Sunday, June 15, 2014

Great for grades 4 and 5

Here is a list that combines ones that I have shared with a couple of families of girls headed for fourth grade.  They are both good readers who will be able to tackle these, though their interests vary.  This is an ages when likes are clearly developing but summer is a good time to encourage exploration, too.  Parents and children need to remember that summer is a great time to get lost in a book.  Reading for pleasure helps develop a real love of books that will last a lifetime. That is my hope for the people who use this list--that they find a book that will change how they view their world or at least inspire them to keep looking for those special books.


Beverly Cleary books like those about Ramona Quimby and her friends are classics of children's literature.  Ramona may have been the first of the now popular genre of realistic fiction about young, strong girls. They are certainly some of the best books in this genre to this day.  Readers are also encouraged to explore some of her other books that include new characters and adventures.

Edward Eager was my favorite author when I was young.  All of them are great tales of simple magic that takes four siblings on adventures that carry them far from any possibility of boredom.  My favorite is still Half Magic, but you can't go wrong with any of Eager's book.
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes is another series of books that I loved as at this age.  I was so taken by the adventures of this family who seemed familiar despite the fact that they lived in a different time and place than I did than I fantasized about meeting them and joining their adventures.

McBroom's Wonderful One Acre Farm by Sid Fleischman is very short but is filled to the brim with interesting characters and clever plots twists.  The McBroom family goes in search of a new farm and ends up buying a farm that is small but so filled with rich soil that plants grow in matter of hours, causing many interesting events and much jealousy from the cranky neighbor who sold the farm to them.

By the Grace of Todd by Louise Galveston drew me in with its interesting cover and intriguing title.  The premise is satisfying to anyone who has neglected to clean their bedroom (or had children who were less than stellar about picking up dirty socks.)  Todd is engaged in issues at school when he realizes that his dirty sock has grown a tiny civilization of its own.  Soon he is dealing with their worship of him as well as school bullies and science fair projects.

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes is simply the story of the daily life of a young boy.  There is not heart racing peaks and valleys of activity but it is a charming story that will ring true with many readers.

Chomp by Carl Hiassen is a book I know I have mentioned on my blog before.  It is one of the many adventure/humor/nature stories that Hiassen has set in Florida.  This just happens to be my favorite because the characters are so quirky while also seeming very real.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire by Mrs. Bunny and Polly Horvath has more than detective bunnies.  It also has a girl who has lost her, for lack of a better term, "hippie" parents who have been kidnapped by foxes.  When Madeleine learns she can speak to animals, she enlists the help of novice detectives who are well-intentioned but not always efficient.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath has a bit more substance to it than the one above about bunnies.  It looks at the ponderings of a little girl in British Columbia whose parents have been lost at sea.  There is some humor to soften the story as she grows through grief and loss to self-reliance and self-discovery.

Unhooking the Moon by Gregory Hughes is an oddly compelling tale of two children, 12 year old Bob and his ten year old sister Mille, who set off alone to find their uncle in New York City after their widowed father dies.  Bob and Millie are quirky, strong, and determined young people who support each other while challenging their roles in the relationship.  This story requires a reader who can handle some uncomfortable situations.

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks takes the reader to a smoggy, dark, Victorian England reminiscent of scenes in the movie  "Oliver" to meet a ten year old girl named Birdie who is apprenticed to a bogler.  Her mentor is a curmudgeonly but caring older man who makes his living trapping and destroying evil creatures called bogles who often live in houses throughout London.  Birdie is a strong character with courage, skill, and heart.  I found this book to be fascinating and great fun.

Ben and Me by Robert Lawson was another of my favorite books in about great four.  It is a novel that makes the audacious and often hilarious claim that Ben Franklin got all of his best ideas from a friendly mouse, the narrator of this book.  I think I learned more American history from this book, include a thirst to learn more, than I did from any history class until college.

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood starts a trilogy about a bakery where magic is cooked up along with fine pastries.  Readers in my library have been eating up this fantasy adventure with a sweet tooth.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd will appeal to word lovers of all ages as well as to those who love stories about kids in slightly unique, but very relatable settings.  To regain the magic, a town must solve an old legend and mend some broken hearts. The protagonist is a word collector who reminds me why I love words so much.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry will appeal to people who have read a variety of genres already, especially tales that follow classic formats of orphan children and/or not so nice adults.  This is a great parody of all those stories as the children of a family decide that maybe they would be happier if they were like the orphans in so many of the stories they love just as their parents wonder if life might be easier without children.  That almost sounds morbid but it is actually hilariously funny.

Wanderville by  Wendy McClure has a deceptively sweet cover showing three kids playing in a field.  It is actually a story based on the lives of children sent West from New York City on the Orphan Train.  The three happy looking children on the cover must first escape from people who are eager put them into enforced servitude on a ranch that gathers as many child workers as they can.  After their escape, these three work to begin a community deep in the woods that will be the focus of promised sequels.

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes is a beautifully written story of a ten year old girl on a Mississippi plantation in the years just after emancipation.  When Chinese workers are brought in to join the former slaves in working the sugar cane, everyone is fearful of the others.  Curiosity leads young Sugar, an orphan, to get to know these new people and find there commonalities.

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes is another fine example of the quality of the writing Rhodes puts into her novels for upper elementary age readers.  This novel about surviving Hurricane Katrina will give everyone new understanding of the storm and of human relations.

The Secret Box by Whitaker Ringwald starts with young Jax going on a quest to find out about a mysterious box that arrives on her birthday from a woman named Juniper.  The box comes as a birthday gift but Jax's mother immediately tries to make it disappear.  Jax reclaims it and drags her cousins along on what becomes a harrowing trip that may become a matter of life and death.  I like that Jax is one brave, spunky girl nearly as much as I like the tension-easing humor that is sprinkled throughout this tale.

Dragon Breath by Ursula Vernon appeals to those readers who want humor, fantasy, and real-life problems plus lots of graphics.  This series about a dragon who is trying to fit in as the only dragon at a school for reptiles alternates prose and graphic content.  They are great, light summer reads.


How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Wilson is a memoir in a collection of poetry.  It is not an ordinary life that Wilson led.  She is an African-American who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, mostly on military bases.  These sonnet length poems offer a unique look at the times through the author's unique window on her world. They are moving and charming and tell a story that could not have been as well told in any other format. 

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter may have the appearance of a picture book at times, but it is actually a fact-filled tale of the woman who traveled to China to fulfill the dream her husband died trying to fulfill.  Mrs. Harkness travels up the Yangtze River to get a baby panda which she tends  through some rather harrowing adventures while bringing it safely back to the United States.  There is an adult book on the same topic, The Lady and the Panda:  The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal by Vicki Croke,  that parents might want to read as kids are reading this.

Unlikely Loves:  43 Heartwarming True Stories From the Animal Kingdom by Jennifer S. Holland offers a lovely selection of short essays for upper elementary through adult readers about surprising friendships that cross animals species.  All are accompanied by full color photographs of the unusual pairs.  There is a new series for younger readers that features just a few of these stories in simplified form.
National Geographic's Weird But True series is appealing to all ages with bright illustrations and photographs to go with little known facts about just about everything.  They are generally one fact per page, making them great for travel and bathroom reading as well as for quizzing parents and siblings.

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