60 Classic Books For Middle Grade Boys

Here’s a list for the boys: those 8-12 year old middle grade boys with their burgeoning desire for adventure and love of facts. There are a lot of classic adventure stories on this list, tons of exciting historical fiction, some mysteries, some fantasy, and some humor. All these books are good, clean fun that parents can feel confident handing to their sons to peruse (or devour, depending on the kid).

The books on this list are generally arranged by difficulty level with the easiest books coming first.

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Bears on Hemlock Mountain
Books for middle grade boys

Are their actually bears on Hemlock Mountain? In The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, Jonathan finds out when he ventures up the mountain alone in this easy to read, exciting story.

Beverly Cleary’s Henry and Ribsy books are simple but humorous stories about one of the best-loved plots in children’s literature: a boy and a dog.

A crippled boy, a wise monk, a journey, an adventure. The Door in the Wall is a great historical fiction novel with themes both about trusting God and pushing oneself to personal heroism.

McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm is a collection of hilarious tall tales. McBroom has a large, happy family and a miraculous one acre farm. Boys crack up at these tall tales.

In the tradition of Charles Dicken’s Prince and Pauper, The Whipping Boy is a story of swapping places. A funny, exciting story of an unlikely friendship.

Clyde Robert Bulla wrote the perfect chapter books for 8 year olds: exciting historical fiction stories complete with illustrations to hold interest. Riding the Pony Express and The Secret Valley are two favorites with boys.

Boys who enjoy mysteries will love The Boxcar Children Books. These four caring siblings help solve problems while always looking out for one another. The first 19 books in the series were written by the original author and are the ones worth buying.

Freddy is a pig-of-all-trades: detective, football player, politician, lawyer. Thesetalking animal stories are classics of the innocent, humorous older variety.

The Happy Hollisters are a large, cheerful family who love to help others. As they travel around the world, they solve mysteries, make friends, and always smile. Lots of clean outdoor family fun in this series. See my full review here.

Prince Martin Wins His Sword is the first in this quartet of books written in the time-honored epic style of the Iliad. These great books inspire courage and loyalty. Read my full review here!

Red Sails to Capri is a thought-provoking story about superstition and truth. It’s also gently humorous in places, describes a truly inspiring friendship between two young boys, and a great introduction to Italian culture.

In this Newberry Medal winner, a cricket, a mouse, and a cat form an unlikely friendship. The Cricket in Times Square truly captures the flavor of New York City.

This adventure story by Ian Fleming of Bond fame is always a hit with boys! In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a family heads off on a trip with their magical car; along the way they’ll encounter dastardly villains and some scrumptious French desserts.

In the same style as her more famous Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder describes her husband’s childhood in Farmer Boy. Boys will enjoy this account of life on an American farm with all the requisite animal training and feasting.

Owls in the Family is a hilarious boyhood memoir from naturalist Farley Mowat. My kids laugh until they cry at the escapades of Farley and his two horned owls, dogs, gophers, pigeons, and other animal friends.

Follow My Leader is a heart-warming classic about a young boy who is blinded in an accident. As he adjusts to life without vision, his family and friendships are his anchor. This book is great for building awareness about disabilities, blindness, and guide dogs.

Five for Victory is the first in Hilda Van Stockum’s beloved Mitchells series. This World War II era American family must pull together to build a victory garden, help their mother, and, maybe, capture a spy.

By the Great Horn Spoon! is a Gold Rush era novel by Sid Fleischman, who has a talent for humorous adventures. A boy and his butler set out to make their fortunes and general comedy ensues.

The Redwall books are always a favorite with middle grade boys. Mice, badgers, and other forest animals engage in epic quests, battles, and feasts.

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey is clean, old-fashioned small town fun. Homer captures bank robbers, helps the stuttering town sheriff, and makes hundreds of donuts in this comedic classic.

In Snow Treasure, a group of Norwegian children and their families come up with a daring plan to smuggle their country’s gold out of Norway- right under the Nazi’s noses! This is a tale of courage that is loosely based on a true story.

The Green Ember is the first in a fantasy series by a Christian author. These tales of a rabbit’s quest and journey are reminiscent of Narnia and Redwall.

The Good Master describes Jansci’s happy life in Hungary, which is stirred up when his family takes in his wild cousin Kate. This is a great story about family relationships, Hungarian Catholic culture, and family love changing a person.

