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Book Lists for preschoolers to young adults

Preschooler List

This is a list for parents who have preschoolers who question everything and miss nothing. Who never shut up from the time they open their eyes in the morning until they throw themselves onto a bed at night. Who need books that will make them think about things in extra-ordinary ways. These are picture books to read to especially inquisitive and observant preschoolers.

Moo, Baa, La La La, Sandra Boynton
The cow says “moo.”  The sheep say “baa.” When the pigs sing “la,la,la” (instead of oinking) the response is “no, no” you say, “that isn’t right.”

Tuesday, David Wiesner
The pictures tell the story of the night the lily pads began to float and what adventures ensued. The ending suggests there might be more going on each Tuesday than a child might suspect.

The Leaf Men, William Joyce
The leaf men live in the trees and represent the kind of pure possibility that can only be dreamt of by the very young and very old.

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, Eugene Trivizas
When the pig gets out his pneumatic drill, the wolves know they’re in trouble.

Poems from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
Rhymes like “Speak roughly to your little boy/And beat him when he sneezes/He only does it to annoy/Because he knows it teases” will delight a child who has already been introduced to any children’s poetry, so much of it from the 19th century. Then, as a bonus, as the child gets older, he can discover the poems Lewis parodied.

The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups, David Wisniewski
Grown-up rule #62: Don’t jump on your bed. Official reasons:  You’ll break it. You might get hurt. The truth: Yes, it’s possible to break your bed if you jump on it. And it’s possible you might get hurt if you fall off….this explanation appears to be torn off at the end of the page and the real reason is revealed with full illustrations on the next page: you might wake up the mattress!

Squids will be Squids, Jon Scieszka
A parody of Aesop’s fables. Our favorite of the morals is this one:  “If you are an ant and are going to dump your best friend for a new one, you should know that Echidna is another name for Spiny Anteater.”

Motel of the Mysteries, David Macaulay
What if we didn’t know what anything in a motel room was for? The illustrations show how ludicrously wrong we might be getting some of the story even with modern archaeological methods.

Grades 1-2 list

This is a list for parents who have kids starting elementary school who question everything and miss nothing. Who never shut up from the time they open their eyes in the morning until they throw themselves onto a bed at night. Who need books that will make them think about things in extra-ordinary ways.

A selection of early reader books to have in the house for especially inquisitive and observant children, in order of presentation:

Bunnicula, Deborah and James Howe
Harold the dog and Chester the cat are suspicious of the newest pet in their family, a bunny who has nocturnal habits and might be draining all the vegetables in the house.

CDB!, William Steig
A word puzzle book–you must read the letters out loud until you can hear the words.  As in the title: see the bee?

Catwings, Ursula K. LeGuin
Mrs. Tabby’s kittens are born with wings and have to learn how to use them and navigate the dangerous world on their own. Eventually, they find that some hands are kind.

The ABZ Book, Shel Silverstein
What happens when you throw an egg at the ceiling or cut daddy’s hair while he is napping? This book suggests hilarious reasons for very bad behavior.

The Vicar of Nibbleswick, Roald Dahl
The new vicar says words backwards when he gets nervous, so it’s hilarious when he exhorts his parisioners to sip the communion wine instead of gulping it (“piss!” he shouts) or when he asks them not to park (krap) right in front of the church.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar
Students are turned into apples for the teacher. A rat disguises himself as a student. There’s always something going on at this school to make you think.

Half Magic, Edward Eager
When the children find a coin that grants half a wish, they have to figure out the logic in order to make the right kind of wish to generate their desired outcome.

Grades 3-5 list
A list of books for especially curious and inquisitive elementary school children, probably in grades 3-5. By the non-necromancer.
Find these books and leave them around your house to keep your especially curious and inquisitive children out of trouble in the real world by keeping them reading about other worlds—historical, natural, and imaginary.

The Witch Family, Eleanor Estes
Two little girls draw a witch and make up stories about her, with the help of a magical spelling bumblebee.

My Side of the Mountain, Jean George
A boy trains a hawk and survives a winter on his own in a hollow tree.

Skellig, David Almond
What has Michael found in a dark corner of a shed at his new house? Does it need help, or does he?

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
Smart kids who don’t fit in learn how to use their gifts to save a world.

The Secret of Platform 13, Eva Ibbotson
An unlikely band of magical and human creatures have only nine days to rescue the prince of a magical island from his kidnapper in London.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth Speare
What does it mean to be called a “witch” in colonial Connecticut?

The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald
Princess Irene and her friend Curdie must outwit the Goblins that threaten her mountaintop home from their caves below.

The Enchanted Castle, E. Nesbit
What is enchanted and what is real? Four children explore an unusual castle and sort it out.

The Giggler Treatment, Roddy Doyle
The Gigglers are about to inflict their “treatment” (dog poo on the shoe) on an adult who they believe has behaved badly towards his children–and his children are trying to save him.

