Old books for young tykes
August 2, 2013 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for kids' books for my 10 year old that were written at least 50 years ago. She's an excellent reader, but enjoys kid themes. We've discovered that older books use more complex language and sophisticated writing style, but simultaneously have sweeter, more gentle content. As a bonus, there seem to be forgotten gems that are under the radar of our excellent local children's librarians who have given us a million great suggestions over the years but sometimes run low on ideas for my widely-read kid.

Some older authors she's loved:

T. H. White
L. Frank Baum
Mary Norton
Edward Eager
E. Nesbit
Dodie Smith
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Tove Jansson

She's also a big Terry Pratchett fan and is lately into Agatha Christie, just to give a fuller sense of her taste.

It would be nice to avoid extreme racism, but sometimes retrograde bigotry can be a useful conversation starter so books don't have to reflect progressive values 100%.
posted by latkes to Media & Arts (89 answers total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
Fog Magic.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:21 PM on August 2, 2013

Maybe The Great Brain series?
posted by saffry at 6:23 PM on August 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

The first Beverly Cleary books (Henry Huggins and its sequels) were written more than 50 years ago.

Mr Pudgins.

The Danny Dunn series.
posted by Melismata at 6:24 PM on August 2, 2013

Anything by Enid Blyton (beware some very dated cultural views)
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
posted by Requiax at 6:25 PM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

She'll probably like Gene Stratton-Porter, particularly A Girl of the Limberlost. I feel like she's quite akin to Frances Hodgson Burnett. Also George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind. Has she read Lewis Carroll yet? That was right around the age when I became absolutely obsessed with The Annotated Alice. I found it absolutely fascinating, and could spend hours reading the footnotes.

Also I don't know if she likes historicals, but I think every little girl ever should read the All-of-a-Kind Family books.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:26 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Maybe Swallows and Amazons.

That was probably the age where I was into Lloyd Alexander and Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series.
posted by hoyland at 6:27 PM on August 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

Eleanor Estes
Maud Hart Lovelace
Lois Lenski's America books
Laura In galls Wilder
Marguerite Henry
E Nesbit
posted by brujita at 6:29 PM on August 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

My brother and I loved, loved Edward Eager - warm, funny stories of every day children discovering magic - very age appropriate. Half Magic is the first, The Time Garden was also a favorite.

Stuart Little and Charolotte's Web are classics that she should read, if she hasn't already

Louisa May Alcott: Little Women, Little Men (Jo's Boys is about the little men grown up, probably less interesting) Rose In Bloom are little more challenging reading-wise, a little complex in terms of characterization.

She might also able to take in A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engel 1962
posted by metahawk at 6:31 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Emily of New Moon series by Lucy Maud Montgomery
posted by Requiax at 6:31 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

I started getting into Science Fiction (esp golden age anthologies) at that same age. Asimov, Bradbury and older authors as well.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 6:32 PM on August 2, 2013

Also, check out the young adult books by Louise Dickinson Rich: Start of the Trail, its sequel Trail to the North, and Mindy are all wonderfully dated and sweet.
posted by Melismata at 6:33 PM on August 2, 2013

Eleanor Estes (the Moffats and the Witch Family). Kate Seredy. Elizabeth George Speare. Elizabeth Enright. Noel Streatfield's Shoes books.
posted by lovecrafty at 6:35 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

What about the Nancy Drew series? The nice thing is that if she likes one there are at least 50 in the original series (and hopefully they haven't been "updated/modernized.) I devoured them at her age, then went on to some of the The Hardy Boys and every Agatha Christie novel and play, but I don't think it would be a backwards step for her.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:36 PM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Rosemary Sutcliff. I spent hours and days reading and re-reading her novels and drinking in the illustrations especially those by Charles Keeping.
posted by firstdrop at 6:36 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Wind in the Willows. (Everyone needs to read this book, regardless of age.)
The original Doctor Doolittle and Mary Poppins books.
Seconding the Great Brain series mentioned above.
The Jungle Book and its sequel.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:39 PM on August 2, 2013

The Little House series, and the Chronicles of Narnia.
posted by lemniskate at 6:39 PM on August 2, 2013

Cheaper by the Dozen
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:40 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding George MacDonald. His Princess and the Goblins books were my favorites for many years.

