Think of mythology as the building blocks for future literature studies — though, admittedly, they can be messy, complicated, ambiguous building blocks. This 52-week reading list is designed to cover a full year of mythology studies, and while it’s accessible for elementary students just diving into the wide world of literature, older students looking for a place to start a systematic comparative literature study may also find this a place to begin.
I’ve gotten a few emails about this, so here’s an annotated list of what I read with my 3rd grader this year. (Here’s what we used for curriculum if you want more context.) My son is not in love with reading, so we read most of these together. We always start the day with a readaloud, readalouds figure largely into our learning routine, and we have a bedtime readaloud, so it looks like a longer list than it actually feels like. I’m including books we read as part of our studies and books we read together for fun, but I’m not including textbooks.
Tennis Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Just what you'd expect from a Streatfeild book: A family with a small budget and big dreams finds success, this time on the tennis courts.
Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World's Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg
This book about the science and history of chocolate was so much fun to read—and it gave us an excuse to kick off the year with a chocolate taste test, so that was a pretty big plus.
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
My son checked this out of the library so many times that I bought him his own copy. He thought it was hilarious.
George and Martha by James Marshall
I don't worry about reading levels, so I was just thrilled that my son had found a book he was interested in reading. But I think this little collection of short stories is so witty and charming, it should really be on more reading lists. We both loved it. (How did I miss it as a kid?)
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
Fun readaloud about a boy who loves to spin tall tales.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I almost didn't read this with my son because we've read it before, but I really do want to encourage my children to be rereaders as well as readers. Reading it again actually turned out to be great—my son's such a better reader now, and he really got into the story and the vocabulary. (*BYL)
No Flying in the House by Betty Brock
Because we will read any story if it has a magical dog in it. (This one is really cute, though.)
Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson
I love these little poetry collections, and we really enjoyed reading Emily Dickinson together. I'm always kind of torn about explanatory prefaces to poetry, which I think can give people the idea that there's a right way to read something, but these are really well done and do a good job pointing out things to look for without implying that they're the only things to look for, if that makes sense. My son picked several of her nature poems for his weekly recitations this year. (*BYL)
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I guess it's not just magical dogs—we'll read any book about dogs, period. This one is full of interesting talking points.
Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg
I don't remember why we started looking at Jackson Pollack paintings (probably somebody made a mess painting?), but we had a whole Pollack period earlier this year. This biography was really cool, and I love that it used Pollack's own words.
Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Ben Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos by Robert Lawson
I've always loved this book—the story of Franklin and, by extension, the early history of the United States told from a mouse's perspective—but my son was not impressed. Getting through this was a struggle. (*BYL)
Wolf Story by William McCleery
I love, love, love this book, and I was so glad my son loved it, too.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Really, pretty much a perfect book. I lured him in with Sideways Arithmetic (because he'll read anything about math), but this was one of his favorite books. I sometimes catch him rereading it. (I also sometimes catch his big sister rereading it. And me. I reread it, too.)
Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski
Lenski does a great job here giving a balanced, nuanced, and (mostly) historically accurate view of Seneca life through the eyes of a (real) girl who was adopted by the Seneca after her family was killed by one of their raids. It's kind of heartening to think that it was published in the 1940s. (*BYL)
The BFG by Roald Dahl
I was pretty sure we'd done this one as a readaloud already, but he must have been too little to remember. It's never bad to go back to Roald Dahl, though, and we had to read it before we watched the movie!
Frindle by Andrew Clements
My son gave this five out of five stars.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Fudge's mayhem both delighted and stressed out my not-at-all-mayhem-inclined son. He wanted to read the next book immediately.
Superfudge by Judy Blume
Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka
My son is always looking for excuses to put this book on our reading list. I don't mind.
The Worm by Elise Gravel
We love the Disgusting Critters series! For science this year, we did several worm-related projects, and this was a fun book to go along with them.
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George
We listened to this as an audiobook. It's never really been my favorite book, but my son enjoyed it more than I ever have. (*BYL)
The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns
Such a fun book! A triangle decides he wants to add some extra angles in this light introduction to basic polygons.
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Silly fun. Cauliflower!
A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements
I thought this one would be a slam dunk since he loved Frindle so much, but he never really got into it. (*BYL)
What's New? The Zoo: A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull
I found this on a list of recommended science books, and it turned out to so interesting. It's a history of zoos, from ancient Sumeria and China to the modern day.
