A bit about books

We’re looking for new good reads around here.  With boys 6 and almost 4, we’re immersed in the Encyclopedia Brown books, reading a mystery each night, after a classic picture book or two.  The boys love the stories of real(-ish) boys and relish the challenge of picking up the clues.  Widget even has made me a deal:  if he solves the mystery (by remembering the solution – we’ve now read the 8 books we have over and over again), I read the next story too!

I’d like to branch out a little and spin some yarns, with good solid writing and ideas that captivate the minds of adventurous little kids — but don’t scare them so they can’t sleep alone at night.  I’m starting Swiss Family Robinson again this week, but I’m totally open as to what else we try!  What mystery/adventure/battle books do you recommend as read-alouds for 6 year olds who want to hear “real” books but have a low tolerance for scary situations?

Edited to add:  Here are some of the suggestions that my friends on twitter provided – in the question I asked for “early elementary,” so please choose carefully depending on your child’s age and such.  What would you add? 

  • Indian in the Cupboard (@xtremeparnthood);
  • Nate the Great (@adjunctmom, @jennhoegg);
  • The Great Brain (@ejwillingham);
  • How to Train Your Dragon (@iampixiemama);
  • Magic Treehouse (@ejwillingham, @1of5hawks);
  • Emily Rodda Fairy Realm (@36balloons) ;
  • Rowan of the Rin books (@36balloons);
  • Private I. Guana, Sir Cumference, and Ace Lacewing books; Dracula Madness (graphic novel) (Sue);
  • Walter Brooks’ Freddy the Pig books from the 50s. (Sue);
  • Hoot, Scat, by Karl Hiaasen (@delora);
  • The A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy (Anette);
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle (@noteverstill, @plainlysarah);
  • A Cricket In Times Square, The Borrowers, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Freckle Juice (@noteverstill); and
  • Shel Silverstein poems (@brandie185);
  • They’re probably old enough for read-out-loud Hardy Boys. You could also do the Roald Dahl books (The Witches and George’s Marvelous Medicine are particularly exciting for boys with their gross-out factors), and mouse-themed books were big in our house (Ralph S Mouse; The Mouse and the Motor Cycle; Stewart Little, etc) (@delora)

And these books were suggested for later:

  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Rick Riordan’s 39 clues, The Spiderwick Chronicles (@ejwillingham);
  • Percy Jackson series (@issascrazyworld, @iamkarinwithani, @ejwillingham);
  • Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls (@xtremeparnthood);
  • Gordon Korman’s earlier books (Sue);
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (@delora);
  • The Children’s Shakespeare (@brandie185);
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret (@brandie185);
  • The Sisters Grimm (@elleinthecity);
  • books by John Bellairs (Carolyn);
  • A Wrinkle in Time (@amytoast); and
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (@amytoast).

Mmmm, the memory of some of these books, and the promise that the others hold — just delicious!  What are your mystery/adventure faves for this (early elementary, read-aloud or on-your-own) age?

22 Responses to A bit about books

  1. cagey says:

    Hmmmm… Besides Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, I also LOVED the Hardy Boys. I can’t wait until my boy is old enough for those. I have one Encyclopedia Brown here, I thought my 5 year old was too young, but you have inspired me to try it out on him.

  2. @sweetbabboo says:

    Oh boy, now you’ve asked for it. This former first grade teacher can’t resist a good read-aloud.

    How about the first book of The Boxcar Children series? It’s one of those books that seems so simple yet weaves such a clear mental picture. (My 3 year old has listened to the whole story at least 5 times over. It’s the only chapter read-aloud we’ve tried and he LOVED it.)

    Also, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. I had one little boy who had no interest in reading fall in love with this book and he trudged his way through it. His love of reading was then unstoppable.

    How about Ralph? The Mouse and the Motorcycle is definitely a boy favorite.

    And you might also consider Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. It’s a little more intense but your kids may be ready for it.

    Although some parents dislike her, I haven’t found a first grader yet who didn’t LOVE Junie B. Jones. She’s a silly little girl who does the same silly things that most young kids do and they love her for it. (This series has an AMAZING set of audio books that would be great for holiday roadtrips.)

    Lastly, don’t forget The Island of the Blue Dolphins. Scott O’Dell makes you feel like you are there.

    Other authors to keep in mind — Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, and Judy Blume. And don’t forget Charlotte’s Web.

    And, and, and. I could go on forever, but I’ll stop there. That should keep you more than busy.


  3. Emily Landmann says:

    My 5-year old is currently enjoying A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy. There are 26 of them–one for each letter of the alphabet. They are available through our library system as audiobooks, too, which is a huge hit for car trips.

  4. Stimey says:

    I came here to suggest the A to Z mysteries, but someone else suggested them first. We’re also into the Warriors books (Sam is), which seem to be fantasy books about cats, maybe? Also, any of the Bunnicula books.

  5. Emma says:

    Please try the Moomin books by Tove Jansson if you have not already – they are just wonderful! The illustrations are delightful too.

  6. anon says:

    My son loved the Andrew lost books. Another that wasn’t a series that stuck with me over time is The Phantom Tollbooth.

  7. Carmela says:

    Andrew Lost series by JC Greenburg – enjoy!!

  8. *m* says:

    My son also loved the ANDREW LOST books for the science, although I found them a little tedious as read-alouds after a while.

