Favorites from 2020

Just popping on to share some new favorite children’s books I have read this year! If you follow me on Instagram, this will be old news. I am mostly posting these for my new batch of students who are about to begin a Children’s Literature course with me. Thanks for reading!

Graphic novels I loved last year:

Jerry Craft’s New Kid and the sequel Class Act are a peek into what it’s like to be different from those around you–something most of us can relate to, but maybe not in the same way as the main characters from each book. They are dealing with having different skin color from most kids at their private school and all this entails. Interest level will be likely about 4th-8th grade for these two.

Cub, by Cynthia Copeland, will appeal to about 5th-8th grade. It follows a young girl in the 1970s who wants to be taken seriously as a young woman and a reporter, but she is also navigating the usual middle school/junior high issues. My favorite part of the book was when a new girl moved to their school, and she is an awesome example of kindness and works to include others in everything she does. The main character is strongly affected by this new girl’s attitude.

The Great Pet Escape and its sequel The Great Art Caper, by Victoria Jamieson (who also wrote two others I love, Roller Girl and All’s Faire in Middle School) are fun and silly graphic novels for younger children. Interest age will probably be about age 4-8. These graphic novels follow 3 animal friends who have become class pets in the same school. One, G.W., is set on escaping and taking his friends with him–but he discovers something horrifying about his 2 friends–they LIKE it there?! Enter a bossy mouse and her minions and a pet snake, and GW and his friends may have found a reason to stay after all.

Diverse chapter books I have loved:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang is about a Chinese family who has immigrated to California in the 1980s. Mia, their daughter, helps work at the motel that her parents are managing. Life is hard, and we see that how we treat people–our family, aquaintances, and strangers–has an impact. This book is uplifting and helps us relate to others who may be different from us. Interest level is about grades 5-8 again.

I might have gone a little crazy on Jason Reynolds’ books this year (Long Way Down, a young adult novel, was also fascinating). First up, his collection of short stories in Look Both Ways. This one will also appeal to about grades 5-8. It actually inspired me to start collecting some short stories of my own, by opening my eyes to the importance of the mundane things that are going on around us every day, and the people we see.

My favorites by Reynolds were those in the Track series, of which there are four books: Ghost, Patina, Sunny and Lu. Maybe because I’m female, I related strongly to Patina and really enjoyed that one, but I also loved the other three, particularly Ghost and Lu. Same interest level as the previous two!

By the way, I listened to all these except for Sunny, which I read in book format! (And of course I read the books of the graphic novels at the top; those don’t work as read-alouds!) I love to listen to my books, and through listening alone, I got over 70 books read this past year; this doesn’t include all the books I read visually. Imagine though, that is over 70 books that I would not be familiar with, if I did not listen to audiobooks. That is 70 more books that I now know and can recommend to children!

An exciting fantasy series I loved:

The Lockwood and Co series, by Jonathan Stroud (author of the Bartimaeus Trilogy), begins with The Screaming Staircase. Because of the intense subject matter and situations, I would recommend this series for 6th or 7th grade and up. It involves young teenagers living in a dystopian-type of society where ghost hauntings are a real problem; ghosts can and do kill people in this version of London. Unfortunately children and teens are the only ones who have enough sensitivity to detect the ghosts, so they have been recruited to deal with the problem (going on 50 years now). Lockwood, George and Lucy (narrator) form the ghost-hunting firm of Lockwood and Co., and together they are an effective team: so effective, that they begin to uncover the root of this strange problem as the series proceeds. I am not a massive fantasy fan, and even less a science fiction fan (dystopian), but this series hooked me, and I could not rest till I finished it! I listened to the majority of it on audiobooks, but I did have to get hard copies from time to time. It was great both ways!

Last one, my current read:

I have been on an adult book kick the past few weeks, with the exception of this new-to-me installment in Robin Stevens’ Wells and Wong Mystery series (as it is known in the US; in England they are known as Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries!). I always enjoy this series! It is about two young teen girls who are pretty much opposites (Daisy is very English; Hazel is very Chinese). They meet at boarding school in England in the 1930s and find they both have a knack for solving mysteries. Due to the intensity and seriousness of some of the crimes, I would recommend for 5th or 6th grade and up.

What have you been reading lately? I’d love to know.

Reading Aloud and Abandoning Books

My 10 year old and I have been flying through read-alouds together since April or May.  From about September-March, we struggled through a few books together.

