While scouring my shelves, memories, and online library for the best in young girl’s literature, I was reminded of these words,

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

CS Lewis

With that in mind, here are 23 excellent books to read aloud that will keep you just as passionately enthralled as your daughter.

Each and every one of these will make a wonderful gift. The books themselves are great to unwrap at Christmas or on a birthday, but the greatest gift will be the time you spend together enjoying a marvelous story.

Snuggle up and read!

23 Books to Read Aloud to Your Daughter

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1. Anne of Green Gables

Ages 8 and up

The adventures of orphan Anne, her BFF, Diana Barry, loving foster father, Matthew, strict but wise foster mother, Marilla, mean ol’ Josie Pye, and the ever charming, sarcastic, hair tugging, big-hearted Gilbert Blythe, are a perfect fit for mom/dad and daughter.

Anne of Green Gables, written by L.M. Montgomery, is filled with hilarious misadventures. Accidentally fishing for lake trout, falling off a roof, nearly drowning in a melodramatic re-enactment of the Lady of Shallot, and sorta kinda getting innocent Diana rather tipsy at a tea party… these are the kind of timeless tales that every girl relates to, no matter her age.

Written in a way that teaches life lessons without ever seeming preachy, the Anne series continues for eight books, so if you can’t get enough, you’re in luck! Go with Anne to college, as she marries Gilbert, and even as she has her own children.

And if you still can’t get enough, make sure to watch the incomparable PBS miniseries from 1985.

P.S. If you say there are better adaptations, I will have to fight you.

2. The Secret of the Old Clock

Ages 9 and up

Who doesn’t love Nancy Drew, the ever clever, witty, brave, beautiful teenage crime fighter? Sure, Veronica Mars is fun, and we love Buffy, but you can’t beat the first girl detective.

Besides, the Nancy Drew series is as pure as the driven snow, and can be enjoyed by just about any age. I started reading them at around eight years old, and I was still collecting and devouring them several years later.

Written (well, it’s something of a debate; there have been many, many, many ghostwriters) by Carolyn Keene, The Secret of the Old Clock is the first book in the series. It introduces us to Nancy, who is on the hunt for a missing will. Aided by her best friends, tomboy George, and sweet Bess, Nancy will fight for truth and justice, all while wearing heels (it was the 1920s after all), a fetching hat, and driving her convertible.

3. Peter Pan

Ages 8 and up

The magical tale of Peter Pan is the perfect fit for wintry afternoons and rainy nights! Why? Because the adventures of Peter and Wendy will have you pulling your nightgowns over your toes, delighted by pirates and fairies, sipping your cocoa or tea, and sneaking peeks at your dark bedroom window, hoping for a glimpse of a flying ship.

Or maybe that was just me as a girl.

Anyway, there are adventures galore in this tale by JM Barrie, from mean girl mermaids, to brave Indian princesses, to the ever funny Lost Boys, and of course, young Wendy, as she mother-hens her way through Never Never Land. Her adventures with Peter Pan will keep your very own little Wendy occupied and starry-eyed for hours.

4. The Princess Bride

Ages 10 and up

Arguably one of the best fairy tales ever written (and later put on screen just as flawlessly), this book by S. Morgenstern (really William Goldman), is always a good choice.

Buttercup is a funny if slightly dimwitted heroine, but she’s good. That is more important than being a genius anyway, right? Wesley, is of course, the handsome, rugged, brave hero, who fights for True Love through the Fire Swamp, the Cliffs of Insanity, the Thieve’s Forest, and the Zoo of Death (called the Pit of Despair in the movie).

Throw in shrieking eels, giants, the best swordsman in the world, an evil prince and his even more evil henchman, a demented philosopher… how can Buttercup and Wesley ever defeat them all?

The Princess Bride is a perfect book and it’s immensely re-readable too. (In case you have multiple daughters.)

5. Matilda

Ages 7 and up

Written by the one and only Roald Dahl, Matilda is a spunky, book-lovin’ little girl who lives with her rotten parents and mean older brother. But she dreams of someday living somewhere she’s loved and appreciated.

Enter Miss Honey, the world’s best elementary school teacher. But before Miss Honey and Matilda can have their happy endings, they have to defeat not only Matilda’s wicked parents but also the Machiavellian PE teacher, Miss Trunchbull.

