Posts Tagged ‘middle grade readers’

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

Best Chapter Books for Children – Worth Searching For

Posted on September 2nd, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Stay involved with your child’s reading: how to find the best chapter books

When our children are very young, we are often very involved in choosing picture books to share at bedtime. No doubt your child will have some favourites that she wants to hear over and over again. Hopefully you’ll find time to visit the public library and return home well-stocked with a mix of books, some chosen by your children and some that you’ve picked.

Depending on the size of the collection at your library, you may find it helpful to approach the shelves, armed with a list of authors or titles that you’d like to “check out.” To this end, I strongly suggest using a trusted source to identify some of the not-to-be missed titles.

Award winners are often well worth a look. The Canadian Children’s Book Centre maintains lists of award winners on their website and in their annual publication; Best Books.

New York Public Library Offers 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know and Love To Read – Recommended Titles for Third Grade

By the time your child is independently reading chapter books, it is tempting to “bow out” of selecting books and leave the choices to her. Hopefully she has been blessed with a school librarian or classroom teacher who will take an active part in recommending titles.

If your middle grade reader has difficulty finding chapter books that engage her, may I suggest getting actively involved in the search? Look for the following resources:

David Bouchard’s For the Love of Reading – books to Build Lifelong Readers. With the help of Sally Bender, Anne Letain and Lucie Poulin-Mackey, Mr. Bourchard provides great book ideas (500 annotated listings, some Canadian) for children of all ages. Included in the book, more than 100 French children’s books. and,

For the Love of Reading: Books to Build Lifelong Readers at Amazon.com

For the Love of Reading: Books to Build Lifelong Readers at Amazon.ca


James Blasingame’s Books That don’t Bore ‘Em includes books for older children – grade 5 and up. In addition to providing annotated lists, he includes author interviews.
Books That Don’t Bore ‘Em at Amazon.com

Books That Don’t Bore Em at Amazon.ca

Jim Trelease offers many, many book recommendations in The Read Aloud Handbook. His commentary and suggestions are sure to inspire you and your child.

The Read-Aloud Handbook at Amazon.com

Read Aloud Handbook at Amazon.ca

The Higher Power of Lucky and Talking Openly About the Science of Sex

Posted on September 1st, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

The Higher Power of Lucky and Talking Openly About the Science of SexIn our household, it is not at all unusual for us to talk about sex at the dinner table. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I don’t share intimate details of our relationship, but we do talk about the science of sex with our two sons. We use anatomically correct vocabulary. We answer questions, we share facts and our values. We have always operated this way and can’t understand why more people don’t.

Talking openly about the science of sex is one way to protect children from abuse, disease and unwanted pregnancies. When we talk with our children, we pave the way for our children to talk openly with us.

The Higher Power of Lucky written by Susan Patron
Juvenile fiction / chapter book published by Simon & Schuster Richard Jackson





There has been an uproar over Newbery Medal award winning chapter book, The Higher Power of Lucky because of a reference to a dog’s scrotum. (New York Times Column: With One Word, Children’s Book Sets Off Uproar )
I have had the pleasure to read the entire book and would have no hesitation in sharing it with either of my children.

On the first page of the book, Lucky secretly overhears Sammy relate his “rock-bottom” story… “he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger sear biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum…”

Ten-year-old Lucky has no idea what a scrotum is and, sadly, trusts no one enough to ask. The significance of this is made more poignent when we learn more about Lucky’s circumstances: her mother died in an accident and her father has abandoned her. Lucky fears that her guardian is about to leave her and force her into an orphanage many miles from where she now lives. She fervently hopes she can find her Higher Power before hitting her own personal “rock-bottom.”

For those who understand that giving children scientific names for body parts is not sexy or sexual – award winning chapter book, The Higher Power of Lucky presents no threat. Read it and enjoy the wonderful characters, the dangerous desert setting and Lucky’s joy in finding her Higher Power.