    We both liked the JIGSAW JONES paperback mysteries by James Preller — I definitely recommend these.

    Not mysteries, but well-written, wonderful, sensitive boy stories: the OWEN FOOTE series by Stephanie Greene.

    I never liked JUNIE B. JONES books until my younger one started reading them, and got completely hysterical over her funny sayings. He still quotes some of her lines to this day.

    I’m so glad you are still reading them picture books. The NYTimes recently reported a supposed “trend” of parents skipping right to chapter books thinking that picture books were too babyish for their kids. No, no no!

    I’m sure that you know that there are lots of wonderful, “young” non-fiction books for kids. Our faves were the LET’S READ AND FIND OUT series. Hey, can I send you some of ours? Really. We need the shelf space but I could only bear to part with them if they went to a good home. Just say the word.

    Happy reading!

  9. Joanne says:

    My kids (ages 7 and 5 1/2) LOVE the Geronimo Stilton series…they are illustrated, adventurous, and usually involve some kind of mystery. We have read them and listened to them on audiobook for about 2 years now and my oldest is reading them independently now.

    I am a librarian and teacher, so we read lots of different books at different times. My kids have enjoyed all the Ramona books, Flat Stanley series, some of the Magic Tree House, and the Mercy Watson series (by Kate DiCamillo). Also by Kate DiCamillo, they enjoyed The Tale of Despereaux and some of her other books. They enjoyed The Twits by Roald Dahl and I am hoping to read Charlotte’s Web with them over Christmas. Another Christmas book that we read last year is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is an old one, but good fun.

    I would check your local public library’s website–most libraries provide lists of great read alouds for parents to share with kids of various ages. Another great book that I have on my shelf is called “1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up”. It has great recommendations for children’s books (from picture books on up to novels) to share with kids.

    Hope this helps!

  10. I’d add Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle trilogy! Non-stop mouse adventure with Ralph the Mouse as he rides his motorcycle around the Mountain View Inn! Definitely a favorite in our house!

  11. Kelli Walton says:

    Since your boys are probably highly intelligent, taking after their Mom, they may enjoy The Lawnboy by Gary Paulson. My two boys enjoyed this and still read it at times because it is on the Accelerated Reading list at school. It is about a boy who needs to make money for a bicycle inner tube and gets a lesson in economics from Grandmas gift. God bless

  12. Tori says:

    My Side of the Mountain and The Other Side of the Mountain. Adventures galore in this classic as a boy runs away from home to live in the catskill mountains and learns to survive on his own. I always loved the outdoors, nature, tree houses, etc!

  13. karen says:

    For Christmas:
    Jan Brett’s The Mitten
    Hisako Aoki, Ivan Gantschev (Illustrator): Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas
    Also, by Jon J. Muth: Zen Shorts and Zen Ties – about a giant panda who teaches important life lessons.
    Stone Soup – a classic story which I remember from my childhood and which Jon Muth has revised. I haven’t read this version. (Promise, I don’t know tJon Muth – heard about him on NPR.) 🙂

  14. David Platt says:

    The Mad Scientist Club series, by Bertrand Brinley. Fun stuff for boys, though the technology (for example, radio) may be somewhat dated today.

  15. Deanna says:

    Any of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. They are fantasy novels of British woodlanders (squirrels, mice, hares, badgers etc) that battle evil (usually pirate rats). Check out the Wikipedia page about Redwall for more details. The books are real books, but my nephew loved to hear a chapter a night when he was 6 yrs old.. and the characters have great “voices” for reading aloud – you have to do the accents.

  16. Jane says:

    I asked my teen-aged (sophomore) nephew what he read when he was 4-6. He was one of those early readers, and although his folks started reading him the Harry Potter books when he was about 3 (they read to him every night since he was a baby) when they first came out, he began reading them for himself at 6. He is still a voracious reader. 🙂

  17. Did you ever read “The Borrowers”? Great fun!
    There’s also “The Borrowers Afloat”, and “The Borrowers Aloft”. I loved these, and my daughter loves them too.


  18. Jana says:

    I remember that I LOVED these books when I was a kid:

    James and the Giant Peach

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    I remember the teacher reading those to us — and I was enthralled.

  19. Ian Wilson says:

    Hi Susan, keep an eye on the entire Stephen Meader series of adventure books for boys. They were written from the 1920s through the early 1960s (about 35 in all). Well-told yarns about everything Americana (and even some Canadian and overseas settings). The entire list has been republished by an outfit named Southern Skies. Of course I can’t help but recommend my own novel for your lads (click on the link if anyone is interested). Our boys are 10 and 8, and we exhausted the supply of books you seek from the nearby libraries. So we’ve been buying used classic boys books for years. Take care.


  20. NYfriend says:

    Moongobble and Me series by Bruce Coville

    We love this series of 5 books. Great adventure without being too scary or the tension for too long. The kids loved it so much that the 4 of us dressed up as the characters for Halloween. We had the opportunity to meet the author a couple of weeks ago, really nice guy. Turns out he lives only about an hour away from us, small world!!

    Looking forward to reading the other suggestions. 🙂

  21. Robin Hurwitz says:

    Cornelia Funke’s Thief Lord (read aloud or when they’re older – you know them better than we do). Be care of The Witches -I had one who loved it and one who had nightmares. Perhaps the BFG (Dahl). Nothing better than snuggle up and read time!

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