questionschallenge: literature for a 4th grader reading at…


buy them from (I love this website) it is like an online library book sale, all sales to go some kind of literacy or library program. Most books are used, and if she is reading that quickly it is probably a good investment. Some are new.

Jane Austen? except of Mansfield Park - I think it is too adult but the rest are okay maybe. Since the relationships are victorian in nature.
The Irish RM series? It is funny I don't recall any sex. There might have been language though. let get back to you, I have to look through my books and remember what I was reading at her age I wasn't too far behind her but my mother didn't limit what I read so I read a lot of things I shouldn't have - in my opinion.


Has she read any Mark Twain or Jane Austin. I have 4 kids and they all read very different books. Does she have an interest in any particular topic? It seemed that we would run through themes with my one daughter (and would drive the librarian crazy when looking for all books in that theme). I found that it made it easier to pick books when a particular interest was involved.

I see @hobbit also suggested Jane Austin while I was typing.


A good reference book for any 19th century books is What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool, it explains things like what Michelmas is and all those major rituals that are talked about in books written during that time. She won't have to read it, but she can look at it so she will know what something means for context, I wish I had had the book in high school when I was reading a lot of these books for class, especially Dickens.


I found this link it might help generate a list of new books for you.


I was a 2nd grader reading at college level, so you must trust me in this. Please be completely honest in the emotional maturity you judge your daughter to have. There were plenty of things I read that might have been better for me to have seen later, when I had the tools to handle adult subjects (and please, those who are about to comment, I refer to things like suicide, and schizophrenia, not sexual matters).

What types of books does she already like? Can you name favorite authors or subjects? I will sit down with my library, later this evening, and select out titles that will keep her attention, but I'm looking to narrow the choices first. I may also ask a friend who has a daughter just slightly older than yours, but precisely the same situation (she's been mostly home schooled, and is a joy and a delight to be around).


Would she perhaps care for Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," "Little Men," and "Jo's Boys?" I still read them when the mood hits along with "Eight Cousins" and "Rose in Bloom."
James Herriot's "All Creatures Great and Small" is just wonderful. And there are several more written by Herriot. Jane Austen is always a classic but can be heavy going until she gets into the rhythm of the language. Although I adore Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy, "Persuasion" offering its second chance at love has always touched me. If you can track them down, the Cranford series aren't bad. They're along the same lines.

Does she like the fantasy genre at all? When I was 11, I first fell under the spell of Mary Stewart's Merlin series: "The Crystal Cave,""The Hollow Hills,"and "The Last Enchantment." A bit mature but I remember not being shocked at what few references made about sex. And there are 2 more in that series.
Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series is sly and witty. I save them for beach reading.


@hobbit: I have a scar from climbing up bookshelves to get to the books that I wasn't supposed to read.

I've been unsure about Jane Austen because that's about as close as I come to a romance novel. I know that Mansfield Park and Pride & Prejudice would definitely be out. I'm tempted to wait until she shows some interest in boys. The reference book sounds interesting.

This year has included Twain, Asimov, C.S. Lewis, L'Engle, Dickens, Tolkien and Pratchett (off of the top of my head).

I've looked at Lexile before but content is still a concern. I've had more success with personal recommendations. I like to screen & pre-read her books but I can't keep up. I need 2 months worth of books for the summer (road trip + a month with her Dad on the farm).

@lynnaux: Her interests vary wildly. She is currently carrying a biography of Roswell Field (Dred Scott's attorney), Inkheart and a book of Greek Mythology in her backpack (never less than three books).


I worked in a middle school library for a while. I know this is a bit low in reading level but the topics will be pretty safe.

One series that I loved and recommended to many was the Warrior Series by Erin Hunter. It's about tribes of cats.

Don't forget the classic series Wizard of Oz. There are 30+ books in the series. I think the first 20 something are by Baum. My son and I read the first 18 together. They're a very fun and engaging series. Hint: Skip #2. He didn't stick with the Oz characters and it just isn't that good. From #3 on he built on the land of Oz. The Return to Oz is based on book #3.

Bill Wallace is a good author as well and has a wide range of books. His humorous books are a fun read.

The City of Ember is a great book and interesting on many levels. It can be read as just an interesting book or as a discussion on society. Even more so for the 2nd book in the series (I didn't like the 2nd as much). There are now 4 books.


