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.
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh: First, a confession. I started Harriet over and over as a kid, and never got past chapter 1 or 2, but always felt that if I could, I would like it. A few years ago, I listened to an audio of it, and LOVED it. I was sad for my child-self that I never got far enough into it to stick with it. So this was one that went on the “My Children Will Read This” list. Only: when you have a “My Children Will Read This” list, you have to be prepared to read it TO them, and not depend on their will to read it themselves.
That’s just what I did with Harriet; I asked Seth (age 9) if we could read it together, and we did. He thoroughly enjoyed it. Quick rundown of the book if you don’t know it: Harriet lives a privileged life on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, 1960s, complete with private school education and a live-in nanny, Ole Golly, who is Harriet’s rock. Harriet’s main hobby is spying on people and keeping a notebook of her observations. Things begin to unravel for Harriet when Ole Golly leaves, and when her classmates read her notebook, worse comes to worse. Best for ages 9-13.
Stone Fox, by John Reynolds Gardiner: Another confession: I had this one in my middle school classroom, and even gave it as a Christmas gift to my students one year, and I had NEVER READ IT. Ugh–bad form! I just knew it was supposed to be good and relied on that. Seth’s reading group read it a couple months ago, so I decided to read it too. I do some work with his reading group and like to be able to talk about their books with them. When I mentioned in the group that I was going to read it, one boy said, “Ugh! Be ready to cry at the end! It’s terrible. I never want to read it again!” Ha! Isn’t that a great and honest reaction? His judgment of the book as terrible and sad meant to me that the book provoked a strong emotional reaction. I couldn’t wait to read it after that review! It won’t take you long, I promise; it’s a very short chapter book, about a young boy who decides to enter a sled dog race. He needs the prize money to help a situation involving his ailing grandpa. This one’s now on the “My Children Will Read This” list. Best for ages 7/8-12
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin: I love this one, although it’s another one I started over and over as a kid and never got far enough into it to continue. I read it aloud to Seth, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a read-aloud (it’s one of those that’s a great story, but a little cumbersome for a read-aloud, however Seth wouldn’t let me stop so there’s that). Still this is a classic book, and if you want your kids to read it, you might try beginning it as a read-aloud, and seeing if they’re into it enough to pick it back up on their own. It’s a puzzle mystery about a murder and an inheritance. Best for ages 10-14.
The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden: We read this one a couple years ago, but it’s a sweet story about friendship, with a little drama and of course talking critters. Best for ages 7-11.
We are trying to finish reading a Humphrey book together (School Days According to Humphrey, by Betty G. Birney; these are cute books), but I’m planning to read Matilda, by Roald Dahl, next with him, and I’m very excited about it! (Matilda is also on “the list.”)
Next blog post, I will detail some of the new middle grade books I’ve read recently. Read on!