Good Books for Young Readers

I had a question posed over on my blog yesterday, and I thought that I’d ask for help here (and on social media) in answering it. Here’s the question:

Thanks mainly to Sarah’s blog introducing me to writers like you, I’m on top of SF for my g’daughters, ages 11 and 12, but are you aware of other kinds of fiction that would be age appropriate? Or even any idea where I might start looking? So far almost everything I’ve found appears to be written by and for The Young Radical Feminists Guild, if yaknowhatImean, and the books I read in the 50s and 60s have been “edited” or are just hard/impossible to find in their original form.

*Any* suggestion would be gratefully appreciated. I’ve run out of ideas! The younger g’daughter does not like SF or even fantasy, and we wanted to do a little family book club this summer.

I have compiled a fairly nice curated list of books for young men, but I’ve neglected books for young Ladies in training. With some help, I think we can come up with great reads for them, ones that will inspire them to grow up into loving women who respect men just as they themselves earn respect. Far too many of the current crop of girls books infantilize boys, if not portraying them in more negative lights.

Actually, reading some of the ‘books for boys’ is a great place to start, I know I read a lot of those as a girl. But sometimes a princess wants a story about cats, horses, and that ‘castle ambiance.’

Please put your suggestions in the comments below!

The First Reader and I were talking about this, and he pointed out that as much as we all love the Heinlein juveniles, they don’t work well for most young people these days. The children find it hard to connect with the concept that not everyone has a phone in their pocket and a computer to boot. He’s right – I have coaxed and cajoled mine, and they have turned up their noses at “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”, “Star Beast” and others. On the other hand, my son did start reading Mackey Chandler’s Family Law, and was enjoying it (he stalled out because of the length, but that’s a maturity issue, not the book which wasn’t written for children).

So what I’m looking for are good books that were written more recently than the 50s and 60s. Or perhaps ones that have a timeless setting that kid readers can identify with. Nobody expects an elf to have a cellphone, my First Reader points out. I respond with, wouldn’t that be a fun story to write?

I know from personal experience that young adult books don’t sell terribly well as a small-name Indie author. I also know that my daughters (currently aged 16 and 15) love angst and teenager stuff, so I hold my nose and buy it for them. I just can’t bring myself to write it for them… however. Younger kids – the 10 and 12 yo of the question above – want and need the more hopeful, happy, inspiring tales of courage, love (and not in a romantic sense), and adventure. Pam Uphoff’s Barton Street Gym is a good example of a Indie YA that gives all that – but of course it’s also SF with an artificial intelligence that manifests as a T-Rex. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome is a glimpse into another world, one that offered even young children responsibility, freedom, and wholesome adventure with adults rarely present.

If I ever have time, I’ll write more for kids. Even if the books don’t sell well, it’s important to have good books that focus more on story than pushing formative-stage minds into molds the social issues of the day dictate. That way lies indoctrination and madness.

112 Comments

Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, reading

112 responses to “Good Books for Young Readers

  1. paladin3001

    One series of books that my brother is reading my tween niece is the “39 Clues” series originally started by Gordon Korman (also he wrote the “Macdonald Hall” series way back when) A little bit fantastical and geared to younger readers with a brother and sister protagonist. My brother is very particular what his daughter reads so I guess it has the stamp of approval for here.

    • I remember seeing those at the library, and kids seemed to enjoy them.

      • paladin3001

        Mr Korman started his writing career in public school I believe (or secondary). He seems to have a knack for writing juvenile stories (geared to not that level) that are fun and not really preachy. Read the first five Macdonald hall books in my youth and two of his Bugs Potter books. I remember enjoying them and laughing at the humour in them. I think he’s written more thant those as well.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          He’s quite prolific, I can think of a lot more than that, vaguely. I’m quite fond of him.

  2. I’m assuming the CS Lewis Lion, Witch, and Wardroad books are too old for this list. So let me recommend the Shadow Grail books by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill. I read them a year or two ago and found them quite good.

