When Fiona was sick I went looking through our bookshelves for books to read to her. She still enjoys picture books, but often, and especially when she’s sick, she prefers longer stories. The other day we rediscovered Catwings, and I was reminded about how difficult it was for me to find lovely books like these when Erin was little. Books that are suitable for very young children (maybe 3 through 6) who happen to enjoy longer stories but prefer gentle uncomplicated books. Books that don’t talk down to children, with simple plots but a richness of language. Books that are happy and fun. Here are some of our favourites.

  • Catwings books by Ursula LeGuin. There are four slender ‘chapter books’ in this series about kittens born with wings. Magical and appealing.
  • The Lighthouse Family books by Cynthia Rylant. There are four or five of these, about a ‘family’ of animals who are gradually brought together by serendipity and care for each other and for a lighthouse.
  • The Children of Noisy Village and Happy Times in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren. Lovely stories about likeable though sometimes mischievous children growing up in rural Sweden a couple of generations ago.
  • The Sophie stories (Sophie’s Snail, Sophie’s Tom, and others) by Dick King-Smith. Sophie is a bright, feisty girl with a mind of her own who is wonderfully outside-the-box in her interests and perspectives. She grows up in these books, from age 4 on up year by year, pursuing her dream of being a ‘lady farmer’. She begins by caring for a snail, then a stray cat…
  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. Daily life amongst a family of five Jewish girls growing up in turn-of-the-last-century New York City.
  • Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. My favourite first chapter book for young children. Funny, ever so gently suspenseful and truly lovely. Stories of a young boy who befriends a baby dragon.
Gentle stories

10 thoughts on “Gentle stories

  • March 5, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Ohhh, thanks for posting that.

    Heading off to our library’s site…

  • March 6, 2008 at 4:40 am

    Two possibilities from another era (1930’s) which are gentle and the have real charm of everyday life, the first in the country, the second in London:

    Milly Molly Mandy stories: available through amazon.ca

    but there are more titles available at amazon.co.uk

    My daughter loved these, and still re-reads them.

    The Children from One End Street:

    from amazon.co.uk

    Dick King-Smith also has some other titles in the same age range which might be good.


  • March 6, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Oh, I loved All-Of-A-Kind-Family forty years ago, when I was a kid. And my kids loved it in their turns, too. We have been through three cycle sof those books!

    N. enjoyed the Catwings books, though we never knew about them with the Chemistry Geek Princess was growing up. She enjoyed the “Anastasia” series, though, but I do not remember the author.

    And believe it or not, I still occasionally pick up one or another of these books just for myself.

  • March 7, 2008 at 1:23 am

    I’ll add the Boxcar Children series (the original books, anyway) and the original Winnie the Pooh stories, as well. Also the Grandmother Stories series. My ds5 is now alternating between wanting Dr. Doolittle or Hardy Boys 😉

  • March 7, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Since I’m Swedish, I just have to comment that Astrid Lindgren wrote about Sweden, not Norway ;o)

    She has written a lot of nice books, this far I have only read about Pippi Longstocking this far, but as you write, Noisy Village and probably also about Emil may be nice soon (my oldest is 5 yo).

  • March 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Miranda, thanks for these. DS really likes and gets chapter books with complex language, but he’s easily scared. With TV it’s impossible, we have ditched the DVDs he was given by people after each was watched half through, and now if he watches TV, it’s the Teletubbies! Though with reading loud books it is easier (I’ve been known to read an entire scary section in a silly light-hearted tone so it wouldn’t scare him), and he’s even enjoyed Roald Dahl, it is still lovely to get suggestions. His favourite for ages (around the time we read all the Sophie books) was the Faraway Tree books. There are some scary scenes, but the kids always get home to mom in the end. He’s always been more scared by scary concepts, refusing to watch Nemo because Nemo is separated from his dad rather than because of the sharks, KWIM?

    I do think that the suggestion of looking to the past is a good one, as the 7 or 8 year olds in the Faraway Tree seem far more like DS at 4 than today’s 7 or 8 year old.

  • March 7, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Annelys, I knew that — why did I write Norway? Brain fart. Heading off to edit. We also like Emil and His Clever Pig. And “Ronia” is a favourite for older kids.

  • March 8, 2008 at 7:55 am

    I’ve just been reading My Father’s Dragon to my 3 year old, and he loves it!

    I have to say, he also seems to have a crush on Fiona. When I read your blog, he wants to see pics of her!

    Thanks for the gentle stories recs. They look great.

  • March 22, 2008 at 6:35 am

    Thanks for these. My 2 yo is the polar opposite of her sister, so we’re going to have to add new titles to the bookshelves.

    My oldest adored the Father’s Dragon book.

    We buy most of our books from Dawn Publications. And I just found about Tara Publishing (tarabooks.com), whose books look really, really interesting to me.

Comments are closed.