What are great books to read to my 7 year old and 5 year old?
June 9, 2015 1:10 PM   Subscribe

After reading the first two books in the Narnia series and realizing not everything from my childhood is going to hold up, I'd like to solicit recommendations.

They are boys, couple of things they have loved so far:

- Harry Potter
- Judy Bloom's Fudge books

Both kids are working on reading on their own, of course, but this is for bedtime reading. Would love more like Fudge specifically, laughter and the funny gets big points from me (Harry Potter is wonderful, and they love it, but it can be dark for their ages.) Thank you!
posted by imabanana to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:17 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Carl Hiaasen's books for young readers are particular favorites at our house.
posted by Etrigan at 1:17 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fortunately, the Milk - Neil Gaiman - Big hit at our house, and hysterical.
posted by RevRob330 at 1:21 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

Roald Dahl!!

James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda...or even some of the shorter ones like Fantastic Mr Fox and The Giraffe The Pelly and Me...

So much fun to read aloud.
posted by phunniemee at 1:21 PM on June 9, 2015 [22 favorites]

My nephew loved The Knights of the Kitchen Table (one of the Time Warp Trio series) by Jon Scieszka.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:25 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Phantom Tollbooth.
posted by millipede at 1:27 PM on June 9, 2015 [9 favorites]

My 6-y-o (and I) loved Pratchett's "Wee Free Men", "Hat Full of Sky", and "Wintersmith". Skip the fourth Tiffany Aching book for a while.
posted by cmiller at 1:27 PM on June 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

If they like Harry Potter, it's a good bet they'd like the Rick Riordan Percy Jackson books. Starts with The Lightning Thief. My kid also loves the Dave Barry (yes, THAT Dave Barry) Peter Pan series.
posted by Andrhia at 1:28 PM on June 9, 2015

The Crown Snatchers

Sounds ridiculous and it is. "A white horses turds will enrage thirty birds."
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:28 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ramona the Pest! My mom used to have to stop reading it aloud to me because she was laughing so hard.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:31 PM on June 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

Patricia Wrede's Dealing with Dragons is great! Really the whole Enchanted Forest series but especially that first book.

Seconding Tiffany Aching, but yes maybe hold off on ISWM.

Susan Cooper's Over Sea, Under Stone for sure. Maybe the other Dark is Rising books, though you might wait a year or two for the five year old.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:37 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Redwall and the other books
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Neverending Story
Roald Dahl

All books that I still love and made me a lifelong reader. Redwall especially was the best because it is a heroic journey, has an outsize villain and great descriptions.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:41 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

Castle Hangnail. Dahl, definitely. They might like Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince, though it's maybe a bit old for them. Ramona. Pippi Longstocking. Kate DiCamillo. E.L. Koningsberg. Bunnicula. NIMH. A Wrinkle in Time.
posted by jeather at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

And China Mieville's Un Lun Dun.
posted by jeather at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

These may look young for your kids, and they probably are, but we got a LOT of mileage out of the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems.

If you are energetic, or enjoy doing voices these may be up your alley.
They are comics, but mainly feature the two characters Gerald the Elephant and Piggie. After I had read them a few times, the kids would each take a part instead, leaving me free to enjoy, or do a cameo as the rare extra character.

Mo Willems does picture books, and they are almost always splendid. There's a great rundown on them here.
posted by RevRob330 at 1:49 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

The My Father's Dragon trilogy; the entire first book is available online.

See, there's this boy, and he meets a cat, and the cat tells him about an island, and there's a baby dragon trapped on the island by a bunch of mean animals, and the cat can't go back because he's too old, but maybe the boy can rescue the dragon, and if he does maybe he can fly on the baby dragon, but it's going to take a really good plan...and it's as wonderful for adults to read as it is for kids to listen to, and it's a shame that it's not better known.