    • I personally think that The Chronicles of Narnia fall into that ‘timeless’ category – and my daughters did enjoy them. But finding newer books is great, because while we default to the classics as they are easy to remember and find, digging into the new stuff that comes out every year is a challenge for most of us. There is just so much!

  3. Sanford Begley

    Though they are older books and written with adults in mind L’amour’s Ride the River and Cherokee Trail novels are about young women making their ways in the world. I would definitely recommend Vulcan’s Kittens and The God’s Wolfling by a chickee named Cedar Sanderson 😀

  4. Gina Marie

    I like everything by Tamora Pierce, but the stories are heroic fantasy with young women main characters. I’m also fond of my own short novel “Tree Symphony” which I also consider timeless, but for a different reason. But hey, it’s 99 cents…

  5. And in asking my daughters, the Junior Mad Scientist has suggested Percy Jackson. Yes, it’s about a boy, she says, but it’s a rad book. She says she doesn’t read anything that’s not SF or fantasy so she can’t suggest it.

  6. And the redhead (currently 16, but she was once a young lady 😉 ) recommends Two Very Miserable Presidents, which is part of a series. She loved The Book Thief (she read it when she was 13), and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. She says Wonderstruck was really good, too. And Wonder, by RJ Palacio.

  7. These aren’t new, but I think they fall in the timeless category:
    Lark by Sally Watson
    The Door in the Wall by Marguerite Di Angeli
    Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Grey
    Red Adam’s Lady by Grace Ingram
    Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
    Conrad’s Fate by Diana Wynne Jones
    Tears of the Salamander by Peter Dickinson
    Sorcery and Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia Wrede

    This is new, if you’ll forgive the shameless self-plug:
    Caught in Amber by J.M. Ney-Grimm

    • Dianna Wynne Jones is always an excellent choice. That’s not shameless, I’m glad to know you have one that will go on the list!

      • Oh, thank you! I wasn’t sure if it was okay to suggest one of mine, or not. I think Caught in Amber is good for 12+. Although adults have been known to like, too. And my 14-year-old son loved it, even though the protag is a girl.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Jones is good, Wrede also has a fair amount of others that deserve consideration.

      • I love nearly everything Diana Wynne Jones wrote. She just told awesome stories! And you are right that quite a few others by Wrede belong on that list. 😀

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Jones does have a couple of books a bit too adult to be on the list, and maybe so does Wrede. Though I may be confusing with Diane Duane.

  8. Bob

    I found The Grey King by Susan Cooper to be entrancing, and my first exposure to the Arthurian legend used in a contemporary fantasy.

    Also loved Robin Mckinley’s Hero and the Crown. Incredible story and characters.

    • Yes, Robin mcKinley’s Blue Sword and the Hero and the Crown were excellent, as is her take on the Beauty and the beast legend (Beauty). But I must inject a caution: some of her later books, especially Deerskin, deal with some very graphic and disturbing situations. So parents may want to preview her work before just handing it to younger readers.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Read all Cooper and a fair amount of the McKinley I could find. Cooper wrote a book with some content that struck me as a more than I was ready for. The one, not in the dark is rising, where the boy’s mother was a Selkie, and there are implied consent issues with the marriage. I never read Deerskin, perhaps because of concerns about content.

        • Seaward, which may have been retitled The Selkie Girl, is all about death and having a boyfriend. More a fantasy literary novel. I think Cooper wrote it when she was moving to the US, finishing up The Dark Is Rising series, and becoming a Hollywood teleplay writer. Not a happy book, although it has that stare down the black dog thing going on.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Seaward. That’s the title. I think. I’d remembered Over Sea, Understone first, but knew that wasn’t right.

      • Bob

        I think I liked Grey King best of all Cooper’s ‘Dark’ books. It was the first one I’d read, and it can be read independently of the ones before. The central conceit is that the kid/wizard loses his memories at the very beginning due to a fever, probably sent by the Forces of Evil, and so he has to ‘rediscover’ who he is and what his quest is, and the reader does so along with him. The Grey King is also a particularly effective villain, in that he finds ways to work through petty, nasty, human evil to accomplish his ends. And the whole twist of how the Arthurian legend fits in is amazing.

