Thursday, October 22, 2009

Books for sensitive girls

A friend and I recently talked about finding books for sensitive young girls (ages 7-10) that aren't scary, creepy, sad, prematurely mature, or too simple. 

It's hard to be a technically skilled reader who loves nothing more than to settle in with a good chapter book but to also be a sensitive soul who knows that the joys of footie pajamas and snuggling with Fluffy Bunny are not to be missed.

We  talked about Beverly Cleary,  Eleanor Estes, and Paddington Bear.  

Chapter books with heart and innocence.

More suggestions, anyone?


Sue Fisher said...

Beck linked here from Twitter. I can recommend...

Lois Lowry's Gooney Bird Greene.
Konigsburg's From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler

At the end of that age range (9-10) there's, The Penderwick novels are a delight.

Karen E. said...

We love the Penderwicks, too. We just finished a re-read-aloud of the first one. :) Thanks for your ideas, Sue!

Cristan said...

How about The Secret Garden and A Little Princess?

Liz said...

Carolyn Haywood books were among my favorites at that age (B is for Betsy among others) and Abby loved them as well. Abby's first chapter book was Haywood's Primrose Day. The Boxcar Children books were also among her early favorites. Of course there's always the Little House books. I didn't realize that there was more than one Penderwicks book. I read the first one last year, loved it and set it aside for future reading to grandchildren.

I actually was talking with my lit kid yesterday about the fact that Abby hated George Macdonald's The Princess and the Goblin because she was too young when I read it to her. It was too scary. It's hard for a high schooler to see it as scary, but for a little girl of about 7 it definitely was. Both my kids, enjoyed the Narnia books that young, however.

Hilda Von Stockum's books about the Irish family at Bantry Bay are good. Another really great book is Dorothy Canfield Fisher's Understood Betsy, but that might have too much sadness for some sensitive souls.

Now, I need suggestions from you. We are looking for good books for very,very little people (Luci is already being read to). So far the "spritual books" that they've found (other than a good book about Noah's Ark) are too generalized and nearly pantheistic. I've been EXTREMELY disappointed in what Catholic stuff I could find for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. It doesn't begin to rival the stuff I used with my kids when they were little and we were Protestant. I know you've mentioned some things in the past, but could you please mention them again... I'd like to avoid both syrupy hagiography and books that portray the Mass with people doing things that are actually not in accord with the rubrics. Where are the nice books like Concordia's Arch books, or the lovely plastic books that I had for my babies (many of which I think also came from Concordia)?

The Bookworm said...

If she likes Paddington Bear, then you could try the Olga da Polga books, also by Michael Bond (Olga is a guinea pig of character).

The Milly-Molly-Mandy books by Joyce Lankester Brisley and Dick King-Smith's Sophie books would both be good reading for a 7 year old.

Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

Understood Betsy was one that my sensitive girl really liked - I liked it, too!

Sarah N. said...

You've got a great list going. I would second Gooney Bird Greene and the sequels. The Boxcar Children Series is another good one and Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder as well as the books that inspired it, Half Magic and others by Edward Eager.

Warren said...

A friend of mine got her first novel published recently, and it's simply wonderful. I think any tender-hearted girl, or any kid at all, would love this book. I loved it.

I'd say any child at least 8 years old, who has the taste for good stuff, like C.S. Lewis and George Macdonald, would love love love this book. The publisher says its recommended for "Tweens", whatever those are.

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter
(R.J Anderson)
ISBN-10: 006155474X
ISBN-13: 978-0061554742

Link (

And how can we not recommend George Macdonald except that of course everybody has read him already, right? And CS Lewis' Narnia books, of course.


Beck said...

Elizabeth Enright's books! The Four-STory Mistake, The Saturdays... there's a bunch of them. All lovely and innocent and full of adventure.

The Children of Noisy Village - a big hit with MY ten year old.

Beth Gentrup Gifted Facilitator said...

This is a list of books I enjoy and have my gifted kids read :
Melanie Martin Novels by Carol Weston
Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Island of Aunts by Eva Ibbotson
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
I have more but these are just a few of my favorites

Roz said...

