Help me have a conversation through books with my little girl
November 26, 2014 9:58 PM   Subscribe

I'd like some recommendations for books to get my 6 year old girl who has a vast interior life I only rarely get glimpses of.

I'm gone a lot because of work. My wife is not a big reader, though I am and so is our daughter. My wife suggested I start sending her books as a way of staying in touch. I love this idea.

However, I don't really have an idea what she likes or will be drawn to.

I know she's got a lot going on inside, because every now and then she'll let some comment fall that is wholly beyond my baffled, paternal experience.

We went camping recently, and amid a mild conversation about art she exclaimed "Everything is art! You are art! This [stamping the ground] is art!"

I'm at a loss. While I'm astonished and pleased at this, I'm also slightly worried about her becoming Sylvia Plath.

Anyway, I remember books were such a formative part of my childhood, and it seems like they will be for her, too. Please help me pick some books that sparked an interest in you or someone you love, for this someone that I love.

PS, while I am deeply interested in science, she seems more interested in medicine. And zombies. And cake pops.
posted by atchafalaya to Human Relations (32 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Books that were my LIFE around that age:

Little House In The Big Woods

Charlotte's Web

Stuart Little


A Wrinkle In Time

All the Ramona books (She might especially like to start with Ramona The Pest or Ramona The Brave, both of which are set when Ramona is about her age and have themes dealing with little girls and their big imaginations. Ramona And Her Father might be nice, too.)

I was starting to read simple chapter books around my fifth birthday, which informs my choices here. I'm not sure what your daughter's reading level is.

She might also be old enough for the first Harry Potter book, especially if you guys could read it together.
posted by Sara C. at 10:10 PM on November 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

Catwings is probably a little young-ish but has some terribly deep aspects to it that sound like they would appeal.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:14 PM on November 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh Matilda, definitely. Depending on her reading level, The Borrowers. The Phantom Tollbooth, which especially resonates with the "everything is art" exclamation. And Pippi Longstocking. All of these might be a little past her reading level (I think they're for about 8 year olds) but while I was a late reader, I was an immediately voracious one and I read them for the first time when I was 6-7. You might help with old fashioned vocabulary words.
posted by Mizu at 10:36 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest The Phantom Tollbooth as well. She is going to love The Phantom Tollbooth.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:45 PM on November 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

The Lemony Snicket series might be worth a try.
posted by nickggully at 11:17 PM on November 26, 2014

The Hobbit, no question. Mum gave it to me when I was seven; life-altering.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:06 AM on November 27, 2014

What about Redwall?
posted by small_ruminant at 12:37 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Definitely, definitely Matilda. I also read The Hobbit at her age and it was wonderful. Redwall is also a good idea.

I know you're away a lot, but is there a chance you could take her to the library (or a bookshop) and let her run wild for a bit? That might give you a lot of insight into what she's drawn to right now.

The King of the Copper Mountains by Paul Biegel was hugely important to me at that age, and remains so.

If she likes spooky, eerie stories, Philippa Pearce's books would be good (The Way to Sattin Shore, Tom's Midnight Garden, etc.). In a similar vein, there are the Green Knowe books by Lucy M Boston. She might enjoy these more if she comes to them in a few years, though, I'm not sure.

I might comment back later if I think of more. As a former bookish six-year-old, I salute you for doing this. :)
posted by daisyk at 1:17 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

My daughter loved You Choose as it would always bring out some kind of imaginative story from the pictures. Caveats - might be a bit "young" for her at six, although it's not baby-ish. It's better for reading together with the child - if you're sending it to her to read on her own, maybe not so good for that.
posted by crocomancer at 2:38 AM on November 27, 2014

My husband is away a lot too, and what he did was to record himself reading some of their favourites (I wont suggest titles though, as our home language is German) and our 6-year old loves to play those CDs.
He used a fairly simple looking set up involving a headset (but he is in IT, so it may have just looked easy to me).
Sometimes our son misses him too much and switches off mid sentence, but on the whole it works well, he looks at the book and listens to dad reading.
posted by 15L06 at 3:04 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

In a year or two, maybe The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 3:10 AM on November 27, 2014

Here's the thread from yesterday, in which I recommend Baby Island.