        McKinley…Let’s just say I never enjoyed any of her other works that I’d tried nearly as much as ‘Crown’ and ‘Sword’. And Deerskin was just…weird. And uncomfortable. And weird. And a bit random in the plot. And weird. Not weird in a good way, either.

        • I love Deerskin, but the author herself isn’t comfortable with it. It’s apparently one of those books that leaped up and demanded to be written. FWIW, we are not the target audience—she has gotten a lot of letters from people who endured abuse and rape and it’s apparently a very helpful novel to them.

        • Arwen

          I read Deerskin expecting something more like Beauty and was caught off guard. I was also 13 so that was awkward.

      • She has two takes on Beauty and the Beast; the second one is Rose Daughter. She also has a Sleeping Beauty in Spindle’s End. (Based on the Disney version, sort of. I love Rosie.)

  9. Beauty by Robin McKinley
    Most of Bruce Coville’s stuff. His Unicorn Chronicles are good and more girl oriented.

    Two in the ‘if you can find them, try Amazon and Abe Books ‘ category:

    The Ordinary Princess by MM Kaye (aimed at somewhat younger kids than tweens.)
    The Man Who Was Magic by Paul Gallico. (Note: do NOT get his Alexander Hero series for kids. His kids books are great, bit he also writes stuff for adults that is not always appropriate to children.)

    If I think of more I’ll chime in again.

  10. Aimee Morgan

    Tamara Pierce. Start with her Protector of the Small quartet. Keladry is the kind of rtole model anyone would want for a daughter. Leave Song of the Lioness for last – it’s her weakest, and Alanna is a bit of a tramp.

  11. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Chris Nuttall’s “Schooled In Magic” series is Young Adult (first in the series is titled Schooled In Magic).

    I can’t judge how a pre-teen would view it.

  12. BobtheRegisterredFool

    We had a good at least subthread over at ATH with the ‘Rejection of a Dark Age’ topic.

    • Doesn’t surprise me, but it can be very difficult to navigate the long comment threads. I will take a look at it when I compile this list into an accessible form, thanks!

  13. Would it be out of line to recommend my own short, “Rainy Days and Moon Days”?

  14. Since she does not like SciFi and Fantasy I’d recommend hitting up the used book stores for old Westerns. There are some that are for girls and they are not dated because they are historical. Two that I found at that age and still read at least once a year are “Polly Kent Rides West In the Days of 49” and “Promenade All”. I’ve also asked my sister what my nieces are reading.

    • My mom bought me Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion when we were on a trip, and when I looked at her dubiously (because romance is not my preferred form of reading), she explained that I would like Heyer’s work. And she was right—Cotillion is just about the YA level, and entertaining, and not marred by the mandatory sex scenes that modern romance seems to require.

  15. I don’t have time to be a big comment reader/follower. But I just wanted to say that these sorts of thoughtful posts, constructive, with ideas to build community and help the youth and others, are one of the things I most enjoy about the MGC community, and all the ancillary blogs, etc.

    Keep being yourselves about that.

  16. Trixie Belden is a pretty good young YA mystery series, although it is okay for elementary kids too. The nice thing is that it is about a bunch of male and female kids who hang out together and all help solve mysteries and help people, not just the heroine. Also, they all have different personalities and views and socioeconomic statuses, but they still are friends and their parents are mostly supportive and tactful.

    It was really structurally challenging, I think now, but the series writers did a good job. There is probably a lot of value for writers giving it a reread.

    But yeah, no cellphones. Some entries are really Fifties or Sixties, others really Seventies or Eighties, but I do not think any of the books were rewritten even when the covers changed.

