Archive for the ‘Terrific Chapter Books’ Category

Happy New Year…here’s to starting over with middle grade readers

Posted on January 9th, 2012 by Jody

Guest contributor Jody looks at welcoming middle grade readers back to school in January.

I ended 2011 in the middle or near the end of too many projects. It’s always a dilmena to me; do I start fresh, trying to re-engergize and engage the kids all over, or do I carry on from where we left off and show them the value and necessity in finishing what we start?

I did a little of both. When holidays started, I had only read 1/3 of a book called Lady in a Box, by Ann McGovern. It ties in so nicely to the holiday season, giving, and caring for others. It’s a great way to connect the kids to the outside world and to learn a number of powerful strategies in reading and writing. I was also reading Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies, as my read aloud. As well, the students were each in 1 of 5 reading groups, which were not going well. In addition to all of this, we were reading an assortment of Christmas picture books because the kids were creating their own children’s stories.

It’s difficult to walk away from some things, but on the other hand, if the students aren’t getting enough out of it, or if the teaching is not having the effect you thought it would, sometimes it’s better to cut and run. So, I fast tracked Lady in A Box because the story is worthwhile and the message applies to life in general and not just a season. One down. I took the kids out of their reading groups because it was not going at all the way I planned and it was putting some of the kids off reading. Two down. I also gave up on Lemonade War because we have been talking about this book since September and many of the kids had read it. Three down. Then, I had to re-evaluate what it is I want and need the kids to know and decide how to help them get there. Eliminating the first two things was the first step.

The second step was to revitalize and re-energize the students. January is a new year, a fresh start, and in many ways, another September. We have to re-teach and review routines and expectations and we have to “hook” them again. I needed something that would immediately draw them in and help me re-work my book club as well. I found and started Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I’m going to have to do a whole post dedicated just to Inkheart because it’s so good. For now though, I won’t go into too much detail about the novel. Just let me say that it has given my new year a definite push in the right direction.

The kids are are hooked on the novel (some have read it but are being awesome and not giving any information away). They’re settling into routine quicker because in order to squeeze in a whole chapter each day, I have to start the read aloud right after recess. In addition to this, they’re already, in just four days, becoming more proficient at recognizing and asking lower level questions. What a great start to 2012 in the classroom!!

So, while I was sorry to put Lemonade War aside because I hate to leave things unfinished, I think it’s important to recognize when we need to do just that. Some things just don’t work the way you want them to. Part of learning and being successful, for us and for the students, is knowing when you need to step back and try another route. Sometimes giving up one thing in favor of spending your time and energy on something else is a better way to achieve your goal. For me, I gave up Lemonade War to allow for time to read Inkheart. I gave up my small book club groups to do whole group instruction, which is turning out way better.

So, whether it’s giving up on something, trading off, or trying a completely different approach, the important thing is to keep the end in mind. In the end, I want students to be engaged in what we are reading, to be thoughtful writers, and to know that when something just isn’t working, it’s okay to try a different tactic. We learn by doing. Sometimes what we learn, is that we have to start over. Happy New Year.

The Lady in the Box at Amazon.com

The Lady in the Box at Amazon.ca

Inkheart at Amazon.com

Inkheart at Amazon.ca

Secret World of Og

Posted on November 24th, 2011 by Jody

Storytime Standouts' guest contributor recommends middle grade fiction,  The Secret World of Og by Pierre BertonThe Secret World of Og written by Pierre Berton
Middle grade fiction published by McClelland & Stewart





Many of you might remember this tale as one of your own childhood favorites; I do. It’s been delightful to learn that this fun adventure story continues to entertain and engage audiences.

It’s the tale of four children, Penny, Pamela, Peter, and Paul who they affectionately call Pollywog. They love to make believe and a trip through the floor of their playhouse leads them on an amazing journey to a place called Og.

Between the adorable humor and the endearing characters, the tale stays with you. When I read it to my daughter this summer, I had fond memories of reading it when I was only a bit older than her. My student teacher asked if she could read it aloud to our class because it had been a favourite of hers. The students are loving it and creating vivid comic strips that highlight the best parts of the book. We decided to do a bulletin board to display the comics and many of the adults at our school commented on how much they loved the book when they were little. It is simply one of those classics that any generation can relate to and enjoy.

The four children, each with their own unique personality traits, discover a hidden world under their playhouse, filled with all of the toys, clothes, and random items they thought they had lost over the years. They find themselves surrounded by small green people who only speak one word: “Og”.

The children soon find out that the people of Og can use real words, but their style of speech resembles the comic books that the kids love. Somewhere along the way, the kids have left books out in the yard that have made their way down to Og. The result is a bunch of Og people living a parallel life to the four children. They all enjoy comics, make believe, and dressing up.

Some of my favourite parts of the book include the Pollywog’s continuous jailbreaks, Earless Osdick (the cat that thinks it’s a dog) being mistaken at the Og market as a rabbit, and Peter disguising himself as a little green man.

Published in 1961, it represents the meaning of “timeless tale”. If you haven’t read it before, or even if you have, it is worth the read.