I also recommend:

Ballet Shoes-(The Shoe Books)
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Betsy-Tacy Books
All of a Kind Family
Maida's Little...

And a seasonal favorite in our house, sadly out of print, but well worth tracking down:

Doodles the Deerhorse
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:24 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

My younger sister loved Victorian fantasy around this age, what about some E. Nesbit (the Five Children and It or the Railway Children series), Tom's Midnight Garden and maybe the Narnia books. If she finds them a little hard-going, send her story tapes to listen to as well.

Other books I remember her liking a lot were A Little Princess, Pippi Longstocking, Clarence Bean, lots of Michael Morpergo and anything by Roald Dahl, Dick King Smith or Quentin Blake .
posted by Ned G at 5:33 AM on November 27, 2014

What about Redwall?

That syntax might be tough, even for a motivated 6-year-old. However, I can happily recommend "The Great Redwall Feast," whose lovely illustrations and poetic language might resonate with her. Plus, forest critters, squee!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:18 AM on November 27, 2014

When I was this age and my dad was away a lot, he pre-recorded himself reading bedtime chapters on a dictaphone and I would listen. It sounds far fetched but as I recall it worked and it was nice.

I loved the original Oz series at this age. The first one (Wizard of Oz) was a little darker than #2-14, which really are just wonderful, exciting but gentle fairy stories with a lot of humor, and most of the heroes are little girls. (Baum wrote #1- 14; after that they were written by other people, I don't know if the additional ones were good too.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:46 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you also thought about non-fiction, for instance on the history of art? I have a 6 year old, and he loves non-fiction, kid's reference books (DK Eyewitness children's series), etc. They are great to read and discuss together.
posted by carter at 6:59 AM on November 27, 2014

My Father's Dragon, the Neverending Story, Bruce Coville's unicorn series, to name a few.
posted by capricorn at 7:05 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and the Magic Treehouse series, by Mary Pope Osbourne; you could also look for these on CD at the local public library.
posted by carter at 7:11 AM on November 27, 2014

Have a look at David Macaulay's excellent book, "The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body." It may appeal to her leanings toward both art and medicine. This is a terrific one to read together (it is amazing, and there's certainly enough in there to fascinate an adult!).
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:41 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

A Wrinkle in Time

Bridge to Terabithia

The Last Unicorn

all of these have strong female characters, some creative/imaginative aspects and non-traditional story lines.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:55 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

In a few years, the Terry Pratchett books with Tiffany Aching at the center, starting with The Wee Free Men!
posted by at 8:03 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whatever books you send, include a handwritten note with (or in!) the book.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:09 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

She sounds an amazing kid.

There are lots of books out there but this is also about your relationship, isn't it? So I think you could sometimes pick a book that really influenced YOU, and send it with a letter about why you chose it for her, and what it said to you as a kid, and tell her you're interested in what she thinks about it too.

She sounds like a thoughtful person who really lives in her head. And she's only six but I well remember being aged only eight or nine and getting a lot out of books which were 'way too old for me'. Maybe this will happen with her as well? So maybe you could set the habit of having a dialogue about books with her, which I'm sure will get only more interesting for both of you as she gets older.

Influential books when I was 6ish: Greek myths, Norse myths, King Arthur, 1001 Nights*, The King of the Golden River (this went down surprisingly well with my kids too - it's very old-fashioned) the William Books.

9ish. There are three I remember in particular that made a groove in my mind: The Hobbit, The King Must Die and I Claudius. I'm mentioning these because really, if you have a highly imaginative and, I'm guessing, visual kid, you might be surprised by what she reads but you know, let her read it if she can get something out of it.

