Let’s talk about awesome literature for elementary school-aged kids

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By: Indi SamarajivaCC BY 2.0

Calling all book nerds: reader Annie recently sent us this question:

My nephews will be turning eight in just a few short weeks, and they’ve been asking for chapter books for their birthday. Since I haven’t been eight in a while my brain is a little fuzzy — does anyone have suggestions for interesting books for the age range? Book series get bonus points!

You guys loooove talking about books around here — what are your faves for grade school-aged kiddos?

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Comments on Let’s talk about awesome literature for elementary school-aged kids

  1. One more I thought of and then I’ll stop, I swear (I so won’t stop). Goosebumps books, if they’re into scary things. Talk about a book series!

    Also, when I was their age, I remember being SO EXCITED when the Scholastic Book Club flier would come out. You/their parents can view the catalogue online here: https://clubs2.scholastic.com/clubs/ Unfortunately, you can only order online if their classroom participates, but you can go through that and get good ideas of what they might like.

  2. There are some excellent suggestions here!

    I can vouch that Oggie Cooder, by Sarah Weeks, goes over well with a decent cross-section of 4/5th grade girls who found it to be hilarious. Realistic fiction, but kinda goofy and improbable.

    For readers who aren’t intimidated by thicker books, The Mysterious Benedict Society books are a lot of fun.

    In the same vein as Redwall you also have The Guardians of Gahoole series, which is way better than the movie. Also, it’s just as huge a series, with the Wolves of the Beyond books, too. Erin Hunter is also a popular author with animals. I haven’t read any personally, but they seem to bridge the older elementary to middle school age and are insanely popular.

  3. At that age I loved:

    Cam Jansen, a series about a girl with a photographic memory who solves mysteries.
    The Magic Treehouse, of course, time travel and magic and history, oh my!
    The Boxcar Children, more mystery solving and some crazy adventures.
    The Bailey School Kids, supernatural mysteries and hilarious kids, if I recall correctly.

    My brother and I were also really into comic strips at that age. We had a few big books of Calvin and Hobbes and Foxtrot that we both loved.

    More recently I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about the Bone comic series. I haven’t read it personally, but I think it’s geared towards kids that age and it sounds like a fantasy adventure type story.

    • I second the comic strips…That age also tends to clean out the Garfield section at my library.

  4. I know most of what I’ll mention has already been said, but there is no way I can not comment on this article!! I get excited even now just thinking about how much I loved reading at that age. My all-time favourite book when I was about 8 and for many years afterwards was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (and sequels). It led to a years-long love affair with her writing, and I still consider her one of my favourite authors today. In no particular order, other things I greatly enjoyed around that age were:
    Beverly Cleary books
    Judy Blume books
    Goosebumps series
    Hardy Boys series
    Sideways Stories from Wayside School (and other related books)

    This list could go on indefinitely, these are just what I remember being favourites. As a side note, the reason I read A Wrinkle in Time to begin with was that I decided in 4th grade that I was going to read every book that had won the Newbery Medal up to that point. And I did it, and I loved it. The Newbery list is a great reference if you’re looking for classics for that age group. Yay for your nephews having such a wonderful and thoughtful aunt!

    • Ah! I forgot Sideways Stories from Wayside School on my list. Personally, those books are ones that are almost more appreciated by adults. Some of the twisty stuff went right over my head as a kid, but now as an adult I’m just like…Whoa.

  5. My brother and I both really enjoyed the Dinotopia books, can’t go wrong with an utopian society with dinosaurs. I also read all the Nancy Drew books and most of The Hardy Boys. There are some good Star Wars series think the ones geared for 9 year olds are written about Han and Leia’s son anikin… Might also be a clone wars series out… I read the Young Jedi Knights but that was more when I was 12…

  6. I am a bookaholic and will spare my lengthy lists although there are a couple of series I will mention (based on my 8 year old brother):
    *Horrible Harry series – all about a boy as he goes through the first through third grades I believe.
    *Narnia series
    *Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys
    *Shel Silverstein – my brother loves the goofy poetry

    To those who mentioned Goodreads.com – YES! I am addicted. They have all kinds of suggestions based on your personal ratings. You can also create “bookshelves” so if you want one specifically for your nephews, you can make and it will make suggestions for that particular shelf.