The Secret World of Og at Amazon.com

The Secret World of Og at Amazon.ca

Check out this 1991 Front Page Challenge episode with Pierre Berton and his daughter, Patsy talking about the 30th anniversary of the book. Patsy illustrated the original version of The Secret World of Og.

World War I Historical Fiction for Youth – I Am Canada: Shot at Dawn

Posted on November 5th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Shot at Dawn by John Wilson Historical Fiction for YouthShot at Dawn by John Wilson
Published by Scholastic Canada



I Am Canada: Shot at Dawn is the intense, thrilling and tragic story of Allan McBride, a young Canadian who, during World War I, wanted to follow in the footsteps of his childhood hero and friend, Ken Harrison. Whilst growing up together on Vancouver Island, McBride and Harrison had enjoyed many childhood adventures. Just seventeen and very naive, McBride is certain that joining his friend on a World War I battlefield in France will lead to further pleasurable escapades. Harrison, who has already experienced the horrors of combat, is not at all enthusiastic about McBride’s enlistment and subsequent arrival in France. Eventually, at McBride’s insistence, the two go to battle together. The horrors of World War I trench warfare are too much for both men. Harrison is shot and presumed to have been killed. McBride suffers shell-shock and, while confused and delusional, leaves his unit. He intends to walk home. Eventually, after finding other fugitives in a forested area, he hides until he is taken into custody by his childhood friend. Clearly unwell, McBride is accused of desertion. While awaiting dawn arrival of an the executioner, Allan McBride describes his horrifying experiences in the trenches near Amiens, France.

Although the I Am Canada series is suggested for nine to twelve year olds, be advised that Shot at Dawn depicts the grim reality of trench warfare. Although fascinating, it may be disturbing to some readers.

Update June 18, 2012, Shot at Dawn is nominated for the Geoffrey Bilson Award For Historical Fiction For Young People

The I Am Canada series website includes discussion guides, book excerpts, activities and video clips.

Shot at Dawn: World War I at Amazon.com

Shot at Dawn: World War I at Amazon.ca



No Pets Allowed – Matthew and Fred Will Win You Over

Posted on November 2nd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

.Storytime Standouts write about No Pets AllowedNo Pets Allowed
Written by Irene N. Watts and illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker
Generously illustrated chapter book published by Tradewind Books



When eight-year-old Matthew and his mom move from their rural home to the West End neighborhood of Vancouver, Matthew is forced to leave his beloved dog behind. Matthew’s grandparents will care for Lucky as he and his mom establish themselves in a downtown apartment building that does not allow pets. Matthew begins school and tries to adjust to city life but he misses his pet terribly. He is hopeful that, before long, they will move again and be reunited with Lucky.

One night, after settling for sleep, Matthew hears a familiar sound; he is sure there is something under his bed. Moments later, he feels a rough tongue, licking his cheek. Some refer to ‘Fred’ as an imaginary dog but, for Matthew, he is very real indeed. It is not long before the apartment landlord is convinced that Matthew is hiding a pet in the apartment.

This generously illustrated, eleven chapter book will be thoroughly enjoyed by boys and girls aged seven to nine. I particularly appreciated the realistic portrayal of the relationship between Matthew and his mother; Matthew wanting Lucky to live with the family, his mother unable to find an apartment that will allow the dog. Her nervousness in dealing with an wary apartment manager and the compassion of neighbors all contribute to making No Pets Allowed a good choice for young readers.

No Pets Allowed at Amazon.com

No Pets Allowed at Amazon.ca


Unexpected Twists and Turns in Measle and the Wrathmonk Will Engage Reluctant Readers

Posted on October 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Measle and the Wrathmonk will appeal to reluctant readersMeasle and the Wrathmonk written by Ian Ogilvy
Chapter book for middle grade and reluctant readers published by Oxford University Press





Measle and the Wrathmonk is one of my new favourite chapter book series for middle grade readers. Ten year old Measle lives a deplorable life. He is hungry most of the time, he is fifthy and lives in a wretched house with a menacing guardian. He has been told that his parents were killed by a snake but Measle is unconvinced and hopes he will be reunited one day.

Although the set up of Measle and the Wrathmonk seems all too familiar (orphaned child, deplorable conditions), Ogilvy creates unexpected and exciting twists and turns that are sure to engage young readers. Measle is a winner and well worth trying with reluctant readers. Additional books in the series include Measle and the Dragodon, Measle and the Mallockee.

Measle and the Wrathmonk at Amazon.com

Measle and the Wrathmonk at Amazon.ca

Visit our page about reluctant readers for more information.


Mysteries, Humor and School Life for Reluctant Readers

Posted on October 26th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Chapter Books for Reluctant Readers Mysteries Humor School Life




Almost every time I make a Parent Ed presentation, someone asks for recommendations for the preteen crowd. Sometimes the request is very specific, “My daughter loves skating. Could you suggest a chapter book she might like?” Very often the request is for something, anything that a reluctant reader will enjoy. Lately, I’ve been kept busy by Ready Set, Learn presentations. I’ve not had much time for reading. When the calendar is full to the brim, I often turn to short chapter books, looking for a new gem that will appeal to young readers.