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space by Dr. Dominic Walliman
We would have checked this one out just for the title, but it turned out to be a pretty engaging book about space.
Math-terpieces by Greg Tang
Somehow we missed this Greg Tang book, so we were pleased to discover it. If you have a kid who loves math, definitely put all of Tang's books on your library list.
Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney
I snagged this for Black History Month, and it's great for that, too, but honestly, its message of creating change through nonviolence was just what I wanted my kids to have right now.
Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson
Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume
Sadly, not a hit. Sheila just couldn't live up to the Peter/Fudge/Tootsie legacy.
The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton
Eyewitness Explorer: Nature Ranger
I had almost forgotten about this book (which I guess is the point of book lists in the first place). It was great! It had really fun hands-on nature activities, like building a moth trap and making your own rainbow.
G Is for Googol by David M. Schwartz
We both loved this witty math primer. ("W" is for "When are we ever gonna use this stuff, anyway?")
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
I remembered this book from my own elementary school days as being kind of depressing and slow, and rereading it did not change my perspective. We didn't actually finish it. (*BYL)
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
My son loved guessing the solutions to the mysteries. In fact, he liked this book so much, he went on to check out all the books in the series that our library has in its collection.
Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey
I love when you learn something new from a book! I did not know about the Green Book, a book that told African American travelers in the 1950s which restaurants, gas stations, etc., on major routes weren't racist.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes
This is pretty much classic historical fiction about the Revolutionary War. (*BYL)
Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine by Pendred Noyce
This was such a cool book—it included new information about women in science we already knew (I did not know that Florence Nightingale was one of the pioneers in using statistics as a tool for public health) and information about women we were almost totally unfamiliar with.
Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
My son became really interested in infections when our homeschool group got hit hard by a bug this winter, and I picked up this book about one of the most notorious infections of all time at the library. This was a pleasantly complex book that went into the science of pathology but also the legal and social issues at the center of her case. Really interesting!
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Lovely picture book—a nice accompaniment to nature journaling.
George vs. George: The American Revolution Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer
This book was a great tool for stimulating conversation about perspective—it's always important and interesting to look at who is telling a story and what biases they might be bringing to the telling. Plus you can make people listen to the Hamilton soundtrack when you are reading it. (*BYL)
The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Not a hit—I think the love story was just not interesting to my son. (*BYL)
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Laugh-out-loud hilarious. Like Squids Will Be Squids, this book really inspired my son to make up his own stories.
Mummy Math: An Adventure in Geometry by Cindy Neuschwander
My son will read pretty much any book about math and any book about mummies, so it wasn't surprising when he grabbed this at the library.
11 Experiments that Failed by Jenny Offill
Fun, funny, absolutely terrific book about the scientific method.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
A classic. “It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness.”
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
My son was completely captivated by Sam's adventures living in the wilderness. (*BYL)
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
We didn't plan on this as a follow-up to Typhoid Mary, but they actually went really well together—and I think the connection made my son much more engaged with this book than he might have been otherwise. (*BYL)
Mischievous Meg by Astrid Lindgren
Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe
This was one of my daughter's favorite books, so she was thrilled when her brother loved it, too. But really, a story about a vegetarian vampire bunny rabbit kinda sells itself.
Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Lovely science picture book.
The Wonderful Adventure of Nils by Selma Lagerlof
A quirky Swedish tale of tiny boy who explores the world riding on the back of goose written by a Nobel Prize-winning author.
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
We've read bits and pieces, of course, but this is the first time we read this cover-to-cover together. Not the last, though, I bet.
Dogku by Andrew Clements
Dogs + haiku. If there was ever a literary sure thing for my 3rd grader, this is it.
A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano
Terrific science book—I love that it includes real telescopic images.
Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
I found this book when I was looking for something about the food web for our nature studies.
The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky
One of our favorite collections of silly poetry.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
I love this book, which is a little like A Series of Unfortunate Events (though it was written long before that)—two orphans must survive an evil governess in alternate England where wolves roam the countryside. (*BYL)
The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe
Continuing the Bunnicula saga. This series is definitely one of our readaloud faves.
Nothing But the Truth by Avi
Probably like everyone else, we've been talking a lot about politics this year, and this book added to the conversation in some interesting ways. It's about a conflict between a student and teacher that spirals out of control with a little help from the media, and it's almost guaranteed to trigger some interesting discussion.
