We love (love, love, love!) good stories. And almost as enjoyable as reading a good story is sharing about good stories with friends. I am working on creating very specific reading lists to share (see my current lists of books for kids here) and this one book list is our favorite short stories for kids.
These are the short stories that tackle historical events or themes in a child appropriate manner. Or the books that are perfect for the weary mama to pick up and read, giving the child a satisfyingly rich story without the commitment of a lengthier chapter book. Or the books that inspire imagination and creativity in a beautiful way.
These short stories for kids could be read by a child that can read, but I would highly recommend them as ones that the parents read out loud – they are just great stories and facilitate some excellent conversations. A number of these we have been reading to our boys since they were quite young, but others are more recent discoveries. All are still enjoyed by our boys at 6 and 7, and have endearing qualities to us as parents.
These short stories for kids are really rich stories, and while some are lengthier than others, each one could be read in one sitting. Most of them easily, just one (The Matchlock Gun) may pose a challenge for a one sitting read.
In no particular order, here are our favorite short stories for kids;
Eli Remembers by Ruth Vander Zee is a haunting story about a grandson trying to understand the sorrow his grandparents, and other family members, seem to feel at Rosh Hashanah. When his family takes a trip to Lithuania, his grandmother’s childhood home, he starts to understand a little bit of the horrors they faced. The subject matter is delicately handled and based on true events.
The True Adventures of Daniel Hall by Diane Stanley is the true story that takes place in the year of 1856 about a boy of 14 years that goes on a whaling voyage bound for the Arctic. A harsh captain causes him to disembark in Siberia and his struggles and adventures are documented in this story. It has beautiful full page illustrations. Diane Stanley has authored many books, several of which we are familiar with and have enjoyed, though this is my favorite of her short stories for kids.
The World’s Greatest Elephant by Ralph Helfer is a fantastic story about a boy and a circus elephant. The story claims to be a true one, but all of my fact checking has only shown that it is an excessively exaggerated story that combines multiple stories into one. It is disappointing that it claims to be a true story and yet is not, but apart from that it is a really moving story that is well worth reading as a fictitious short story. This story has moved myself and several friends who have read it to tears. It’s good.
Peppe the Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone is a sweet story about an immigrant family and the young son who takes a job as a lamplighter to help support his family. The images are beautiful and the story reveals true struggles that such a lowly position might place on a family.
The Matchlock Gun by Walter D Edmonds is a true story depicting events that happened in the 1700’s during the French and Indian War in colonial America. I hesitate slightly to include this book on the list as it doesn’t technically fall under the short stories category – at 50 pages in length (including full page images) it is a bit lengthy to read in one sitting, though possible. It is a fantastic story that gives children a glimpse into the past through a compelling story with beautiful illustrations.
Christina Katerina and the Box by Patrica Lee Gauch is a delightfully imaginative story about a girl and her cardboard box. Equally as imaginative and lovely is Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn. Both of these favorite short stories for kids have inspired my own boys in their creative play.
Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty is a simple but profound story that every child should know. It is beautifully imaginative and the illustrations are so detailed and compelling in their black and yellow coloring. It is the authors own take on the story of Androcles and the Lion.
Anatole stories by Eve Titus are delightful tales about a mouse in France. The stories are magical and fun, and the illustrations are intriguing with their black, white, red, and blue colors. (at least all of our copies have been! they add such character when they have such limited colors.) There are many wonderful virtues to be learned from noble Anatole and his adventures!
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton is a 1943 Caldecott Medal winner and a classic story with a timeless theme about changes and progress. The illustrations are cheerful and the ending is satisfyingly happy.
Raggedy Ann & Andy Giant Treasury by Johnny Gruelle is a collection of Raggedy Ann & Andy short stories for kids adapted from other Raggedy stories and is perfectly charming in its story telling and full color illustrations. I had these dolls as a child, so it was especially touching to be reconnected to these characters now with my own children.
Katy No Pocket by Emmy Payne is a fun short story about a mother kangaroo that does not have a pouch to put her baby joey in. She examines what all the other animal mama’s do, and then heads in to the city to see if she can find another solution. The pictures are illustrated by H.A. Rey, of Curious George fame.
Charlie the Chimneysweep and Sooty by Bruce Peardon (and illustrated by him) is a nice short story about a poor chimney sweep who wanted a pair of skates for Christmas and ended up with a whole lot more. (Technically, this is a Christmas story and Father Christmas does appear in the story.) I appreciate th human aspect that is shown of a grieving mother (she has lost her only son and is at one point grumpy with the chimney sweep because of her grief). We also found it really interesting to learn that the author illustrated this book himself – with his mouth! He was paralyzed in The Royal Australian Navy and taught himself to paint with his mouth.
Anything by Robert McCloskey – he weaves beautiful story telling with gorgeous images and every child should be well acquainted with his writing. Many of his stories have won awards. I’d recommend starting with Blueberries for Sal or Make Way for Ducklings.