GREAT ADVANCED READS (for tweens and teens, ages 12 and up)
By Libba Bray
For ages 12 and up
A series of occult-based murders in 1920s New York City put Evie O'Neill and her uncle, curator of what's known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies," center stage in investigating the crimes. The tightly-woven plot and palpable setting combine with supernatural elements, rich themes, and terrific storytelling to make for a compelling read.
On the Day I Died
By Candace Fleming
For ages 11 and up
Scary is always in season, and summer is an especially good time to welcome a shivery chill. On appropriately dark and moonless nights, kids will find themselves scaring friends with the stories in this collection, whether examinations of pure evil, ancient curses, alien encounters, or psychological dramas.
The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
For ages 13 and up
Hazel Lancaster, a teen with cancer, dropped out of school at 13 to concentrate on getting well. Now 16, she meets Augustus Waters, a former basketball player who's lost a leg to cancer. Their connection is instantaneous. Green skillfully uses their lives to ask the big questions — Why me? Why now? Why risk love? What does being alive mean?
Scarlet: Lunar Chronicles Book Two
By Marissa Meyer
For ages 12 up
A second fresh view of a classic fairy tale – with another stop-you-in-your-tracks cover. Here Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood) and her street-fighter boyfriend Wolf are in search of Scarlet's grandmother. Their search runs right into Cinder's story as the three race to keep ahead of the evil Lunar Queen Levana. Or start with the first book in the series: Cinder
The False Prince
By Jennifer A. Nielson
For ages 13 and up
Carthya is on the brink of civil war. Conner, one of the noblemen, has a treacherous plan to install an imposter on the throne. But first he must find just the right young man to play the part: Could Sage win the role? As in any high stakes game, all is not as it seems. Amid layers of deception and manipulation, readers are in for surprises as Sage draws closer to the goal.
Shadow on the Mountain
By Margi Preus
For ages 12 and up
Espen is fourteen, a Norwegian boy, whose country is occupied by the Nazis and who, with his friends, joins the Norwegian resistance. Margi Preus reveals his story in an engrossing text that combines spy thriller with teen-coming-of-age story, enhanced by photographs, maps and brochures from the time.
Eleanor and Park
By Rainbow Rowell
For ages 14 and up
In 1980's Omaha, Eleanor, new to town and quirky, and Park, half-Korean, are outsiders in their high school. It's worse for Eleanor, with an abusive stepfather and bullying classmates, so bad that she accepts Park's father's invitation for her to stay with their family. In small steps, and completely believably, Eleanor and Park's friendship grows into love. But Park realizes that the solution to Eleanor's troubles means that she will have to move away.
By Rebecca Rupp
For ages 12 and up
Since his older brother was killed in Iraq, Danny Anderson has been keeping a Book of the Dead where he chronicles how people from the past have died. It's his way of understanding loss. But it is not until three years later that Danny begins to pull away from grief: he falls for a girl, finds a new friendship, and works on a farm. A crisis at the end of that summer pushes Danny and his parents toward healing in this moving and emotionally-rich novel.
Out of the Easy
By Ruta Sepetys
For ages 14 and up
The Big Easy has been anything but easy on Josie. She's tried distancing herself from her mother — an addict, prostitute and thief. Josie dreams of escaping Easy altogether, but doesn't believe she can make that happen … until she meets a tourist who offers the encouragement she needs. Ruta Sepetys vividly describes the sights, sounds, and smells as well as the shady underbelly of New Orleans in 1950 and breathes life into her cast of characters. Teens will be pulling for Josie as she moves ahead, learning that some decisions are anything but easy.
The Raven Boys
By Maggie Stiefvater
For ages12 and up
For as long as Blue Sargent can remember, she's been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. And in her family – one filled with bona-fide psychics – predictions are never taken lightly. Now sixteen, Blue befriends three Raven boys from the posh private school nearby and gets caught up in their quest and adventures. Blue fears that one of them just might be her true love. A compelling story from the outset, Stiefvater's first installment in a planned four-part cycle will have readers on the edge of their seats.
By Theodore Taylor
For ages 12 and up
When World War II threatens the Dutch island of Curacao where 11-year-old Philip lives, he and his mother decide to return to the U.S. On the journey their boat is torpedoed, and Philip is stranded on a life raft with a cat and Timothy, a black man. Later, when Phillip becomes blind, he has no choice but to overcome his prejudices and trust Timothy. Their friendship develops beautifully in this exciting survival story.
5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!)
