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Wonderful and Unknown Children’s Books for 9 Year Old Girls

Jo Ward itcherChoosing great books for nine year olds is hard. Some will be confident readers, some will find reading a chore, and each child will have their own interests and genres that engage them. And there’s such a wealth of books to choose from, from modern best sellers to the classics. Here I bring you a mixture, from old classics like ‘A Little Princess’ to new adventures in ‘Madame Pamplemousse’. ~ Jo Ward

Ready or Not?

There is one huge challenge with children’s books for nine year old girls.  Emotional and intellectual understanding may not tally with reading ability. Some children will read well but not cope with the plot lines. Others will still be struggling with reading – they will want engaging story lines without complicated language.

Many current books for older children seem to feature fantasy type story-lines. Which is fine but if that’s not for you, what else is around? I’ve tried to source a range of topics, and books that will appeal to a range of abilities. Hope you find something on this list to enthuse your nine-year-old.

10. ‘The Demon Headmaster’ (Gillian Cross, 1982)

Image Source: Amazon

“This time she did not feel a thing when the Headmaster stuck the pin into her arm…”

Dinah Glass moves in with her new foster family and finds there is a strange attitude of her foster brothers towards their school. When she arrives, she can see why. No playing at playtime – instead the children stand in circles and recite times tables. Why? What is it about the Demon Headmaster that has all the children completely in his thrall? Dinah quickly becomes involved in SPLAT, a group of children who can withstand the Headmasters powers. Can she join them to help topple the Headmaster?

As an adult, there are loads of holes you can pick in this plot. But for a nine year old – a girl who is able to not only withstand the power of an adult, but who comes from the outside to lead a group of children to overthrow that adult – what’s not to like?!

When children always behave perfectly, is it brilliant, or sinister?

9. ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’ (Joan Aiken, 1962)

““Don’t speak to me in that way, miss!” retorted Miss Slighcarp in a rage. “You have been spoiled all your life, but we shall soon see who’s going to be mistress now. Go to your place and sit down. Do not speak until you are spoken to.””

We’ve come to the other end of the spectrum now – an easier book for kids age nine.

Bonnie is excited – her cousin Sylvia is arriving to share her home. On the same night, her new governess also arrives, to take care of the two girls while Bonnie’s parents go on a sea voyage. Once Bonnie’s parents have left however, the girls’ world descends into a nightmare. Miss Slighcarp wants only one thing – to take over Willoughby Chase for herself.

The girls are badly mistreated and eventually sent to a terrible ‘school’. Can they escape and get help?

The girls in this story are feisty, able to handle weapons and hatch plans – it makes a captivating read.

Missing parents, children with brains and spirit – all the makings of a brilliant adventure story are right here.

8. ‘Madame Pamplemousse and her Incredible Edibles’ (Rupert Kingfisher, 2008)

Image Source: Goodreads

“The ingredients I use are not especially remarkable. Exquisite, yes, and delicious, but only things. It is you yourself that gives flavour to your cooking – your character, your dreams, your smiles, your tears.”

Another book in the genre of mistreated children! This time, the child is Madeleine, who is forced to work in her horrible Uncle Lard’s restaurant. Despite being a good cook, she is only allowed to wash dishes and empty the bins.

Then, while running errands for her uncle, she stumbles across a tiny shop in an alleyway. Madame Pamplemousse stocks the most amazing range of goodies – pterodactyl bacon, anyone? While Uncle Lard is busy trying to steal the secrets of this strange establishment, Madeleine is learning that the most important ingredient in cooking is the heart of the chef themselves.

A Roald Dahl-style romp through the streets of Paris in the pursuit of outlandish foods.

7. ‘Moondial’ (Helen Cresswell, 1987)

Image Source: GD Price

““A sundial!” she exclaimed softly, and then, almost immediately and without knowing why – “Moondial!” And as she spoke the word a cold distinct wind rushed past her and the whole garden stirred and her ears were filled with a thousand urgent voices…”

Minty is staying with her godmother for the summer holidays. Aunty Mary helps out in a historic house just across the road, so Minty goes visiting. There is something odd about the place – cold patches in certain places, where Minty can also hear children’s voices. 

Exploring the gardens, Minty stumbles on the moondial, and finds herself slipping through time, and making friends with Tom, the kitchen boy. Together they set out on a mission, to find Sarah, a desperately unhappy little girl – but do they have enough time to save her?

A gentle time-travelling story, with accurate historical detail – but if your child is very sensitive you may want to check it out yourself first as it could be a touch scary!

Adventures across time, bringing unhappy children together just when they need it.

6. ‘A Little Princess’ (Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1905)

Image Source: Readers Paradise

“She felt as if she were walking away and leaving far behind her the world in which that other child, who no longer seemed herself, had lived. This child, in her short, tight old frock, climbing the stairs to the attic, was quite a different creature…”

Sara Crewe is the much treasured only child of her father. When he needs to travel to India, Sara boards at Miss Minchin’s school. She endears herself to the staff and children, but her happy life does not last. When news is brought that her father has died, Miss Minchin banishes her to the attic, and she is made to work alongside the other servants.

