We are a reading family. Just ask our local librarians. We leave the library with arms and bags full of books. Literally. At least once a week. My house is characterized by stacks of books that I try so hard to keep manageable and organized, but that are usually toppling over. We also pay a fortune in late fees, mostly because we read and re-read and time slips by and then what do you know, 30 cents a day on 50 books adds up to more than you would think….
Our concern right now with reading largely is with finding books that are age appropriate but still fun and contemporary. #1 is reading far beyond her age. Nevertheless, I’ve sheltered her from most pop culture and frankly don’t want her to be fixating on middle and high school topics we just don’t need to think about yet. I guess I don’t think that just because she CAN read a book doesn’t mean she SHOULD. This means that at age 7 she doesn’t need Are you There God It’s Me Margaret, although in retrospect this would totally let me off the hook… Anyway, I am less concerned about that and more concerned with the constant themes of pre-teen romance, body image, the Haves v. the Have Nots and meanness of spirit apparent in so many books these days. Thankfully, she has found countless books–both classic and contemporary–that suit her propensity for fashion, sleuthing, spying, fairies and ghosts.
#1 will spend hours and hours reading. She immerses herself in a book–her choice is usually a fantastical fiction involving fairies– and emerges in a sort of literary haze, as any good reader or lover of books is wont to do. In her own words, here are her favorite books this year, not in order of affection:
ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O’Dell
“This is an emotional book- one moment it is happy, the next scary, the next sad. The main character experiences elation, fear and extreme despair. But I like that the character makes a home out of the island, she meets and befriends wolves and even makes her own canoe as she tries to leave the island and find the mainland.”
THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare
“This is a story about a girl who is forced to move from the island of Barbados to colonial Connecticut. She has to move in with a family that she has never met and that doesn’t seem to like her. Kit struggles to be true to herself–she knows that her clothes, her ability to swim (back then people thought if you could float you were a witch) and her personality make her seem strange to the village, but she doesn’t want to give them up. On the other hand she is very lonely and ultimately finds a friend who accepts her as she is.”
“This is an exciting book about a boy who’s parents own The Greenglass Inn, a remote inn on a very high hill near a cliff. The story takes place over winter break, when the inn doesn’t typically get many visitors. However, seven people come in the course of just one hour. One of the visitors is Millie, who it turns out is a ghost. Millie died in The Greenglass House when she fell out of a window while trying to save her father. This book is a real thriller and a page turner all the way to the end”. WOW! That’s an endorsement. She’s read it about 4 times and is trying to get Ms. Milford to visit her school, so I’d say this is an assured winner.
The Time Traveling Fashionista (a series) by Bianca Turetsky
“These books are about a girl (Louise Lambert) who loves vintage clothes. She receives an invitation to go to a vintage sale. She puts on a dress and is transported back in time. In these books she is turned into the person who originally wore the dress. In this, the 2nd book in the series, she is turned into Marie Antoinette and has to save herself from having her head cut off. In the first book she becomes her great aunt and has to save herself from drowning when the RMS Titanic sinks.”
by Victoria Jamieson
“Astrid signs up to do Roller Derby with her best friend Nicole, but Nicole dumps her. Nevertheless, Astrid decides to pursue the roller derby and to become as good as her mentor Rainbow Bite. Getting there isn’t easy, but Astrid learns to do what’s right and to tell the truth. This book is ultimately about friendship, being yourself and honesty and not keeping secrets”.
Other favorites for children aged 8-12:
- Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
- If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (the secret series) by pseudonymous bosch
- Princess Academy (a series) by Shannon Hale
- I Survived…. a series by Lauren Tarshis
- Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd
- D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D’Aulaire
- Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Marina Konnikova
- Wonder by RJ Palacio
- Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh
- All We Left Behind: Virginia Reed and the Donnor Party by Nancy Herman
- The Fairy Bible by Teresa Moorey
- The Scarlet Stockings Spy by Trinka Hakes Noble
- Just A Dream by Chris Van Allsburg
#2 also loves to read, and of course to be read to. He tends toward picture books, but wants them to be either meaningful or about soldiers, knights, animals or dinosaurs. He brings home books as diverse as The Vietnam War in pictures and Elephant & Piggy. He is BEGGING for JAWS: The Novel, but like I said, we keep things age-appropriate around here. In his own words, here are a few of his favorite books from this year:
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
“This story about tree that gives and gives until it is just a stump, when it keeps on giving, is a wonderful story about being friends for life. I wish that man did not cut down the tree, because I love trees and like to climb in them, but he did and the tree gave him gifts for its entire life.”