For ages 11 up
From 15 peanut butter facts that stick and 50 furry facts about bears to 100 facts about oceans to make your head swim, this big, colorful, packed-to-the-brim compendium is sure to fascinate, entertain, and be a source of great conversations for everyone who takes a look. Photographs illustrate the great variety of information, a playful design makes every page inviting, and a ticker at the bottom of each spread counts the facts kids learn as they go through the book. You'll find your teen dipping in and out of this book all summer long.
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
GREAT PAGETURNERS (for ages 9-12)
The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee: An Origami Yoda Book
By Tom Angleberger
For ages 8 and up
In the third of the Origami Yoda books, Sara brings a paper fortune-teller in the form of Star War's Chewbacca. – a Fortune Wookiee – to school to fill in while Dwight and Origami Yoda are suspended.
Or start with the first book in the series: THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA
Never Say Die
By Will Hobbs
For ages 8 and up
Nick Thrasher, a fifteen-year-old Inuit hunter and his older half-brother Ryan, a wildlife photographer, are off in search of caribou. Soon into their travels, they are thrown into the frozen Firth River. Back on land, their struggle to survive continues as they are pursued by animals, including a half-grizzly, half-polar bear. An exciting wilderness survival tale set in Canada's arctic — a perfect read to cool down a hot summer day.
Dog Days: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 4
By Jeff Kinney
For ages 8 and up
This is not the newest in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, but it might be the right book to begin with since it's all about summer vacation. The weather's great, and all the kids are having fun outside. But not Greg Heffley! He's in his house playing video games and enjoying himself, thank you very much. But Greg's mom has other ideas about outdoor activities and "family togetherness." Whose vision will win out? Or will a new addition to the Heffley family change everything?
On the Road to Mr. Mineo's
By Barbara O'Connor
For ages 8 and up
When we remember summers, there's often a single event that stands out. For the folks in Meadville, South Carolina, this summer will be recalled as the one when a one-legged pigeon named Sherman flew into town. Where did Sherman come from? Only Mr. Mineo seems to know. For many young readers, this summer may be remembered as the one they met Stella and Amos and Sherman, of course, in the pages of this wonderful novel.
Hades: Lord of the Dead: The Olympians, Book 4
By George O'Connor
For ages 9 and up
Welcome to the Underworld. In a mix of action comic, superhero characters and Greek mythology this graphic novel introduces Hades and Persphone.
Or start with the first book in the series: ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS
For ages 9-12
August Pullman, 10, was born with a deformed face. Even though he's been protected and homeschooled, he's felt the stares and heard the whispers when the boldest jerks called him Freak or Freddy Krueger. Now his parents have decided that it's time to enroll Auggie in school. The world he meets there doesn't only test his courage; it also takes the measure of everyone he comes in contact with. A rare book that just might open a closed heart.
My Brother is a Big Fat Liar
James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou, Illustrated by Neil Swaab
How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill
By James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, Illustrated by Laura Park
For ages 9-13
Two great new stories in the wildly popular Middle School series.
When Georgia Khatchadorian heads off to her first day at Hills Village Middle School, everyone she meets immediately brands Georgia a problem child just like Rafe! When Rafe sneakily signs the band up to play at Georgia's first middle school dance, she's terrified she'll embarrass herself. Will she be able to overcome her fears?
Meanwhile, in How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, Rafe is excited about summer camp, but is in for a letdown when he realizes it's summer school camp. Luckily, Rafe quickly makes friends with members of his "Loserville" cabin. And they need all the help they can get as they battle off against the "Cool" cabin all summer long.
Or start with the first book in the series: Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
Where the Red Fern Grows
For ages 8 and up
In an informal survey, I asked a bunch of grownups which childhood summer read they remembered most. Where the Red Fern Grows was the most frequent answer. Set in the Ozarks, the adventure tale of a boy, Billy, and his two hunting dogs, Little Ann and Old Dan, is recalled not only for the trio's triumphs, but also for the story's tenderness. Give your kiddos this long-lasting book this summer.
The Egypt Game
Zilpha Keatley Snyder
For ages 8 and up
Before role-playing computer games became so popular, Zilpha Keatley Snyder took young readers to an antiques store in California where Melanie and April and later four other friends create and play "The Egypt Game." With costumes, secret codes and elaborate stories, the kids become more and more involved until strange things start happening. It just might be time to stop playing… Readers, too, will find themselves caught up in the game and in this characterful novel.
For ages 9 and up
This is an allegorical tale where childhood is not just a stage, it is a place called Hokey Pokey. There readers meet Jack, who, like many of them, is starting to "age out" of Hokey Pokey. Spinelli's novel is sure to help them celebrate and cope with all that is past and all that is to come.
