We Recommend—Get This Girl Something to Read, Fast!

This feature, in which we recommend books based on what you tell us
in an email, is going to be around throughout our summer vacation. I am
trying to catch up on all the kind people who have been patiently
waiting for a recommendation.  If you have specific questions, needs,
or desires (my child is a reluctant reader who loves carnage but hates
cats) send it to us here,
and we will do our best to recommend the right book for you. And, as
always, please don’t hesitate to put in your own recommendations!

We got an email from the mother of a 9-year-old girl who reads like crazy, and is desperate for more more more. She loved Harry Potter and the Narnia books; she reads at a very high level, but (her mother at least) isn't ready for more adult/teen themes. She also loved The Wind in the Willows, the Archie Comics (go figure), and declined the Little House books as well as the Hobbit. No interest.
So what's a girl to do?
I think, this:

Watership

I thought of other books, which I would also send her way: the Warriors series (which is, uh, similar in aim and theme, I think); Beastquest, Animorphs, and in no small measure, The Golden Compass series (which is truly amazing but also intense), but this book is so completely amazing and was there before anyone else, and I think it's just great. I hope it holds her for a bit. And please, don't hesitate to chime in with your own picks.

26 thoughts on “We Recommend—Get This Girl Something to Read, Fast!

  1. I think maybe Bunnicula and it’s sequels? What about Judy Blume? I can’t wait to try your recommendations with my 8-year-old! Or, truthfully, I can’t wait to read your recommendations!

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  2. What about Patrica C. Wrede’s dragon series (Dealing With Dragons, etc.)? Or, if it’s the Britishness she likes, how about E. Nesbit’s Psammead series (Five Children and It, etc.) or Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series?

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  3. Anything by Diane Wynne Jones…
    Joan Aiken
    Edward Eager
    Chuck and Danielle by Peter Dickinson (it’s not magic but it’s very funny)
    China Mieville’s Un-Lun-Dun…wonderful book

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  4. The Gregor the Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins? Both my son (a few years ago) and daughter (now) love those. Also The City of Ember series.

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  5. Sorry for the double-comment, hit post too soon:
    How about “A Wrinkle in Time” and the others in that series. Those will also set her up with an author to stick with as she gets older and is ready for the teen (and eventually adult) themes, because L’Engle is so prolific and covers the whole spectrum.
    Actually at this age she’s probably ready to enjoy L’Engle’s Austin books, which I gather have been packaged as “The Austin Chronicles”. Amazon lists them as for ages 9-12, and my favorite thing about L’Engle is her ability to tackle the big important questions that young smart kids love to think about, but she does it without having to make the books inappropriate for the sensitive and sheltered among us.

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  6. I would give Bone to this child, probably rather than the 6yo boy in the other post. My 9yo loves them! Also what about the Spiderwick chronicles? My daughter found them a bit scary but she is quite sensitive – she was liking them up until she got freaked out.

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  7. Amen to Watership Down. And keep on pushing The Hobbit.
    In the meantime, how about Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain? Eric Linklater’s The Wind on the Moon might be good too. And if she likes Narnia and Harry Potter she might enjoy (at least bits of) T.H.White’s The Sword in the Stone.

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  8. I loved Watership Down so much as a child, and there’s a part of me that is still amazed every time I think of it. (I found it in the library and somehow didn’t put together the cover picture, so I had an impression that it was about a boat and spent the entire book shocked.)
    Most of the other books that were recommended were favorites of mine too–Narnia, 5 Children and It, A Wrinkle in Time. But some I’ve never heard of, and others I’ve heard of but never read. Now that I see them all suggested along with books I loved so much, I’m definitely going to check them out!
    I don’t know if she’d enjoy them (they’re not as fast-paced as Harry Potter), but I loved the entire Oz series. And in a completely different vein, I also collected all the Trixie Belden books. I know the books aren’t really similar, but I’m someone who enjoyed these other stories and those too, so it’s a thought.
    I’m really enjoying the recommendations–if not for my kids necessarily, then for me!