The Singing Tree is the sequel to The Good Master, and a truly beautiful and memorable story about World War II. Not at all a typical war novel, this book focuses on the toll the war took on the tiny Hungarian town where Jansci’s family lived. Jansci’s family illustrates incredible Christian compassion as they open their farm to townsfolk, refugees, distant relatives, orphan children, and even a group of Russian prisoners of war.

The Chronicles of Narnia is, of course, a must-read for middle grade children. I believe in reading them in the original publication order: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first, then Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, and last of all The Last Battle.

The Winged Watchman is a fantastic World War II historical fiction adventure about the underground movement in Holland. Despite the suffering and poverty of life under Nazi rule, one boy finds courage to be a hero and save a downed RAF pilot.

Big Red is just one of many wonderful outdoor adventure books by Jim Kjelgaard. These books are at once action-packed and exciting while also inspiring an appreciation for the beauties of nature and all animals. Irish Red, Outlaw Red, Snow Dog, and Stormy are all favorites.

Tintin, boy reporter, is always finding himself drawn into hair-raising escapades by his cast of quirky friends Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, and Thomson and Thompson (with a p). Funny and clean, these do contain some very inventive “cussing” along the lines of “billions of blue blistering barnacles in a thundering typhoon.” There is also some alcohol abuse by Captain Haddock, portrayed as a negative habit.

Swallows and Amazons is a favorite series of mine. Check out my full review here!

King of the Wind is the story of the origin of a great grandsire of Arabian and Thoroughbred horses: the Godolphin Arabian. It’s also the story of a quiet boy who believed in this horse despite the superstition that his markings were bad luck. Master writer Marguerite Henry captures the atmosphere of Morocco in a powerful way.

Adam, after losing his father and dog, sets off on a journey across England, determined to find them. Adam of the Road is an enjoyable historical fiction book depicting life in 13th century England, especially for a wandering minstrel.

Shipwrecked on an island with a wild stallion, Alex must rely on his wits and courage to help them both survive. The Black Stallion is a timeless adventure story about the special friendship between a boy and a horse.

The Toothpaste Millionaire is a great introduction to the concept of entrepreneurship. Two middle schoolers envision and develop a successful toothpaste business.

The Melendy children have boundless curiosity and creativity. These four siblings work as a team whether building a dam to make a swimming pond, planning a play, or adopting a sibling. The Four-Story Mistake and Then There Were Five have great themes about sibling relationships and older adoption.

In My Side of the Mountain , Sam feels stifled in the city. He decides to move to the mountains and live alone. Can a boy survive alone and forage for food in the wilderness? Maybe with a little help from a peregrine falcon!

Beorn the Proud is an exciting story about two countries and two faiths colliding when a Viking boy and an Irish girl meet. This is one of Catholic Publisher Bethelehm Books‘ Living History Library, all of which are excellent historical fiction titles for this age range!

Enemy Brothers is a thought-provoking historical fiction novel about World War II. Amidst the turmoil of World War II, an English boy who was kidnapped as a baby and raised in Germany is recovered by his birth family. Thoroughly indoctrinated in Nazism, Max hates his family at first. But their Christian love and patience win him over eventually.

Red Hugh is Irish historical fiction about a Prince of Donegal who heroically resisted English oppression of Ireland. This is a nail-biting novel of intrigue and adventure.

Based on what is known of the dog who accompanied Lewis and Clark, SeaMan is an account of westward exploration through a lovable Newfoundland’s big black eyes.

The Great Wheel chronicles the adventures of an Irish lad who ends up in Chicago helping build the first Ferris wheel for the Chicago 1893 Exposition.

Bush Boys on the Move is part of a wonderful series by an Australian Catholic priest. Sadly out of print, these are worth buying used.

In The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, a father challenges his dissatisfied son to find the seven wonders of his home town instead of longing for adventures abroad.

Johnny Tremain is one of those classic historical fiction war books boys love. This book follows the events leading up to the American revolution through a silversmith apprentice’s eyes.

In The Sign of the Beaver, a 13 year old frontier boy, already scared to be home alone, loses the family rifle. He finds unexpected help, friendship, and wisdom from the nearby Indian tribe.

