Books for Kids (2)

One of the best things about the ‘random post’ widget at the bottom of each blog post is that I’m getting to revisit old blog posts that I never read any more. I’ve forgotten so many of them; there was a time, when the blog was only a few years old, when I still pretty much knew all of the posts that I dipped into from time to time off by heart. No longer. These days I read things and I’ve not only forgotten the events, but the writing feels like it could have been written by someone else. I’m so glad I have this blog; I don’t care about any of the current reasons for having them, I’m just delighted that one day I’ll have time to look back and read all about the childhood the girls had and the parenthood I had.

Today, the blog threw up a list of important books that I hoped my children would read. By and large, they are familiar with all of these classics these days, occasionally as film, but mostly as either a book to read or a book to listen to. I only had to read out of one the first lines from this list of greatest first lines in novels and Fran and Maddy knew it. (Okay, I admit it wasn’t any of the seriously highbrow or difficult ones!)

Of course, in the time I’ve been home educating, masses more books have come to my attention or been published. Harry Potter is one series that wasn’t around when I was a kid, then there is Artemis Fowl and the Inkheart Trilogy and Fran absolutely adores The Spooks Series. She’s stretching herself all the time at the library but our local one is not huge and well populated, in the teen section, with those ‘I was locked in a cupboard for 18 years’ type of books. So she’s actively looking for suggestions. She seems to like, as well as historical fiction, sets of books on a faintly supernatural theme. She has at least been allowed to access the 14+ section at the library, so there is a bit more to get her teeth into.

So feel free to let us know of anything you know of; we’d both like it.

I’m struggling a bit more with Maddy; she has got somewhat stuck at a ‘safe’ level after reading the naughtiest Girl books and has now moved on to Horrid Henry. She reads well but has rigid criteria (has to be realistic, not stupid adventures about kids solving murders and not silly or about things that can’t happen). What can I say except :roll: ? I’m really struggling to find meaningful stuff to move her on to; she’s a good reader for her age, although she has a tendency to skip over words that are too hard (but so did I) but I’m sure she can do better than Horrid Henry who has, honestly, served his purpose. It is like a nearly worse version of the Rainbow Fairy books.

So tell me; what classics have I missed? What more recent books might we love? What books have you read and passed to your children, or even, as happens here now, which ones get passed to you after they have read them? I’d like to know :)

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  1. Allie says

    If Fran likes the Spooks books then she might enjoy some of Leo’s favourites as he is a serious Spook’s fan. He’s currently enjoying the Michelle Paver Wolf Brother series. Also, Jonathan Stroud – the Bartimaeus trilogy. He also loves Darren Shan but that might be bit too scary or otherwise yucky! I haven’t read them. He’s also enjoyed Septimus Heap but, once again, I haven’t read them.

  2. says

    Has Maddy ever got into Jacqueline Wilson? Gwenny doesn’t like unrealistic books either and got through an awful lot of Ms Wilson’s works! Otherwise – Nina Bawden? Am sure there are more recent ones too, but can’t think now.

    • says

      Well, we are thinking of those actually although I’m not quite sure where to start as Maddy has a total horror of anything with KISSING! Any specific recommendations? Maddy likes quite blunt, easy to visualise stuff (Horrid Henry is virtually slapstick and right up her street) and it has to be tomboy-ish.

      • says

        Looking quickly at the 9-11 section on JW’s (rather nice!) website – Bed & Breakfast Star, Best Friends, Buried Alive, Double Act, Jacky Daydream (her autobiography, but written for children), The Lottie Project, Secrets (has an Anne Frank thread to it) all have been well-received. I could bring some at the weekend?

        (For trigger-avoidance, wouldn’t bother with the Diamond Girls, Vicky Angel, Candyfloss perhaps – don’t know about the others.)

        She has her books nicely divided up into themes, so as long as Maddy avoids LOVE AND KISSES (urgh!) she should be okay 😉

        Noel Streatfeild :) Judy Blume – Iggy’s House, and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. Astrid Lindgren – some are a bit fantastical, some aren’t. Harriet the Spy?

        Siobhan Dowd – The London Eye Mystery – bit more challenging than Horrid Henry, but not difficult to read. Does have children solving a mystery, but definitely not in an unrealistic way :) Written from the pov of a boy with some sort of ASD, which is interesting, but very understated, not made to be the whole focus of the story.

        • says

          Alison, that would be great. We have Vicky Angel, which they all seem compelled to read and I keep suggesting they don’t! And also The Illustrated Mum but some good would be excellent. The trigger ones we’ll avoid. i think I also have Superfudge and Harriet the Spy of yours which I haven’t persuaded her into but she has been so HH obsessed, it has been hard. (There can’t be many more to go… surely??!?!?!)

          I shall go to the library tomorrow with a list and hope that something appeals. Maddy’s reading strength is hard to judge at times and she tends to play safe. She’s read Charlie and the Chocolate factory and I think that might be the top end of her ability so far.

          BTW, what was that terribly sad book about the brothers in a land when one has died that you got me to read once? Have been trying to remember (though not to get!)