"My father was very hungry when he woke up the next morning. Just as he was looking to see if he had anything left to eat, something hit him on the head. It was a tangerine. He had been sleeping right under a tree full of big, fat tangerines. And then he remembered that this was the Island of Tangerina. Tangerine trees grew wild everywhere. My father picked as many as he had room for, which was thirty-one, and started off to find Wild Island."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:51 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe a little older than your kids, but Abigail Hilton advertises her "Hunters Unlucky" as "in the vein of The Jungle Book and Watership Down", and I am super enjoying the audio adaptation (currently being podcast, though the latter parts of it'll disappear from her feed in July). She seems to have a bunch of parents who really loved her Eve and Malachi series.

Save "Guild of the Cowry Catchers" for another decade and a half, though. That one's a little more adult.
posted by straw at 1:54 PM on June 9, 2015

Zita the Space Girl! So awesome.
posted by suelac at 2:03 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

The So You Want to be a Wizard series is fun, though some of it does veer dark (though not as dark as Harry Potter, from what I remember).

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is also a great series and not dark at all.
posted by Anonymous at 2:07 PM on June 9, 2015

I know you're posting for our suggestions, but librarians in the children's sections are really great for these sorts of recommendations. They tend to be more up on contemporary releases which may have the benefit of feeling relevant and inclusive.
posted by vunder at 2:11 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

I want to make a plug for the All-of-a-Kind Family series.

And the Artemis Fowl series might be good.
posted by brookeb at 2:14 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh and Daniel Pinkwater.
posted by brookeb at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Louis Sachar. Holes and Small Steps can be saved for them to read on their own when they're a bit older, but The Wayside School Series, Dogs Don't Tell Jokes & the follow up Someday Angeline, and There's A Boy in the Girl's Bathroom are all completely packed with absurdity and humor.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:16 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tove Jansson's Moomin series.
Karlsson on the Roof*, and really everything else by Astrid Lindgren.
Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder
My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George
Homer Price, Robert McCloskey

*this is the weirdest, funniest kids' book ever, revered in the former Soviet Union and curiously ignored here. Seriously, HILARIOUS.
posted by apparently at 2:24 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

>brookeb wrote:
Oh and Daniel Pinkwater.

1000 times this!

Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, the Last Guru, Alan Mendelssohn the Boy from Mars, or ANYTHING.
posted by RevRob330 at 2:24 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes to Daniel Pinkwater, but they might get more of a kick out of some (like Snarkout Boys, which I love beyond measure) when they're a couple of years older.

My kiddo has recently loved Pippi Longstocking, Stuart Little and the Moomintroll books.
posted by goggie at 2:28 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds, A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was. It's a (at times) comedic Chinese fairy tale. There are two sequels which, if not quite as good, are also entertaining.
posted by JaredSeth at 2:38 PM on June 9, 2015

My kid loved being read the Lemony Snicket's books at age 7. She's 10 now and is still working through the series.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:55 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Swallows and Amazons! I loved it at that age, and my children love it also. Fair warning: it contains a lot of unexamined views about British Colonialism and the, er, colonized, we had to do some hasty just-in-time editing of the language occasionally. But the stories and depictions of the children are tremendous enough to be worth the work.
posted by KathrynT at 2:56 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was that age once. I enjoyed Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, even though excavators were running on diesel when I was a kid.
posted by Rob Rockets at 3:26 PM on June 9, 2015

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - Catherynne M. Valente i.e. the Fairyland series. There are five books now, including a prequel about the evil queen in the first

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy - Jeanne Birdsall. Realistic fiction with four sister protagonists, but plenty of good male characters and lots going on. 4 books so far.