The Small War of Sergeant Donkey is a story of small heroisms in Italy during World War II. A fascinating story about a young boy and a diminutive donkey, this book brings attention to a little known part of World War II: American action in Italy.

North to Freedom is another World War II novel: a classic about a boy who has spent almost his entire life in concentration camp and escapes. Thought-provoking and touching story that makes the reader appreciate freedom and peace.

The son of American diplomats, Henry has spent most of his life outside his homeland. This quirky boy returns home for a summer in small town America, and general mayhem ensues. Henry Reed, Inc. is a classic “summer” book that keeps readers laughing throughout.

In The Mysterious Benedict Society, four exceptional children are recruited to defeat a psychopath bent on using mind control to gain world domination. This book is full of puzzles and mystery. Read my full review here.

Tom Playfair: Or Making a Start is in the classic school story tradition, but with a Catholic twist. This book is the beginning of a trilogy written by Father Finn, a Catholic priest, inspired by the boys at his boarding school. These wholesome stories encourage sports, friendship, Latin, and virtue.

That Football Game: And What Came of It is another Father Finn book, this one about priorities and suffering, with the usual themes about good friendships and the importance of academics.

In The Great and Terrible Quest, a near feral boy finds himself swept up in mission to find the true king. This book has an amazing mystical undertone combined with an action-packed quest and a sprinkling of mystery.

Outlaws of Ravenhurst is one of those inspiring historical fiction Catholic books I believe every child should read for perspective. Set during a time when hearing Mass was a rare joy, this exciting story sheds light on persecution in Scotland.

The Good Bad Boy is a simple book in the school story tradition, describing the 8th grade year of a Catholic school boy. This book gives a positive depiction of Catholic private schools as they once were, rich with Catholic culture and tradition.

The Hobbit is, of course, a classic that all middle grade boys should read. Tolkien’s books about the struggle between good and evil are timeless and important.

The Trumpeter of Krakow is Newberry Award winning historical fiction book set in 15th century Poland. A young boy and his family must protect a precious crystal from a mad tartar villain. A little slow in the beginning but the excitement builds as the story goes.

Little Britches is the first in a fantastic American memoir by Ralph Moody. In this first book, Ralph and his family settle out west and Ralph learns to ride and be a real help to his father. Great father/son relationship depiction.

Animal lovers always enjoy Lad: A Dog by Terhune. This clever collie protects his family from robbers. Based on Terhune’s own experience with his pet collies.

The Ruins of Gorlan is the first in the popular Ranger’s Apprentice series. Will is disappointed at first to be apprenticed to a quiet ranger instead of a bold knight, but soon learns that there is more than one way to serve bravely. This fantasy series has great friendships, lots of adventure, and a little humor.

Where the Red Fern Grows is another classic dog story that every boy should read. This is a great tale of loyalty, friendship, and making the right decision even when it’s difficult. Note: sad ending.

Banner in the Sky is a great story about a teenage boy who is determined to honor his father’s memory by climbing the great Citadel mountain. Can he succeed where his father died trying?

G. A. Henty wrote a plethora of informative, interesting historical fiction books about a variety of wars and countries. Some favorites here include Beric the Briton, In the Heart of the Rockies, and The Cat of Bubastes.

In The Red Badge of Courage, a young soldier runs away from battle. Later, he conquers his fear and rejoins the army, hoping to be wounded to erase his cowardice. This is a heavy novel dealing with war, death, and psychology.

Midshipman Quinn is a collection of four novels starring a young English midshipman fighting in the Napoleonic wars. Septimus Quinn’s quirky, clever personality adds humor this wartime historical fiction novel.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch conveys a good deal about navigation, sailing, and ships. This is an interesting story, but does have some tragic parts with several characters dying.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is the first in a great fantasy series called The Wingfeather Saga by a Christian author. Check out my full review here!

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is an American classic, depicting a simple, adventurous type of boyhood unknown now.

Coming up on its 150 year anniversary, Treasure Island is as exciting now as it was at its first printing. This tale of pirates, treasure, betrayal, and greed is a true adventure novel.

The Eagle of the Ninth is a fine historical fiction novel by Rosemary Sutcliff. It follows Marcus, a Roman youth who is determined to uncover the mystery of what happened to his father’s legion. Skillful writing and attention to detail really bring Sutcliff’s novels alive. Read my Guide to Sutcliff for clarity about which of her novels are appropriate for children.