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  9. I always recommend Artemis Fowl to children who love YA fantasy. It’s about a child genius from a crime family. It’s funny, smart, and Artemis grows as a person over the course of the series. Authored by Eion Colfer. Good books.
    I would like to second the Lloyd Alexander books. Any decent library should have the whole set. They are classics.
    The nine year old might find that older books suit her reading level better. We expected our children to be better readers many years ago. Older books will still have children’s themes but challenge her reading skills more. IOW, the Oz books ought to be perfect. 😉
    It’s an issue I’ve run into with my children. They read above the standard grade level and hit “adult” reading level well before they want or need to be reading adult books.

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  10. First, I hated the Golden Compass books. Just throwing that out there.
    Second, I totally concur with L’Engle. Anything she wrote is pure genius. Also, try From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Loved that one. Also, skip right over the Hobbit and read the trilogy. I hated The Hobbit and it took me years to read the rest because of it.
    Also, I have a suggestion for another series for you: What was that book I read as kid? For starters, I read a book about a girl who lived next to witches and had to rescue her baby brother from then because they wanted his baby fat for a spell. One of the witches was named Mrs. Tingle. I would love to re-read it.

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  11. I thought you were describing *my* nine year old until you got to “rejected Little House.” Also I haven’t written to you.
    My daughter has been through many of the books mentioned here and loved most of them. We haven’t tried Tolkein, though.
    I just read (months after she did) The View From Saturday, by E. L. Konigsburg, the same author as Mixed Up Files, and it is a fascinating portrait of four smart, thoughtful sixth graders.
    I second many of the suggestions, especially Redwall, D.W. Jones, the Warrior cats. For voracious readers (and their book-locating parents), finding a good new series, with each book having hundreds of pages, is a huge win.
    Also Gregor, and the Children of the Lamp, and Lloyd Alexander.

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  12. I second the Redwall recommendation – especially for voracious readers, that series goes on for an eternity and I think they are still being published.
    I also LOVE Watership Down and the Secret of Nihm

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  13. A lot of good books are already recommended (Edward Eager- I’d start with Half Magic or the Thyme Garden and any of the Wrede books) so I will add some that have been overlooked so far:
    Tamora Pierce (the Page series, not the other Tortall books that skew older)
    The Witch Family
    Once Upon a Marigold
    Tom’s Midnight Garden
    The Diamond in the Window (sound familiar?)
    The Children of Greene Knowe
    The Castle in the Attic
    Some of the Pratchett titles are for younger readers too like The Wee Free Men
    Some of Eva Ibbotson’s titles are a good choice: Island of the Aunts, Which Witch
    These are not fantasy but she might like them:
    Spiderweb for Two or Gone Away Lake
    Baby Island

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  14. Oh another one- Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor. I liked this a lot and there is a sequel too. Some of the titles I suggested above are the beginning of series (Once Upon A Marigold) or at least have sequels.

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  15. Seconding Wee Free Men (@ChrisinNY:I think Pratchett holds up much better than McCaffrey, although I loved the Harper Hall trilogy to distraction when I was 9.). If Wee Free Men works out, she’s got lots of material, too, as he’s been prolific. (His adult books are pretty manageable for the over-12 set, too, I think, if you’ve got an interested reader.)
    Also, Daniel Pinkwater has some great young adult books–Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars and Lizard Music are both ones I remember with great joy.

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  16. Wow! Some of these books I haven’t heard of or thought of since I was about 9 years old myself. Gone away Lake, The Children of Green Knowe, The Witch Family… I loved those books, but I’d completely forgotten they existed.
    Definitely the Lloyd Alexander Chronicles of Prydain, and the Edward Eager books (though I recently reread Half Magic and was struck by a few bits of dated and racist language). I think The Dark is Rising is too dark for a nine year old? I found them very scary at 13 or so.
    What about the Ruth Chew books (The Trouble with Magic, The Wednesday Witch…). They may be out of print. Oh! And The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley. Ella Enchanted. Fly By Night. And a precocious reader in my second grade class loved the Anybodies series (“by N.E.Bode”), though I thought they were not that awesome.

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