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08 June 2014


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I'll try to think of some. I had the same problem with my 7yo, but she liked magic.


i have a list! lessee....the first two All-of-a-Kind Family books, the Penderwicks books, the Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright, the Cam Jansen books, Mr Popper's Penguins, the Frannie K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton, The Fudge books, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume, The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron, the Kids of the Polk Street School books by Patricia Reilly Giff, the My Weird School books (Miss Daisy is Crazy, Mr Klutz is Nuts, etc) by Dan Gutman, the Riverside Kids books (Busybody Nora, Make Room for Elisa, E is for Elisa, Elisa in the Middle, etc.) by Johanna Hurwitz, The Ruby Lu and Alvin Ho books by Lenore Look, The Gooney Bird Greene books by Lois Lowry, A Girl Named Helen Keller (level 3) by Margo Lundell (ill. Irene Trivas), Homer Price by Robert McCloskey, The Mrs Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald (ill Hilary Knight), Roxy and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, the Stink books by Megan McDonald, the Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne, the Marvin Redpost books by Louis Sachar, the Boxcar Children Series (books 1-19, others not written by Gertrude Chandler Warner).


Awesome, marjorie!

Via FB, we have had recommendations for My Weird School, Secrets of Droon, Cracked Classics, A to Z Mysteries, and Geronimo; via Twitter, we have Penderwicks, Enright, Eager, and Laurel Snyder.

And it just occurred to me that the Chet Gecko books might also be a good fit.


Also via FB, Phantom Tollbooth (fantastical but not particularly scary).


Dang, Marjorie! Still, I have a few.

How about The Dog Who Wouldn't Be and Owls in the Family by Farley Mowatt? And the more light hearted Gary Paulsen stuff, like Harris and Me?
Also, some of the Ibbotson books might work: the Dragonfly Pool and Star of Kazan spring to mind as (at least nominally) non-fantasy.


How could I have forgotten Joan Aiken's Arabel and Mortimer books? (Caveat: all her stuff is wonderful, but quite a lot of it is scary. The Mortimer books are not.)
An if he likes the Thortin Burgess, he might like the Freddy the Pig books by Walter Brooks. (bonus: there are a ton of them.)


Loving all the suggestions thus far, thank you all so much!


Maybe The Mysterious Benedict Society? Also if he doesn't mind female main characters, The Mysterious Howling series might work, too.


I know you said not too fantastical, but there is plenty of good un-real stuff that isn't full on witches and wizards--

Animal books, like A Nest For Celeste, Masterpiece, Rag Tag

The Mammoth Academy books

Odd and the Frost Giants

Harry Horse's books about Grandfather and his dog Roo, starting with The Last Polar Bears

The Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series by R.L. LeFevers

Jon Scieszka's time warp series


Bruce Coville gets a little bit more fantastical than it sounds like you're looking for, but is my #1 rec for young-into-MG reads if the nephew does want something slightly fantasy but not too dark.

My #1 rec, though, is definitely Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, which are funny and a little off-beat but not too fantastical or dark, and really great for that age. (I suspect other Sachar books are probably similar, but those are the only ones I remember reading.)


The Alvin Fernald books and the Mad Scientists Club.


James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks!

Ellen Potter's Olivia Kidney series.

Bedknob and Broomstick.

Everything by Konigsberg.


My boss at work posed this exact question to me a year or two ago, and I wrote up a post about it (and got some great suggestions in the comments, too!). Here it is: http://ceceliabedelia.blogspot.com/2012/11/top-ten-books-for-gifted-seven-year-old.html.


No one has mentioned nonfiction - I would suggest the entire Scientist in the Field series from HMH. Libraries love these books (as you know!) and they are easy to find. Lots of topics - from bees to frogs, whales, earthquakes, space, wolves, etc. etc. Great photos, easy to read text and they can pick and choose what would appeal to him. LINK: http://www.sciencemeetsadventure.com/books/

I also second Rag Tag and suggest the Mushroom Planet books (early SF), High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate (all about birds who are pirates. really.), the Amelia Rules graphic novel series by Jimmy Gownley and Zita the Spacegirl (again, not sure if SF is considered too fantastic or not).


Cecilia, thanks for the additional link, and Colleen, thanks for the non-fiction suggestions! (And I loved the Mushroom Planet books when I was a kid - I think I may have at least one copy around here somewhere I can dig up.)

Wendi Gratz

A lot of my favorite fiction recommendations for that age have already been posted, so I'll jump in with some nonfiction. The Tales of the Dead books that DK came out with a few years ago were terrific. I don't know if they went past Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, but they have a graphic novel threaded through the nonfiction. Very fun.

The Diary books by Richard Platt are also great. Roman Diary, Pirate Diary, Castle Diary, etc. My daughter still loves these and pulls them off the shelf occasionally for a re-read.

Which makes me think of some good picture books for readers - The Eleventh Hour and The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins.

Finally - I love the Face to Face series from National Geographic. There are a TON of them (Face to Face with Grizzlies, Face to Face with Frogs, etc.) and they're all about the animals, written by the photographers who work with them. They tell the stories behind some of the photo shoots and are really fascinating.

Rebecca Moore

The Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. Sailing and camping adventures!


ooh, how did i forget Sideways Stories??

more non-fiction: ANY nic bishop photography book. maxie was also obsessed with Tadpole Rex.

i'm irked at myself for stopping the list-keeping after 3rd grade. i have nieces and nephews!


I often recommend Hank the Cowdog by John Erickson for those with advanced reading levels but not ready for content at the same level. They are mysteries, but especially the early titles are pretty tame, but the language is more difficult as it is told by a Texan dog.


Are the Edward Eager books too fantastical for him? They're my go-to for bright readers this age. Ditto The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.

Realistic fiction that would work (most of which I read to my own son at this age):
all the Clementine books
Ruby Lu, Brave and True (and sequels)
Grace Lin's Pacey books
Katy Kelly's Lucy Rose and Melonhead books
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (by Uma Krishnaswamy)
A Cricket in Times Square
The Secret Garden
A Little Princess


nonfiction: works by Steve Jenkins, which are mostly about animals. His collages are beautiful and a treat to study.

fiction: Dick King-Smith (or is he perhaps too easy?)

Amy Barker

Here in Australia there is a great web site for gifted and talented students that also includes hundreds of book reviews. Have a look:
The reviews give you a list of themes in each of the books.


I have to add a couple, though it's been a long time since I read them:

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.
Also, if he likes animals, I haven't seen Deborah Howe's Bunnicula series mentioned yet.


This is a great topic! My 6-year-old twins are voracious readers, and I'm always looking for new material for them. They've already read some of the books listed here (EB White, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Sideways Stories), but not all of them. I know you mentioned that the 7-year-old isn't ready for wizards/witches, but he might like Anne Ursu's The Real Boy (the magic is mostly what we'd call medicine).

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