Enjoyed this book list for middle grade boys? Have a daughter? Check out my companion list 50 Classic Books for Middle Grade Girls!

Want a printable version of this list? Click below to go to a FREE download!

My 5 favorite children’s authors who also illustrate their books

One day, our then three year old daughter C was watching me read Homer Price to her older brother. When we finished the chapter, she went to the bookshelf and out of the confusion of several hundred picture books she carefully selected Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings, and One Morning in Maine.

We were stunned that such a small child noticed McCloskey’s distinctive illustrations and correctly identified all the other McCloskey books we owned. Small children notice more than we think about picture books. The story is important, but so are beautiful illustrations! As St. John Paul II wrote in his Letter to Artists: “beauty is the visible form of the good.” Here are five authors who grasp this and personally pour effort both into crafting their story and creating artwork to accompany it.

1. Shirley Hughes is one of my absolute favorite children’s authors/illustrators. Not only are her distinctive illustrations carefully executed, they contain so many small details that little children delight in studying them. Her stories are always simple and engaging on the surface, but underneath they invariably present an age appropriate lesson. For example, Alfie Gets in First is a cautionary story about locking your parents out of the house. Moving Molly encourages children who are moving that there will be good aspects of their new homes. In Alfie and the Big Boys, Alfie exemplifies that even a small child can offer comfort and help to an older child. And Dogger is what I consider Hughes’ masterpiece: a tear-jerking tale of sibling love and sacrifice. Hughes also wrote one of my favorite book of children’s poetry:Out and About: A First Book of Poems.

 

2. Jan Brett‘s highly realistic and detailed illustrations are extremely popular right now, and I like most of her stories, though not all. One of my favorites is Fritz and the Beautiful Horses , a lovely story about a pony who realizes that being gentle and kind is more important than being physically beautiful. We also enjoy Annie and the Wild Animals, Town Mouse, Country Mouse and Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella. While I enjoy the illustrations in her Christmas themed books, I do not recommend them since she sadly promotes a heavily secularized view of Christmas.

 

3. Jane Hissey‘s endearing illustrations fittingly accompany the gentle adventures of a gang of stuffed animal friends in The Old Bear Collection. We love all her stories about Old Bear, Jolly Tall, Little Bear, Rabbit, and Bramwell!

 

 

 

 

4. Nick Butterworth is another English author whose stories we read with great appreciation. His stories, such as The Secret Path , star Percy the Park Keeper, a sweet-natured gardener who makes friends with all the animals in the park. The largest collection of Percy’s adventures, Percy the Park Keeper: A Classic Treasury, is out of print but can often be found in used condition quite cheaply.

 

 

5. To return to the anecdote I began with, my children all love Robert McCloskey‘s stories and illustrations. We also appreciate that not only does he draw illustrations for his simplest picture book, Blueberries for Sal, but he also includes fun illustrations in his chapter books like Homer Price.

Good Books for Catholic 4 and 5 Year Olds

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At age 4 to 5, starting preschool, children still love picture books, so most of my choices are in this category. But I also include some chapter books with few pictures to introduce children to the idea of simply listening to a story without visual stimulation.

Little Gold Star: A Spanish American Cinderella Tale is a lovely retelling of the Cinderella story with a Catholic flavor! Instead of a fairy godmother, the author has the Blessed Virgin come to Cinderella’s aid. I appreciated how in the end, the evil stepsisters actually repent of their evil ways and live happily ever after too.

The Billy And Blaze stories are the wonderful adventures of a boy and his pony. Billy and Blaze will teach your child about courage, friendship, and prudence as they save the country from a forest fire, rescue dogs and calves, and blaze new trails. Our favorites in the series are Blaze and the Forest Fire: Billy and Blaze Spread the Alarm and Blaze and the Lost Quarry

What Can I Give God?, Will You Bless Me?, and Can God See Me in the Dark? are three charming Catholic books by Neil Lozano which answer common children’s questions about God through simple retellings of parts of the Gospels. The sense of love and closeness emanating from the family in the stories is like a warm blanket wrapping around you and your child as you read.

Another book which answers children’s questions about God is Does God Know How to Tie Shoes?. Author Nancy White Carlstrom answers a small girl’s questions about God’s nature and abilities in a creative way by drawing on the Psalms.

