5 Books to Begin Middle School

It’s hard to believe that school will be starting very soon. I don’t know about you, but the summer has flown by! We’ve spent a lot of time in Michigan and we’ve had the oportunity to renew old friendships and spend lots of time with family and friends. We’ve tried to enjoy every minute and we’re tired, but very happy!

I know there are a lot of anxious kids out there who are ready to begin school. Maybe it’s a new school because of a move, maybe it’s new because it’s middle school or maybe it’s just a new grade. No matter the situation, it’s always reassuring to know that whatever you’re worried about or whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone. These books do that! Your tween may identify with Tessa’s fear about starting a new school, with Macy’s concern about moving and having a new family, with Abbie Wu’s feeling that she’s “totally freaking out” or with Lucia and Elyse’s feelings when their best friends turn to someone new. The books are about courage, acceptance of differences and kindness. They are perfect for kids as they begin middle school, but will also be great for 4th and 5th graders. I hope your kids will find a new favorite that will give them just the courage they might need to begin a new school year.

Bubblesmiddle school

By Abby Cooper

  • Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own.

Sophie has been in mourning for four months, because four months ago she is certain she caused her mom to break up with her long time boyfriend, as well as lose her job. As a result, her mom either sits on the couch reading boring magazines or cries in her room, instead of sharing lots of adventures with Sophie as they’ve always done And now Sophie has a new problem. She sees speech bubbles, just like those in cartoons, above people’s heads. She can tell what everyone is thinking!

Here are some of the many reasons that this book is definitely a 5 star review!

 

♥Sophie’s strength and courage to share about the speech bubbles with her mom and her friends

♥Sophie’s courage to talk to her counselor about her life

♥Sophie’s courage to creatively tackle her problems.

♥Sophie relationships with the adults in the story

♥Sophie’s friendship with her two best friends

Bubbles shows upper elementary and middle schoolers that struggling with friendships and self confidence, is very normal and it’s okay to be sad once in awhile. As Sophie said “…a sad thought every so often didn’t mean a sad life.  …And as long as I have my friends and family with me…I’d never have to deal with any of these things alone.”

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

By Lindsay Currie

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network and @lindsayncurrie for providing me with the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. It will be released 10/10/17.

This is a story about ghosts, friendship, family and Chicago that I couldn’t stop reading! It is based upon a true story from Graceland Cemetery in Chicago and at first was really scary (at least for someone who NEVER reads ghost stories!). In fact I told my husband one evening that I had to stop reading or I’d never sleep! However, the mystery, the characters, the friendships and the great story had me quickly picking it up the next day. As more of the characters were revealed, and the more I learned about the ghost of the  little girl who was haunting Tessa (the strong, brave, resourceful and likeable main character) the more I wanted to quickly finish the book.  I know this is going to be a perfect story for all of those kids who ask for a scary book! And there are definitely a LOT of those kids in every library. But more importantly, this is a great choice for kids who are coping with middle school friendships, acceptance of a not so normal family or quirky friends.  5 stars for sure!

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

By Shari Green

Thank you to @Kidlit Exchange for telling me about this great new title!

Macy, who has been deaf since she had meningitis when she was four, is facing many challenges as she finishes up sixth grade. Her mom is getting married, they are preparing to move in with her new stepfather and his six year old twin girls, she isn’t speaking to her best friend, her mom is insisting she help with both the wedding AND her elderly neighbor’s moving preparations and she has a final sixth grade genealogy assignment to finish.  Shari Green tells Macy’s story in free verse, which I wasn’t sure I would like, but it turned out to be the perfect literary device. I loved reading about the relationship that unfolded between Macy and her neighbor, Iris, The Rainbow Goddess, as Macy helped her prepare to move into an assisted living facility. I loved this poignant book as Macy faced her challenges, and with Iris’s help, began to understand that “Hearts are waiting, worrying, hurting – in need of a message you can send.”

This is Shari Green’s second middle grade book. Now I can’t wait to read her first one, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles!

Frazzled: Everyday disasters and impending doommiddle school

By Booki Vivat

When I was an elementary school librarian, I often heard the question “what book is like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate?” Well I wish Frazzled, Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom was available a few years ago, because it would have been flying off the shelves! Frazzled is not a graphic novel, but is filled with illustrations on every page, which makes it into a very inviting book for even reluctant middle grade readers. Frazzled tells Abbie Wu’s story about starting middle school and how she is “totally freaking out.” She is the middle child in her family and she isn’t brilliant and cool like her older brother or cute and adorable like her little sister. She is just Abbie who is struggling to find “her thing.” Will it be drama club like her best friend Maxine who has wanted to be an actress since third grade, or possibly the coding club like her friend Logan who has always been a whiz with puzzles? Or maybe cooking, or dance or sports? The trouble is is that Abbie is terrible at all of these and couldn’t be less interested. This book will both entertain your middle grader, as well as reassure anyone who is dreading the transition to middle school. In the end, Abbie decides maybe she’s not “100% doomed!” and you find yourself hoping that September 26th comes very quickly so that you can read the next installment about Abbie Wu!

Moon Shadowmiddle school

By Erin Downing

This fantasy is all about Lucia who was born during a lunar eclipse. As the story opens, it is her thirteenth birthday and the night of the next lunar eclipse. Her mother insists that this will be a very special evening for Lucia, but all Lucia cares about is trying to get her best friend back, trying to be friends with the boy next door again and learning to cope with her parents’ divorce. However, something very mysterious happens to Lucia. As the moon passes through the shadow of the earth and Lucia falls asleep, Lucia’s shadow appears. It turns out Lucia’s shadow only makes itself known while Lucia sleeps, but the shadow’s behavior is very different from Lucia. Lucia’s shadow has a lot more confidence and courage than Lucia, which leads to some interesting situations. This story was intriguing and I didn’t want to stop reading! Although, older kids would fly through this, I recommend it to anyone looking for a magical, mystical book for their next read.