Written with plenty of laugh out loud moments, Dahl cleverly teaches important life lessons like. For instance: not everyone’s parents are worth having, some kids are rotten to the core (and some adults are too), books can save your life, and everyone, whether big or small, old or young, can triumph with enough perseverance, education, and maybe some telepathic powers.

6. Little House in the Big Woods

Ages 7 and up

Always a favorite of little girls everywhere, this classic series is a memoir of author Laura Ingalls Wilder. The first book, Little House in the Big Woods, starts with Laura at about age five, along with her sister, Mary (more siblings come along later), and her Pa and Ma, in Wisconsin in the 1870s.

The most “innocent” in nature of the series of nine books (later we’ll be introduced to more serious matters, such as death, illness, violence, hunting, drought, etc), this sweet book will enthrall your youngster as you both imagine life in a simpler, yet harder time.

Laura dances to her Pa’s fiddle-playing, churns butter, takes care of farm animals, visits Gramma, and has all sorts of pioneer adventures. It might make you yearn to live off the grid, or at the very least have you longing for camping season!

7. Cinder

Ages 10 and up

A fun and clever retelling of the classic Cinderella fairy tale, this version by Marissa Meyer sets the story in fictional and futuristic New Beijing.

Part cyborg, with a detachable foot, Cinder is an outcast mechanic (how much do we love that?) in a world of shallow socialites. Her stepmother is (you guessed it) evil, and when Prince Kai comes to Cinder’s shop to have his android repaired, a friendship is struck up.

I was so impressed by this unusual and totally addicting read… and I was a grown adult when I read it! Cinder is a spunky, smart, funny heroine, and you and your daughter will be completely engrossed in this book.

If you haven’t had enough of the science fiction fairy tale world Meyer created here, you can check out the sequels which are just as enjoyable: Scarlet, Cress, and Winter.

8. Taking Flight

Ages 10 and up (mature war themes)

Taking Flight is the autobiography of prima ballerina Michaela DePrince. I read this book aloud in a Dance History class filled with 8-14 year olds.

We did have to censor it just a little, because the story of war-torn Africa and the horrors Michaela recalled were raw and gritty and graphic in parts, and I wasn’t sure how the little ones would take it. I didn’t expect to finish the book, and had others to start, even DVDs to watch, but the kids ate up this book. They were completely wide-eyed, inspired, and begged to keep reading every page.

Michaela’s passion for life, love, acceptance, tolerance, and family will keep everyone who reads it on their tips of their toes (ballet pun). In a world of Kardashians, help your daughter be a DePrince.

9. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Ages 7 and up

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, never fails to delight. Lewis Carroll’s classic book is charming, weird, witty, funny, yet will also make you think.

The characters are bizarre and the setting so strange and fantastical, that you’ll feel you fell down the rabbit hole with Alice.

It’s a slim book that won’t overwhelm you or your little one, and you’ll be talking about the Jabberwocky, the Mad Hatter, the white rabbit, and the Queen of Hearts for days on end.

10. The Ordinary Princess

Ages 6 and up

Most likely my favorite book from childhood, The Ordinary Princess is a wonderful little novel. It tells the story of Amy, a princess who is gifted with all sorts of practical blessings at her christening: things like Wit, Charm, Health, and Courage. And, oh yes, Ordinariness.

The King and Queen are appalled, as are Amy’s gorgeous and slightly shallow sisters, not to mention the whole kingdom at Amy’s mouse-y hair and freckles.

But Amy realizes the gift for what it is, and runs away to become a kitchen maid (the most ordinary of jobs, after all). Lo and behold, she meets a prince … who is just as ordinary as she is.

A bit like the lessons we learned in Shrek, this is a great story for teaching your young lady what’s really important in life. Hint, it’s not Beauty.

11. Dealing with Dragons

Ages 8 and up

By Patricia C. Wrede, Dealing with Dragons is the first in a series that is a must-read for every little girl.

Cimorene is a princess in a fairy tale land, but she’s bored. Her older sisters are lovely and perfect, her fairy godmother is useless, and her parents keep getting upset that Cimorene wants to learn to fence, read Latin, and do magic.

Eventually, Cimorene becomes so bored with her yawn-inducing existence that she runs away to live with a dragon. As one does.