Sara’s life is grim, but she has the friendship and loyalty of the children, and a mysterious friend who seems determined to make her life better. Who is he? 

Another mistreatment of child tale, this time with a girl who is almost too good to be true, but a story that is easy to read and lose yourself in.

Riches to rags – how would you cope?

5. ‘Once’ (Maurice Gleitzman, 2005)

Image Source: Blogspot

“Barney said that everybody deserves to have something good in their life at least once. I have. More than once…”

This is one for a slightly more mature nine year old, and you might want to check it out before handing it over. It’s Poland, 1942, and Felix is living in an orphanage. But he’s not an orphan. He’s Jewish and his parents have taken him there in an attempt to keep him safe. When he discovers his parents may be in danger, he sets out to try and warn them.

Felix is a story-teller, interpreting and coping with events through stories. But there will come a point where not even stories can shield him from the horrors around him.

The Holocaust as experienced by a nine year old boy, who somehow never loses hope.

4. ‘Emily of New Moon’ (L. M. Montgomery, 1923)

Image Source: The Book Smugglers

“Again, there was that eerie, indefinable something in Cousin Jimmy’s voice or look that gave Emily a sudden crinkly feeling in her spine. But she loved the way he talked to her, as if she were grown up; and she loved the beautiful land around her; and in spite of the ache for her father and the house in the hollow which persisted all the time and hurt her so at night that her pillow was wet with secret tears, she was beginning to be a little glad again in sunset and bird song and early white stars….”

Emily lives alone and happy with her father, until he dies. Then Emily is sent to live with two aunts and a cousin at New Moon, the old house belonging to her mother’s family. Cousin Jimmy is kind and understanding, Aunt Laura is gentle, but Aunt Elizabeth has strict ideas on how to raise a child and Emily clashes with her constantly. Lonely and grieving, Emily eventually begins to settle down and make her mark on the New Moon family.

By the author of ‘Anne of Green Gables’, this story of a feisty young girl with imagination and the gift of endearing herself to the people around her is told with warmth.

A journey from love to loneliness and back to belonging with the imaginative and quirky Emily.

3. ‘Journey to Jo’burg’ (Beverley Naidoo, 1986)

Image Source: The Works

“But in the middle of the afternoon, when the road led into a small town, they stopped singing and began to walk a little faster. They were afraid a policeman might stop them because they were strangers. Policemen were dangerous. Even in their village they knew that…”

Naledi (13) and her younger brother Tiro live in a small village in South Africa with their baby sister Dineo. Their mother works 300 miles away, in Johannesburg. When Dineo falls gravely ill, the children decide to travel to Jo’burg to bring their mother home.

But it’s South Africa, the apartheid is in force, and the children are black. They have a difficult journey in front of them. As they travel, they uncover more and more of what the apartheid actually means for the people they meet.

Racism and fear meet love and hope as two children make their way through South Africa to reach their mother.

2. ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’ (Tove Jansson, 1922)

Image Source: MacMillan

““It looks rather ordinary,” said the Snork. “Unless you consider that a top hat is always somewhat extraordinary of course…””

For younger nine year olds now, a lovely series of books featuring the Moomintrolls. This is not the first book in the series but it is a good one to start with. Moomintroll and his friends find a hat, but it turns out to be an unusual sort of hat. It belongs to a hobgoblin, and it can change things into something else.

This is written more as a series of short stories, bound together by the hat, which makes it an easy read. It’s whimsical, but it’s got a bit of an edge to it which makes it slightly more engaging for a nine year old than your average fairy story.

Head into Moominvalley for an adventure – just don’t put any strange hats on your head!

1. ‘Back Home’ (Michelle Magorian, 1985)

Image Source: Penguin

“Rusty was standing in the crowd on the quayside, when suddenly she found herself being hugged by a woman in her thirties, dressed in green. After a few seconds Rusty realised that the woman was her mother…”

Rusty left England at the outbreak of World War 2, aged 7, and bound for America. Five years later, she comes home to a Britain she doesn’t recognise and to a family who are strangers. Everything is grey, nothing tastes right and she misses her American family intensely.

Rusty is constantly being told that she doesn’t understand, and that she must make allowances, but then no-one tries to understand her either. When she is sent to school, and suffers from bullies there, she makes a desperate decision. Good for a confident reader, this is a book about fitting in, something which concerns many pre-teens.

Is home where you were born, or where you feel comfortable and happy?


Mix and Match

Nine year olds are a tricky audience, with a huge variation in reading ability and maturity which don’t always match up. And that’s before you get into personal taste and the topics which interest them. I’ve tried for a variety of books that might interest them – but have I succeeded?
Let us know.
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