The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner are delightful and sweet.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:41 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Elizabeth Enright. I really loved her Melendy Family Series, and also Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, and Thimble Summer is a really beautiful piece of fiction.

Seconding Swallows and Amazons, not read enough in the US.

Also, Louisa May Alcott's 8 Cousins and Rose in Bloom.

posted by Miko at 6:41 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cheaper by the Dozen and the sequel Belles on their Toes
posted by Miko at 6:42 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Maybe it's overly obvious but Alice in Wonderland! Not enough people actually read the book.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:44 PM on August 2, 2013

In addition the many fantastic suggestions above:

I really enjoyed Hotel for Dogs,
as well as Clarence the TV Dog,
The entire Henry Reed series (many are out of print, but available on Amazon),
The Gone-Away Lake Series was great,
and she might enjoy the earlier Boxcar Children stories.
Even earlier than that were the Merryweather Girls stories (available as ebooks),
and I also liked While Mrs. Coverlet Was Away.
posted by mmmbacon at 6:48 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Esther Averill's Jenny and the Cat Club series
posted by mlle valentine at 6:50 PM on August 2, 2013

Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon
Rascal by Sterling North
posted by xsquared-1 at 6:51 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I loved Blue Willow when I was a kid. I read the same copy my mom did when she was little.
posted by phunniemee at 6:53 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I loved most of those as a child but my favourite book was Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner

Kipling - not just the Jungle Books but Just So Stories and Puck of Pooks Hill
Anne of Green Gables
What Sophie Did

Peter Pan
The Hobbit

Alan Garner

If Agatha Christie, then Sherlock Holms! I loved all of Arthur Conan Doyle's other books.

Definately Swallows and Amazons - And Old Peter's Russian Tales also by Arthur Ransom

Oh and Fairy Tales!
That is, Oscar Wilde and Hans Christian Anderson
posted by an opinicus at 6:56 PM on August 2, 2013

I'm going to rec The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making twice this evening. It's new, but the title is a very good indicator of the kind and level of language in the book itself. If she likes that twisty old-fashioned prose, she'll love this.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:58 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anything by Stephen Meader you can find.
posted by Rash at 7:01 PM on August 2, 2013

FWIW, the original Sherlock Holmes stories are wonderful reading, and very easy to get hooked on/into.

Sure there is usually some sort of murder or mayhem involved, but nothing so graphic as to harm young sensibilities. Conan-Doyle is a wonderful writer, and I think the whole deductive reasoning aspect might bear fruit in the little darling's head down the road.
posted by timsteil at 7:02 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh.
posted by michellenoel at 7:11 PM on August 2, 2013

Henry Reed - heartily seconded! Also Homer Price.
posted by Miko at 7:12 PM on August 2, 2013

The Phantom Tollbooth just does meet your age requirement (it's 52 years old) and it can't be beat for sophisticated content that appeals to bookish kids.
posted by escabeche at 7:13 PM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also: I remember nothing now about Penrod, except that I loved it.
posted by escabeche at 7:14 PM on August 2, 2013

My Grandfather's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett if she hasn't read it yet. I still vividly remember my second grade teacher reading this to the class. Some of the images in it are still called to my mind unexpectedly (in a good way) two decades later.
posted by alittlecloser at 7:16 PM on August 2, 2013

A Wrinkle in Time By Madeline L'Engle. An amazing series.
posted by ruhroh at 7:22 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think I read Watership Down at her age.
posted by dismas at 7:23 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Has she read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald? So many great memories of reading those books cover to cover. In fact, I may just make a trip to the library this weekend to catch up with my old friend...
posted by Cat Face at 7:28 PM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure my tastes mesh well, but Rifles for Waite was a favorite when I was a child. I would second, Watership Down if you can get away from anthropomorphizing animals only in a cute and cuddly fashion. The Heinlein juveniles and Podkayne of Mars are also well worth reading.
posted by graxe at 7:29 PM on August 2, 2013

I highly recommend The Animal Family, by Randall Jarrell (it's 48 years old now, 48 and a half, which is almost 50!).

