Farmer Boy


Farmer Boy

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Harper & Row: 1933

372 pp. – 29 chapters

Age: 6 + (read to); 7+ (independent reading)

Interests: pioneer life, farming, horses, country life, American history

Also by this author: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake

Next: Caddie Woodlawn, Sarah Plain and Talland picture books – Abraham Lincoln, Ox-Cart Man



Little House in the Big Woods


Little House in the Big Woods

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

HarperCollins, 1932

238 pp. – 13 chapters

Age: 6 + (read to); 7+ (independent reading)

Interests: history, pioneer life, farming, autobiography, seasons, nature

Also by this author: continuing in the series – Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake

Next: Caddie Woodlawn, Sarah Plain and Talland picture books – Abraham Lincoln, Ox-Cart Man


Caddie Woodlawn



Caddie Woodlawn

by Carol Ryrie Brink

MacMillan: 1935

275 pages, 24 chapters

Age: 6+ (read to); 8+ (independent reading)

Interests: history, American history, farm life, pioneers, siblings, growing up

Also by this author: sequel Magical Melons (aka Caddie Woodlawn’s Family)

Next: picture books – They Were Strong and Good, Abraham Lincoln, Ox-Cart Manchapter books –  Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House on the Prairie series, Anne of Green Gables


The Reluctant Dragon

The Reluctant Dragon

by Kenneth Grahame

originally a chapter within the 1898 novel Dream Days; later published on its own

Holiday House: 1938

1966 edition: 55 pp.

Age: 6+ (read to); 8+ (independent reading)

Interests: dragons, knights, revisionist fairy tales, non-violence

Also by this author: The Wind in the Willows

Next: The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit


The Water-Babies


The Water-Babies

by Charles Kingsley

originally published in 1863

144 pp.

Age: 6+ (read to)

Interests: fairies, magic, animals, nature, religion, bad behaviour

Next: other Victorian fairy stories – The Magic Fishbone (Dickens), The Princess and the Goblin, The Cuckoo Clock, Alice in Wonderland


The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

True Story of the 3 Little Pigs - cover

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

text by Jon Scieszka

illustrations by Lane Smith

New York: Viking Penguin, 1989

28 pp.

Age: 6+

Interests: twisted fairy tales, crime and punishment, wolves

Next: The Three Pigs by David Wiesner (another weird take on the story); The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey (a modern rewrite of a nursery rhyme with lots of crime and violence)

Also by this author and illustrator: The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales; Squids Will Be Squids; Math Curse; Science Verse


Swallows and Amazons, Pigeon Post

Cover of "Swallows and Amazons"photo of Jonathan Cape edition of Arthur Ranso...

Swallows and Amazons

by Arthur Ransome

London: Jonathan Cape, 1930

363 pp.

Pigeon Post


by Arthur Ransome

London: Jonathan Cape, 1936

433 pp.

Age: (read to) 6+, (read independently) 9+

Interests: boats, sailing, camping, adventures, summer vacation, maps, exploring


Top 5: Pre- Harry Potter Reads

As I wrote yesterday, Harry Potter books (and movies) can be pretty scary and intense for younger children. If your child is intrigued by magic and fantasy, but you’re not certain she or he is quite ready for Hogwarts, here are a few fantasy titles they may be more comfortable with.

(Click on the titles to see full reviews.)

Top 5: Beginner Fantasy Chapter Books


1. The Cuckoo Clock by Mrs. Molesworth – age 5+

A very sedate and old-fashioned (1877) story about a girl who visits some magical places and learns to behave herself a little better.

2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – age 5+

Quite different from the movie – a rambling, weird tale with a few scares and dustups along the way. (NB. some violence: see full review.)

3. Half Magic by Edward Eager – age 5+

One of my childhood favourites. This and other titles by Eager are lovely stories about children who come across something magic and mess things up a little. Slightly old-fashioned but charming and full of insight about sibling relations.

4. The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit – age 6+

Snappy and very funny short stories, each about a very unique dragon.

5. The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit – age 6+

Nesbit books like The Enchanted Castle and Five Children and It inspired Edward Eager’s work, and are similarly about children who acquire some kind of magic and mismanage it with amusing or chilling results. This title in particular has one very creepy sequence.

And Two bonus titles… Rather long and wordy, only for the most hardy listeners (and readers).

6. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – age 6+

Find an abridged version if you can. (But NOT a Disney version!) The plot is captivating, but the original novel is a very dense read, and tangled with tangents.

7. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald – age 6+

Goblins living under a mountain plot to kidnap a Princess, but she is aided by the ghost of her great-great-great grandmother and a courageous miner boy. Another very old classic, creepy and intriguing, but a trifle loooong and slow to get going. (Not sure if there are any abridged versions out there.)

As you can tell, my tastes go to the older, classic novels. I must start reading some newer books!

If you have any suggestions for early fantasy books, new or old, please share them!

What Age is Right for Harry Potter?

My six-year-old is loving stories about magic and strange creatures, and it occurred to me that we might be ready to wade into Potter-mania. Maybe. I think. Or maybe I should wait. Isn’t it too scary? Too violent? Too intense?

Fortunately I’ve come across this succinct bit of advice on Commonsense Media re. what ages are best for all the Harry Potter books, movies and games.

Here’s the gist of it… At age 6 or 7 it’s fine to read first book to them aloud (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), and maybe watch the first movie.

After that the books and movies ramp up pretty quickly, agewise. You should check out the link for greater detail, but the last book, and the movies from Goblet of Fire onward are more appropriate for age 11 or 12.

Also included in the article are recommended ages for the various Harry Potter video games.

There really shouldn’t be any rush to put HP into your child’s hands, after all there are many, many fantasy books and movies out there more suitable for ages 5, 6, or 7, titles that are tamer, less violent and scary, and just not so grim. I’m working on a list of these right now, to be posted soon, I hope!

Let me know if you have any suggestions!

The Great Piratical Rumbustification

The Great Piratical Rumbustification & The Librarian and the Robbers

Margaret Mahy, text

Quentin Blake, illustrations

J.M. Dent & Sons, 1978

2 stories: 41 and 18 pages

Age: 6 +

Reading Level: 8 +

Interests: pirates, parties, robbers, libraries, humour

Also by this author: The Dragon of an Ordinary Family, A Lion in the Meadow, The Seven Chinese Brothers, The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.