

    Every kid’s dream is to be named as the most valuable player. But how many ever dream that the game is a race around the world (no flying allowed) in just forty days? That’s the challenge Adam faces in the great Global game. As the player for the Magellan Voyage Project, he competes against others for a four-million dollar prize! Trackers with blowguns and a nefarious baron don’t make things easy. The winner and nominee for many state readers choice awards including the Nutmeg Award, the Sunshine State Award, and the Rebecca Caudill Award

  48. Amy Riggan says

    This is a great list! If you haven’t read, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, stop what you are doing and find yourself a copy! It is an incredible story of a porcelain rabbit and the people that love him. This book always ranks as one of my 4th graders favorites.

  49. Jen says

    Great list! Just a FYI – Cheaper By The Dozen discusses birth control and preachers “pinching rear ends” – albeit in a humorous way, but not something everyone might be ready to discuss with their kiddos. We stopped reading it. Thanks again for all the great books!

  50. Danealle says

    Soany of these are awesome! And I second many of the add ons in the comments, the only one I didnt see that I would add is the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.

  51. Jeanne says

    Loved your list and have read many with my daughter and younger son. Since you have daughters, I can say that the Historical American Girl Series books are all really good and my daughter had read and re-read many of the ones we read together when she was younger.

    Although they have been mentioned by others I have to put in a special plug for the Besty-Tacy Series (10 books in total) and we’ve read them all starting in kindergarten and finishing at the end of 4th grade. They are just super and so fun we’ve read many three and four times.

    And the All of a Kind Family series as well. My daughter just loved them and was so interested in the lives and customs of the turn-of-the-century Jewish family.

    Excited to see Ginger Pye on the list. I am reading this with my son and it is so good as all the Eleanor Estes books we’ve tried have been (The Moffats).

  52. Sherri LaFever says

    We’ve read many of these books as well as several of the ones mentioned. My kids all loved to be read to and they would all bring books to read in the car (either by me or by themselves) when we traveled. I so miss those days. Waiting for some future grandchildren to be born so I can read these stories again.

  53. Dawn says

    This list made my day! I love so many of these books- The Witch of Blackbord Pond is still my favorite book of all time. I agree that this is the best compilation of children’s books I’ve seen. I won’t repeat suggestions that I’ve already seen, but I will recommend Little Women and My Friend Flicka.

  54. Annette H says

    There were at least two that were forgotten… Where The Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller. No child should be denied the priviledge of these stories. (Yes, I cried and had to have a 10 year old read some parts!)

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