For Ages 9 and up
Jack is adrift after his mother dies, so his dad, just back from WWII, enrolls him in a boarding school in Maine. There he befriends Early Auden, a loner who rarely attends classes and whose brother, a soldier serving in France, is presumed dead. Early believes otherwise … and so begins the two boys' quest along the Appalachian Trail.
Angry Birds Playground Animals: An Around-the-World Habitat Adventure
Jill Esbaum; Illustrated with photographs
For ages 8-11
Those popular angry birds are tour guides on this photo-filled exploration of habitats: rainforests, deserts, oceans, grasslands, and polar regions. The birds, who are on a world-wide search for their stolen eggs, introduce readers to five major habitats and the animals that thrive in each. With animal vital statistics in sidebars, descriptions in text, and funny asides from the birds on every page, this is the kind of book that gives nonfiction a good name!
GREAT TRANSITIONAL BOOKS (for ages 6-9)
Cam Jansen and the Graduation Day Mystery #31
David A. Adler; Illustrated by Joy Allen
For ages 7-10
Cam Jansen, elementary school detective, is up to her 31st mystery. She's got to be doing something right! Children making the transition from picture books to chapter books have found Cam Jansen's books a great help and motivator. In her latest case, Cam must use all her skills and her photographic memory to catch the thief who stole Eric's father's graduation present.
The One and Only Ivan
Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao Costa
For ages 8-10
"The Ape at Exit 8" is Ivan, a mighty Silverback Gorilla, who lives in a circus-themed shopping mall. Based on a true story, this first real novel for readers ready for that big step tells how Ivan uses his talent for drawing to rescue the other animals. Winner, 2013 Newbery Medal.
Ivy & Bean Make the Rules
Annie Barrows; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
For ages 7-9
Nancy, Bean's older sister, is going to camp, but Bean can't go: you have to be eleven to go to camp. Never one to accept defeat, Bean and her best friend Ivy create a camp of their own. A triumph of friendship, ingenuity, and fun!
Or start with the first book in the series: Ivy and Bean.
Ray O'Ryan; Illustrated by Colin Jack
Age Level: 5-8
It's 2120, and Zack Nelson and his family are leaving Earth to move to the planet Nebulon, Their space-aged house has all kinds of awesome gadgets that Zack will be using every day, but still Zack worries that he and his twin sister won't have any friends. Until he meets a fellow student and slowly starts to realize that things on Nebulon might just be alright after all. Young readers will zoom through the story to find out what happens to Zack, entertained and delighted along the way!
Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers
For ages 7 and up
For once, the critics agree with what children have been saying for years: USA Today tells us: "Call Pilkey … the savior of the 'reluctant reader.'" Newsweek says Captain Underpants is "a triumph of irreverence." And young readers say: "They are funny and crazy!" Now, in the newest book in the series, everything is threatened. Could it be the end for Captain Underpants?
Or start with the first book in the series, The Adventures of Captain Underpants."
Green Eggs and Ham
Horton Hatches the Egg
Oh! The Places You'll Go
For ages 3-7, 4-8, 4-9
When it comes to new readers, we've got two words for you: Dr. Seuss. His Beginner Books (like Green Eggs and Ham) are not only comical adventures, but also great confidence-builders as brand new readers master them and can read them on their own. And what proud reader wouldn't want to know Sam-I-am, who definitely, absolutely, never wants green eggs and ham.
As kids master their reading skills, they'll find reward in Seuss's classic picture books. Yes, the language is often complicated, but it is always silly and fun. Horton's a great place to start for there are loving lessons in the values of persistence and kindness in this story of the elephant who is faithful, one hundred percent.
If you want to give a child a pat on the back along with a gentle push to move on, try Oh! The Places You'll Go. It is wise, optimistic, filled with encouragement, and great fun to read.
Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
Tamera Will Wissinger; illustrated by Matthew Cordell
For ages 6-9
Nine-year-old Sam and his dad are going to the lake: For fishing tomorrow/it's just us two. Not Mom, not Grandpa/not Lucy… In a series of engaging poems that narrate the day, they prepare their gear; plans change (Lucy does tag along); fish get caught; siblings get along; and all ends deliciously at dinner. We're guessing that this delightful excursion will lead lots of kids to try their luck at fishing and to try their hands at poetry.
Nic Bishop Snakes
Nic Bishop; illustrated with photographs
For ages 5 and up
Super-sharp photographs show a great variety of snakes, sometimes at rest but often in action, while equally clear text presents basic facts about each. The handsome design welcomes curious (and maybe even some fearful) children in to get up close and learn more.
