Wholesome Books List – Elementary

February 20, 2019
Written by:
Tasha Swearingen

Last month, we talked about how important reading aloud is to children. Since the focus in that post was early readers, this month we wanted to provide you with a list suitable for children to read independently or to have read to them. These are some great titles, and all are wholesome. Perfect for elementary-aged students!

Second Grade:

  1. The Year of Billy Miller – Second grader Billy Miller is the son of a stay-at-home dad but everything else about his family life is traditional…right down to sibling rivalry. Kids will find themselves laughing and relating to just about everything Billy Miller must go through.
  2. The Story of Ferdinand – Your kids can probably tell about a time when they didn’t do what everyone else was doing. That’s exactly the case with Ferdinand. When the other bulls would rather headbutt each other and cause a commotion, Ferdinand would prefer sitting off by himself smelling the flowers. That is, until one day a bee and some men from the bullfights give Ferdinand the chance to show himself as the most ferocious bull there ever was. Will Ferdinand seize the opportunity or will he pass on the offer? You’ll have to pick up the book to find out!
  3. StellalunaStellaluna tells the story of a lost, young bat who finally finds her way back to her mother and friends. But, her journey isn’t without a few mishaps along the way. Be sure and grab this popular book any time you spot it in the library because it doesn’t stay on shelves for long!
  4. Blueberries for Sal – This precious story tells about the journey Sal and her mom have picking blueberries while each is followed by a bear! Sal ends up wandering to the other side of Blueberry Hill and comes across a mama bear who is preparing for the upcoming winter. In the meantime, a baby bear spots Sal’s mom and begins to follow her. Will each mama end up with the right baby in the end?
  5. The Story About Ping – In this tale, Ping the duck has learned that the last duck in line to board the boat at night receives a loud spank. Not wanting to be the recipient of a spank, Ping comes up with a plan the night he’s the last one in line. Instead of following his family to board the boat, he sets out to explore life on the Yangtze River on his own. Of course, there are consequences for this choice. This story makes for a great lesson on obedience and the consequences of not following directions.
  6. The Ugly Duckling – A timeless classic, The Ugly Duckling tells the story of a duckling who is not like all the others. He looks much different from the others as a mere duckling but that’s because his true beauty (both inner and outer) comes much later. What a wonderful example to children feeling bitter and self-conscious about their looks and what constitutes “beauty!”
  7. Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie – Whether you’re doing a unit study on light or just appreciate historical fiction, Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie is a perfect fit. A wicked storm prevents the lighthouse keeper from returning to the lighthouse in time to guide the ships. So, his daughter Abbie must take over and keep the lights burning in his place. After reading this true-to-life story, your kids will come away with a better appreciation of light and a great understanding of how important lighthouses are!
  8. A New Coat for Anna – In this post-war tale, Anna’s mother decides to trade what few treasures she has for some wool and the services of a spinner, a tailor, and a weaver. In the end, she hopes to supply Anna with the most beautiful and practical coat she’s ever worn. Will Anna’s mom regret the trade? Will Anna appreciate the coat even more once she knows what her mom did? Grab this book to find out!
  9. MadelineMadeline is the story of a young girl who lives at her boarding school. While there, she undergoes many things that require bravery, such as having her appendix removed. Sound scary? Not for Madeline! She’s rather proud of her new scar and can’t wait to show the other girls! This classic story takes everyday situations and gives them a humorous spin.
  10. Lentil – Lentil cannot sing or even whistle but he wants nothing more than to be able to make music. So, he decides to bring a harmonica with him everywhere he goes so he can practice – especially when he’s in the bathroom. Will he eventually make music? Grab this book to find out!

Third Grade:

  1. The Chocolate Touch – This is actually a spinoff of King Midas but it’s hilarious nonetheless. Everything that touches John’s lips turns to chocolate. For your chocolate lovers, this probably sounds like a dream come true. And, it was – at first. Soon, it became a hassle and John learned that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
  2. The Boxcar Children – A timeless classic, this series follows the journey of four orphaned children who make a home out of an abandoned boxcar. The first book explains how they ended up in their situation and the other books chronicle various adventures. If your kids like books in a series, they’ll love this set!
  3. Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang – This story follows the adventures of the Potts family who purchase a new car that is just as capable of catching criminals as it is at flying. You’ll have to read the book to find out how it does this!
  4. The Wainscott Weasel – In this charming tale, Bagley Brown tries to escape the fame of his father who has passed away. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with a fish. Their environmental differences are too great to consider the romance serious. That is, until the fish’s home undergoes a drought. Bagley does everything he can to move to the osprey’s nest nearby. Kids and adults alike will really enjoy this love story showing how people from different environments and lifestyles can and do fall in love. Perfect for any nontraditional family!
  5. Dominic – Dominic is a dog on an adventurous journey. Along the way, he runs into the Doomsday Gang which is a group of mischievous creatures. Dominic shows kindness to the Doomsday Gang and others, earning himself a reward which he then spreads to those less fortunate than him.
  6. Flora and Ulysses – The Illuminated Adventures – This sweet story tells the tale of a squirrel (Ulysses) who has a run-in with a vacuum cleaner and gains superhero powers as a result. Flora, who calls herself a cynic, encounters Ulysses and the two hit it off as friends. The novel is written in part as a regular novel and partly like a comic book, representing Flora’s other passion. This book makes for a perfect read-aloud but also works as an independent read for your third grader.
  7. Charlotte’s Web – In this classic tale, a spider named Charlotte writes words to describe her new friend Wilbur the pig. Wilbur was the runt of his litter and was saved by a little girl named Fern. Both Charlotte and Wilbur become fond of Fern and together they
  8. Sarah Plain & Tall – Set in the 19th century, this story (which is the first in a series) tells the story of Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton and her trip from Maine to the prairie in response to a widowed father’s ad in the paper for a new wife/mother. Before Sarah makes the trip there, young Anna and her brother Caleb wonder all about her. Will she be nice? Will she like them? To find out, be sure and grab this book – and place the rest of the series on hold because your little one is sure to want to read them as well!
  9. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective – Got a super sleuth on your hands? If so, he or she will love trying to crack these 10 mysteries with Encyclopedia Brown! The book is full of clues (and answers are in the back) leading to cracking the case. Warning: this book is only #1 in its series and your child might become addicted to reading them!
  10. In Grandma’s Attic – Remember being a young child and rummaging through Grandma’s attic or basement in search of “treasures”? That’s exactly what the kids in this series do. The children in these books stumble on all sorts of treasures and are eager to hear Grandma’s story behind each one. Perfect for boys and girls!

Fourth Grade:

  1. The Family Under the Bridge – This is the story of an old Parisian named Armand who enjoyed living in solitude. The children who lived under the bridge, however, were not going to let him live like that. Find out how they got the old gentleman to finally accept them when you read this book about their adventures!
  2. The Hundred Dresses – This story is about Wanda Petronski, a young Polish girl who is ridiculed at school for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda lies and tells her classmates she has a hundred dresses at home. No one believes her, but they do all feel terrible when Wanda is pulled out of class one day and they don’t have a chance to apologize for their meanness.
  3. Number the Stars – In the post-war era, Annemarie and her best friend Ellen keep thinking of what life was like before the war. Now, however, the Jews have been relocated and Ellen moves in with Annemarie’s family pretending to be one of their family members. Before long, Annemarie is asked to do something dangerous to save Ellen’s life. Will she comply? Find out when you read this great book!
  4. The Secret Garden – This captivating novel tells the story of Mary Lennox who returns to England after her parents’ deaths. Mary’s memories of her parents are not pleasant, and she’s given over to her uncle to care for her. Mary is not happy about this, but she has no choice but to comply. Once there, she ends up discovering a garden that was off limits. The mystery runs deeper when Mary Lennox hears sobs and cries coming from her uncle’s mansion. Do the cries have anything to do with this secret garden? Find out when you read The Secret Garden!
  5. 100 Cupboards – When Henry York goes to sleep at night, he hears what sounds like thuds coming from the wall above his head. He’s sleeping at his uncle’s house and the house is totally unfamiliar to him. The next night, he wakes up and discovers bits of plaster in his head. After wiping off the plaster pieces, he soon learns there are doors (100 to be exact) and Henry discovers that each door leads to a different sound and, ultimately, a different world!
  6. A Wrinkle In Time – Meg’s father had been experimenting with time travel when he disappeared. Now, Meg, her brother, and her friend must figure out how to rescue him. The only way is for them to take a time-traveling journey through space and avoid the forces of evil along the way. Can they do it?
  7. The Sign of the Beaver – This is the story of 12-year-old Matt who is left alone in the Maine wilderness while his father and other family members search for a new place to settle. While they’re gone, Matt befriends an Indian chief’s grandson. Soon, Matt is invited to join the Beaver tribe and move further north. Torn, Matt is undecided as to whether he should go with the Beavers or await his family’s return.
  8. Tuck Everlasting – If water from a certain stream froze you in time such that you didn’t age any further, would you consider it a blessing or a curse? For the Tuck family, it’s ok but they try to live their lives as normally as they can without throwing up red flags. When their secret is discovered by 10-year-old Winnie, they take Winnie home and try to explain to her why it’s not as wonderful as it may seem. At one point, a stranger begins following Winnie, determined to bottle and market the magic water that freezes time. Does that put her in any danger? What about the rest of the Tucks?
  9. Black Beauty – In this timeless classic, Black Beauty spends his youth surrounded by people who love and care for him. When circumstances change and he’s forced to move about, he learns that not all humans are as kind and caring as he’s been used to. Whether rich or poor, humans can be either nice or unkind. As is the case with many classics, this book is available in both abridged and unabridged versions.
  10. Ginger Pye – The Pye children undergo many adventures, including the disappearance of their new puppy Ginger and the mysterious stranger in a yellow hat who shows up suddenly. Could the stranger have anything to do with the fact that Ginger is missing?

