Friday, August 30, 2013

Kids' Books

Earlier this week I did a blog on children's books.  Today I want to move into a little older category - kids' books.  Most libraries will call it "young adult," but that is such a broad category.  To me, young adult is more like middle school/high school books, like The Hunger Games.  I'll get to those books too.  Today, though, my goal is to talk about chapter books for grade school kids. 

These are books I recommend for either grade school kids reading on their own or parents reading to their kids.  Again, I CANNOT emphasis enough the importance of reading to your kids.  The benefits are endless.  It brings families closer together.  It helps your child be better prepared for school.  It instills a lifelong love of reading that benefits their worldview as well as their academic progress.  It better prepares them for the world ahead of them.  AND IT'S FUN!

These have been some of my favorite grade-school age books over the years.  And many of them are series - even more fun!

In no particular order...

1. The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Who wouldn't want to go live in the woods with no grown-ups?   This lovely series is about a family of orphaned children who, believing the grandfather with whom they are supposed to go live is mean, decides to move into an abandoned boxcar in the forest.  The children are super polite and nothing ever too terrible happens to them.  It's just a nice, fun read, and the vocabulary level makes it great for beginning chapter book readers.

2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series by C.S. Lewis

My dad read these to us growing up.  Then, when I was in sixth grade, my teacher encouraged me to read them again on my own.  I love it when books mean different things to you at different ages.  Each time I pick up one of the books from the Narnia series, it speaks to me in a different way.  These are a must read.  And, if you will allow me a rant...READ THEM IN PUBLICATION ORDER.  NOT CHRONOLOGICAL.  (I will restrain myself from that fight here.  Comment if you want to continue to argument.  But beware, I will win it, for I have right on my side.)  

3. The Ramona series, The Mouse and the Motorcycle series, Henry and Ribsy, and pretty much everything else by Beverly Cleary.

Beverly Cleary's books have stood the test of time.  Recently my seven year old has gotten into them, and I am amazed at how timeless they are!  Written decades ago,  they are still pretty relevant to today.  Everyone loves Ramona Quimby and relates to her on some level.  These are marvelous books for young readers, and there's something for everyone.  I personally also love Dear Mr. Henshaw.  Such good, solid reading.

4. A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels by Madeline L'Engle

This might be for slightly older young readers - 5th grade and up.  These marvelous books weave space travel, science, theology, history and fantasy into fantastic tales of the Murray family's adventures over time and space.  A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters are all worth your time, and I am sure the others in the extended series are as well.  These are the kinds of books that really make you think.  They capture the imagination of the reader in unique ways.  Wonderful books for young readers reaching  for more. 

5. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I have already written an entire post about the importance of Number the Stars.  I think everyone should read it.  It is a great story of choosing to do what's right in the face of terrible wrong. It also tells about an terribly important time in history and introduces kids to some of the awful truths of history while showing them true heroism. Beautiful book. 

6. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Want something hilarious that makes you feel like you are standing on your head to read it?  Pick up Sideways Stories from Wayside School and prepare to have everything you know about school turned upside down.  This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and it always keeps you guessing.  Nothing is ever as it seems, whether it's a dead rat trying to pass itself off as a student, a mean teacher that gets turned into an apple, or the mysteriousness of the 13th floor.  What can you expect from a school that was built 30 stories high, one classroom on top of another?  Also fantastic is the sequel, Wayside School is Falling Down.  The quirkiness abounds. 

7. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Maybe it's just that the thought of living at Metropolitan Museum of Art sounds utterly fantastic to me.  Maybe it's the historical mystery.  Maybe it's the identification of a young girl feeling out of place in the world and needing to be a part of something important.  Whatever it is, I love this book about two young siblings who run away to live at the museum and become embroiled in a centuries-old mystery.  I can't wait to read this one to my daughter Anna one day.  I think she and Claudia will be good friends. 

8. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

I am trying desperately to keep this post from being all girl books, I really am.  Although the main character of this book is a heroine, I truly think it can be enjoyed by boys and girls alike.  Charlotte's perilous, treacherous journey is enough to capture the imagination of any kid who has ever dreamed of high adventure or running off to join a band of pirates.   Read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and play "what would you have done?" 

9. The Indian in the Cupboard series by Lynne Reid Banks

What if you could suddenly make your toys come to life?  Not like in Toy Story - I mean really come to life, with a back story and a real past?  This magical series tells the story of Omri, a young boy who stumbles upon a cupboard that, when he places his toy Indian inside and turns the key, discovers that his toy has now become Little Bear, a real Native American from the American past.   The books is part one of a trilogy, and the entire series is a source of wonder and delight for young readers. 

10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Let me make two things clear: 1) Roald Dahl is WEIRD, and 2) I absolutely hate the 1971 movie, so much so that I never had any desire to see the remake.  (Although Johnny Depp is also quite weird, so he was probably a good fit for Dahl's world.)  Having said that, I have always enjoyed this book, weird as it is.  Roald Dahl tells odd stories about odd characters, but he does so in a captivating way.  Many of other Dahl's books are also great stories - personally, I like Matilda even better than this one, but again, I was trying to list books that would appeal to both genders.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a classic, and for a good reason.  Great book for young readers.

I am making myself stop at 10, but there are SO MANY MORE GOOD BOOKS out there for young readers.  If none of these appeal to you, go to your local library and speak with the librarian in the children's section.  I guarantee you they can find something you and your young reader can enjoy together.  Reading is such an important, exciting part of life.  Start engaging your young reader now - I promise, you will never regret it.

And now - off to continue with The Chaperone! 

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