Favorite Children's Books

My children are in 8th grade (taking a few high school classes--including 9th grade lit), 5th/6th, and 3rd grades and we are constantly venturing into book land.  At times, I've found books I've loved and at others, books I haven't enjoyed quite so much.
Here is a list of some of our favorites...

Picture Books
How do Dinosaurs... series by Jane Yolen
Picture books written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg.  Library Lil' is especially fun.
Lucy Cousins' Maisy Series and Hooray for Fish
Any book by these authors:
Denise Fleming (the art in these books is wonderful)
Byron Barton
Richard Scarry
Scaredy Squirrel books by Melanie Watts
* For more suggestions, I'd read the updated edition of Honey for a Child's Heart.
Shirley Hughes books about Alfie
Mouse of My Heart by Margaret Wise Brown

Early Readers
Go Dog Go and other Dr. Seuss books
I Can Read books/Early Short Chapter books:
Biscuit books by Alyssa Capuccilli
Henry and Mudge Books
Hopscotch Hill School series by American Girl (yes, this surprised me, too, but I really do like them)--very wholesome without a feminist agenda
Little Bear books
Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie stories
Flat Stanley I Can Read books
Buster and Phoebe by Lisze Bechtold
Any Arnold Lobel book, ie. Danny and the Dinosaur.  He wrote MANY wonderful books!
  •  The Lighthouse Family is one of the first read aloud series that I'd recommend for families to read with their 4-6 year old children aloud.  It has rich, vivid language, a fun story, and great illustrations.
  • Mercy Watson is a second early read aloud series that I'd recommend.  It's great for early chapter books, but also for helping children learn how to listen to longer stories.
Chapter Books:
The Box Car Children by Gertrude Warner
Mercy Watson Series by Kate DiCamillo
Adventures in Odyssey Imagination Station series by Mariane Hering and Paul McCusker
Mr. Popper's Penguins
The Lighthouse Family Series by Cynthia Rylant
The Golden Goose by Dick King-Smith
Lady Lollipop and Clever Lollipop by Dick King-Smith
The Buddy Files Series by Dori Hillestad Butler  (these books are a great transition into chapter books without pictures because the language is easy to read and comprehend)-- all but number 6 which has students lie to adults and use a oijia board.
Magic Treehouse Books, #1-27 After #28, the books incorporate a lot more magic.  As my kids have gotten older, I've realized that the Merlin books after number #27 weren't so bad and I have let them read them.  I do love the Fact Trackers that go with the books--lots of great, interesting, and easy non-fiction reading at this level.
Cobblestone Cousins Series by Cynthia Rylant
The Lighthouse Family Series by Cynthia Rylant (the first book is titled The Storm)
Other Dick King-Smith Books, including Babe the Gallant Pig (it is very different than the movie)
Encyclopedia Brown
Nate the Great
Flat Stanley
Kung Pow Chicken Series by Cyndi Marko
Cam Jansen books
Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh
The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
Anna All Year Round by Mary Downing Hahn
26 Fairmount Avenue books by Tomie de Paola
Esio Trot by Roald Dahl
TinTin books by Herge