The Higher Power of Lucky won the 2007 Newbery Medal

– See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Higher-Power-of-Lucky/Susan-Patron/9781416901945#sthash.CWSHyn4Y.dpuf

Susan Patron’s Website


The Higher Power of Lucky at Amazon.com

The Higher Power of Lucky at Amazon.ca


Really reading: what does this involve?

Posted on August 30th, 2011 by Jody

What Does Reading Involve - Effective Reading Strategies for Your Child

Looking at effective reading strategies for your child
















Being able to read encompasses more than you think. With your child getting ready to go back to school, it’s good for parents to know exactly what it means to be a ‘good reader’

The benefit of being a ‘good reader’ is that you don’t even think about all of the actual strategies and tools you are employing to make sense of the words on the page.

When I ask my students “What do good readers do?” they can state any or all of the following: Read ahead, Read back, Look at the pictures, Ask questions, Make Predictions, Summarize, and Re-Read. All of these are powerful strategies that ‘good readers’ use naturally. For a student that doesn’t naturally use these tools, reading is more difficult.

Each of these strategies is taught both independently and with the other strategies until students don’t even realize they are using them. You can reinforce your child’s reading by supporting these tools at home. Reading is the ultimate example of multitasking. For the child that is missing certain tools however, they will feel overwhelmed. Obviously, this is addressed at the classroom level, but at home, reading every day is essential to helping your child become a solid, fluent reader. Ask your child to summarize what is happening, pose questions of your own about what you are wondering, and make guesses with your child about what could happen and why you think that.

You can make these book talks fun and brief; basically just a check in that your child understands what they have read. These strategies can be applied at any reading level, including pre-kindergarten books with no words. When looking at books like these, I’ll ask my youngest daughter what she thinks is happening or if the character seems happy or sad. Start these talks young so your child feels comfortable talking about what they are reading. Oral language is a huge part of reading successfully.

You should be able to tell if your child has picked a book within their reading range by asking them to read aloud to you. Can they read the words without getting stuck on more than five on a page? Do they self-correct when they make mistakes? Do they seem engaged and curious about what they are reading? Do they want to know more? Do they ask questions and make predictions?

Reading is more than identifying words on a page. Books are meant to be read, enjoyed, and understood. Working with your child’s teacher, you can make reading more than acquiring information; you can make it a journey, an adventure, an escape and a lifelong pleasure.

Dads Reading to Boys – Raising Young Men Who Will Want to Read

Posted on August 29th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Dads Reading to Boys - Raising Young Men Who Will Want to Read #reluctantreaders #parenting

Dads reading to boys – making the difference between reluctant male readers and voracious readers





I’d really like to take credit for the fact that both my boys love a good book. My almost-twelve-year-old is a enthusiastic reader. He is currently reading one of the Lord of the Rings books. He is especially fond of history and knows far more about World War II than I do. Most of the information has been gained through reading; fiction, non fiction, magazines and newspapers.

Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel a great book for Dads reading to boysMy younger boy (9 years) is more of a “doer” than a “reader” but he knows a great story when he hears one and we still make time to share a book or a puzzle at bedtime.

I read books aloud to the boys from the time they were six months old. We trekked to storytime at the library and were constantly borrowing books “about trucks.” There is little doubt that I was the one who planted the reading seed and carried enough stacks of books back and forth, to and from the library, to nourish it.

I’ve always had an interest in children’s literature and read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter for myself when the boys were toddlers.

Harry Potter is a great book for dads to read to boysJust a few years later, reading the first Harry Potter book to the boys was truly magical. We all loved the experience as a family but there was one particular moment I will always remember. My husband was headed out of town for a week and was most concerned that he might miss hearing part of the story read aloud. He cautioned us that we were not “allowed” to read ahead while he was away – he couldn’t bear the thought that he might miss even one minute of the read aloud experience.

The boys and I solved the problem by rereading four or five chapters of Harry Potter and then we all charged ahead when my husband returned.