 

These are just five of my most recent favorites that will help your fourth grader, your fifth grader or your middle schooler find the courage to face the challenges of a new school year. Do you have any more to add to the list? Please let us know in the comments. Finally, I wish you and your family a great start to the new school year!




5 Middle Grade Books to add to Your Summer Reading List

School’s out! The kids are thrilled and hopefully you are, as well. After all, you have a little more down time, a few less lunches to make and more time to enjoy your children. Personally, I am loving the warmer weather, the sunshine (finally!), the lush green trees, the flowers and the freedom to walk out the door without a jacket. I’m spending a lot more time reading books, both children’s and adult, rather than reading the internet (although I’m not sure why!), trying new recipes and basically enjoying life. I guess there’s just something about the open windows and summer breezes that energizes me. My reading has led me to five middle grade chapter books that I want to share with you. I hope your kids will enjoy them as much as I did! You might even want to add them to your TBR list, too!

middle grade books: harlem charade by Natasha Tarpley middle grade

Are you looking for a good mystery for your middle grade reader that will pull them into the story from the first page? This might be the one! Harlem Charade, set in the diverse streets of Harlem, has  many twists and turns. The main characters, Elvin, Alex and Jin, who are each struggling with problems at home,  work together to solve the mystery behind the attack on Elvin’s grandfather. Could the attack be a part of the councilman’s plan to shut down the local family businesses and force everyone to move out to make room for Harlem World? The story helps the reader understand both the meaning of, and the repercussions of gentrification, as the kids work together to solve the mystery and save their neighborhood. This is an action packed story that keeps the reader guessing until the end. I highly recommend it!

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: short  BY holly goldberg sloan

middle grade

I was looking forward to reading the new book by the author of one of my favorite middle grade reads from the past few years, Counting by 7s, and I wasn’t disappointed. Julia is struggling with several obstacles as she begins summer vacation. She’s the smallest in her class, by far, her best friends are gone for the summer, and she is mourning the loss of her beloved dog, Ramon, her closest friend and buddy, who  suddenly curled up and died unexpectedly of a heart attack. To give Julia something to focus on, her mom registers her and her little brother to appear in the community production of The Wizard of Oz. Of course, much to her horror, Julia is cast as a Munchkin.

I immediately identified with Julia’s grief, which she tries to keep inside, because I have lost so many dogs through the years, and it’s very difficult. And I had the opposite problem about size – I was always the tallest in my class, which is equally horrifying! So I was pulled in from page 1!

I especially loved Julia’s relationships that develop with the adults in the story: her neighbor, Mrs. Chang, the director of the play, her parents and her fellow actors. They showed her so much respect, support and understanding throughout the summer, which helped Julia deal with her grief and improve her self confidence.

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: one hundred spaghetti strings BY jen nailsmiddle grade

This book certainly pulled at my “mom heart strings”! I wanted to hug Steffy and Nina and protect them from the unfairness of their world. They have been happily living with their aunt Gina since their mom’s traumatic brain injury in an auto accident and their dad’s subsequent abandonment, which is almost as long as they can remember. But now their dad is coming home and their beloved aunt is moving out. This poignant tale tells the story of how each of the girls deal with the situation, Steffy by cooking and Nina by dancing, how they are forced to grow up far too early and how they learn that sometimes you need to rewrite your family’s recipe, even though it may be far different than you hoped.

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: a rambler steals home BY carter higgins

middle gradeDerby, her brother and her dad lead a vagabond life. They travel the country hauling their rambler to ball parks and fairgrounds selling hamburgers and fries. But every summer, they can’t resist returning to Ridge Creek, Virginia, for the Rockskippers season, a minor league baseball team.. They’ve been spending every summer there as long as Derby can remember, and their many friends always look forward to their return. I admired Derby’s strength as she tells the story of missing her mom who walked out years ago, her determination to find a way to help her dearest friend in Ridge Creek and her struggle to understand what home truly means.  As her dear friend, June, tells her, “Your home has wheels, but your heart has roots right here.” This is really a winner!

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS: the summer i saved the world in 65 days 

BY michele weber hurwitzmiddle grade

I don’t usually post things twice, but I think this book warrants breaking that rule! I’m hoping a lot of people who didn’t see it last summer, or may have forgotten, will see it today. Now that school is out for your kids, or very nearly so, the search for a special book begins. This would be a great one to read first!

Nina is spending her summer between middle school and high school pretty much on her own. Her parents, both lawyers, go to work early and return late, her older brother is always busy, her best friend has discovered boys and only wants to talk about clothes and makeup and Nina’s beloved grandma has died. So Nina spends a lot of her day in her room looking at all of the houses in her cul-de-sac. On the first day of summer she watches her next door neighbor, Mrs. Chung, who lives by herself, struggling to plant her garden full of marigolds as she always does, even though she has a broken leg. After Mrs. Chung gives up and goes inside, Nina remembers something her favorite teacher told the class on the last day of school. He said, “It is very often the ordinary things that go unnoticed that make a difference.” At that moment, Nina comes up with a plan that will change her summer and change her neighbors’ summers, as well. Nina decides to do something unnoticed every day for the 65 days of summer and see if she can really make a difference. This is an inspiring story for a beginning of summer middle grade book for kids going into fourth grade and older. Maybe we could all decide to do something ordinary and unnoticed for someone for one day or for 65 days this summer and see if it makes a difference. I’ll bet it does!