@shrdlu: I agree with you on the being careful of the subject matter. One of my daughters always read way above her level and we would have discussions on whether she could read a book that she wanted to read. The one that comes to mind that she constantly badgered me about was the book "Go Ask Alice". While I constantly said no to it (starting when she was in the 5th grade), she finally read it when in high school. Although she thought that I was being unfair whenever I said she had to wait, when she finally did read it she told me she was glad that she waited as it was a difficult subject matter.

On the other hand, she read numerous books on the Holocaust while in Middle School as she was anxious to learn more about this period in history.

On a side note-she now sends me titles to read, most of them doing with social justice and human rights issues.


@glindagw: With the lexile list you can pick and choose. That reference book is excellent especially if she is already reading 19th century lit.

What about Piers Anthony? I haven't read his stuff for a while, but it is amusing. I loved his INCARNATIONS OF IMMORTALITY series.

Oh Wilkie Collins - Woman in White, one of the first mysteries written, supposedly.

Agatha Christie? She might enjoy the puzzle. There are other cozies like hers but I can't think of them off the top of my head.

With Austen I would start with Northanger Abbey of all the Austen books it is the most innocent, probably the only one really where no one is actually misbehaving badly (Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay for example) You won't have to explain what living under his protection means.

@lynnaux: Go Ask Alice was one of those I was allowed to read far too early. It was disturbing when I was 12.


To Kill a Mockingbird
Death Be Not Proud
Precious Bane (one of my favorite small novels)
Across Five Aprils
All of Clarence Day's Life With Father
Cheaper By the Dozen, and Belles on Their Toes
Karen, and With Love From Karen are EXCELLENT examples of overcoming obstacles in life
Howard Pyle's Men of Iron
P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves series
Good Bye, Mr. Chips
The Last Lecture
I burned through my grandmother's shelves like I was on fire when I was that age. Many of the books are probably out of print. I'm going to have to dig around as well.
In her last years she pushed hard for me to pick up Jan Karon's Mitford series. She said they were a joy to read as they well full of "good old fashioned STORIES & plots without all the sex & violence. The character feel like friends."


@glindagw: If Asimov is OK, then maybe Ray Bradbury? I think Umberto Ecco's Name of the Rose might make the cut (it's a murder mystery, but the violence no worse than you find in Tolkien).


@lavikinga: Was going to suggest To Kill a Mockingbird myself, then decided that it might fail the content test (given the subject matter of the trial).

Otherwise, love your suggestions.


Has she done any Dickens?
I enjoyed "Rebecca" and "Dragonwyck" when I was between 5th & 6th. Seem to remember wanting to learn about nuns so read "In This House of Brede." Must've gotten on a religious kick because I also read "The Robe," and "The Big Fisherman." That led to a fascination with archeology and tackled "Aku Aku: The Secret of Easter Island" among others.


@lavikinga: She read all of the Louisa May Alcott that she could get her hands on last year. She arranges lunch dates for us with one of my friends so they can exchange Terry Pratchett books. I've noted the Merlin series for the future. She has remained rather innocent without the influence of TV, older siblings or even more mature classmates (her classmates are rather immature gifted boys). I had forgotten about James Herriot, thank you.

@thunderthighs: Both Bill Wallace & the Warriors series were favorites a couple of years ago (she still gets the new Warriors at the library). My grandparents had every Oz book and I read through all of them at her age. She's enjoyed several of them. The City of Ember looks like something that she would enjoy.

@heymo: You're right, the subject matter of To Kill A Mockingbird is a bit much. I've been debating about Ray Bradbury. I think that she may not quite be ready for it (it's on the list for our RTW downloads).


@heymo: I remember being more concerned that I didn't understand what a chiffarobe was and having no reference for the horrors of addiction could not quite understand all the nuances behind why Atticus made Jem read to Mrs. What's Her Face after Jem tore up the bushes. I loved the book. My twins had to read it in school and hated it, along with "Frankenstein." I re-read "Frankenstein" while they were trudging thru it and understood why they didn't "get it."


Okay this is corny but what about Nancy Drew?


@glindagw: I'm not sure whether this is good for her age level, but I loved these stories from the first time I encountered them, and snapped up a copy when they were published all together (this is a re-issue). The Collected Stories of Katherine Ann Porter:

I also loved (still do) anything by Carson McCullers. My favorite in this is "Wunderkind" (it showed me early that brilliance may not predict success).

I loved Science Fiction from the first moment I encountered it. Asimov is so safe (which you already knew); Heinlein wrote many juvenile novels, and they may appeal to her.