“This book tells really cool stories about animals that come to life. One of my favorites is about an owl. The children of a village disobey their parents and continue to pester the owl and to be rude to it. The owl wants the children and the parents over and over again, but they don’t listen. Eventually, the owl captures the children and they are never heard from again”.
Chief Lelooska was an amazing storyteller in the oldest of native traditions. His deep voice resonates, rising and falling with deep expression that really brings these ancient stories to life. This book and another of Chief Lelooska’s is also available on cd.
Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore
I’ve read this story out loud so many times I might have it memorized, which testifies to it’s timeless appeal. Five ducklings become stranded and it takes the help of local firemen to rescue them.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
This book is rather sad to me, but #2 loves it. His teacher read it to him and now I have read it to him at least 5 times. It is sad because it is so real. It tells the story of a girl who arrives at a new school where she tries everything possible to earn the attention of classmates, who constantly rebuff her. Eventually she moves. The teacher shows the class that kindness is like a ripple of water- when you drop a stone into water, it ripples out and becomes greater and greater. In the end, the narrator expresses dismay that she will never get the chance to show a kindness to the new girl. I do love this book because it illustrates how kindness is a simple act, and how words and actions can’t be undone, regardless of how bad we feel about our behavior or regret it.
The Children’s Book of Heroes by William J Bennett
This book is an anthology of remarkable heroes both real and fictional like Jackie Robinson, David and Goliath, Mother Theresa, George Washington, dads, and Theseus and the Minotaur. These stories are interesting, but also have strong messages about what just what makes a hero.
Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel
“This book is sad. He has a dog that dies, then he finds a dinosaur in a cave, who also almost dies in a fire set by some mean children. But I love the pictures and I can read this book over and over and not get tired of it. The main character saves the T Rex when he destroys a house and also trains him like he would a pet”.
We three love all the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, which are sadly difficult to find in local book stores. I read these books as a child and now my own kids find the impossibility of an upside down house with a woman who was married to a pirate, smells like cookies and who loves all children good or bad to be so hilarious. For example, who better than a talking pig to teach manners to a child who refuses to use them? One of our favorite characters is Picky Pemberton, a child who won’t eat anything but pasta and who is frequently mentioned in our house. We also like this story, about a girl who doesn’t like baths. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle recommends letting her get so dirty that her mother can plant radish seeds on her skin. The seeds sprout and the girl decides she doesn’t want to be a walking garden.
Riding on a Range: Western Activities for Kids by Lawson Drinkard
“I love this book, which tells you how to make a horse and other cool things cowboys and homesteaders would do in the olden days.”
I like that this book is full of old fashioned arts, crafts and activities that will fill any sunny or rainy day with fun.
Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey
This story about a wolf/dog raised by a cruel trainer to be a sled dog racer, then lost in the wilderness when the plane he is in crashes, only to be found by a boy who cares for him and loves him, is heart rendering. It is a classic story for any child who loves animals and for any parent who wants to see their child completely engrossed in a story. I like to read this one aloud. Kavik is taken from the child to be a show dog, but escapes and travels from Colorado back to Alaska to find the boy.
Other Favorite Books for readers 5-10
- Locomotive by Brian Floca
- Dragons Love Tacos by Rubin and Salmieri
- Big Red by Kim Kjelgaard
- King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Green
- The Jungle Book (Original edition) by Rudyard Kipling
- Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
- Jurassic World Special Edition Junior Novelization by David Lewman and Random House
- Should You Be A River by Ed Young
- Moustronaut by Mark Kelly
- Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery by Kevin O’Malley
- The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters by Judy Sierra
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