Do your kids have some books to suggest? Please let us all know in the comments.

Happy Summer!

 




Kids’ Books to Remember and Some Links for Mom and Dad

How the week has flown by! It’s Spring Break week in our county and it’s a time for lots of family adventures, some nearby in Chicago, and Wisconsin and some a little further away where there are sunny skies and warm temperatures. We’ve spent the week at our lake house in Michigan we’ve had mostly gray skies and rain. However, that means LOTS of time for reading. I’ve actually read several adult books this week, as well as kids’ books. kids' books to rememberHere are two of my favorites.The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow. I read the Potato Peel Pie Society years ago and recently heard a recommendation from one of my favorite adult book bloggers, Modern Mrs. Darcy, suggesting if you had liked The Potato Peel Pie Society, you would love The Last Telegram, and it was so true. They are both set in England during World War II. You learn about the hardships, the fears and the bravery of those at home, while their loved ones were in the midst of battle. My father was a World War II veteran, and my mother was in high school during the war, so I feel that I have a much better understanding of their experiences after reading these historical fiction books. I highly recommend both of them!

Now back to kids’ books. Here is this week’s Kids’ Books to Remember. I hope these titles will help you find some new books that will become family favorites!

Kids’ books to remember: read aloud

As always, the books this week are those the whole family will enjoy, even your little ones. The links are to Amazon descriptions where you can read a short summary of the story, however these titles should be readily available at your library, as well.

kids' books to remember

No Flying in the House by Betty Brock

Abel’s Island by William Steig

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

 

 

 

 

 

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: picture books

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

This story reminds me of our family reunions each summer in Michigan. I always look forward so much to everyone getting together, but then I’m a little sad once everyone leaves. That is, until I remember that hopefully we’ll all be together once again next summer!

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

Molly Lou may be small and a little different, but she has the self confidence to stand up to the meanest bully.

Duck! Rabbit! by jAmy Krouse Rosenthall

I’ve been sharing this delightful book with kindergartners for years and I always get the same response. They delight in the story – is the main character a duck or a rabbit? This will prompt lots of conversations with your little ones, as they tell you why they are SURE it’s a duck or a rabbit! I just realized this is available as a board book, too, so this would be great for your little one who hasn’t quite learned about being careful with a picture book.

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: chapter books or middle grade bookskids' books to remember

Scumble by Ingrid Law

This used to be a favorite in my library. It’s a fantasy that is full of action and adventure. “The title stands alone in its fast-paced plot with twists and turns galore, and readers familiar with Savvy will eat it up and wish for more.” – School Library Journal

The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merill

Rufus doesn’t set out to be a millionaire. He just wants to save some money on his next tube of toothpaste, but with help from his friends he starts a million dollar business!

Danger Box by Blue Balliet

This mystery is by one of my favorite middle grade authors. It’s set in Michigan, not far from my home, which adds to the fun and the intrigue. This story is full of secret codes, mysterious strangers and a box containing many secrets. Grade 4 and up.

links for mom and dad

Things I Should Have Known Review

This is a great new book for for your middle or high school child. The review comes from a Wisconsin librarian who is a favorite of mine on Instagram.

13 Read-Alouds to Help you Connect with Your Middle Schooler

This list includes so many titles that will help prompt some great conversations with your middle or high schooler.

It’s OK to Write or Draw in These Books! (Gasp!)

If your kiddos love to draw, and you’d love to inspire even more creativity, these would be great additions to their Easter Basket!

Once again, thank you for inviting me into your inbox to help you prepare for your week. What are some titles you’ve found at your library that you’d like everyone to know about? Please let us know in the comments. Have a wonderful week, full of budding flowers and sunny skies (I may be dreaming, but that is truly my wish for you, wherever you are!).

 

 




Kids’ Books to Remember and Some New Links for Mom and Dad

Well, February has arrived and that means we’re one week closer to spring! However with our warmer than average temperatures and our below average snowfall, I’m not feeling quite as anxious as I usually am. In fact, we were able to walk downtown for lunch yesterday (a four mile round trip) on February 9th. That’s amazing! Usually, even if the temperatures warm up, the sidewalks are a sheet of ice, so we’re trapped at home. This has been great! I hope you and your families have also had a chance to spend sometime outside this week, to prevent the usual February cabin fever!

I haven’t spent all of my time outside, though. For one thing, I just baked a heart shaped cake, a family Valentine tradition for us, as well as when I was growing up. It’s something I love to do. It brings back so many happy memories! And after a trip to the library, I’ve been able to find several good titles for this week’s Kids’ Books to Remember. Finally I found some links to articles that I think you’ll find very interesting. So here we go!

kids’ books to remember: read aloud

These are great choices for read alouds for all ages, or for the independent reader. kids' books to remember

Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

The Moffats by Eleanor Estes

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

 

 

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: picture books

The picture books this week are all about strong, courageous girls who are not afraid to work hard to achieve their goals.kids' books to remember

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

Miss Rumphius Barbara Cooney

Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

KIDS’ BOOKS TO REMEMBER: chapter books

Back in Time with Thomas Edison: Qwerty Stevens Adventure by Dan Gutman, time travel and historical fiction.kids' books to remember

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, fantasy.

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Giff, realistic fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

links for mom and dad

Books to Help Kids Understand What It’s like to be a Refuge

These choices are for all ages including picture books, chapter books and young adult.

For Girls and Their Besties (A Valentine’s Day Post)

This is a great one for Betsy Tacy fans or for those of you looking for your next family read aloud.

spreading kindness

Here are some more picture books about kindness, which are perfect for Valentine’s Day week or any week of the year.

life is good when there is love

A truly lovely post that will make you think about the love in your lives.

