Good read-alouds for older kids

OK everyone, I’ve got a question for you! My husband reads chapter books to the kids every evening. He’s done this for two decades.  Over the years he’s read them many favorites: the Narnia series, the Little House series, Phantom Tollbooth, Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Watership Down, the American Adventure series, and many more. Recently we’ve ventured cautiously into newer stuff. The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequel were winners recently.  North! Or Be Eaten (second of the Wingfeather Saga) was one that the older kids and dad liked, but that I was disappointed with.  I found it too intense and grim for our younger kids.

My husband most enjoys reading fast-paced adventures with good writing.  Old books are fine, as long as the language isn’t too archaic or hard for our new-immigrant kids to wade through.  (6th-8th grade reading level is fine.) Books don’t have to be overtly Christian, but main characters should be admirable, moral, and willing to fight for what’s right.

So within those paramenters, what do you think?  Got any good titles to recommend?


  1. Mary,

    I didn’t read every single suggestion from all the commenters, but I did see G.A. Henty mentioned and wanted to throw in a suggestion for anyone who likes his books . . . My husband is currently recording one of Henty’s selections on audiobook . . . to be available later this month to download on MP3 at our upcoming website. Henty’s books are great adventure stories with main characters who are “admirable, moral, and willing to fight for what’s right” just like you requested.

    I’ll keep you posted as to our website’s progress and the launch date for our audiobooks being available. I know your husband likes to read aloud to your children, and we do that frequently as well . . . but it might be pleasurable for all of you to “listen” together as the story unfolds in a drama all its own.

    Two other series our family has loved reading together — “Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer, which has seven books currently, and the “Passages” series put out by Focus on the Family by Paul McCusker. These books are an outpouring from the Adventures in Odyssey series of audiobroadcasts. There are six books in the series, and they take you through six different biblical accounts that are absolutely spellbinding and fascinating.

  2. I work part time in an elementary school library so I know what is popular with kids here. The Percy Jackson series are fabulous (much better than the movie – the movie changed the plot, ages of characters, etc), the City of Ember books are great, and the kids can’t get enough of the Peter books – Peter and the Shadowtheives, Peter and the Starcatchers (the first one), etc. Also, one of my favorites is the Gregor the Overlander series. I took the first book home over spring break last year and had to go back and break into the school (not really) over the break so I could get the rest of the series. It is that good. Redwall is popular with the boys. All the Indian in the cupboard books are great too.

  3. Little Britches by Ralph Moody. My kids love the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull. Their very favorite book that we read together was the first book of the Boxcar Children series, but I didn’t have luck with any of the books after it. The Nicholas series by René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé is hilarious.

  4. I found many old favorites here, and a page full of new suggestions – how great! I would like to add a couple of web-sites – I am good with older books, but not so good with newer ones, so it helps to be able to read indepth reviews, as part of an initial search/elimination process. With 3 voracious readers in the house now, it is getting harder to read ahead of my kids. I have found both of these to be really helpful –

  5. Swallows and Amazons – a story about mom and the kids on holiday near a lake in England, where they find a sailing boat. Mom (with Dad’s permission) allows the kids to learn to sail, and they spend their holiday on the boat and the island they discover. There is a sequel, although I can’t think of the title right now. The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques! E. Nesbit stories (5 Children and It was great fun!).

    Check out Elizabeth’s reading list (see comments above – They read voraciously, and they always choose wonderful books! She’s one of my dearest friends, so I know firsthand they choose well.

  6. Melanie says:

    I’m not sure if these were already mentioned but the series, Childhood of Famous Americans is very good.

  7. island of the blue dolphins is a good one, imho.

  8. MIchele says:

    Love read aloud time with my kids. We have enjoyed a series from Donita K Paul (DragonKeeper).We have liked most of the books from Gail Carson Levine. And not sure if you do Sonlight for school but their reading list is awesome and my kids always reread them again and again.

  9. I haven’t read through the comments, so maybe these have been mentionned: 100 Cupboards and any other N.D. Wilson books have gotten some praise.

  10. crazyeights says:

    I was very happily surprised by Maniac Magee… very fun as a read aloud especially. Boys and girls liked it and it deals with racial issues in an interesting way.

  11. Katie R says:

    ‘Caddie Woodlawn’ by Carol Ryrie Brink is a fun read, quite similar to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. What about the Wayside School books by Louis Sachar? Or Roald Dahl’s ‘BFG’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Danny: The Champion of the World’, or ‘James and the Giant Peach’. Another idea is the ‘Mandie’ series by Lois Gladys–I devoured these books when I was 8-12.

  12. My boys have greatly enjoyed “The Great Brain” series by John Fitzgerald. It is set in 1896 and loosely follows the authors childhood. I there are 7 books in all.
    * The Great Brain (1967)
    * More Adventures of the Great Brain (1969)
    * Me and My Little Brain (1971)
    * The Great Brain At The Academy (1972)
    * The Great Brain Reforms (1973)
    * The Return of the Great Brain (1974)
    * The Great Brain Does It Again (1976)
    * The Great Brain Is Back (Published in 1995 from loose notes after the author’s death)

  13. alpidarkomama says:

    Legends of Gahoole! Noble (owl) characters, fantastic adventures, very uplifiting stories. Loved the whole series.