I will always be grateful for the message my husband gave his boys; he has always been eager to enjoy a good book with them (another favorite series was Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing). But that particular incident was evidence of just how important reading with the boys is to him.Storytime Standouts recommends getting Dad involved in reading to children. #parenting #reluctantreaders

It is not at all unusual for parents of preteens to be frustrated by their boys’ lack of interest in reading. To those parents, I would say, get Dad involved in reading aloud and find wonderful books you can enjoy together. In some families, mom always reads the bedtime stories from a very young age. It can be very beneficial to change this up and for boys to observe men reading and enjoying great books. After all, we’d like our sons to choose to sit down with a great book from time to time.

Additional information about Dads Reading to Children from Brigham Young University.

Jim Trelease has inspired many, many adults to ramp up the read aloud experience for their children and students.

You may be interested in our page about reluctant readers.

Harry Potter at Amazon.com

Harry Potter at Amazon.ca

Silverwing at Amazon.com

Silverwing at Amazon.ca


Middle Grade Reader Transformed: Discovering a Love of Reading

Posted on August 24th, 2011 by Jody

Though children have to read, they don’t have to love reading. In fact, I have at least one student every year that insists they do not love it. Some even tell me they hate it. This is my favourite challenge of the school year. Watching a middle grade reader make the transition from reading for necessity to reading for pleasure is, quite simply, awesome.

Middle Grade Reader Transformed:  Discovering a Love of Reading, a guest post by @1prncs #middlegrades #reading #reluctantreadersWith the school year fast approaching, I’m wondering who that student will be this year? Which books will hook him/her? What made him/her dislike reading? How difficult will it be to change his/her mind?





Maybe it’s my own love of reading, of character rich stories, that makes me need to see this transition take place. I want all of my students to enjoy books, to learn from them, and to feel connected with them. But it’s those kids that think they can’t find enjoyment in a book, that see reading as a chore, that intrigue me.

I am very fortunate that my own daughters have inherited a love of literature. We foster that love by having books everywhere in our house, reading on our own and with them, and taking them to the library and book stores simply to browse. It must be something more than this, however, that hooks children on reading because I have many friends and colleagues that do the same with their children, yet reading is not their child’s first choice of activity.

For me, books are about the characters and their journey. If I don’t connect to the characters, I’m likely to give up on the book. Children are no different; if we cannot find something that captures their attention, almost immediately, they are likely to give up. If we want to engage children in reading for pleasure, we have to know them well enough to push them in the right direction. To me, this means two things: finding books that interest our children and finding books that are at the correct reading level.

Finding interests is fairly simple because you can talk to kids and easily get a sense of what excites them. Our school librarian is fantastic for helping me find certain “types” of books that I know will appeal to different kids. What I find can be the most challenging, is getting books that interest kids, are at the appropriate level, and look like a book a grade five student should be reading. This is the age where what friends think really matters. My students don’t want to be reading some ‘babyish’ book while their friends are pulling out The Lord of the Rings
and Harry Potter . So to this end, I am eternally grateful for the graphic novel.

Vivid, bright pictures appeal to most people. Graphic novels remind me of great advertisements; they are designed to draw you in and make you feel like you need to know more. They capture the reader’s attention quickly, move at a fast pace, and yet they still retain the story elements that are part of regular novels.

I am amazed by the amount of graphic novels available in a variety of age ranges. There are so many great series, such as Nancy Drew, Bone , Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Amulet. You can find graphic novels that teach history and science or tell tales of favorite super-heroes. This is a huge market and it gets bigger every day. Kids are drawn to the way stories are told in speech bubbles and brief text boxes. For the reluctant reader, this genre can make reading at a lower level more appealing and less intimidating, while still managing to fit within socially acceptable appearances. That is not to say this is the best or the only form of getting kids on board with reading. In fact, it’s important to remember that getting a kid to love reading is going to depend entirely on the child in question. If the interest starts with reading the subtitles in non-fiction while looking at pictures or flipping through Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, so be it. Once they begin gravitating toward reading and changing their feelings toward the activity, making further inroads becomes easier.Engaging Middle Grade Readers Means Matching Interests and Reading Level - A guest post by @1prncs

It’s not always the case that students that don’t like to read are ‘low’ in this area. They may read quite well at grade level or above and simply not enjoy the task. Regardless of the ability or background reasons, I still feel compelled to at least try to change their minds.

