Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reading Up a Storm

Once a child discovers a love of reading there is often no stopping the demand for more and more and more books. Authors and publishers know this so there is always something new on the bookshelves. The problem for parents is that tastes are being more clearly defined. Some students in grades 2-5 will only read fantasy and others want nothing but historical fiction. So your first step is to know your customer. Then you can simply enjoy the ride. The list of interesting and exciting books for this age is long. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. The Flint Heart by Katherine Paterson and John Paterson is a generously adapted folk tale . The tale begins during the Stone Age when a man asks for ultimate power through the creation of a talisman. The spirits breathe such power into the little stone heart that the wearer becomes an unbearable tyrant. When the original owner dies the heart is buried and left untouched until the early 20th century. Then it can only be destroyed with the help of a brother and sister team, their dog, a German made hot water bottle, and legions of fairies. The book is easy enough for many second graders yet interesting enough for much older readers. Humor and adventure abound in both the text and the vibrant illustrations by John Rocco. It would make a great family read.

  2. Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins is in some ways a very typical school story. Hank is a young boy who is just a little bit different from the other kids at school. He is a bit of a loner, creates models out of matchsticks, and invents interesting ice cream flavors for the family store. One day he rescues an invisible (not imaginary) bandapat who demands food and shelter. The two, Hank and the bandapat, become partners in solving their problems with some hilarious results. The under story of the novel is about bullying. I have to agree with the critics who suggest that the school authorities do not do a particularly good job of handling the bullying, but if they had acted appropriately, the methods that the bandapat suggests would not be as interesting, amusing, or necessary. Emily Jenkins also has written the very enjoyable Toys Go Out series.

  3. What is zipping off my library shelves these days? Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce. Big Nate was originally a comic strip. Now Peirce has brought this spunky young man into novels that are full of energy and humor. One review I found called them a combination of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Calvin and Hobbes. That describes them so well that I don't need to add another word.

  4. Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder at first seems like yet another story of a family that is splitting up and the effect on the children. Yes, it is that, but it is so much more. Rebecca is hurt and angry when her mother moves the family away from Dad to another state to live with their grandmother. Gran tries to be understanding, even letting Rebecca claim items from the attic to use in her own room. One of these is an old fashioned breadbox that reveals magical powers. Whatever Rebecca wishes for appears in the box, as long as the wish will fit. At first it is a seagull to remind her of home but soon the requests grow to money and other ways to help her fit in at her new school. When Rebecca learns more about how things appear in the breadbox, she has to deal with some huge moral issues. This book offers an interesting twist to some familiar concepts.

  5. Louis Sachar recently wrote Card Turner, a young adult novel about playing bridge. Now Meg Wolitzer has written an enjoyable tale of Scrabble competition. The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman begins with the revelation of Duncan's ability to read print with his fingertips, a talent that one of his new classmates soon realizes could be useful when playing Scrabble. From there the story widens to include other contestants in the Youth Scrabble Tournament. Duncan, April, and Nate all have their own reasons for going to the tournament, but only one team can win.

Please look at former posts on this blog for more of my suggestions. There are many good books just waiting to be discovered.

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