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She often starts books, loses interest, and doesn't finish them. I already tried giving her Matilda and some of the other Roald Dahl books (the BFG, and the 2 Willy Wonka books, since she liked the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film), but she wasn't interested in them. (Maybe they were too low of a reading level? While Amazon says a lot of the Roald Dahl books are for ages 9-12, I read them when I was 4, and I've seen threads about parents introducing their kids to them at ages 5-6. I mean, I still love them - great children's lit is great at any age - but I don't know if appropriate reading level is an issue with her not finishing/being interested in things, or if she just didn't like them. I've tried asking why she doesn't like certain books and what she thinks might interest her, but she doesn't do a lot of reading for pleasure and I don't get a lot of helpful responses.) She does like the Harry Potter books she's read.
I'd like to get her the first book in the Animorphs series, since I know I liked those books when I was younger and they're individually not very long, but I don't know what to buy for the other two. Since I don't know if she'll lose interest in Animorphs before the end of the 1st book, I don't think I should buy books 1-3 in that series. Would the first book in the Percy Jackson series be a good idea? I remember reading The Giver in school in 4th grade and loving it, but Amazon calls it a YA book.
Can someone help me out with some suggestions? Something about the level of the first 2 books of the Harry Potter series is probably about right for her reading level, and she finished both of those. Suggestions with strong female characters would especially be appreciated - I'm trying to segue her older sister from obsessively re-reading Twilight into enjoying other supernatural/dystopian/paranormal YA series with female protagonists stronger than Bella Swan.
My suggestions for you to look into:
The May Bird trilogy is exceptional, but they deal with death and the afterlife (in a fun Tim-Burtony way).
The Mysterious Benedict Society series
Theodosia series (strong young female detective... snarky but not bratty)
The Apothecary - I got this on ER, and really liked it. The lead character is an American girl who moves to England. Magic, mystery, a tiny bit of romance.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls - a wild take on the Wizard of Oz. LOVE this for young girls.
The Phantom Tollbooth - my favorite book ever, which I read in 4th grade. Lots of wordplay and whimsy.
Princess Academy and The Goose Girl - very strong female characters
Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series (though I hear book 4 may be darker than the rest, the first three are wonderful)
Blue Balliett's books
My 8yo likes anything to do with animals: Magic Puppy, Unicorn School, Freddy, Babymouse (comics), Molly Moon
and anything with mischievous girls: Ivy and Bean, Ramona and Beezus, Just Grace, Judy Moody
Obviously I could go on for days... HTH some. :)
eta: touchstones :/
For a strong female character, maybe you could get her Dealing With Dragons, the first book of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles.
For the older cousin, has she tried any of Lois Duncan's books? Or The Hunger Games?
One of hers I read recently that has a bit of fantasy and I liked, is Ghost Dog Secrets.
For my older cousin, I'm getting her The Hunger Games for Christmas and possibly the LJ Smith Night World or Secret Circle series for her birthday - like I said, the older cousin is easier to buy for, especially when (with the Hunger Games) a movie release is imminent. I know she hasn't tried anything Lois Duncan, though.
UnrulySun, thanks for the long list - I know she hasn't read any of the books on it! I love The Phantom Tollbooth myself - that might be a really good suggestion. And I'll definitely look into the others - I haven't read Coraline, but I like Neil Gaiman, and hopefully she will too (starts to plan...this year, Coraline, then Stardust a couple years from now...) The suggestions for books with animals might be a good idea, too; she likes animals, which was part of the reason I thought about Animorphs for her.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles sound really familiar for some reason...I think I might've read and liked them when I was younger.
I think that I may end up buying her the book #1 for a bunch of different series, to see which she likes best - as I said, she hasn't had a ton of exposure to a wide variety of books, so part of this is going to be trying to find out if she knows what she likes.
Maybe the Betsy-Tacy, the Shoes books by Noel Streatfield...
When I was nine I loved Karen Hesse, Uri Orlev, John Bellairs (particularly his Johnny Dixon series), the My Father's Dragon series, and Karen Cushman's books.
Also, comic books! The old Uncle Scrooge and Donald Ducks comics are so wonderful. I might never have become interested in novels except my dad's a librarian so I was literally stuck in libraries for hours at a time.