GREAT ILLUSTRATED BOOKS (for ages 2-6)
Llama Llama Time to Share
For ages 2-5
While Mama Llama and Nelly Gnu have tea, their two toddlers are left with a boxful of toys to share. All goes well … until that Gnu girl decides to play with Llama's treasured Fuzzy Llama doll. Llama's not ready for that much sharing.
Or start with the first book in this series: Llama Llama Red Pajama
Olivia and the Fairy Princesses
By Ian Falconer
For ages 3-6
Olivia is one best-selling pig – and with good reason. Strong-willed, high-spirited and, in this book, in search of her true identity – Olivia's been keeping young children smiling (and recognizing themselves) for a dozen books now. She's sure to please.
Or start with the first book in this series: Olivia
This Moose Belongs to Me
>By Oliver Jeffers
For ages 4-7
For the "can I keep him?" would-be pet owner, this story of Wilfred and Marcel the Moose, is a great fit. Wilfred and Marcel make a happy pair, but it isn't long before Wilfred notice little things about the very big moose. It seems he has some secrets, like the neighbor who greets Marcel as "Rodrigo," and the fact that he prefers apples to, well… Wilfred. Still their friendship is real, their story is charming, and every page of this picture book is a visual treat.
By Galen Goodwin Longstreth; Illustrated by Maris Wicks
For ages 3-5
Preschoolers will happily follow one family's day in the country, from the dedication page with its maze-like roads leading three cars through the woods to a stream-side destination right to the evening return trip with the happily-exhausted parents and children barely making it up the stairs to their bedrooms. The short rhythmic text is simple, fast, and fun to read aloud, while the detail-filled cartoony-like illustrations invite long looks at every spread.
For ages 4 and up
Jasper Rabbit loves to eat carrots—especially the ones that grow at Crackenhopper Field … until the day the carrots start following him. This slightly spooky book will please youngest fans of scary tales while it delivers a subtle message about being greedy.
Pete's a Pizza
By William Steig
For ages 4-8
Pete's dad turns a rainy day into lots of fun when he makes Pete into a pizza: Pete's kneaded and tossed; covered with tomatoes (checkers) and cheese (bits of paper), put into the oven (the couch) and soon is ready to slice and be nibbled. But the sun comes out and the pizza runs out to play with his friends. Absolutely silly and great fun!
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Spread the word about our endangered books. Share this with a friend, print it out and post at your local bookstore or library. James Patterson
James Patterson has many ongoing scholarships, including College Book Bucks. This program gifts college-bound high school seniors with money to spend on college textbooks at independent bookstores. Each year, students are asked to respond to the following question: "How has your favorite book inspired you toward what you'd like to do in life?"
In 2012, the program gifted more than $70,000 dollars in Book Bucks to 235 students. The winning responses included books as diverse as Ian McEwan's Atonement, Sapphire's Push, and Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.
In her first place winning submission, DeAira L. writes:
"I feel that I personify the message of the novel Push by Sapphire. My hunger for an education is similar to that of Claireece Precious Jones in the novel. Like Claireece, I have overcome many adversities, including being an extremely low income student. Despite the odds being stacked against Claireece and me, we push forward and become beacons of light in our community…My enlightenment from the novel Push has encouraged me pursue a career in medicine because like Claireece, I realized that my circumstances do not define my destiny."
The first and second place winning submissions from the 2012 contest are listed below and at http://www.jamespatterson.com/college-book-bucks-winners-2012.php
First Place Winners
- Adrianna O. The Proud Highway
- Andrea C. Freakonomics
- Anthony O. Atonement
- Ashley E. Animals in Translation
- Chelse H. The Bafut Beagles
- Conor D. This is Baseball and The Adventures of Captain Underpants
- DeAira L. Push
- Gretchen K. Three Cups of Tea
- Javan H. The American Front
- Lauren P. The Bluest Eye
- Luke M. The Shock Doctrine
- Olivia V. The House of the Spirits and Metamorphosis
- Rachel A. Super Crunchers
- Rashaun B. Think Big
- Shawn L. Brave New World
- Adrianna O. The Proud Highway
Second Place Winners
- Adela F. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
- Alyssa R. Uglies
- Andrea S. The Hunger Games
- Colleen C. Nineteen Minutes
- Connor H. The Call of the Wild
- Elizabeth W. 1-800-WHERE-ARE-YOU series
- Emily B. The Giving Tree
- Gabriela P. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
- Hollie A. The Elephant Man
- Jennifer R. The Book Thief
- Joshua D. Heart of Darkness
- Kathryn K. Uglies
- Kelley S. Women's Murder Club series
- Lucy L. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games series
- Rebecca L. Mists of Avalon
- Sarah M. Slaughterhouse-Five
- Song K. My Sister's Keeper
- Susanna P. It Can't Happen Here
- Tyler W. Alex Cross series
- William T. Gabriel Garcia Marquez Collected Stories
- Adela F. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Ed Masessa
Senior Manager, Product Development, Scholastic Book Fairs
Member, ReadKiddoRead Board
Over the years, the idiom "Don't judge a book by its cover" has been used more as a metaphor than a literal translation. The outward appearance of something or someone does not necessarily convey the beauty of what lies beneath – be it words in a book, or the heart, soul, and personality of a person.
