Stories such as "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo and "The One and Only Ivan" by Katherine Applegate are not only good choices for 3rd grade students but also award-winning books. Other good choices include "George and Martha" by James Marshall and "The Conquerors" by David McKee.
The story of "The Tale of Despereaux" follows a small mouse named Desperaux Tilling, who is enamored with music, stories and a princess named Pea. Eventually, he encounters a slow-witted servant girl named Miggery Sow. Together, the two begin an adventure that takes them through sparkling castles and dangerous dungeons and finally, into each other's lives.
The story "The One and Only Ivan," follows an easygoing gorilla as he lives his life at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He's grown accustomed to people watching him through the glass of his enclosure and barely thinks about life in the jungle at all. Instead, Ivan passes his time thinking about what he's seen on TV and how to best capture the taste of a mango within his art. However, he soon encounters a young elephant named Ruby, who was taken from her family. And when she arrives, it causes Ivan to see his art and his home with fresh eyes, and this sets in motion a series of changes.