For the boy who loves knights, Karen Kingsbury’s Brave Young Knight is a little gem of a story. It offers so many wonderful themes about choosing honesty and integrity, ignoring peer pressure, and unconditional parental love.

Another awesome story about true knighthood, loyalty and service is The Errant Knight. My son loves this story about a knight who teaches true charity by helping each servant of the king he encounters.

The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables is a great version of Aesop’s famous fables accompanied with gorgeous, detailed illustrations.

As an introduction to the saints, I like Ethel Pochocki’s Once upon a Time Saints. These are stories of less famous saints told in a fairy tale style which interests preschoolers. The lesson to be learned is that the saints were real people with real feelings, just like us.

The first loose tooth can be unnerving for a child, so reading One Morning in Maine to prepare for that day is a great preemptive strategy. Sal wakes up one morning with a loose tooth, and has a busy morning helping her father and little sister, losing her tooth, making wishes, and boating to the harbour. In addition to growing up themes, there are good discussion opportunities about kindness to little siblings, bravery, and wishes.

Percy the Park Keeper: A Classic Treasury is a wonderful collection of many of Nick Butterworth’s Percy stories. These are charming tales of Percy interacting with his animal friends and caring for the park. You can talk about observing animals, kindness to animals, friendship, gardening, and stewardship.

Days on the Farm is a good introduction to farm life. This collection of beautifully illustrated stories includes information about sheep dogs, chickens, orphan animals, sheep sheering and herding, and tractors.

We read The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith by Josephine Nobisso to introduce our children to the importance of the Mass. The baker in the story is awakened to the value of a Mass when all the goods in his shop prove to weigh less than a scrap of paper with “1 Mass” scribbled on it.

Also by Josephine Nobisso, Take It to the Queen: A Tale of Hope emphasizes the idea of the queen as mediator between the people and king. This is a highly symbolic story which draws on parables and the incarnation, all accompanied by beautiful illustrations.

If you are looking for a book to encourage empathy and appreciation for different personalities, The Treasure Tree: Helping Kids Understand Their Personality is the perfect pick. It combines a fun, rollicking search across a land of peppermint waterfalls and blueberry pie trees with a story of friendship, bravery, kindness, and leadership.

<Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm combines an informative, down to earth description of each animal on the farm with hilarious, engaging tidbits about its personality. The theme of this book is that no animal is perfect, but they still provide us with entertainment, companionship, and enjoyment.

Saints for Boys: A First Book for Little Catholic Boys and Saints for Girls: A First Book for Little Catholic Girls are beautiful, hard cover books that make great gifts. They include short, simple stories and illustrations of the lives of famous saints such as St. Elizabeth of Hungry and St. Dominic Savio.

Moving Molly is my book of choice for discussing moving. Molly is a bit sad at first to leave her old, familiar house. But she soon finds that her new home has many great things to enjoy: a wonderful yard, plants to water, and even new friends next door!

Five o’clock Charlie is such a sweet story about an old horse who feels abandoned and sad until an old friend gives him a job and opportunity to socialize again. You can take this as an opportunity to talk about the elderly, or just enjoy Charlie’s charm!

If you have never encountered James Herriot before, you are in for a treat with James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small.  Herriot draws on true experiences from his life as a vet in the Yorkshire dales to write his heart-warming ancedotes about animals.

Henry Explores the Mountains is a story about courage, self-reliance, and hiking. Henry’s exploring in the mountains takes a hair-raising turn when he discovers a forest fire and must rush to alert the rangers. We also love Henry the Castaway, in which Henry and loyal dog Angus get stranded on an island and come up with creative ways for signalling for help. These books are great for encouraging kids to problem solve on their own, be brave, and stay calm.

Mike Mulligan and More: Four Classic Stories by Virginia Lee Burton includes stories about Katy the Snow Plow, Maybelle the Cable Car, and the Little House. Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel’s race to finish the cellar is so well known that I won’t waste space elaborating. Less famous but also very good are Burton’s other stories. Katy the snow plow perseveres to clear all the roads of the city. The Little House is my favorite in this collection, describing the changes in the world over the course of a century from the perspective of the house.

The Growing Story is a gem both for its simple, peaceful message and illustrations. It follows a little boy, some chicks, and a puppy as they grow over the course of the year. It’s a wonderful story for explaining how children grow slowly (at least it seems like that to them!)