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark
Ada Lovelace is so cool. (I was reading the Colors of Madeleine books on my own when we read this, and since Lovelace and her dad play a role in those books, it was fun to read more about her here.
Karlson on the Roof by Astrid Lindgren
A fun readaloud from the creator of Pippi Longstocking.
Calico Bush by Rachel Field
We picked this up during our conversation about indentured servants in the colonial world—it's one of those subjects that really comes to life with a living book.
Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson
A great nature journal read.
American Tale Tales by Mary Pope Osborne
Fine but not exactly diverse. (*BYL)
Anno’s Math Games 3
We've loved all the books in this series. Highly recommended if you have a math-y kid.
Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds by Monica Russo
This book was great for nature study. My son was really into have specific activities for nature journaling this year, and this book had some good ideas.
Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling
Don't be fooled by its picture book exterior: This chronicle of the Mississippi River Valley (told from the perspective of a snapping turtle) covers history, biology, anthropology, geology and more.
Butterfly House by Eve Bunting
Another nature journal read—this one was a little mushy-gushy for us.
Dandelions by Eve Bunting
I loved the way this book captured both the vastness and the isolation of pioneer life with a fairly simple story.
Skating Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Probably my son's least favorite Streatfeild, which is a shame because it was the last of the shoes series we hadn't read.
So many Geronimo Stilton books that I am not even going to try to list them individually
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
We loved this picture book about a little girl living the science life (which often involves making messes as she experiments and tests hypotheses).
How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer
I have read SO MUCH about Lewis and Clark this year (partly because I am currently obsessed with Meriwether Lewis), but this is a good, engaging introduction to their expedition. I liked that it uses excerpts from the explorers' journals. (*BYL)
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
One of my all-time favorite readalouds. Both my kids have memorized "Macavity the Mystery Cat," and we often recite it (dramatically!) when we are stuck in traffic.
Rachel’s Journal by Marissa Moss
This scrapbook-style book about life on the Oregon Trail was a favorite of my daughter's, so I had a copy to pull out for our pioneer studies.
The Quilt-Block History of Pioneer Days by Mary Cobb
If you are studying pioneer history and enjoy crafty art projects, I cannot recommend this book enough. It explores pioneer history through the quilts people made, and it comes with ideas for paper quilting crafts. Really fun.
Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry
My animal-loving son really enjoyed this book. (*BYL)
Daily Life in a Covered Wagon by Paul Erickson
This book has excerpts from letters and diaries and photos of actual tools and artifacts from wagon trail times. We really enjoyed it, and the specific details were fascinating.
Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
Historical fiction based on the life of the author's real life great aunt, a Finnish settler in Washington state at the turn of the 20th century.
Which Way to the Wild West? by Steve Sheinkin
This is pretty typical Sheinkin, and that's always a good thing. I think this would be a great book to read at the start of a pioneer unit study, and it was great for that chunk of our U.S. history study, too.
Razia and the Pesky Presents by Natasha Sharma
Awesome book recommendation that came from a diverse books reading list.
They’re Off! The Story of the Pony Express by Cheryl Harness
We wanted to know more about the Pony Express, so we checked out this book. It was fine—I appreciated that it touched on the political and economic issues at play—but I suspect there might be better books.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl
The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh
I thought my son would totally dig this book—pioneers on a new planet!—but he just thought it was OK. (*BYL)
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
I am pretty much always looking for an excuse to read this.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Such a great book, and it made a really nice counterpoint to Tom Sawyer.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
OK, but I hate Tom Sawyer (the character, not the book) SO MUCH, and I was reading Huckleberry Finn at the same time and just being furious about how TERRIBLE Tom Sawyer is at the end of that book. (*BYL)
The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill
More people should read this! It's so funny and charming.
Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements by Deborah Hopkinson
We love cooking together, and I thought this book was a great introduction to why recipes matter.
By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman
We'd read this before, but we were happy to read it again. (*BYL)
Poetry for Young People: Walt Whitman
I was surprised by how much my son enjoyed Whitman. Pleasantly surprised but surprised!
Brady by Jean Fritz
Solid historical fiction about the Underground Railroad. (*BYL)
(We homeschool year-round, so I just picked the date I started this list as the cutting-off point.)
(*BYL) : This indicates books that are part of the Build Your Library reading list we used this year
From picture books to YA histories, these books make great readalouds for Black History Month in your homeschool.