If you’ve been appalled at stories produced today that are aimed at kids and teens, you know there’s a wide range of books, movies and tv programs and finding the good ones can be challenging.
Leaving our reading choices to algorithms is a bad idea, whether it’s the kids in our lives or ourselves.
It takes some effort to do the research to make sure that what your kids are getting aligns with your beliefs.
Let me help you.
These titles are handpicked with an eye toward good writing, absence of profanity, good storylines and morality depicted favorably.
My Top Picks for Clean Books for Kids and Teens
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Penderwicks
- A Single Shard
- Okay for Now
- P.S. I Like You
Note: The book cover pictures are an Amazon affiliate links. Clicking through to purchase benefits this site.
Clean Books for Older Kids
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett
One of my lifetime favorites, A Little Princess tells the story of Sara Crewe leaving India and her beloved father to go to boarding school in England.
A girl of vivd imagination and story telling gifts, she leans on those gifts to survive heartbreak and tragedy.
Begin reading this book immediately following this link to the complete ebook at Project Gutenberg A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Caddie Woodlawn is perhaps an under appreciated classic.
Caddie is the spunky spirited heroine growing up during the Little House on the Prairie era.
My husband has fond memories of hearing this read aloud by his teacher in elementary school. He remembered the story, but forgot the title of the book. Stumbling across it decades later felt like reuniting with an old friend.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats has been unfairly sentenced to juvenile work camp at Green Lake. The boys are required to dig holes in the desert sun.
But there’s something mysterious going on connected to a decades old events that transpired before the lake dried out. Can Stanley and his friends get to the bottom of it before the perpetrators take revenge?
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Four motherless girls on vacation with their father. Their romps with pets, neighbors and each other: a simple, but satisfying plot.
5 Stars! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this whimsical story. (That’s a lotta love.) I read it to the teens in my carpool, since I don’t have any little kids to read it too. I gave it to my nieces and nephews, too.
I loved the uplifting, engaging characters. Real heroes. Great values. Whimsical.
The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
Hilarious antics and adventures of a clever boy growing up more than a century ago.
His ability to connive, wheel and deal, get in and out of scrapes and come out on top is impressive and amusing.
Based on the memories of the author and his older brother, Tom’s childhood days growing up in Utah.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
“Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?” — from GoodReads
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
“Fantastic creatures, heroic deeds, epic battles in the war between good and evil, and unforgettable adventures come together in this world where magic meets reality, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over sixty years. The Chronicles of Narnia has transcended the fantasy genre to become a part of the canon of classic literature.”– from GoodReads
In my opinion, Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia appeals to every age.
Lewis tells compelling stories with an amazing economy of words. He weaves timeless truths into tales that highlight the classic conflict between good and evil.
I can’t recommend them highly enough.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
A Single Shard is a compelling story for all ages.
Tree-ear is an orphan who lives with Crane-Man under a bridge. He’s fascinated by the work of a master potter in the village and dreams of the day when he can throw a pot on the wheel. Twelfth century Korea sets the stage for an inside look at the art of pottery, honorable poverty and the cries of an orphan boy’s heart.
There’s so many positive life lessons taught in the story. The value of work, instead of stealing or begging. Take care of each other. Give to those in need. Preserve the dignity and honor of others. Don’t give up on your dreams. Be loyal to friends and family. Don’t take ideas that you learned from stealth or thievery.
I love this story. I love what it teaches. Highly recommended for all ages, beginning about age 6 or 7 as a read aloud.
The audio version read by Graeme Malcolm is excellent. The listening length is 3 hours and 12 minutes.
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
“In this companion novel to The Wednesday Wars, Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that some people think him to be. He finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, who gives him the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.”– from Amazon
Excellent book. LOVED it.
Deals with so many important themes.
Abusive parent. War veterans. Learning disabilities. Young love. Poverty. Predjudice.
There’s just so much there. And the story is so satisfying.
You know how it is? When a story is satisfying? When all the right people win in the end and the rest get what they deserve?
The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
What if you lived in a small kingdom where the prince chooses his bride from the graduates of the Princess Academy?
What if you had the chance for an education that would never be possible otherwise?
I loved this middle grade novel for telling a tale of what could be, the power of knowledge, friendships and courage.
One of my favorite parts of Princess Academy was how they snuck in principles of Commerce and Negotiation. It was fun how that played out.
There were a few weird and whimsical twists, but every fairy tale needs a little magic.
Clean Books for Younger Teens
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A classic for a reason, generations have grown up with the escapades of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.
Patterned after the author’s own home life, the stories of the four sisters ring true. Each sister is endearing in their own way.
The book contains not so much a plot as a journey as each one reaches to fulfill their destiny.
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
What if you grew up in family of twelve children?
The authors of Cheaper by the Dozen draw from the memories of their childhood days in a big family.
Laugh out loud stories and heart warming tales about the love and logistics of a large family.
The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin
Grace Bennett moves to London in 1939. The war is ramping up. Air raids and the fragility of life are daily uncertainty. But a job at a bookstore teaches Grace the power of the written word and friendships forged during trying times endure.
The Downstairs Girl by Stacy Lee
Jo Kuan works as a ladies’ maid in Atlanta in the 1890’s, but she also moonlights as the popular advice columnist, Miss Sweetie. Anonymously answering questions in the newspaper gives her the chance to address some social issues.
I enjoyed this wholesome story and recommend it for all ages.
Lovely War by Julie Berry
Officially a Young Adult book, but one adults will like as well.
It’s set in World War I and II and follows two couples— Hazel and James and Aubrey and Collette as they navigate, war, prejudice and their relationships.
P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Lily is trading messages in Chemistry class with an unknown correspondent. It starts out with similar tastes in music, but then they start commiserating about life problems. Along with normal challenges of being a junior in high school, now Lily has to deal with a mysterious friendship that might turn into something more.
A sweet romance in the tradition of Daddy Long Legs, Dear Mr. Knightly and Shop Around the Corner.