Pragmatic Mom

December 2, 2009

Favorite Books for Grades 3-5

Pragmatic Mom’s 4th grader helped to compile this list of favorite books she recommends for 3-5th graders.  I have also vetted this list for content.  I feel that some topics such as death, cruelty, poverty, when dealt with a heavy hand are best suited for when kids are a little older, say Middle School.  These books, even though they cover these heavy topics, have also managed to be uplifting.  As always, click on the image of the book to purchase it at Amazon.com.

The Secret School by Avi.  Ida Bidson becomes a teacher at 14-years-old when her teacher at her one-room schoolhouse has to leave due to a family illness.  This is a Newbery Award Winner!  My oldest highly recommends it!  [ages 8-12]

If your child likes this book, try The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall.  Her first book, The Penderwicks, won a Newbury Award.  It’s a fantastic book but the sequel is even better.  In this book, the girls try to find a wife for their dad. I think I was more excited than my daughter when the sequel came out! [ages 8-12]

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney.  When Eben McAllister is challenged by his pa to discover wonders in his small farming community, he finds the extraordinary in a doll, a bookcase, a saw, a table, a ship in a bottle, a woven cloth, and more.  [ages 7-12]

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume. [ages 8-11]

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. [ages 8-11]

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.  Historical fiction about the author’s own grandmother who settled in Wisconsin during the 1860’s and their adventures getting along with the local Native Americans. [ages 8-12]

The BFG by Roald Dahl. [ages 8-11]

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh.   A true story about Sarah Noble, a brave 8-year-old pioneer child, who must leave her mother and siblings to accompany her father to the wilds of Connecticut while he builds a house for their family.  Can Sarah keep her courage up when faced with Indians?  With large type and short chapters, this Newbery Honor book is perfect for younger readers.  Older readers might compare this to Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, another true story about a pioneer girl who befriends Indians.  [ages 6-10]

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.  Probably one of the best books I have ever read.  An amazing and uplifting story.  [ages 8-12].  A note of caution, A Tiger Rising also by Kate DiCamillo also won a Newbury Honor award but I didn’t think the content was suitable for ages 8-10.  The realism is just too …real, and sad.  A Tale of Desperaux was also difficult for my 4th grader to get into.  She thought it was boring.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes.  My daughter’s 3rd grade teacher recommended this book and my daughter also said she loved it.  It’s great for 3rd grade girls because this is when social issues such as cliques can form.  [ages 8-11]

Julie of the Wolves series by Jean Craighead George.  My mom friend highly recommended this series.  She’s reading it with her two girls and they all love it.  [ages 7-12]

The Doll People by Laura Godwin (a three book series).  [ages 8-11]

Umbrella Summer by Jan Graff.  When her older brother dies unexpectedly less than a year ago, Annie reacts by excessive worrying.  It’s not until a new neighbor moves in, with a secret of her own, that Annie is able to close the “umberella” of her sadness and let the sunshine in.  [ages 8-12]

If your child liked Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles or Rules by Cynthia Lord, this is a good choice.

Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill. Technically, this is historical fiction about a teacher who goes to rural Alaska and transforms the lives of the children at a one room schoolhouse.  [ages 8-11]

If your child likes this book, try The Secret School by Avi.

The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. A princess gets the gift of being ordinary and that turns out to be the best gift of all.  [ages 8-11].

Fairy Godsister by Liz Kessler.  My oldest said to include this book; it’s one of her favorites.  [ages 8-12]

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigburg.  One of my favorite books of all time about a sister who stages a “run away” to the Metropolitan Museum of Art mostly because she wants to feel different. I just tried this book with my 10-year-old daughter and she found it difficult to follow the plot and couldn’t get into it.  She much prefers Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by E. L. Konigsburg[ages 8-12]

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by e. l. konigsburg.  For anyone who has had to move to a new town and stuggle to make new friends and fit in, this is the perfect read.  A Newbury Honor Book, not quite in the same league as From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, this is a great book about girl friendships…and witchcraft.  [ages 9-13]

The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin.  This is the sequel to The Year of the Dog in which Pacy learns that her best friend is moving to California, faces prejudice including her own as a new “fresh-off-the-boat” Chinese boy joins her class, and struggles to fit in. [ages 7-11]

