Recommend Fiction Books for 8-yr old. As usual, special details inside
January 24, 2013 11:20 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a decent set of books for an 8-yr old niece who is heavily into reading (touch wood). Harry Potter, The Hobbit and some other books are not for her at this point.

Some of the wimpy kid books and others I have cursorily read through (to see if they were appropriate) had too much fixation on boys, likes, crushes, jealousies. Seriously? was my first thought.

What books, old and new would be good to gift her, without having all the cheesy romance at that age. [Don't get me started on "I am Mrs Bieber" T-Shirts being sold in stores these days!!!]. Good fiction about suspense, mystery, leadership, teams, genuine humor would be great. Famous Five, Three investigators were the go-to books when we were kids - no to say they are out of fashion, but she has read many of them :(

Paperback or digital editions are fine.

P.S: I have gone through some of the links here and here
posted by theobserver to Media & Arts (68 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: At her age, I read all of the Narnia Books (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe + the whole series) and LOVED them. To pieces.
posted by jbenben at 11:26 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: What about Beverly Cleary's books? Ramona is a really good series, and her standalones are great too.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:27 PM on January 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

I also liked the Encyclopedia Brown books, and all of the early Nancy Drew.

The reboot Nancy Drew books, sucked, IMHO.

I know all three of my suggestions are old school, but they aren't cheesy.
posted by jbenben at 11:31 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Warriors series (it's about cats, i.e. NOT related in any way to the 70s movie) is great for kids. And, if she's more into dogs or bears, there's the Survivors series and the Seekers series.
posted by amyms at 11:31 PM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I really like Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series, starting with The Wee Free Men.
posted by Garm at 11:38 PM on January 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Diana Wynne Jones, particularly Howl's Moving Castle and Dogsbody.

Brian Jacques: the Redwall books.

At about that age I also enjoyed the Oz books as well as the Little House on the Prairie books.
posted by HMSSM at 11:56 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

At that age I also loved Elizabeth Enright's Melendy family series. LOVED.
posted by OolooKitty at 12:08 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Inkheart Trilogy and The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke.
posted by book 'em dano at 12:10 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

The Westing Game

These are some of my go-to children's books to reread in a few hours if I'm having a bad week.
posted by book 'em dano at 12:15 AM on January 25, 2013 [14 favorites]

Geronimo Stilton is a series that my boys (7 and 11) enjoy.
posted by h00py at 12:39 AM on January 25, 2013

Also, Gail Carson Levine's books are great (although personally I am not as fond of her fairies series), especially the Two Sisters of Bamarre (the audiobook is fantastic). She really challenged the trope of princesses as people with no agency. Speaking of which, a good grounding in mythology is a great gift - I prefer Geraldine McCaughrean, especially her retelling of Greek Myths.
posted by saucysault at 12:44 AM on January 25, 2013

Yes, A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Mysterious Benedict Society.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:46 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
The Hundred and One Dalmations (soooooo much better than the movie)
The Doll's House
School for the Insanely Gifted
Juniper Berry (if she's okay with a little creepy)
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (so, so much love for this book)
The Girl with the Silver Eyes
The Egypt Game

Flip through them to see if they match her reading level (8-year olds can fall across a pretty wide spectrum), but the subject matter should all be appropriate for a kid that age.
posted by tan_coul at 1:05 AM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: It helps to know what types of books she enjoys. At that age, one of my kids was a die-hard Judy Blume nut; my other kids weren't fans.

Other ideas: E. B. White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louise Fitzhugh, Louis Sachar.

Some good resources are the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winners, Newbery Award winners, and of course, any librarian worth their salt would love to chat with you about recommendations.

What a fun problem to have!
posted by kinetic at 2:20 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Boxcar Children is one of the more popular series with the 7-9 year-old set around here. Also:

39 Clues and Percy Jackson and the Olympians, both by Rick Riordan

Wildcard standalone faves: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
posted by jquinby at 2:41 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Almost forgot The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. One of my daughters adores the Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald, so I'll toss that one in there too.
posted by jquinby at 2:47 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I loved Zilpha Keatley Snyder when I was about that age, maybe a little older. The Changling, The Egypt Game and The Headless cupid were favorites.

My daughter loved the Goosebumps series when she was around 8-9.

L. M. Montgomery is wonderful. Start with Anne of Green Gables.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:24 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Came to recommend Ramona as did Hurdy Gurdy Girl, they are an excellent series of books that I'd recommend for boys and girls - currently reading them to my just-turned-8-year-old girl.

