By Kathleen, #7
At our house, books might as well be made of gold. There’s always one or two on the coffee table, the window sill, the living room couch. Every room has a well-stocked bookshelf, filled with both old favorites and adventures still to be had.
Even among my book-devouring family, I’m still known as ‘the bookworm’. My younger siblings come to me when they want to find the next book in their current series or to ask whether they’re old enough for a certain family favorite they’ve heard so much about.
Here are my personal Top Ten books for children from ages six to ten.
10. The Clay Marble
This was one of the first books that interested me in historical fiction. It’s a short, manageable read, but powerful. The story follows Dara, who struggles to survive in war-torn Cambodia. She finds courage and inspiration in a marble that a friend made for her and believes it is her good-luck charm. But when she loses the marble, she’s forced to rely on her own bravery to reunite herself with her family.
The Clay Marble shares great values of determination and courage.
9. Love From Your Friend, Hannah
This was a fun, clever book set during the Great Depression. Rather than divided into chapters, it is divided into letters that Hannah writes. Her correspondences include her grandmother, a grudging penpal, a White House secretary, and FDR himself. Throughout the book, Hannah shares and receives gems of wisdom from her new/old friends.
Young readers learn with Hannah about kindness and responsibility among other values.
8. The Island of the Blue Dolphins
Long a classic survival story, this book follows the true story of Karana, a native of San Nicholas Island who was left behind when her tribe moved to the mainland of California. Karana fights the local wild dogs, predatory fish, and the threat of intruders to survive on her island for eighteen years. I loved reading about Karana’s adventures building her house, finding food, and befriending a former enemy.
The Island of the Blue Dolphins contains values of perseverance and resourcefulness.
7. The Phantom Tollbooth
The story of Milo’s quest through Wisdom and Ignorance has long been a family favorite! The book begins with Milo, a young boy for whom life is a dull, gray thing, receiving a mysterious tollbooth in the mail. It transports him to place where such things exist as the Island of Conclusions, the Mathemagician, the lost princesses of Rhyme and Reason, and Tock the Watchdog. Milo travels through this strange world to rescue Rhyme and Reason, learning along the way that life is an adventure all its own.
The Phantom Tollbooth has jewels of real wisdom on almost every page, teaching young readers how to enjoy life and avoid making mistakes so often found in the Land of Ignorance.
6. Dave at Night
This beautiful story is my favorite of Gail Carson Levine’s. It’s about a young orphan boy who is sent to the Hebrew Home for Boys in New York in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. Though the classes give him an opportunity to develop his amazing artistic talent, the orphanage is rife with bad food and bullies, the worst of which is the headmaster. Dave begins sneaking out at night and makes great new friends. However, as his secret life takes off, his life within the orphanage grows worse. The plot progresses as Dave makes plans to escape the Home despite the threats of the headmaster, ‘Mr. Doom’
Dave at Night is the story of finding your place in the world, no matter the obstacles.
Disclaimer: While this is a great story for kids ten years old and under, Mr. Doom’s character can be scary for some children. Dave at Night is not particularly violent, but the headmaster does hit the boys at times. All ends well, but be careful if you have sensitive children.
5. Number the Stars
This is a great book for those just starting to learn about WWII. It follows the story of Annemarie, a young Danish girl whose best friend is Jewish. Annemarie’s family takes Ellen in and hides her at great risk. Annemarie learns about keeping a secret for those you care about and how to be brave, even at ten years old. The story is both historically accurate and perfect for young readers.
Number the Stars shines with values of courage and loyalty.
4. Tuesdays at the Castle
Tuesdays at the Castle is a truly magical book for young fantasy lovers. It takes place entirely in Castle Glower, the enchanted home of the three royal children. When their parents go missing, the children take it upon themselves to protect their magical castle from the scheming Royal Council. Celie’s talent for reading Castle Glower’s moods comes in handy as she and her siblings try to find their parents and thwart the Council at the same time.
Celie learns about bravery and faith throughout the book, even when things seem darkest.
3. Peter Pan in Scarlet
This sequel to Barrie’s classic follows the story of the now-adult Lost Boys, Wendy Darling, and John Darling as they return to Neverland one last time. There they find Peter Pan, unhappy and brooding, in a Neverland utterly different. They come across old enemies and new dangers as the Lost Boys help Peter Pan have one final adventure. Complete with swashbuckling, amazing plot twists, and characters both old and new, this one is definitely a family favorite.
The Lost Boys discover that growing up has its uses and that one must always stay loyal to their friends, even if those friends might be going bad.
2. Saving Zasha
This was my favorite piece of historical fiction when I was nine or ten years old. It takes place in post-WWII Russia, after everything German has been banned. The main character, a teenage boy named Mikhail, finds a dying man and his German shepherd, Zasha. Mikhail’s family decides to protect the dog after her owner passes away. The book is not violent but quite suspenseful at times.
Mikhail learns that appearances can be deceiving, and even in a country torn by war, kindness is still a necessity.
1. The Wild Swans
An all-time favorite of my childhood, The Wild Swans is a little-known fairy tale about a girl who goes to save her cursed brothers. My siblings and I particularly loved this story because of the large, loving family to which the girl and her brothers belonged. The princess, Elise, bravely carries out various tasks at great danger to reunite with her brothers.
This book has values of family love, determination, and courage.
So here you are: the top ten books that shaped my early childhood. My love of these stories is amplified by the great memories I have with most of them, but I can imagine few kids that wouldn’t enjoy these amazing books.