*Also, old editions of myths and fairy tales tend to have the most fantastic illustrations. A child who thinks art is everywhere might appreciate that.
posted by glasseyes at 8:53 AM on November 27, 2014

The Moomins. Odd little books, not as twee as the wiki article makes them appear.

Tove Jansson, the author.
posted by glasseyes at 8:58 AM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Only get her Bridge to Terebithia when you're ready to talk about death and books making you cry. It's a great story but it was definitely the first book a lot of kids read (they gave it to us in school!) where a likable human character dies a realistic death, so be prepared.
posted by dame at 10:15 AM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think she is not too old for the Voyage to the Bunny Planet trilogy. Oh yes, the first couple of Little House books and the Phantom Tollbooth, definitely. I loved the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books at that age, and also, not long after, I discovered the books by Edward Eager like Half Magic.

Her talk about art makes me think you might try Linnea in Monet's Garden

Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends is a well loved classic.

Someone gave me a set of the Andrew Lang Fairy book series around her age, which I dipped into quite a bit growing up. You could try the Blue Fairy Book, which was the first one, and is still one of the best.

I like the idea of you recording yourself reading some books for her, and would you be able to skype occasionally and read her something that way, or have her read something short to you?
posted by gudrun at 10:55 AM on November 27, 2014

I loved Mandy around that age. A girl in an orphanage finds a tiny cottage in the woods that she transforms into her own special place with a lot of imagination.
posted by bendy at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2014

I used to love the Church Mice series by Graham Oakley. They're picture books, but with enough text that I don't think they'll feel babyish, and a lovely subtle, wry humour that means a child can revisit them when they're older and notice new things. The drawings are also incredibly detailed and funny.

My mum also introduced me to the Chronicles of Narnia when I was six - she read them to me at first, and then at seven I re-read the series. Black Beauty was another favourite, though it's incredibly sad (Anna Sewell wrote it to draw attention to the cruel ways horses were treated at the time) so if you're not familiar with it I'd maybe give it a read first yourself.

I also liked a lot of Young Puffins (looks like the imprint still exists, and they're meant for that age), like Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr (and the rest of the series), and the Worst Witch books by Jill Murphy - those would be a great choice if you think she's still a little young for Harry Potter, as they have the same magical boarding school setting, but don't get so grim/scary/dependent on a big over-arching plot.
posted by cloudsinvenice at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

The children's books that got me into Terry Pratchett around that age were the Nomes, super fun! I think I was also reading The BFG by Roald Dahl and the Chocolate Factory books.
posted by symphonicknot at 5:31 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd like to put in a word of caution for Bridge to Terabithia. Know your kid. It wrecked me when I was young, and had me sobbing on re-read well through high school. It's a truly great book, just think first whether she's ready for it. Especially if you won't be home to pick up the pieces ; )
posted by telepanda at 5:44 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

In a couple of years: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin. Your daughter sounds like she has the soul of Rebecca. The very best edition you could give her would be the Riverside Press edition of 1925, with the Helen Mason Grose illustrations. (That edition was reprinted about a decade ago, but the original would be lovely; you may have to work with an out of print book dealer to find either one.)
posted by apartment dweller at 7:38 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Since you mentioned camping. Oh man I LOVED all the "kid survives in the wilderness alone" themed books. Unfortunately there weren't a ton with a girl as the main character.

- Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (have not read the sequels)

- My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (and sequels)

- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (and sequels.. this series is a little darker/scarier though, so I'd leave them for when she's older)

Some more books that made lasting impressions:

- The Boggart by Susan Cooper (and then when she's older, introduce her to Cooper's Dark is Rising series)

- The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

- Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

- Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater

Seconding Matilda (and the BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, omg and James and the Giant Peach) all by Roald Dahl of course. And Shel Silverstein. I could go on forever but I'll stop here.

(I hope there are more kids' books out there these days that feature strong girl protagonists...)
posted by nemutdero at 8:44 PM on November 29, 2014

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