Andy and the Lion is a tale of kindness and friendship between a boy and a lion. Andy helps the lion, and the lion remembers when he gets loose in Andy’s town.

I firmly believe every little boy needs to read Steven Kellog’s tall tales Mike Fink, Pecos Bill, and Paul Bunyan. These tales are very tall, but they awake a spirit of courage, adventure, and boldness that little boys need. The illustrations are detailed and funny in classic Kellog style.

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale is a Russian folk tale retold by Arthur Ransome. The moral of this tall tale about a fool undertaking seemingly impossible tasks is that God loves and cares for simple folks.

The Rattlebang Picnic is a rollicking tale by Steven Kellog about a big family and their adventures in their old car. Add a volcano exploding, an inedible pizza, and a flat tire and you have a recipe for hilarity.

We love Shirley Hughes so much she pops up on every book list I make! Tales of Trotter Street includes four of her longer stories, all with a great lesson as is typical for Hughes. Angel Mae adjusts to having a new sister. Carlos learns that receiving a surprise present can be even better than getting what you think you want. Neighbors work together to save the day when the concrete lorry dumps its load a day early.

Little Bear’s Dragon and Other Stories are Jane Hissey’s stories for slightly older listeners, charmingly illustrated as always. In this collection, children learn about putting on a play, camping out, having a race, and playing pretend.

I think it is very important for small children to be exposed to the elderly as fun, relatable people, and how better than by reading about Mr. Putter and his fine cat Tabby and their eccentric neighbors Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog Zeke? Some of our favorites in this series by Cynthia Rylant areMr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake, Mr. Putter & Tabby Pick the Pears, andMr. Putter & Tabby Paint the Porch.

Tomie dePaola has many good stories to choose from, but we like to begin with his Tomie dePaola’s Favorite Nursery Tales. This collection includes famous fairy tales like “The Princess and the Pea,” unusual folk tales like “The Straw Ox,” and poems such as “The Children’s Hour.”

Most preschoolers are still struggling with the concept of selflessness versus selfishness, so reading about Kermit the Hermit, the selfish shellfish, is the perfect help. Kermit is a selfish shellfish until his life is saved by a boy one day, and he realizes giving a gift to his benefactor is more important and fulfilling than sitting on his hoard of treasure.

The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh chronicles the adventures of the lovable, huggable Winnie the Pooh. These stories teach friendship, courage, kindness, sharing, and so many other lessons!

Raggedy Ann Stories are American children’s classics that offer some wonderful lessons. Raggedy provides a stellar example of cheerfulness, kindness, and friendship throughout her adventures.

A Collection of fairy tales is a much for any home library. My favorite is this hard-to-find collection The Fairy Tale Book.

Looking for more specifically Catholic books for 4 and 5 year olds? Check out my other lists.

Good Books for Catholic 3 to 4 year olds 

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By age three, toddlers are becoming preschoolers and are ready for longer, more challenging stories. Here are some of our favorites for this age!

If you only buy one book off this list, buy Dogger. In my opinion Shirley Hughes’ greatest work, Dogger tells a humorous and heartwarming story of losing a favorite toy, and big sister saving the day through a sacrifice. I always tear up for this one.
Themes: sacrifice, sibling love, giving

Peter in Blueberry Land is a truly beautiful book by Elsa Beskow about Peter’s quest to find berries for his mother’s birthday. If you’re looking for a gift, An Elsa Beskow Gift Collection: Peter in Blueberry Land and other beautiful books is a cute set of miniature versions of her most popular books.
Themes: giving, imaginary lands, friendship, helping

With The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook, you get four stories plus poems in one book! In this collection, Alfie and Annie Rose build a store, help a cow find its way home, go camping, and visit the seashore.
Themes: enjoying nature, patience, playing together, sibling love

Under the Moon by Joanne Ryder has incredibly beautiful, detailed nature scenes (my kids wanted to eat the blackberries!). Mama Mouse teaches baby mouse to find her way home by using her senses.
Themes: nature, five senses, mother-child love

Make Way for Ducklings is a famous Robert McCloskey story about a mallard duck couple raising their babies in a busy city.
Themes: helping, kindness to animals

Speaking of ducklings the lesser known Lucky Ducklings is a fun story about baby ducklings falling down a storm drain and being rescued in a dramatic manner by fireen and a truck with a tow hitch.
Themes: helping, rescues, bravery

Jane Hissey’s beautifully illustrated Old Bear books about the adventures of a collection of plush animals are definitely worth buying. Her original unabridged stories are difficult to find, but The Old Bear Collection contains most of her charming text and illustrations.
Themes: friendship, sharing, kindness

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown is a layered story about at once an island steadfast through the seasons of the year and a curious kitten who adventures on the island.