There was a time when we operated at a slower pace, and books had a fighting chance! In the 50s and 60s, we had twelve stations on TV to choose from, and for the most part, they were tailored to adults. It was a very big deal when PBS appeared in 1970. Then, suddenly, we entered the age of cable TV. Television occupied more of our time – and our kids' time — because there was so much variety from which to choose. Add a few components like VCRs and game consoles, and more free time was sucked into the vacuum. When all those things became mobile… fuggedaboutit.
Now a book's competition is formidable and intimidating. Reading a book takes more time and may seem much less glamorous than the flashy alternatives. Yet without reading we have no future. I don't have to cite the myriad of studies from the multitude of institutes that point to the deterioration of our children's ability to read and comprehend. And I won't go into the political and social complexities that stymie the educational system.
Instead, I will focus on one of the few weapons a book has at its disposal to capture the attention of a prospective reader: the COVER!
Just as everyone has an opinion on what constitutes art, many of the decision makers in the publishing field have differing opinions on what makes a good cover. The in-house experts in marketing, sales, and publicity, as well as editorial staffs all weigh in on the vision that art departments have created. In my day job at Scholastic Book Fairs, I select many of the books that will be part of your child's school book fair. These once- or twice-a-year events showcase between 600-1200 titles in shiny metal cases that roll into schools like portable book stores. For many children, especially with the decline of brick-and-mortar stores, this might be the only exposure they have to seeing the vast variety that the children's publishing world has to offer. And, while I firmly believe that what my company does plays a significant role in fostering good reading habits, this is not an advertisement.
Anyone who thinks that the act of bringing books into schools creates a captive audience is sorely mistaken. We can bring books to children, but we can't make them read. The first challenge is getting their attention. Every one of the titles on a book fair is displayed with the full cover facing the child, who then has a short period of time to scan the entire selection before having to make a choice. Many of them will zero in on what they are familiar with – long-standing series, and media-related properties. But there are hundreds of other books that they are just seeing for the first time – books that are begging to be read. We have to get them to notice. This is why covers are so blasted important!
What constitutes a good cover might change week to week, month to month, decade to decade. There was a time when publishers would start with a very stylized cover for the jacketed hardcover edition, and later give the book something with more mass appeal for the paperback edition. While we still might be able to get away with this practice in certain genres, the tide has shifted. Greater attention is being given to grabbing a child's attention right out of the gate. The advent of ebooks will continue to drive this strategy.
Children might not know who Carl Hiaasen is, but show them the cover of Hoot and they really won't care. What child can resist a book with such a simple design that still sets a hook into their imagination? The initial cover of The Wanderer by Sharon Creech was drop-dead gorgeous and certainly got my attention as well as that of thousands of librarians. But the paperback design appealed directly to a child's instincts and emphasized the level of drama contained in the story. Who can resist the comical Doberman on the cover of Gordon Korman's Swindle series? Or the creepy-kooky covers on David Lubar's Weenies books that have made them our best-selling books of short stories of all time. And the iconic genius of covers like Matched by Ally Condie, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
Inevitably, a good book will find its audience. But we have to get a child to pick it up. Is there a magic formula for covers? No. Do some color combinations work better than others? Yes. Will a dog on a cover attract attention? You betcha. Will a title that a child can barely pronounce influence their choice? Undoubtedly. Am I upset when a book that has a dynamite cover fails to live up to its sales potential? You can usually find me crying at my desk.
Over time, we can identify trends — what's working and what isn't. But by the time we figure out why, the market has shifted. Still we owe it to the authors to give their babies a fighting chance, and we owe it to the kids to make them interested enough to want to read those marvelous books.
We can't afford NOT to judge a book by its cover. Our children need to read more, and we need to figure out how to make that happen. Our first line of offense is to make them pick a book up. Because until they have it in their hands, they are not going to open it.
