Random Thoughts, Vol. 3: The Good Books for Kids Edition

If I had a nickel for every time that friends have asked me for book suggestions, I would have … well, a lot of nickels.

But I do feel bad that I don’t often have an organized list. Often, perfectionism gets in the way–I want to share the best ten, or twenty, or hundred, books for kids, all color-coded and age-appropriate.  And –surprise!–those lists don’t write themselves.

So to get started, here is one list, very random. Because it is quite random, I’m making it part of the “random thoughts” series.

This is actually the list from one of the early years that my daughters and I hosted a Girls Book Group  at our house.   Even though they were read as part of a “girls” group, all these books are totally appropriate and would be enjoyed by both boys and girls–yes, even Baby Island and The Penderwicks.  Many times, if you like the book we read, you will often enjoy other works by the same author.

Feel free to share some of your favorites in the comments!

Andrew Clements is really the gold standard author when it comes to “school stories.”    Just a few weeks ago, one of my kids brought home a book from the “new book” section, and we both gave up on reading it after a few chapters.  As I said, “It’s like someone trying to write like Andrew Clements but not succeeding.”

Frindle is possibly his best, but I have some other Clements favorites, and (a few) that are not-so-favorite.  I’ll try to do a post on great Clements books soon.

Understood Betsy is one of my favorite books of all time.  We own multiple hard copies, and I have it in Kindle format and audio CD format. This is great to read-aloud to your children, just so you don’t miss out on how terrific this book is in every way.

When we read Understood Betsy for Girls Book Group, we made applesauce and butter, and the girls did virtually all the work themselves.  Wonderful.


All of Rumer Godden’s books are tinged with melancholy, but they are so worthwhile.  I’m not sure why I chose The Doll’s House rather than, say, The Kitchen Madonna.  I think it may have been one of the few in-print Godden books for kids at the time.  I think we made homemade dollhouse furniture as the girls do in the book.

Carol Ryrie Brink is amazing–I can’t think of any of her books that I do love and begin laughing and quoting when I call to mind a title. Baby Island is hilarious and improbable and so, so funny-two sisters who like to “borrow” babies are shipwrecked on a desert island with four babies.  I just now noticed it’s available on Kindle, and even though I can probably recite entire passages of it, it’s likely I will order a Kindle version at some point.

The Toothpaste Millionaire is the only Jean Merrill book I’ve enjoyed, but it’s really fun and worth reading, especially for an entrepreneurial-minded kid.

The Penderwicks is practically perfect in every way, a series that’s a worthy successor and homage to such fun old classics by authors such as E. Nesbit and Edward Eager.  There have been three so far in the series, and I was expecting the fourth to be published this spring, but it looks like it’s not coming out until 2015.  So hard to wait!

I am biased since I know author/adaptor Nancy Carpentier Brown in real life.  She actually visited our Girls Book Group and spoke with the girls about writing, G.K. Chesterton, and life in general, a memory we all cherish.  But it really is a great introduction for young people to Chesterton’s mystery series.

I love Jean Fritz, and The Cabin Faced West is one of her many terrific books.  I can’t recall why I chose this one in particular, but it mixes fiction and history so well you don’t realize how much you are learning about the Revolutionary time period.  She will be 99 later this year, and she is still writing! Wow.

Many, many more books to come, and future posts can be found under the “books for kids” category.  I will also try to make a tab of great kids books for easier “finding.”  Thanks for your patience as I get through these.

A note from me: this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through to Amazon from any of the links, and order a book (s), I receive a small amount.  It doesn’t change your cost, but helps support this blog.

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