Books for 5 year olds

Well, those last two posts were kind of a downer. This whole operation is kind of a downer lately, what with the cancer and the crazy, and the general rockiness of life around here. So here’s a crowd-sourced young kids suggested reading list. Objective: find chapter books that my almost six-year-old (HOLY COW you guys) will dig. RR gives graphic novels a thumbs up and Charlotte’s Web and Little House on the Prairie a solid thumbs down. Me too. Seriously, do we need to haul out the axe and drowning dog within the first few chapters? Let’s build up to that shit.

My motivation to try anything is strong here. If I have to read Fairy Tale Comics again, I’ll…well, I’m sure there’s a funny fairy tale joke in here somewhere. So, because I thought you might also like to know what my friends think RR should try, here is the list: (annotated, because.)

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman – we’ve read this one and I’d say that an imaginative five-year-old would really dig listening to it. It’s not something RR could have undertaken reading on her own. Also, it’s more dinosaurs and aliens and less fairies and mermaids so,  depending on your angle, it might be a winner.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written by Eric Shanower, illustrated by Skottie Young – RR is a graphic novel aficionado and this read like a chapter book without relying too heavily on pictures alone. Lots of words to follow along with. There are others in the series and we’re taking on Ozma of Oz next.

Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke is another graphic novel. We opted to try it last night and while the story-line is great the words are few and far between. I tried sounding out her picture comprehension (did you get what just happened in those panels?) but she wasn’t really with me. I know she’s able to do that with the wordless Fairy Tale comics but perhaps space is just too…alien for her…

My friends are big fans of Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl (particularly James and the Giant Peach, the BFG, and Matilda), and Geronimo Stilton. For reasons known only to my mother, Ramona (Cleary) books were banned from my childhood but Dahl encouraged. Suffice to say I have no knowledge of Ramona except for a weird sort of apprehension.

Other series that got the thumbs up were:
Pippi Longstocking;
Noisy Village;
The Boxcar Children (with the caveat that this wasn’t too far from the Magic Treehouse series which I didn’t particularly care for);
Junie B. Jones and Captain Underpants (both of which I’m a tad skeptical about with titles like “Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus” and “Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People.” On the other hand, they are both huge series so if she loved them there would be plenty of content to devour;
The Mouse and the Motorcycle which has some big name children’s authors associated with it;
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle which was heavily recommended by parents of 7-year-olds as books their kids had been reading two years earlier;
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh;
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace which just sounds like something my mother would have axed; and,
Nancy Drew, which if she loved them, would keep her reading forever.

Graphic novels that were so special they got a call out by name were Summerland by Michael Chabon, Bone by Jeff Smith, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe illustrated by Robin Lawrie, and Princeless by Jeremy Whitley. The American Library Association also has a graphic novels reading list for K-2. I find it a little daunting, not because there are too many books (which is the case with some compilations) but because I’m not sure where to start. Speaking of huge compilations, A Mighty Girl also got a nod. My favorite Graphic Novels librarian recommends Toon Books, a publisher for getting The Youth These Days into graphic novels (also with reading lists).

Possibly the most awesome book in the children’s universe, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, got a recommendation but I’d been holding off because it seems a little old. Perhaps it’s time for another quick read through. Other single titles which I know very little about but obviously should are:

The Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little by E.B. White, who I’m still trying to forgive for Charlotte’s Web;
Judy Blume’s Freckle Juice;
The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon;
Mr Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater;
Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston; and
Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting

Outside of shouting congratulations for getting married, this is the most my friends have had to say about anything, ever. It helps that I know a lot of librarians, a lot of comic strip artists and illustrators, and a lot of parents. Furthermore, this doesn’t include the lists of picture books with a female focus I’ve got tucked into email folders.

So, if you got this far, feel free to add to my list. And let me know if you also have experience with these books. Are they too old for a five or six-year-old? Are there others? Where to start?

ETA (from comments):
The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon
Ivy and Bean’s Secret TreasuresLumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, illustrated by Brooke A Allen
Princess Pink and the Land of Fake Believe
Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy

11 Responses

  1. I was on a similar thread for a friend with a five year old boy about the same time as yours, so I can’t remember if I wrote this on her thread or yours.
    We got Captain Underpants from the older boys in the neighborhood – their parents dressed as Captain Underpants and Wicked Wedgie Woman for Halloween for years (one of them infamously ran through the neighborhood in costume in broad daylight to do a ‘performance’ at the annual party at the park which will live in infamy). It’s potty humor but also very popular with the elementary school kids (and their parents obviously.)
    My mother banned Ramona because she was afraid it would give my younger sisters ‘ideas’. They were both very Ramona-like and I agreed, did not need the inspiration. I loved them though (I was allowed to read them as long as my sisters didn’t get their hands on them).
    Said friend ended up going with Magic Tree House and Stuart Little. When we read Stuart, we followed it up by watching the movie, which I absolutely love.

    • That’s exactly it with Ramona – her “ideas” which I know nothing about except that they were Not Okay growing up. Perhaps as Jen says below it’s worth a try. I wonder if you could start in the middle of the series? Stuart is next on our list after we go through Zika, Osma, and the one we acquired from the new books shelf at the library and for which I’ve already forgotten the title.

  2. I think your daughter is perhaps a little less Princess-obsessed than mine, but F loves the Princess in Black books, which are picture heavy chapter books by Shannon Hale.

    We are just sort of starting chapter books.but the Katie Woo series (really early chapter books – can read in one sitting) and Anna Hibiscus series (longer) are good as well.

    • We live, sleep, breathe princesses, mermaids, and fairy tales at our house. I’ll add them to my list!

      • In that case, I will add The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye and Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon to the list. We are currently reading Hamster Princess and F is obsessed!

  3. I haven’t ready any chapter books yet with J who is almost 5.5, but I’ve been thinking about it. I love the Ramona books, in the early ones she is just mischievous, but she gets deep as the series goes on. However, I tried reading one of the Junie B books and really did not like her attitude or language.

  4. When my niece was obsessed with Junie B., who is a pretty rude brat of a protagonist, we tried her with Ivy & Bean books instead, which did some good. Ramona is always always always amazing – I’m sorry you feel a vague apprehension. You should give one of them a try, if only to get past your own childhood concerns 🙂 All the cheers for Pippi, too. Margot is 3, and she recently read ALL of Bone (with my husband reading to her, of course, because she’s 3), and looooooooooved it, so I’d vote yes on that one for sure. A comic *I* adore that I think is an excellent all-ages pick – and especially for girl children – is Lumberjanes. I seriously cannot get enough of it – it is the first comic I read every time we get a new one, and I find it an absolute DELIGHT. (Bonus points: it has very subtle, but sure to be appreciated by the grown-ups, LGBT-positive messages, homages to feminist heroes, and pretty diverse characters.) Kate DiCamillo writes fantastic children’s books, for both younger and older audiences (I loved Flora and Ulysses, but I haven’t read her books for younger kids). I have heard great things about both Princeless and the Princess Black series, though I haven’t read either. If RR ever liked Fancy Nancy, they’ve now made her into a detective in chapter books (Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth). Finally, this has a BUNCH of blog posts with lots of ideas for early chapter books:

    • That’s awesome – thank you! We didn’t get far with Fancy Nancy, but it’s worth another try as are all of the others (including poor beleaguered Ramona). I want her to love to read, mostly, so diversity of material, characters, and language is a huge plus!

  5. Highly recommend the Princess Pink and the Land of Fake Believe series for a fun read.

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