Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fiction For Those Just Getting Into Longer Books

I struggled with the title of this post. Giving grade guidelines for good reading is more than a little tricky. Some first graders will find much to enjoy in the books on this list but so will many people in grades five or six. Clearly, I enjoyed reading them and sixth grade is only a vague memory for me. Nonetheless, they are aimed at those people who have reading abilities that are blossoming and life experiences that do not need to be colored by more mature works.

The first on my list appears to be a picture book but its story is one that needs more maturity to appreciate than is required by Goodnight, Moon or Babar. The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polocco, like many of her stories, is autobiographical. It talks about the experience of moving to a new school where she dreams of now longer being in a special class. She has a new friend and a new teacher who tells all the students in her class that they fit the definition of "genius". Alas, the other classes soon make this group of interesting children aware that they are the "junkyard" and Trisha learns that she is again in a special class. She does not realize how special it is until the teacher challenges them to bring out their genius in a way that will surprise, amuse and amaze.

Doreen Cronin is already a beloved picture book author for titles like Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and The Diary of a Fly so it should be easy to get readers to try her new novel The Trouble with Chickens: A J. J. Tully Mystery. No one will be disappointed. Here is a classic detective story featuring a dog Private Investigator, a family of confused chickens, lots of twists, and plenty of puns. It is the start of a series so we can look forward to investigating and laughing with J. J. Tully in many more tales.

Jon Scieszka has proven over and over again that he can write for kids whether in picture books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man, and Math Curse, series like The Time Warp Trio, collections of stories like Guys Read, or his memoir Knucklehead. Now he has a hilarious new series about space aliens in the classroom. Spaceheadz (SPHDZ, Book #1) introduces Michael on his first day at a new school. Things don't look good when he is in a group with two weird kids who claim they are Spaceheadz from another planet and talk in TV jingles. These kids expect him to save the world. Not far away, in a tiny one-room apartment, Agent Umber is put on alert by his employer, the Anti Alien Agency. Umber will remind adults of Maxwell Smart but the Spaceheadz defy comparison. The slapstick humor is matched with interesting graphics and pages of odd facts.

Strong characters are popular for readers at this level so I will leave you with lists of authors and titles that are somewhat similar. If you like one of these strong and mostly humorous books the odds are you will enjoy the others. Remember, the main character does not have to be of the same gender as the reader for the story to be enjoyed.

Books and series with boys as the central character:
Justin Case: School, Drool and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
Big Nate (series) by Lincoln Peirce
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series) by Jeff Kinney
Marvin K. Redpost (series) by Louis Sachar
Shredderman (series) by Wendelin Van Draanen
Stink (series) by Megan McDonald Stink is the little brother of Judy Moody.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and other Scary Things by Leonore Look

Books with girls as the central character:
Clementine (series) by Sara Penny Packer
Allie Finkle (series) by Meg Cabot
Ramona Quimby (series) by Beverly Cleary
Judy Moody (series) by Megan McDonald
Amber Brown (series) by Paula Danziger
Ruby Lu, Brace and True by Leonore Look
Ellie McDoodle (series) by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Ivy and Bean (series) by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall
Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat by Grace Lin

Happy reading.

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