175+ Traditionalist Books for Your Kids You’ve Never Heard Of

By: - March 5, 2024

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Your kids are (finally!) reading on their own . . . Now what?

Well, now is when we parents face the often-herculean task of trying to verify which books are safe and fit for our kids to read—not to mention supportive of traditional values!

I’d like to offer a list of some favorite young adult books that have been read and approved by four solidly traditionalist parents: my husband, my mother, my mother-in-law. I also have been a librarian in both public libraries and private schools, and with this experience, I’ll add for convenience a suggested age range, a short summary of why the book qualifies as traditional, and any relevant notes for parents.

Much like my last list, most of these are hidden gems few readers will come across in conventional bookstores or literary circles.

1. A Squire’s Tale series by Gerald Morris (12+). All the King Arthur legends are retold in a relatable and comedic voice in Morris’ 10-book series—many through the eyes of a squire named Terence. Themes include loyalty, honor, courage, and creativity. (Favorites of mine include The Lioness and Her Knight, The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf, and The Ballad of Sir Dinadan.)

2. The Mitchells series by Hilda Van Stockum (8+). This trilogy features The Mitchells: Five for Victory, A Canadian Summer, and Friendly Gables. The reader follows five siblings on the American homefront during World War II as they become young adults. Humor, innocence, and a focus on sibling bonds pervade Van Stockum’s stories.

3. Men of Iron by Howard Pyle (10+). Known for his fairytale prose and classical Western mythology themes, Pyle penned (and illustrated) a coming-of-age novel that follows a medieval squire’s journey to becoming a knight. The book also features historical information about weaponry, chivalry, and knighthood ceremonies.

4. Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (10+). This follows an endearing young heroine as she goes from being a completely dependent orphan to being an independent and capable farm girl. Unsurprisingly, Fisher was a believer in the then-unknown Maria Montessori’s educational theories.

5. Dragons in Our Midst series by Bryan Davis (12+). Raising Dragons, The Candlestone, Circles of Seven, and Tears of a Dragon follow two young teens who discover they are not fully human but are actually half dragon—which, of course, entails embarking on dangerous quests. Davis manages to instill the popular fantasy genre with a blend of traditional values.

6. The Golden Name Day by Jennie D. Lindquist (8+). This book is based on the traditional Swedish celebration of birthdays and follows a 9-year-old girl who goes to live on her grandparents’ farm. There is one sequel titled The Little Silver House.

7. Shane by Jack Schaefer (12+). This is a classic Western novel for boys that follows a mysterious gunslinger as he joins forces with Wyoming pioneers to save their homes from a crooked cattle driver. Schaefer includes themes of virtue and man’s search for self.

8. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (10+). This five-volume series follows five sisters from childhood to adulthood, along with their friends, relatives, and devoted father. Described as a modern classic, the book has themes of humor, childhood innocence, adventure, and the true meaning of family.

9. Impossible by Nancy Werlin (16+). This is a modern retelling of the classic fairytale curse. WARNING: The story includes a nongraphic rape scene, so please read it yourself first to determine whether you wish to suggest it to your children. Surprisingly, the book supports the triumph of traditional values, such as life beginning at conception, young marriage, and love as a choice. There are two sequels, but they do not feature traditional values.

10. Arundel by Kenneth Roberts (12+). Book one of the Chronicles of Arundel, this is a colonial American adventure that follows a young soldier who joins forces with Benedict Arnold’s quest for Quebec. Known as a history book first and fictional adventure second, the book is heavy on geographical beauty, character development, and patriotism. (There are three more books in the series as well.)

11. Redwall by Brian Jacques (10+). This is the first of 22 novels that follow the intertwining adventures of a colorful cast of small mammals. Hares, mice, badgers, rats, snakes, otters, and more all feature in the fictional land of Mossflower. Recurring themes throughout the books include traditional values like truth, courage, valor, justice, and honor. (Other personal favorites in the series include Marlfox, Taggerung, Rakkety Tam, Doomwyte, and The Long Patrol.)

12. Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat (8+). This story follows the true adventures of a Canadian boy who raises all kinds of wild animals in his home. Mowat also has another book for slightly older readers called The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be.

13. Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody (10+). This series of eight books is like a boy’s version of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. Follow Ralph as a young boy from the time his family moves to the Wild West at the turn of the 20th century all the way to his growing up to become a horse stuntman in Hollywood. (Spoiler for sensitive readers: His beloved father dies at the end of the first book.)

14. Flower Fairies Treasury by Cicely Mary Barker (8+). This beloved poet and illustrator created a vast portfolio over the early decades of the 20th century. Her watercolor paintings are a celebration of nature and make a fantastic introduction to classical verse for young readers.

15. The Green Ember series by S.D. Smith (10+). This series of four books plus extra novellas has been compared to Redwall and The Mistmantle Chronicles but with more direct traditional values featured. The books follow warrior rabbits as they battle dark forces for their survival and the future of their kind.

16. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (12+). In addition to her well-known Anne of Green Gables series, Montgomery penned a number of other novels. This one follows an Edwardian spinster who receives a false terminal medical diagnosis and her search for herself that ensues. Themes include charity, faith, and true love triumphing over all.

17. A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery (16+). This next novel by Montgomery uniquely focuses on traditional marriage and what it demands of spouses. The book follows a large cast of vaguely related and hilarious characters as they compete for a family heirloom.

18. The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses by Robert Louis Stevenson (14+). A 15th-century teenage hero embarks on a quest to obtain justice for the murder of his father and save his sweetheart, during which he gets entangled in the English Wars of the Roses. Themes include heroism, courage, and the triumph of the underdog.

19. Freddy the Detective by Walter Brooks (10+). There are 26 books in this delightful farm-centric series that relates the mysterious adventures of the animals on a particular farm.

20. Dear America series (by a variety of writers) (10+). This set of 46 historical-fiction books features historically accurate and diverse sets of fictional young adult diaries. Most are set in wars, notable time periods, and other historical events that changed the course of history.

21. The Royal Diaries series (by a variety of writers) (12+). Much like the Dear America series, this set of 22 fictional diaries features young princesses of many different countries and eras.

22. All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (8+). Five sisters in a Jewish family share domestic adventures in turn-of-the-century New York. The five-book series begins with their childhoods, follows them through their teen years and young adulthood, and concludes with their marriages. This set is akin to the Betsy Tacy series by Maude Hart Lovelace.

23. Airman by Eoin Colfer (12+). Readers follow a falsely accused young inventor who must not only escape prison and prove his innocence but also save his family and the small isle kingdom of Saltee. Overcoming persecution in pursuit of justice is the notable theme.

24. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (10+). Based on the author’s life, these five books chronicle Herriot’s adventures and life as a rural veterinarian in Britain. From delightfully funny stories to tear-jerker chapters, the author celebrates and shares his appreciation of the animal world.

Image credit: Unsplash

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