Here are some of the books I’ve been reading…

The Clue At The Bottom Of The Lake written by Kristiana Gregory
Chapter book series for grade two/three readers published by Scholastic



Let’s begin with The Clue At The Bottom Of The Lake (Cabin Creek Mysteries). This is the second book in the new Cabin Creek Mysteries series. Appropriate for seven to ten year olds, it has a grade 3 Reading Level. I enjoyed the book and am confident that this is a series both boys and girls will enjoy. Set in a small, lakeside town, we follow three cousins as they investigate the dumping of a large and mysterious bundle into the lake near Lost Island. Young detectives will enjoy the twists and turns as Claire, David and Jeff work to discover the contents of the bundle and who is responsible for dumping it in ‘their’ lake.

The Clue at the Bottom of the Lake (Cabin Creek Mysteries) at Amazon.com

The Clue at the Bottom of the Lake (Cabin Creek Mysteries) at Amazon.ca

Sir Gadabout Out of Time written by Martyn Beardsley
Chapter book series for grade two/three readers published by Orion Children’s Books




Sir Gadabout is the ‘Worst Knight in the World.’ A creation of Martyn Beardsley, the series is illustrated by Tony Ross so we know that we are in for some fun. In Sir Gadabout Out of Time, disaster strikes when King Arthur allows Sir Gadabout to cut his hair. Before long, Merlin is enlisted to turn back time. Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly) the spell goes wrong and Sir Gadabout finds himself in a futuristic world with cell phones and cars. Good fun for nine to twelve year olds.

Sir Gadabout Out of Time at Amazon.com

Sir Gadabout Out of Time at Amazon.ca


Ivan the Terrible written by Anne Fine
Chapter book series for grade two/three readers published by Egmont Books Ltd


Poor Boris, he is in a real ‘pickle.’ He’s been asked to be a ‘chum’ and translate for a new classmate. They both speak Russian and Boris is asked to help the new boy adjust to life at St. Edmund’s, the civilized school. Before long, Boris realizes that Ivan is really quite nasty and the job of translating is going to be trickier than he had expected. A fine choice for nine to twelve year olds,
Ivan the Terrible won the silver medal in the 2007 Nestlé Children’s Book awards.

Ivan the Terrible at Amazon.com

Ivan the Terrible at Amazon.ca

Visit our page about reluctant readers for more information. You will find our posts about chapter book series here.

Might I Suggest Graphic Novels for your Reluctant Reader?

Posted on October 24th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Graphic novels are similar to comic books in that they rely heavily on illustrations to tell much of the story. Graphic novels often appeal to reluctant readers but they are equally enjoyed by those who are fluent.




Bone and Babymouse are both currently very popular graphic novel series for children. Babymouse is clearly intended primarily for girls and is good fun.

Babymouse #1: Queen of the World! at Amazon.com

Babymouse #1: Queen of the World! at Amazon.ca



Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi is a new series. My ten year old son and I each read Book One, The Stonekeeper. I read the book first and then he picked it up and devoured it shortly thereafter. The story begins with a dramatic and tragic car accident that apparently kills Emily and Navin’s father. Two years later, depleted finances force the family to move into a home that has been empty ever since Great Grandpa mysteriously disappeared. It is not long before the children find themselves on a desperate quest to save their mother from a tentacled creature she encounters in the basement.

My son and I both enjoyed the book – he more than I. The author/illustrator does a terrific job of setting up further adventures. He leaves many questions unanswered and will undoubtably draw readers to subsequent books in the series.

I feel I would be remiss if I did not comment on the death scene midway through the book. Neither of my sons (aged 10 and 12) found the illustrations of a dying and then dead man remarkable. I’m not sure what that says about their de-sensitization thanks to movies and video games. Anyhow, I was surprised to see the man, eyes wide open, followed by another frame wherein a character closed his eyes and a third frame where his dead body was covered with a sheet (pages 110 – 112 in my copy). My boys were very matter of fact about the illustrations. Take a look for yourself and post your thoughts.

The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1) at Amazon.com

The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1) at Amazon.ca

Bone at Amazon.com

Bone at Amazon.ca

You may be interested in our page about reluctant readers.


Three Cheers for Rick Riordan and The Lightning Thief

Posted on October 22nd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

A while back, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of about 60 enthusiastic parents. Their children attend North Delta Parent Participation Preschool and I talked to them about ways to promote phonemic awareness, alphabet recognition and reading in general. One of the things I said was that even when we do everything “right” and lay a solid foundation for reading success, sometimes children just aren’t keen to read. Some children are much more enthusiastic about “doing.” As I said those words, I thought about my ten year old. He loves good books, is a good reader and has heard many fine books but we almost never catch him reading. He prefers non fiction to fiction and has a shelf full of books about animals.


When I arrived home last night, the house was awfully quiet. My husband was sitting at the computer and I had to ask him where the boys were. I was stunned to discover that they were both on top of their beds engrossed in chapter books. For my eldest, this is not at all unusual but for my ten year old it was momentous. Truly, I can’t recall it ever happening before.