The Perfect Pony is a perfect story for horse loving children. It has an amazing theme about patience and kindness mattering more than beauty.

The Apple Pie Tree describes two sisters watching their apple tree and a family of robins throughout the year, eagerly waiting to make an apple pie!
Themes: waiting patiently, observing nature, sibling fun

Tractor Mac, the friendly red tractor, learns about building a barn, patience, and humility in Tractor Mac Builds a Barn.
Themes: patience, humility, boasting, hard work

Charlie Goes to School is a funny story about Charlie the ranch dog’s family starting their school year as homeschoolers. Charlie is such a sweet, amusing, sleepy basset hound he is sure to become a family favorite. You can find more of his adventures in Charlie the Ranch Dog and Charlie Plays Ball .
Themes: starting school, homeschooling, friendship, helping

Percy the parkkeeper is another wonderful character of British children’s literature. In Percy’s Bumpy Ride , Percy invents a flying lawn mower and takes his animal friends for a ride over the park.
Themes: friendship, building machines, kindness

The Brave Cowboy is a tale of a little boy whose days are colored with cowboy adventures courtesy of his vivid imagination. The illustrations are cleverly executed with the boy’s visions in red ink and real life in black ink.
Themes: bravery, imaginative play, the wild west

Another cowboy tale, Cowboy Small rides his paint pony cactus on the range, getting back on even when he hits the dust, in this fun little story from Lois Lenski.
Themes: trying again, bravery, perseverance, wild west

Raven and River is a beautifully illustrated story about a Raven and a winter in Alaska. Simple, beautiful text, poetic in its diction and rhythm, make this book memorable.

Homeplace is a fascinating book about a homestead that has been passed down through seven generations of a family. The detailed illustrations visualize what each generation adds to what begins as a tiny log cabin and ends as a thriving home and farm.

The Seven Silly Eaters is a hilarious rhymed story of a mom struggling to cope with seven picky children until they decide to do something for her for a change. I found it heartwarming, even if the ending is far fetched, and kids love the detailed illustrations.
Themes: picky eating, helping out, big families

Eric Carle’s Pancakes, Pancakes! is stellar for starting preschool minds thinking about from where food comes and appreciating the work that goes into a simple meal. Jack wants a pancake, and his mother will make it if he gathers all the ingredients himself!
Themes: hard work, perseverance, where food comes from, earning something makes it sweeter

Doctor Dan the Bandage Man is the story of Dan learning from his mom’s care of his own cut to care for the hurts of his sister, pet, and even dad.
Themes: caring for others, helping, bravery

As I add yet another British classic to the list, I’ll confess a weakness for British children’s books! Mick Inkpen’s Kipper Story Collection introduces Kipper, the sweet-natured dog, whose gentle adventures with his stuffed animals and real animal friends make soothing bedtime stories.
Themes: friendship, kindness

The Mitten in its unabridged form is a fine lesson for children in caring for their belongings. Nicki loses his mitten despite his grandma’s warnings, and when he finds it is stretched out from a tangle of animals using it as a den.
Themes: good stewardship, sharing

Another favorite Jan Brett, Annie and the Wild Animals features adorable Annie, who is searching for a new pet after her cat Taffy disappears.
Themes: perseverance, friendship, loneliness

Home Sweet Home is a beautiful book both both in its detailed illustrations of different animal habitats and in its simple message of God blessing all things.
Themes: appreciating nature, blessings

The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 75th Anniversary Edition is, to me, a good book in essence as long as one adequately discusses George’s disobedience and its negative consequences. These original stories by the Reys are funny and have good lessons about obedience, impulse control, and friendship.
Themes: obedience, actions have consequences, helping, self control

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business is a funny kid favorite based on a Russian folk tale.
Themes: stealing, cleverness

Reading Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book is a great way to start instilling a positive view of good manners.
Themes: obedience, kindness, good manners, sharing, kindness

Pond is a beautifully illustrated book that combines an introduction to the seasons with the concept of creative outdoor play.