          • says

            The Brothers Lionheart! (Astrid Lindgren)

            Another one I thought of was “I am David” (Anne Holm) – incredibly simply written and just an amazing story.

  3. says

    For both girls: the Anne of Green Gables books — realistic, historical fiction, beautifully written. Also the Emily of New Moon books, also by LM Montgomery. Don’t know of course if these are already being or have been read :-) but they’re the first that came to mind!

  4. says

    For Fran: Carrie’s War or anything else by Nina Bawden.

    The “vaguely supernatural” place on my shelf is taken by Maria Snyder and Scott Westerfield. I have also heard wonderful things about Aprylle who wrote Wynter…

    And I would probably second the Montgomery recommendation. The most “realistic” of the lot is probably Jane of Lantern Hill, and Magic for Marigold is really good. So are the 2 Pat books.

    Christopher Milne would probably be a good author if somebody likes “naughty” books which don’t violate the laws of physics. There is also a good historical one called “Sophie’s Childhood”: Malheurs de Sophie.

    Ivy and Bean.

    And Paul Jennings is good. Probably the Cabbage Kid and Quirky Tales in particular.

    Spiderwick Chronicles?

    Hope you find more mystery and history than misery at the local library.

    Kit Whitfield is an author I recently got excited about. Elizabeth Bear and Peg Kerr are two more.

    And there was a historical girl who makes poisons and lives in a haunted house.

    Ali Mac’s books are good for Kindles. She is the author of the “I’m a vampire: so what?” series. If you have anything special for or against vampires/zombies please do speak!

      • says

        Oh good!

        It’s been terrific to get some of the ideas down as well from the other commenters.

        Thought of another which might be good, and is a sort-of-classic Puffin:

        Richard and the M-Class Cows.

        It is simple to read and it is a very funny book. Has lots of visuals.

        Another very visual book is probably Fowl Pest, which is about a girl and a hen.

        Gordon Korman’s work is very humourous. Some of the people in it are very tomboyish.

        There was also an interesting work about a parrot. Beak Speaks by Jeremy Strong.

        Mary K Pershall and Hesba Brinsmead are good, and so is Christobel Mattingley.

        Betsy Byars – if she isn’t already in the list – wrote at roughly the same time and for the same audience as Judy Blume. Her audience was more unisex and more intellectual. Favourites include The computer nut and Bingo’s big questions as well as The Cybil War. Pinballs might be all right too.

        Candice F Ransom is good for eight year olds and up, especially the Kobie series. My favourite has Gretchen and Kobie going to a funhouse mirror at a park, much like Coney Island. And Almost 10 and a half is funny and poignant. (The Mum hurts her back in the middle of the book).

        Bawden did write some modern-day books (after World War II).

        Some of the first books I picked out for myself were The Snake Horn and A troll in passing. This was back in 1991.

        Last Rumer Godden I enjoyed was Diddakoi. Albeit that it was a Reader’s Digest condensed edition.

        Gillian Rubenstein’s Galaxarena (science fiction, gymnastics, families, adoption), Skymaze and [especially] At Ardilla (a nice simple book about holidays and families and change). Answers to Brut is simple but complex; watch out if you don’t like animals being treated cruelly.

        Louis Sachar? There’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom has a tomboyish female character.

        • says

          Ooh, I read ‘The Cybil War’! We had some random American books from my dad’s travels, and I think it was one of them. I am pretty sure I learnt what “cursive writing” was from that book.

          And that reminded me of another American – Beverley Cleary – the Ramona series et al.

          Louis Sachar’s Sideways School books have been popular here :)

          • says

            Cybil War: wow wow wow.

            Thinking about Wayside Stories, there is a really good book by one Jerry Piasecki which is called “They’re torturing teachers in Room 104″. (Surprisingly – to me all these years later – Publishers Weekly said nice things about it).

            The American emphasis on cursive writing is probably well-reflected in Muggie Maggie.

            And there is a wonderfully thoughtful and sad book by Mary Francis Shura: Some kind of friend which I read on my way to becoming a professional author. (now think: was it October or November 1994? On a country highway, near a stop…) It was about Natalie, the “vivid” friend of the narrator. And the Barkley Street 6-pack. I think the title and the publisher got changed, so it might be a little hard to find.

            (Here is her Wiki article: Mary Francis Craig, including pseuds).

            The Ramona series: big endorsement. Henry Huggins, and of course The mouse and the motorcycle. The two Ramonas I would recommend are Ramona the Brave and Ramona Forever. Ramona the Pest I have still my reservations about: the best characters are Howie, Susan and Davy, especially Susan with her ping pong curls. And there was one after a LONG while which was a sequel to Ramona Forever made for the 21st century market.

            And Dear Mr Henshaw: so funny, poignant and good for developing writing skills. What writing means when you have an audience or a confidante. (There might be a sequel too).

            Bruce Coville? And there was a book with Fried Eggs in the title which taught me a heap about the people who came to America. Vasco da Gama for one! Something about eggs! I sang a song for the library about “My teacher fried my brains”.