It will be no surprise to you that ReadKiddoRead thinks books are the best ways to show the children how much you love them on Valentine's Day (and every day!). Here are three new ones with themes that tie right into the warmest day of the year: February 14!
Penguin and Pinecone
A Friendship Story
By Salina Yoon
Ages 3 and up
In very few words and simple, boldly-outlined pictures that fill the pages with energy and light, we meet a penguin who finds a pinecone in the snow. "What's this?" Not a snowball, not food – but whatever it is, it's cold. Penguin knits it a scarf. Cozy. But Grandpa says it's still too cold for Pinecone, so Penguin packs up his sled with gear for a long trip, and, holding Pinecone delicately in his hands, treks and treks until he reaches the forest. He leaves his friend there and heads home. Time passes, and Penguin gets curious. He makes the journey back to the forest, and there he sees one tall pine tree with an orange scarf wrapped around its top. "Pinecone?" Of course!
When it's time for Penguin to return home, the author reassures us: "Penguin and Pinecone may have been apart, but they always stayed in each other's hearts."
What a fine Valentine's Day message about friendship and love. Actually, what a fine message for any day.
Otter and Odder: A Love Story
By James Howe; illustrated by Chris Raschka
When Otter falls in love with a fish – maybe her name is Myrtle, or maybe what he heard was "Gurgle?"— even he knows it's impossible: "I am in love with my food source." Still, this unlikely pair perseveres – playing hide-and-go-seek, telling each other stories, enjoying the sun in the mornings and the starlit night skies. But people (or in this case – otters and fish) talk: their relationship is wrong, unnatural. Myrtle leaves Otter and returns to her family.
It takes a wise Beaver to convince Otter that he can find other food sources. And, the Beaver points out, if Otter does, then he could follow his heart straight back to Myrtle. It turns out that apples and tree bark and the fruit of water lilies are delicious! Myrtle returns, their love thrives, and yes, they live happily ever after.
James Howe's telling reads like a movie, acknowledging that parents ought to enjoy the story along with their kids, thereby broadening the audience for this romantic and good-sense tale. Chris Raschka's watercolors present the under-the-sea setting in pictures that almost move in the waves. His characters are primitive – just shapes, really, but with expressive easy-to-read faces.
A terrific family Valentine's Day read.
The Candy Smash
By Jacqueline Davies
Ages 8 and up
What's fourth grade all about? Friendships, secrets, classroom drama, and the start of figuring out who you are. And, when it's close to Valentine's Day, fourth grade is about first romance. On top of that, Mrs. Overton, Jessie and Evan Treski's teacher, has chosen this time of year for her poetry unit, and the kids are all reading and writing poems about love. Oh – one more thing – candy hearts with personal messages – are showing up on the kids' desks. Most of the messages are simple appreciations of classmates' strengths: Ryan's heart says "slam duck;" Tessa has a "nice smile;" and Nina is a "spelling champ." But Evan's message is different. His hearts say "be mine." Who is sending the hearts?
Jessie decides to get to the bottom of this. Her strategy is to use the class newspaper and do some serious investigative reporting. Once she starts digging, she makes discoveries, and she prints them, not thinking about the consequences. Her brother convinces her not to distribute the newspaper issue with the big reveal, but somehow somebody gets his hand on one copy. As a result, Megan, Jessie's friend, is embarrassed when she is named the source of the candy-hearts.
Chapters alternate between Jessie's new enthusiasm for journalism and Evan's discovery of his own passion for poetry. Jacqueline Davies takes full advantage of both, giving readers lots to learn and think about in both fields – from the difference between investigating and snooping to poetry techniques from metaphors to hyperbole. All the while the classroom drama unfolds, the clues add up, and the relationships of the kids in Mrs. Overton's class change and grow making Candy Smash a satisfying read on several levels.
A terrific tie-in to Valentine's Day, but a good anytime school story for boys and girls alike.
By Anita Silvey
The opening line of E. B. White's Charlotte's Web — "Where's Pa going with that axe?" — has now been read for over sixty years by adults to eager young listeners. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Ezra Jack Keats's The Snowy Day have been picked up with enthusiasm for over fifty years. For seventy-five years parents have shared The Hobbit. This year Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are turns fifty. These books and others like them (Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables) bring generations together – allowing a parent or grandparent to return to a book that he or she read as a child.
