Book recommendations for 5yo girl
August 29, 2016 8:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations of longer books to read to my 5yo daughter. We recently read The BFG and that was pretty much perfect - obviously I'll try some of Dahl's other books, although they do seem to feature an awful lot of cruel and abusive family situations. So, who's the Roald Dahl of the 21st century?

Further details just in case they help: the child in question is a beginner reader, and is basically equally happy watching My Little Pony videos on youtube or getting into books, so I'm looking to tip the scales towards the books. I'm not (yet) looking for books for her to read herself, but trying to get her interested in the idea of actual novels that take more than one night to read and have a compelling story and characters. She can get emotionally overwhelmed so I'd like to avoid heavy themes - this will be bedtime reading (and we all want a good night's sleep, don't we?). Strong female characters would be a big plus. Princesses and unicorns also welcome.
posted by nomis to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Redstart at 8:16 PM on August 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

I read a couple Little House on the Prairie books to my son this summer. He is 5 and also gets very emtionalky invested in stories. He liked hearing about older times and we did some play acting with it.

I also liked how it was pretty easy to put down and pick up. You don't ha ve to read it all if you don't want. For example, I skipped the chapter about thr night intruder in the Farmer Boy book because I didn't want to get into that.
posted by aetg at 8:17 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

We just finished reading Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles to our six-year-old, a four-volume series which begins with Princess Cimorene bored out of her mind princessing and uninterested in marrying the neighboring prince, but too well-brought up to simply refuse. So she does what any enterprising princess would do if she doesn't want to get married but wants to stay respectable, and sets off to find a dragon to kidnap her. Our daughter loved it.

Books I can remember reading her in the last two years include The Hobbit (with a gender-swapped Bilbo); My Father's Dragon (no female characters, other than the cat); the entirety of Jeff Smith's epic comic book Bone (she was fine with it, but it gets fitfully gory and scary about halfway through; your daughter might want it to stay on the shelf for a year or two); the comic book Zita the Space Girl; and, as mentioned in that earlier thread, three of Frank Baum's original Oz books (the second one features a surprising amount of meanspirited bickering amongst the characters) and a whole bunch of Edward Eager (the four-book sequence starting with Half Magic, which I myself adored as a boy--magical adventures of a not-too-strenuous variety, with two books set in the 1920s and two in the 1950s, each about a mixed-gender group of children).
posted by snarkout at 8:21 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

So my nearly 5-year-old really loves the whole Sideways Stories from Wayside School series. He's also pretty cool with Junie B. Jones, but the Sideways Stories are fun to read aloud, and you can read either a few or a bunch at a time. He also likes Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, but I'mmmmm not 100% sure Calvin is such a great role model, so you may not want that one per se.

Also Daniel Pinkwater has a series called Mrs. Noodlekugel aimed at beginning readers, which I think are whimsical and charming and which my husband thinks are weird and boring, so.
posted by daisystomper at 8:32 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Charlotte's Web

The Magic Tree House series (I found it dull but my son loved it)

The Tale of Despereaux


Island of the Blue Dolphin (maybe next year?)
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 8:39 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

The My Father's Dragon trilogy was well received in our house. Much of Dahl is too dark for my 5yo yet, though he did enjoy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. As we were reading it, I feared The Night Fairy would upset him but we both enjoyed it. The Princess in Black is a good transitional book for kids who are starting to read chapter books independently.

For series to get your kid into listening to chapter books, Magic Treehouse is a standard intro. The books are formulaic but tolerable for the parent reading aloud. Annie is a fine female character. I do like that the books introduce various topics in science, the world, and history that can be good conversation starters with your kid. You can read them in a few nights - we do 2-3 chapters a night.

We are currently on the hunt for more good series, but Micropanda also enjoyed the Geronimo Stilton books we have read. The series are good at this age because the predictableness makes it easier for kids to follow the longer stories.
posted by telepanda at 8:39 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hamster Princess.
posted by jeather at 8:41 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ramona the Pest. Magic tree house are good. The Famous five adventure stories are long but good. But they are old too. Have fun!
posted by leslievictoria at 8:52 PM on August 29, 2016

The Story of Diva and Flea is lovely; I hope Mo Willems is going to write more chapter books.

I am fond of the Emily Windsnap series. If that's too much, the Never Girls series is cute. I was also glad to see Heidi Heckelbeck listed on the previous thread.

Among older books, Mr. Popper's Penguins.
posted by BibiRose at 8:55 PM on August 29, 2016

Anything by Eva Ibbotson, especially Island of the Aunts or The Secret of Platform 13!

Tove Jansson's Moomin books.
posted by corey flood at 9:08 PM on August 29, 2016

Jacqueline Harvey's Alice Miranda and Clementine Rose series might for the bill. Tongue in cheek girl at boarding school solves mysteries sort of thing. And there are lots of them. My daughter always read them herself from about 7 but they are suitable for younger ones too. Indeed, I think Clementine Rose is aimed at a slightly younger audience.
posted by hawthorne at 9:33 PM on August 29, 2016

I'd say David Walliams is a contender for the current Roald Dahl, and not just because of the illustrations
posted by tillsbury at 9:44 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Laurel Snyder
posted by brujita at 10:13 PM on August 29, 2016

Edward Eager (4 novels, all feature strong girls and magic) and My Father's Dragon (and sequels) (3 novels). I think Abel's Island is a small literary masterwork.
posted by latkes at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2016

When my daughter was about that age, she loved having the American Girl books read to her. I was initially skeptical, because I assumed that as toy tie-ins, they'd be hastily written cash grabs, but they were actually terrific-- well written, with believable characters and fascinating historical settings.

(I should note that I'm referring to the American Girl books with historical settings . The American Girl books about modern girls seemed aimed at an older audience, and didn't appeal to my five-year-old as much.

In particular, we loved the Josefina books. (When these start, Josefina's mother has recently passed away, so there is some discussion about their sad feelings, but it's not overwhelming.) The Rebecca books are also great.
posted by yankeefog at 11:58 PM on August 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have recommended Catwings here before. The books were a big hit with both my children around that age. They are short chapter books with four in the series.
posted by Cuke at 3:54 AM on August 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Not recent, but I loved The Ordinary Princess at that age, and still do. The story is fun and full of kindness.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:04 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Wizard of Oz books.
posted by zizzle at 7:18 AM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

They have My Little Pony chapter books. We have some Lego City chapter books my kid loves. My 4 yo old is really into Richard Scarry right now as he likes to ask questions about what's going on in the story. The longer ones tend towards 50-90 pages so it may be a one night read.
posted by typecloud at 7:37 AM on August 30, 2016

Jenny and the Cat Club
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:48 AM on August 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois is just cute but has some serious themes.
Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise has a nice mix of genders and a very strong adult female character. It has 4 sequels but stands alone as a story well enough. There are some stereotypes played out in relationships between adults, but the kids all relate well to each other.

Maybe when she is older she would like the Encyclopedia Brown books or the Artemis Fowl series. Both are named after the main boy characters but have girls in them who are just as strong and integral to the stories.
posted by soelo at 8:29 AM on August 30, 2016

Yes, yes, yes, to Jenny and the Cat Club. There are many others in that series including...

The School For Cats
Jenny Goes to Sea
The Hotel Cat
Jenny's Moonlight Adventure

You might explore other selections from The New York Review of Books Children's Collection. They have reprinted lots of older, out of print children's books.

Other E.B. White Books (in addition to Charlotte's Web) might be great. I just loved The Trumpet of the Swan.
posted by brookeb at 8:53 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the American Girls series - I was about that age when my mom started reading them to me in bed, and I loved them.
posted by Safiya at 9:11 AM on August 30, 2016

Seconding Hamster Princess, which is delightful.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, which is nicely episodic and yet ties together neatly, so good for chapter-a-night reading.
Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, by Maggie Stiefvater & Jackson Pierce.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:19 AM on August 30, 2016

Some more series that she may be into are Dear America, Life and Times, and The Royal Diaries. They are historical fiction and vary in quality, but they can really spark an interest in history. The Royal Diaries has lots of princesses.
posted by soelo at 10:23 AM on August 30, 2016

Seconding the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Cute stories, strong female characters, dragons, magic, and lots of references to fairy tales that your daughter might already know.
posted by cabingirl at 10:52 AM on August 30, 2016

Seconding snarkout--if your daughter liked The BFG, she'd probably also like Edward Eager's Half Magic. Young siblings acquire a magic coin that grants wishes...except they're half-wishes, which means that the wishes come true in very odd ways.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter One of the first book in the series.

Eager acknowledged that he was influenced by E. Nesbit, so your daughter might also like Five Children and It, about siblings who discover a wish-granting psammead, or sand fairy. There are two follow up books as well. (The usual caveats apply about reading children's books from decades past; now that I'm an adult, I recall some problematic stuff about the children's interactions with "gypsies" and some uncomfortable Victorian class-related questionableness.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:09 AM on August 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Penderwicks are a fun sibling set of girls. My thoughts on modern classic is Zizou Corder's Lionboy who has healthy parents that are abducted ( nothing too scary so far, but I'm working with a 7 year old).

If you are looking for a 1:1 for Dahl, go with Lemony Snicket's series of unfortunate events. The children are strong, and the family dynamics are cartoonish like Dahl's.

On Dahl, he is on the credits for the script for Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang if you're looking at movies with plucky kids.
posted by childofTethys at 12:25 PM on August 30, 2016

The Never Girls series has been super engaging for my 7yr old. She also really likes Upside Down Magic for some reason.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:15 PM on August 31, 2016

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