Letters from Abroad: Recommendations

I am often asked for recommendations for books for kids who enjoy my own book. Especially for nine- and ten-year-olds and avid reader eight-year-olds. It’s surprisingly a bit hard to find books for this reading level, a time when the children are already prepared for fairly rich content but aren’t quite ready for all those great books written for fifth grade and beyond. Well, obviously there is a lot of great stuff out there.

I thought parents reading Tor.com might be interested in this short list of books. Possibly your child has read most of these but missed one:  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (an old book but still exciting for many kids, this is the “wilderness survival” story for kids), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (tell them it’s better than the Depp movie), The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert O’Brien. For slightly older kids who enjoyed Joey PigzaThe Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children, I recommend the Joey Pigza books, they are favorites of mine, starting with  Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. Joey has a serious type of attention deficit disorder and you have to love him and the challenges he faces, written with humour and with real insight. (As his parents and grandmother are flawed, there is a dysfunctional family element to these books too, handled with humanity.)

Goggle Eyes by Anne Fine is a really great, intelligent, non-sentimental book about a girl trying to live with a new stepparent. Although its strong British setting may require the right frame of mind from the child reader. I sometimes also mention Black Beauty for a reader who can manage the challenging 19th century language. It was a favorite of mine when I was young. It is probably at least a middle school book, though, young adult, unlike the others I mention here. Finally, I am sure everyone here remembers The Wizard of Earthsea!


Keith McGowan is the debut author of The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children, which was named an “inspired recommendation for children” by independent bookstores nationwide. He is published by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt & Company.

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