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Grace Lin is the Amy Tan for the elementary school set.  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is an Asian-American version of the Percy Jackson series starting with The Lightening Thief. Where Riordan weaves in Greek Mythology into his plot, Grace Lin uses Chinese Folk Tales into a wonderful, inspiring and heart-warming story that teaches all of us to just… BELIEVE.   This book was listed twice as a favorite book on my kids’ elementary school newspaper.  [ages 8-12]

Rules by Cynthia Lord. A really wonderful story about a girl whose special needs brother and special needs friend help her to discover the courage to just be herself.  [ages 8-11]

The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park.  Set in 15th century Korea, Korea’s Golden Age, two brothers — one  skilled in kite making and the other skilled in  kite flying — combine their skills to compete in a kite flying contest on behalf of the king.  [ages 7-12]

Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park.  Set during the Yi Dynasty, considered the Golden Age of Korea, the seesaw girl illustrates lives and limitations of women in a noble family. [ages 8-11]

 A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.  Set in 12th century Korea during the Koryo era, an orphan who ends up working for a celebrated celadon potter is able to realize his own potential.  [ages 8-12]

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck.  I have just discovered this Newbery Award-winning author and I have to say he’s an amazing story teller.  A Year Down Yonder is the Newbery Award winning book, and it’s the sequel to A Long Way From Chicago.  While this book is set in a small country bumpkin town during the Great Depression, it’s a hilarious story about fifteen-year-old Mary Alice who is sent to live with her Grandma for a year during the Great Depression while her parents get situated.  Grandma Dowdel is a force to be reckoned with; her resourcefulness is matched by her heart of gold and Mary Alice’s year is filled with enough drama to fill a newspaper.   A Long Way from Chicago is from Mary Alice’s older brother’s perspective during their eight summers at  Grandma Dowel’s farm and the antics they got into.  It also gives a gentle history on how the Great Depression impacted their community.   [ages 8-12]

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins.  Set in Bangladesh, a sickly rickshaw driver’s daughter strives to earn money for her family.  [ages 8-11]

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riodan.  This is “Harry Potter meets Greek Mythology” and it’s a fantastic read!  It’s such a page-turner that I stayed up to 2 a.m. to finish it!  Percy Jackson is an ADD, dyslexic 6th grade hero who has trouble staying in school because, as it turns out, he’s no ordinary human but a half-blood related to one of the big three in Greek Mythology.  He must find and return Zeus’ lost lightening bolt to prevent WWIII.  This series makes Greek Mythology come alive so I’ve included a Greek Mythology book as well.  The level of difficulty is slightly easier than Book 1 of Harry Potter; this book is 375 pages long, normal sized type.  [ages 8-14]

(boxed set of first three books, $11.69)

(boxed set of all 5 books, $51.97)

Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.   You’d have to be living under a rock for over a decade not to know about Harry Potter.  We just saw the exhibit at our Museum of Science and it was terrific!  We went Christmas Eve to avoid the crowds and the museum was still half-full.  My 4th daughter is now racing through the series now…I thought she didn’t read these books earlier because they were too scary.  She said it was because she didn’t own them.  Well, the 7 book series is $48.97; that’s a pretty good price.  [ages 7-adult]

If your child liked the Harry Potter series, try The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.  The first book is The Lightening Thief and the movie premieres Feb. 12, 2010.  It’s always music to my ears when my child tells me that the book is waaaay better than the movie!

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan.  [ages 8-11]

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.   This book is deceptively thick because it’s 250+ pages of illustrations that tell part of the story that I call “The Phantom of the Opera” of children’s literature.  Set in 1930’s Paris, Hugo Cabret is an orphan with a talent for all things mechanical.  The key to his future, he believes, is unlocking the secret of an automaton “wonder.”  With other interlocking stories that weave together, this is a riveting story about the power of friendships, magic and perseverance.  [ages 8-12]

 

Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli.  [ages 9-14]

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee, an orphan and an athlete of legendary acclaim, breaks the racial barrier existing between two neighboring towns.  [ages 8-15]

The Last Giraffe series by Lauren St. John.   A mom friend highly recommends this series.  [ages 6-10]

The All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. Apparently the newest American Girl doll is based on this book so maybe it’s more well-known now.  The first book is the only one in print, but you can find the rest of the series at your public library or used on Amazon at sometimes exorbitant prices:  More All-Of-A-Kind Family, All-Of-A-Kind Family Downtown, All-Of-A-Kind Family Uptown, Ella of All-Of-A-Kind Family.