[Edit] Amazon says those books are frequently bought together. Funny. :-D


@glindagw: I just re-read the post, and can see that you told me about maturity level. It serves me right for being so excitable. It may also be that the two authors I recommended are darker than you care for, but I loved them very much when I was ten (especially McCullers).

I also loved The Black Stallion, and the rest of the books in that series, but I was completely horse crazy.

Instead of Heinlein's juveniles, which upon rethinking, are VERY dated, the Mary Poppins series are very rich for the imagination. Much better than the trivial stuff that Disney made it into. I think someone else has recommended EB White, but I'll be happy to jump on the bandwagon. Charlotte's Web and The Trumpeting of the Swan [sic] were beloved by my daughter.


@lavikinga: We've read Frankenstein, Shakespeare and other more challenging books aloud after she read references to them in other books.

@hobbit: She read through both the original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series a couple of years ago.

@shrdlu: Thank you for bringing up suicide and mental illness. She's only read books that touch on the effects that mental illness has on the family. I'll add addiction to the list of things that she's not prepared to handle.

Fantasy and science fiction are definitely her quick grab beach books of choice (I'm not putting down those genres). She has always loved historical fiction and biographies. She hasn't shown a lot of interest in mysteries yet. She's recently become interested in ancient civilizations and religions. I'm also hunting for books that will tie into our summer road trip.


@glindagw: I just ran to my bookshelf and pulled down some stuff. These should meet her content requirements, I think, and are all Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farm
His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

These I haven't read but were given to me and they seem good:
Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrel (800+ pages) by Susanna Clark (-I mean to read this someday.)
The Inheritance Cycle Books by Paolini

Rocket Boys, Homer H. Hickam Jr, A memoir

These should probably save till later:

Okay this is one excellent series, Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons. The content of these books should be okay through the first 3 books listed, the first two were written for his students, the last book though has a lot of very graphic sex.

The Mars Trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson
The second and third books have multiple sex/heavy petting scenes.


@hobbit: Oh YEAH! Nancy, Bess and George for ever.

She sounds like she can handle some sturdy stuff. I can't recommend highly enough "We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese." I was brought to tears reading about these heroic women. Simply amazing.


Fun Biographys:
The Wisdom of Big Bird, Carrol Spinney
700 Sunday, Billy Crystal

I assume she has read the Hitchhiker's Guide, also by Douglas Adams:
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul

On Asimov, has she read everything? Quite of few of his stuff is out of print. The afterword in Foundation's Edge contains a list of all his books and how they are interconnected:'s+edge+afterword&source=bl&ots=mphznbuEua&sig=-a873bEC1EF4pxoAahakwlkOc5U&hl=en&ei=nSCoS7SgKY28sgOC78nlAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false


@lavikinga: I interviewed a nurse and a survivor of the Bataan march online once. It was two of the most interesting interviews I did for a history chat seriest I hosted, made me wonder why I did do women's studies.


@shrdlu: I think that all little girls love horses. She loved all of the Black Stallion books.

We'll both take an eBook reader when we take off on our RTW trip next summer (they're improving quickly, I'll wait until the last moment to buy them). Charlotte's Web and The Trumpeting of the Swan are on the list of books to load (she'll enjoy rereading them). She read every book that I could find for which the copyright had expired while traveling in Asia a couple of years ago. They were a tenth of the price of other English books. I could trade out my books at hostels but it was harder to find books that were appropriate for 7-year-olds. She read everything from Heidi to Dickens.

Now that I think about it, planning for this summer is easy in comparison. Worst case I have to fly blind at an American bookstore.


E.L. Konigsburg's The View From Saturday
Conan Doyle's Sherlock
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe may be young for her
A Wrinkle in Time, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess are all classics I'm sure she's tackled years ago. Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Witch of Blackbird Pond were favorites of mine too.

edit; @hobbit They are disappearing so fast! So many of us lived with heroes who never spoke about their experiences. You were lucky indeed.

ooh, one more: I Heard the Owl Call My Name


@glindagw: Re: Bradbury, I was thinking R is for Rocket and S is for Space, not Fahrenheit 451!

@catbertthegreat: Good call on Hitchhiker's Guide. Funny and thought provoking, yet innocuous. Didn't care for the sequels though.


@heymo: The sequels were bizarre, I agree.

@hobbit: Shortened working link:


@lavikinga: The book about the nurses sounds great. She can handle historical accounts of that sort as well as books addressing social dynamics, injustice, etc. We have a running dialogue that is fueled by things that she has seen and sees while traveling and doing volunteer work. She doesn't necessarily have the ability to maintain an intellectual distance from more intimate or interpersonal subjects.