The Saturdays - Elizabeth Enright. Four siblings, two boys, two girls, and their adventures in pre-WW II NYC. Subsequent books in the Melendy Quartet are set in the country, where they move. Each sibling has their own unique gift, (much like in Little Women): Mona, the 13 yo actress, Rush the 12 yo painter & jokester, Randy the 10 yo painter & dancer, and 6 yo Oliver whose talents are to come, but it very curious and thoughtful.
posted by carrioncomfort at 3:30 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you aren't offended by toilet humour, Captain Underpants. If your kids found Fudge funny they might find George and Harold hilarious.
posted by haunted_pomegranate at 4:04 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Definitely the Phantom Tollbooth!
posted by radioamy at 4:34 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Please, please read books to your boys with female protagonists! I think it's so important that boys see girls as their potential allies in the world of fun and adventure! Seconding the Zita the Spacegirl Series. It's graphic novels and a lot of fun.
posted by amanda at 4:41 PM on June 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

In addition to the other suggestions, my boy loved the Mrs. Pigglewiggle series when he was this age.

One of the issues I found in this stage (chapter books but with pictures) is that even when there are female characters, all the characters are white. I can understand something like the Laura Ingalls Wilder books since those are based on a specific family, but I'm flabbergasted by books like the afore-mentioned Mrs. Pigglewiggle and also the Sideways School books which are more ensemble-based. I don't think the stories would be impacted at all if some of the characters had Asian or Black features or Hispanic names. Granted, these were written back in the 60s, but even now it seems like you have some picture books with non-white characters and some YA books with non-white characters, but not much in this stage...
posted by elmay at 5:18 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh I get to be first to suggest Diana Wynne Jones! She has books suitable for a fairly wide range of ages; I don't know the younger kids' books as well as I know the more middle-grades and up ones. But she's so good.
posted by mskyle at 6:01 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

We loved, loved, loved E B White's Charlotte's Web and Trumpet of the Swan though the audio books were read by the author and may be best enjoyed on car trips when you can hear his voice. If not though, read them yourself out loud.

The Dahl books including James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are fabulous.

In 2nd grade, my son loved the Ranger's Apprentice series. The first was really good read aloud for the whole family then slightly less so but a wonderful transition to him reading them by himself. Even 4 years later he is enjoying the next series, Brotherband, set in the same world.

As strictly a single data point, we did not find the Ramona books to hold up and did not enjoy the Penderwick series. The children in the car did enjoy the audio version of the Penderwicks more than the adults who were ready to put in earplugs.

Going forward a few years, we enjoyed Wonder with 8 and 11 year olds for your future lists. I'm planning The Graveyard Book also by Gaiman (Fortunately, the Milk = hilarious) this summer with 9 and 12 year olds.

There is an interesting sweet spot of something engaging for the adults and the children that makes the experience enjoyable for everyone and a lovely transition to shared reading experiences.
posted by RoadScholar at 6:07 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

The current Greatest Thing in the World in our house is The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens, by Henry Clark. It's funny, loopy, fascinating in its time travel paradoxes, has a diverse set of characters (and it is important to the story that this is the case), and sparks some interesting conversations about race and history. It's brand new in hardcover right now.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:10 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds

This is a very fun book but read it yourself before you start reading it to kids that age - it's really very gruesome.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:03 PM on June 9, 2015

I just came in to be sure that Swallows and Amazons had been recommended, and I see that it has. Carry on.
posted by bricoleur at 9:45 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been reading the Little House books (not Farmer Boy yet) to my 4.5 year old son, and he is completely in love.
posted by linettasky at 10:44 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oz books
Marguerite Henry....
posted by brujita at 12:47 AM on June 10, 2015

This is a very fun book but read it yourself before you start reading it to kids that age - it's really very gruesome.

Is it? I'll admit, I was a teen when I read it (since that's when it was released) and may be forgetting some details.
posted by JaredSeth at 5:32 AM on June 10, 2015

My mom read Operation: Dump the Chump to me at bed time when I was reading by myself, but also still enjoying being read to. It's about an older brother's attempts to con his parents and his elderly neighbors into moving his annoying younger brother out. I remember it made us laugh more than any other book we ever read together.
posted by joan cusack the second at 10:14 AM on June 10, 2015

How about some poetry? Haven't seen Where the Sidewalk Ends mentioned yet...it's the granddaddy of books like Captain Underpants, and it never, never gets old.

T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone is also delightful, although the volumes that follow become more serious and adult.
posted by tully_monster at 12:15 PM on June 10, 2015

After having had a similar experience myself when my kids were 6 and 9 (totally disappointed by the writing in the Wizard of Oz, which I'd loved as a kid), one great exception was Peter Pan. I found it to be hilarious from the start. Here are some samples:

3rd paragraph:
Mr. Darling used to boast to Wendy that her mother not only loved him but respected him. He was one of those deep ones who know about stocks and shares. Of course no one really knows, but he quite seemed to know, and he often said stocks were up and shares were down in a way that would have made any woman respect him.

Then two paragraphs later, a passage that just begs to be read aloud:
For a week or two after Wendy [was born] it was doubtful whether they would be able to keep her, as she was another mouth to feed. Mr. Darling was frightfully proud of her, but he was very honourable, and he sat on the edge of Mrs. Darling's bed, holding her hand and calculating expenses, while she looked at him imploringly. She wanted to risk it, come what might, but that was not his way; his way was with a pencil and a piece of paper, and if she confused him with suggestions he had to begin at the beginning again.
"Now don't interrupt," he would beg of her.
"I have one pound seventeen here, and two and six at the office; I can cut off my coffee at the office, say ten shillings, making two nine and six, with your eighteen and three makes three nine seven, with five naught naught in my cheque-book makes eight nine seven—who is that moving?—eight nine seven, dot and carry seven—don't speak, my own—and the pound you lent to that man who came to the door—quiet, child—dot and carry child—there, you've done it!—did I say nine nine seven? yes, I said nine nine seven; the question is, can we try it for a year on nine nine seven?"
"Of course we can, George," she cried. But she was prejudiced in Wendy's favour, and he was really the grander character of the two.
"Remember mumps," he warned her almost threateningly, and off he went again. "Mumps one pound, that is what I have put down, but I daresay it will be more like thirty shillings—don't speak—measles one five, German measles half a guinea, makes two fifteen six—don't waggle your finger—whooping-cough, say fifteen shillings"—and so on it went, and it added up differently each time; but at last Wendy just got through, with mumps reduced to twelve six, and the two kinds of measles treated as one.
posted by mabelstreet at 2:19 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thirding the Terry Pratchett Tiffany Aching books. My kids also really liked Maurice and His Educated Rodents a lot. We tried some of the other Discworld books but I think they were too mature until the kids hit 10 or 11.

Also Kenneth Oppel's novels about bats are pretty fun.
posted by sneebler at 7:32 PM on June 10, 2015

Margaret Mahy.
Short, and your older son can start reading them himself, but things like "The Pirates Mixed Up Voyage" are great fun for all.
posted by Elysum at 2:20 AM on June 11, 2015

Oooh, I can't believe Gregor the Overlander and the rest of the Underland series hasn't been mentioned yet! The books are written by Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, for a 7-10 age group. I read all 5 books out loud to my then 7-year olds and they loved them. Can't wait to read them to my current 7-year old. My kids also loved the Harry Potter series, and this was their second favorite book series. Written from the perspective of an 11-year old boy. Great action, just scary enough, great characters including giant (friendly) cockroaches, 6-foot tall rats and bats big enough to hitch a ride on, and all set (sufficiently convincingly) underneath New York City. Quite well written, too.
posted by widdershins at 2:04 PM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ramona the Pest!

Ramona is just one of several inhabitants of Klikitat Street that Beverly Cleary wrote about, also including Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy. Recommended.
posted by Rash at 7:36 PM on June 13, 2015

You want to try Edward Eager's Magic books. Start with Half Magic.
posted by gudrun at 6:52 PM on June 15, 2015

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