It's a Newbery Award winner, beautifully written, and it's gentle and quiet and loving and has depths beneath a mythic simplicity. It's about a hunter, who gradually discovers a family for himself--first he meets a mermaid, and they learn about each other (in some great cross-cultural conversations), and they take in a bear cub, then a lynx kit, and finally an orphaned boy. You can browse inside the book at Amazon, to see if your daughter might like it. I always enjoyed it, as a kid and ever since.
posted by theatro at 7:37 PM on August 2, 2013

I read the hell out of Caddie Woodlawn and its sequel, Magical Melons, AKA Caddie Woodlawn's Family, at your daughter's age. Also The Pink Motel, by the same author.

My absolute middle-grade favorite, The Egypt Game is slightly younger than your criteria (46), but has some of the sweet gentle themes you're after and reads as dated in a lot of ways.

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle is a warm, funny family drama that just narrowly sneaks in under your age requirement. There are subsequent books about the Austin family too, but they've got a lot more mature content; might be better for a reader who likes "kid themes" to hold off on those books, even though they're great too.
posted by ActionPopulated at 7:38 PM on August 2, 2013

Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken might be a good choice
posted by wsquared at 7:39 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was obsessed with horses at that age, so I loved Black Beauty and the Black Stallion books.
posted by gatorae at 7:43 PM on August 2, 2013

The ones I remember best are the animal/nature books...

Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era by Sterling North, about a boy raising a pet raccoon and eventually letting him go

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, about a boy who goes to live alone in the wilderness and his experiments in falconry

The Marguerite Henry horse books

Jim Kjelgaard has a whole bunch of great dog books, of which the most famous is Big Red

The original 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith is great too, more mature than the Disney movie but not too mature for ten.
posted by Jeanne at 7:47 PM on August 2, 2013

I enjoyed Meindert DeJong's Wheel on the Schoolhouse and some of his other books at around that age.
posted by parkerjackson at 7:56 PM on August 2, 2013

The All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sidney Taylor.
The Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.
The Drina books by Jean Estoril.

And of course, for the love of God, the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:58 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh! And Daddy Longlegs by Jean Webster (the first is the best, but there are sequels) and The Pink Hotel.
posted by parkerjackson at 7:59 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not all of these are quite 50 years old but here are some classics I loved when I was around your daughter's age:

E. B. White: Charlotte's Web and Trumpet of the Swan
anything by Roald Dahl
the classic Nancy Drew series (yellow hardcovers)
Anne of Green Gables series
Little Women
Little House on the Prairie
The Boxcar Children
The Pushcart War
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The Phantom Tollbooth
posted by emd3737 at 8:00 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Mrs. Piggle Wiggle as well as The Oz Series, which starts with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but has 14 books in total.
posted by quince at 8:01 PM on August 2, 2013

Is it possible that nobody has mentioned Little Women? Because - Little Women! And its sequels, Little Men and Jo's Boys (my favorite, actually. I would fervently second any and everything by E. Nesbit - most particularly Five Children and It, Joan Aiken and Rosemary Sutcliff, both mentioned above. Then, if you want to head into serious old school Victoriana, there is of course Frances Hodgson Burnett - The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. And in weirdish Victoriana, Heidi and The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. I also loved Swiss Family Robinson at about that age. And then there's Pippi Longstocking. I also read my way through every Dr. Doolittle book as well - there are quite a few of them. And Kipling. The Jungle Books and Kim are, I think, among the best children's literature ever written. Yes, with most of these books, you will have to be able to provide a 21st century perspective on why people don't think/talk/act like that anymore - but I think that conversation is well worth it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:03 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I loooved the Emily books and the Anne books at that age, by LM Montgomery. Also Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster, and around that age was when I was first introduced to the Jeeves books by PG Wodehouse. And Agatha Christie, and Ngaio Marsh. And ooh, has she read My Friend Flicka and its sequels? I also started on Dickens around the same time - Hard Times, Little Dorrit and Oliver Twist were best appreciated as they featured children. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas!

Some classic Australian novels I loved at that age were My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner, The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay and The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson. I also loved Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsey but didn't quite understand it.