I think that I will enjoy that. I was fascinated with flight and space at her age. I was thrilled to discover the WASPs (who are receiving Congressional Gold Medals tomorrow).

She received the Narnia series as well as Madeline L'Engle's youth series for Christmas. My mother, who decided to home school her in religion after Kindergarten, had been eagerly waiting for the opportunity to discuss them with her.


@glindagw: There's C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters" that might play well into discussions of religion. Some where in this cramped Dollhouse of mine, I have these on cassette tape read by John Cleese. Would attempt to listen on road trips but was overruled by the crowd. They wanted to listen to Cosby routines. The Cos' WAS funnier, I'll admit.


Has she read any Lois Lowry? The Giver was one of my favorite books in fifth & sixth grade, and it has a companion book called Gathering Blue. I actually ended up having to read The Giver for school, so that turned out well.

I probably have more books for that age level at home, but I can't think of them off the top of my head... Related to that though, I have a bunch of books I would be more than willing to pass on to you, as I've outgrown them (college age) and so has my sister (high school), and they'd be better off read by someone than sitting in my room at home gathering dust. PM me if you would like (=


@catbertthegreat: How could I forget Douglas Adams. I have to dig that out of the basement (too many books at my house)!

My Dad is thrilled that she's reading Asimov. He's pulled everything (including the out of print books) out of storage. Her Easter basket is going to smell like old books.

@Heymo: I had forgotten about R is for Rocket. I was thinking about Farenheit 451 & the Martian Chronicles. Good call, thanks!

@Lavikinga: A Little Princess was her first chapter book. I found her rereading it during breakfast the other day.

Sherlock is a great idea. I Heard the Owl Call My Name may need to wait for a couple of years (I'll read it first). It's been a while, but I believe that the Screwtape Letters should be read with her grandmother.

@lissadelsol: She has read a lot of Lois Lowry. I'll have to figure out which ones will be good for her now.

Thank you for the offer, I will PM you. My basement flooded shortly after moving into this house and I lost a lot of books.


I used to work in a library. This bears a lot of thought. I will peruse the above comments tonight and come up with something later.


@glindagw: This was assigned in my eleventh grade English class though I had read it a few years earlier:
I like it a lot, though she might not like it at all.


Oh! I just thought of these I was staring at them all night so I don't know why it didn't occur to me sooner and she may have read them already. They are a tiny bit violent, but as they are anthropomorphized animals it might be okay. Brian Jacques has a wonderful series -Redwall, I actually started reading them as an adult, since they weren't published until then. I love his writing style.


Wizard of Oz books are great for that age -
Robinson Crusoe would make my list too -
The Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison are light-hearted science fiction.

axe axe

When I was living in AZ, every February there was thsi massive booksale which was a fundraiser for some program (sadly I can't remember which). I went and bought over 200 books for like $80. It was great! My mother was beside herself she didn't know where I was going to put all of them.

The Last Olympian series: Rick Riordan
Green Rider Series: Kristen Britain - reading these now and are really good.
Novels by Piers Anthony - @hobbit mentioned these all of them are fairly clean.
The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
Enders Game: Orson Scott Card - the reast of the series isn't so good but the companion series is great.
Ayn Rand - if you want to go political. Wasn't really fond of these books
1984 by Orwell
Can't think of any right now.


@hobbit: These look familiar. I wonder if they're on her teacher's bookshelf or if her father bought these for her. If not they sound like something that she would enjoy (animals are a favorite subject).

@catbertthegreat: That's actually a good idea. I went through a phase during which I read: The Pilgrim's Progress, Paradise Lost, The Screwtape Letters & something else that I just bring to mind. I think that it was prompted by a college-age babysitter telling me that they weren't for little girls to read. My daughter would think that was a fun reason to read it. Reading Inferno would certainly have an interesting effect on her writing.

@axe: Thanks, @thunderthighs also mentioned the Oz series. Those bring forth fond memories of summers at my grandparents. Is the Stainless Steel Rat series as violent as the description indicates?


@sgoman5674: The AAUW holds this type of sale here in the Chicago area. It was wonderful as my dad and I would go at the beginning of the sale and roam through the aisles and peruse all the book titles. He allowed me to pick as many titles as I wanted as they were very cheap (most hard covered books were 50 cents). We would then return at the end of the sale, as it ran two weeks, and would once again run through the available books and get bags of them for $2. What fun memories!