  17. Sarah Plain and Tall.

  18. Megan Whalen Turner’s “The Thief,” and subsequent books.
    Elizabeth Marie Pope’s “The Perilous Gard.”
    Pamela Dean’s “Tam Lin,” for those who are up for a long book
    Claudia Edward’s “Taming the Forest King”
    Ellen Emerson White’s “The Road Home.”
    Cynthia Voight’s “Homecoming.”

    • Zsuzsa

      For Cynthia Voight, I’d also add “Jackaroo.” I liked that one better than the Tillerman saga.

    • I am so glad someone else remembers The Perilous Gard fondly, I was about to recommend it myself. My first introduction to the Tam Lin legend (and has all that lovely Tudor court intrigue *just* offstage, which also first got me interested in the politics of Mary and Elizabeth) and one I still reread every few years.

      Of course I’d recommend your own Mathemagics as well.

    • Tam Lin is a marvelous book, though I didn’t appreciate it nearly so well as I did after I’d had some college and could suddenly understand the setting. In that same series*, I liked Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose (though as it’s setting a Sleeping Beauty in the Holocaust, it’s dark) and the Snow White, Rose Red, as well as the Nightingale take.

      *It’s a collection of retold fairy tales. The original publications all have Tom Canty covers; I don’t know if any of them are in print right now aside from Tam Lin and Briar Rose, so you’d have to go the used-book route.

  19. For children who do not like SF&F, perhaps novels set in historical periods?

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      You’ve just reminded me that I used to read some books called ‘We were there’.

      • I am not particularly enthralled by the “America’s Diary” series, which is historical fiction as a series of diary entries by someone supposedly there. I looked at the one in WWII and was thrown badly by the lack of style; my Nana wrote a diary and just from having read her entry about Pearl Harbor (when she was living in Honolulu!) I could get a sense of time, but the writers for this series basically have historical myopathy and the writing feels modern.

  20. I do not have opinions on what ‘not suitable for children’ means to different people. Perhaps historical nonfiction, though that politicizes.

  21. Deena

    Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, Amber Argyle, Jessica Day George, J. Scott Savage are all excellent authors with series who either have a main female protagonist or strong female characters in equal prominence. They are fantasy mostly though.

  22. At what level are the granddaughters reading? There was a teenage girl series ‘Fearless”, but it has a certain amount of angst, and the heroine is a slight superhero; she can be very strong, but for very little time. She does this about once per book. The second series of those is political, though not in the normal liberal feminist direction.
    I have no idea if it would work or not.

  23. Luke

    The Amulet series of graphic novels by Kazu Kibuishi is top notch juvenile fantasy. My kids loved it.
    As long as we’re talking graphic novels, Bone by Jeff Smith is also good and age appropriate.
    .
    In normal format juvenile books, I’d recommend the Rachel Griffin series by L. Jagi Lamplighter. (But they really should have read The Chronicles of Narnia first, do they can “get” some of the references.)

  24. Ken

    Any of the Heinlein juveniles, but I’d probably start with Have Spacesuit Will Travel.

  25. Confutus

    Most of my recommendations are F&SF, so perhaps not so much help for this reader, but:

    The Fablehaven series on your boy’s list works for girls, too, since the protagonists are brother and sister. I was introduced to that one by a couple of young teen girls.

    Stephenie Meyer “The Host”. Yeah, I know, she’s famous or infamous for the sparkly vampires that teen girls love and everyone else hates, but really, as SF goes, this isn’t bad.

    From my trawling on Amazon e-books over the past several months, I’ve found:

    Karen Myer’s “Chained Adept” series.

    Amanda Green’s “Sword of the Gods” series.

    Marion G. Harmon’s “Wearing the Cape” series. Being a famous young superheroine is tough.

    Laurence E. Dahner’s Ell Donsaii series, starting with “Quicker”. Science fiction. Rather Mary-Sue-ish, but, hey, even if you are beautiful, a nice girl, and a genius with lighting reflexes, it doesn’t mean you don’t have problems or enemies.

    Honor Raconteur. Practically anything, but for girls, I’d try her Artifactor series, and her Deepwoods series. “Midnight Quest” is a stand alone.