Please also check out my list of specifically Catholic books.

Good books for…. Catholic 2 to 3 year olds

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At two to three years old, children have a longer attention span and a greater appreciation for detailed illustrations. There are so many wonderful books for this age!

Giving is a wonderful conversation piece about all the ways one can give, as described by a little girl and illustrated by the ever-charming Shirley Hughes.
Themes: giving, thankfulness, sharing

Blueberries for Sal is possibly my favorite book for two year olds. Little Sal and little bear learn that they should stay close to their mommies, even if yummy berries are tempting!
Themes: obedience, courage

Baby’s Boat is a luminous bedtime story we love describing a dream voyage on a moon-boat.
Themes: bedtime, poetic language

Little Donkey Close Your Eyes is by the great Margaret Wise Brown. Animals around the world settle down for bed in their own ways as their mothers urge them to close their eyes.
Themes: bedtime, animals, mothers

A Home in the Barn is another favorite by Margaret Wise Brown with lovely illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney. This book describes the coming of winter and how various farm animals prepare for the cold and wind.
Themes: winter, opposites, onomatopoeia

Peter finds treasures on his walk, but has no pockets to put them in! Mommy saves the day by sewing new ones on in Peter’s Pockets
Themes: sharing, creativity

Hush Little Baby is a nature-focused variation on the traditional rhyme, and is the version we sing in our house.
Themes: mother love, enjoying nature

For the baby loving toddler, Everywhere Babies is sure to be a favorite with its descriptions of everything baby.
Themes: loving babies

When the Rooster Crowed is a toddler favorite about the farm animals trying to wake up the sleepy farmer.
Themes: persistence, sloth, patience

Shirley Hughes’ Alfie’s Feet is a simple but beloved story in which Alfie gets new boots and solves the mystery of why they feel funny.
Themes: growing, calmly solving problems, enjoying the outdoors

Another popular Alfie story, Alfie Gets in First, is a cautionary tale warning children against locking doors. But don’t worry it has a happy ending!
Themes: obedience, staying calm in an emergency

Little Lamb to the Rescue, one of the most beautiful picture books we own, is the story of a little lamb helping an even littler bird.
Themes: helping, friendship

In Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider: A Lift-the-Flap Book (The World of Eric Carle), the spider works despite all distracions to build a beautiful web. Lift the flaps on each page are fun for little ones.
Themes: industriousness, perseverance

Little Baby Buttercup is a charming recounting by a loving mother of her day with her little girl. This sweet book is a must read to your little girl!
Themes: a mother’s love for her child

Crocodaddy is one for the daddies and sons! A little boy and his father play at a pond, using their imaginations to make an enjoyable day even funner.
Themes: using your imagination, daddy-son bonding

In Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear, Jesse Bear, a very active little bear, learns about all the times one shouldn’t get wet, and finally when one should!
Themes: obedience, patience

Jan Brett’s illustrations in The Hat are, as always, worthy of lengthy study. In this story Hedgehog struggles to get untangled from a stocking, and Lisa tries to find her missing clothes.
Themes: perseverance, being kind to others

Little Mommy is a good old story of a little girl caring for her dolls. It’s sure to delight any little mommy!
Themes: motherliness

Another good old story, The curious little Kitten details the adventure of a very curious little kitten! It is a good cautionary tale to show the dangers of too much curiosity.
Themes: curiosity, persistence

Once Upon a Cloud is a modern tale with illustrations to delight little princesses and a fanciful story of a little girl going on a magic carpet ride to find the perfect gift for her mother.
Themes: giving

Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake is a delectable, gentle story about a little mouse trying to get a huge cupcake home, with some help from his hungry friends.
Themes: sharing, generosity

Illustrated by the marvellous Hilda Van Stockum, Pamela Walks the Dog is a hilarious little book about Pamela’s lengthy preparations to take her non-existent dog for a walk.

“So she took her little sister instead.”

Themes: perseverance, creativity

 

Also, check out my book list of specifically Catholic books for Catholic Preschoolers and Kindergarteners .

Have a new baby on the way? Check out my list Good Books for… Preparing Catholic Kids for a New Baby!