Fifth Grade:

  1. The Hobbit – Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a life of solitude with little to no adventure. His solitary life is disrupted one day when a wizard named Gandalf and a troupe of dwarves show up one day to take him on an adventure. Reluctantly, Bilbo Baggins accompanies them. What will the outcome be? Could it be the wizard and dwarves were saving Bilbo from danger he didn’t see coming?
  2. Caddie Woodlawn – Today, we’d call Caddie Woodlawn a “tomboy.” Though she was a young girl, she’d rather hunt than sew and she’d prefer to plow than bake. Caddie has made friends with the Indians who are not very friendly to her neighbors. However, Caddie doesn’t feel like her neighbors understand her anyway. This story is even more heartwarming when you realize Caddie Woodlawn is a character based on the author’s own grandmother.
  3. Anne of Green Gables – Before she arrives at the Cuthbert’s home (shared by brother and sister Matthew and Marilla), Anne believes she has future guardians who want her dearly and have such a desire for her that they sent for her. Once she’s picked up and begins some conversation with Matthew, however, she learns that the Cuthberts were actually expecting a boy. But Anne fell in love with Green Gables as soon as she laid eyes on it. Will the Cuthberts agree to give Anne a chance? Does Anne have to be on her very best behavior lest they send her back to the orphanage? If your kids love this book, there are plenty more to follow in this series!
  4. Heidi – Heidi tells the story of a young girl who is sent to live with her grumpy grandfather. She is, at first, more than happy to be sent to Frankfurt to work. After she arrives, however, she dreams of returning to her friend, Peter, the Alps, and her gruff grandfather.
  5. Thimble Summer – One day, Garnet finds a beautiful, shiny metal thimble in the sand. Garnet is almost certain the thimble is magical! But, does it carry enough magic to help her pig win a blue ribbon on Fair Day? You’ll have to dig through the book to find out!
  6. Pollyanna – Sweet and innocent, eleven-year-old Pollyanna is sent to live with her wealthy Aunt Polly when her parents pass away. While there, she brings joy, happiness, and a touch of humor to all who come in her path. Not one to see anything as a negative, Pollyanna quickly gains a reputation for being an optimist. If nothing else, your kids may come away from this one with a new outlook on life events!
  7. Journey from Peppermint Street – Grandfather always said to stay the course of the path and not to veer off. Because of that, Siebren never expected his grandfather to be the one to leave the path as the two walked – in the dark – to Aunt Hinka’s house. Thankfully, Aunt Hinka came along in her small boat just in time to rescue grandfather. What an incredible journey it was already becoming! Keep reading to find out about the other adventures Siebren undergoes!
  8. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – Mrs. Frisby is in a predicament. She needs to move her family (made up of herself and her four small children) to their summer quarters immediately or face the possibility of death. The only problem is that her youngest has such as bad case of pneumonia he cannot be moved. Will the rats of NIMH be able to help Mrs. Frisby?
  9. Island of the Blue Dolphins – This story tells the tale of Karana, a teen girl who seems to be the only one on an island that’s surrounded by blue dolphins. Karana spends her days just trying to survive, in between trying to flag down help from passing ships. Karana spent years living like this, and your kids will no doubt enjoy tracking her journey.
  10. The Witch of Blackbird Pond – As an orphan, Kit Tyler knows what it’s like to feel alone. In fact, Kit never feels freedom or like she can completely be herself except when she’s in the company of an old Quaker lady. Unfortunately, rumors have been spread that the Quaker woman is a witch. When her ties to Kit are discovered, people even start accusing Kit of witchcraft!

If you’d prefer a printable version of our lists, just click the image below for a FREE PDF! 

Wholesome Books for Elementary Readers!


Tasha Swearingen

Tasha is a homeschooling mom to 5 and has been homeschooling for 14 years. Currently, her children's ages span from toddler to young adult. Tasha has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Sciences from Florida State University and is working on her MBA through SNHU/Berklee School of Music.