    Jack Campbell “The Sister Paradox”. He’s better known for his military SF, but this foray into fantasy isn’t bad.

    Terry Mancour, the Cadet Spellmonger series; “Hawkmaiden” and “Hawklady”. A young teenage girl decides she wants a falcon. Goes out into the wild and gets herself one. Then she finds she has magic, too.
    The main Spellmonger series is rather more adult and I wouldn’t recommend it for youth. Neither does the author.

    • Hunting Guy

      “Marion G. Harmon’s “Wearing the Cape” series. Being a famous young superheroine is tough.”

      This. Excellent series.

      • Mary

        There’s also The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz, with its two sequels, for even younger superheroes.

  26. lampwright

    I appreciate the people who recommended my books, but really the series isn’t for younger readers. I think of them as good for ages 13 to 300+ (though an occasional precocious kid might like them.)

    Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series is still one of my favorives. It’s older, but Little Princess and Secret Garden are good.

    Another favorite of mine, which I loved at age 10 and still love are Carbonel and Kingdom of Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh. (There’s a third, but I haven’t read it and here it isn’t as good.)

    Others I liked:
    Dr. Doolittle series
    Weirdstone of Brisigamen and Moon of Gomrath by Alan Gardener.
    Where The Red Ferns Grow
    Never Cry Wolf (this is non fic, but was a HUGE hit with my kids.)
    How To Train Your Dragon (more for boys, but some girls might love it.)
    Moomintrolls!

    • Laurie

      I was going to recommend Lloyd Alexander if no one else did. 🙂

      Some others I haven’t seen mentioned that I think are timeless:
      The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
      The Light Princess by George MacDonald
      Zilpha Keatly Snyder’s The Egypt Game, The Changeling, and The Headless Cupid (the last was a Newberry winner, back when those were fun books) – her earlier books are best, she got bit by SJW disease later on.
      David and the Phoenix
      L. Frank Baum’s Oz series is more for younger kids (I was reading them at six), but they hold up well for older readers.

      If they like comics, I recommend Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio – it’s free on-line. Also Order of the Stick, but you have to be a fairly hard-core fantasy fan to get all the jokes.

  27. Uncle Lar

    Dave Freer’s outstanding Changeling Island is YA. And most of his other work is age appropriate. I can highly recommend Diane Duane’s young wizard series. Of course that’s all SF or fantasy.
    With a bit of caution one might introduce young teens to some of Twain’s work, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in particular. There is that unfortunate language issue though. I believe that children need to understand at some point that many things change over time, but that all depends on the individual maturity of the child.

    • Ben Yalow

      For the Duane, it would be good to get the updated versions. She made minor rewrites to change some older technology into something more familiar to a modern YA.

      I’d also recommend James Schmitz’s Witches of Karres. It’s got young girls with magic, and pirates, and spaceships. How can you go wrong?

  28. The Hostess’s Vulkane series, all two books of them, is good. On FB, Cedar indicated we might talk about our own books.

    The heroine of This Shining Sea is twelve. Her friends are about the same age. They are all high-powered superheroes. They have a minor difficulty. There is no sign of what they are supposed to break.

    The heroine of Mistress of the Waves starts at twelve. The book is about capitalist competition, not violence (well, there are two assassination attempts and a pirate attack.) It’s technically SF: The heroine wants to build a starship, and owns the hottest ship on her world: a three-master square-rigger. She does not succeed at least in this book.

    My other two novels are The One World and MinuteGirls. They are both MilSF. The former is sword and longbow against invaders with matchlocks and bayonets; the latter is starships. they both have a fair amount of politics of the horsetrading, voting, and corruption variety. To the extent there are scenes involving fornication, they are off-camera; well, you do get a paragraph of two teenagers necking. Once. Everything is way tamer than the old Ann Arbor sex ed books for fifth and sixth graders, though that appeared to em to be “Dick and Jane Do the Kama Suttra”.