  7. -Everything by Roald Dahl
    -Everything by Judy Blume
    -Everything by E.B.White
    -Everything by Beverly Cleary.
    -Everything by Elizabeth George Speare

    More specific titles:
    -The Giver, by Lois Lowry
    -Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli
    Z for Zachariah, by Robert C. O’Brien
    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, also by Robert C. O’Brien
    -The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, 1963.
    -The White Mountains (and sequels) by John Christopher
    -Winter of Fire, by Sherryl Jordan
    -Hatchet, by Gary Paulson
    -The Chronicles of Narnia
    -Airborn (and sequels), by Kenneth Oppel
    -Bunnicula (and sequels) by James Howe

    And my all time favorite book that does NOT get nearly enough attention: The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner. The sequels (The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings) are also awesome, but may be better for pre-teen or older just because they’re more about intrigue and subtle plots than straight-forward adventure.

    (All above mentioned books are ones that I have in my personal library….because they are awesome.)

    • My second grader was assigned Bunnicula, and then he and his older sister promtply plowed through the whole series.

  8. My son is 12 and has been an avid reader. Some of his favorites from when he was around your son’s age have been:

    -The “Diary of A Wimpy Kid” series by Jeff Kinney which are sort of a cross between chapter books and comic books. there are lots of fun illustrations.

    -The “Heck” series by Dale E Basye which is a kid’s series about 2 kids negotiating the afterlife. There are lots of allusions to classical literature like “Paradise Lost”

    -The “Silverwing” series by Kenneth Opel which is about a colony of bats.

    -The “Neil Flambe” series by Kevin Sylvester which is about a boy chef who solves mysteries.

    These are all relatively new series, some have new books published within the last year.

    “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is a great series of books for boys and girls too.

  9. When I was that age, I read a lot of books by Paul Jennings (an australian childrens author). Also Goosebumps books, and Animorphs. My brother read Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events and Eragon.

  10. This is a wonderful question, but hard too! Books are such subjective things…Reading over this list I definitely found some that I would suggest for YA readers, rather than this age, but it all depends on the kiddo!

    I’m so glad you’re interested in series–I know I ate them up at that age and kids seem to love them. Lots of great ones have been mentioned (Clementine, Boxcar Children, Little House, Magic Treehouse, etc). If they like fantasy the Beast Quest and Secrets of Droon series are wonderful early chapter books.

    My absolute favorite series for this age is the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look. The first one is “Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things.” How often do you get a second grade main character who likes to spout insults from Shakespeare? The illustrations by LeUyen Pham are also phenomenal.

  11. I remember around the time I started reading chapter stories, I was really excited to go to the library to look for the Encyclopedia Brown book series. It was a mystery book series.

  12. I completely suggest the “Lunch Lady” and “Squish” graphic novel series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka and Jennifer and Matt Holm. They’re HUGE in my elementary school libraries with 8 and 9 year olds! “Zita the Space Girl” is another graphic novel series (just 2 books in) that’s shaping up to be pretty awesome and Zita is pretty androgynous. Kids also love Andrew Clement’s books (I recommend “Frindle” or “No Talking” for the forward thinking, “kids deserve rights, too” family). I’ve also wooed groups of kids with Kate DiCamillo’s “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” (TEAR JERKER, be warned) and “The Tale of Desperaux”.

    I also remind kids fairly regularly to not discount picture books! Paul Fleishman has the “Dunderheads” series that a lot of kids overlook but end up loving and Dr. Seuss’ longer books (ie. The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who) are at just the right reading and comprehension level for 2nd/3rd graders. Chris Van Allsburg’s picture books (Jumanjii, The Widows Broom, etc.) are great for kids developing higher thinking skills, and David Wiesner’s wordless picture books (Sector 7, Tuesday, Flotsom) are great for kids to start their own writing.

