Sometimes CMLE will highlight several books that have some factor in common. We hope they will give you ideas for your collection, or influence an activity, lesson plan, or display!
This month, we are sharing several different books that have main characters that model good qualities for young readers. This book list began as a discussion from a librarian hoping to help one of her patrons. The patron was looking for suggestions of beginning chapter books for a nine-year-old that contained characters that modeled qualities such as dependability, good time management, etc but without being didactic.
Here are some of the suggestions other librarians came up with:
- Try the Anna Hibiscus series by Atinuke. It is the reading
level that you describe and very warm and thoughtful.
- Slightly older than that is the Anna Wang series by Andrea Cheng. The Year of the Book is the first in the series, but a prequel just came out, The Year of the Garden.
- One of my favorite books is Eleanor Estes’ The 100 Dresses.
- I don’t know if these are too didactic, but they’re about right for the age. The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald comes to mind.
- I love the Violet Mackerel series by Branford. Also the Cobblestreet Cousins by Rylant.
- I love the Lulu books by Hilary McKay. Lulu has a wonderful, loving family including a cousin and a granny who live nearby and an enormous fondness for animals, which she adopts and assiduously cares for. The books are funny and sweet.
- I also am a huge fan of the Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker. Clementine always means well, but she does get into a lot of scrapes, so your patron may hesitate to present her as a role model. She’s a sort of up-to-date Ramona. She has a good heart, which goes a long way in my book.
- Shorter behavior stories within the Frog and Toad books are more difficult to find. (Lobel’s Days with Frog and Toad has the story “Tomorrow” which is about procrastination which my grown sons still remember today!)
- It’s not a beginning reader series, but the kids in The Penderwicks books are pretty good role models. It would be a good read-aloud.
- Two more.. “How Oliver Olson Changed the World” by Claudia Mills and “The Year of Billy Miller” by Kevin Henkes.
- This is a picture book, but I’ve had teachers who used the Howard B. Wigglebottom Wigglebottom books. I love these as they address character traits, in a fiction story type way. Many books we have found address these traits in non-fiction and it is hard for the students to relate too. The Howard B. Wigglebottom books are great and the kids enjoy them as well!
- At that age, my daughter loved the Stella Batts series and I found her to be more responsible than some of the other characters out there. Plus, I enjoyed them too!
- The Last but not Least Lola series by Christine Pakkala
- The Top Secret Diary of Celie Valentine series by Julie Sternberg
- I put together a list called Gentle Reads: Chapter Books for Younger Listeners
- Allie, First At Last by Angela Cervantes is an excellent choice that fits the need you describe. Allie, the chapter book’s protagonist, has many good qualities to emulate, including empathy and resilience. This one line summary captures the gist: “This charming, heartfelt spin-off novel of Gaby, Lost and Found asks an all-important question: is winning top prize worth losing a friend?”
- Nothing Up My Sleeve by Diana López is another good book with wonderful character development and examples of kids making good choices. The story’s plot revolves around a magic trick competition, with the central characters (three middle grade boys) negotiating how to be good friends despite being in competing with each other. There’s lots of great vocabulary here too. Latinx in Kid Lit offers a complete and shining book review, with teacher tips and classroom connections.
- Stef Soto, Taco Queen is another sweet story of a 7th grader with
strict parents that don’t let her do everything her friends do. A
nice realistic fiction with positive role models.