What are the magical ingredients contained in a classic children’s chapter book? Mix in a topic to which many kids can relate or an unusual, new idea to capture imaginations. Stir into a story that touches the heart. If the tale has withstood the test of time and stayed in print over the years, then it may very well be a classic!
Although most of us are familiar with old favorites written in the 1800s, like Black Beauty, Swiss Family Robinson, and Heidi, here is a list of modern classic children’s chapter books to explore:
Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White – 1952)
Set on a farm, meet young Fern Arable whose goal is to save the piglet runt, Wilbur. Charlotte the kind spider also befriends Wilbur and joins in the quest to protect him from slaughter.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E. L. Konigsburg – 1967)
Twelve-year-old Claudia decides to run away from home, and her younger brother, Jamie, follows along for the adventure. They hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where they stumble across a statue’s secret to uncover, through the mysterious Mrs. Frankweiler.
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell – 1960)
A young Native American girl, Karana, lives alone for years, stranded on an island off California’s coast. Based on historical facts, the book reveals the girl’s attempts to hide from those who land on the island and details her day-to-day interactions with the natural elements in her surroundings.
James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl – 1961)
A young English boy, James, loses his parents and must go to live with his cruel aunts. He manages to escape their clutches and finds a way inside the magical peach growing outside his house, where he experiences fantastical adventures and meets many curious characters.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis – 1950)
As the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia, this fantasy takes place mainly in the land of Narnia. Four English children evacuated during WW II enter that exciting world through a magical wardrobe, where they find mythical creatures and an evil witch.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary – 1965)
Traveling with his family, young Keith stays at a rather dilapidated hotel in the mountains of California. Ralph S. Mouse just happens to live in the hotel and has always wanted to ride a motorcycle like the toy Keith has brought with him, which leads to many adventures.
Old Yeller (Fred Gipson – 1956)
Set in 1860s Texas, young Travis and his family take in a dog who seems more of a problem at the outset. The dog endears himself to them and proves his value by saving family members and friends from a variety of perils.
The Outsiders (S. E. Hinton – 1967)
In this coming-of-age story set in Oklahoma, the main character, Ponyboy, tells the tale of teenaged rival gangs split by their socioeconomic differences. The book portrays violence and the disastrous effects as young people try to find their way and place in the world.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Judy Blume – 1972)
The first in this author’s Fudge series, 9-year-old Peter deals with the trials and tribulations of having an annoying little brother. Many humorous situations ensue, including the mysterious disappearance of a pet turtle, who little Fudge says he has swallowed!
A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle – 1962)
Meg’s father disappears while working on time travel experiments. Along with her brother and a friend, Meg battles evil forces on a fantastical journey through space to rescue her father.
At least half of these classic children’s chapter books belong to series, so do be sure to check on related publications. We hope you have found something here to involve your child in great literature: to read on their own, listen to you read aloud, or by taking turns!