    Poetry (especially “naughty” kid poetry) is a big hit with 8 and 9 year olds, too! Don’t discount Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky anthologies! And Guyku and Dogku by Bob Raczka and Peter Reynolds are definitely “boyish” books.

  13. Something I haven’t seen recommended yet is the Molly Moon book series by Georgia Byng. The initial premise is when a girl and her best friend (male), who live in an orphanage together, find a how-to book on hypnotism at the local library. There are lots of hilarious plot twists and turns, and it ends up introducing some pretty interesting philosophical questions like, what is mind? along the way.

  14. So many books on here that I loved from my childhood! I still read a ton of children’s and YA books, so here are some old favorites and a few newer ones that I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    Snow Treasure (Marie McSwigan)
    Wee Free Men [Tiffany Aching series] (Terry Pratchett)
    The Mushroom Planet series (Eleanor Cameron)
    Encyclopedia Brown series (Donold J. Sobol)
    Theodosia Throckmorton series (R.L. LaFevers)
    The Saturdays [the Melendy series] (Elizabeth Enright)
    the All-of-a-Kind Family series (Sydney Taylor)
    The Mysterious Benedict Society series (Trenton Lee Stewart)
    The Case of the Missing Marquess [Enola Holmes series] (Nancy Springer)
    The Black Stallion series (Walter Farley)
    The Red Pyramid [Kane Chronicles series] (Rick Riordan)
    So You Want To Be a Wizard [Young Wizards series] Diane Duane
    The Fairy-Tale Detectives [Sisters Grimm series] (Michael Buckley)
    The Flight of the Phoenix [Nathaniel Fludd series] (R.L. LaFevers)
    the Trixie Belden series (Julie Campbell)
    The Happy Hollisters series (Jerry West)
    The Bobbsey Twins series (Laura Lee Hope)
    Doctor Dolittle series (Hugh Lofting)
    Pippi Longstocking series (Astrid Lindgren)
    Ballet Shoes [and the rest of the “shoes” books] (Noel Streatfeild)
    Mary Poppins series (P.L. Travers)
    Detectives in Togas (Henry Winterfeld)
    The Pink Motel (Carol Ryrie Brink)
    Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)
    The Indian in the Cupboard (Lynne Reid Banks)
    Mandy (Julie Andrews Edwards)
    Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt)
    Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl)
    Homesick: My Own Story (Jean Fritz)
    The Hundred Dresses (Eleanor Estes)
    Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
    The Secret Language (Ursula Nordstrom)
    The Cricket in Times Square (George Selden)
    Trumpet of the Swan (E.B. White)
    Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Richard Atwater)
    Revenge of the Witch [Last Apprentice series] (Joseph Delaney) – these are definitely for older kids – kinda creepy

  15. My kids (7 and 9) absolutely adore the Dragonbreath which are text/graphic novel hybrids with both funny dragons/lizards/etc and interesting science (usually biology) facts incorporated in a totally-not teachy way. Ursula just won the hugo for her massive graphic novel Digger, but it is not intended to be a kids book; the one-off “Nurk, the adventures of a surprisingly brave shrew” *is* a kids book, and awesome.

    The Babymouse and Squish series (by the same brother sister author team) are also favorites, though Squish is preferred by the boys in the crew.

    The aforementioned Magic Tree House books are always good. The other series we are constantly putting on hold at the library are the Scooby-Doo Mysteries.

    They just started reading “Dealing with Dragons” from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles and I might pitch that more for the average 10 year old, but they are enjoying it enough to be willing to work at it.

    The both also like the “Goddess Girls” series but my son only puts up with the girliness and teen-ish flirting drama because he really likes greek mythology.

    I remember that I really loved the Phantom Tollbooth at that age.

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