Books For Kids (8/13/2015)

Awhile back I did a review of several kids’ books.  Because of the comments and suggestions, I’ve decided to make a dedicated page for those of you interested in reading books (Christian and non-Christian books) to your kids.

The following is a list of books I’ve read aloud to my three boys over the years (you’ll notice many boy themes!).  By reading these books aloud, it allowed me as a parent to 1) enjoy the book along with the kids, 2) “translate” some parts of the book (i.e. difficult words or “PG-13” material), and 3) have good parent-child discussions about the themes in the book.  Feel free to comment, ask a question, or add your own suggestions.

Disclaimers: 1) This is a work in progress, so I will be editing and adding to this list from time to time.  2) Not all of the themes and words in these books are perfectly clean and virtuous; however, with some parental discretion they are suitable for most kids.  3) I had to keep my comments brief because I don’t want to spoil the stories and I want to keep this page short.

Finally, if you click on the cover picture, you’ll be led to Amazon where you can purchase the book in one of several formats (which also contributes to my book fund, thank you very much!).  NOTE: don’t forget that most libraries have ILL service if they don’t carry the following books.

Product DetailsThe kids’ Bible we read through was Catherine Vos’ The Child’s Story Bible.  There are quite a few pretty bad kids’ versions of the Bible out there; this one is not a bad one.  It includes all the major stories of the Bible.  It took us about 5 months to work through it – from Genesis to Revelation.  (FYI, we typically read a Bible story before our other bedtime book.)
Product DetailsThe Wingfeather Saga is a series of books full of adventure, a “good v evil” battle, humor, and great Christian themes.  I did a review HERE.   These are probably some of my kids’ favorite all time books.  NOTE: The fourth and final installment was released in July/August 2014.
Product DetailsJourney Through The Night is the story of a Dutch Christian family that survived the Nazi occupation in the early 1940’s.  It is quite realistic and true to history – and for that reason there are some mature themes that parents will have to “translate” from time to time (i.e. war crimes, drinking, mild language, etc.).  Though I read it to my boys who are a little younger, the optimal age is around 12 or 13.
Shiloh is one of those “boy-and-dog” tales that tugs at the emotions.  It’s been awhile since we read it, so I can’t remember the details.  I think some of the themes were somewhat mature (i.e. there’s a drunk in the story), but it was a good read.
Product DetailsThe Aedyn Chronicles was written by theologian Alister McGrath.  It is quite similar to The Chronicles of Narnia, but with a slightly different twist.   I believe there are more books in this series, but I only read the first book to my kids – and they did enjoy it.
Product DetailsSir Gawain The True is a short medieval story with chivalry, humor, action, and a “moral.”  It is perfect for boys around 8 years old or so.  Though it is pretty short and simple, we really liked it.  In fact, it’s one I highly recommend.
Encyclopedia Brownin case you haven’t heard of it – is about a 10-year-old super detective.  Each book contains short mysteries which kids are encouraged to think about and solve before turning to the back of the book to find the answer.
Product DetailsMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a great book about a mouse family living on a farm.  They have to move before the farmer starts his field work, and the only hope is a group of highly intelligent rats.  The book might sound a bit odd, but it is quite good.
Product DetailsThe Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a hilarious tale of the princes charming (yes, plural).  It is a bit longer and the story has quite a few characters to keep up with, but it is quite funny, exciting, and it even makes a few good points about friendship.  There is some crude humor (sort of like the Shrek movies) and there are references to death, but it is pretty lighthearted and overall pretty clean and worthwhile.
Because of Winn-Dixie is the story about a little girl, a preacher, and a dog.  It is sort of quaint and humorous; my boys liked it but it wasn’t their favorite.  Maybe it’s more for girls?
Product DetailsThe Green Dog is one of those stories about a 10-year-old girl who really wants a dog.  She finally talks her parents into keeping one that mysteriously showed up, and the adventures start right away.  It is a little predictable (for adults anyway), but it is very well written and kids can totally identify with the main characters in this book.
The Guardians of Ga’hoole is a book about owls and good v evil.  My kids really enjoyed the first book, but when we got halfway through the second one they lost interest because it got too detailed and too “owly.”  I agree; it’s a fascinating story, but not gripping enough for me to read the whole series.
Product DetailsThe Summer of the Swans is a book about two kids with “identity issues” (I’m being cryptic here so as not to spoil the story).  They learn a lot of things one summer by watching the swans at the local lake.  There are some themes in this book that make for good discussion.
Product Details My Side of the Mountain is a classic.  It’s a story about a young boy wanting to get out of the city so he goes to the mountains to live off the land.  This story is perfect for boys who like to fish, hike, explore, and dream about the mountains.  Highly recommended.
The Penderwicks is a story about a family and a summer home.  The story includes a divorce, so it might be tough for some younger kids to understand, but my boys did like it and I found it worthwhile.
Product DetailsGooseberry Park is a great story about four animal friends – a dog, a hermit crab, a bat, and a squirrel.  This book has humor, lessons on friendship, and adventure –  perfect for the 6-8 year old range.  This is a good book to start with if you’re looking for an easier and shorter “first” book to read aloud.
The Bridge to Terabithia has it all: adventure, friendship, magic, imagination, and compelling characters.  The character(s) have to deal with loss in this book, so there are some themes that will spark discussion and thought.
Product DetailsWhere The Red Fern Grows needs no introduction besides this: boys, dogs, friendship, hunting, adventure, loyalty.  A definite must read for boys (and dads!).
The Spiderwick Chronicles is a series of books that explain a battle between kids and invisible monsters (to keep it simple and without spoiling it).  The story was a little too intense for my 6-year-old boy, and there are some PG/PG-13 moments, but my older boys enjoyed these  books since the story is fascinating and full of adventure.
Product DetailsSwiss Family Robinson is another classic that hardly needs introduction.  We read a kids’ version because the full book was too much for the kids (older prose and much more detail).  I can’t say which kids’ version is the best, but I’d recommend starting with some abridged version.
The Hatchet is another outdoor survival type book.  It is about a young boy who is the lone survivor of a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness.  My boys still talk about this book when we go fishing or camping.
Product DetailsBrian’s Winter is a hypothetical part two of The Hatchet.  Again, it is a great survival story that young boys will love.
My Father’s Dragon is a short imaginative adventure for younger kids (perhaps 5-8).  Actually, since I hadn’t read it before I found it quite interesting and couldn’t wait to see how it unraveled.
Product DetailsKensuke’s Kingdom is a tale similar to Robinson Crusoe.  In it, a young boy and his dog survive a shipwreck and end up on a small island.  They find out they are not alone on the island – and the story takes some great twists and turns after that.
James and the Giant Peach captured my kids’ attentions because it is so original and far-fetched – in a very good way.  It is a little crass at times (mostly name calling) but a fascinating book.
Sign of the Beaver is another classic boys’ tale.  It has to do with a 13-year-old boy, a gun, Native Americans, survival, and friendship.
Cabin on Trouble Creek is a kids’ adventure story that takes place around 1800 in the lonely and isolated area of Ohio.  The two brothers (ages 9 & 11) are forced to survive when something happens to Pa.
Product DetailsLawn Boy is a short and funny book about how a kid learns the basics of working, making, and saving money.  It’s probably not for kids under 9 or so, but it is worth the read.
Product DetailsThe Ralph Mouse Collection is also a kids’ classic book series.  I probably don’t have to explain it, but I wanted to note it here because my kids enjoyed these books; they are good reading.
Product DetailsScout is a dog owned by a family living in Holland during the 1940’s.  The book is great because it mixes the beloved “boy and dog” story with the historical aspect of WWII.  This was a favorite of my boys’.  Note: there are several books in this series.
Product DetailsNo Place Like Holmes is mystery where a young boy learns a lot about himself and life as he helps solve a difficult criminal case.  Though it was written from a Christian perspective, it isn’t too cheesy or forced.  There’s another book in this series as well – and my kids have asked for it more than a few times.  If you like Encyclopedia Brown, you’ll probably like this book.
The Tale of Despereaux is a mouse v. rat adventure.  Actually, it’s more than that – it involves a castle, a “weak” mouse, a princess, and chivalry (plus some humor).  This is a good read – highly recommended.
Product DetailsCave of the Dark Wind is part of a series that explains the “pre-Peter Pan” years.  It is full of adventure (i.e. Pirates of the Caribbean), humor (i.e. Dave Barry), and the ins-and-outs of friendship and loyalty.  Some of the themes are a bit more mature (maybe in the “PG” range), so it’s probably best for kids over 10.