My eldest son is rereading the Harry Potter series and enjoying every minute. He is fascinated by the small, seemingly insignificant details that are mentioned in one book, “forgotten” for awhile and then resurface two books later. I laughed when a casual acquaintance remarked on the fact that he was only reading the fifth book because I know he has devoured alll the books at least once and most of them two or three times.

But, back to the shocking events of last night. It just goes to show the importance of finding the “right” book. Our house is jammed with books but not one of them has captivated my ten year old like The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. It is the first book in a series about Percy Jackson & The Olympians My son started reading it at school, used holiday money to buy Book One and Book Two and now can’t put it down. He tells me I will have to wait until he finishes before I can read The Lightning Thief. Trust me, I can’t wait to discover the magic.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-3) at Amazon.com

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Boxed Set at Amazon.ca



The Wave Walkers – This Series Will Draw Middle Grade Readers Like Pirates to Treasure

Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Recommends Middle Grade Fiction The Wave Runners, book one of the Wave Walkers seriesThe Wave Runners by Kai Meyer
Teen fiction published by Egmont UK Ltd.





The Wave Runner is the first book in an exciting, fantasy-adventure trilogy for middle grade readers. Mr. Meyer meshes an exotic Caribbean setting, dangerous, swash-buckling pirates and intriguing fantastical creatures to create an exciting tale.

We follow the story of Jolly, a 14 year old polliwiggle (someone who can walk on water). Jolly could be the last surviving polliwiggle and is certainly a key to to defeating evil forces that threaten the Caribbean.

Be warned, the ending of this book leaves many questions unanswered and will draw readers to (Part 2) The Shell Magicians like pirates to treasure.

Pirate Curse (The Wave Walkers Book One)
The Wave Runners at Amazon.ca



A Refreshing Change from Fantasy: Mystery in the Frozen Lands

Posted on October 20th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts reads Mystery in the Frozen by Martyn GodfreyThis past weekend, my son’s teacher loaned me a copy of Mystery in the Frozen Lands by Martyn Godfrey. He has ordered a class set of the book and his grade 4/5 class will be reading it later this year. What a great choice! It was very refreshing to read historical fiction – I’ve been reading so much fantasy of late.

Mystery in the Frozen Lands is set in the mid 1900’s and is told from the perspective of a fourteen year old boy: Peter Griffin. Peter is anxious to learn what happened to his uncle, Sir John Franklin. Franklin departed England twelve years earlier, in search of the Northwest Passage. Neither he nor his crew of 128 men returned.

Quite apart from creating an captivating mystery with respect to Franklin’s disappearance, Mr. Godfrey tells of the terrible hardships endured on a voyage of this kind. While enjoying the very readable story, we learn a great deal about life as a ship’s boy and especially the cruel Arctic Winter.

Mystery in the Frozen Lands at Amazon.com

Mystery in the Frozen Lands at Amazon.ca

Atom Rep (Hockey) tryouts are underway… Paul Romanuk has scored a winner with this title

Posted on September 16th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Atom Rep (Hockey) tryouts are underway. Stinky gear is airing in my otherwise attractive front hall. meals and activities are carefully planned and pressure mounts as my youngest son attempts to “make” the top team in his division. It won’t be easy but we are cautiously optimistic that he will be successful.

To be honest, I’m hoping this year the rep try-outs will be more efficient than last when we drove him to the rink eleven times before learning which team he would play on. He had a fantastic season and really wants to play for the same coach this year… My fingers are crossed.

As summer winds down, I’m not really mentally prepared for the start of winter activities. Pulling my warm jacket out of the closet just doesn’t seem right. But, since nine year old thoughts have already turned to hockey, we picked up Scholastic Canada’s Book of Hockey Lists. It is a perfect choice for hockey-hungry nine year olds. We’ve checked out lists of player accomplishments, milestones, quotes and all sorts of interesting hockey trivia. The author, Paul Romanuk knows his audience and has scored a winner with this title.

Scholastic Canada’s Book of Hockey Lists at Amazon.com

Scholastic Canada’s Book of Hockey Lists at Amazon.ca

Tea, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Reading Aloud to Preteens

Posted on September 15th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts shares ideas about reading aloud to preteens and a great chocolate chip cookie recipe.Summer holidays have come to an end. This morning I am reflecting on how we spent our summers in the past and especially the years we spent reading aloud to preteens.





Often my summer days were filled with work, household chores and trying to keep my two sons reasonably happy. (Somehow the order of that list came out totally backwards!) My eldest boy has always been quite content reading and rereading books like Harry Potter. During the summer, he also enjoys swimming (with some computer time thrown in here and there). He’s an easy-going guy and always enjoys summer vacation. Basically, he is relaxed and happy in almost any situation.

My younger boy prefers activity. In past summers he has done woodworking, painted a birdhouse, worked on a crazy quilt, perfected his slap shot, gone to a basketball camp, gone to soccer camp, taken tennis lessons and played Wii games. He wants to be with his friends and to be kept busy with fun stuff ALL DAY LONG. Some days, it is enough to drive me up the wall. Storytime Standouts bakes chocolate chip books to enjoy while reading aloud to preteens

Anyhow, during our summers, we went to the library every week end exchanged one week’s books for new ones. When choosing books, I often selected books with a movie tie-in. These are perfect for reading aloud to preteens.

