It's We Recommend, in which we use our superpowers to find readers the perfect book. Got a kid who needs a recommendation?
Write us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with the age,
reading tastes, favorite books, and any other relevant (or irrelevant)
information, and we'll give it a shot. And really? All the good
suggestions are in the comments.
Ah, wholesomeness. I'm going to come right out and say, first, that this request is slightly complicated. I suppose, in part, because I do not feel that I am an entirely wholesome person. I mean to be, I do—but…well, before I get into it, read on.
I have an 8 year old granddaughter who is reading at roughly a 5th
grade level. She is currently reading the old Nancy Drew books (pre-cell
phone/computer – not the newer ones.) I am trying to find some books
for her that are 5th/6th grade level, but with age appropriate/wholesome
subject matter. Is there such a thing? I don't want anything with
kissing boys, divorced parents or major dysfunction.Thanks for any help you can give.
OK, now while I like to pretend I am a free and easy person, I must admit that I have a whole post dedicated to my horror and outrage at the new Nancy Drew's hot-n-heavy makeout sessions with Ned Nickerson. And while, I believe in freedom and lack of censorship etc, Ned Nickerson? It just…messed with a treasured childhood delusion. Illusion. Something.
On the other hand, avoiding kissing boys, divorced parents and major dysfunction in 5th or 6th grade might also be avoiding the reality of a child's life. On the other other hand (I have SO MANY hands), not everyone who can read at a 5th grade level is IN 5th grade, which is the whole point, is it not? This person is 8, she does not need to read about boy-kissing. Indeed, she probably does not want to. And on yet one last hand, a grandmother should be able to get her grandchild a book that she can talk about with her without blushing, and what makes different grandmother's blush is…well, it's different. Some will want to buy their granddaughters books about boys going through puberty so they can both squeal and scream, others will want to go more of the Adopted Jane route. And truly, I think both are pretty awesome.
So. Whatever shall we suggest so this granddaughter and grandmother can happily read and/or talk together?
What occurs to me mostly are books from the past. The Betsy-Tacy books are wonderful wonderful, and they grow and age with the characters, so they keep up as the readers grow older. But I want to think of something that honors the girl's interest in mysteries, while it also honors her grandmother's wishes as a book giver. Truly, every book I read as a girl (and loved!) is wholesome. Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Ballet Shoes…ah, it goes on and on. But I am going to go with my not always reliable gut here and go with more of an action-oriented sort of girl. A girl who is brave and true and wholesome and fun. That's right, Caddie Woodlawn.
I loved this book as a kid. I don't even know why, I just did, and all these strange small parts of it stay with me.
But I know that you most excellent people who read this blog can maybe do even better, right? Perhaps you know of another wholesome girl detective? Something else? Something to show a grandmother and her 8-year-old granddaughter a really good time. Put it in the comments, please!
27 thoughts on “We Recommend: Something Wholesome”
I don’t know why I’m thinking this, but “Gone Away Lake” maybe? I LOVED that book… I can’t remember what the reading level is, but I’m pretty sure it’s 5th/6th grade. And as I remember, it was wholesome. I still have it somewhere. Or, going even older, “The Phoenix and the Carpet,” or “Five Children and It.” It is possible that the older style of writing will render these more difficult. My memory is fuzzy. “Caddie Woodlawn” is an A-1 choice though. Everybody loves Caddie. In a similar redhead vein, early Anne of Green Gables?
If she likes mysteries being solved by a dynamic young girl in an old-fashioned setting, she might try the Theodosia books by Robin LaFevers. The mystery-solving is mixed in with Egyptology and magic, which may or may not fit this particular girl’s tastes, but they’re fun, light-hearted books with plenty of adventure. And definitely no kissing.
Enola Holmes! Theodosia! Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place! The Sisters Grimm! (My enthusiasm is getting the better of me but I love all these books.)
How about the Famous Five? Plus the Bobbsey Twins and Peter Abrahams’ Echo Falls series?
Oh oh oh! And — I can’t believe I didn’t think of these — Edward Eager’s books. HALF MAGIC, SEVEN-DAY MAGIC, MAGIC BY THE LAKE, KNIGHT’S CASTLE, THE WELL-WISHERS, etc. They’re utterly delightful, wholesome, funny, clever, adventurous, with engaging young characters getting in and out of various scrapes as they try to use some chance-met magical artifact (or just their own ingenuity) to solve problems.
My first thought was Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Love that book!
Anything by Elizabeth Enright! And also (as always) The Penderwicks.
And I second Understood Betsy. Basically, any of the things that were recommended for my own then-8-yr-old a couple of years ago, in this very blog. http://bit.ly/d5sSX4
How about Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett–a mystery, set in modern times, and wholesome enough for an eight year old, as I remember.
