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It’s always hard for me to think in straight lines when I’m thinking about books. OK, anytime really, but with books especially, one always leads to another, so this list is pretty much stream of consciousness, by author. Keep in mind there are so many books out there and any list just scratches the surface.  I have tried to include books that may be missed in the vast number of recent popular books that are available.  Let me know which ones you read and what you thought of them! I always start at the library when searching for a book, as we are so fortunate here in Central Arkansas to have a fantastic library system.  Start hunting and Happy (Summer)Reading!

 Roald Dahl: Children (and some adults!) love just about anything by this author. For the very fluent reader (3rd grade and up usually, read aloud/share reading for less advanced readers.) Here are some suggestions to get you going:
  • Matilda
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Vile Verses (a book of poems)

Aliki: Just about anything by Aliki is thoughtful and engaging.  (Ages 6-9, read aloud/along for the younger readers) Just a few titles listed here:
  • Digging up Dinosaurs
  • Manners
  • Feelings
  • Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus
  • Fossils tell of Long Ago
E. B.White: Classic stories (chapter books for fluent readers or read aloud) to read over and over  (Ages 7-10)
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Trumpet of the Swan
  • Stuart Little

Richard and Florence Atwater
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins—so much better than the movie!! (Ages 5-8 Read aloud/fluent readers)
Pam Munoz Ryan: Stories of young people’s determination and perseverance. These are best for strong readers, ages 9 and up.
  • Esperanza Rising
  • Riding Freedom
  • When Marian Sang (this one with Brian Selznick’s illustrations, read aloud/sing if you know the songs for ages 7-11) One of my most favorite books ever.

Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Little House Series: These books are not just for girls!! (Boys can try Farmer Boy, first, the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband’s early life. Wonderful!) The stories of early America are riveting for their everyday struggles and the relationships with the family, environment and community.  They are a great step for elementary children who are so ready to look beyond themselves to the larger world. These books come in various formats.  The original series is for strong readers, or for read aloud.  There is a picture book series (My first Little House Books) and another series for early readers, but these are not “easy” reading.
Arnold Lobel: Just about anything by this author is great fun for the early reader (though not always easy reading) so read along works well, at first.  (Ages 4-8)
  • Frog and Toad Books
  • Mouse Soup
  • Ming Lo moves the Mountain
Cynthia Rylant writes books with some of our most favorite characters.  The books listed here are primarily for early readers or read-along.  After reading fluently, the children can manage them on their own.  (Ages 4-8)
  • Henry and Mudge Series-I prefer the early stories with illustrations by Sucie Stephenson.  The stories seem fresher.
  • Mr. Putter and Tabby Series
  • Poppleton Series
  • The Lighthouse Series (This set is a chapter book series, which has recurring characters and themes.  The vocabulary is rich and the illustrations are beautiful.  These would be suitable for read aloud, as well as independent reading for very fluent readers.)

Gene Zion:
  • Harry the Dirty Dog- 3 or 4 in this series, so fun for the 4-7 crowd
Kevin O’Malley and Patrick O’Brien
  • Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery: I love this book! Written in the style of a 40’s style comic book with cliffhangers at every page, “Will this be the end of Captain Raptor??”  Try it for ages 5-7 read aloud, 8-9 read alone.  (Also CR and the Space Pirates.)
Lindsay Barrett George
  • Who’s been here? Series. This series takes children into nature discovery through beautiful illustrations and invokes a sense of wonder for the world around them.  Most appropriate for ages 4-7, though the illustrations will be appreciated by many ages.

