You can barely switch on the TV or open a news-based website without finding a discussion about eBooks and how they may – or may not – herald the end of printed books. Whichever outcome doesn’t really matter, however; eBooks are here to stay and the sheer number of apps and devices which are capable of reading them is testament to this.
With such a wide selection of eBooks available, sorting the wheat from the chaff can prove difficult. As with mobile phone and tablet apps, making a choice depends on much more than a quick look at the summary and cover image. You will also need to spend a bit of time checking reviews, looking at star ratings and considering the price.
Alternatively, you could let us do it all for you! We’re kicking off this new monthly column with a look at free children’s ebooks, one of the most popular types of eBook.
While many might prefer their young charges to have a physical book to read from, this isn’t always possible. For instance, you might be travelling light over distance, or you might be reading the story aloud. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of choices for children’s eBooks from iBooks, the Kindle Store or in PDF format.
“Molly Gumnut Rescues a Bandicoot” by Patricia Puddle
Available from Smashwords for just 99c, this astounding title is – as you might have guessed from the title – set in Australia and tells the story of a girl who rescues a bandicoot, names him Furble and refuses to let the creature return to the wild when his wounds are healed.
Evocative and intriguing, the book attempts to convey concepts such as responsibility and making the right choices.
Although the vocabulary is somewhat limited in some areas, “Molly Gumnut Rescues a Bandicoot” is a great read that will be enjoyed by girls and boys alike.
This title is available in Kindle, PDF and ePub formats here.
“From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan” by H.P. Blavatsky
A fascinating account of travel around India, “From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan” is possibly H.P. Blavatsky’s most accessible work.
While historical accuracy is tempered by the colonial red ink that flooded South East Asia during the 19th century, this book nevertheless portrays a long-lost era and contrasts the differences between those associated with the British-controlled Raj regimes and rural Indian life. Crucially it is written in a style that depicts this long-gone place and time in a way that children will find utterly fascinating.
Useful as both an account of a real life adventure and as a secondary historical source, you can download this book for free.
“Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know” by Hamilton Wright Mabie
The age of fairy tales seems to be long gone, yet there are so many enduring, popular stories that are recognizable to this day. “Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know” collects legendary tales by the Brothers Grimm and others into an easy to read compendium.
Fairy tales are an excellent length for single story sittings, and the titles in this collection should be enjoyed by girls and boys alike – “The Story of Aladdin”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Blue Beard” and “Little Red Riding Hood” all feature. These are tales that have stood the test of time and as such are ideal for any youngsters to enjoy.
In all there are 20 stories, all available free to download.
“The Elephant’s Child: How the Elephant Got His Trunk” by Rudyard Kipling
There are few authors whose work is better known than that of Rudyard Kipling, creator of “The Jungle Book”. With tales “explaining” the origin of various creatures – always with a moral – his “Just So Stories for Little Children” is the original home of “The Elephant’s Child: How the Elephant Got His Trunk”.
Enhanced with illustrations, this is a highly regarded classic story that combines the natural world with a meaningful story and can be downloaded free for Nook from here.
“Garbage! Monster! Burp!” by Tom Watson
Have you ever wondered how some smart kids and a garbage eating monster could save an entire town? You’ll find out in this cute and amusing story by Tom Watson, ideal for children of 5 and upward.
Combining a memorable story with some useful education – in this case the wisdom of recycling – “Garbage! Monster! Burp!” also features a human monster, the cynical town mayor whose actions could easily be described as more monstrous than those of the eponymous beast.
This is a free, brightly illustrated title that is available free on Nook from here.
“A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
One of the all-time classics for girls, “A Little Princess” has been adapted for TV and cinema on several occasions and as such is familiar to many. Apparently timeless and – crucially – ideal for multiple reads, adults should also be engaged by the tale of an upper-crust young lady whose pampered lifestyle is suddenly taken away from her when her father dies.
The story of how Sara Crewe adapts to and survives a life of poverty makes for a fascinating and notable story. You can download the eBook from this site, where it is available in Kindle, PDF and ePub formats (although a VIP account is required).
“The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen
If you haven’t read or even heard of “The Ugly Duckling” then you most likely had a deprived childhood. After all, this is one of the most famous fairy tales ever, telling the story of a young duckling who is born a different colour to his brothers and sisters. He’s teased by other animals, but comes good in the end – a worthy tale to share with any small child.
Ideal for the 5-8 years age group, this is definitely a tear-jerker with a very happy ending. Hans Christian Andersen’s most famous story is presented here with charming, full-colour illustrations. You can download your free copy for Kindle from the Kindle store.
“Scruffy The Christmas Bear” by A.M. King
This undeniably cute story is crowned with a super cute title and adorably cute front cover. Yes, Scruffy is cute, and if the cover doesn’t win you over, the contents certainly will. In his first adventure, Scruffy meets his new family and almost spies Santa. He also loves hugs and adventures, so if you weren’t “cuted” out already, you might be by the time you reach the end.
Ideal for 3 to 7 year olds, “Scruffy the Christmas Bear” doesn’t come with any illustrations (surely a must-have for future editions) but is highly regarded at the Smashwords website, where you can download it free in Kindle, PDF and ePub formats.
“The Golden Acorn (The Adventures of Jack Brenin)” by Catherine Cooper
What happens when young Jack Brenin finds a golden acorn? Why, he unlocks a thrilling and magical task to unlock a world lost to legend. Complete with maps and line drawings and evoking memories of Enid Blyton’s “Magic Faraway Tree” books, “The Golden Acorn” is a traditional tale with anthropomorphized creatures and trees.
With a story that has been favourably compared to the adventures of Harry Potter, the award-winning Catherine Cooper has since taken Jack Brenin on through a series of sequels – but this is where it all started.
Download your copy for free in the Kindle store.
“Burly & Grum and the Secret City” by Kate Tenbeth
A secret city exists in the depths of the forest, and only Burlington Bear, Grum the Groblin and Max know about it – or so they think. To their horror, the trio discover that a group of hunters are looking for the secret city, with the aim of turning it into a theme park.
Ideal for 4-8 year olds, “Burly & Grum and the Secret City” is amusing and charming.
With an anti-hunting message and beautiful illustrations, this is a free children’s story that you simply cannot miss if you have an eBook reader or app. Pick it up from the Kindle store.
As you can see, this is a great selection of books that should keep children under 14 thoroughly entertained for hours. Beyond this age, you might want to consider the Young Adult market.
Determining which titles to include in this list was easy. Each book had to be well regarded by those who left reviews and ratings, available free or under $1, and most of all fun and engaging.
Incidentally, if you have written an eBook that is available for free or for a very low price then let us know and we might feature it in a future roundup.
If you have any suggestions to add to this list, then please let us know via the comments below!
Image credit: Wikimedia