For Ages 8-10 year olds
Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt
The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Books by Betty MacDonald
Carolyn Haywood's Betsy Books
Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte's Web, and Stuart Little by E.B. White
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit
The Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit
Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye
The Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine... this book is a series of stories that were previously published individually.  The individual editions are much easier to read because of the larger type and illustrations.
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell.  I haven't read this, but my middle daughter thought it was very funny.
Homer Price and Centerburg Tales by Robert McCloskey
Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfield, and Mystery of the Roman Ransom
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingren and The Children of Noisy Village
The Melendy Quartet (which includes The Saturdays + 3 other books) by Elizabeth Enright
All of a Kind Family and More of All of A Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, I think there are 2 other books about this family as well.
A to Z Mystery Series
Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I'm including these because so many families love them, but my girls never got into them
Anne of Green Gables by LM Mongtgomery
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Racketty Packetty House by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I love the edition that is illustrated by Wendy Halperin.  This is a fun series that has 3 other books in it that you might be able to find about fairies.
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Misty of Chincoteague and others by Marguerite Henry
Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach.  But, I wouldn't recommend a biography about him.  I read the one by True Kelley from a popular series of biographies for kids in Barnes and Noble one day.  His decisions late in his life in regard to his marriage were ones that completely disillusioned me.  Often as parents, we think biographies are always going to be safe--not so.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West
The Shoes books by Noel Streatfield.  I loved these as a child, but my girls have never gotten into them.
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.  My kids love this series.
100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
Hank the Cow Dog series by John Erickson
Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor Porter
Angus and Sadie by Cynthia Voigt
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
VNHLP: the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series by Caroline Carlson
Tuesdays at the Castle, The Castle Glower series by Jessica Day George
The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash
Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Happy Hollisters series by Jerry West
The Riverbank Anthology by Stephen Lawhead (out of print, but can be found on Amazon for kindle!)
A Door in the Wall by Marguerite D'Angeli
Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald Sobol
Shiloh and sequels by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley.  In the first few pages, the young girls watches a mom whack her child on the head and be abusive to her.  It's written for 3-5th grades, though.  I'd recommend it for 5th-6th graders.
Shel Silverstein's Poetry books
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
The Sugar Creek Gang series by Paul Hutchens
The Dog Diaries series by Kate Klimo
Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace
Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn
Harriet Bean books by Alexander McCall Smith
Roald Dahl's books--my son has a collection that he has worked his way through.  My very favorite is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Hardy Boys Books--my girls and my son liked these better than the Nancy Drew books because they had less romance (we stick to the original series)
Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan

For Ages 11-13
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson
From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenwiler by E.L. Konigsburg
The Second Mrs. Giaconda by E.L. Konigsburg
The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger, and Son by Lois Lowry
The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathon Rogers (also good for 9-10 yo)
The Rise and Fall of Mt. Majestic by Jennifer Trafton (also good for 9-10 yo)
Poppy Series by Avi.  Many of Avi's books I'm not crazy about (like Nothing But the Truth), but this series and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle are some that I like.
The Princess and the Goblin, as well as The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
The Riverboat Series and The Viking Series (both have 6 books) by Lois Walfrid Johnson
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik.  I really like Wonderstruck as well, but there is a caveat--the boy does run away and it is made clear that his mom wanted to have a child but not be married.  Many parents of younger children might think this will go over their kids heads, but both of my kids caught onto it without me pointing it out to them first.
The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques.  One of my brother in laws loved this series but I haven't read them yet.
The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, check out other books by her.
The Shadow King by Susan Cooper
The Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleishman
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Harry Potter, books 1-4 or 5, by JK Rowling, this is really one of those series that is up to the discretion of the parents.  My almost 10 year old has read up to book 4 (because her almost 12 yo sister has), but she likes darker fiction than her older sister.  There's a great article Here, by ND Wilson that discusses darker books.
100 Cupboards, by ND Wilson
Old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books (also great for 5th graders)
Wrinkle in Time Series by Madelin L'Engle (also great for 10 yo)
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.  I was lost in the forest when I was 21 yo for 10 hours and found by a search dog.  This book is very true to life.  There is one note--the boy knows his parent's divorce is because his mom had an affair and that comes out late in the book.  The boy doesn't have good relationships with his parents.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Stargirl.  Stargirl is interesting and should be previewed by parents whether it's right for your junior high child.  Maniac Magee deals with issues of race and was a pivotal book in my own life.  I read it after college--and after not reading any fiction books for about 3 years because I was so burned out.  This book made me want to read again.  My oldest daughter did not enjoy it for the first half of the book, but then it grew on her and she liked the ending.
Mister Max series by Cynthia Voigt.  The boy in this book is neglected by his distracted and rediculous parents.  But, he is loved by his grandmother and he has creative adventures.  Ms. Voigt is a wonderful writer.
Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.  The first series.  I'm not sure about the others.  My oldest daughter has a good, strong filter and she felt uneasy about the other series.  So, I'd just recommend you preview them before your kids read them.
Tuck Everlasting and The Search For Delicious by Natalie Babbitt
The 7th Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
The View from Saturday  and The 2nd Mrs. Giaconda by E.L. Konigsburg
Call of the Wild by Jack Londen
Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  Tackles issues of homelessness, appropriate for a 7th or 8th grader.
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
The Passages series by Paul McCusker
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.  Really a story for younger children, but it is written with an extensive vocabulary
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.  She is one of those authors that though I like this book, I can't give a blanket recommendation for.  Her adult books are not ones I can recommend at all and I am unsure about her YA fiction aside from this book.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.  8th grade.
Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

