A Blog of Children's Literature

Suggested Summer Reading Ideas for Franklin Fine Arts Center May 28, 2012

Filed under: summer reading — akibird @ 7:48 pm
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Included below are book suggestions and ways to encourage your children to read more.  Please note this list is only a suggested list and a starting point for finding books that children love.  Many of these books can be found at the Chicago Public Library and have been voted as favorites in the Bluestem, Monarch, Caudill, and Abraham Lincoln Awards.  Find other awards and winning books on the Association for Library Service to Children website by clicking on the different awards.  Also, consider participating in the Chicago Public Library’s Summer Reading Program: You Are What You Read and find these healthy book choices at your local CPL branch.

Ways to engage kids in reading more:

  • Let kids choose subjects they love.  They’re more likely to finish books they pick out themselves.
  • Set the example. Model good reading behaviors.  Find time for your child to read at least 20 minutes every day.  This encourages a lifelong love of reading and learning.
  • Lead them to reading.  Talk about books.  Continue to read aloud to children, regardless of their age.

K-1st grade

ABC, I Like Me by Nancy Carlson
Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo
Cha Cha Chimps by Julia Durango
Dogku by Andrew Clements
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming
Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian
Never Smile at a Monkey: and 17 Other Important Things to Remember by Steve Jenkins
Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
Otis by Loren Long
Panda Kindergarten by Joanne Ryder
Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton

2nd-3rd grade

Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Baby Mouse by Jennifer Holm (series)
Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce (series)
The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton
Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise
Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows (series)
Just Grace by Charise Mercile Harper (series)
Knights of the Lunch Table by Frank Cammuso (series)
Lunch Lady by Jarrett Krosoczka (series)
Marty McGuire by Kate Messner
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca
Nic Bishop Frogs by Nic Bishop
Testing the Ice: A True Story about Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson
The World According to Humphrey by Betty Birney

4th-5th grade

Alvin Ho by Lenore Look (series)
Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys by Matt Phelan
Bad News for Outlaws by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugen Yelchin
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Dodger and Me by Jordan Sonnenblick
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynee Jonell
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry
Houdini Box by Brian Selznick
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio
Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories about Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka
No Talking by Andrew Clements
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki
Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis

6th-8th  grade

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
Elephant Talk: The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication by Ann Downer
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Extra Credit by Andrew Clements
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Peak by Roland Smith
Powerless by Matthew Cody
The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Sir Charlie Chaplin: Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle


A Blogger’s Blogs September 20, 2011

As I continue to work toward my career as a school librarian, I value the thoughts, opinions, and reviews of those who have come before me. Narrowing my picks to only a few professional librarian or journal blogs has been difficult, but I thought I would share some of my favorites with you. While my blog has a limited scope of one person’s responses to a limited list of children’s and YA books, these blogs often share so much more from the children’s library and publishing worlds. Click away, peruse their professional suggestions, and enjoy the new goodies!

A Fuse #8 Production
A Fuse #8 Production
is an SLJ children’s literature blog written by Elizabeth Bird, who works for the NYPL system, served on the Newberry Award Committee, and has written for Horn Book. Her blog shares her reviews of new books, predictions of future award winners, literary events, and fun video finds. Her in-the-know writing style shares a lot of great information in quick posts and helps me stay on top of the children’s literature buzz.

Out of the Box
Horn Book has some amazing writers. It was hard to choose from Roger Sutton’s Read Roger, HB’s newest blog Calling Caldecott, or Out of the Box. However, I am drawn to almost every post in Out of the Box by the staff sharing “an exclusive look at what comes into the Horn Book offices.” The blog covers new reads, interesting finds (such as the cool app Shake & Make), and comical musings. After reading Sutton’s A Family of Readers, I grew to understand Horn Book’s impressive collective knowledge and experience, and I cherish this peek behind the HB office doors.

The Hub: Your Connection to Teen Reads
Finally, I have really enjoyed reading YALSA’s The Hub: Your Connection to Teen Reads. I have a special place in my heart for YA lit and am always reminded of the small readers services I performed as an English teacher. As ALA’s official Young Adult Library Services Association, the blog provides pertinent information and books shared by its staff. I found many exciting and interesting books reading the blog’s themed book list posts and know I will use their suggestions in future co-teaching instances.


The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook April 18, 2011

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat CrookThe Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis (2009)

Graphic Book, 154 pages

Julian Calendar is an 11-year-old junior high student who has trouble fitting in. He looks 8 years old, wears a hand-me-down pink flowered backpack from his mother, and most importantly, is a genius inventor. When his parents tell him that they are going to move to a new town, Julian jumps at a second chance to spark his social life and fit in. At his new school, Julian attempts to be “ordinary” by hating homework and loving sports. However, when he receives a coded note, Julian cannot resist figuring it out. It leads him to two clever classmates who have been watching him and have figured out he is also a secret scientist like them. Together they combine forces to become the Secret Science Alliance and work in their hideout building amazing contraptions. However, everything starts to go wrong when their invention notebook with all their secret ideas is stolen. Together they must overcome adult obstacles, get back their notebook, and solve an even bigger dilemma. Davis’ graphic novel builds on the typical comic book format yet uses her eye for detail and excitement for science to create her own unique style. With characters, color, and quick-paced dialogue that readers 9 and up can enjoy, readers will finish The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook wanting to study and become the next secret scientist.