From there, the adventures begin, as Kazu (the dragon) keeps away the stuffy princes and knights who keep trying to rescue Cimorene (do they ever ask her if she’s looking to be rescued? No).

If you’re looking for a book to inspire your daughter to be her own hero, without being snotty or selfish, look no further than this one.

12. Little Women

Ages 8 and up

The classic book by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women tells the story of Jo and her sisters: tragic but sweet Beth, sassy Aimee, and perfect Meg, along with their mother, Marmee.

Based loosely on the author’s childhood, Jo is a lovable, likable, saucy, smart heroine for any age. Wrestling with missing her father who is away at war (this takes place during the Civil War in New England), friend-zoning the boy next door, dealing with cranky Aunt March, and writing her stories, Jo will delight your daughter with her funny, real, honest words.

And if you close the book only to see a sad face looking at you in the mirror, you can pick up again where Little Women left off. There are two sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys, and they are both delightful.

13. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

Ages 10 and up (mature Holocaust themes)

The most famous diary in history, this slim book is a must-read for every girl. Written in the secret annex (now a museum) in Amsterdam, over her family’s two year life hidden away in an attic, Anne’s own words are at times tragic, funny, gritty, and always memorable.

With the newer edition, published in 2003, entitled The Diary of Anne Frank: the Revised Critical Edition, you can read all versions of Anne’s diary: the one you probably remember from your childhood that her father, Otto, edited, the unedited version itself, and her short stories, unfinished novel, and her drawings.

When it’s time to introduce your daughter to the Holocaust, and the fight between good and evil, this is the best way to do it. Just keep a box of tissues handy for when she asks what happened to Anne.

14. Make Lemonade

Ages 10 and up

14 year old LaVaughn is our narrator, and she’s a determined kid, who is already planning her college life.

The problem: she has no money to get there.

The solution: babysitting for 17 year old Jolly, who has two kids already by two different fathers.

In Make Lemonade, the life lessons we learn along side Jolly and LaVaughn are so perfectly presented by author Virginia Euwer Wolff, and yet you’ll never feel like she’s hitting you over the head with it or preaching.

LaVaugn’s prose (it’s written in free verse) is a fun way to get into her thoughts and head, and your daughter will relate to and be inspired by the strong girls in this story. Actually, so will you.

15. When You Reach Me

Ages 10 and up

Set aside a rainy weekend for this one: you’ll want to read it all in one or two sittings so you don’t miss anything. It’s imaginative and not just for kids or teens.

Miranda is a twelve year old in the late ’70s, and it revolves around a strange year with her $20,000 Pyramid playing single mom, and their cast of friends in the city. Odd, unexplained things begin to happen, and weird, creepy notes start arriving: who is writing them and how do they know things they should know, sometimes even before they happen?

Fans of A Wrinkle in Time (as Miranda is) will love all the shout-outs – and in a way, this is a love letter to that book. There’s a fun twist that younger teens especially will go bananas over (adults might see it coming, but that’s okay).

When You Reach Me is a great story with a likable heroine and an unusual plot for which the author deserves kudos. And it has one of the best ending lines ever. Written by Rebecca Stead.

16. Etiquette and Espionage

Ages 10 and up

If you’re wondering what steampunk is, Etiquette & Espionage is the perfect gateway book. It’s the initial entry in a witty and addicting series which will clear up the mystery.

Set in Victorian England, during what we call an “alternate history”, this is the first book in the Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger, who (by the way) wished me a happy birthday on Facebook once, so we’re pretty much besties now.

Sophronia is our 14 year old heroine, and while we like her quite a bit, her mother is officially appalled with her daughter’s lack of decorum. And that curtsy?! Don’t even get Mama started on that monstrosity. So, off to finishing school Sophronia goes, except … well, it’s not THAT kind of finishing school.

Sure, she and her classmates will learn the normal things, like tea-pouring, curtsying, dancing, and other etiquette, but they’ll also learn the other types of finishing: namely deceit, espionage, fighting, and weaponry.

This is a seriously clever book. Carriger wrote it in a tongue-in-cheek way that will have you laughing and cheering on Sophronia and her friends.

17. The Island Keeper

Ages 10 and up

This is a book that made such a huge impression on me as a kid that I had to write up a whole social media post describing it thirty years later because I couldn’t remember the title or the author and it was driving me crazy.

Luckily, a fellow book nerd knew exactly which book I was remembering. So here it is: The Island Keeper.

