If you don’t have kids, or even if you do, figuring out what to buy them between about six and twelve years of age is tough because they all read so differently. I put a bit of work into getting a list of books for my niece’s birthday next week (with particular help from Alien Onion) and thought that good work shouldn’t go to waste. As a bit of background, I let people know that Pia was a pretty advanced reader who’d made it through most of Harry Potter.
Here it is:
Cicada Summer by Kate Constable
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. This is a sequence of four books. The first is Over Sea, Under Stone and it’s a bit younger than the other three books in the series.
Sunny Side Up by Marion Roberts
Mister Monday by Garth Nix. Fantasy. The first in the Keys to the Kingdom books. If she likes these, there are 6 more to keep her going.
Josie and the Michael Street Kids by Penni Russon
Parvana by Deborah Ellis
More classical suggestions:
The Hobbit by J R Tolkein
The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Helen Creswell’s Bagthorpe Saga
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
And before you all start to imagine I must be the perfect aunt, I have to confess that after compiling the above list it was pointed out to me that my niece is only turning eight. Auntly fail. But I think the list still stands. I’m starting with the first five books on the list and taking it from there. Any other additions more than welcome.
To finish, let me tell you a story about Pia, as it’s relevant to literature I think, or at least the power of story telling. When Pia was three or so, she had an imaginary dog, as did her friend Harry. Their bemused day-care worker told my brother that she had had to break up a fight between these dogs by acting out separating the dogs then tying them up. Pia and Harry looked on, sobbing. ‘For a moment,’ the day-care worker told my brother, ‘I thought the dogs were really there.’
16 Sep 09 at 9:48
Excellent! This is EXACTLY what I need – thanks so much. Now can you do some for clever but reluctant teenage boys?
16 Sep 09 at 10:02
I reckon boys would go for almost all of these.
16 Sep 09 at 10:20
I wish I’d read Gerald Durrell when I was 9! I’d also recommend James Herriot’s ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ and Enid Blyton’s ‘The Naughtiest Girl in the School’.
16 Sep 09 at 10:26
Oh I read ‘The Dark is Rising’ around that age and was blown away. Also I have to mention ‘Rowan of Rin’ again, and maybe the Pagan series by Catherine Jinks. Oh and Galex Arena, Gillian Rubinstein.
16 Sep 09 at 10:48
Some Margaret Mahy? I quite liked ‘Madigan’s Fantasia’. Good NZ writer.
They might be a little too old right now, but Tanith Lee’s ‘Piratica’ is fabulous stuff – pyrates for girls. Or, rather, girl pirate for all of us.
You might also check out some comics in tradeback – there are some really good ones which work for teens and young nearly-teens. The Runaways series might be a little old just now, but in a year or two they’d be pretty good.
When I was that age I went through a massive mythology phase – Greek, Roman, Maori, whatevs. I loved it all. There are some good versions of the stories for kids around which might be worth scaring up. I also lovedlovedloved ‘The Little White Horse’ by Elizabeth Goudge.
If you’re in Sydney, Abbie’s kids’ section is very good, and Kinokuniya has a fabulous kids/YA section and comic section. Both have very helpful sales people.
16 Sep 09 at 10:54
How could I have forgotten the Worst Witch by Jill Murphy?!
16 Sep 09 at 12:29
I loved all the E Nesbits, not sure if they’re for the right age … also I loved Emily Rodda’s Pigs Might Fly, but maybe these are more for 9-10 year olds? It’s hard to remember how old you were when you read things. Of Enid Blyton’s I loved most the Faraway Tree ones, they seem exactly like eight year old books.
16 Sep 09 at 13:02
Hmm. I adore The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt. Irreverent, hilarious, character-driven stories with an incredible narrative voice. It’s one of those ‘ages eight to eighty’ books.
I’d definitely second the recommendation for The Dark Is Rising sequence (although I usually suggest that people skip the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone, because it is not nearly as good as The Dark Is Rising itself).
Catherine Bateson and Marianne Musgrove write excellent realistic fiction for this age group – particularly The Wish Pony by Catherine and The Worry Tree by Marianne.
When your niece is a couple of years older, if she’s enjoying fantasy she might like the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, beginning with The Amulet of Samarkand. It is magnificent.
16 Sep 09 at 13:07
How could I forget Diana Wynne Jones? Howl’s Moving Castle is an excellent introduction to her style and all-around awesomeness.
16 Sep 09 at 13:47
I love that story about your niece! She sounds fantastic.
Modern classic (ie. when I was a kid but still in print) suggestions:
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Depends what she likes I guess BUT:
Ballet Shoes; Curtain Up; The Painted Garden by Noel Streatfield.
I loved all these books so much I wish I could read them all again.
And yes, The Worst Witch series was brilliant, Dogpossum.
16 Sep 09 at 13:54
I was a big E Nesbit fan at that age, though I did find them scary. No bad thing I suppose. Also loved Enid. And here’s a twitter recommendation which I’m embarrassed to have left off because I agree it’s a great book: Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson- http://www.bdb.com.au/books/scatterheart
16 Sep 09 at 15:16
Did anyone read those books about a bear called Mary who lived in the Lisbon zoo, I think? I can’t remember what they were called but I was obsessed with them. She got taken on outings by a kindly gent and was quite a demanding Lady Muck kind of creature; sort of Paddington Bear with city girl chutzpah.