    • If we’re allowed to talk about our own books, I guess I can put Minstrel in the list. I wouldn’t do it before middle school—not so much because of inappropriate sequences but because of interest level. (Though I do cite one genuine 16th-century bawdy song, entitled “My Thing Is My Own”, if that sort of thing is an issue for you. Lyrics are online and are basically puns.)

      When I was re-reading Robin McKinley lately, I saw how much my style resembles hers in levels of description of violence (as in, not much) and so forth. So you could use that as a gauge for whether your kid would be able to handle it.

  29. L.M. Montgomery. She wrote a lot more that just Anne Of Green Gables. I always liked Emily Of New Moon. McCaffrey’s Dragonsong trilogy is for YA. When I was in elementary and early middle school, before I discovered McCaffrey and science fiction/fantasy, I was big into a lot of historical fiction.
    Karen Cushman – The Midwife’s Apprentice and Catherine, Called Birdy
    Scott O’Dell I loved Sarah Bishop.
    Avi- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
    All the Madeleine L’engle books
    Jean Fritz- The Cabin Faced West.

    I could keep going and digging through my bins of old books. There is a lot out there. 🙂

  30. _Elizabeth of Starland_ for older girls, although if they are sensitive to violence the book might not be appropriate. The rest of the series gets pretty mature (violence, adult situations between a married couple.)

    I’ll agree with the Tamora Pierce books, although I didn’t think her young mages series (can’t recall the titles) was as good as the Song of the Lioness and Protector of the Small. The one about the arsonist got rather grim.

    Many of Jane Yolan’s books. The Dark is Rising sequence. Some of M. Lackey’s (like the one based on Swan Lake).

    • I will buy Jane Yolen’s books without even reading the description. There’s a hilarious kid’s book she wrote once called Sleeping Ugly.

  31. BobtheRegisterredFool

    At one point I thought a slightly bowdlerized Kratman might be appropriate for children, so it is possible I should recuse myself from the question of what is considered appropriate for children.

    In addition to others mentioned, I read Joan Aiken, Rosemary Sutecliff, Lloyd Alexander, Pratchett’s Bromaliead, the Littles, the Borrowers, and Laura Ingells Wilder. Many of these authors also have more adult books that I would not recommend. If it were boys, I might recommend most everything from Shonen Jump. PreCure and Nanoha might be good anime for girls.

    I haven’t seen the complete stories, so cannot be sure, but I have a good feeling about TXRed’s Rajworld, and George Phillies’ Eclipse.

    • One could, I suppose, bowdlerize Kratman to make him appropriate for children.
      One might also end up with books that were half to two-thirds the size of the originals.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        My sense of age appropriateness has a high tolerance for violence, and a low tolerance for sex. If you stuck to trimming out sex, you’d remove less. The characters would still make much less sense.

  32. Borribles by Larabetti. There are some English references that will be obscure to Americans.
    Bob, send me an email address and I will send you copies of my novels.

  33. Chris Schwehr

    Being that the Heinlein YA books are not mentally transferable to the minds of modern children, perhaps something in the David Weber classic series of Honor Harrington? I’ve always thought that this might be of some attraction since she (Honor Harrington) does have a rather complex character, enjoys a close emotional relationship with her cat (a Sphinxian treecat named “Nimitz” who is mentally bonded with her in a rather intriquing way) and is in a position of command and power despite the usual internal conflict and self doubt in some areas…She is written as a Faster than Light version of Horatio Hornblower which translates into high adventure and her morals are impeccable (especially compared to today).

  34. snelson134

    I liked the “Night Calls” (3 books and one short story) series by Catherine Kimbriel. Think early American folk magic.

  35. David Weber wrote three volumes of Young Adult on an ancestor of Honor Harrington, who at the time was a teenager. I gather that they sold less than ideally. IIRC Weber has teenage daughters, and might have an intelligent opinion on this topic.

    • I think that would be because A. Weber and Lindskold wrote them for Baen and B. Fire Season (book two), got a little heavy-handed with the environmentalist themes. I’m also not sure that the third book is out yet.