I want to thank you for inviting me into your inbox today! I’m always looking for links to share with you and remembering books I don’t want you to miss. Have a wonderful week and Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 




Beginning Chapter Book Series List is Here!

A few weeks ago, I sent out an email to all of the library volunteers from the past school year, to let them know about Red Canoe Reader. I received a lot of kind and supportive responses. It meant so much to me. When I was an elementary school librarian, the volunteers played a vital part in the success of the library. They are the moms who didn’t mind trying to make sense of the crazy and mixed up library shelves, to check in hundreds of books or to rearrange the furniture. And most importantly, they were the moms who kindly helped the kids with their many requests and needs. There was never a complaint when a little one would ask, for example, for the “blue book with an elephant on the front”. Even with that small amount of information, they would always do their best to help the kids to find the perfect book! And that was not an unusual situation. It happened multiple times through out the day! So, when one of the moms mentioned in her reply to my email that her son, a rather reluctant reader, was  needing some new beginning chapter book series on the second and early third grade levels, I got busy with this addition to the website. I was planning to compile a list of beginning chapter book series, so this prompted me to get started! I had already posted a list of middle grade chapter books a month ago, Chapter Book Series, so if you have some kiddos who are ready for books on the 3rd – 6th grade levels, that is the list for them. If your kids are not quite there yet, then try some of the series in this new list, Beginning Chapter Books.

Reading Strategies for beginning chapter book Series

Beginning Chapter books

I suggest going to the public library and getting several books on the list. It doesn’t need to be the first in the series. Luckily, the majority of these series can be read in any order. Then let your little one choose a book, cuddle up and begin to read it together. You can take turns reading pages. Perhaps, you can read a few chapters each night or more if you can’t put it down! In that case, keep reading! I found with my kids that once they found a series they loved, a great strategy was to buy the books. There’s something about owning the book, that adds to their confidence. Of course, if you have a great public library, you may not need to do that. You may just be making lots of trips to pick up new books!

As always, this list is certainly not all of the beginning chapter book series out there. For one thing, early chapter books are defined differently by publishers, librarians, teachers and parents. These are simply books that appealed to lots of different kids with lots of different interests in my library. And when a child finds the perfect series for them, they are going to keep reading. I’ve seen it happen so many times and it’s magical! It’s one of the reasons I loved being a school librarian.

Do you know of some beginning chapter books to add to the list? I’ll look forward to hearing your suggestions in the comments below.

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Early Chapter Books For Beginning Readers

In my last post, I wrote about some of the new chapter books in Some New and Noteworthy Chapter Books and I wrote about some of my favorite chapter books in my post, Children’s Books for Christmas: Chapter Books.  Those books are usually written on the third grade level and higher. But what about the kids who are not quite ready for these, but are eager to feel the pride in reading chapter books? That is when I would lead them to the colorful displays of the early chapter books in the library. The displays made it easy for the kids to choose their own book, once they were familiar with the series.

And about this time of year, those displays contained very few early chapter books, because the kindergarten and first graders had discovered them. So many times, those beginning readers would come in and ask for a book with chapters. They might still be reading on the first grade level, but they wanted to have the thrill of moving on to reading chapter books. This meant the books needed to have a table of contents containing a list of the chapters and the page numbers. The book might have only three chapters, but that didn’t matter, because it was a chapter book!

Then the next step would be finding that series that would draw them in and make them eager to read another one. My assistant and I would spend what seemed like endless hours working with all of our kids to help them find the perfect book, because we knew if we could hook them on a series, most likely we would create a real book lover.

Recently, I saw a blog post about early chapter books that I was very much in agreement with. Sarah Mackensie wrote about early chapter books on her blog, Amongst Lovely Things, titled Series Books that Will Turn Your Struggling Reader into a Voracious Reader. I was very excited to read her thoughts, because her ideas and methods were so similar to what we tried to do in our elementary library. In addition, Sarah has excellent step by step instructions to help make your child into a reader who is eager to read every book in a series! She also includes a list of many chapter books that will entice your child. When I saw this post, I was already planning to write about early chapter books, so I was excited to read Sarah’s ideas and wanted to share her post with you. I would encourage you to give her ideas a try, if the child in your life needs a little extra support and guidance to make them into a lifelong reader.

cynthia rylant early chapter books

Once the kids began chapter books they had many favorites. And I was constantly searching for new series, to make sure they could find a perfect book when they were ready to move on to a new one. To introduce early chapter books, I would read the first few chapters of some early chapter books during my weekly storytimes with the kindergarten and first grade classes. I always started with Cynthia Rylant’s Henry and Mudge and High Rise Private Eyes series.

High Rise Private Eyes Early Chapter Books
High Rise Private Eyes Early Chapter Book Series by Cynthia Rylant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry and Mudge Early Chapter Books
Henry and Mudge Early Chapter Books

Mr. Putter and Tabby Early Chapter Book Series
Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant

When the kids wanted to try another series (or all of Henry and Mudge and High Rise Private Eyes are checked out), I would suggest another series by Cynthia Rylant, Mr. Putter and Tabby.  

These are all well loved early chapter books that give the kids a real sense of accomplishment.

national geographic readers

National Geographic Kids
National Geographic Kids Readers

For the children who would rather read a nonfiction book, National Geographic Readers are a great choice. They range from second grade through fourth grade reading level, Lexile 220 – 650, AR 1.9 – 4.2. Due to this wide range of levels, you might want to check on each book on the Lexile site and the AR BookFinder site to find the right book for your child.