Jean Craighead George: one of my all-time favorite authors with books at just about every level of reader.  If your child is interested in the natural world, her books can take them many places and give them great insight into the world around them.  As this author writes for so many levels, parents should be aware that her Newberry Award Winning Book, Julie of the Wolves has elements that would not be appropriate for the early elementary reader.  Here are some that I am particularly fond of:
  • One day in the . . .Tropical Rain Forest, Prairie, Desert . . . (Ages 5-8)
  • How to talk to your dog  (Ages 5-9)
  • How to talk to your cat (Ages 5-9)
  • The Thirteen Moons Series (Unfortunately this has been out of print, but is available at the library. These books are especially wonderful for those children who just can’t get enough about animals in their natural habitats. A beautiful series of short books for fluent readers that is rich with information and wonder.  (Ages 8-12)
  • My Side of the Mountain Series (Strong readers, ages 8-12)
  • Ice Whale (A posthumous release, coauthored with her son—strong readers, ages 8-12)
Eleanor Estes
  • The Hundred Dresses (Ages 6-9)
  • Ginger Pye (Ages 8-12)
  • Pinky Pye (8-12)
  • The Moffatts (8-12)
Jim LaMarche: A wonderful author/illustrator who writes stories that show that when we keep our minds open we can discover incredible things about each other and ourselves.  Especially for ages 4-8
  • The Raft
  • Up
  • Albert
Mark Kurlansky
  • The Story of Salt:Two poisons chemically combine to make salt-a substance necessary for all mammals to survive.  For those of a scientific bent, this is clearly told with whimsical illustrations. Strong readers aged 9-14.
Christopher Paul Curtis:
  • The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963 (Ages 8-12)
  • Bud, Not Buddy (Ages 9-12)
Farley Mowat: This wonderful author writes really funny stories (often based on his own life experiences) about what happens when humans interact with animals. Look for any of his titles for this age group, either as read aloud or read alone for more advanced readers.
  • Owls in the Family
  • The Dog who wouldn’t be
Dick King-Smith: These books are great for read aloud or read alone for fluent readers.  There are many more to choose from, if you enjoy these.
  • A Mouse Called Wolf (Ages 5-8)
  • Three Terrible Trins (Ages 5-8)
  • The Water Horse –not at all like the movie that was based on this a few years ago.  Try this version.  (Ages 5-8)
  • Babe (Ages 7-10)
Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Magic Tree House Series—Yep, there are lots of these (45 at present count!)  Great for those first chapter books, ages 5-7
  • Companions to the Magic Tree House Series, the Research Guides take Jack and Annie’s adventures to the next level, going deeply into the various subjects.  These appeal greatly to many children. These are a slightly higher reading level, ages 6-10.
  • The Odyssey Series:  A re-telling of Homer’s The Odyssey. Great adventure stories that appeal to the wide imagination of elementary aged children. Try it for ages 7-10 as a read aloud or read alone for strong readers (those Greek names will be challenging!)
Anything by Kate diCamillo but especially:
  • The Tale of Desperaux
  • Because of Winn Dixie
  • The Magician’s Elephant
  • Flora and Ulysses
Madeleine L’Engle
  • A Wrinkle in Time Series for strong readers. Most suitable for older children, given the complexity of the storylines: Ages 9 and up.
William Steig: many books by this author are great for reading aloud to this age group.  His books highlight the individual’s place in the family and the world.
  • You know about Shrek, the movie, but try the book that started it all.  The book is always better!
  • Amos and Boris
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
  • Brave Irene
Jeanne Birdsall
  • The Penderwicks Series—A wonderful series for ages 8 and up.  Read aloud or read alone for strong readers. 
Eleanor Enright: This author was writing in the 40’s and 50’s, primarily and won the Newberry Award for “Thimble Summer, as well as a Newberry Honor for “Gone Away Lake.”  The books are of a simpler time, when children had more autonomy.  The vocabulary here is demanding, so these are good for read aloud and/or solo reading for advanced readers.
  • Gone Away Lake (A family favorite)
  • Thimble Summer Probably for older elementary or even middle school, ages 10 and up.

John D. Fitzgerald
  • The Great Brain Series—These books tell of 3 brothers growing up in Utah around the turn of the last century.  John D’s brother, Tom, uses his great brain to connive and finagle money from everyone in town.  He also does a lot of good along the way, though it’s often difficult to see.  Children (and adults) love these books. Love them, really. Read aloud or alone for fluent readers ages 7-12.

