30 Best Books for Elementary Readers (page 3)

30 Best Books for Elementary Readers

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based on 31 ratings
Updated on Apr 17, 2014

Fourth Grade

Hint: Big kids have vistas that are expanding; give them historical fiction to imagine the past, and fantasy to imagine the future.

  1. D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Parin D’Aulaires (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1992) The definitive guide to Greek mythology for children, these high-octane adventures are accentuated by full-page illustration.
  2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2007) If Hugo can repair the robot-like "automaton" rescued from a fire, he feels sure its metal hand will write a note from his departed father, conveying a plan to keep him safe.  Set in and out of the sewers of Paris, the cinematic quality of this novel reinvents the fiction genre for a generation of visually literate children.
  3. City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2003) The generator that provides the life-force for the city has been running well for hundreds of years, creating a society that is ambivalent and content, few venturing into the darkness that envelopes the city's perimeter. But the flickering lights indicate that it may be time to generate some new ideas, and fast! A fantastic underground world is fully realized in this cliffhanging, heart-pumping sci-fi fantasy that even people who don't like sci-fi fantasy will enjoy, and serves as a great springboard into ecological discussion.
  4. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Laurel Leaf, 1998) The Danish Resistance helps a family escape capture by the Nazis, with children playing a major role even in the most terrible of situations. (For kids who still have questions, a strong follow-up is Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy, based on the author’s aunt’s experience of survival in the Lodz ghettos.)
  5. The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain (HarperCollins Children's Books , 1990) Four creepy wishes are granted to four small-town folk, no trade-backs, no-nothing-backs.  This formalistically flawless story sends shivers up a reader’s spine.

Other Authors:  Kate DiCamillo, Dan Gutman,  Seymour Simon, Gail Carson Levine, John Bellairs

Fifth Grade

Hint: Non-fiction is real reading, too!  Mix in magazines, cookbooks, the sports pages and biography to make reading a real-world activity and not just homework, and to keep reluctant readers in the swim.

  1. King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak (Algonquin Books, 2004)A boy king attempts to run a country of children. Whether Matt is attempting a new reform involving the distribution of chocolate to all of his citizens, running to do battle on a war-torn front under a false name while a lifelike doll reigns in his stead, arranging for his population to attend summer camp or on a diplomatic mission to the land of the cannibals, every chapter ends with a cliffhanger.  In my opinion, one of the best children’s books of all time. 
  2. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (Scholastic Inc, 2002) A larger-than-life hero confronts racism while living on the street.  This story of a boy’s quest for family without a color line has amazing heart. 
  3. A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick, 2006) Living as the daughter in a family of spinster spiritualists, Maud Flynn is being preened to play the part of a ghost child scheduled to appear in staged seances in order to bilk a bereaved millionairess of her money. Detailed, descriptive writing delivers the reader to this weird world; we can practically smell the antiquity of the room, see the dust mites floating in the light from the ragged damask curtains that shroud a place out of time, and feel the stormy turmoil of Maud's own awakening as a moral person.
  4. Best Shorts:  Favorite Short Stories for Sharing by Avi and Carolyn Shute (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) The collection is just brilliant, pulse-perfect and page-turning. It includes Louis Untemeyer's "Dog of Pompeii" about a pet who gives his all to save a blind boy during a volcanic eruption, "Rogue Wave" by Theodore Taylor which will leave readers as breathless as if they were watching any movie on the big screen, ghostly stories, classic stories, multicultural stories... It's one of those rare books that makes anyone who reads it a better person, and anyone who reads it aloud a better teacher.
  5. The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois (Puffin Books, 2001) Professor William Waterman Sherman plans to spend his retirement crossing the Pacific in his hot-air balloon, but instead comes down on a volcanic island inhabited by inventors and gourmets.  A truly imaginative story that will have children’s senses of possibility flying high.

Authors: Eva Ibbotson, Lois Lowry, Brian Jacques, Karen Cushman, Pam Munoz Ryan

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