Product DetailsThe Secret Garden is not a survival story, nor does it have a “boy and dog” adventure theme.  Rather, it’s about a cranky girl living in a huge mostly empty house.  In it and around it, she finds some mysteries and secrets.  My boys liked it, but I think they thought it was a bit “girly.”  Still, it’s a good book.

The Hobbit doesn’t need introduction, but I do want to say that my three boys (ages 6-10) “got it” when I read it to them.  Granted, I did some “translating” and summarized some of the longer dialogues, but they followed along quite well.
Product DetailsThe Chronicles of Narnia.  Enough said.  In fact, we’ve read these so many times my oldest kid is nearly sick of them!
Andrew Clements’ book, No Talking, is a fun story about a 5th grade class where the boys are always “vs” the girls.  When one kid learns something about silence (not talking), he ends up forming a contest between the boys and the girls.  The contest is to not talk for two days.  There are a few instances of 5th grade name calling in the book, but over all, it’s great for kids around 10 years old.
Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard (Irish Setter) Big Red, by Jim Kjelgaard, is a classic boy/dog story.  Saying more would probably spoil it.  Also note that Kjelgaard has written a few more books like this one.
  The Silverwing trilogy is a unique story that talks about the bat kingdom.  Bats are fascinating creatures – and they make for a good story boys would enjoy.
  The How To Train Your Dragon series is one of my sons’ favorite book series.  It’s a bit odd – but in a decent way.  Boys and dragons go together like peanut butter and jelly – so a kids’ book on dragons is many a boy’s delight!
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