Friday, April 13, 2012

Favorite Children's Books for Elementary School

Last night I was enjoying the craziness that is Ladies’ Night Out, and one of my friends asked for suggestions for her 1st grader. They’ve been reading aloud some of my favorites (Little House on the Praire, Anne of Green Gables, and The Chronicles of Narnia), but my friend was wondering about other books they could enjoy. I actually had to think for a minute, because it’s been a long time since I’ve read “chapter” books for children, but once I started thinking about it, I realized that I have lots of favorites. Here are just a few of my recommendations – let me know what some of your favorites are!
Eloise by Kay Thompson – I love this six year old girl’s attitude! She knows EVERYTHING there is to know about The Plaza Hotel. And since my sister loves to point out that I’m a know-it-all, clearly Eloise and I are soul mates.
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald Sobal – I loved this series growing up, but now that I’m older I have to think that the adults in Encyclopedia Brown’s life found him annoying as all heck. What a smarty-pants…
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary – I always loved reading about Ralph and his motorcycle. In fact, I like this series better than Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona, probably because that Ramona is a pest. Maybe as the older sister I related too much with poor Beezus.
A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I’ve always wondered if my love of The Secret Garden didn’t prepare me for my romance novel reading future. Even though the girl in A Little Princess is now just a little bit too twee for my taste, I still love The Secret Garden.
Bunnicula by Deborah Howe, James Howe – a few years ago my sister attended a wool fair (she’s a knitter) and spotted the truly frightening Angora rabbits. She said they looked JUST like Bunnicula, and if you don’t believe me, google pictures of them. Those suckers are creepy. And how can anyone resist the third book in the series, The Celery Stalks at Midnight?
The Borrowers by Mary Norten – this British novel is a charmer, although younger readers might have a problem with some of the language from across the pond. And since we’ve all lost socks “in the dryer”, I think we can agree that there are in fact Borrowers among us.
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner – This was one of my favorite series, along with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. The idea of living in a box car really struck my imagination, although now I have to wonder how my allergies would have reacted to sleeping in hay. Not well, my friends. Not well. Plus, I prefer not to be poked in the eye when I roll over. Fortunately I wasn’t quite so literal as a child.
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. – I think our family read this book so often the paperback fell apart. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to see the awful Steve Martin film adaptation, you have NO idea what this book is actually about.  Check out the original for a charming story about a VERY large family. I always felt for the poor woman who visited the mother to talk about the importance of birth control, only to learn that the mother had 12 kids.
Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry G Allard, James Marshall (Illustrator) – The sweet Miss Nelson just doesn’t have what it takes to be a teacher, so she mysteriously ‘disappears’ and Miss Viola Swamp shows up to teach the kids some manners. Sometimes while teaching my college students I think that I might just invite Miss Viola Swamp to my classroom. It would probably work as well on so-called adults as it does on kids, right?
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar – the stories about this school (built one classroom on top of the other, thirty stories high) are a hoot. Lots of craziness kids love here.
Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little by E.B. White – Classics worth reading time and again. I always felt badly about poor Charlotte, but that sure is Some Pig. Unfortunately for Wilbur, I’ve always been a fan of bacon.
These are a few of my favorites – any suggestions you’d like to add?


  1. Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Praire and Anne of Green Gables, I remember those were among my favourites growing up. :)

    1. Angelica, those are some of my favorites as well! Plus, you have a girl as the protagonist, which I love.

  2. The Great Brain series and the Ramona books are two not listed that I remember reading as a kid. The shoe sereis (Ballet Shoes, Movie Shoes, etc) were good too!

  3. Nestra, I've never heard of the Great Brain series. I'll have to check it out! Angelica also suggested on Twitter the Dear Dumb Diary series, which is also new to me.