Oh how fun! I can't wait until my own daughter is old enough to read these wonderful novels.
posted by goo at 8:12 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I remember enjoying The Happy Hollisters series ... and I just discovered that they have them for the Kindle on Amazon. To the wishlist, Robin!
posted by worldswalker at 8:26 PM on August 2, 2013

This thread has been a who's who of my favorite childhood books and authors...with the glaring exception of Tolkien.
posted by town of cats at 8:27 PM on August 2, 2013

Oh, also I really loved Dorothy Sayers mysteries.
posted by town of cats at 8:30 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Maida books, which were written 1910 or so, and have the advantage of being on Gutenberg. Here is Maida's Little Shop, but there is a whole series.

Mrs Mike is a great adventure/ love story.
posted by oryelle at 8:47 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is she a nerd? How about the Mad Scientists' Club? The characters are all boys, I'm afraid, but the stories are great.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:48 PM on August 2, 2013

Zilpha Keatley Snyder, particularly the Below the Root series
posted by HeroZero at 8:57 PM on August 2, 2013

Eva Ibbotson may not fall in the age category, but her earlier things (Which Witch?, The Secret of Platform 13, Dial-a-Ghost) FEEL like they fit this category so well I had to look her up to make sure I wasn't misremembering the time period she wrote in. I also remember loving Swiss Family Robinson at that age, mostly because of all the pets they had, though that one will definitely spark a racism conversation. Kidnapped, maybe? Robert Louis Stevenson would be appropriate for that age category. Also, strangely enough, The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Her 'enjoyments' sync up so well with what I was reading at that age that I would DEFINITELY recommend Watership Down if she hasn't read it. I was in fifth grade my first time through that one, and not only is the language rich and interesting but the world Adams creates with it is completely thought out and engrossing. I remember dreaming of rabbits for WEEKS...
posted by theweasel at 9:00 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ooh! Also, Sydney Taylor's All of a Kind Family. Might be a bit below her level now, but tear-throughable and thoroughly enjoyable.
posted by theweasel at 9:01 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls, 1961.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960. It's based on Lee's experiences and observations as a 10-year-old, and features a fictionalization of herself as Scout Finch, who was, IIRC, 6-7.

Also, James Herriot's non-fiction stories of his Yorkshire veterinary practice through the 1930s-50s. There are some anatomical details and lots of animal life and death, but I think a 10-year-old could enjoy it. All Creatures Great and Small and sequels, of which there are at least 3.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:03 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Some great suggestions so far. Every kid who's a good reader and likes old books should read Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Heidi, Swallows and Amazons, and books by George McDonald and Eleanor Estes.

Some others that haven't been suggested yet:

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Garden Behind the Moon by Howard Pyle
The Wind Boy by Ethel Cook Eliot
The Diamond in the Window (and sequels) by Jane Langton
Mio, My Son by Astrid Lindgren

Everything by Astrid Lindgren is wonderful, but most of them aren't quite old enough to meet the 50-year cutoff date. (The sequels to The Diamond in the Window aren't either.)
posted by Redstart at 9:05 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'll throw in votes for the Betsy-Tacy books, the Anne of Green Gables books, and the Nancy Drew books. If she likes Nancy Drew, she may also like Trixie Belden.

The first Encyclopedia Brown book (Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective) was published in 1963, so it just makes the cut here. I loved Encyclopedia Brown!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:22 PM on August 2, 2013

I loved the Wrinkle in Time books at that age. Also Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, and the Hardy Boys. I also remember reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond around that age. Oh, and Roald Dahl.
posted by JenMarie at 10:38 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, most of the things I would suggest already have been. She sounds like the kind of eclectic reader I was at 10. Limiting myself to things I don't think have yet been suggested, rather than enthusiastically endorsing most of what has, I will add:

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Green Knowe books by Lucy M Boston
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner (its sequel doesn't meet your 50+ year criterion)
The Blue Hills by Elizabeth Goudge (The Little White Horse is also highly spoken of but haven't personally read it). There's a bit in the beginning of the book which features Henrietta in a bookstore helping an old gentleman pick out the best books for children, I don't have the book here or I'd consult it, but that's a list worth perusing as well!
Andrew Lang's coloured Fairy Books - there's 12 of them and although most are available for free, it's worth searching out the ones with the beautiful illustrations by Henry J Ford.
King Arthur & Robin Hood stories - I think I had the editions from Roger Lancelyn Green
The Sword in the Stone by TH White
The Borrowers and sequels by Mary Norton
The Rescuers by Margery Sharpe - the book is very different to the film! Also many sequels, not all of which make your 50-year deadline.
William Pène du Bois - The Twenty-One Balloons and Peter Graves especially
Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Things that don't quite make the 50-year mark but may still be worth a go: LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan; Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums; Peter S Beagle's The Last Unicorn; Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword; anything by Diana Wynne Jones. And I'd better stop there!
posted by Athanassiel at 10:39 PM on August 2, 2013

Whoops, just realised Norton and TH White were on your original list - clearly great minds thinking alike!
posted by Athanassiel at 10:41 PM on August 2, 2013

She's at the perfect age to appreciate the Anne (of Green Gables) books by Lucy Maud Montgomery. E. L. Kongisburg wrote Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth the same year as From the Mixed Up Files... but it doesn't get the same librarian love these days, though it won a Newbery Honor.

Ellen Raskin's books, though closer to 35-41 years old, will likely appeal to her thirsty mind. Check out The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) from 1971, as it's so charming and perfect for a sharp 10-year-old. It may initially seem childish to her, but I bet her nimble mind will be engrossed.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:49 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I' ll second just about every suggestion here (especially the wonderful Noel Streathfield Shoes books) and add Little White Horse, and A Little History Of The World.

(And as she sounds like 10 year old mini-me, definitely Sherlock Holmes.
posted by Erasmouse at 12:55 AM on August 3, 2013

Things I haven't seen recommended yet (I think):

The Great Gilly Hopkins, and Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile
and The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. And, if you can get your hands on them for a reasonable price, Greensleeves and Sawdust in His Shoes. McGraw apparently died young and somewhat unexpectedly, and a lot of her books are going out of print, but they're FABULOUS.

Misty of Chincoteague and Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Margerite Henry.

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite Angeli.

For books that have a slightly older feel, but that don't quite make your 50-year cut-off date:

Homecoming and Dicey's Song and A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt. If she reads these three, she should read them in order: first Homecoming, then Dicey's Song, then A Solitary Blue.

And almost anything by Diana Wynne Jones, but I'm particularly fond of the Dalemark Quartet.
posted by colfax at 1:24 AM on August 3, 2013

How about the William books by Richmal Crompton? Gosh I used to love those books as a child - in fact I love them still.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 1:41 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Home again and have looked up the passage in The Blue Hills. Henrietta is 10 years old.
Henrietta took books from the shelves with a certainty that quite surprised the Old Gentleman. The Water Babies and Alice in Wonderland, Undine and The Pilgrim's Progress, Jackanapes and Little Women, The Fairchild Family and A Flat Iron for a Farthing, At the Back of the North Wind and The Princess and Curdie went into the basket with startling rapidity, followed by Uncle Remus, Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales, The Swiss Family Robinson, Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, his Red One and his Green One, Mary's Meadow, Lob-lie-by-the-Fire, The Wind in the Willows and The Cocky-Olly Bird.
"Isn't that enough?" gasped the Old Gentleman.
"Yes, I think that's all," said Henrietta, counting them.
"You seem to know exactly what is required," said the Old Gentleman with much respect.
"Yes," said Henrietta. "My father and I have often talked it over. We decided that if a person of my age had a library of twenty books those are just the twenty the person would want."
I am pleased that some I recommended are on that list, and I should have remembered Kingsley and the good old Swiss Family, whose adventures I adored. I've linked those not previously mentioned, except for the Cocky-Olly Bird because am not sure what that is. Possibly a collection of stories by Enid Blyton, but that only seems to have been published after The Blue Hills was written (1942). Henrietta seems to have been a fan of Juliana Horatia Ewing, with four of her books on the list. Perhaps not surprising, as Ewing seems to have had a similar background to Goudge. Anyway, I haven't read all of them but there does seem to be a distinct bias towards the type of children's books Victorians felt would be morally edifying for their offspring to read; that may or may not suit, but I thought it was interesting and it's obviously been a while since I've used my librarian powers for good.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:10 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I know I'm late to the party but I hope you can introduce your daughter to the Green Knowe series by Lucy Boston. It would make me so happy if another little girl were to be inspired by that brilliant series. I can't tell you how often I think of them, and the things I learned from them, 20 years later.
posted by Cygnet at 3:49 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Isaac Asimov also has some mysteries that are really fun, and there's the Norby series by him and his (second?) wife Janet.