Sometimes we were in a situation where each of us was reading a book independently and my husband and I were each reading a book aloud. It doesn’t bother any of us to have so many different books on the go at the same time. As long as the books are engaging, we love it! Books are a huge part of our family life and we often talk about the fun of snuggling into our sleeping bags and sharing a story while in our tent.

Storytime Standouts bakes chocolate chip books to enjoy while reading aloud to preteensIt is wonderful to think back to previous summers and the pleasure of sharing a shaded picnic blanket and a huge stack of picture books or sitting under the stars and listening to spooky ghost stories. We enjoy good books together and the boys still love to hear us read aloud.



Some favorite titles for reading aloud to preteens

  • Michelle Paver‘s series: Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. This is a particularly good series to share with reluctant readers. The chapters are short and exciting. Since sharing this with my own sons, I have recommended to several other moms and some middle grade teachers. Read more about this series here.
  • Wolf Brother at Amazon.com

    Wolf Brother at Amazon.ca

    Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel, an excellent read aloud for preteens

  • The Silverwing Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel – simply magical! I will never forget sharing this fantasy-adventure series with our boys. Highly recommended
  • The Silverwing Trilogy (Boxed Set): Silverwing; Sunwing; Firewing at Amazon.com

    The Silverwing Trilogy (Boxed Set): Silverwing; Sunwing; Firewing at Amazon.ca

    Artemis Fowl - good fun for preteen readers

  • The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, a science fiction fantasy that has great appeal for this age group.
  • Artemis Fowl at Amazon.com

    Artemis Fowl at Amazon.ca

    Do not miss the opportunity to read Harry Potter to your children

  • Do not miss the experience of sharing Harry Potter‘s magic with your children. Both of my sons have read the entire series. My husband and I read the first two or three books to them and they did the rest.
  • Harry Potter at Amazon.com

    Harry Potter at Amazon.ca


    Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

    – makes about four dozen cookies

    1 C softened butter or margarine
    1 C golden sugar
    1/2 C white sugar
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 Tsp vanilla
    2 1/2 C (all purpose) flour
    1/2 Tsp baking soda
    2 C semi sweet (or other) chocolate chips

    Using an electric mixer, cream together (both) sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour and the baking soda. Mix again. Add chocolate chips and stir by hand. Use a large spoon to drop unto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 or 325 (if convection) for about 12 minutes.

    Recommended Chapter Books – What to Read After E.B. White and Roald Dahl

    Posted on September 15th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    What to Read After E.B. White and Roald Dahl Chapter Book Suggestions for Preteens

    When you’ve read all the best-known novels for preteens, here are some lesser-known recommended chapter books








    I work with a grade three girl who is a very good reader. She has read almost all of Roald Dahl’s books (James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The B.F.G., etc.) and also E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan. The question posed Wednesday was, “What shall I read next? What are your recommended chapter books for kids like me?”

    Let’s take a look at some possibilities…

    Tuck Everlasting
    by Natalie Babbitt
    A great pick for summertime reading, this adventure is set in the 1880s and tells the story of a family who has found a source of eternal life. Very difficult decisions lie ahead as one of the boys falls in love with Winnie. She must decide between eternal life with him and a life that will come to an end.

    Tuck Everlasting at Amazon.com

    Tuck Everlasting at Amazon.ca


    Frindle (plus The Landry News, The Report Card)
    by Andrew Clements
    Nick has loads of ideas – he’s always trying to liven things up. His grade five teacher, known as The Lone Granger, is all business and unlikely to appreciate Nick’s antics. However, an early assignment to look up word definitions may just have potential: why not call a pen something else? How about using frindle instead?

    Frindle at Amazon.com

    Frindle at Amazon.ca


    Owls in the Family
    by Farley Mowat
    I love this depiction of Mr. Mowat’s boyhood. He lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and had all manner of pets. His parents must have been amazing – imagine managing a household with a dog, gophers, snakes, owls and more. The chapter that describes the new minister’s tumultuous visit is one I will never forget.

    Owl in the Family at Amazon.com

    Owls in the Family at Amazon.ca


    The Nose from Jupiter (plus A Nose for Adventure & Noses Are Red)
    by Richard Scrimger
    Leave your scepticism at the door and enjoy the fun. Poor Alan is a mess, there is something not quite right. His nose is stuffy, considerably stuffier than usual. Norbert, an alien from Jupiter, is an unexpected, uninvited guest in Alan’s nose.

    The Nose from Jupiter at Amazon.com

    The Nose from Jupiter at Amazon.ca


    Canadian Flyer Adventures Time Travel Series for Grade Two

    Posted on September 13th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    image of cover art for Canadian Flyer Adentures Beware, Pirates

    The exciting Canadian Flyer Adventures time travel series for grade two has all the elements needed for success – action, adventure and fun. Generously illustrated, readers will be captivated while learning history






    Canadian Flyer Adventures series written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Dean Griffiths
    Time Travel Series published by Owlkids Books



    When young friends Emily and Matt climb a rickety spiral staircase, they discover an intriguing room filled with wonderful treasures. They are excited to imagine where and when each originated. When they sit on an old red Canadian Flyer sled, their time travel adventures begin.