I guess it’s natural that when we really love or enjoy something, we want to share it with others. Equally natural, is the desire to become involved in activities that excite others. The students can’t help but sense my enthusiasm for reading and perhaps, that in itself, is the hook.

I hope I haven’t generalized too much or made it sound easy to engage students in areas they’d rather avoid. It’s not easy. But if it works, if you can really hook them you get to be a part of a wonderful transition that can, quite literally, change lives.

For more information, visit our page about reluctant readers.

A Wonderful Read Aloud Chapter Book: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Posted on August 20th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Shares a Wonderful Read Aloud Chapter Book: The Tale of DespereauxThe Tale of Despereaux written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
Chapter book for middle grades published by Candlewick Press





I first discovered Kate DiCamillo when I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Because of Winn-Dixie. Very late last night, I closed the cover on The Tale of Despereaux, a great read aloud chapter book. Winner of the John Newbery Medal, this is a wonderful tale. Throughout we are reminded that, ‘nothing is sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name.‘ A delight from cover to cover, read it yourself or share it with children eight years and older. There are some decidedly dark scenes that could disturb younger children.

Candlewick Press Teaching Guide (in PDF form)

National Education Association – “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children”
School Library Journal “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread at Amazon.com

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread at Amazon.ca


Read Alouds for 7-10 year olds, approved by a difficult-to-please 8 year old boy

Posted on August 19th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts Suggests Read  Alouds for 7-10 Year Olds



Finding great books for 7 – 10 year olds to enjoy can be enormously rewarding. The initial learn–to-read phase is complete and we hope our children will chose to read for pleasure. When, as parents, we check to see why things are so quiet and discover our children with a book, it is indeed a special ‘a-ha’ moment.

Just as reading picture books aloud is important to very young children, it is vital that mom and/or dad continues to read aloud to emergent readers. Long after your child reads independently there are books worth exploring together. Sharing wonderful chapter books with your child will motivate him to read more challenging books. There are marvelous fantasies, legends, and mysteries for you and your child to discover.Charlotte's Web

A grade two teacher recently wrote to me, hoping for some read aloud recommendations. She had already shared James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl, Freckle Juice by Judy Blume and Charlotte’s Web
by E.B. White with her class. I replied to her and shared these suggestions – I have personally tested each and every one with a difficult-to-please eight year old boy.

Here are my suggested read alouds for 7-10 year olds

Follow this link for many more chapter book suggestions for 7-10 year olds

image of cover art for A Mouse Called WolfA Mouse Called Wolf written by Dick King Smith
Chapter book for 7-10 year olds published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House

When looking for books to share with this age group, I would encourage you to take a look at Dick King-Smith’s books. King-Smith wrote Babe: The Gallant Pig and Ace: A Very Important Pig and numerous other wonderful animal stories. A Mouse Called Wolf is one of my favourites. It explores the love of music and also the loneliness that sometimes accompanies old age.

Reading one of Dick King-Smith’s books might launch a reader into his entire booklist.

A Mouse Called Wolf at Amazon.com

A Mouse Called Wolf at Amazon.ca

image of cover art for The Legend of Spud MurphyThe Legend of Spud Murphy written by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by Glenn McCoy
Chapter book for 7-10 year olds published by Miramax

My 8 year old and I enjoyed Eoin Colfer’s Legend of Spud Murphy and Eoin Colfer’s Captain Crow’s Teeth together. Both were good fun and will be enjoyed by 7-10 year olds. The Legend of Spud Murphy has a very good message about reading and books therefore, I chose it as my favourite. Eoin Colfer is the author of the Artemis Fowl series (for older children).