Falling Up, Shel Silverstein
A pig gets a “people-back ride.” A child gets a “remote-a-dad” to control his father.

The Boggart, Susan Cooper
An ancient spirit who delights in practical jokes gets accidentally transported from his castle in Scotland to Toronto, where two children have to help him, despite the constant jokes he plays on them.

Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
Harriet writes down everything she observes in her notebook until it gets lost and her friends discover what she’s been writing.

Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
The crew of the Swallow and the two Ruth-less Amazons start out as enemies but then join forces to patrol the waters around Wildcat island.

The Eagle of the Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff
The son of a soldier in the Roman ninth legion searches for what happened to his father in Britain.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
Two children navigate a mysterious mansion in a wolf-infested countryside, complete with missing parents, villainous caretakers, a faked death and an escape.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler, E.L. Konigsberg
When you run away from home, you have to have a destination; Claudia picks the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she and her brother stay hidden while they do research on something they discover there.

Matilda, Roald Dahl
Matilda is a little girl who is smarter than everyone around her. She uses her intelligence to bring misfortune to those who oppose her, and good fortune to those who are deserving.

Middle School List
A List of the Last Books You May Be Able to Encourage Your Curious and Inquisitive Children To Read (Middle School age–grades 6-8, ages 12-15)
After this, it’s almost impossible to influence their reading choices.
This is the last of a series of recommended books for especially curious and inquisitive children.
I have chosen these books because they’re the ones my own children (one male, one female) liked and responded to best, the books that I credit for helping make them into the interesting young adults they are now. Although this list does contain realistic fiction, it’s heavy on fantasy; I think middle-schoolers need a lot of fantasy to help them get through these difficult years.

The list is presented alphabetically by author, with the title of the first book in a series.

Lloyd Alexander, The Book of Three
First in the Prydain series.

Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls
Anderson excels at characterization; this one casts light on anorexia. You might also consider her novel Speak, a he said/she said situation with a twist, which is that she can’t say.

M.T. Anderson, Feed
What happens when the internet is wired directly into our brains?

Holly Black, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale
Teens are caught in a fight between the Seelie and Unseelie Court.

Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Despite the fact that I hate Card’s financial support of homophobic political action groups, I cannot deny that his story of how a young boy saves the whole world and thereby loses part of his soul is a masterpiece of our time. Highly recommended and available in libraries.

Michael Chabon, Summerland
Young teens find themselves in a world full of Native American and Norse Mythology, Sasquatch, and baseball.

Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl
Artemis is a young and extremely clever criminal with a heart of gold.

Susan Cooper, Over Sea, Under Stone
First in The Dark Is Rising Series.

Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons
13-year-old Sal goes on a road trip with her grandparents to find out the truth about her mother.

Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
After a domestic terrorist attack, innocent American teens defend themselves against Homeland Security.

Elizabeth Janet Gray, Adam of the Road
A 13th-century minstrel travels with a knight.

John Green, An Abundance of Katherines
Colin tries to find an equation to explain/predict love.

Robert Heinlein, The Menace from Earth
In the title story, a girl who lives on the moon teaches an older woman how to fly in low gravity and learns more about her own feelings.

Michael de Larrabeiti, The Borribles
When runaways find their ears have become pointed, they have become Borribles, who are chased by the “woolies” (police) and take on the “Rumbles,” rat-like creatures.

Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea
First in the Earthsea Cycle.

C.S. Lewis The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The first of his books about Narnia.

Lauren Mclaughlin, Cycler
Four days a month, Jill cycles into a boy named Jack.

China Mieville, UnLunDun
In a mirror version of London, an ordinary girl takes up the ungun to save this world from sentient smog.

David R. Palmer, Emergence
Candy travels across the country looking to see if she is the only survivor of a sudden biological war.

Susan Beth Pfeffer, Life As We Knew It
When an asteroid moves the moon closer to earth, a family must learn to survive the effects.

Adam Rex, The True Meaning of Smekday
Eleven-year-old Tip must cooperate with the alien Boov invaders.

Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief
First in his Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series.

Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now
15-year-old anorexic Daisy is sent from Manhattan to live with cousins in an English village. WWIII breaks out while her aunt is in London, and they have to learn to survive on their own.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Is there a middle-school-age kid who hasn’t heard of this one? Let’s be sure.

Louis Sachar, Holes
A boy accused of a crime discovers secrets of the past and atones for a family curse while sentenced to hole-digging at Camp Green Lake.

Neal Shusterman, The Schwa Was Here
The Schwa is a boy no one notices. Eleanor and I prefer Unwind by this author, but Walker argues in favor of The Schwa.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Perhaps the gateway book to The Lord of the Rings? Many people read LOTR first and then go back to read The Hobbit, which is written in a very different style, not necessarily easier.

Scott Westerfeld, Uglies
In a world where everybody gets cosmetic surgery at the age of 16, a young girl finds out what’s involved about in the process of becoming a pretty.

Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber
The first of the Chronicles of Amber

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