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.