Queued up on my Kindle for her after we've finished this series are Roald Dahl's collection of stories (but watch out for some of his less salubrious offerings), Neil Gaiman's Coraline, the original Winnie the Pooh books, Alice in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer and The Jungle Book. Pratchett's Tiffany Aching is a good suggestion too - I hope to hook her on to the Discworld series when she's a little older. I'd forgotten the Nimh series - another great suggestion.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 3:43 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look into Year Down Yonder and Fair Weather by Richard Peck
posted by bricksNmortar at 4:08 AM on January 25, 2013

When I was that age I loved The Talking Parcel. When I looked it up as an adult I was surprised to find it was written by Gerald Durrell, and that it was out of print and difficult to get hold of. If you can find it then grab it.

But if not then something else I loved at about the same age was My Family and Other Animals and it's two sequels, also by Gerald Durrell. Those are awesome and you should be able to find them.
posted by shelleycat at 4:09 AM on January 25, 2013

Zita the Spacegirl
THE True Meaning of Smekday
posted by spunweb at 4:19 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ginger Pye
Half Magic
any of the Wayside School books
any Roald Dahl
The Westing Game
any Encyclopedia Brown
posted by phunniemee at 4:22 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm assuming she is in second grade. Next year, or maybe now if she is ready, I highly recommend Grace Lin's chapter books.
posted by Fairchild at 4:25 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Secret Books by Pseudonymous Bosch are great silly mysteries.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:31 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I absolutely devoured E. Nesbit's books when I was about that age. I'd suggest starting with Five Children and It and proceeding from there.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 4:59 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Pushcart War, which has the distinction of being one of very few children's books without much in the way of children or anthropomorphized animals.
posted by BWA at 5:10 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

They are pretty light but my reader loves the Ivy & Bean series because she can read one in a night.
posted by dawkins_7 at 5:27 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

My 8 year old daughter loves the Pseudonymous Bosch books mentioned above + she is currently into the Dealing with Dragons series by Patricia Wrede.
posted by crocomancer at 5:27 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Stephanie Burgis has a trilogy of regency magic books for kids. A Most Improper Magic, Or, Kat, Incorrigable is the first one. They're charming.
posted by PussKillian at 5:54 AM on January 25, 2013

Okay, I loved books about the turn of the century and the thirties when I was that age. Here are books from my childhood.

Maida's Little...Shop, Island, Theater

Betsy, Tacy and Tib (and all the other books.)

All of a Kind Family (there are a series of these too.)

Ballet Shoes, Skating Shoes, Thursday's Child-By Noel Streatfield.

Baby Island

And from the same people who brought you Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames.

These books, are surprisingly pro-female, and everyone is doing things that are fulfilling, interesting and help the community. I give them as gifts to little girls and they all proclaim to enjoy them! Maida is a downright communist!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:56 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Apologies- what I've done is smooshed the UK and US names of the first book together. It's Kat Incorrigible in the US. Going back to bed with my headache. But the books are really a lot of fun.
posted by PussKillian at 5:57 AM on January 25, 2013

I cannot recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society books enough. They are wonderful. My children LOVED them (and so do I!).
posted by Sassyfras at 6:10 AM on January 25, 2013

Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson, and if she likes it, all the rest of the Moomintroll books.
posted by instead of three wishes at 6:11 AM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Anything by Jean Craighead George - my daughter loves the My Side of the Mountain series (to the point where we even vacation in the Catskills now) but also Julie of the Wolves

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Ursula Le Guin's Catwing series

The Cricket in Times Square (and other books related to it)

Misty of Chincoteague
(again, my daughter loves these books so much we now vacation in Chincoteague)

And also seconding that my almost-9 year old daughter has loved things recommended above, especially Tamora Pierce; E.B. White; Gail Carson Levine; the Inkworld Trilogy; the Mysterious Benedict Society; Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary; the Chronicles of Narnia; the Percy Jackson series; Judy Blume (I see Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great is on her nightstand again.)

She can read Judy Moody, Ivy & Bean and Clementine books (she adores the Clementine books) in one sitting, and she likes them because they're easy and fun. I'll liken those to how I like reading People Magazine at the doctor's office - no real brain power required, and they're relaxing. But we don't spend money on those - we swap them or they come from the school or classroom library. Any that she chooses to buy with her Scholastic budget get donated to the classroom at the end of the school year.

In a previous question, I asked about graphic novels and got great suggestions.

And currently, we are reading the Neverending Story together.

Here are other Asks I've bookmarked to look forward to reading with her (and here's one nonfiction thread.) To keep them in mind, I made an Amazon wish list and try to take things she's read off, use it for when people want to know what to buy her, and order some things from the library using it as a reference from time to time.
posted by peagood at 6:11 AM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

The Moorchild was my favorite book at that age. One thing I really liked was the totally no-romantic friendship between the main, female character and her male best friend.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:38 AM on January 25, 2013

Best answer: Edward Eager's magic books, a loose series starting with Half Magic.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's books, particularly the Secret Garden and A Little Princess.

