|Think this girl will be satisfied reading something because she "should" read it?|
There are mountains of books out there highly recommended (they'd require it if they could!) by all sorts of experts. As a kid, I found most of the books on those lists incredibly dull, especially the list of books that girls should read (Coming of age stories? Blehhhh!). I wanted books that were exciting adventurous, funny, and just a tiny bit scary. So, what about a list of books that smart, funny children will enjoy reading, rather than “should read?”
1. The Great Brain by John Dennis Fitzgerald: A smartly-written book about a boy, John, whose older brother Tom (nicknamed The Great Brain), is both a genius and a swindler, finding crafty ways to bilk the neighborhood kids—and occasionally adults—out of money. My four grade teacher read this to us (thanks Mr. T!), and it was laugh out loud funny for the entire classroom.
2. Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix: An edge-of-your-seat novel about a girl, Jessie, who thinks she lives in a tiny rural village in the 1840s, only to find that’s she’s actually living in 1996, in a replica of a historical village that’s actually a tourist attraction. A deadly disease is running rampant through the village, and Jessie must go into a world with technology 150 years past her understanding to get modern medicine, without alert the people who are desperately trying to keep the inhabitants inside “history.” I must have read this two dozen times.
3. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner: This series focuses on four orphaned children (Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden) who solve mysteries. The mysteries range from simple to complex as the series goes along. These were my go-to books in second grade, and there are well over a hundred of them.
4. Mossflower by Brian Jacques: Despite the name sounding somewhat feminine, this is chronologically the first book in a fantasy series about animal warriors who live in the Mossflower Wood. Martin the Warrior (a mouse), is traveling through the Wood and is captured and imprisoned by a tyrannical wildcat. After escaping, Martin must rally the peaceful residents of Mossflower (moles, mice, hedgehogs, etc) to fight back against the evil ruler. Not only is the storyline captivating, I love the chivalry and honor that pervades the story!
5. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: All about the consequences of immortality, this fantasy book is about a girl named Winnie and the family she meets, who have drank water from a hidden stream and become immortal. This book accelerates without warning, and become a wild adventure trying to find the correct choice between deception and doing the right thing.
6. James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl: This adventure follows a young boy named James who lives with his horrible aunts. Through an accident of magic, a peach grows massive in the garden. Some bugs (including a worm, ladybug, and grasshopper) are also affected; growing not only larger, but also developing the ability to speak. James and his new friends end up using the peach as a boat, and float away to some great adventures. This book is absolutely full of goofy and ridiculous fun. Please don’t judge it by the movie of the same title.
7. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett: Three Baudelaire orphans (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) are placed in the custody of Count Olaf, a truly terrible human being. Olaf has every intent to steal the Baudelaire’s immense inheritance. Throughout the series, the children must work together to escape his evil clutches again and again, as many of the adults in the series are oblivious to the children’s plight. These books are darker than most children’s books, but if your kiddo (or you) likes impossible adventures, bizarre twists, and unique villains, these are great!
8. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: An imaginative story about two lonely kids who together create an imaginary kingdom and who are transformed by friendship. This book starts out very light and fun, but becomes much more serious. Warning: this was the first book to ever make me cry. I still cry every time I read it. This may lead to serious conversations about death with your children.
9. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George: Sam Gribley runs away from his parents’ cramped apartment that he shares with too many siblings and forges out a living for himself in the Catskill Mountains. This book is all about the difficulties of survival, courage, independence, and loneliness. This may have been required reading in 3rd or 4th grade… And it made me want to live off the land in the middle of nowhere. My husband love this one as a kid too.
10. Purple, Green, and Yellow by Robert Munsch: By the author of The Paper Bag Princess comes a story about Brigid, who wants the latest and greatest markers. First, she gets regular markers, then markers that wash off with water, then markers that smell, then the holy grail of markers: the super-indelible-never-comes-off-till-you’re-dead markers. I must have read this to my cousins about 100 times, and we always laughed like crazy at the end.
Those are the book I would recommend to your adventurous, can-do kid. Anything I missed? What would you recommend?