Katie Woo and Max and Zoe

Katie Woo and Max and Zoe
Max and Zoe and Katie Woo

Two extremely popular early chapter book series for the kids, once they are ready to move on from the Cynthia Rylant books are Max and Zoe, and Katie WooKatie is a sassy, spunky, curious and funny Chinese American girl who is great at getting into trouble. The character was inspired by the great niece of the author, Fran Manushkin. Max and Zoe feature Max and his best friend Zoe as they explore different places and meet new people. 

BILLIE B. BROWN and HEY JACK by sally rippin

Billie B. Brown is a girl and her best friend Jack lives next door. The Billie B. early chapter book series describes her quirky adventures from her point of view. Hey Jack gives her next door neighbor a chance to be heard. At first it was hard to convince our early readers that they should read both series, even though there might be a girl or a boy on the cover (horrors!), but once we convinced them to give it a try, they loved both series.

star wars and lego chapter books

lego chapter books
Lego Early Chapter Books

Star Wars
Star Wars Chapter Books

 

Finally, two more favorites are the Star Wars and the Lego early chapter books. These books were loved by kindergarteners through third or fourth grade, no matter their reading level. In fact, one little guy would come in almost every day and want a new Star Wars books. I tried to convince him to try something else, and sometimes I would succeed, but often he was adamant that he wanted a Star Wars book. He told me that he and his dad would read them together and read them over and over. I soon realized that the books might be above his reading level, but they were providing some special family time. Since the new Star Wars movie was released in December, I would guess these are even more popular now!

Finally, for Lego lovers, there is a series of Lego early chapter books. They range from first grade through fifth grade reading level. These books describe adventures of lots of different characters and include many about Star Wars, making them extra popular!

This is just a short list of some of my favorite early chapter books. There are so many more! Look for a list of these books to be added to my website within the next few weeks. I’ll let you know when that happens! And please remember, that although the links from the book titles direct you to Amazon, most of these books can be found in your public library.

Which early chapter books series are your favorites? Please let me know in the comments below!

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Some New and Noteworthy Kids’ Chapter Books

Before I began to write this blog, I followed several people who blogged about adult books and their lives. My two favorites, by far, are Modern Mrs. Darcy and Emily P. Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky. This past Friday, I received an update from Chatting at the Sky, titled “Let’s Share What We Learned in January”. I’m sure I’ll be reading a similar post from Modern Mrs. Darcy in the next few days. I love this practice, because it encourages you to look back and appreciate your experiences. In September, I started keeping lists of what I learned each month. It’s amazing how many things one learns, large and small, each month. This got me to thinking about all the new books from 2015. In an average year over 5000 children’s books are published. That number is always amazing to me! So I decided to put a little bit of a twist on “What I Learned this Month” and change it to “New Chapter Books I have learned about in 2015”.

When I was a school librarian, I always kept up with the new books by reading many reviews from so many sources. I received weekly emails notifying me about what was coming. I was able to keep up to date with my favorite authors and my favorite genres which enabled me to keep the library collection current. Unfortunately, when I lost my school email address I lost touch with those organizations Luckily, now I am renewing my contacts with many sources, and as I do that I am discovering some new kids’ chapter books that I missed. So I decided to share these with you. I hope you might find some special books to share with your child or your class.

Chris Grabenstein chapter books

We’ll start with the chapter book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. This is a great adventure that reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Mr. Lemoncello, the most creative and notorious game maker in the world, being very similar to Willy Wonka. The characters are led on a wild and crazy game while they are locked in the amazing, state of the art library. Happily, the author, Chris Grabenstein has published two more books, which are equally fascinating, The Island of Dr. Libris and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.

mr. lemoncello
Chris Grabenstein Chapter Books

Wendy Mass Chapter books

Wendy Mass has been one of my favorite authors for many years. Her books all contain a surprising twist with a little magic and wonder mixed in! They appeal to both boys and girls. My favorite of all is probably Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Jeremy and his best friend spend the summer before his 13th birthday searching for the key to a mysterious wooden box which is said to contain the meaning of life. 

I was delighted when I was looking at my local library “Battle of the Books” shelf and discoverd a new book by Miss Mass that I didn’t know about, Pi in the Sky. 

Pi in the Sky chapter book by Wendy Mass.
Pi in the Sky chapter book by Wendy Mass.

She has written so many other notable and extremely popular books as well, such as Every Soul a Star and her Willow Fall Series.

lisa graff chapter books

Lost in the Sun chapter book
Lost in the Sun Chapter Book

I was delighted to see that another favorite author had written a new book, Lost in the Sun. This book has appeared on all of the “Best of 2015 Chapter Book” lists, and I’m not surprised. She has written so many well loved books in the past. Her books can be mystical or they can tug at your heart strings, but they are always memorable.

pam munoz ryan chapter books

riding freedom
Riding Freedom Chapter Book

The first Pam Munoz Ryan book I read was a historical fiction book, Riding Freedom, which described the first female rider for the Pony Express. This book is especially memorable to me, because I partner read this book with my third grade niece, Julia, many years ago. I was taking a Children’s Literature class at the time and one of the assignments, was to partner read a book with a child. Julia was living in New Jersey, but thanks to email, we were easily able to share our thoughts about the book. In fact, if you have a child in your life who is not close by, I highly recommend this method! It is wonderful to have that shared experience and when you do visit with the child, you have so much to chat about.