    In Book One of the Canadian Flyer Adventure series, they are transported to the Far North circa 1577. They find themselves aboard Martin Frobisher’s pirate ship and later help to rescue an Inuit man.

    In Book Two, they face dangers during the time of dinosaurs.

    image of cover art for Canadian Flyer Adventures Danger, DinorsaursI read and enjoyed both books. Likely intended for children who are reading at about a grade two to three level, the series is generously illustrated and quite exciting. Extra features include additional facts, an interview with the author and a preview of the next book in the series for grade two. It is great to see a series like this. The Canadian Flyer Adventure series will be enjoyed by young readers everywhere but will have a special appeal for Canadian children and those who gravitate toward history or time travel.

    OwlKids Books’ Canadian Flyer Adventures website includes teacher resources and a map

    Beware, Pirates! at Amazon.com

    Danger, Dinosaurs! at Amazon.com

    Beware, Pirates! at Amazon.ca

    Danger, Dinosaurs! at Amazon.ca


    Barnstormers’ Baseball, Will this Author Hit a Home Run Yet?

    Posted on September 12th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Game 1 Barnstormers written by Phil Bildner and illustrated by Loren Long

    A while back, I had an opportunity to read and listen to the first book in a new historical fiction series for 7 -10 year olds. Game 1 (Barnstormers) introduces three siblings who travel with a barnstorming baseball team, The Travelin’ Nine.

    Set in 1899, the first book in the series leaves us with more questions than answers: we know the children’s father died in the war and that he possessed a mysterious baseball but it unclear why the ball is significant. We also hear their uncle’s warning that great danger lies ahead but so far have only encountered mysterious visions and sounds.

    For children who are fascinated with baseball and how it was played 100+ years ago,this series may yet prove very appealing. Personally, I was frustrated that the author left me stranded on second base – with many, many unanswered questions.

    Game 1 (Barnstormers) at Amazon.com

    Game 1: #1 in The Barnstormers: Tales of the Travelin’ Nine Series at Amazon.ca


    Grade Three Reading – What if You’ve Made it to Grade 3 and Can’t Read?

    Posted on September 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Whether your child struggles with grade three reading or not, this is an enjoyable, generously illustrated chapter book

    I Hate Books a great chapter book for grade threeI Hate Books! written by Kate Walker
    Generously illustrated chapter book published by Cricket Books





    Hamish is blessed with a Grandpa who reads aloud “with lots of expression”. When Hamish was little, he loved books but the love affair ends when he begins grade three reading and his teacher asks him to read aloud. Before long, Hamish is referred to a reading specialist and it is confirmed that he has been making up stories rather than reading the words on the page.

    After struggling with flash cards and remedial reading, Hamish decides that life will be fine – whether he learns to read or not. It takes a disastrous family road trip, an embarrassing birthday party and a persuasive older brother to change Hamish’s mind.

    Happily, Hamish overcomes his struggles and eventially earns a prize for “most improved reader.”

    Shortlisted for the Australian Children’s Book of the Year and the Young Australian’s Best Book Awards, I Hate Books! features relatively short chapters and very appealing illustrations. At about a grade three reading level, it is recommended for children aged seven to nine.

    I Hate Books! at Amazon.com

    I Hate Books! at Amazon.ca

    Middle Grade Readers Travel Through Time to the London Blitz

    Posted on September 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve put aside the picture books and early chapter books and read two interesting books for middle grade readers that feature time travel. Suggested for children in grades six through nine, also referred to as middle grade readers, I have some reservations about the age range but enjoyed each of the books thoroughly.

    Storytime Standouts looks at London Calling by Edward BloorLondon Calling written by Edward Bloor
    Middle Grade Fiction published by Alfred A. Knopf





    In London Calling by Edward Bloor, the central character is a seventh grade student at a private school in New Jersey. Hating school and disconnected from his family, Martin is sleeping his life away. When his grandmother dies, he is bequeathed a beautiful Philco Deluxe Art Deco radio. After he “started sleeping with the radio on … A boy – small,thin, dressed in mud-brown clothes – leaned out from behind the radio and whispered, “Johnny, will you help me?”.

    At first fearful of the recurrent dream, through research, Martin confirms that his nighttime visitor is transporting him to 1940 London. Soon his directionless days become purposeful as he works to research dates, places and identities. Repeated visits to the wartorn city help him to understand how he can “help.”

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book and particularly the portions set in the London Blitz. Having said that, I was disappointed by the following exchange,

    I keep it hidden under my bed.” she smiled devilishly. “Perhaps you should check under there.”
    The General stared at her dumbly. Then he smiled back, slowly, acknowledging the joke. “Uh-huh. Sounds like I’d better.”

    As much as I enjoyed the book, I’m just not sure some of the nuances will have meaning for middle grade readers aged 12, 13, 14. Is an allusion like this appropriate or necessary for a book intended for children in grades six through nine?