I can't believe that I almost forgot that the St. Louis Book Fair, supposedly the biggest in the Midwest, is next weekend.
I'm already developing a great shopping list.

@sgoman5674: Would the Last Olympian series be a good one to listen to in the car? It looks like a series that we would both enjoy.

I loved Ayn Rand. I am starting to wonder how much of my reading was influenced by babysitters. I'm relatively confident that there are a number of titles that wouldn't have been suggested by teachers or librarians at that age. I did learn to wrap my books in brown paper before going to summer camp.

A friend and I recently discussed how my daughter will respond to 1984. We did decide that it would be prudent to wait until summer vacation to give her the book.


@glindagw: I believe that Ayn Rand is inappropriate for someone your daughter's age. The graphic depictions of rape in her books are not something that a young girl needs to read.


@shrdlu: I absolutely agree. I remember loving Ayn Rand but I haven't read anything by her since well before high school. There are some books that I would never hand to her without rereading/reevaluating them.

Many of us have mentioned reading inappropriate books. I read anything that I could get my hands on. I know that I had to make the trek to either the local or university library for many of the books that I read because they weren't available in my school library. I'm afraid that I rebelled when I was told that I couldn't read or do something because I was too young and/or a girl.

I try to be much more candid with my daughter about the reasoning behind my decisions. Posting this question will allow me to offer her a wide variety of books.


I'm in college now, but I remember devouring Brian Jacques' Redwall series in 4th/5th grade. There's mild violence, but a strong theme of good triumphing over evil, and there're probably 20 of them by now. Avi writes good stuff, and some of Anne McCaffrey's fantasy work is geared toward younger readers. Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted) writes fairy tale adaptations that emphasize girl power, and the romance is no more than Disney's Cinderella.


This might keep her entertained, well his work keeps me entertained, a book of poems by e.e. cummings, he did screwy things to his poems that made them fun to read since you have to convert them into something readable.

Collection of his poems,

Also maybe give Edgar Alan Poe a try, I at one time had The Raven memorized.


I read tons of fantasy and sci-fi growing up about that age, particularly with a bent towards humor, but I'd wager my emotional maturity was rather skewed towards the more adult end of the spectrum, so take recommendations with that in mind. Most of these are sets.

The Hitchhikers Guide set (Douglas Adams)
Dirk Gently (Douglas Adams)
The Foundation Series (Asimov)
Incarnations of Immortality (Piers Anthony)
Blue Adept (Piers Anthony)
Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan)
The Stainless Steel Rat (Harry Harrison)
To Say Nothing of the Dog (Connie Willis)
Discworld (Terry Pratchet)
Myth Series (Robert Aspirin)
Good Omens (Terry Pratchet/Niel Gaiman)



@glindagw: 1984 fails the sex text (sex and the anti-sex league). If your daughter is ready for Orwell, consider Animal Farm.


@trifurcifer: Finally got around to reading "Good Omens" last summer. It was a nice, light, fun read. @glindagw You might consider this one as one more book to read with her grandmother as it touches on religion, good verses evil, etc. Awful shame to hear about Pratchett's health. An Alzheimer's diagnosis for an author is cruel.

I remember reading "Archy and Mehitabel" and enjoying it as a kid, but I'll be darned if I can recall anything other than the typewriter and the fact that Archy was a bug.

"Gone With the Wind" might be worth her while. I read it just after the movie had been re-released in theaters back in the early 70s. Seeing it was another one of my grandmother's musts. Was surprised to see the difference Hollywood had made to Scarlett O'Hara's character. I understood her behavior so much more and thought the written version of Scarlett was a more sympathetic character.


Yes, the Wizard of Oz series is a wonderful suggestion. The 19, or so, written by L. Frank Baum are fantastic.


@glindagw: @kadiraa9's suggestion of Brian Jacques Redwall series is a very good one. I still love those books to this day.

I believe The Last Olympian series would be a good book to listen to together. I don't really like listening to audio books, but while you are driving on your roadtrip, this is definitely something that you both will thoroughly enjoy. FYI The Lightning Thief which is the first book in the series has already been made into a movie.

Also Terry Brooks. The Shannara series and the Landover series are both very good and are pretty clean in terms of language and sex.

Also libraries have suggested reading lists. I would go and speak with a librarian (either regular or youth) and explain to them your daughter's voracious reading habits and comprehension level.

Has she read the Da Vinci Code. Not sure how age appropriate it is, but it is packed full of interesting ideas.

I have only read one of Rand's book and stopped partway into Atlas shrugged (BORING!).....