Monday, September 17, 2018

Four Middle-Grade Stories with Animals

I can't keep up prereading books for my children. This year I have had the goal of reading one middle grade book a week. With many hours spent in waiting rooms, I have almost reached my goal. It is easier to read a juvenile fiction book in a busy doctor's office than concentrate on an adult book.

I've had to discard many books, but I've found some excellent books as well. Since many of you have said that you also can't keep up with prereading books for your children, I've wanted to share some of the good books I have found.

But here is where I get stuck in perfectionism. I want a perfect list, separated into categories, rating each book. But I'll never find the time.

So here is four books, all of which include animals in some way, that we enjoyed. I'll share more books in the coming weeks.

This post contains affiliate links.

Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Sam wants to make money and chickens might be the answer. My son enjoyed this story because it was fast-moving with short chapters. Perfect for readers who are just transitioning into chapter books. And doesn't every child dream up plans to make money?

Honk the Moose by Phil Stong
What would you do if a moose came into your dad's barn? Call the authorities, of course. A hilarious story of how the town of Birora, Minnesota was impacted by Honk the Moose. Old enough to be a classic. Short enough to read on a long-winter evening.

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
Can a squirrel survive being carried away by a hawk? Will his friends be able to rescue him? Sounds rather, uhhh, nutty, but I loved this as much as the children. A fun story of squirrels, nuts, and friendship.

Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt
Fredle is searching in the dark kitchen pantry for food when he finds the most delicious food. But that night he is terrible sick and his mouse family pushes him out of the nest. His journey to the Outside introduces him to creatures like chickens and raccoons and the beauties of flowers and the moon that he has never imagined.

One of you recommended the Young Fredle audio book to us. We took it on a family trip and it captured the attention of everyone but the two-year-old. The reader was excellent with the voices of the many characters. Some children may find the references to  death  or "went" to be disturbing, but it is a fabulous story of adventure and growth.

I often get great book suggestions from you, so what have you been reading?


  1. The Tomie Depaola chapter books are a favorite of my family (26 Fairmount Ave series). We got them on audio book from the library read by the author. They do come from a Catholic perspective (our family is not) so we discussed that as a family when we listened in the car. Other than that the series is a humorous, wholesome family story of a little boy growing up in the late 1930s.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I love your book suggestions. We are currently reading through the Rocky Ridge Years series which continues the Little House books. I find that the first ones of the Rocky Ridge series are very good and well written, in a similar style to the Little House books. There has been the odd thing I have edited out but not much at all. I am reading them out loud. The last few in the series though, in particular the ones where Rose has left home and the last one very much so, I don't find appropriate or well written. I learned that the author died and someone finished the series...I don't think they did a good job writing-wise and also Rose really changes unfortunately. We are at the Little Town in the Ozarks one right now and it still seems fine so far but I can't remember when I read before where they got what I felt was inappropriate/bad writing. Its around when she leaves home and is a bit older.

    1. I love the Rocky Ridge Years series, too, and also the mostly-fictional books about Laura's mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Yes the last Rose Wilder book wouldn't be appropriate for some readers, though I think it was fairly true-to-life.

      The author of the Martha Morse and Charlotte Tucker books has a lovely blog, including a page that lists all of the Little House books:

      I've also read and loved Laura's original Pioneer Girl story that was recently published with annotations - it's not really a book for kids but it is SO fascinating to read about what was and wasn't fictionalized in the original Little House series.

      I've read a lot of academic books about Laura and Rose and their books, too, and I love that no matter how much history and literary criticism I read about them, the original books never lose their charm :)

    2. Oh yes I agree the last book/few books are definitely true to life. I just think they aren't as well written and that they aren't really what I want to read aloud to my family that ranges from 6-12. I agree if you can find the other stories about the grandmother and great-grandmother (they are out of print) they are fairly good too.

  3. Gina, since your children like animal stories have they read (or been read to) RING OF BRIGHT WATER (otters) or RASCAL (raccoon)or THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY (dogs and cat) or MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (multiple animals)(this is actually a trilogy)? The first two are technically adult books but readable by teens. The 2nd two are Children's Fiction.

    Cynthia Rylant has a series of Easy Chapter books about the Lighthouse Family featuring multiple sea and land animals. There are now 8 in the series. Also Janette Oke has a series called Animal Friends with 12 books, also Easy Chapter Books, featuring 12 different animals.
    C.W. Anderson has a series BILLY AND BLAZE about a boy and his horse. There are 8 and these are also Easy Chapter Books. Ellen Miles has a Puppy Place series about animal rescue and there are 50+. I have read none of these but one of our church families donates every one after they read them to our library. These are also Easy Chapter books.

    Happy reading. Personally, I would not take the time to pre read a book. We stock in our church/school library either books by authors from Christian publishing houses or either classics like THE SECRET GARDEN, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, etc. We have just over 6,000 books now in the library, obviously not just children's books. I buy hundreds of books for 25 cents apiece at the Public Library used book sales...I do skim those for evolution and time inconsistencies in the science books, mentions of Halloween, Santa, occult, etc. Families donate their outgrown books. How about your church library? Do they stick with Herald Press or Christian Light for example? I wouldn't pre read those.

  4. Our favorites lately (we usually have 5-6 readalouds going at once) have been two books about settlers in Australia in the 1820s or 30s. They are The Switherby Pilgrims and Jamberoo Road. We also just finished Lassie Come-Home, which we loved, and started through the Orphans Journey series by Arleta Richardson. We love to read aloud together! For more suggestions, check out our book review website,

  5. I used to be discouraged that I couldn't keep up on the prereading also, since it is really important to me that my kids are reading wholesome and thought provoking books. However, I found a a great resource here from a homeschooling Mom who has compiled a list of good, wholesome, beautiful literature for children and teenagers. I haven't encountered one book on her list so far that I haven't been pleased with. I am not affiliated in any way, just appreciated the resource and thought I would pass it on.

    1. yes I agree this is a good resource! You can buy the PDF for only $5. Totally worth it.

    2. Jenny Phillips website contains a link to her free music, where it becomes clear that she is a Mormon. She and her family need prayer that they would be saved by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not saying that everything she says is automatically wrong, but I wouldn't consider her a sound source for Bible believing Christians to draw from.

    3. Isn't it beautiful that believers of Jesus Christ everywhere, even those called by different names, can join together to find the good in the world? I am so grateful for that. Many of the books Gina has mentioned are included on Jenny's list, so I believe their values when it comes to books are very similar, as well as similar to mine.

  6. Thank you so much for all of your booklists! I love them! I trust your choices and love that I don't feel the need to pre-read the entire list before handing them off to my children.

    Praying for you and your family every night!


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