With my five year old daughter Ella starting school next year, I’ve slowly started to switch from reading picture books to her at bedtime, to foundation books that prepare her for learning to read to herself.
When looking in stores for books for her, I was surprised by how many there are to choose from. When I was younger, besides the classics, there was really only The Baby Sitters Club, The Saddle Club and Sweet Valley books available. It would have been great to have all the reading options that kids have now.
After doing a bit of research with Ella, here are the best fictional books series I’ve found for primary school aged girls.
5-6 age group: Ella and Olivia series by Yvette Poshoglian Published by Scholastic Australia
These are Ella’s absolute favourite books for bedtime reading at our house, not only because she loves that she shares her name with one of the main characters, but because she also has a little sister (but Ella’s real life sister is called Amy not Olivia, much to Ella’s disappointment). Ella and Olivia are typical little girls who have relatable adventures together about everyday things such as sleepovers, ballet classes and holidays. In most of the books they are helping each other, but they do have the occasional argument, like all sisters do.
There are 17 books in total so far, and each one has about five short chapters and illustrations throughout, so they’re perfect for kids aged 5 to 7. Ella’s favourite book in the series is Hair Disaster, when Olivia gives Ella an amateur haircut (something plenty of mums will have experienced first hand) on the night before her ballet concert. There’s also a spin-off series called The Ella Diaries that are first person style stories from Ella’s point of view, which are a little more mature and good for girls in the 8 to 10 age range. I’ll be giving these books as Christmas gifts to Ella’s girl friends because I know they’ll like them as much as she does.
Other series for this age group: EJ Spy School, Billie B Brown.
7-8 age group: Clementine Rose series by Jacqueline Harvey Published by Penguin/Random House
These books are a little bit longer, better for girls aged 7 and over, but the stories are charming, with illustrations to match. Clementine Rose lives with her adopted mother Lady Clarissa in a large but very old house in the English village of Penberthy Floss, which they run as a hotel to help them pay the bills.
These books remind me of Enid Blyton’s stories, because of all the interesting characters that Clementine meets when different guests come to stay at Penberthy House and the village folk. The book has a modern setting (for example in one book a documentary film is made about Penberthy House) but they read like classic stories and it’s really refreshing. Twelve books have been published so far, with the next book Clementine Rose and the Wedding Wobbles due out in April next year. Jacqueline Harvey also writes another series called Alice-Miranda which are aimed at girls aged 10 to 12, and are a great follow on series from Clementine Rose.
Other series for this age group: Violet Mackerel, Lulu Belle.
9-10 age group: Juliet Nearly A Vet series by Rebecca Johnson Published by Penguin/Random House
Little girls who are love animals will relate to ten-year-old Juliet, who wants to be a vet just like her mum so she spends time going out with her on her rounds to look after all types of animals, including pets such as cats, farm animals like cows and Australian wildlife such as wombats and koalas. There’s lots of information given about animals in Juliet’s notes in her vet diary throughout each book, and environmental issues such as bushfires and floods and how they affect animals are also touched on in the stories.
There are twelve books, which are all written in a first person, casual style, but have at least nine chapters in each book, so they’re best suited to girls in the 8 and over age range.
Other series for this age group: Cloudberry Castle, Pony-Mad Princess.
11-12 age group: Truly Tan series by Jen Storer Published by Harpercollins Australia
This series is one I would have loved to have read as a child. The main character Tan is the youngest of four sisters and a budding detective who finds herself living in the country and solving modern day mysteries. Tan is much more interesting and imaginative than Nancy Drew, and the diary entry style of the books makes the stories more personal. The family dynamics and friendship issues in the books also add an extra layer to the stories.
The recommended age group for these stories is age 8 and up but I think girls aged 10 and up will enjoy it more. There are five books that have already been published and another one (Truly Tan: Trapped!) - due out next year. I’ll be saving these books for Ella to read when she’s a few years older.
Other series for this age group: Friday Barnes, Alice-Miranda.