      • snelson134

        It’s out. The 3 are: A Beautiful Friendship, Fire Season, Treecat Wars.

        What may have you confused is that a lot of the first one is basically extending and tying together three shorter pieces that appeared in the various Honorverse anthologies, starting with the story that provided the title.

  36. Draven

    most of the stuff i am tempted to write as YA is stuff i used as RP scenarios in high school.

  37. David and the Phoenix, by Edward Ormondroyd

  38. NKR

    Not only for girls, but Steve Sheinkin writes history books that are very entertaining. The first one we read was, “King George: What Was His Problem?” He also has one called, “Which Way to the Wild West?” (about western expansion) and “Two Miserable Presidents” (about the Civil War). I can’t recommend them highly enough for any kid (and parent — they’re great for reading together).

    My daughter also really enjoyed the Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald, as well as “The Penderwicks” (and subsequent books in the series) by Jeanne Birdsall.

    I know electronics and such are an issue, but, IMO, kids can still like some of the classics. Anne of Green Gables is really wonderful and has enough going on that I think it avoids the typical eye-rolls while also offering a strong, entertaining, heroine.

  39. Hunting Guy

    Zena Henderson and her People series. Strong female leads and interesting reads. She doesn’t get the attention she deserves.

  40. Sherry

    Bunnicula. Can’t remember the author but I haven’t found a kid that doesn’t enjoy it.

  41. Mary

    For the non-SF and fantasy reading young lady:

    The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
    The Ark by Margot Benary-Isbert
    The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

    • The Blue Castle is one of my favorites of L.M. Montgomery.

      • Arwen

        Nice to see a fellow Blue Castle fan, it’s one of my desert island books.

      • It always amazes me to read through the recommendations and realize how many of you all read the same things – and loved them – as I did. I was distinctly not normal in my reading, I thought, comparing myself to my peers at the time. I’ve found my people…

  42. Bowdlerize Kratman for boys, I am reminded of the Boston Post version of Wells war of the worlds, published in the 1890s, in which the editor moved the landing to Massachusetts and then replaced all the pointless philosophy and the character arguing with a prelate with the appropriate alternative: old-fashioned American megaviolence.

    For girls…perhaps adifferent approach is needed.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I would be fortunate if Bowdlerizing Kratman were the nuttiest idea I’ve had this past decade.

      Girls like horses. Boys like dogs. Anime does all sorts of sports. Someone should do a sports story light novel about coursing with hounds on horseback.

  43. I was reading, ah, a little ahead of grade level at that age (what, you mean most sixth graders don’t love the unabridged Three Musketeers?), there are still a few I can think of that might meet those requirements. I got a ridiculous amount of fun out of Nancy Drew books back in the 90s, and also had fun with some of the Babysitter’s Club series. The idea of those being bowdlerized saddens me, actually.
    Then there’s the inestimable Judy Blume. Outside of “Are You there God,…” and the Fudge books, “Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself” was quite good.
    Not necessarily girl-centric, but Gary Paulsen had some good stuff, and I enjoyed The Far Side of the Mountain and White Fang as well.
    It’s too bad the girl in question doesn’t like fantasy, because Susan Cooper had the amazing Dark Is Rising sequence, and I also still enjoy Lois Lowrey’s The Giver.

    • A little-known children’s/YA author is Ellen Conford. My mother apparently met her when they were kids at summer camp, so she passed the books along to me. While they’re dated, they’re obviously dated, so your kid won’t get confused by the time assumptions.

      Oh, and don’t forget The Great Brain books!

  44. The one Heinlein juvenile I’d find to be a real exception and also having some of the best “non-girly” strong females (as well as the more traditional sort) would be “Tunnel in the Sky”. Given that the loss of all that fabulous technology everyone takes for granted is also an overarching theme I suspect that would probably make it more palatable to a smartphone audience. Newer stuff I can’t say much, it’s been a while since I was a teen girl and anything I read was well pre-cell phone. Some of the Lois Duncan thrillers might hold up for the one who does not like Fantasy.