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Mary on Horseback:  Three Mountain Stories  by Rosemary Wells.  This is a biography of Mary Breckenridge, a nurse during World War I, who provided nursing and medical services to the poor in the Appalachia after her two children and two husbands die.   Her nurses on horseback were the foundation of the Frontier Nursing Service that she created. [ages 9-12]

 Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles.  My daughter’s 3rd grade teacher’s favorite book in the world.  Ruby Lavender spends the summer dealing with the absence of her beloved grandmother, who is visiting family in Hawaii.  It obliquely deals with death, but in an uplifting way.  The book manages to be hilarious and poignant at the same time. [ages 8-11]

If your child liked Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff, this is a good choice.  This Little Bird that Sings by Deborah Wiles is also highly recommended by my oldest daughter’s friend who says this book is even funnier than Love, Ruby Lavender.

Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles. My oldest daughter’s well-read friend says that this is her new favorite book of the year.  Last year, her favorite book was Love, Ruby Lavender but she says this book is better and funnier.  It’s about a 10-year-old girl named Comfort whose family runs a mortuary.  Despite a spate of deaths in the family and other wacky adventures, the story is both hilarious laugh-out-loud and poignant.  [ages 8-11]

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October 5, 2009

Favorite Picture Books You’ve Never Heard Of

I love picture books; it’s a complete story in 24ish pages with a beginning, a middle and an end.  It’s a visit to an art gallery or a museum with beautiful artwork in all kinds of media — drawings, paintings, collages, and more.  It can transport you to another time and place, a different culture, or a different person’s point of view.  Picture books are NOT just for young children; I insist they are for everyone, adult and child alike.  My 4th grader’s teacher is reading Patricia Polacco’s picture books to the class and the kids are thoroughly enjoying them.  Picture books also make bedtime stories a pleasure because one reader can satisfy a wide audience. 

I  recommend these particular books highly because I don’t mind reading them umpteen times and my kids actually choose them for bedtime stories.   The picture books with an older age span are wonderful for rich vocabulary and many will transport you to other times and places both real and imaginary.  Enjoy!

You can find them on Amazon (click on picture of book to purchase there) or at your local library.  The list is in alphabetical order by author’s last name in case you are searching at the library.  A great resource that many of these books came from is Great Books for Girls and Great Books for Boys, both by Kathleen Odean.  Other entries came from book lists from elementary schools around the country and book lists from libraries.  Most of the authors have written many other books that are also excellent so if your child likes a particular book, I suggest doing an author study.

Click on the image of the book to purchase at Amazon.com.

The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M. T. Anderson.  Based on a true story set in 1817, this is the story of a sea serpent who came to Gloucester.  [ages 4-9]

 

 

 

 

 

The Bobbin Girl by Emily Arnold.  A ten-year-old girl fights for better working conditions during the industrial revolution.  Based on a true story.  [ages 5-9]

The Shape Game by Anthony Browne.  A trip to the museum turns into a drawing adventure.  Artists and doodles will love this book!  [ages 4-7]

From Here to There by Margery Cuyler.  A great way to get a sense of geography as a little girl travels from her house to the universe.  [ages 3-7]

 

 

 

 

The Empty Pot by Demi.  Trying your hardest and telling the truth wins a little boy a kingdom. [ages 4-8]

The Greatest Power by Demi.  The sequel to The Empty Pot.  [ages 4-8]

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English.  Wonderfully illustrated with collage art, this is a story about a hot day in an inner city.  [ages 4-8]

 

 

 

 

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee.  James and Eamon go to Nature Day Camp sort of learn about nature but have the best week ever!  [ages 4-8]

 

 

 

 

 

Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham.  A classic that I loved as a child that is now a favorite of my kids.