It might be a year or so early, but that's near when I started getting into Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books. Also for the near future: Ursula K. LeGuin.

I had a book called "Georgina and the Dragon" around that age. I forget the author. And every choose your own adventure I could find.
posted by eviemath at 4:35 AM on August 3, 2013

Tom's Midnight Garden (1958), especially as she enjoyed Nesbit and Hodgson Burnett. Charlotte Sometimes (1969) misses your time period but has similarly sweet/gentle content.
posted by Ballad of Peckham Rye at 4:54 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Two I remember fondly and I can't see above
I am David
The Owl Service
posted by sianifach at 5:16 AM on August 3, 2013

10 is a little young, but if she's reading Agatha Christie for enjoyment, she can certainly handle the prose of James Fenimore Cooper, if you can get her to forgive him all the sins of which Mark Twain famously accused him. Cooper's frontier hero "Hawkeye" Bumppo features in a series of "fictional histories" that include The Deerslayer (set in the year 1744), The Last of the Mohicans (1757), The Pathfinder (1750s), The Pioneers (1793), The Prairie (1804), and I think they are best read in that order.

I liked the novels of Willa Cather as a kid, too, and only partly because she became a fellow Cornhusker early in her life. She'd left Nebraska after her graduation from University of Nebraska at Lincoln, by 1895, and made her reputation in New York City literary circles, before publishing her novel length recollections of prairie life, beginning with O Pioneers! in 1913. She earned her doctorate of letter from University of Nebrasks in 1917, and published My Antonia in 1918.
posted by paulsc at 5:47 AM on August 3, 2013

Hitty: Her First 100 Years by Rachel Field.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:47 AM on August 3, 2013

Popping back in to second with extreme prejudice The Annotated Alice. And if she likes Christie, she likes puzzles, and might just be in the market for Raymond Smullyan's logic puzzle books.. not quite 50 years old, more like 30, but they are old school. Try Alice in Puzzle Land or The Lady Or The Tiger.
posted by Erasmouse at 8:49 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

At that age, i was over the moon about several of Joan Aiken's children's books which were known as a group as "The Wolves Chronicles". The first 3 of these (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts in Battersea, and Nightbirds on Nantucket) fall roughly in your time constraints. There are newer volumes in the series which may suit her if she likes the older ones.

Not in the series but also recommended by Joan Aiken: "Midnight is a Place". Newer than 50 years but set in 19th century England.

Lots of memories reading over the responses...thanks for a great question.
posted by Ginesthoi at 9:07 AM on August 3, 2013

Lots of great ones here, I add my vote for the Little House series, Peter Pan, Swiss Family Robinson, and all the Ramona books.

Also Mary Stewart (not just the Merlin trilogy. Some are spooky but, if I remember right, they would be OK for a kid who can handle Agatha Christie.)

And Dumas - Count of Monte Cristo or Three Musketeers
posted by abecedarium radiolarium at 9:19 AM on August 3, 2013

I loved the Julia Redfern series of books by Eleanor Cameron, especially A Room Made of Windows. (I think I was 12 or 13 when I read them.)
posted by medeine at 9:21 AM on August 3, 2013

I loved Susan Coolidge's What Katy Did books when I was that age. They are definitely sweet and gentle.
posted by coppermoss at 9:51 AM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Some great ideas already!
- Echoing The Phantom Tollbooth. Go buy that immediately.
- Zilpha Keatley Snyder started writing in 1964 but I think her books also meet your criteria. I was a lot like your kid and hers are my hands-down favorites.
- I also liked The Boxcar Children but I have the feeling that they're not that sophisticated.
- There are a whole bunch of Little House on the Prairie books - I wasn't that crazy about them but they're very popular.
- Little Women, etc., are also good choices although not suited to my particular taste
- Definitely The Secret Garden and The Little Princess