    The Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries were still a favorite at that age, and given that Sally is the muscle, they might go down well. And Edith Hamilton’s Mythology is a great introduction to a lot of the classical stories, presented in an engaging manner.

  45. I don’t think we have to completely avoid the classics, even if they don’t have cell phones (I don’t believe most of my favorite recently published books have cell phones). Surely, even today’s little girl can appreciate Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. Or Heidi by Johanna Spyri.

    The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett (fantasy)
    Frontier Magic series by Patricia C. Wrede (fantasy alt-history)
    Cecelia and Kate series by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (fantasy)
    The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (science fiction)
    The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy by Jessica Day George (fantasy)
    Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale (fantasy)
    Ottoline series by Chris Riddell (for younger girls; it’s surprisingly nice)
    Underland Chronicles series by Suzanne Collins (protagonist is a boy but he has a little sister) (fantasy)
    Dragon Slippers series by Jessica Day George (fantasy)

    • I wasn’t trying to avoid the classics – I never do – but usually in asking for recommendations I get a lot of the classics, or books we adults loved as kids, and I try to find new books, the new classics, to add to the lists. There are thousands of books coming out, surely some are delightful reads, too!

  46. Robin Mckinley was mentioned, but I’ll add to the list The Blue Sword and its duo book (which I’m drawing a total blank on the title). Also DragonHaven, Pegasus, Sunshine, and Shadows. And maybe Chalice.

    Carrie Vaughn has a newer book out Martians Abroad, where the main character is a teen girl that might go over well.

    Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s Liaden series might work too.

    Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver On The Road

    Mike Shepherd’s Kris Longknife series might work, though the companion series on Vicky Peterwald may not (depending on parent sensibilities) as it has some soft porn leanings.

    • The other book that goes with Blue Sword is Hero and the Crown. And yes, they are excellent.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I remember Sunshine as being a bit more adult than Hero/Sword. One thing I did not realize when I was young that would have done me some good was that not all titles by the same pen name are intended for the same audience.

      Sherwood Smith’s Wren books are better for the younger end of the spectrum.

  47. Esmeralda

    I grew up enamoured with The Little House BOOKS and branched out into pretty much every era from there. Patricia Beatty. Jean Fritz. Alice Dagliesh(sp?) Sarah plain and tall, et al, Lois Lenski, Caddie Woodlawn, The Root Cellar, Swallows and Amazons etal, Eloise Jarvis McGraw,
    I loved Robin Hood, Arthur, Andrew Lang, and other Classic Fairytales. (At one point at 8/9 my mom was so worried about my steady consumption of Andrew Lang she assigned me to read a couple bios of scientists!) After a steady diet of the classics I discovered Patrica Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series, and Robin Mackinley ‘s various new takes on the old stories. That was awesome! The Ordinary​ Princess. Egward Eager. Also, in the myth-n-legend section, I read Greek-n-Roman pantheon tales but for whatever reason didn’t really get into the Germanic/Nordic ones.
    I was also reading Classic Adventure at that age- Dumas, Verne, Wyss, Pyle, Lofting, none of which have female leads- which never made a difference to me. I knew how to use a knife and build a fire and name trees and plants and stuff, so it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do everything that the male protagonists did.
    I liked kids/ya 50s/60s sf better than 90s stuff- Heinlein, Danny Dunn, COLAR, Tom Swift both turn-o-t-century and 50s- now there I did notice the lack of female leads!
    The Pushcart War is a multigenerational cast with a strong showing by a little old lady. Of, course, I read all the Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry I could get my hands on while shunning pretty much all other horse/dog stories cause they ALWAYS DIE. Mrs Piggle-Wiggle. Mrs Frisbey and rats of NIMH. It appears to me that there are a lot more historical fiction with female leads than adventure/sf.

  48. Schmitz. Telzey Amberdon.

  49. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Maybe also Homer Price, Astrid Lindgren, Bill Wallace.

    I liked Daniel Pinkwater, but those are probably a bit older.

    Boxcar children.