A marvelous chapter book and one that you rarely hear about is The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clark. (Also called The Twelve and the Genii). Written in 1962, it tells the story of a young boy, Max, who lives in England in an old farmhouse. One day he finds some toy soldiers under a floor board in the attic, and of course, they come alive.
This is a familiar plot to all of us today (Indian in the Cupboard, Toy Story), but this one has more of a twist to it. It turns out that the Bronte family (yes, that Bronte family) used to live nearby and the soldiers could have been the toys of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother Branwell.
The characters are rich and the story moves right along as Max gets more and more attached to the soldiers, and then becomes aware of their history, and then must save them from being sold to a collector.
I read this years ago to my younger son and we kept saying to each other “Why hasn’t someone made this into a movie?”
Fun back story … apparently the Brontes DID have a bunch of soldiers that they played with. They invented elaborate lives for them and wrote all kinds of stories and plays about the soldier characters they had created. There are actually published works (such as The History of the Young Men by Patrick Branwell Bronte -- see the very fuzzy photograph below) that survive. Pauline Clark clearly researched these for the novel because some of the names and characteristics are just what the Brontes had used. I love that kind of stuff.
You can read this aloud to an age as young as 4th grade perhaps, and as old as 8th, if they aren't too "cool" to listen. Of course, they could also read it themselves. But then how would you know what happens?