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

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

image of cover art for The Seven Wonders of Sassafras SpringsThe Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs written by Betty G. Birney and illustrated by Matt Phelan
Chapter book for 7-10 year olds published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

For something completely different, I like The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs . Here we have a young boy who reads about the Seven Wonders of the World and longs to explore the world outside his hometown. His dad agrees to send him on a trip but first he must find The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs.
There are all sorts of opportunities for extention activities, possibly building an entire unit around this book. Perhaps your students could be encouraged to find a ‘wonder’ all their own.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs at Amazon.com

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs at Amazon.ca

image of cover art for Truly Winnie Truly Winnie – written by Jennifer Richard Jacobson and illustrated by Alissa Imre Geis
Chapter book for 7-10 year olds published by Sandpiper

Winnie, Vanessa and Zoe are off to their first overnight camp! They’ll be away from home for two weeks – swimming, climbing, boating and making new friends. Winnie, whose mother died after she was born, knows all too well that she is different from other girls. When she is assigned to a tent away from her closest friends, she is forced to make new friends. When getting to know her fellow campers, Winnie tells of her mother’s many accomplishments and before long is caught in a web of deception.

I read Truly Winnie aloud to my eight-year-old son. When I suggested we give it a try, I thought he might resist because the main characters are all girls (imagine!) In fact, the camp theme and compelling story made the Truly Winnie a good choice for both boys and girls. Nominated for the 2004 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award and chosen by the School Library Journal for their annual Children’s Curriculum, Truly Winnie offers many opportunities for discussion including

How it feels to a be a ‘third wheel”
How being away from home changes the campers and
Why Winnie feels she must invent a mother

Truly Winnie at Amazon.com

Truly Winnie at Amazon.ca

The Boy with Lightning Feet – written by Sally Gardner and illustrated by Lydia Corry
Chapter book for 7-10 year olds published by Orion Children’s Books

Timmy Twinkle has lived with his grandfather since his mom left the family and moved to Spain. The loss of his mom leaves Timmy feeling empty. He tries to fill the void with food and before long he is chubby, friendless and a target for bullies.

Timmy dreams of playing football (soccer), but his weight problem renders him clumsy at sports.

When a friend comes to stay with Timmy and his grandfather, she shares her passion for physical fitness. Before long Timmy is lean and ready to discover the magic in his toes.

Part of Ms. Gardner’s Magical Children series, The Boy with Lightning Feet will hold a special appeal for football (soccer) players and children who lack confidence in their own magical qualities. It was a definite winner in our household.

The Boy with the Lightning Feet at Amazon.com

The Boy with the Lightning Feet at Amazon.ca

Sir Gadabout Goes Barking Mad – written by Martyn Beardsley and illustrated by Tony Ross

Sir Gadabout holds the dubious title of Worst Knight in the World. When King Arthur dispatches him to collect Merlin and deliver him in time for the Magic World Cup, Gadabout and company encounter Demelza and Morag, two decidedly wicked witches. Before long, Gadabout is convinced that the witches have turned Merlin – reining world champion wizard – into a talking dog.

Great fun here for young readers and their parents to enjoy together. Read it aloud and enjoy the inside jokes.

Sir Gadabout Goes Barking Mad at Amazon.com

Sir Gadabout Goes Barking Mad at Amazon.ca


Finding a Balance – Looking at a Child’s Reading Level and Maturity When Selecting Books

Posted on August 3rd, 2011 by Jody

Finding a Balance - Looking at a Child's Reading Level and Maturity When Selecting Books





As a teacher and a mom, I want to see kids succeed. I want to see them achieve success and push past it to the next level, particularly in reading. When getting kids to fall in love with reading you have to keep a couple things in mind:
a) You have to (help them) find books that interest and appeal to them
b) You need books that they can read and understand independently without frustration

Once you have done both of these things, the chances of success in reading, and in turn, the love of reading, increase greatly. My favourite moment is when it clicks~ they understand what they are reading and they want to read more. It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch our eight year old develop not only a love of reading and books, but to become a strong reader. However, she is now reaching a difficult stage; one I didn’t expect to encounter even though I have watched her excel in reading. What happens when children know what interests them but what they are capable of reading academically and independently surpasses what they should be reading emotionally?