Echo Chapter Book

Miss Ryan published a highly reviewed book in 2015, Echo. In fact, this is a Newberry Honor book. As a reminder, this is an award given to  the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” There is one winner, as well as three honor authors honored each year.

brian selznick chapter books

Brian Selznick’s previous popular books, The Invention of Hugo Cabretthe 2008 Caldecott Winner for the best American picture book of the year, and Wonderstruck were always difficult to check out in my library, although we had six copies of each title. The kids loved the amazing black and white illustrations on every other page and the intriguing stories. I was so happy to see that Mr. Selznick has published a new book, The Marvelswhere he creates two new stand alone stories, with the first being completely comprised of illustrations and the second an intriguing puzzle in prose. 

sheila turnage chapter books

Odds of getting even
Odds of Getting Even Chapter Book

Ghost of Tupelo Landing
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing chapter book

In 2013, Miss Turnage published an extremely popular book, Three Times Lucky, a Newberry Honor bookThis is a hilarious mystery, with endearing characters. Happily, two more books were added to the series this year, Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and Odds of Getting Even.                                  

 

 

 

rick riordan chapter books

Finally, I want to tell you about a new fantasy series, by Rick Riordan, author of the hugely popular Percy Jackson and Olympus Series books. It is Magnus Chase and the Gods of AsgardAfter his mother’s death, Magnus is tracked down by a mysterious uncle his mother has always warned him about as being dangerous, but his uncle tells him an impossible secret. He confides that Magnus is the son of a Norse God. The second book in the series will be published in October.

I’m afraid this post, has gotten a little lengthy, but there are just so many new books I want to share with you. I’ll do that in the coming months, I promise! Hopefully, some of these titles will be favorites for the children in your life!

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Children’s Chapter Books for Christmas Gifts

holly CHILDREN’S BOOKS FOR CHRISTMASholly

Part 2: children’s Chapter Books

Here is the promised second post about children’s chapter books that would make good holiday gifts (or at any other time of the year!). It took me a little longer than the four or five days that I promised in my post on Sunday, but I’m sure you all know about this time of year. The days just seem like they go by so quickly! On top of that, the weather here has been amazing for December. We’ve had fifty degree days all week. This means that Dennis and I had to get outside and enjoy it while we can. This included many walks to our local downtown area. It’s about a two mile walk each way and we always reward ourselves with a stop for tea or coffee, so it makes it extra fun! In fact it was such a good day on Thursday, rather than drive downtown to do some Christmas shopping we decided to walk down and stop for lunch. Every time we do this, we feel like this might be our last opportunity for several months, so we’re loving it while we can!

There are so many chapter books for me to suggest. My niece Sarah and I brainstormed a list and it’s way too long for one post! Some of the titles have been around for a long time, but are still available and are still great books. Others are newly published within the last few years. What I thought I would do, is list the title, the author, the genre, the level and a short summary. This is similar to the “Book Blasts” that I used to do with my classes at my school. After one of these, the books flew off the shelves! So here goes – hope you find one or more that might appeal to the children in your life!  Oh, by the way, these are in random order and there are links for each one which leads you to one of the many places where you might purchase these books.

The Witches by Roald Dahl.   Lexile 740; AR 4.7

Fantasy

This is a fantasy about a seven year old boy and his encounters with a REAL WITCH and how he tackles his problem with the help of his magical grandmother.

This is just one of Roald Dahl’s many amazing fantasies that will intrigue and entertain your child.

Flora and Ulysses by Kate Dicamillo.   Lexile 520; AR  4.3

Fantasy

This is a story with lots of comic book type illustrations and lots of humor. Flora is a girl who discovers Ulysses (a squirrel) and after a terrible accident with a vacuum cleaner, Ulysses is born anew as a squirrel with super powers. This was the 2014 Newberry winner (best chapter book of the year). If your child enjoys Flora, be sure and introduce Kate Dicamillo’s other books, especially The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

 Great Illustrated Classics AR 4.2 – 6.0

Historical Fiction

I first learned about this series when I was looking for books for my son many years ago. These are adapted versions of many of the classics. The books are so popular with children, because in addition to the great stories (big favorites are always 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Moby Dick, Treasure Island and The Secret Garden, among others) there is a full page illustration on almost every other page. This is especially good for those children who are resisting leaving behind the illustrations of their picture books and early chapter books.

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall.  Lexile 800 – 940; AR 4.7 – 5.6

Realistic Fiction

This series is a refreshing, cozy tale of four sisters, two rabbits and their friend named Jeffrey. The first book takes place during one summer on Jeffrey’s seaside estate and describes lots of adventures and lots of fun.

Love that Dog and Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech. AR 4.5 – 5.0

Realistic Fiction

These are short books, which are great for reluctant readers, because they are both written in poetry form. Therefore, there isn’t as much text on the page (which helps with those children who are resisting reading a chapter book), but the story will still draw the reader in. If your child enjoys these, Sharon Creech has written lots more books, many with a meaningful message.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien.  Lexile 790; AR 5.1

Fantasy

This book holds a special place in my heart, because my husband read this to my two sons many years ago and they loved it. This is a perfect book for the animal lovers in your family. It is a story of a widowed mouse and her family who are helped by the Rats of Nimh, highly intelligent extraordinary creatures, to solve their life threatening problem. This is the first of three books in the series. If your child enjoys these, you can suggest The Redwall series by Brian Jacques next.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Lexile 700; AR 4.1

Realistic Fiction

This is one of my all-time favorite books. Claudia and her brother Jamie decide to run away and Claudia insists that their destination be an elegant one. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City! The story describes their adventures as they hide from the guards and avoid detection for several days, as well as their investigation into the mystery statue the museum purchased at a bargain price. Is it really by Michelangelo and therefore worth millions?

