More Books to Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Welcome to part three of my annual “Books to Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well” list, created to help answer perennial questions like, “What should I give my eight-year-old niece in Kansas?” On Friday, I suggested titles for the youngest children and as well as kids who just don’t like books. On Monday, I listed my picks of new picture books. Below are chapter book and family read aloud suggestions. Coming tomorrow, middle grade sleepers.

Chapter Books for Elementary Kids

If you asked the 4th graders at my school for their recommendations, they would encourage you to give series books. Boxed sets are a thrill because children read through these titles like peanuts. The list prices may look daunting, but shop around. They are heavily discounted by many online retailers.

Ages 7 and Up

My Weird School 21-Book Box Set, by Dan Gutman, illustrations by Jim Paillot, HarperCollins, list price $80.

For the kids who are looking for silly fun, these are the books. They are one step up from Captain Underpants. If a kid has already read through these, suggest a move up to the Louis Sachar’s Sideways School series (Scholastic).

Ages 8 and Up

The Secret Series Complete Collection by Pseudonymous Bosch, Little Brown, $80.00.

The readers who have just graduated from Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, have a real treat is in store with this series. You just can’t go wrong with a good mystery, mind-bending puzzles and a snarky narrator.


Ages 9 and Up


Kate McMullan’s Mythomania. Capstone/Stone Arch Books, $5.95 each.

Are the kids wild about Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief? Give them this series of fractured Greek myth retellings, told from point of view of Hades. Now back in print after an almost ten year absence, they are therefore new to today’s kids. They’re not available as a boxed set, so suggest making their own, starting with Have a Hot Time In Hades!, Phone Home, Persephone!, Say Cheese, Medusa!, and Nice Shot, Cupid!

Family Read Alouds

Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists, Macmillan/First Second, $18.99.

The book’s editors have gathered traditional rhymes like Hickory Dickory Dock, Pat-a-Cake, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider, pairing them with famous graphic artists like Jules Feiffer, George O’Connor and Roz Chast.


Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, HarperCollins, ages 7 and up, $16.99.

This is an old-fashioned tale of two orphans reminiscent of classics like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess and Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Liesl must escape the clutches of her evil stepmother and Po is a ghost who is trying to become human. A mystery and a ghost story carefully wrought with deliberate pacing perfect for family read aloud time.

The Flint Heart: a fairy story by John Barstow, retold by Katherine and James Paterson, Candlewick, $19.99.

Originally published in 1910, this humorous fairytale adventure  was almost forgotten because of its archaic language and references. The Patersons rescued it from obscurity with their updated adaptation. John Rocco’s sumptuous art makes this a volume sure to become a family treasure.

Toys Come Home: Being the Early Experiences of an Intelligent Stingray, a Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic, by Emily Jenkins, RH/Schwartz and Wade. Ages 5 and up, $16.99.

Our pals from Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party are back in this prequel where we find out how they all came together with The Girl. As we all know, toys have very busy lives when we aren’t looking. This satisfying story stands alone but once readers have entered its magical world they won’t want to stop until they have read all three books.

2 Responses to “More Books to Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well”

  1. Ellen Browne Says:

    Scarlet Oak Press offers enhanced e-editions of the classics behind big new films, many of them great family fare: Sherlock Holmes 2, The Mysterious Island, Disney’s “John Carter,” and so on. All the Scarlet Oak e-books are designed for family, library and classroom enjoyment, they’re lendable, they work, and the extras are prepared by two Princeton literature profs. Plus, sales benefit U.S. libraries and literacy projects.

  2. :paula Says:

    I would add the two Guys Read books to this list: the first one is all funny stories, the second all thrilling. I’ve handed those books to scores of kids and they’ve all found something to love in them!