Not to throw cold water, but I'm not a huge fan of Beverly Cleary, though I may be thinking about the books she wrote for older girls. They seemed to orient girls toward the boy-girl thing a little earlier than I was comfortable with.

For the 9's and 10's, the American Girl books are excellent -- the first things my daughter got absorbed in and read to herself without prompting. And who can forget Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time?

Charlotte said...

Carolynn Haywood all the way!

Linda said...

How about Betsy-Tacy books or Caddie Woodlawn or The Happy Hollisters? Also for shorter books I love the Brambly Hedge series- great illustrations too!

Karen said...

A lovely book is Kingfisher Days by Susan Coyne, although it may be more a read aloud together kind of book. CBC Radio produced a lovely audio version of this beautiful story that my aunt copied for me. My boys listened enchanted with me at the story of the author as a little girl finding an old stone fireplace outside at the family cottage. Her father tells her an elf lives there and she leaves notes, starting a very interesting correspondence with a rather self-absorbed fairy princess. It's beautiful and I don't recall anything too frightening.

Lynch Family said...

All of a Kind Family
Enchanted Forest Chronicles
Miss Pickerell
Squire's Tales
anything by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
anything by Edward Eager, E. Nesbit of Jean Craighead George.
Emily of New Moon

I could go on and on . . .

Lynch Family said...

Oh! Children of Green Knowe
Eight Cousins
Linnets and Valerians.

Okay, I am done for now. Really.

Theresa said...

Jbug and I are currently enjoying The Wind in the Willows. I bet Ramona would love that.
Also the original Winnie the Pooh books are great (for all ages, I think!).
Heidi is also lovely, though there are a few sad parts.

Tina Miles said...

People above listed most of the ones I was thinking of (Besty-Tacy-and Tibs! And I loved Carlyon Hayward...makes me sad I don't have a little girl to get into those.) One more I loved as a child was The Ordinary Princess, by M.M. Kaye.

Abby said...

Most of my favorites have been touched on by people above, especially Emily of New Moon (although I didn't like that one till I was older), Anne of Green Gables, and as my mom mentioned, Primrose Girl and B is for Betsy. I'd also add Meet The Austins (although the bike accident scene in that might be a little much for the younger end of the spectrum). And, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Swallows and Amazons series - maybe a little difficult for a seven year old (I honestly don't know what various ages are capable of reading), but I loved those growing up. They fit the bill of being a great read, intellectual, uplifting and fun, with (as far as I can remember) no scary, sad, overly mature, or overly simple content.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Karen, a children's author friend just came out with another in her Alvin Ho series that I'm enjoying. She's also done the Ruby Lu books (Ruby Lu Brave and True). Lenore Look's the name. "Look" her up! :)

linda68701 said...

I want to add, Patricia Polocco books, agree with All of a Kind Family (they are in Rebecca's time period and faith (Rebecca of American Girls)), Hank the Cow dog, and we have several abridged classic books, Swiss Family Robinson, Little Women, etc. that Ramona can borrow.

Karen E. said...

Thanks, everyone -- we're familiar with and have read much of what's here (and some of it is waiting another year or two for Ramona.) But, Carolyn Heywood is new to me, and we haven't read Bond's Olga da Polga, or any Milly-Molly-Mandy at all. Thanks, everyone for weighing in!

Liz said...

Ramona will love Carolyn Haywood. I can just see her trying the experiment with frying an egg on the sidewalk next summer. It's definitely set in the post WWI American small neighborhood. I remember loving them all when I was about her age and I know that Abby did as well, she loved Primrose Day the most and that wasn't even about Betsy, Star and Eddie (my childhood favorites), but I never read Primrose Day as a little girl.

momto5minnies said...

I just love reading people's ideas.

Right now we are enjoying Madeleine L'Engle books. The Sarah Plain and Tall series by Patricia Maclachlan are wonderful too.

Barb, sfo said...

Ginnie and Geneva and other books by Catherine Wooley are really good.

And an old series (if you can find it) about The Tuckers was fun. Jo Mendel is the author.

Beth said...

So many of our favorites have been named! And oh yes, we've been so grateful for Cleary, Estes, and the Paddington books...

I love lists like this.