If your child enjoys this, be sure and look for many other titles by E.L.Konigsburg.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass; Lexile 770; AR 4.5

Realistic Fiction

It’s a little difficult to choose the genre of this book or any of Wendy Mass’s other books. They are predominantly realistic fiction, but there is always a little bit of magic or fantasy in each one that will leave the reader wondering long after they’ve finished the book!

In this book Jeremy is going to turn 13 in a very short time. He and his friend, Lizzy live in New York City and are on their own for much of their days while their parents work. Jeremy would rather not venture more than a few blocks from his apartment, but Lizzy is already to go anywhere for an adventure. Jeremy’s life suddenly changes when a mysterious wooden box arrives. It is a gift from his late father and is said to contain the meaning of life, but there is a problem. The keys to the fascinating box are missing. This is the story of Jeremy and Lizzy’s adventures as they explore the city to find the keys and how they meet some intriguing people along the way.

Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan. Lexile 770; AR 5.6

Realistic Fiction

This is a relatively new book, and it was probably my favorite of the past year. Willow, a 12 year old genius, loses her parents in a car crash very early in the story. Hearing that, you would assume this is going to be a sad and grief filled book. There is grief, but there is so much joy as well, as Willow fights through her sadness and finds a loving home in a totally unexpected surrogate family.

 

Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull. Lexile 700 – 790; AR 4.8 – 5.6

Fantasy

Kendra and Seth are sent to spend the summer with their grandfather, who they barely know. He warns them to stay out of the woods surrounding his house, but of course, Kendra and Seth can’t help but venture into the forest. Their explorations lead them into many adventures after discovering the mythical and magical creatures that live there.

 

As I said in the beginning, there are far too many wonderful chapter books to be included in one post! Be assured, I will write more in the new year and add some titles to the list. Meanwhile, please have a wonderful time choosing some books for the children in your lives, either at the library or the bookstore. I look forward to your comments about these titles and your suggestions about more titles to add to the list!

Finally, I wish you a holiday season full of love and peace with your family and friends!

 

 

 

 




Children’s Picture Books for Christmas Gifts

holly and ribbon Children’s picture books for

Christmas gifts holly and ribbon

Holiday Gift Ideas

Last week sixteen members of our family gathered at my sister, Lisa, and brother-in-law, Scott’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving. We were fortunate to have such a large group, but we were certainly missing some who were unable to join us. However, we still had a fun time together! During the after dinner conversation, talk turned to my blog and there were lots of questions… When was I going to announce it on Facebook? When was I going to announce it to my friends? I was having a hard time answering, because I’ve been really nervous about announcing to the world that RedCanoeReader.com existed! But then finally a question that I could answer: Would I write a post about book gift ideas for kids of all ages? So here is my first list, which is a compilation of children’s picture books.

Board Books

Whenever I’m invited to a baby shower or I need a baby gift, I turn to concept board books. After all, it has been proven that babies need to hear thirty million words by age three to best develop their brains and what better way to accomplish this, than to read aloud to your child whenever you have the chance! The board books I choose have very simple content or have a concept on each page, such as counting, animals, the alphabet and opposites. Here are a few examples with links to Amazon. I’ll probably also add a few classics to the gift box such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?  Children love the language in this book and it can become a game as you read it aloud. And finally I might include On the Night You Were Born, which is a simple story that tells children how much they are loved.

Dr. Seuss ABC               First 100 Animals        animal touch and feel

  Dr. Seuss’s ABC          first 100 animals       Baby Touch and Feel Animals  

Brown Bear, Brown Bear                                                                       On the Night You were Born

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?                  On the Night You Were Born

Early Picture books

When it comes to early picture books, there are literally thousands of books to choose from. If you are interested in a newly published title, I suggest going on Amazon and reading about the best picture books of 2015. There are some wonderful ones, both humorous stories and those with a message. Probably my favorite of the year, is Waiting  by one of my favorite authors, Kevin Henkes. The story tells about toys that are each happily waiting for something amazing to happen.

children's picture book                                                                                                            children's picture book

     Waiting                                                                                                                   Lenny and Lucy

My other favorite is Lenny and Lucy by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, the author and illustrator of the 2011 Caldecott award winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. This is a special book about the uncertainty and scariness of moving to a new house and it’s also a great lesson in empathy.

Now I’d like to tell you about some “oldies, but goodies”. These are books which may have been published after you were reading picture books so you aren’t familiar with them (and the children receiving them won’t probably already own them), and because they are somewhat older, aren’t showing up on the “best of” lists and in the library displays.

Journey by Aaron Becker

This tells the story of a lonely girl and the magical world she creates with a red marker. It is a wordless picture book that was the Caldecott winner in 2014.

That is NOT a Good Idea!  By Mo Willems

I’m sure many of you know the Piggy and Elephant books by Mo Willems, but this is one you don’t want to miss. It is a very fun read aloud that keeps you guessing until the very end!

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

I decided to add this book to my list after a holiday dinner with my local nieces and nephew. Although, they are teenagers and beyond, they have many fond memories of picture books and we had a lively discussion recalling their favorites. While we were talking about the blog they told me that this was an extra special one because of the characters and the humor. It was a favorite of the Caldecott committee, as well, because it won the award in 1996.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers; Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

You really can’t miss with any of Oliver Jeffers books, but these two are especially touching stories about the importance of friendship between a penguin and a boy.

children’s Picture Books 

When I first opened my elementary school library 22 years ago, I needed to make a decision about how I would refer to the picture books. Many libraries call it the “Easy” section, but I disagreed with that for two reasons. First of all, many picture books are written on fourth grade level and higher. Secondly, and perhaps most important, I didn’t want the older kids to consider them just for K and 1. So the picture book section became the “Everybody Books”. I’m a firm believer that picture books are truly for all ages. I always keep two or three on my coffee table to share with my guests. When my nieces and nephews visit someone is always reading one (and they are just about all grown up now)!

