Good Books for Fourth Graders

Wondering what books to give a fourth grader?

Go down to the library and pull these off the shelf. Kids can probably tell from the first page whether they want to read further. A typical fourth grader will probably like at least a few. (Click on the titles to go to the Amazon pages.) The last three books feature female protagonists.

Donald J. Sobel

Encyclopedia Brown series

These are logic puzzles disguised as mysteries. For each case, Encyclopedia Brown points out a logical inconsistency that reveals the true culprit. Very clever, and funny too.

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John D. Fitzgerald

The Great Brain series

This series is set in 19th-century Utah (the first chapter features a family installing the latest technology: indoor plumbing!). A younger brother chronicles the devious schemes that his older brother uses to relieve the local kids of excess cash. The illustrations by Mercer Mayer complement the text perfectly.

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Jean Craighead George

My Side of the Mountain

Before Hatchet, there was My Side of the Mountain. Helicopter parents, take your heart pills: a boy reads up on survival skills in the local library, then heads out into the Catskill mountains to live by himself. Spoiler Alert: he does just fine. No mention of whether he got into college, though. :)

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Lloyd Alexander

The Chronicles of Prydain

For kids, this is a very fun fantasy series. A great cast of characters, ranging from the earnest hero to his sincere caretakers to a buffoonish companion. Action, wit, and a hint of romance (but, thankfully, no kissing).

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Farley Mowat

Owls in the Family

It’s hard to believe that a real-life story can be so funny. A Canadian country boy picks up two wild owls AND KEEPS THEM AS PETS. Even better, in personality, they are uncannily human. That’s one crazy childhood (and one tolerant pair of parents).

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Armstrong Sperry

Call it Courage

A young Polynesian boy who fears the ocean decides to conquer his fear by taking a boat out to sea. Washed up on an island, he must face dangerous animals and people before he can return. A great coming of age story.

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Joan Aiken

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

That’s pronounced “Willow-bee.” A charming story drawn from the themes of Victorian novels. Absent parents, a wicked governess, secret passages, wolves, a Noble Boy Who Lives In the Woods … all the elements for the classic plot about injustice and its comeuppance. Nice illustrations, too.

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E. B. White

Charlotte’s Web

It’s hard to imagine anyone not knowing about this book. Lively? Check. Funny? Check. Moving? Check. Few books, even good ones, give children awareness of the great cycle of life, death, and renewal. This is one of them.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Woods

A classic set of books about a 19th-century American family living on the frontier. The story is told from the viewpoint of young Laura. Simple tales, charmingly told, with excellent illustrations. The first four books in the series are good for children in 3rd-5th grade.