He is always a willing and eager listener, even to the slowest stories, which amazes impatient me. This is one reason why I don’t want to give up this reading-together thing we have going. There’s not an abundance of things for he and I to bond over nowadays, seeing as how I’m not into video games, BUT we both still enjoy reading and responding to books together. Continue reading

Have a Mini Book Club with Your Child

If your child brings home a reading group book or class novel that he is currently reading, why not pick it up when he is doing other homework or having screen time? Or pick it up after your child has gone to bed. Read what he’s reading. Then you’ll be able to talk about it with him. You can ask what he thinks about this character, or that situation in the book. It will show your child that:

A. You are a reader.

B. You know what he’s reading and care about it. You’re interested and want to hear his thoughts about the book. Continue reading

For Chronic Book Abandoners & Reluctant Readers

Do you have a reluctant reader in the house or classroom? Or maybe you have a “chronic book abandoner”–one who just can’t stick with a single book to completion. It’s a common problem, but I have a suggestion: Mysteries.

Why mysteries? Mysteries generate questions, and when we have questions, we naturally want answers. Sometimes I will keep reading a book I’m not even that “into” just to get my questions answered. Questions compel us to keep reading. This may be what your reluctant reader or chronic abandoner needs to finish a book! Continue reading

Summertime, and the Reading Is Easy

Last week, I recommended audiobooks and reading to and with your kids, as ways to engage them with reading. You can catch up here: Two Tips to Get Kids Reading This Summer.

I often have friends ask me for specific book recommendations for their children. The lists I give vary according to what I know and what they tell me about their kids’ interests, ages, and books they like already. Because I’m putting these recommendations out to everyone, I’m making them more general.

The bottom line: Find them books they CAN and WANT to read (or listen to). 

Here are some high-interest suggestions to get kids reading independently and willingly: Continue reading

Two Tips to Get Kids Reading This Summer

I recently had two encounters at the local library that stuck with me.

The first: Seth and I were looking through the audiobooks and playaways for him, and a mom approached me and asked for audiobook recommendations for her son, age 7. This is my dream encounter. Usually I overhear people debating what books to get their kids and am dying to put my two cents in; this lady flatout asked for my input! If you have ever asked me for suggestions, you know that you might get more than you bargained for. I gave her several suggestions, based on her son’s age and interests.

This leads me to my first summer reading tip: Let the kids listen to audiobooks. Continue reading

Best New(ish) Books I’ve Read

Here are some newer chapter books I’ve read lately. Hope you find something to read with your child or recommend to him/her!

Just Like Me, by Nancy J. Cavanaugh: My number 1 favorite of late!

Julia is a Chinese-American girl who was adopted by American parents when she was a baby. She and her family have stayed in touch with her “Chinese sisters,” Avery and Becca, who aren’t her biological sisters but were adopted from the same orphanage at the same time. Avery and Becca revel in their Chinese heritage and expect Julia to as well, but Julia has begun to feel awkward and somewhat resentful about this part of her life. The book follows the girls at summer camp together, and is a light, sweet story, while also managing to deal with real feelings about being adopted. I love how it shows that all families have troubles, no matter how well put-together they appear, and the universal theme of wanting to belong is something everyone can relate to. Continue reading

The Good Old Books

I’ve read some really good new books lately, but I’ve also revisited some old books with my son. Classics are classics for a reason! So here are a few we’ve read lately. Age levels are approximate; you know best for your own child.

Continue reading

Favorite Baby & Toddler Books

There was an article about reading to babies in the local newspaper this morning, and of course it got me thinking. After all, I have a baby (1-year old *sob*), and we do that reading thing.

He doesn’t normally read chapter books. 😉

He lights up when I show him one of his favorite books and is willing to listen to a page or two before he takes the book away from me. The taking of the book is most likely part of the “do-it-myself” syndrome that starts to happen with babies as they grow, although he can’t articulate it yet. That’s okay; don’t sweat it if your baby or toddler doesn’t let you finish the book with him in one setting.

My cousin has a little boy whose first sentence was, “Book, Dada, go!” Which of course meant something to the effect of, “Here’s a book, Dad. Now read it to me!” Isn’t that just the best? I may start whispering this to Joseph when he’s asleep.

There are so many great books for babies and toddlers. Here are some that have been favorites of mine at this age, and continue to be Joseph’s favorites. (Book photos from Amazon.) Continue reading

Apples and Oranges

Hello everyone! Holiday time, and our children’s thoughts turn to giving and being together, right? Ha! If yours are like mine, it’s a fight against bigger is better, and the more presents, the merrier. I had the opportunity to blog over at NWAMotherlode.com today about using special holiday books to plant seeds of contentment in our young ones. Hope you’ll join me here: Christmas books to read with the kids