    London Calling at Amazon.com

    London Calling at Amazon.ca



    Grade Two Chapter Books – Mermaids Everywhere

    Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart



    Mermaids Make a Splash Storytime Standouts Shares Grade Two Chapter BooksThe long weekend meant travel for our family. It was a perfect opportunity for me to check out a number of new titles for young readers. I chose to read six books intended for children who are between the ages of six and nine and are reading grade two chapter books. At this reading level, we find many series for newly independent readers to enjoy. Most grade two chapter books are generously illustrated. Series like Mermaid Rock and Mermaid S.O.S. are great because they draw children into reading multiple books. Keep in mind, at this stage, our priority is to have children to gain confidence and experience reading independently and to want to read.





    Grade Two Chapter Books - Mermaids Everywhere including Spooky Shipwreck Mermaid RockMermaid Rock Spooky Shipwreck is one of four Mermaid Rock undersea adventures that will appeal to young, female readers. Generously illustrated (in colour) the book is divided into three chapters. Most of the text is easily decodable. There are a few challenging words. ‘Skulked‘, ‘chiselling‘ & ‘daydreaming‘ add to a pleasant adventure tale.

    Mermaid Rock at Amazon.com

    Mermaid Rock at Amazon.ca

    Grade Two Chapter Books - Mermaids Everywhere including Misty to the RescueS.O.S. Misty to the Rescue is part of a six-book grade two chapter book series. Beautiful Coral Kingdom is protected by magic crystals. Six courageous young mermaids have taken on an important challenge; they must locate six replacement crystals and deliver them to Queen Neptuna before the Merfolk loose strength.

    The Mermaid S.O.S. website includes downloads and other extras for fans to enjoy.

    Mermaid S.O.S. – Misty to the Rescue at Amazon.com

    Mermaid S.O.S. – Misty to the Rescue at Amazon.ca



    Terrific Series For Middle Grade Readers – Chronicles of Ancient Darkness

    Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Need to find a new series for middle grade readers?

    Storytime Standouts looks at a Terrific Series For Middle Grade Readers - Chronicles of Ancient Darkness







    Michelle Paver’s books: Wolf Brother, Spirit Walker and Soul Eater sat unread on my bookshelf for far too long. These days, they are rarely in my office. These are the first three titles in a terrific series for middle grade readers. I have loaned each of them to many, many kids and, without exception, the books are devoured and the series is completed.

    Wolf Brother is captivating, it has the perfect combination of tension and excitement. Set in primitive times, Wolf Brother begins when young Torak’s father is killed by a terrible demon – a huge bear that has been possessed by a creature from the Other World. Now, orphaned, Torak adopts a wolf cub and discovers he can communicate with this new ally. Together, they begin a seemingly impossible quest; to reach the Mountain of the World Spirit.

    The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness is a terrific series for middle grade readers. I strongly recommend it – especially for boys. Relatively short chapters, a fascinating setting and terrific tension make for a series that appeals to many reluctant readers.

    Web Resource: The Clan

    Wolf Brother at Amazon.com

    Wolf Brother at Amazon.ca



    Super Series Books for Grade Four Boys

    Posted on September 6th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

    Super Series Books for Grade 4 Boys




    ABC Canada Literacy Foundation has identified ‘three potential reading slump times that can hinder a child’s reading development. ‘ Grade four is one of those times. Grade four is just about the time that readers encounter longer chapters, smaller print and more complex vocabulary.

    We lose some readers in the transition. My two boys are nine and twelve – one loves to read and one loves to “do” so I know that finding engaging books is critical for this age group. As well, I probably read more kids’ books than most moms so I’m often asked for book recommendations for grade four boys. Many of the best series for this age group are funny (occasionally rude), action-packed, irreverent and very generously illustrated. The books often feature boys who find themselves in trouble – at school, at home, sometimes even in the library.

    With nine, ten and eleven year old reluctant readers, we need to keep our goal in mind: get books (almost any books!) into their hands and encourage them to read.

    Concurrently, in an ideal world, parents will continue to read aloud more challenging and diverse books – but that is for another day.

    Sideways Stories from Wayside School is an excellent series for grade four boys
    Sideways Stories from Wayside School – Written by Louis Sachar (author of Holes)
    I have had great success with this book. The wacky humor and very short chapters are very appealing to boys. Each chapter tells about one student at Wayside School – you don’t have to read them in order so kids can jump around the book if they wish.

    Sideways Stories from Wayside School at Amazon.com

    Sideways Stories From Wayside School at Amazon.ca

    Books in the Wayside School Series
    Sideways Stories From Wayside School
    Wayside School is Falling Down
    Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger

    The Adventures of Captain Underpants an excellent series for grade four boys

    The Adventures of Captain Underpants– written by Dav Pilkey
    Have you ever met a boy who didn’t enjoy the ‘Action, Thrills, and Laffs of a Captain Underpants book? With rude humor and tons of illustrations, this series is great for even the most reluctant reader. Just don’t tell your boys that the series is mom approved – that would spoil the fun!