What makes a children's book a classic? This question on the surface has a very simple answer. Any book that has moved to the next generation, 16-20 years from publication date, if still read and in print, is considered a classic. Consequently, no instant classics exist, as many ads like to claim. Some of our bestselling books of the last 15 years, such as the Harry Potter series, have not been around long enough to be called classics. But although length of time in print defines a classic, certainly the qualities of the book itself are more important in making it possible for a book to become one.
Generally speaking, our classics include fascinating stories and characters. These books have a plot line that keeps children turning the pages to find out what happens. They contain characters that children want to get to know better – often ones that children consider their friends. Because adults buy books for children, our classics must please adults but also appeal to children. Like Charlotte's Web, our classics are often distinguished by beautiful writing and expressive art. Rather than being mere surface stories, classics tend to have a more serious, but subtle, underlying theme or message that can be comprehended by children. When I recently asked an 11-year-old Texan girl why she loved The Secret Garden, her favorite book, she said it "showed her that even if you are very sick, you can be healed by people and nature." Most adult critics have not been so eloquent in summing up the idea behind this book.
But how do parents, caregivers, teachers, and grandparents find the classics that still work with children and the new books good enough to become classics? About three years ago I set out to compile a list of around 500 children's books, new and old titles, that had the ability to change's children's lives and that both adults and children love. The result, The Children's Book a Day Almanac, can be found on-line at http://childrensbookalmanac.com. Every day in cyberspace I post an essay about one of these books, tied to a day of the year. In a sidebar, I also list other titles that can be used for events that happened on that day. The site provides an easy way for people to gain information about the best books to share with children, a day at a time. Now a paperback edition of The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac is also available, for those who like to search for information on the printed page. The Almanac leads adults to books that they will enjoy – and ones that children have enthusiastically endorsed.
Another great resource for titles, ReadKiddoRead.com contains reviews of new books, many with the qualities that may well make them classics. There are also themed booklists available on the site to help adults find books for kids that focus on particular subjects, holidays, age levels. All of the books at ReadKiddoRead are selected because they are proven kid-pleasers, books that will ignite a passion for reading.
Reading research reveals that sharing a book with a child, 10-20 minutes a day, is the most important thing that can be done to guarantee a child's later success. In adulthood people mention not only the books that changed their lives but the people who shared them. If, during this Valentine season, you want to do something of lasting significance, give the children you love books and read those books to them. It is also a way for you to become part of their most cherished memories. Happy reading – whatever your favorite classic happens to be.
Begin with some of these classics:
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery (Ages 9 and up)
CHARLOTTE'S WEB by E. B. White; illustrated by Garth Williams (Read aloud: ages 5 up; Read alone: ages 8 up)
THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkein (Ages 11 up)
MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL by Virgnia Lee Burton (Ages 4-8)
THE SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats (Ages 3-6)
THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle (Ages 3-6)
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak (Ages 4-8)
A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L'Engle (Ages 9 up)
Anita Silvey writes and speaks about children's books across the country. She is the creator of The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac and author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book.
By Pam Yosca Christmas, Hanukkah, and birthdays: opportunities to slide classic, literary titles from your own childhood into your kids' hands or a chance to prove how well you know your children's taste in current books?
Should you give kids the popular books they want? Absolutely! We want children to enjoy reading, and find camaraderie with other kids in the books they have in common. Should you also seek books that go beyond your children's wish lists and push through their reading comfort zones? Yes! You can be a helpful guide in your children's literary development, in tandem with their independent choices. Kids are actually quite likely to give your selections a chance, because as parents, you are a trusted resource (even if they tell you otherwise.)
We were curious to know what books kids asked for this past holiday season, as well as what books they received. How do kids make book selections? Are they influenced by their friends? Parents? Other knowledgeable adults? Do they want help finding new books, or do they want to be left alone when it comes to choosing books for their own not-for-school reading?
To find out, Pam Yosca, a middle school librarian, talked to several readers, ages 10 to 13, from two public schools in Boston. The results? Kids generally know what they like to read. The loudest message from our casual, parent-and-teacher-free conversation is that many young readers are comfortable with the process of selecting books for themselves and appreciate the freedom to do so. Despite that, young readers are still likely to read (and enjoy!) a book thoughtfully selected by a grownup who knows and cares about his or her reading interests. Read on to learn more.
What books did you request and receive for Christmas/Hanukkah?
"The SEPTIMUS HEAP books by Angie Sage."
"Falcon Quinn by Jennifer Finney Boyle"
"The fifth book in THE MISSING series by Margot Peterson Haddix."
"I didn't ask for books for Christmas but got a lot! I read all of the books my mom and dad gave me already. They know how much I read and that I always need to find more books. I think they get help from the bookstore lady, too."