I think the list of Newbery winners would provide many possibilities. And I completely agree with those who mentioned books by Elizabeth Enright and Edward Eager.
I’m going to have to disagree about The Echo Falls series. I love those books, but there is quite a lot of dysfunction, and I think the grandmother would object.
All of a Kind Family! And The Egypt Game! Please forgive my enthusiasm, but I love this topic. Another great choice is Meet the Austin’s.
My daughter is almost 8 and can read far above her grade level, so I sympathize! Here are some of the books she’s read and enjoyed:
– “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” and “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth” by E.L. Konigsberg. Both of these involve a mystery of some kind.
– “The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel” by Ellen Raskin. (Would love to share “The Westing Game,” but the themes are a little more adult.)
– “Ginger Pye” and “Pinky Pye” by Eleanor Estes. She hasn’t read any of the Moffatt series yet, but I think she’ll like them when we get there.
– “I Was a Rat” by Philip Pullman.
– “The Mysterious Benedict Society” and its sequels by Trenton Lee Stewart.
Are the Cam Jansen books too easy?
I recommend the Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson and the Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald. I loved them at that age.
I can’t really think of any mysteries, but maybe the Penderwicks, or The Railway Children.
I loved Caddie Woodlawn! A book that felt similar: “Girl of the Limberlost”.
Also by Blue Balliett and great: Well Wished.
For mysteries, I tried the boxcar children and the Encyclopedia Brown books. Actually surprisingly readable are the Sherlock Holmes stories, but she may need another year or two for those.
Many fantasy books are very wholesome though she may still be a bit young: the Dealing with Dragons series (Patricia Wrede), the Tamora Peirce books (Alanna series, Wild Magic series), also Phillip Pullman; Harry Potter?
I read the Trixie Belden mystery series at the same age as I read theNancy Drews.
I’m going to support a bunch of what’s been suggested: Caddie Woodlawn is GREAT, Anne of Green Gables, All of a Kind Family (might be too easy), The Saturdays, and of course Meet the Austins. Also, the Little House books are pretty great and wholesome, and Lois Lenski had some books that I think are not too young for this age… one about a flood, and Prairie Girl (they may be hard to find anymore).
And, let’s not forget E.B. White: Charlotte, and Stuart, and the Trumpet of the Swan. These books were written before levels existed, so they have many layers of understanding to offer a young reader. Heck, I still get a lot out of them after 40+ years and multiple re-readings.
If she’s an animal type girl, how about The Wind in the Willows? And Watership Down, for that matter?
This is my FAVORITE topic, can you tell?
What about A Wrinkle in Time? I don’t think there is any kissing. And? I LOVE THAT BOOK!
Definitely Trixie Belden! They have the mystery element, they’re almost outrageously wholesome, and they’re fun.
I can’t remember the reading levels of these, but what about Matilda or James and the Giant Peach?
Also, on the mystery vein, there is another old series similar to Nancy Drew: the Cherry Ames series. I can’t remember exactly how age appropriate they would be for an 8 year old, but they were published from the 40s through the 60s, so they’re pretty wholesome. They’re about a young, mystery-solving nurse.
Yes to so many that have already been proposed (Enright, Eager, Birdsall, Taylor, Wrinkle in Time and sequels)- and the Enola Holmes books or Trixie Belden (the first 5 anyway). We had the same problem re books that were more advanced in reading but did not have “YA type issues” (drugs, divorce, death,sex).
My Side of the Mountain (and sequels)
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
The Mad Scientists’ Club
What Katy Did (and sequels)
Tom’s Midnight Garden
The Wicked Enchantment (Benary Isbert)
The Children of Green Knowe (and sequels)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
My 10 year old daughter, who likes much the same kind of stuff, recommends both Narnia and Wildwood.
Over Christmas we read “Nancy and Plum” which is a non-Mrs. Piggle Wiggle children’s book by Betty Macdonald. Not nearly as funny as her other books but deeply satisfying in a way that reminded me of Matilda and A Little Princess but cozier.
Oh my God, this list brings back such good memories. E. L. Konigsberg! Ellen Raskin!
Reading Watership Down right now for the first time as an adult and I think it might be a touch terrifying and dysfunctional for this particular case… I don’t think I’d realized that the thrust of the story is that they need to find females to mate with.
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong is an absolutely lovely story that we all found completely compelling. We also have the audio of it that Chinaberry put out, which is simply fantastic.
I read The Penderwicks with my 7 year old daughter, and while she liked the first one, the second involved quite a lot of boy-troubles with the 11 year old character (which seemed a little young to me!). Anyhow, my daughter lost interest in them, and I felt like I was introducing her romantic subjects too early.
I loved Trixie Belden. The Dana Girls are fun, too. Don’t forget the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Judy Bolton, Meg Duncan and Cherry Ames.