  5. says

    Ds and I both loved the septimus heap series, maybe Fran would too. The girls recently read The Various trilogy by Steve Augarde, and both of the girls fell in love with the books. Abi has read several book series by Erin Hunter too. The Dark Is Rising Sequence is a favourite series of mine with magic and adventure which may be suitable. Animals of Farthing Wood went down well, as did My Family and Other Animals, and Gobbolino the Witches Cat.

    For Maddy, would she consider reading Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Praire? There are several books that Sonlight use which are truely lovely. Emma particularly liked Year of Miss Agness, Understood Betsy and The Boxcar Children. She also rather liked Mrs Pepperpot.

    There are lots more we have enjoyed but I could be here all day raving.

  6. Maggie says

    For Maddy, what about the Roman Mysteries series? (well, for both f them really, though Fran may already have read them)

  7. Michelle says

    C is going to read the books featured in Once Upon A Wartime at IWM then we will visit the exhibition. Understood Betsy is an excellent book. Cynthia Voigt, Eva Ibbotson, obviously Morpurgo (especially for Maddy). Too many choices!

    • says

      I was really surprised that Fran didn’t bite at Eva Ibbotson; I thought she would love them. Good recommendations for “not to complicated or too sad” MM books?

  8. says

    My children are too small for me to be much help with this, but it came to me earlier that Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and other animals’ might go down well…? I loved it when I read it (no idea how old I was. Anne of Green Gables and Little Women were also great favourites of mine…

  9. says

    well most of my suggestions (Dark is Rising, Jackie Wilson) have already gone, but what about Rosmary Sutcliff for Fran, if she likes historical? There are oodles of them. the Lucy Bostons are good too, seem to be standard child fantasy fare at first glance but are actually more sophisticated than that in their themes, and brilliantly written.
    I would also recommend the Cadfael books by Ellis Peter. Adult books but not too dark or bloody for an older child, brilliantly written and reseached, perfect blend of historical & who dunit.

    I was all about the fantasy, and still am, so not sure what to recomend for Maddy, except maybe the Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright – The Saturdays, The Four Story Mistake, Then there five, and Spiderweb for Two. Set slightly back in time (th 1940s) these are a very believable children having beliveable adventures, goings on and happenings in the real world. And possibly anything by E. Nesbit – these are magic and fantasy adventures, but there is something very real and prosiac about them.

  10. Anne-Marie says

    Ooh, books, my favourite subject. I still love reading children’s books, I would have suggested Hounds of the Morrigan but I see it’s on your original list – I’ve never known anyone else who’s heard of it! I’m into fantasy, so my suggestions are more for Fran although they are mainly fantasy rather than supernatural:
    I’ll second The Dark is Rising Sequence, The Children of Green Knowe books, Gerald Durrell and the Bartimaeus trilogy and I’ll add (in no particular order):
    Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander; Abhorsen series, Keys to the Kingdom series – Garth Nix; The Borrowers – Mary Norton; Miss Bianca series – Margery Sharp; Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – Robert C O’Brien; Heart’s Blood trilogy – Jane Yolen; Archer’s Goon – Diana Wynne Jones (and anything else by her); The Graveyard Book and Coraline – Neil Gaiman; Truckers/Diggers/Wings, The Carpet People, Tiffany Aching series, The Amazing Maurice – Terry Pratchett (maybe even Discworld but possibly a little young); The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, The Owl Service, Elidor – Alan Garner; 101 Dalmations & The Starlight Barking – Dodie Smith; The Wizard of Earthsea quartet – Ursula Le Guin; The Wind on the Moon – Eric Linklater
    Oops, quite a long list :-)

  11. says

    i’m part way ( a few chapters into book 2) through reading the Wintering trilogy (Dave Bowkett) to SB at bedtime. don’t think it would appeal to Sb as a read alone book yet – a bit too ‘serious’ for her maybe at the moment, Fran might like it. Bit of a fantasy thing to it, but with alight touch, more like this world just a bit different. Story starts with people living in a sort of small enclosed place, overseen by the ‘all mother’. Surrounded by a frozen world. So far it has been about some people escaping, and their adventres outside. Could borrow if you want.

    His Dark Materials? though a bit of a dark, and possibly sensitve at the moment, theme there.

    for Maddy, i’ve got the possibly rather bizzare sounding idea that she might like Biggles :-)

  12. Sarah says

    Don’t know if/when you’ll read this as the thread started several days ago but open book on radio 4 this afternoon (thurs march 3rd) talked through a selection of books for a teenage girl. I missed the beginning so didn’t catch which end of teenage it was aimed at and I can’t get flash on my iPad so can’t check atm (damn apple) but it may be worth a look. The list is on the website book


  13. Juno says

    I was also thinking of Morpurgo for Maddy. I ended up having a ‘heated discussion’ 😉 with my son about whether or not Kensuke’s Kingdom was factual. The stories are fantastic adventures, but written in a way that makes them very believable.

    Also, maybe Just William.

    I loved Alan Garner at Fran’s age & also enjoyed Dodi Smith’s ‘The Midnight Kittens’ (which, sadly, seems to be out of print :-( )

    Thank-you for posting, Merry. We are also on the lookout for new books in this age range – though for different reasons: our boys keep choosing books that are slightly old got them and uncomfortably themed around violence, crime and/or drugs. :-/

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