Meet the Austins is a good L'Engle book for younger readers, but there's still a good bit of sadness in it (with Maggie's father's death precipitating her coming to live with the Austins). I've found that the best L'Engle to start younger children with is *The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas.* Vicky's 7 in that book, which isn't quite as long as a chapter book but can still be stretched out over a few days. We read it every Advent.

On the older end of the 7-10 "skilled reader" age range, I'd put Louisa May Alcott (I think I was 9 the first time I read Little Women).

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Carolyn Haywood also has the "Eddie" series which boys will enjoy.
I also love lists like this and need to combine all my various lists into a comprehensive one.
We are on the young side (barely 7y.o.) and the children have also enjoyed Mrs. PiggleWiggle (they are still trying to figure out whether she is real :-) and we have fun making up our own diseases/cures. The last Mrs PW is by the original author's daughter and just not quite as good as the other three.
I also agree that the Beverly Clearly books can tend to an older age (Strider is one of those that comes to mind).
Couldn't we begin some long-lasting discussion on the topic of appropriate books (by age/gender/etc) that people could add to as new books come out? The Penderwicks is one that could have been overlooked (oh no) by those of us sticking to the tried and true. And then what about all of the new series that have come out in the last 10 years? Anyone have ideas on how to keep on top of booklists, or whether some blog already does?

Karen E. said...

Oh, yes! The 24 Days Before Christmas is lovely.

And, the other day I, too, thought of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and how much we've enjoyed those over the years. Meant to get back here and leave a note, so thanks for mentioning those!

I would love to find a "Screen It" type of site for children's lit .... wouldn't that be great? I've stumbled on a couple of review sites, but haven't had time to thoroughly check them out yet.

Karen E. said...

We haven't read Wooley or Mendel either, so thanks, Barb!

Amy C. said...

Great list! Here are a few not yet mentioned: Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones is so sweet and my youngest independent readers liked the text-to-picture ratio. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker is delightfully funny. The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz was also popular with my Little House fans.

And I give a hearty second to The Children of Noisy Village (book and film).

Happy reading!

gadfly said...

"Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaarder

Silvergirl said...

Thank you all for so many wonderful suggestions. I have two sensitive voracious readers--seven and nine-year-old girls. It's hard to keep them supplied with enough quality, age appropriate books!

They have loved some "boy" series books with great characters and humorous adventures:
"Henry Reed" by Keith Robertson
"Mad Scientist Club" by Bertrand Brinley
"The Great Brain" by John Fitzgerald (Catholic family, very fun)
"The Freddy Collection" by Walter Brooks

Silvergirl said...

For those who like Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, the Humphrey books by Betty G. Birney have a similar theme--the class hampster helps the students with their problems.

"The Racketty Packetty House" by Frances Hodgeson Burnett is perfect for girls not ready for Secret Garden and Little Princess.

"Lady Lollipop" and "Clever Lollipop" are funny, sweet six or seven-year-old books by Dick King-Smith.

If you like Gooney Bird Greene, Lois Lowry's books about Sam are terrific, too. The first one is "All About Sam".

A contemporary heroine my daughters love is Piper Reed who is the middle child in a loving Navy family. The author is Kimberly Willis Holt

I've also been pleasantly surprised by the American Girl books! My girls especially love Kit and Molly. One of Kirsten's friends dies of cholera, which was too much when my older daughter was seven, but OK now that she's nine.

Many of our all-time-favorites have been listed: Edward Eager, Astrid Lindgren, The Ordinary Princess, Clementine, and The Penderwicks!

I'm off to put your suggestions on hold in the library system. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

As a second grader, my teacher read "Betsy's Little Star", "Charlotte's Web", and "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" and we absolutely loved storytime. When I started teaching, I implemented all of the above, and then some. I point out things that have changed, like being able to walk to school, and hang out in the neighborhood safely, the cost of certain things, traveling to the "big city" by train, and trends like having your milk delivered by a "milkman". Even through many of these books are "dated", even that can be a teachable moment. I find that my students relish the stories much the same as my classmates and I did 40+ years ago!
It also increases their background knowledge and robust vocabulary to use these read-alouds!

Karen E. said...

I love reading those older books for the same reasons -- so much to talk about, such great, rich vocabulary, and just lots of fun! :)