    The Adventures Of Captain Underpants Collectors’ Edition at Amazon.com

    Captain Underpants Boxed Set: Books 1-4 at Amazon.ca

    Books in the Captain Underpants Series silliness and rudeness are perfect for grade four boys
    The Adventures of Captain Underpants
    Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets
    Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (and the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds)
    Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants
    Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman
    Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets
    Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers
    Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People
    Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Re-Turn of Tippy Tinkletrousers
    Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers
    Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000


    Legend of Spud Murphy an excellent series for grade four boys

    The Legend of Spud Murphy – written by Eoin Colfer (author of the Artemis Fowl series)
    When Will and Marty Woodman are told they must spend the summer in Spud Murphy’s Library, they know it will be a dangerous assignment. They’ve heard about the ‘gas-powered spud gun she keeps under her desk.’ Really good fun and a positive message about books and reading!

    Eoin Colfer’s The Legend of Spud Murphy at Amazon.com

    Eoin Colfer’s The Legend of Spud Murphy at Amazon.ca

    Books in the Legends of Series – popular with grade four boys
    Eoin Colfer’s Legend of Spud Murphy
    Eoin Colfer’s Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth
    Eoin Colfer’s Legend of the Worst Boy in the World

    Horrid Henry is an excellent series for grade four boys
    Horrid Henry’s Wicked Ways – written by Francesca Simon
    One of my nine year old’s favorites, Horrid Henry really is ‘awesomely wicked.’ It is the perfect antidote when you’ve had a rough day and you long to hear about someone who can relate to your troubles.

    Horrid Henry at Amazon.com

    Horrid Henry at Amazon.ca

    Books in the Horrid Henry Series – great fun for grade four boys
    Horrid Henry
    Horrid Henry and the Secret Club
    Horrid Henry Tricks the Tooth Fairy
    Horrid Henry’s Nits
    Horrid Henry Gets Rich Quick
    Horrid Henry’s Haunted House
    Horrid Henry and the Mummy’s Curse
    Horrid Henry’s Revenge
    Horrid Henry and the Bogey Babysitter
    Horrid Henry’s Stinkbomb
    Horrid Henry’s Underpants
    Horrid Henry Meets the Queen
    Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine
    Horrid Henry and the Football Fiend
    Horrid Henry’s Christmas Cracker
    Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman
    Horrid Henry Robs the Bank
    Horrid Henry Wakes the Dead
    Horrid Henry Rocks
    Horrid Henry and the Zombie Vampire
    Horrid Henry’s Monster Movie
    Horrid Henry’s Nighmare
    Horrid Henry Krazy Ketchup


    Time Warp Trio is an excellent series for grade four boys
    The Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka
    Featuring time travel, adventure, humor and a touch of fantasy, The Time Warp Trio is a great pick for grade four boys. Sam, Fred and Joe use The Book to travel through time from one exciting adventure to another. I’ve had very good success drawing boys into this series. There is something for everyone: pirates, knights, neanderthals and Egyptians.

    Time Warp Trio #1 The Knights of the Kitchen Table at Amazon.com

    Time Warp Trio #1 Knights Of The The Kitchen Table at Amazon.ca

    Books in the Time Warp Trio Series – excellent for grade four boys
    Knights of the Kitchen Table
    The Not-So-Jolly Roger
    The Good, the Bad, and the Goofy
    Your Mother Was a Neanderthal
    2095
    Tut Tut
    Summer Reading Is Killing Me
    It’s All Greek to Me
    See You Later Gladiator
    Sam Samurai
    Hey Kid, Want to Buy a Bridge?
    Viking It and Liking It
    Me Oh Maya
    Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci
    Oh Say, I Can’t See
    Marco? Polo!

    Be sure to check out…

    35 Ways to Engage Reluctant Readers from Storytime Standouts

    More News

    Learning the Alphabet

    Awake Beautiful Child by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Gracia Lam

    Awake Beautiful Child by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Gracia Lam

    Awake Beautiful Child written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Gracia ...

    Classic Picture Book: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

    Chicka Chicka Boom Boom written by Bill Martin Jr. and ...

    Alphabet Recognition Game for Preschool

    [caption id="attachment_16404" align="alignleft" width="300"] Diecuts With A View Alphabet Scrapbook ...

    Phonemic Awareness

    Storytime Standouts Tips for Getting Ready to Read While in the Car

    Storytime Standouts Tips for Getting Ready to Read While in the Car

    Some of the keys to learning to read are noticing ...

    Developing Phonemic Awareness: How’s Your Nose, Rose?

    You won't regret using wordplay to support your child's phonemic ...

    Phonemic Awareness – Questions for Your Child (2)

    The focus of our last few posts has been phonemic ...

    Teacher Resources

    Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook

    Fireflies A Writer’s Notebook

    Fireflies A Writer's Notebook by Coleen Murtagh Paratore Journal for writers ...

    Loving books can be contagious – Reading Power

    It's no secret that we are impacted by the thoughts ...

    Story People by Brian Andreas

    On a trip through an airport, Jody discovers the work ...

    Terrific Chapter Books

    Wrapping up the year… 2014 best books for middle grades

    Wrapping up the year… 2014 best books for middle grades

    I always say this but I can't believe it's the ...

    A Middle Grade Teacher’s To Be Read List

    It's been a while since I did a top ten ...

    Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy

    This isn't a scientific fact but it is a completely ...

    Translate »