Beyond the Magic Tree House: Early expert reader books
This list is a work in progress. It is intended to help those early elementary school age readers whose reading level is quite high for their age. Different children have different sensibilities and interests and I know you can’t always predict what might be scary or problematic to a sensitive child. This list is a personal one, based on my biases and preferences. I welcome any suggestions — of books, booklists, or websites — as I will continue to add to this list. Happy Reading!
For younger readers (5+)
Atwater, Richard and Florence. Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Birdsall, Jeanne Birdsall. The Penderwicks, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and The Penderwicks at Pointe Mouette.
Blume, Judy. The Fudge books (Superfudge, etc.). Because she also writes some wonderful early adolescent books, read the cover/description before just picking one up.
Cleary, Beverly. Ramona books, the Mouse & the Motorcycle books, Henry Huggins books, etc.
Clements, Andrew. Frindle, No Talking, and many others. Great funny school stories.
Dahl, Roald. Matilda. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and many others!
duBois, William Pene. The Twenty-One Balloons.
Eager, Edward . Half-Magic.
Estes, Eleanor. Ginger Pye, Pinky Pye and all other books about the Moffat family.
Funke, Cornelia. Dragonrider. The Thief Lord. Igraine the Brave. Inkheart series is a little darker, so a slightly older reader.
Gannett, Ruth. My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, The Dragons of Blueland.
Jansson, Tove. Finn Family Moomintroll and many other Moomintroll books. From Finland.
King-Smith, Dick. Babe: The Gallant Pig, The School Mouse, and many other animal stories.
Levine, Gail Carson. Ella Enchanted. Love this retelling of the Cinderella tale.
Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking books, Karlsson books, Emil stories.
Lowry, Lois. Gooney Bird Greene books & Anastasia Krupnik books. She also writes wonderful tween and teen books, so read a description before just picking others up.
MacDonald, Betty. Miss Piggle-Wiggle series.
Milne, A.A. Milne. Winnie the Pooh. These are actually longer stories that can be difficult and are so good to read aloud.
O’Brien, Robert C. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.
Pennypacker, Sara. Clementine, The Talented Clementine, and others.
Rylant, Cynthia. The Lighthouse Family series.
Sempe-Goscinny. Nicholas books. Recently child friendly editions translated from French.
Streatfield, Noel. Ballet Shoes, Circus Shoes, and other “shoes” books.
White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan.
For a little older readers (say 7-8+)
Alexander, Lloyd. Everything! Great stories, often based in mythology. The Arkadians (Greek mythology), The Book of Three (first of The Chronicles of Pyrdain, Welsh mythology), The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio . . .
Barnett, Mac. The Brixton Brothers series, beginning with The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity — move over Hardy Boys, for Steve Brixton!
Creech, Sharon. Ruby Holler. Absolutely Normal Chaos. Walk Two Moons. Bloomability. Love That Dog. Hate That Cat.
DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn Dixie, The Tiger Rising, The Tale of Desperaux.
Ferris, Jean. Once Upon a Marigold and Twice Upon a Marigold. Funny and charming fairy tale like stories.
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy. Sport. The Long Secret.
Hale, Shannon. The Goose Girl and the rest of the Chronicles of Bayern series. Rich storytelling based in fairy tales, wonderfully reinvented.
Henkes, Kevin. Olive’s Ocean. Sun and Spoon.
Hiassen, Carl. Hoot, Flush, and Scat.
Ibbottson, Eva. Dial-A-Ghost (funny, not scary ghosts!), Journey to the River Sea, The Beasts of Clawstone Castle, The Secret of Platform 13, and many others!
Konigsburg, E.L. The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is well suited for younger readers. All her books are incredible and beautifully written, but the age range varies. She is an author you can count on and your child can grow with.
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia.
McKay, Hilary. The Exiles series. Dog Friday. One of my absolute favorite series is her Casson family saga, beginning with Saffy’s Angel.
Patron, Susan. The Higher Power of Lucky, Lucky Breaks and Lucky for Good.
Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief and other Percy Jackson books.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. First three books are great for young readers – but the series does grow and characters mature, so I would advise reading along or ahead about book 4 or 5 to make sure your child is ready for it. Or wait! As readers had to do when waiting for the series to come out. As you can see from this list, there are lots of other books to read in between!
Aronson, Marc. If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the secrets of Stonehenge; Sugar Changed the World: a story of magic, spice, slavery, freedom and science; and other first-rate narrative non-fiction.
Bishop, Nic. Frogs, Lizards, Backyard Detectives and many more with amazing photographs.
Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan. Ballet for Martha:the making of Appalachian Spring; Christo and Jean-Claude: through the Gates and beyond; Vincent van Gogh. Excellent art history books.
Jenkins, Steve. Bones, How to Clean a Hippopatamus, and many others.
Murphy, Jim. The Crossing: how George Washington saved the American Revolution; Truce: the day the soldiers stopped fighting; and many other fascinating stories from history.
Sis, Peter. Starry Messenger (Galileo) and The Tree of Life (Darwin).
Scientists in the Field series
George, Kristine O’Connell. Fold me a Poem; Hummingbird Nest: a Journal of Poems; Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems.
Heard, Georgia, ed. Falling down the page.
Hirsch, Robin. F*E*G*: ridiculous [stupid] poems for intelligent children.
Sidman, Joyce. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night; Swirl by Swirl: Patterns in Nature; Ubiquitous: celebrating nature’s survivors, and many other books which combine poetry and science.
Singer, Marilyn. Mirror, Mirror: a Book of Reversible Verse.