Alabama Moon April 13, 2011

Alabama MoonAlabama Moon by Watt Key
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alabama Moon by Watt Key (2006)

Adventure, 304 pages

Moon Blake is only 10 years old, but he knows how to survive in the wild and live off of the forest. Moon and his Pap have been avoiding the law and living in a half underground structure deep in the woods for almost all of Moon’s life. When his father dies unexpectedly and tells Moon to go to Alaska and find others like them, Moon is thrust into a whole new world outside the comfort of his natural surroundings. Moon then really learns what it’s like to run from the law as a boys’ home director and a sadistic constable are out to get him. Using his outdoor survival skills, Moon attempts to break out of confinement, find his way to Alaska, and live free. However, Moon’s heart begins to change as he makes friends with boys at the home, particularly Kit a sickly boy who admires Moon and his former lifestyle. In his first novel, Watt Key does an exceptional job portraying a boy who knows everything about survival but has a lot to learn about friendship, trust, and himself. The reader sees Moon grow into a multilayer character with his increasing doubts in his father’s plans for him, his inability to make an adequate medicine for Kit, and his ultimate decision to stop running. Readers who like adventure, strong male characters, and stronger introspection will appreciate Moon’s narration and his journey home. I would recommend Alabama Moon in a booktalk to share with 9-12 year olds who enjoy adventure and heart.


Falling In

Filed under: Adventure and Fantasy — akibird @ 3:26 pm
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Falling InFalling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Falling In By Frances O’Roark Dowell (2010)

Fantasy, 256 pages

Isabelle Bean was never a normal child and neither is this half fairytale. After being sent to the office again for something that was not her fault, 11-year-old Isabelle turns a knob to a door that is supposed to lead her into the nurse’s closet but instead finds herself falling in true Alice in Wonderland fashion. She lands in a new world with five villages and learns that an evil witch has been hunting children from one village each season. While most children flee north to a camp that hides them away, Isabelle relishes the idea of meeting a true witch and heads south. However, what Isabelle finds is even a surprise to her on this magical journey. Along the way, she finds a new friend, meets her grandmother for the first time, and learns who she really is. Throughout the tale, a crafty and silly narrator shares the story but often takes alternating chapters to step out of the story and speak directly to the readers, pulling them into the action and building suspense. O’Roark’s narrator and story details add a touch of whimsy to this modern day fairytale, encouraging readers to imagine the unimaginable. All you have to do is turn that doorknob and believe “the unexpected lies beyond the door” (138). A great read for 8-12 year-olds who still cling to the lure of fairytales and magical places.


Gregor the Overlander

Filed under: Adventure and Fantasy — akibird @ 3:21 pm
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Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1)Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (2003)

Fantasy, 320 pages

11-year-old Gregor quickly becomes the man of the house when his dad mysteriously disappeared two years ago, while his mother was pregnant with Margaret. Gregor’s little sister Margaret, or “Boots,” now 2 years old, is his responsibility as his grandma is going senile and his mother has to work to provide for their now one-parent family. Gregor prepares for the hot boring summer as he watches Boots and does laundry in his family’s New York City apartment building basement. However, his dull summer plans quickly change as Boots mysteriously disappears into an air vent in the laundry room with him chasing frantically behind. What follows is similar to O’Roark’s Falling In and Carroll’s famous Alice and Wonderland when Gregor lands in the Underland and meets a group of translucent-skinned humans and a cast of talking creatures who have been living in this underground world. Initially, Gregor just wants to make it home with Boots before his mother gets home from work and he gets in serious trouble. However, his feelings change when he finds his father is being held prisoner by rats, and he must depend on the kindness of human-sized cockroaches, bats, spiders, and a rogue rat to lead him to his father and save his travel Underland companions. Completely overwhelmed Gregor realizes that everyone thinks he is the warrior, the one who has come to fulfill the Prophecy of Gray and save the Underland from rat domination. With just as much action and internal questioning as Katniss in Collins’ bestselling The Hunger Games, the author creates a young hero who must set his priorities and show courage in the face of adversity. With a little bit more humor and less focus on themes of politics and dictating regimes, Gregor the Overlander speaks to a younger reading audience who is still drawn to the same spirit as that in Collins’ second series. I would definitely recommend this book to 9-year-olds and up who enjoy adventure and getting lost in a little fantasy.


The Underneath

The UnderneathThe Underneath by Kathi Appelt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (2008)

Fantasy, 336 pages

Both a Newberry Honor Book and a National Book Award Finalist, The Underneath is a story about a pregnant calico cat that has been abandoned by her family on the side of the road. With nowhere to go, she tramps through the forest and the Bayou Tartine until she hears the baying of a lonely hound named Ranger. Forming a strange pair, the cat and dog have an instant bond of friendship and build a family together with the two new kittens, despite Ranger’s evil owner, Gar Face. The alternating narrative also offers the tale of Grandmother Moccasin, a Water Moccasin snake over a thousand years old, who patiently waits for the day she is freed from her imprisonment in an ancient jar. In her debut novel, Kathi Appelt does a stellar job intertwining stories to build a mystical bayou’s past and present full of animals and their human spirits, weaving in the culture and beliefs of the Caddo people. The Underneath shares characters’ struggles to put aside vengeance and accept love, desires to conquer their fears for their loved ones, and despair to find someone to fill the void in a solitary existence. David Small’s illustrations pepper the book, personifying imagery that Appelt creates in a dark forested tale that ultimately sheds light on the meaning of love. Reminiscent of oral traditions with repeated lines and poetic narrative, the book might not normally appeal to reluctant readers. However, the multiple layers and short chapters of the narrative will attract diverse readership in grades 4-8.