Cleo is our main character, and like a lot of heroes and heroines, she is disenchanted with her life. Her parents are neglectful, and though she has plenty of wealth and money, she is lonely and unhappy.

Running away is of course the answer. But Cleo doesn’t count on the dangers of her destination: an empty island in Canada.

Surviving with her wits and bravery, Cleo spends all winter just staying alive and finding out who she really is. Written by Harry Mazer, this is a delightful book to read aloud to your daughter.

18. The Willoughbys

Ages 8 and up

A classic by Lois Lowry. Sometimes you just want a fanciful, funny, off the wall, kind of book, and this one fits the bill.

Of course, like any children’s book worth its salt, you have some children, a nanny, neglectful parents, a mysterious benefactor, well, the list of cliches goes on, and that’s what makes Lowry such a genius.

You may wonder if you’re reading a Lemony Snicket knock-off until you realize Lowry was around first, so it’s more polite to assume Snicket read a lot of her novels as a kid. While she’s more famous for her more serious reads, like Number the Stars, and The Giver (both two more books we could easily add on this list), her witty sense of humor and sly barbs in The Willoughbys are too good to pass up.

You and your daughter will be giggling throughout this book, and once you get to the glossary at the end, you’ll be flat out laughing.

19. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Ages 7 and up

As important for adults as it is for children (my own nearly 70 year old mother rereads this series every single year), the beginning of The Chronicles of Narnia starts with a group of siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.

With nods to the Christian faith (though I know plenty of atheists who enjoy the story without sharing the belief in God), this classic has rich characters, both good and evil, and a setting that can only be described as magical.

From Mr Tumnus to the Beaver family to the White Witch to Aslan, the adventure only gets better and better the longer you read.

Never preachy and always entertaining and suspenseful, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a wonderful book to read aloud to your daughter. Written with the inestimable wit and clarity of CS Lewis, this story will capture even the most reluctant reader.

20. Book of a Thousand Days

Ages 9 and up

Known for her fairy tale retellings like The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days takes a little known Grimm’s fairy tale and turns it into something extraordinary. I read it all in one sitting as an adult, and can only imagine how enthralled I would have found it as a girl.

Our heroine, Dashti, is brave and selfless, without being too meek or a doormat. She’s a servant girl who is sent away with her princess, Lady Saren, for her refusal to marry a man she hates. As their exile drags on, they must use their wits and courage to escape their fate.

The book is set in Asia and has an otherworldly, atmospheric feel that will keep you both turning the pages for just one more chapter.

21. The Book Thief

Ages 10 and up (mature Holocaust themes)

Considered a modern classic, this strange and lovely book was written by Markus Zusak, and takes place in Germany during WWII. While narrated by Death himself, the main character is Leisel, our “book thief.”

The first book she smuggles away is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, and it’s the first of many, as she struggles to understand what is happening in her homeland.

The Book Thief is a great book to pick if your daughter is ready for WWII history, loves books as much as Leisel does, and can handle some heartbreak, rich story-telling, and intense suspense.

22. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Ages 9 and up

Another favorite from my childhood, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is the perfect book to read aloud if your preteen daughter doesn’t really care for books.

There is so much adventure to be found in these pages! I remember feeling breathlessly excited that not just boys could run off and have adventures and be heroes on a ship, of all places.

Charlotte is spunky, but kind, and while it may not be historically very accurate, it’s a fabulous yarn and will get your imagination kick-started in the best possible way.

23. Amy’s Eyes

Ages 8 and up

When it comes to gorgeously strange, beautifully odd, flat-out weird, but PERFECT books, Amy’s Eyes by Richard Kennedy is right up there.

What’s it about? Well, it’s a little hard to explain, but a girl turns into a doll, whose eyes are lost at the bottom of the sea, and then she’s a sea captain, in a pirate ship that has set sail with Mother Goose animals, and well, I’m not doing it justice.

It’s just the oddest book, but so very lovable. If you have a 8-12 year old daughter, she will be mesmerized by this and you will be too.


Well, I’m sure there are dozens, if not hundreds, maybe thousands more books to read aloud with your daughter, so I’ll cheerfully keep updating this list as I recall (or discover) them!

Which one will you crack open at bedtime tonight? Do tell!

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Books to Read Aloud to Daughters
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