“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” (C.S. Lewis)
When I was a little girl, I spent much of my time buried in books. In the summertime, you could often find me perched in one of the limbs of an ancient oak in our backyard, immersed in tales of mystery, history and adventure. In the wintertime, I would curl up on the couch, in our reading nook—or even with a flashlight in the bottom of the closet—lost in a book. I loved to read.
My whole family loves reading, even the ones who can’t yet read fluently.
We have many treasured books. So as you can imagine, this was a difficult list to make. However, with the help of my daughters, we’ve selected 25 books from our shelves that we absolutely love.
We think you’ll love them too.
Are you ready?
Here are our top 25 chapter books:
We just finished reading this book together a couple of weeks ago. We spent hours curled up in the living room, reading about Chester Cricket and his friends who live in the subway station under Times Square. We took this book along in the car so I could read aloud while my husband drove. And when it was all over, the girls begged me to buy the sequel.
We have a fascination with trumpeter swans, because they are a species that is being reestablished in our area. This delightful book features a trumpeter swan named Louis—who just happens to be mute. In order to impress a beautiful swan named Serena and find a mate, he must figure out a way around his disability.
3. Green Ember
Rabbits with swords, adventures galore, and a story that will draw you in deeper and deeper—if you have never read this series by S.D. Smith, you must stop reading this list immediately until you can figure out a way to get a hold of it! If you live in Canada, you can access the ebook version here or the hard copy through the American Amazon site here. If you live in the States, you can order through the author’s website. The Green Ember and the books that follow are absolutely wonderful stories that will quickly become treasured favourites.
Two days. That’s how long it took us to get through this hilarious story by Roald Dahl. I read until my voice grew hoarse, and then I read some more. Charlie’s dreams come true when he wins a trip to see Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory. His adventures will have your children begging you for just one more chapter. And then another. And then another.
Janner, Tink and Leeli Igiby live in the land of Skree with their mother Nia, and their grandfather Podo—and the Fangs of Dang, Fearsome Toothy Cows, Sea Dragons, Ridge Runners, and other terrible and fantastical creatures. Just a word of caution to those with young children: When I read this book to my girls, I was unprepared some of the more violent parts—nothing excessive for older children, but not something my girls were used to. I did tone down some parts, and we’ll continue with the next book in the Wingfeather Saga when they are a bit older. This is a gripping story that you will not want to put down.
In this classic children’s novel, first published in 1902, E. Nesbit tells the comical story of a group of siblings who come across a Psammead (a sand fairy). They are allowed one wish a day, with the understanding that whatever they wish for will disappear at sunset. Each day, they children get their wish—and then some. Sometimes, what we think we want is a little more than what we’ve bargained for.
Simon, a 15-year old who has just finished third grade for the fourth time, has a plan that he’s sure will make him rich. He decides to buy 1000 turkeys for a quarter a piece and take them on a 1000-mile trek out West, where they’ll sell for twenty times that much. My daughter loved this book!
Stuart Little, though born to human parents, looks exactly like a mouse. My girls enjoyed reading E.B. White’s descriptions of Stuart’s adventures.
This is a rewrite of Pilgrim’s Progress specifically for children. The vocabulary is simplified but the story is every bit as wonderful as the original.
10. Old Homestead Tales Series
There are four books in this series: The Bluebirds and their Neighbors, The Mallards and their Neighbors, Paddletail the Beaver and his Neighbors, and Wild Creatures in Winter. We’ve only been able to obtain three of the books, but my oldest daughter loves these stories about God’s love for the animals and God’s love for us.
Journey Through the Night was a much-loved childhood book. It’s the story of a Dutch family and their involvement in the Resistance during World War II. As the daughter of Dutch immigrants, these stories are part of my heritage. However, this is a wonderful book for anyone who wants to learn more about life during the occupation in Holland.
12. The Imagination Station Series
The past will come to life as you travel back in time to witness some of history’s greatest events with this series. I’m amazed at how often during history lessons a child’s voice will pipe up, “Oh, I remember this from Imagination Station!” Said child will then narrate the historical events beautifully.
13. From Anna
Nine-year old Anna is clumsy and awkward. And she doesn’t feel like she fits in. When her father announces that they are going to move from Germany to Canada, Anna is worried about what the future holds. But in Canada, Anna finds out that she is not clumsy after all. She is legally blind. This award-winning story is, quite simply, beautiful.
We love this story of Armand, a vagabond whose life is turned upside-down when a family moves into his “home” under a bridge in Paris. After he warms up to them, he determines to find a home where they can live together. This wonderful book won a Newbery Honour Medal in 1959.
15. The Princess and the Goblin (and anything else by George MacDonald)
Oh, how I loved this book as a child! And I was so thrilled when my daughter read it and decided that she loved it too! Published in 1872, this fantastical novel has a princess, a peasant boy, a magical great-great-grandmother, secret underground tunnels and plenty of adventure. It’s still one of my favourite books.
Based on a true story, this Newbery Medal winner tells the story of 12-year old Karana, a Native American girl who is left alone on an island off the coast of California and must learn to survive on her own. It’s a great read.
17. Dirk’s Dog Bello (and anything else by Meindert DeJong)
In a small seaside fishing village in Holland, a little boy rescues a dog who washes up on the dike during a storm. Bello, as he names him, is a Great Dane—and a hungry one at that. The adventures of Dirk and Bello are absolutely delightful.
These are just the sweetest stories! In each chapter, Grandma Mabel shares a different story from her childhood—with a lesson that is timeless.
Do you ever wonder where little things disappear to? Perhaps a tiny family lives undetected in the walls of your home! The Borrowers is a fun series about little, human-like beings that borrow from humans.
In the first book in this series, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny are orphans who, while hiding from a grandfather they’ve never met, discover an abandoned rail car in the woods and make it home. In subsequent books, the children live with their grandfather and solve mysteries. My oldest daughter especially loves these books, but we all enjoyed the first one as a read-aloud.
21. Sarah, Plain and Tall (and its sequels)
This book has won multiple awards for good reason. It’s the story of Sarah, a woman from Maine who answers an ad in the paper for a mail-order bride. She travels to the Midwest and makes her home with the family. But she misses the sea. This sweet story is one of our favourites.
22. B is for Betsy (and the rest of the series)
My daughter earned this book through a library reading club, and I’m so glad she did! This old-fashioned story is utterly delightful. We went on to purchase more of the books in the series—anything by Carolyn Haywood that we could get our hands on, really.
These books, set in the early 1900s, were among my favourites growing up. Mandie Shaw is a young girl who is part Cherokee and has a penchant for solving mysteries. I purchased the entire collection for my daughter, who absolutely devours them.
I’m including this book because I love it. My daughter’s opinion? “I don’t like this book. Anne talks too much!” I’m hoping that I can get her hooked on this classic when she’s a bit older. In the meantime, I’m including it in my list anyway.
Oh, what a sweet, sweet book! Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie are sisters who live in New York City in the early 1900s. The author, Sydney Taylor, loosely based this book on her own childhood. It’s sweet, wholesome and absolutely lovely.
I know. I said that I was only sharing 25 of our favourite books. But what would a book list be without some C.S. Lewis thrown in? The Chronicles of Narnia are an obvious favourite of anyone with good taste. 😉
Another bonus one: The Little House on the Prairie series was the very first series of chapter books that my girls and I read together. I could barely wait until they were old enough to share these books with them! We’ve spent so many cosy afternoons lost in the world of Laura Ingalls.
(You can check out our 20 favourite picture books here.)