Choosing books for a younger child with advanced reading skills is a mine field. While they may have the reading skills to handle just about anything, they don’t necessarily have the maturity to deal with some of the themes presented in books directed at older children.
As a general rule, I try to find books about children, for children. It is not so much that some of the books for adults that contain nothing offensive would be inappropriate, it is that while they are still excited to read about a girl and her horse, why hurry them on to other things? They have the rest of their lives to be adults!
I have compiled a list of safe books, as well as some rejects in another post, to give you some idea of what you may find appropriate for younger readers.
The first section of the list are books we have read aloud as a family, without anything too dreadful showing up, though once or twice we would discuss the response of one of the characters.
Laura Ingalls wilder – “Little House Series”
Sometimes Laura would do something in retaliation to a mean girl in the school, or perhaps make a decision that was not the wisest. Overall, they were fairly wholesome. After “Little Town on the Prairie”, comes the story of Laura’s young adulthood, and budding romance with Almando. I prefer to save the rest of the series for a little later when the girls are older. For now we try to avoid too much romantic stuff.
Mary Grant Bruce – “Billabong Series”
There are 15 Books in the series, we are currently up to book 7, reading aloud. These are like an Australian version of the little house series. They describe the life and times of a family on a station in Victoria, covering the first world war and it’s effects on England and Australia. They are good, wholesome reading, but are not politically correct in relation to aboriginal people (a bit stereotyped, nothing really terrible), and they do have the men smoking pipes fairly often. (a normal occurrence at the time the book was written, but it does seem odd now.) The 1992 paperbacks published by Bluegum have edited out some of the less politically correct passages, and have historical notes in the back
Eleanor Graham – “The Children who lived in a barn.”
This book was enjoyed by all of the children, although I found the ending a bit unbelievable, myself. It tells the story of children left to fend for themselves for a week, which turned out to be much longer, and the trials they faced. There is one occasion where a lady calls a younger girl an unfortunate name, which quite shocked me, but it obviously didn’t have the same nasty connotations then, that it does now (it was in reference to being lazy). As this was read aloud, I edited that sentence.
Francis Hodgeson Burnett – “Little Lord Faulnteroy”
Quite a pleasant book, of the sort where the good people are very good. An older reader may find the characters a little overdone, but younger readers will swallow it easily.
George Macdonald – “Sir Gibbie”
This was one of those books that me think differently for a while afterward. It made me want to be less selfish. It did have the theme of a child with no/irresponsible parents, which is something I try to avoid normally and did have a romantic part at the very end which I would rather have saved for later if I had known it was coming. (it was not however anything that would make you blush to read out loud) and overall, this book is worth having I think.
Jean George – “My Side of the Mountain “
Great adventure story, sparked lots of imagine if… type conversations.
Books that I have given to a young daughter to read alone, include;
Eleanor Porter – “Pollyanna”
This is a really lovely book.
(Don’t bother with sequels written by other authors, the one I tried was awful)
Patricia St John – “Tanglewoods secret”, “Treasures of the snow”
Good stories with good morals, dealing with forgiveness, salvation, friendship.
“Ride of Courage” – from the treasured horses collection
Not exactly highfalutin literature, but safe and enjoyable none the less.
Odo Hirsch –
Frankel Mouse and the bestish Lair
Antonio S and the mystery of Theodore Guzman
Bartlett and the Ice Voyage
Bartlett and the city of flames
We read aloud “Hazel Green” because I was not sure what it would contain, it being about school children. It was o.k, but I would read the sequels to Hazel Green before I handed them over. All of the others listed above I read myself first, and found interesting and not offensive in anyway. Although they do not carry a noticeable christian message, they do not contain anything which gave me cause for concern.
If you have girls, you can’t go past a copy of Mabel Hales “Beautiful Girlhood”. I bought mine at less10.com, but I have also seen it at Koorong. It is not a story book as such, but contains a series of “instructive passages”. My daughter was very pleased with it, and we bought a copy for an older cousin, who also liked it so much she purchased a copy for a school friend.
“Milly Molly Mandy” books are lovely, they really are very charming.
Mrs O.F.Walton – “Saved at Sea”
This is one of my children’s all time favourites. It was on the required reading list for grade 3, I think, and she really loved it. I found our copy at a thrift shop, but another book she enjoyed, “Little Faith” by the same author, I was able to purchase from our local Christian bookstore.