Some newer MG titles that I love are Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder, The Boy at the End of the World by Greg Van Eekhout, and Above World by Jenn Reese (which has a sequel coming out soon).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:47 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I loved All of a Kind Family, it was about a large Jewish family on the Upper East Side in the early 1900s. It was so far removed from my rural Catholic only-child upbringing and I found it fascinating. I still remember that their mom would hide pennies in the sitting room for them to find as they dusted.
posted by slmorri at 7:00 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

YES MOOMINS all the moomins.

Maybe Enid Blyton?
posted by elizardbits at 7:12 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

slmorri, I swear, everything I know about Jewish holidays and rituals, I know because of All-of-a-Kind Family. That series is lovely.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:16 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding The Boxcar Children. Those were my favorite books at that age, and there are so many of them.
posted by yb2006shasta at 7:21 AM on January 25, 2013

I'm coming late, so many of my first suggestions have already been mentioned. (I would, in particular, third Tove Jansson's Moomin books, as well as E. Nesbit and Roald Dahl. With Dahl, I'd try to start her on Matilda or The BFG.)

Not a series, but: That was about the age I first read The Phantom Tollbooth as well. And most of Philip Pullman's best work is middle-school and up, but he has a couple books that are perfect for her age and sustain suspense exceedingly better than many—I would definitely try Count Karlstein.

Last but most (and a series of sorts), I absolutely loved Pippi Longstocking at that age. I remember bursting out into laughter every few pages.
posted by mcoo at 7:31 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For reading by herself, my eight-year-old loves Ivy & Bean, Clementine, the Boxcar Children, and Encyclopedia Brown (mentioned above), The Sisters 8 books (adventure without being too scary), The Doll People, and the Thea Stilton series. She also enjoys books from the American Girls Collection--she's never been interested in the dolls, but she likes the books (several books about each character, no reference to the dolls in the books). Our library has these.

For us to read together, we enjoyed The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (the language was a bit over her ability, but the plot was definitely at her age-level).

She also likes several by Dick King-Smith (Babe: The Gallant Pig, A Mouse Called Wolf, and Mr. Potter's Pet). He's written a ton more--looks like many aren't in print now, but definitely worth keeping an eye out for at used bookstores or the library.
posted by msbubbaclees at 7:34 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

More votes for Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, and Louis Sachar. Dahl in particular spans a wide age range depending on the book, but they're all pretty accessible (his colonial mindset shines through in some books more than others, but on the whole his writing is dazzling and magical, especially at that age).

If your niece is into crying for hours on end, Bridge to Terabithia is wonderful too.
posted by duffell at 7:54 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, some general advice. ANY love of reading at age 8 is good and commendable, and should be encouraged. If your niece happens to be really into a book series that you find contemptible and vomitworthy, grit your teeth and buy her some books from the series anyway. Bad children's/YA novels are often a gateway drug to great reading later in life.
posted by duffell at 7:57 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was the asker of the nonfiction books thread. (HUGE thanks to everyone who helped keep her kindle full all summer!)

I've recently sent her:

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline: An Enola Holmes Mystery

Artemis Fowl (that's book 1, there is a whole series)

The Chronicles of Prydain series
posted by lyra4 at 7:58 AM on January 25, 2013

I'd nth Narnia, Roald Dahl, and Half Magic, all of which I loved at around that age.

I think that's also about when I read A Wrinkle In Time and its associated series (which is somewhere between a trilogy and a quintet depending on how you count them), which were a big hit with kid-me.
posted by Aquinas at 8:08 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

Carrie's War - Nina Bawden - I LOVED this book, read it over and over again.

All Roald Dahl books, especially Matilda for a voracious reader!

I really liked books that came in series e.g. Goosebumps, the Babysitters Club, Malory Towers and St Clare's.
posted by drunkonthemoon at 8:18 AM on January 25, 2013

Several people have already beaten me to it but I wanted to upvote:
- Zilpha Keatley Snyder - her books are awesome and I started them at about that age.
- Beverly Cleary
- The Phantom Tollbooth
- Boxcar Children
- Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
- Secret Garden and A Little Princess

I agree with duffell's advice about not judging any cheezy books that she gets into. I am sure many of us read The Babysitters Club (which isn't that bad in comparison), Sweet Valley Twins, etc, at that age, I know I did!

I have to go but I will pop back in if/when I think of more!
posted by radioamy at 8:28 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ruthless Bunny - thanks for reminding me of the Betsy/Tacey series! So great!
posted by radioamy at 8:30 AM on January 25, 2013

Oh Lois Lowry has some great books! I think the Anastasia Krupnick books are appropriate for your niece's age.
posted by radioamy at 8:32 AM on January 25, 2013

My 8 year old son really liked the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. He must have read all of the books in two weeks.

