The Best Children's Books #1

It is hard to find a good book for kids between the ages of 5 and 9. These are kids who can read, but at varying (and rapidly changing) levels, and who are too fancy for the little kid books (thick, big pictures, few words, boring).

Amanda and Huxley spend a lot of time figuring out what the good books are. They forage at two different libraries, they take home huge piles of possible good books, then narrow that down even more to identify just the best, and then, those are often re-acquired and re-read multiple times. We purchase some of these knowing that we can pass them on to the emerging younger cousins and that they will like them too because, as noted, these are the best books.

Recently, it dawned on me that others can benefit from Amanda and Huxley's hard work. She uses a GoodReads account to keep track of and rate the books. Poaching her account allows me to pass some excellent recommendations on to you.

I'm going to do this over several posts, as it is a lot of work to put together the info and links, etc. I'll give you her five star books as well as a few of the four stars, and I'll ignore everything she gave fewer stars to.

I'm also providing the publisher's descriptions and a picture of the insides so you'll have a good idea of what the book is and what level it is at. Kids in this age group are in that strange zone where a book they can read and a book that they can enjoy having read to them are vastly different, but since they are in fact two different things, a book that can be read to them (like the first example I'm giving you, below) will later become a book they can read. And, in some cases, it can become a book they can have on their own bookshelves for a long time and go back to now and then.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

Example of text

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost. . . .
Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle – that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.

This is a fantastic book, excellent story. Huxley's teacher read it to the students in class, then we got it out of the library, Amanda read it to Huxley, then I got a copy of it and now it sits on the shelf in an honored location.

If you recognize the author's name, it may be because she also wrote Because of Winn-Dixie.


Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann.

One small step for a mouse; one giant leap for aviation.

These are dark times . . . for a small mouse. A new invention—the mechanical mousetrap—has caused all the mice but one to flee to America, the land of the free. But with cats guarding the steamships, trans-Atlantic crossings are no longer safe. In the bleakest of places . . . the one remaining mouse has a brilliant idea. He must learn to fly!

Debut illustrator Torben Kuhlmann’s inventive tale and stunning illustrations will capture the imagination of readers—young and old—with the death-defying feats of this courageous young mouse.

Example of text. This book is mostly illustration.

This is more of a picture book than a chapter book, but the text is chapter-book like in the sense that the vocabulary is middle level, it uses lots of sentences, etc. So this qualifies as a read-to book for kids in this age range, except the ones that are a bit older.

Torben Kuhlmann is mainly an illustrator and has done quite a few other books that we've not seen up close but that look interesting, in both English and German, and Spanish.

These include: Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon and Moletown.

The next too books are categorized by Amanda as four star (the above were both five star) but they are quite good and Amanda is very picky, so they are worth a close look.

Ben Franklin's Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock:

Example text and page. This book has several pages with only a few words, but also, a time line and list of sources at the end. Very richly illustrated.

Every inventor has to start somewhere, and one of the greatest innovators in our history was no exception. Ben Franklin developed his first invention while doing what he loved best: swimming! Ben's Big Splash is the story of Franklin's first invention, his journey through the scientific method, and the surprising successes that result when you're willing to make mistakes. Barb Rosenstock’s rhythmic, whimsical style is the perfect complement to S. D. Schindler’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations. Together they recreate history in an engaging and unique way. Both author and illustrator worked closely with Franklin experts, and the book includes Franklin quotes, an extensive author’s note, timeline, and bibliography.


Otis by Loren Long is one of several books by that suthor, many of which are about "Otis." He also illustrated Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama.

New York Times bestselling author/artist Loren Long creates an unforgettable children's classic.
Otis is a special tractor. He loves his farmer and he loves to work. And he loves the little calf in the next stall, whom he purrs to sleep with his soft motor. In fact, the two become great friends: they play in the fields, leap hay bales, and play ring-around-the-rosy by Mud Pond.

Otis example text.

But when Otis is replaced with the big yellow tractor, he is cast away behind the barn, unused, unnoticed . . . until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond. Then there is only one tractor—and it’s not big or yellow—who can come to the rescue. It is little old Otis who saves his friend. It is Otis who saves the day.

In a wonderful new palette, and in the tradition of classics like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Story of Ferdinand, Loren Long has crafted an unforgettable new story—and character—celebrating the power of friendship and perseverance.


OK, that's all for now. June is Book Month on Greg Laden's blog, so they'll be more of this series and other great stuff about books coming up.

CLICK HERE TO SEE: The Best Children’s Books #2

More like this

I never read many children's books - I jumped to teen fiction and adult novels too quickly - but McGonnigle's Lake by Rutherford Montgomery (1957) was memorable enough that it is the only children's book I read aloud to my daughter,

By Kevin ONeill (not verified) on 25 May 2017 #permalink

The greatest ever book for this age group may be The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay, Australia's classic contribution. You will find reference to it in Australia's parliamentary proceedings nearly every week. But that is not the main recommendation.
Some classics are not a penance!

By Christopher H (not verified) on 25 May 2017 #permalink

I think Roald Dahl is superb.
As is A A Milne.
For slightly older readers, Morris Gleitzman has no peer. Imo.
For younger, Mem Fox is brilliant.
Wind in the willows is very good.
Although the quality isnt great, Enid Blyton deserves praise for
encouraging many generations to read.
I feel Herge deserves a mention as well.