Book Recommendations for 8-10 Year Olds
Gayla T reached out to me via twitter to ask: “Do you have a good book rec. for a friend’s daughter who is 8 and has been in ICU since Christmas? Thanks!!!”
I thought about this for a while and felt that a blog post was in order since my answer doesn’t fit into 140 characters. Recommending a book is kind of like setting up a blind date. The best set up is knowing both the book and the person so the match has a better chance to succeed. Books have distinct personalities, and one that I love may not be your taste at all. All of that said, even though I have very little information about the reader, I am going to try my hardest to make a few good recommendations that hopefully appeal to many 8-10 year olds.
Fantasy novels are great for a feeling of escape. Imagining a different world is especially nice if you are in a place where you don’t want to be (like an ICU hospital bed). A bonus is that most of these novels focus on a character that must overcome all odds to save the world. A child who feels powerless in any situation will hopefully be able to relate and feel empowered by the successes reached by the characters. Also, in fantasy the main characters are often thrown into strange worlds they do not fully understand. Our children are constantly navigating the world, which can feel overwhelming and foreign even when they aren’t put in a completely unknown situation like a hospital.
One of the best, of course, is the Harry Potter series. Not only does Harry have to develop the strength to overcome great obstacles, but secondary characters have an important role in defeating the Death Eaters – one of my favorite in the series is the shy and forgetful Neville Longbottom who finds his inner warrior to be a major part of the final battle.
For over the top drama that boarders on ridiculous, a great voice and vivid imagination make Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events a popular choice.
Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux is a delightful read featuring a serving girl, villainous rats, a brave mouse and I love that something as seemingly insignificant as a bowl of soup is one of the final details that could help save the princess.
As far as more realist fiction goes, while there are books out there that have main characters going through major illnesses and hospital stays, I am reluctant to recommend them because most of the reads I know of are written for older kids and I feel like it could potentially end up adding fear instead of comfort. So if your girl is not a fantasy reader, I think a lovely realistic fiction book for 8-10 year olds is The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall.
For historical fiction, A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is one of my favorite books. I adore Tree-ear’s character development, his bravery and diligence.
Before handing off these suggestions to any child (much less one in the hospital), please take a moment to make sure it’s the right fit. Common Sense Media is a resource to consider using – they review and point out anything that a concerned adult may need to know.
When I took one of my first writing classes my professor mentioned that authors need to get the parents out of the way for this 8-10 year old age group and the overwhelmingly most popular choice was to have either one or both parents dead. Looking over my suggestions, I am realizing that in every book I recommended, at least one of the parents is dead. Let me add a book to my recommended reading where the parents aren’t dead: The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
And what books would nine year old Anna Shinoda recommend? My favorites were the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. I read and re-read the books, wishing I could join Anne and her friends on Prince Edward Island. I also was obsessed with horses and would read any novels about them, especially Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and all of Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion books.