"I asked for Gary Paulsen books"
"I put two books from THE LORD OF THE RINGS on my list, but didn't get them. I don't know why."
Did you get books that you did not ask for? Have you/will you read these books?
"The Maze Runner by James Dashner. It's really good, have you read it? It's a trilogy."
"A nonfiction book on photography to go with the camera I got for my birthday. It's cool and useful."
"I got The Princess Bride by William Golding but haven't read it. I might someday."
"My younger brothers gave me the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book by Jeff Kinney. Of course I read it."
"Some fantasy book with dragons…way too many dragons!"
"Just-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. They were good!! I recognized some characters and stories from movies and from something we read in school."
"I got The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes and read it, and also Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink."
"I got a big book of Greek Myths, because I love the Rick Riordan books."
"I didn't ask for any books, but got The Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, The Girls' Life Ultimate Guide to Surviving Middle School and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. I read all of them, and think you should consider getting The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for the school library!"
"Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh. It's a book about girl geniuses. I read it at school already, but there are a lot of girls in our house, so this is good to have."
"My grandma gave me The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley. She said it's a classic book. I'll definitely read it."
"A Leonardo da Vinci biography by Kathleen Krull. I read it, but it was really boring."
"I got a biography of Cleopatra, but I'm not very excited about it."
Do you think your parents have a good idea of what you like to read?
"I like it when I find a great book myself and then my parents read it to see why I love it. Then my mom finds me other books that are similar. She also gives me books that she read when she was little."
"I asked for some books for Christmas, and got a few from my parents that I didn't know. All the books look pretty interesting. My parents like to talk about books, and ask lots of questions about the books I read. I think they know what I like."
"My parents always want to see a sample of a book before we buy it for my Nook, so my mom really knows what books I like to read. She also looks at my book choices at the library or bookstore, and says which ones are okay for us to borrow or buy."
"Sometimes my parents try to give me books that they think I should read. At first I really didn't want to read THE MISSING series by Haddix, but my mom kept insisting. One afternoon I had nothing to read, so I tried them, and I really liked them!!"
"Out of 30 books my parents have given me, I've liked maybe 5 of them. They try to take me to the bookstore and share books with me, and we tend to get into arguments. But I read a lot!"
"My parents have a pretty good idea of what I like to read, and we read books together and talk about them."
"My parents always buy me classic books, but I prefer to get recommendations from friends."
"I like to find my own books, but I do like help, too. If it wasn't for my dad I wouldn't have started reading Greek Mythology, but I picked out the PERCY JACKSON books on my own."
"My parents used to do story time with me when I was little, and I would always pick out the books. I still like to find my own books."
"My brother and sister know exactly what I like to read, because they see me reading all the time!"
"I don't usually listen to what grownups say about books. I like to find my own books."
"It depends. My dad recommended The Hobbit and THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, and since it had wizards and dwarves, I said I would give it a try. So if a grownup describes a book that is an adventure or fantasy, my two favorite genres, I'll take that recommendation, but not otherwise."
Do you look to other adults for book advice?
"Yes! The librarian at the public library." [Every child echoed this.]
"Not really, I like to trust my own self."
"Yes, a good family friend gives me new, interesting books, every year. She introduced me to The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders, and I really liked that book. You should read it!"
"Not really. I just go to the graphic novel area of the library or bookstore."
"No, but if a grownup gives me a book, I usually will try it. That's how I got into the Maze Runner series by James Dashner—someone I barely know gave it to me! "
How do you find out about new books?
"I try to find new books by the same author of a book I really liked. Then read everything!"
"I am going to the library this afternoon!"
"I force myself to read a book I don't know anything about. If it has boring parts, sometimes I'll skip them and read the interesting parts instead. Then I'll go back and read the boring parts."
"I usually get recommendations from friends, or, I go to the library and pick out a book that looks good and read a bit of it. When I realize I like the book a lot, I'll find more books by that author or look at the references on the back."
"I find out if I like a book by reading the back cover or flap, and also by reading a few pages, at the beginning, or scattered throughout."
"I do that, too; I start reading it. I actually hardly ever read books that I don't like, because I make sure I really want to read it all first."
Thanks to the students from The Curley K-8 School and MATCH Middle School, both in Jamaica Plain, Boston: Charlie (6th grade), Claire (5th grade), Emmet (4th grade), Lacrisha (7th grade), Margot (4th grade), Nathan (6th grade), Nolan (4th grade), Nuala (5th grade), Suki (5th grade), and Willa (5th grade).