For ages 14-16
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.  Joan Bauer is a good writer.  I think her books are much better for high school than middle school, though some are rated for middle school and upper elementary school.
The Gifts of the Child Christ by George MacDonald
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter, books 5/6-7, by JK Rowling
Beauty by Robin McKinley (not the updated version she wrote a few years ago, but the older one)
Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley
Novels by Charles Dickens
The Red Badge of Courage and Daisy Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane
Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Majorian.  Reading level is 6th grade and it is recommended by Scholastic for grades 6-8.  The little boy who is the main character has endured abuse and neglect though and so I will have my girls read this in high school, rather than middle school because of how intensely sad the book made me feel when I read it as an adult.
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.  Excellent Writing, but tackles difficult topics like what the Nazis meant by purging the gene pool when it came to people with deformities.  So, I felt it is more appropriate for high school than middle school.  It is recommended for grades 5-8 by the Library Journal :(
Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George.  There is a silly knitting bracelet which is supposed to be a spell at the back of the book.  The rest of the book is pure fantasy--nothing really bad in it from my perspective.  More mild than Harry Potter.
Homecoming and Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt.  Cynthia Voigt wrote many books and if your student likes her writing, she wrote a lot of novels for high schoolers.  Dicey's story goes on through several books.  There's also Izzy Willy Nilly.
The Mistletoe Murder by PD James.  I have to admit that I haven't read the whole book yet, but PD James is an amazing writer.  The preface is a must read for every high schooler in mho, because it explains the detective short story.  This book is a small book of short stories.  But, encourage your student to read the preface and then see how it applies to current tv shoes like NCIS (it fits the show to a tee).
An American Childhood by Annie Dillard.  Annie Dillard is a well known twentieth century writer who exemplifies the art of choosing words wisely and for effect.  Even if your high schooler only reads a few pages--it's worth reading.  There was a selection from this in my daughter's 8th grade literature book which she really enjoyed--because Dillard is one of my husband's favorite authors and this book is more easily read than Dillard's other books like Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Intentionally Not on the list:
The Caldecott and Newberry Award books.  I had a bad experience with two books from the Newberry list and so I don't automatically blanket approve books from this list anymore.
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
Almost Home by Joan Bauer.  Too, too many emotional issues packed into one book
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
The Midwife's Apprentice or other books by Kathryn Cushman
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.  I included this for ages 11-13, rather than 4th or 5th grade.  I love her books, but this one about running away from home had ideas I didn't want to plant in my kids heads at grade 4 and I didn't think they'd understand and be able to identify with the kids.  I found, though, that they enjoyed it in middle school.
Runaway (for high schoolers) or the Sammy Keyes series (for middle schoolers) by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Tiger is Rising and Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
The Mandie books  Many Christians I know love these, but my girls simply didn't enjoy them.
The Hunger Games series.  Yes, I read most of the first book and parts of the 2nd and 3rd.  I know they are very popular books and lots of kids like them.  The writing in the first book drove me crazy.  Way too many run on sentences than there needed to be!!  It was hard for me to follow.  The character's selfishness in the books--even as she never grew into someone that I admired.  I know a lot of friends who have enjoyed this series.  This is one of those series where people just enjoy different books.  :)  But, I do have concerns about 5th graders reading it.  There is a very great heaviness to the subject matter of the books and the amount of death and dying that I fear can desensitize young children and adults.  I much prefer the Giver series and Ender's Game for Middle School and Brave New World for High Schoolers.  But, I can see high schoolers and up enjoying this series and it being more appropriate for high schoolers than 5th/6th graders.
The Twilight trilogy by Stephanie Meyers.  I read the first book.  This book, like the Hunger Games, drove me crazy.  The main character thinks she knows so much more than the adults in her life and blames all of her problems on them.  I asked a teenager who loved the series if it ever became more than "girl blames problems on adults, thinks she knows more, oh--there's a boy I like, does he like me or hate me?, oh--he likes me, oh--he hates me, oh--my life is fulfilled, oh--he hates me and it isn't, oh, the adults in my life are stupid, oh--I have a child and she will fulfill me...   It is a series filled with teenage emo angst.