Here are a few more of my favorites with concepts that might appeal to children beyond pre-school age.

children's picture books

How Rocket Learned to Read  by Tad Hills. This is a delightful book about friendship and the power of learning to read.

children's picture books

The Night I Followed the Dog by Nina Laden. After waking up early and seeing his dog hop out of a limousine, a little boy decides to follow his dog the next night. A great read aloud!

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein.  This is another great read aloud. Papa tried to read some favorite bedtime stories to Little Red Chicken, but before Papa can finish, little red chicken jumps into the story and interrupts. Will he ever get to sleep?

Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich. This book tells the story of what happens when a new dog joins the family. It’s a story of friendship that any dog lover can identify with.

Courage  by Bernard Waber. This book explores and celebrates all kinds of courage, big and small.

Ask Me by Bernard Waber. When I was checking to make sure Courage was still in print, I saw this book, which was just published in July. I couldn’t help but add it to the list. The illustrations are amazing – very soft and comforting. The story tells about a father and daughter, their walk through their neighborhood and all of their many questions about what they see and what they like. It would be a great conversation starter for you and your child.

Otis by Loren Long. There is a series of Otis books. Otis is a special tractor who loves his job and all of his friends on his farm, especially Little Calf. Happily, Otis also always manages to save his friends from disasters, as they have fun at the end of a long work day.  These will remind you of Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and Katy and the Big Snow where Mike and Katy both save the day.

Of course there are so many more children’s picture books I would recommend, but I’m going to move on to the early chapter books. These are books with a more limited vocabulary and written on second and third grade levels.

Early Chapter Book Series

Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant, AR 2.2 – 3.0, Lexile 340 – 500

Frog and Toad  by Arnold Lobel, AR 2.5 – 3.0, Lexile 300 – 400

Billie B Brown by Sally Rippin; AR 2.2 – 2.9; Lexile 400 – 500

Amelia Bedelia  by Peggy Parish, AR 2.0 – 3.0, Lexile 200 – 400

High Rise, Private Eyes by Cynthia Rylant, AR 2.3 – 2.6, Lexile 150 – 350

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows, AR 3.1 – 3.9, Lexile 440 – 520

Ballpark Mysteries by David A. Kelly and Mark Meyers, AR 3.7 – 4.0, Lexile 480 – 600

Magic Treehouse Mysteries by Mary Pope Osborne, AR 3.0 – 3.9, Lexile 250 – 500

A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy, AR 3.0 – 3.9, Lexile 410 – 590

I’m going to stop here, because this post is getting to be so long! Please look for another post within the next four or five days about chapter books!

Do you have any questions about any of these children’s picture books, or you are looking for more ideas for a great book for your child? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you soon!

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Encyclopedia Brown Series

encyclopediabbrown3jacket

Encyclopedia Brown Series

By Donal J. Sobol

Accelerated Reading Levels:  4.0-4.8

When my older son, David was eight years old, he was a very reluctant reader. He was a good reader, but he would much rather be outside playing instead of reading (The opposite of his mother. My mom was constantly complaining that all I wanted to do was stay inside and read!). My husband and I searched for books to entice him, but we weren’t having much luck, until Encyclopedia Brown. David read one book and was hooked on the series! He loved reading one story or chapter each night and solving the mystery. However, we had a problem. We were living in a community with a rather small library, the Encyclopedia Brown books were extremely popular and the library had very few copies. This, of course, was long before the internet, Amazon or the ability to put holds on library books online. So we had to come up with another solution. We decided to buy the books for David, although money was rather tight.

To give you a little bit more background, let me tell you about our life in the 80’s. We usually didn’t buy gifts for the kids, other than for birthday or Christmas, so to buy books for no occasion was going to be a very different practice for us. We also didn’t give the kids an allowance, with the understanding if there was something they needed (not something they simply wanted) we would buy it for them. We didn’t want to give David the idea that we would buy anything he might want, so we needed to be creative. We decided to let him earn the books. I think back on this time with fond memories for so many reasons. First of all, my son was reading and loving it! Secondly, he actually kept his room picked up (which rarely occurred again!), carried baskets of laundry up the two flights of stairs and helped with folding the clothes. He even vacuumed! All of this was done, without a complaint. In fact, he was constantly asking for more chores, because he earned a star for each chore and when he had accumulated enough stars to equal the $2.50 price of the book we headed to the mall!

One reason David loved the Encyclopedia Brown series was that each book contains ten stories and each book begins the same, with an explanation about who Encyclopedia is. Therefore, the books can be read in any order, which makes it very easy when checking them out from the library or buying the book.

We learn at the beginning of each book that Encyclopedia lives in Idaville and his dad is the Chief of Police. Whenever, the police have a difficult case they can’t solve, Chief Brown brings all of the facts home and discusses them with Encyclopedia during dinner. Usually, by the time the family has finished their dessert, Encyclopedia has solved the crime! No one knows that Idaville’s great crime solving record is due to a ten year old detective!

Each story or chapter is a complete story in itself, which lends itself very well to reading one chapter each night before bed. And the best part about the books, is that at the end of each chapter, the reader is asked the question, “How did Encyclopedia know?” Then you are instructed to turn to the end of the book to check your solution. What a great extra that is! Not only, do the books motivate kids to read, but also to practice their problem solving skills!

If you have a reluctant reader, a mystery lover or a child looking for a new series, you might suggest Encyclopedia Brown. I hope you have as much fun with it, as David and I did!

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