 

 

 

 

 

Dog Magic by Carla Golembe.  A story about how a little girl named Molly Gail overcomes her fear of dogs.  [ages 409]

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson.  Clara is a slave who escapes to freedom by creating a quilt that maps the way to freedom.  [ages 5-9]

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard and E.B. Lewis.  Set in Reconstruction Tennessee, Virgie, a girl, goes to school to learn to be free. [ages 5-9]

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  An African-American  little boy living in an urban city spends the day exploring after a big snow.  A beautifully illustrated story.  [ages 2-7]

The Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellogg.  A little boy’s mysterious tadpole grows too big to keep in his family’s apartment so he must come up with a plan to save it.  [ages 3-8]

Mr. Tanen’s Ties by Maryann Cocca-Leffler.  Mr. Tanen’s zany ties delight the kids at his school, but when the school superintendent insists he wear plain ties, something unexpected happens.  [4-8]

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester.  A rat with a lisp becomes the unlikely class hero. [ages 4-8]

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin.  A little Asian girl wonders why her garden is filled with ugly vegetables but, after a delicious soup, finds that her neighbors want ugly vegetables in their gardens as well. [ages 4-8]

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.  A hilarious story of how Jeremy Jacob becomes a pirate. [ages 3-7]

 

 

 

 

 

Halibut Jackson by David Lucas.  Halibut Jackson overcomes his shyness and your child will have fun finding him hidden in every page. [ages 2-7]

Hog-Eye by Susan Meddaugh.  A little girl pig uses her wits to outsmart a wolf. [ages 3-8]

Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman.  Moses and his friends are all deaf and they take a class field trip to a symphony to meet a deaf percussionist.  [ages 4-8]

My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel.  Set in Tanzania, Saruni saves his money to buy something special to help out his mother.  [ages 4-9]

 

 

 

 

 

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.  A feminist take on a princess story in which the princess rescues the bum prince.  [ages 4-8]

Zen Shorts by Jon Muth.  Chinese philosopher Chuang Tze made accessible for kids. [ages 5-8]

Thank You,  Mr. Falker by Patricia Pollaco.  This is her story about how her teacher diagnosed her learning diability and helped her to learn to read.  My kids both raved about it.  [ages 6-10]

 

 

 

 

 

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman.  School safety has never been so hilarious. [ages 4-8]

Augustus and His Smile by Catherine Rayner.  A beautifully illustrated book about a tiger looking for his smith with a zen message.  [ages 3-6]

 

 

 

 

Ish by Peter Reynolds.  My preschool-aged son drew a “tree-ish” painting after the teacher read this book to the class about a boy who is discouraged by his paintings but then realizes that “ish” is better than painting realistically.  [ages 3-7]

 

 

 

 

Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson.  A bookmaker’s daughter during the 1400’s saves the day by helping her father illustrate a book.  Gorgeously illustrated.  [ages 5-9]

When I Was Young In the Mountains by Cynthia RylantA spare but beautiful story of a simple life growing up in West Virginia.  [ages 6-8]

 

 

 

 

 

Tea with Milk by Allen Say.  A Japanese-American young lady must adjust to living in Japan.  [ages 5-9]

A Symphony of Whales by Steve Schuch.  A beautiful and haunting story about a Siberian girl who comes up with a plan to save hundreds of beluga whales trapped by ice.  [ages 4-9]

Baloney (Henry P.) by Jon Scieszka.  My little son loves this book about an alien boy who has a really great excuse about why he’s late for school.  The book uses words from many different languages which are fun to decode.  [ages 4-7].

 

 

 

 

 

Preschool to the Rescue by Judy Sierra.  Preschool-age kids love to act out this book about a sticky icky mud puddle with their trucks.  [ages 2-5]

 

 

 

 

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown.  A loving tribute to Dr. Seuss in the style of Dr. Seuss about a library in a zoo.  [ages 3-7]

Don’t Say Ain’t by Irene Small.   Dana learns to navigate two worlds:  an advanced integrated school and the friends she has at home.  [ages 5-10]

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley.  A funny story about a Sweetness, an orphan, helps the sheriff capture outlaw Coyote Pete.  [ages 4-7]

Doctor DeSoto by William Steig.  A dentist and his wife who are mice outwit a fox. [ages 3-8]

 

 

 

 

 

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart.  An uplifting story about a girl who lives during the end of the Great Depression. [ages 4-9]

Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnel.  A true story set in 1914 about getting a little girl to her grandmother’s house seventy-five miles away.  [ages 4-8]

 

 

 

 

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams. Finally it’s time that mom gets to buy something for herself and finding the perfect chair is not easy.  [ages 4-8]

 

 

 

 

Yoko by Rosemary Wells.  Yoko gets bullied because her lunch and snack are different from her classmates.  [ages 4-8]

 

 

 

 

 

Night, Night, Stars So Bright by Noreen Wenjen.  The perfect toddler bedtime story.  [ages 2-6]

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