I love these YA threads!
posted by radioamy at 11:08 AM on August 3, 2013

Somebody mentioned Ray Bradbury upthread, and I wanted to elaborate on that by recommending Dandelion Wine, it's a semiautobiographical set of linked stories, and really not sf or fantasy. I had similar tastes to your daughter at that age and really liked it. Also, several people have mentioned Rosemary Sutcliff. I found a lot of Rosemary Sutcliff a bit dark at 10, but would endorse The Eagle of the Ninth.
posted by gudrun at 12:11 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I LOVED the Maida books, and Ballet Shoes (and EVERYTHING by Noel Steatfield). Maida is interesting because it's got some real socialist views in it.

All of a Kind Family, Little House, Betsy and Tacy...all are excellent.

Another great one is Baby Island. I like it because it shows that two girls can be strong and resourceful and brave and take care of business.

I am a HUGE fan of Cherry Ames. Brought to you by the same folks who brought you Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I was lucky, my mom had kept all of hers and I devoured them!

A Wrinkle in Time is cool. Henry Reed (and all of those books).

So many nice afternoons reading....your daughter is so lucky, all these great books to discover.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2013

Seeing Sawdust in His Shoes mentioned reminded me of a few other books that I loved and reread many times: Two of Red and Two of Blue: The Story of a Page and a Prince, by Marjorie Phillips, Judo Boy, by John Ball, Jr., and The Locked Crowns, by Marion Garthwaite. I haven't read any of them for years, and I couldn't say now how well race issues are handled in Judo Boy.
posted by worldswalker at 6:41 PM on August 3, 2013

The Wizard of Oz books, Heidi, and I really got into Greek and Roman mythology then, thanks to a gift book which I can no longer find. Fairy tales. Aesop's fables. Books about secret languages and codes. I taught myself Morse code and was fascinated by ciphers, etc. "The Adventures of Remi and "The Adventures of Perrine. And yes, Nancy Drew, yes yes yes.
posted by Lynsey at 11:30 PM on August 3, 2013

Response by poster: Hey all, these suggestions are incredible. I'm going on my library website now to order my first stack for her and maybe for me too.

I've asked for reading suggestions a lot on askme, and gotten lots of good suggestions, but this question has produced so many more books that my kid and I have never heard of. Really excited to dig up these gems.
posted by latkes at 4:46 PM on August 4, 2013

Gutenberg has a Children's section - Oz books, Dr. Doolittle, the Red Fairy books, Grimm ... there's a ton of stuff, free for the taking. Even Beatrix Potter, though without pictures.
posted by timepiece at 6:44 PM on August 19, 2013

I guess I should be nice and provide a link to Gutenberg's Children's Bookshelf. Included are sub-sections for Anthologies, Series, Fiction, Literature, and Myths & Fairy Tales, plus some non-fiction categories.
posted by timepiece at 8:46 AM on August 20, 2013

Response by poster: Brief update: We've tried a number of these and she's really been enjoying your suggestions. The successes so far include:

George MacDonald's books
The Penrod books (think she's read all of them now and we had some productive and critical conversations about the racist portions of these books)
Heinlein's Have Spacesuit Will Travel (destroyed library copy with fierce reading!)
The Animal Family (loved!)
Daddy Longlegs (Happened across a copy in a used bookstore so now she owns and loves it)
All Creatures Great and Small (read about half of it out loud to her over the last couple months but we sort of got distracted. Will get back to it eventually but they are fun out loud stories.)
Astrid Lindgren (had only read Pippi before, she's working her way through more of them now)
She just wrote a book report on Ballet Shoes and even wrote a song about the main characters!

If I didn't name your suggestion in this list either she had already read it before (love Little History of the World and read it out loud!), we couldn't find it at the library (many of these older books are either unavailable or only available for in-library use because they're so old and out of print), or we just haven't gotten to them yet. Or I may be forgetting a few. The other problem I'm running into is the old-fashioned covers can be off-putting for her, so some that I bring home she doesn't get to.

Anyhow, thanks for all your suggestions, I'm sure we'll keep getting use out of your suggestions for a long time.
posted by latkes at 4:22 PM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

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