Well, it’s getting close to Christmas! I’m going to have to hustle if I’m going to get this series finished in time for y’all to use it to purchase gifts! There is a pleasant chaos at our house right now with two girls home from college and The Man off of work — but I am too excited about this series to leave you in the lurch, so no worries!
If you’ve been following this blog you know that we are in the middle of a series on giving books as gifts. The first part of the series was an introduction about why books make great gifts; then in the second part we looked at good books for toddler through elementary age children. Today I’ll show you my picks of good books for girls who are later elementary through junior high age. The next installment will be for boys of the same age, and then the last one will be for teens.
This was probably the easiest book list for me to put together, because most of these are my own favorite books from when I was a girl. I read many of them so many times that I lost count. But they have stood the test of time, because all of my girls have loved them, too. They evoke the innocence of the past, the simpler times before our culture became so busy and cluttered. They promote high ideals for character and behavior. And most of all, they’re just fun. Who doesn’t love to travel in their imagination to another time and place?
- anything by Louisa May Alcott. This author’s books are about boys and girls growing up. The plot lines are probably not super exciting, but they draw you in because you fall in love with the characters. The child (or children) in the book is generally facing a trial of some kind, but he/she seeks to do it with cheerfulness and courage, and with the help of those around them. My particular favorites are Old-Fashioned Girl and Little Men.
- The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. Haven’t we all fallen in love with Anne by watching the movies with Megan Follows? What makes the movies so good is that they were faithful to the characterization in the books. Anne is a joy to read about, mistakes and all. She tackles problems head-on, sometimes with disastrous results, but all seems to come right in the end.
- The “Little House” books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. These books are based on the real life of the author as she grew up in the pioneer days. These people faced some truly life-threatening situations, and we learn about how they lived their lives with survival as the key goal. Things are so different now; we take our food and shelter and the ease with which we procure them for granted. My favorite is The Long Winter, even though (or perhaps because!) it’s a bit nerve-wracking.
- Similar to the Little House books is Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink. Caddie is also a little girl growing up on the frontier; she makes friends with the Indians and keeps everyone hopping. This was the first book my girls read after finishing 100 Easy Lessons, which I mentioned in the previous part to the series. Again, it is refreshing to read about simpler times and escape the pressures of today, if only for a little while.
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond, or anything by Elizabeth George Speare. (We’ll be looking at one by her on the boys’ list, also.) All of her books are historical fiction and are written so appropriately for this age group. This particular book takes place during the Salem witch trial era. Don’t worry, no one gets burned at the stake; but the issues surrounding the type of hysteria that took place during that time are dealt with very well.
- Misty of Chincoteague and the rest of the series, or anything else by Marguerite Henry. What girl doesn’t love horse books? These books take place in the mid-20th century and tell us about the horses that used to be gathered from the wild in the islands off of the coast of Virginia — focusing on one horse in particular, Misty, who was a real horse. The books that come after this one are about her progeny. The books are all easy to read and give lots of neat information about caring for and training horses.
- anything by Beverly Cleary, although I specifically love the Ramona books. Beverly Cleary’s books are about kids in elementary school during the era that I was in elementary school, so they have always felt so familiar to me. Ramona is such a fun character, starting with her first book, Beezus and Ramona. Succeeding books follow her through several years of elementary school. Henry Huggins is a boy character that also has several books to call his own. And then there is also Ralph S. Mouse — really, anything by this author is great!
- Ballet Shoes or any of the “shoes” books by Noel Streatfeild. Oh, I used to LOVE these books!! — and some of them have been re-released within the last few years. They are all about children who perform in some fashion, whether it be ballet, or theater, or movies, or ice skating… for the wanna-be in all of us. Again, simpler times and clearer values make these books a refreshing read.
- The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A self-centered little girl has to move from India where her parents just died to England to live with her recluse uncle in his castle-like home. There she finds friendship and mystery and grows to learn about caring for others. You just can’t go wrong with this one.
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald, and all the further books about her. These are great chapter-books for the learning reader. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle knows how to deal with difficult children — some of her methods are rather, shall we say, extraordinary… but they work!! These make for great read-alouds, as well. Again, these books have been around awhile and have proven their worth over time.
And I think I’ll repeat that last sentence, because it applies to ALL the books on this list: They have been around awhile and have proven their worth over time. I have tried the newer books for kids, y’all, and I’m just not finding the same richness and depth that is in the books I’ve listed here. I’m open to suggestions, however, so if you have a more recent book to recommend, by all means do so in the comments! For now, though, pick up one of these for that girl in your life. Her absorption in it will be all the thanks you need.