He also has likes the Franny K Stein, Mad Scientist Series

My son also likes the Geronimo Stilton series mentioned by h00py, and my daughter likes the Thea Stilton set of books that msbubbaclees mentioned earlier.
posted by tedunni at 9:09 AM on January 25, 2013

Ruthless Bunny - thanks for reminding me of the Betsy/Tacey series! So great!

And thank YOU for reminding me of "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweller". My sister got me a copy of that last year for my Birthday.

Also VERY good.

I like all these independent females!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:11 AM on January 25, 2013

Lauren Child's Clarice Bean series
posted by BWA at 9:30 AM on January 25, 2013

I forgot A Wizard of Earthsea and the other books in that series. Possibly a bit advanced for an 8 year old, but kind of similar to the Hobbit. The books are all wonderful, and I think I was about 9 years old when I first read them. I remember enjoying them a lot, so I'd recommend you try them out.
posted by lyra4 at 9:44 AM on January 25, 2013

Anything by Beverly Cleary was good with my kids at that age. They also enjoyed The Boxcar Children.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:57 AM on January 25, 2013

Nthing Edward Eager's Half Magic and sequels (he died far too soon), as well as the Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files Of..., Encyclopedia Brown and the Phantom Tollbooth.
posted by rednikki at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2013

My 8 year-old niece is working her way through Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series. Your niece might also like Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, the first in a series (though some of the later books are probably better suited to older children) and her short stories like A Necklace of Raindrops.
posted by paduasoy at 1:38 PM on January 25, 2013

At that age (and still, at 11), my daughter loved the Akiko series. Also the Toys Go Out series, she adored them. I read the first book of each series to her, and really, they were fabulous, we both enjoyed them.
posted by upatree at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2013

My 8-year-old loves the Warriors series (mentioned above) and any Rick Riordan books. She's just starting The Kane Chronicles, which are about Egyptian mythology.

I'm on her Goodreads right now using suggestions from this thread.
posted by altopower at 3:01 PM on January 25, 2013

Wow, Ruthless Bunny, Cherry Ames! I read those as a kid at my grandma's house, and haven't thought about them in at least 25 years. So great to see they've been reprinted!

Also, wanted to add that my girl has really enjoyed the Jenny Linsky books (that's the character--a sweet black cat who learns to stand up for herself--not the author).
posted by msbubbaclees at 5:03 PM on January 25, 2013

Response by poster: Wow. Great responses all around - difficult to mark best answers!!!

Books from this list will keep her occupied for a year at least, I think.
posted by theobserver at 6:28 PM on January 25, 2013

As mentioned above, the Redwall series would be wonderful for her - I loved those books around that age.

Another couple of books I haven't seen mentioned are Wise Child and Juniper by Monica Furlong. I read them pretty recently as an adult and I think they'd be great for a pre-teen.
posted by meggan at 7:24 PM on January 25, 2013

Someone mentioned Howl's Moving Castle, but don't neglect the Chrestomanci Quartet, which is all kinds of awesome.
posted by daisystomper at 7:40 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just came to reccomend Wise Child and Juniper, but I see I was beaten to it. I also remember really loving The Egypt Game. Also Peppermints in the Parlor. I read that one many times. Just enough mystery and suspense, and good friendships.

And check out the Chinaberry catalog. Books are broken into categories by age, and many childhood favorites were found there.
posted by catatethebird at 10:39 PM on January 25, 2013

Best answer: Wow, I saw The Boxcar Children upthread; I read those when I was young and loved them, are they still making more? Wow.

Anyway, These might be too advanced, but I loved Tymora Pierce's Circle of Magic series when younger, and then went on to read all her adult books.

I grew up reading the 1950s versions of The Hardy Boys, as well as some of the (much more violent) 1990s versions.

Kenneth Oppel is quite well known in Canada: He has done two series of childrens books I read as a young adult and quite enjoyed: One about bats (Silverwing, Sunwing and Firewing) and another about airships (Airborn).

Lets see, I also read a lot of Gordon Korman with Bruno and Boots being my favourite.

I'm sure I'll think of more soon.
posted by Canageek at 10:55 PM on January 25, 2013

Definitely try the Magic Treehouse books. You can find them cheap, in huge quantities, at used bookstores, so don't pay retail. My eight-year-old loves them, but he's starting to say they're too easy, so keep that in mind if your reader is ahead of her grade. Some of the Magic Treehouse books are accompanied by research guides that go more into the details of the history and science in the stories. I like those a lot.

We recently enjoyed Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the Lemonade War series.

Comedy is a big hit here, and Captain Underpants and Sideways Stories went over well, too.

And right now he's obsessed with Calvin and Hobbes!
posted by kostia at 7:10 PM on January 30, 2013

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