  14. not sure if it was mentioned as I didn’t read ALL the comments :), BUT ‘The Codebearer’ Series by the Miller brothers would be good!! Allan Miller was in our travel group when we went to Eth to pick up our daughter-they adopted a little girl from Eth also 🙂 He is a great guy and writes/illustrates books with his brother (they have little kid books like ‘Gid the Kid’, etc) They are very talented and have a great heart for the Lord and the Codebeare books are sort of in the genre of the Narnia books. Hope that helps! 🙂

  15. Momto12 says:

    Kingdom Series by Chuck Black (4 books)
    Orphan’s Journey by Arleta Richardson (4 books)
    Elijah Creek & the Armor of God by Lena Wood (7 books)
    Shadow Children by Margaret Peterson Haddix (7 books)
    Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
    Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
    The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

  16. My husband is a 7th-8th grade teacher and highly recommends The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

  17. The Tale of Desperaeux was good.

  18. It is written for younger children, but we all LOVE to read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle aloud. My fifteen year old still wanders over if I read a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book or chapter from the book. We like the first couple best, the Farm ones are not quite as good, but still good reads.

  19. Ruth Hansen says:

    We have highly enjoyed the Fablehaven series. I love that each book has a list of questions at the end that helps kids analyze the decisions the characters made in the book and decide what they would have done in the same situation. The Great Brain series is another one that was suggested that we have enjoyed reading as a family. The Tripods trilogy made for a very interesting thought provoking read. I enjoyed the unabridged version of Heidi (don’t that that would fit into “fast paced” though.) We’ve found another fun series recently by Brandon Sanderson. The first book is called “Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians.” And actually I just got done reading your book on raising a large family. I quite enjoyed it. Thank you! I have 7 kids myself and came from a family with 11 children so I related very nicely. 🙂 Have a super day.

  20. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books.

  21. Heather says:

    We read The Wind in the Willows aloud to our daughter two years ago, when she was four. She loved it and so did my husband and I — if one of us missed a night, we read to catch up! Can’t wait until my son is old enough to enjoy it so we can read it again.

  22. “The Girl who owned a City**” is one I have always loved as an adventure read-aloud. It is about kids after a plague wipes out all the adults, which sounds scary I guess, but it just focuses on how the kids make it in the new world. I also love “My side of the Mountain**” – one of my favorites. Also try “Sarah, Plain and Tall” (all ages); The Magic Bicycle** by Bibee (a Christian allegory type series; great for the 10+ crowd but probably a bit scary for youngers); Beauty by Robin McKinley (retelling of Beauty and the Beast); Carry On, Mr Bowditch (maritime biography); The 5 Children and It, The enchanted Castle, etc by E. Nesbit (written around 1910, British); Big Red and Irish Red and other dog books by Jim Kjelgaard (may be hard to find); Cheaper by the Dozen (about a family with 12 kids) and its sequel; The Lost Prince** by Frances Hodgson Burnett (LOVED this one as a kid); The Hobbit**….

    I starred ** the ones I think are most adventurous!

  23. Hopefulmom says:

    Definitely check out the Boxcar Children series. Lots of good moral character in the stories and I love how the children are so inventive and creative. Both my kids loved these stories as well as my public school classes.

  24. Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
    That was one of my favorites that my mother read to us.
    There was also a short story collection The Children’s Story Caravan put out by the Quakers. I don’t think it is in print any more, but there is a shorter version in print The Friendly Story Caravan. I still remember those stories even though it has been years since I read them.
    I also really enjoyed books by Marguerite de Angeli (Thee Hannah, Henner’s Lydia, Bright April). They might be more for girls, but I know she also has some that have the main characters that are boys.

  25. I have to add Family Under the Bridge and anything by Kate DiCamillo esp. Because of Winn Dixie and the Mercy Watson books. They are short but so fun to read aloud!

  26. Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, and the Freddy the Pig books by (I think) Robert Brooks. Also, books for young people by Madeleine L’Engle.


    I am getting ready to order some of these. I’ve ordered for family gifts and had very high recommendations from all.

  28. I read a LOT of books when I was a kid. Here’s a few of my favorites:

    – Anything by Bruce Coville. I loved his Aliens Ate My Homework series when I was a kid and for small kids I recommend his Moongobble series.
    – I also really enjoyed the Rats of Nimh trilogy when I was a kid. The first one is Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.
    – The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop is excellent. I believe there is a sequel as well.
    – The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede are outstanding! I recently reread these as an adult and still loved them!
    – Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey was another of my favorites when I was a kid.
    – Anything by Roald Dahl, but especially Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    – The Borrowers by Mary Norton
    – The Giver by Lois Lowry
    – Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
    – Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
    – The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (for older kids only – they can be a bit intense)
    – The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

  29. If your husband likes to do voices for the characters, some good ones are:
    Around the World in Eighty Days – Jules Verne
    Rolf and the Viking Bow – Allen French
    Peter Treegate’s Musket (and the rest of the series, esp the 3rd one)

  30. I don’t know if this has been mentioned but the “Anne of Green Gables” series is incredible. Great for boys or girls…strong heroine, moral, funny, just a perfect role model.
    The are 6 or 7 books in the series…you grow up with her!!
    It is a MUST READ.

  31. SigrunC says:

    The Greenknowe series by L M Boston are old but good, as is The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. My favorites from when I was a kid, along with the Lord of the Rings. A book I missed as a teenager and just read recently & really enjoyed was The Little White Horse by Elizabet Goudge. Anything by Diana Wynn Jones is good as well.

  32. I’d echo so many of those already mentioned, but I’ll add a few others I didn’t see in the comments — Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time and following in the series; books by Katherine Paterson (especially Jacob, Have I Loved and Bridge to Teribithia); Number the Stars was one of my very favorite stories as a kid; and if they like allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress is great, with great lessons (and if it’s a bit too complicated in the language, there is a “Little Pilgrim’s Progress” that might be out of print but you could probably still track it down. It’s not significantly shorter, but the language is simpler.).

  33. Why has no one mentioned Harry Potter? Great for any child 6+