Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. Inspired by the family stories Taylor grew up on, the book is often chosen and taught for its searing portrait of the racist persecution endemic to the Depression-era South, but Cassie Logan is more than just an eyewitness to historical events. She's a fierce, resourceful, and passionate character in her own right, so real that you can't help but feel her pain, helplessness, defiance, and love for her family as your own.
Her books are perfect to read aloud, and not too "little-kiddish", even if they are about princesses.
Reading now ...
Most decorated Veteran of WWII. If you haven't seen "To Hell and Back: The story of Audie Murphy" do it. Amazing what this kid did, and he played himself in the film.