Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Great chapter books to read with your kids

This site has a great list of classic chapter books.  Most of them are books that you know about but it is always good to have a reminder. 

While I loved many of the books on the list I will say that when I got to be about 12 I started actively avoiding books that had won the Newberry medal.  That little silver circle on the front cover actually acted as a warning sign rather than a recommendation.  I started associating those silver circles with "coming of age" stories and someone always seemed to die and then the kid was sent to live with taciturn relatives in the middle of nowhere.  I was an avid reader and I liked "heavy" books sometimes but sometimes you just want to read some Sweet Valley High books or the naughty bits in the Judy Blume books, you know? 

Some of my favourites are on the list. I really can't say enough about the Ramona books or Pippi Longstocking or A Wrinkle in Time or Little Women or... well I could go on for days. Books and especially kids books are kind of my favourite thing in the world. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention my husband's favourite book as a kid, Where the Red Fern Grows, which is without a doubt the most boyish book ever written.

Here are some books that didn't make the list of great books but are a lot of fun nonetheless. Not as fun as Forever by Judy Blume so don't worry about that.  The titles link to goodreads so that you can read reviews of the books if you want more information. 

1.  Dr. Dolittle  My husband picked this up at a garage sale and I read it to the kids over the course of a couple of days and they loved it!  "One more chapter, PLEASE!" every time I had to put the book down.  This is actually the first in a series of books of Dr. Dolittle's adventures.  This one explains how Dr. Dolittle comes to treat and talk to animals and sends him on an adventure by sea to Africa along with some of his animal friends.  Once there he manages to obtain a pushmi-pullyu, the rarest of beasts.   Apparently, I have a fairly recent edition of this book which has had some racists bits removed.  From the sounds of it, no plots are affected by the redactions, it is more a matter of that casual off hand racism that old timey British people seemed so fond of.  If you find an older copy you will need to have a talk with your kids about the outdated ideas that pop up. 

2.  The Hundred Dresses  This short novel is more than a little heart breaking.  I am a stiff upper lip repressed British person  so I wouldn't say that I cried (a lot) while reading this book to my kids but there was definitely something in my eyes there at the end.  Yes, both of them.  It is the story of a young girl who wears the same dress to school every day and is teased for it by her classmates.  She claims to have 100 dresses at home but no one believes her. 

3.  Encyclopedia Brown  Thankfully, they have not (yet) renamed this series "Wikipedia Brown).  I am pretty useless at solving mysteries even now as a grown up but I still like them.  This is a good starter series for young kids since each story is quite short.  Each book usually has a few stories in it so they are good for kids who don't have the attention span to read a long mystery but still want something a little bit challenging.  You may have to explain what an encyclopedia is though which is bound to make you feel really old!

4.  A Bear Called Paddington The first in a series of books about a not so bright but sweet and rather jolly bear who makes his way (somehow) from deepest darkest Peru to Paddington station in London.  You are going to need to get some marmalade since it is Paddington's favourite food and if your kids haven't tried it they will want to once they read about it in the book.  Also, why are literary bears always so (lovably) dumb? 

5. Crispin  The main character is a nameless bastard of a peasant woman who can't stand him.  So, right off the bat, you know you are in for the feel good book of the year eh?  No, it's not a warm and fuzzy book but it has lots of action and adventure and would appeal to older kids and probably more boys than girls.  It is the first in a series so if your kid likes this one they can follow up with the rest.  By the way, most of Avi's books are worth a read and he has written nearly a hundred of them so you shouldn't have any trouble tracking one or two down.

6. Gooney Bird Greene  If your kids like the Ramona books (and who doesn't?) they will probably also like Gooney Bird Greene.  Gooney Bird Greene is a new student in Miss Pidgeon's grade two class who tells stories that are "absolutely true".  The book is funny and cute and if your kids are anything like mine they will be going around saying things like "when SUDDENLY..." for days after reading this book.  There is a good audio book version for long car rides too. 

7. Silverwing Kenneth Oppel is a Canadian author and Silverwing is the first in a trilogy of books following the adventures of a bat who gets separated from his mom and the rest of his group while migrating.  Lots of adventure and intrigue, especially considering it is about a bat.  You can watch a trailer for the book at Kenneth Oppel's site.

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