A friend asked for a book recommendation today. Her eight-year-old daughter is a good reader. She has read the entire Judy Moody series and is ready for the next step. But here’s the thing: she’s eight. Her mother is looking for fun and interesting novels that will challenge – but not overwhelm – her daughter with concerns that are a few years away.
After consulting with my library colleague who is the mother of 3 daughters, we came up with a list. They are not all new books, but they are all good ones.
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I know the books have a lot of cultural baggage attached to them, but they deserve to be read for their “wide open spaces,” if that makes any sense. They feel big – like the prairie – and they allow their reader to enter a world that is as cozy as sleeping in a log cabin. The first one is Little House in the Big Woods.)
The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary (Ramona Quimby is the quintessential 8-year-old. Energetic and adventurous, no child should grow up without visiting Klickitat Street!)
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin (Little dolls and big adventures. It would be fun to read The Borrowers, Stuart Little, The Tub People and The Doll People and then compare the delights and risks of being small in a big world.)
The Humphrey books by Betty G. Birney (Speaking of being small…each installment in the Humphrey series is from the school hamster’s point of view!)
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (Like many readers, I love the old fashioned mood of the Penderwick books. Read them curled up in a comfortable – preferably old – chair.)
Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls by Meg Cabot (This was my co-worker’s suggestion – her daughter loves Ali Finkle!)
Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (The only book on the list that is not part of a series. I just read it though, and I’m a bit obsessed right now. I’m putting Peck’s whimsical novel on every list. For example, if I recommend books about Queen Victoria or 19th century ocean liners, this book will be included – read it and see why!)
The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin (The adventures of Pacy, a Taiwanese-American girl. Her story continues in The Year of the Rat. I love Grace Lin’s books. She is a warm and wise writer, and the stories feel like classics right out of the gate.)
Don’t forget The Moffats by Eleanor Estes and The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright…
Clearly, the books listed here are not only for eight-year-old children. Many of them will make readers between the ages of 7 and 97 quite happy!