Clare Vanderpool: For the advanced reader, ages 10-14.  
  • Moon over Manifest
  • Navigating Early
Rita Williams-Garcia (Ages 10-14)
  • One Crazy Summer
Kirkpatrick Hill
  • The Year of Miss Agnes (Ages 8-12)
Brian Selznick: Gorgeous illustrations tell as much of the story as the captivating text.  For fluent readers or read-along (better to share the story!) Ages 8-12
  • Wonderstruck
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • The Houdini Box
Robert C. O’Brien
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH This book was such a wonderful surprise to me when I first read it.  Highly recommended for those kids interested in the natural world (ok with a bit of fantasy thrown in—the animals do talk) and science fiction. (For advanced readers, ages 8-12)
Kevin Henkes: This author has written so many books for so many ages.  Look around and see what else appeals to your child.  There are many for young adults, so keep him in mind as your child matures.
  • The Year of Billy Miller (Ages 8-12)
  • Chrysanthemum  (Ages 4-7)
Trenton Lee Stuart: our own Arkansas Native.  Inventive and smart, this book will appeal to those who like a puzzle. . .or two or three . . .
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society (Series) Ages 8-12: 
Lloyd Alexander
  • The Chronicles of Prydain Series: The adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his quest to become a hero. A great series for ages 9-14, very engaging with lots of adventure and rewarding story lines.  
  • The Book of Three
  • The Black Cauldron
  • The High King

Rick Riordan
  • The Lightening Thief: The Percy Jackson Series.  You know the movies, read the books!  (Ages 10 and up)
Brian Jacques
  • The Redwall Series: If I tell you that this series has a mouse as a hero and a rat as a villain, you may just think it’s a “fairy tale” type story.  This is an adventure-packed series that will have you rooting for the hero as he faces immense danger in many forms.  Highly recommended for the experienced reader, as the books are long and detailed in their descriptions.  (Ages 8-12.)
Norton Juster
  • The Phantom Toll Booth: This is the classic story of Milo(a bored 10-year-old) and his dog, Tock, who drive through a magic tollbooth to find themselves in a different world where they meet characters such as the Mathemagician, the Humbug, and the not so wicked “Which.”  Great for read aloud or strong readers aged 7-10.
  • Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys A slightly higher reading level, with stories that are rich in meaning and fun to read.  Try it for ages 8-12.
Gary D. Scmidt: As a dear friend says, “I think he's probably a contender for the best author for 9-12 year olds writing today.” Check these out, I think you’ll agree.
  • The Wednesday Wars 
  • OK for Now 
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckmister Bo


E. L. Konigsburg
  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. (Ages 7-10 for fluent readers or read aloud.)
  • The View from Saturday (Ages 8-12)

POETRY!! Every child needs poetry to read to themselves to hear someone read to them.  The rhythm and function of our language in these various formats inform the child about how our language really works.  Poetry encourages a child to try to use language themselves in new ways.  Not just silly stuff, though that’s fun—the “classic” poetry of Dickinson, Stephenson, Poe, Rosetti, even Shakespeare, are rewarding for your child. Pick up a volume and look it over.  If you get lost in it, most likely your child will, too.

Here are some suggestions for collections:
  • Talking Like the Rain, ed. X. J. Kennedy
  • Forget-me-nots: Poems to learn by Heart, Mary Ann Hoberman.
Caroline Kennedy has edited these wonderfully illustrated collections of poems:
  • A Family of Poems
  • Poems to Learn by Heart
  • The Poetry for Young People Series is a wonderful way for young readers to get to know a particular poet.  I highly recommend this series, especially the Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Edward Lear.  As these are more specific, try them for ages 8-12.
Shel Silverstein’s poetry is great fun for ages 6-12.  I will say that so many things have been published since his death, and not all of them are as good as those that he published in his life time.  Look for:
  • Falling Up
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • A Light in the Attic
  • Runny Babbit (not for early readers to read on their own as these are spoonerisms that may confuse them! But very funny for read aloud to any age.)
Any of Douglas Florian’s beautiful books of poetry and illustrations are wonderful.  Look for these for a start:
  • Insectlopedia
  • In the swim
  • Mammalbilia
  • Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars