Book Recommendations

Does anybody have recommendations for Audible books for a 5-year-old with a 9-year-old’s vocabulary? We are looking for longer books (250 pages or so). Ideally, they should be narrated in a standard US accent. A milder British accent is OK but nothing too hardcore.

If you are not into books on tapes, think about regular books. What did you enjoy reading at 8 or 9? We prefer girl protagonists.

We’ve done all of the Disney princess books already. Many, many times. She liked JK Rowling’s The Christmas Pig, even if I didn’t. Done some Kipling and the myths of Ancient Greece. Now she plays Zeus and Hephaestus with her Dad all the time.

I heard there’s a book called “Green Gables.” Is that any good? Or is it too early? She has a 9-year-old vocabulary but a 5-year-old mind. So no unseemly realities of life for now. For instance, I think she might just be able to do some Dickens vocabulary-wise but she won’t enjoy the stories.

44 thoughts on “Book Recommendations

  1. I liked the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series but I started on it when I was about 10. Later in the series Anne gets married. It’s all very wholesome but might be too mature for a 5 years old. Another one like that was ‘Pollyanna’. It’s about an orphaned girl who goes to live with some stern family members and infects everyone with her optimism. I think I read it when I was something like 7 or 8.

    My kids enjoyed the “Magic Tree House’ series when they were that age. I have to admit, it was enjoyable for me too.

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  2. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, I would start with The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe (book 2). Be warned, however, that there is some violence (the lion is executed but comes back to life), so you will have to judge appropriateness for Clara. Another series that comes to mind is The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The main protagonist is a girl. Be aware that the books were published in 1930ies and 1940ies and are not entirely PC.

    I read Anne of Green Gables somewhere around 10-13 years old and remember to have enjoyed it a lot. I am not entirely sure it would be my pick for a 5-year old. I do remember my parents reading to me Lisa and Lottie by Erich Kastner around that age and loving it, but there is no audiobook for that one.

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      1. You may need to become a children’s book author so that Clara has appropriate things to read.
        I remember being exposed to a lot of books at that age that would by today’s standards be considered inappropriate. Pippi Longstocking is one of those that today’s parents either love or want to ban… I do think though that Mary Poppins by PL Travers may be a good option, that is another classic that I remember from around that age.

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  3. +1 for Little House books. They’re told from a child’s perspective and the child is very young in the first two. The first book in the One of a Kind Family series would probably work (mom gets sick in the second one). My kids enjoyed the first Harry Potter book at that age. Winnie the Pooh (the real AA Milne one, not Disney). The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Ramona and Beezus books by Beverly Cleary.

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  4. My daughter read a few of the Roald Dahl books when she was about that age. Some books are quite dark but she liked Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a couple of others.

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  5. I vote for Chronicles of Narnia. My kids loved them. There’s an audio version with all British readers (including Kenneth Branagh, Jeremy Northam, and Patrick Stewart), but none of them are difficult for American English speakers to understand. (C.S. Lewis sounds better with a British accent anyway.)

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    1. I vote for Heidi as well. I grew up on the movie version, but the book is much better. The same is true for Pinocchio and Peter Pan — the books are much better than the movie versions. All have advanced vocabulary but are appropriate for a young child.

      The Secret Garden is good. I also loved A Little Princess by the same author.

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  6. I would recommend looking at nineteenth and early -to -mid- twentieth century children’s literature. Even when t’s simple, the language tends to be quite elevated and lovely. I think I was a similar reader to Klara (though perhaps not quite as advanced) but had to balance literary skill with being a sensitive child.

    Here are some books that I liked (some are repeats from other readers):

    1) A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young (poetry), Now We are Six (poetry), Winnie the Pooh, and the The House at Pooh Corner

    I imagine your first impulse might be to think that the Pooh books are too “babyish”. But the original Milne Pooh stories are really quite lovely. Simply written but something that I can still personally enjoy as an adult. Also, the two poetry books are great intros to poetry in my opinion. They are the first poetry books that I read from cover to cover as a child. Reading poetry is a skill and hard to learn. And I think the Milne poems are great: attentive to language and rhythm but featuring engaging subjects.

    2) P.L Travers, Mary Poppins books.
    There are four main Poppins books. They are great. I just loved these when I was about 7 or so and read them over and over. They are well-written and engaging and just really well done.

    3) Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass
    These are just delightful. This is something that Klara can also return to as she gets older. Carroll plays a lot with language in brilliant ways that small children might not notice but that are fun for adults and older children.

    4) France Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (originally published as a short story called “Sarah Crewe”), The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy

    I know you mentioned that you like A Little Princess before. If so, Burnett’s other books will appeal.

    5) Andrew Lang’s “Color” Fairy Books
    Are you familiar with these? These are collections of fairy tales written/recorded during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Every book has a color. So it’s Blue, Yellow, Lilac, Green etc etc. There are 12 in all. The language is really sophisticated but, at basis, they are fairy tales and designed to captivate children. As small warning: some of these are scary. For instance, it’s the original Cinderella story which results in the stepsisters eyes getting pecked out as punishment for their cruelty. So you might have to monitor these a bit. But they are magical and fascinating and have beautiful illustrations. I treasured these books and still have them to this day. Here is a link to the exact set that I own–it’s reproduction of the Victorian printings. https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=30724759459&cm_mmc=ggl-_-COM_Shopp_Rare-_-product_id=bi%3A%2030724759459-_-keyword=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIqOedvcLr9AIVFa6WCh3PsAUYEAQYASABEgKus_D_BwE

    6) Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables books.
    These are indeed wonderful. I treasured all these books and they follow Anne from being a young child to getting married, to having children of her own. The first half of the first book would probably be perfect for Klara. Anne is a child still and gets into all sort of funny “scrapes”. But that first book does end with the death of her adopted father (he is elderly though). It made me very very sad when I read this as a child (I was maybe 9 or 10). Anne does find solace in religion. So it might spark a productive conversation. But it might be a little too sad for her for now? But definitely something to get for Klara at some point.

    7) Joanna Spyri, Heidi
    This is a true classic and features a girl who loves being outside and has plenty of pluck. If Klara hasn’t read it already, I feel like this will check lots of boxes for you.

    8) Louis May Alcott, Little Women/ Little Men.
    I think I remember you commenting that you didn’t like Little Women. But this was an absolute favorite for me. There is the section where Beth dies. So maybe it will be a bit too sad? But Little Women has two volumes (they were originally two separate books). And the first volume has no deaths at all and is all about young women and their relationships with one another. In my opinion, the first volume is wonderful for a child. It’s also quite “Christmassy”– perfect for this time of a year. Little Men is also great but has another sad death scene.

    9) Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
    I know that you don’t much like animals. But this is really a great novel. This is another one that has some sad parts. (A horse named Ginger dies and all the animals are abused at some point.) But it has a happy ending and the importance of kindness is emphasized.

    10) George MacDonald, The Light Princess and The Princess and the Goblin
    Macdonald was a contemporary and friend of Lewis Carroll’s. These books have a lot of the same whimsy that you find in Carroll’s books. I was particularly enraptured by The Light Princess when I was little. I found it dramatic– but in a good way.

    For what it’s worth, I loathed The Little House on the Prairie books when I was little. Haha. Not sure why. I found them deadly boring. I remember that we were assigned to read the first Little House book to read on our own in 5th grade. And it was one of the few times that I found reading to be a chore. Maybe living in the Midwest will make them more interesting to Klara. And lots of little girls love them. But they were a thumbs down for me. I also never quite got into the Narnia books. There was a certain darkness to them that didn’t quite appeal to me as a child. The books function fairly explicitly as religious metaphors (though the religious valence would likely escape a small child). But maybe they will appeal to you on those grounds?

    I hope this helpful. I love nineteenth and early-twentieth century children’s literature. It’s a bit of a sub-specialty for me. So I can talk about this for days.

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  7. I really recommend The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

    Wikipedia summary: Set in an alternative history of England, it tells of the adventures of cousins Bonnie and Sylvia and their friend Simon the goose-boy as they thwart the evil schemes of their governess Miss Slighcarp, and their so-called “teacher” at boarding school, Mrs. Brisket.

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  8. I don’t know if they have been translated to English, but in Spain we had “Celia” written by Elena Fortún. I think they are age appropriate. It is a total classic.
    I second Heidi. I loved Roald Dahl’s books, but I think she is still young for them.
    I remember fondly the Frog and Toad series, Wind in the Willows and Little Bear. They are all British classics. Could be right age or a bit simple, I’m not sure. Also the complete series of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. Also Stuart Little. The story of Peter Rabbit if she hasn’t read it yet. Oh, and all the Paddington Bear books, another British one there. I see now they love animal themed books.

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      1. We tried by its narrated in a heavy British accent. Why do they hire actors most English speakers can’t understand? Even I didn’t get much of it. And I’m so good at understanding accented English that people ask me to talk to Chinese and African colleagues for them because nobody else can understand.

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  9. There’s the Series of Unfortunate Events. Books by Roald Dahl, Roddy Doyle, E.B. White. I started reading the Harry Potter books around age 8. Also Magic Treehouse series, Animal Ark series, and Unicorns of Balinor. My dad recommended The Hobbit, but that has a decidedly male cast. The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White may also be a good choice. I started reading Redwall around age 8 — but that was also when I started rapidly jumping reading levels, so that may not be a good choice for Klara. Alice in Wonderland would be an excellent choice — pretty much anything by Lewis Carroll has a lot of wordplay.

    A coworker recommended Junie B. Jones series, as well as Judy Moody. Junie B. Jones starts in Kindergarten but the reading level is exactly what you’re looking for.

    Anne of Green Gables is good, but the whole series at once might not be age-appropriate. The first book should be fine, and so should any books in which Anne is a child. I haven’t read the whole series, though, so I don’t know which ones — as far as I recall, the first and the fourth she is definitely a kid.

    She may like Chronicles of Narnia, as well, which many kids read when they’re a little older.

    Unfortunately I have zero experience with Audible — I’ve never liked audiobooks and prefer to read aloud.

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    1. I am reading Series of Unfortunate Events with my seven-year-old. There is a running gag where the author uses some advanced vocabulary word and then explains it within the context of the series.

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      1. I will say that it’ll be difficult to find books that are 250+ pages. However, the shorter ones sometimes have very long series. Magic Treehouse and Junie B. Jones in particular have a lot of books.

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  10. My kids really enjoyed Alice in Wonderland at around that age. You might try Joanna Spyri’s Heidi? (I sigh at how Victorian it is, now, but I loved it when I was a kid). Anne of Green Gables is a very content-safe series, but she might not “get” the later books. Earlier ones probably fine.

    I second the Little House books, as long as you skip the last two where Louisa is all grown up, and she might like Betsy-Tacy and Charlotte’s Web.

    That age is tough, for a kid with a big vocabulary. My kids absolutely loved AA Milne’s Pooh stories and the more popular Beatrix Potter stories (i.e. Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin, Two Bad Mice, Jeremy Fisher…): they’re not linguistically impoverished, which is nice. I’m not sure, though, how much of their small-child enjoyment was dependent on the illustrations. Pooh would work without the pictures, but maybe not Potter.

    My favorite books when I was very young were all compilations of fairy tales: we had a bunch of the Andrew Lang varicolored fairy books, a Princess-stories collection that included George MacDonald’s delightful story “The Light Princess”. We had Perrault’s tales, but I really dislike those as an adult (as a kid? I liked them). We had an antique volume of English Fairy Tales, but I can’t figure out if it was the Jacobs or the Steele book. If you ever run across the Steele version with Arthur Rackham’s illustrations… it is a treasure. I have read all the Clever Gretchen stories to my kids, and they loved them (which is funny– all the Clever Gretchen stories have girls as the main characters, and I’m not sure the boys ever noticed).

    Edith Nesbit (Melisande is delightful, but I can’t think of any of her books we didn’t enjoy), and George MacDonald’s children’s stories (At the Back of the North Wind, The Princess and the Goblin, The Day Boy and the Night Girl) are great, and contain nothing inappropriate, but may be too complex for age five. In my head I group those with The Water Babies, and I think I read all of them somewhere between eight and twelve. Ditto for Wind in the Willows.

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  11. Such serious and old-fashioned suggestions.
    Let her laugh with the wonderful English version of the Geronimo Stilton series (Italian). There are many volumes and her cheese vocabulary will explode. There is a girl protagonist series featuring Thea but haven’t read those. Girl books are very hard to find until age 9. Aru Shah would be good for an actual 9 year old. The “Squirm”series is also good if she is familiar with Florida terrain. She might like Waterhouse set in Scotland or Dying to Meet You by two sisters if she wants a simple entry to a mystery genre. The “Magick” series by Angie Sage is the new and better version of Harry Potter.

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  12. The first 1-2 Tiffany Aching books, by Terry Pratchett (later ones can get quite sad when, f’rex, the main character’s mentor dies; for your sins, Clarissa, the series is a female bildungsroman done in fantasy lit :P). Pratchett is extremely playful with language (a random quote I got by 2 minutes of Google that is quite close to the base level of wittiness of the books: “‘Witches have animals they can talk to, called familiars. Like your toad there.’
    ‘I’m not familiar,’ said a voice among the paper flowers. ‘I’m just slightly presumptuous.’ “) and while the rest of the Discworld series would work better for a teenager than a child, the Tiffany Aching subseries is lighter 🙂

    +1 vote for Mary Poppins

    Michael Ende’s “Momo” is one of those classics I’m amazed nobody suggested yet

    I loved Anne of Green Gables as a kid, but it’s more of an end-of-childhood book than a middle-of-childhood one. Also for when she gets older, Catherynne Valente’s “Fairyland” series is lovely.

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  13. Loved ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series, but wouldn’t recommend for a 5 years old.

    Heard that Tove Jansson’s series about the Moomins were really good.

    Loved as a kid Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi and Wizard of Oz series.

    Also loved Gianni Rodari’s “The Adventures of the Little Onion” (Приключения Чиполлино).

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  14. I LOVED The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, all 5 books of it and think Klara may love them too.

    I read wiki and turns out I was not alone to appreciate those books even as an adult: “the final volume in the chronicles, The High King, crowned the series by winning the Newbery Medal for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”.”

    A blogger I trust said that Diana Wynne Jones’ books for kids were good.

    Suppose Klara is still small for Kipling’s Maugli series?

    Two other classics (haven’t read myself) are Charlotte’s Web and The Classic Adventures Of Paddington Bear.

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  15. About Anne, I’ve given this graphic novel to a half dozen 6 to 11 year old girls, and it has been universally and enthusiastically praised by every one of its recipients: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/anne-of-green-gables-brenna-thummler/1125794145?ean=9781449479602

    I started reading with Hardy Boys, and also read Nancy Drew. My 16 year old niece loves Nancy so much she dressed up as her at Halloween last year. There are a whole slew of books that are probably obvious, but maybe not, so I’ll list them anyway: CS Lewis Narnia (Lion, Witch Wardrobe – Lucy is the heroine, there’s at least one female protagonist in every one of the seven Chronicles), JRR Tolkien the Hobbit (I was read this as a bedtime story in1st grade, and began reading it myself under the covers by flashlight because I couldn’t get enough of it), anything by EB White (see Charlotte’s Web). I think that these three writers in particularly taught me to write – their prose is transcendently fine, and it will form any intelligent kid’s mind who reads it.

    Also good: Anything by Beverly Cleary, all the Cricket in Times Square books, Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, The Wizard of Oz books, the Frog & Toad (anything by Arnold Lobel) and Mercer Mayer’s A Boy a Frog and his Dog picture book series, the Wind in the Willows, the Green Knowe books (the first one Children of Green Knowe is extraordinary if a bit spooky and sad)..The Borrowers, The Amazing Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, Pippy Longstocking are all also great, if a bit ahead of her maturity level right now.. In a couple few years she’ll be ready for them.

    In two or three years (3rd/4th grade) there is a bunch of historical fiction that I read at that age with female protagonists like Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Witch of Blackbird Pond (I LOVE both these last two books), Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry.. One of the best books ever written is Where the Red Fern Grows, but this book is very sad in a way a five year old would not appreciate – but when she is 9 or 10, it’s a must read. Similar to this, but more terrifying than sad but absolutely classic for a bright circa ten year old is Watership Down. Also there are “boy books” like Johnny Tremain, My Side of the Mountain, and Rifles for Watie that are favorites of mine, that I bet you’ll also appreciate. I’m from Maine, and a true wilderness survival story that she’ll love is Donny Fendler, Lost on a Mountain in Maine. Also, a must read for everyone, not just children relevant to what is happening in the world right now is Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM. Definitely check that one out when she gets to be about ten. In similar vein, Lord of the Flies is also an eventual must. “I have the conch” is one of my family’s idioms.

    There are horror series for middle school kids that I love. Macabre, but not too much. I think that sort of stuff is great.

    You cannot go wrong reading anything on the Caldecott or Newberry award lists. I bet the winners the past ten years have been getting woke, but anything before that is guaranteed to be worth your time.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caldecott_Medal

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newbery_Medal

    Also, this is one of my favorite things to read to five and six year olds, Matilda by Hilaire Belloc:

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  16. Also, again for a third/fourth grader or so: Tuck Everlasting and Bridge to Terabithia. Both sad, but beautiful.. I read both of these in 2nd grade.

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