Striving for independence, my daughter recently convinced me to let her go to our school book fair alone, with her own money to make her own choices (By on her own, I mean I didn’t go into the book fair with her but since I work there, I was close by). When she showed me what she had chosen, I knew I was stuck with a dilemma. She had chosen a book that dealt with adolescent friendship, middle school, and a crush on a boy. She used my ‘a/b’ theory and found something that appealed to her and was within her reading range. For some kids though, like my daughter, what she is able to read and what she should be reading are two entirely different things.

While we are ecstatically proud that she is reading at a grade six level in grade two, it does present some problems, even if the grade level and ability level gap is smaller. An author’s goal is to speak to their audience; to engage and captivate them. They build their plots and characters based on their (anticipated) audience. Therefore, an author writing books for the typical grade two/three student would appeal to their developmental stage. Some great books in this age range (at least for my girls) are the Daisy Meadows Rainbow Fairies collections, the Nancy Drew Clue Crew series, or the Bailey School Kids. These books appeal to this audience with their age appropriate characters solving problems, working on mysteries, and going up against mythical or magical figures. In grades two and three, the problems our kids are facing (hopefully) include getting out for recess fast enough, snagging one of the three skipping ropes available, or not being it for tag. It’d be nice if problems could stay this simple, but they don’t and as kids mature, so do the books that appeal to them.

A grade six student, by contrast, is caught up in an entirely different world that includes best friends that come and go, crushes on boys, and dealing with self-image. Accordingly, books that appeal to this age range deal with these issues. Coming of age classics like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott or Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume perfectly highlight some of the trials girls this age face. And while I truly want my daughter to read these books, or even the one she chose from the book fair, I’m not ready for her to wonder about these ‘issues’. So, I’m faced with deciding whether or not to let her read books past her maturity level to accommodate her ability level.

I suppose it’s like anything else with parenting; I take a look at her choices and make the best judgement call I can. For me, I’m hoping that keeping the conversation doorway open is the answer to finding balance. Discussing what your child is reading is a key to helping them develop as fluid readers. So, while I don’t want her to have a crush on a boy, I’m fine (so far) with explaining what it means and talking to her about the issues her characters are facing. Perhaps it’s a plus that right now she’s hooked on the Goddess Girls series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams. I don’t think I’ll have to worry about any boys from the Underworld popping up with their three headed dog any time soon.

Our Newest Contributor Introduces A Great Summer Read: The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

Posted on August 2nd, 2011 by Jody

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

It’s safe to say that reading a book that you can relate to provides a more enjoyable read. Add humour, sibling rivalry, sibling loyalty, and a little competition just makes it better. In The Lemonade War, Jacqueline Davies has created a book that not only encompasses all of these elements, but speaks to a variety of age groups. While her story details the ‘battle of the stands’ between brother and sister, Davies weaves in the topics of friendship, determination, ambition, and forgiveness. She does so through realistic characters, funny dialogue, and a number of interesting situations that the kids find themselves in as a result of their war.

The Lemonade War - Middle grade fiction that explores friendship, determination, ambition, forgiveness.Evan Treski loves and even likes his little sister…most of the time. Jessie Treski idolizes her big brother. While she is smart enough to skip a grade and go into grade four, the same grade her brother is going into, she knows that she’s not the best ‘people person’. That’s Evan’s gift; hers is math. When the two find out they will not only be in the same grade, but the same class, Jessie thinks this will just make things easier for them. She’ll help Evan with math and he’ll help her with friends. Evan feels differently. He’s mortified. How can he possibly go into the same class with his baby sister? How can he keep his friends if they find out how dumb he is compared to her? Rather than telling each other how they feel, they embark, in typical sibling fashion, on an entrepreneurial war. They will see what matters more; people skills and flexibility or strategic plans and organization. One of them will win The Lemonade War, but both of them are willing to do almost anything to come out ahead.

As a teacher, I thought this was a fun, light, close-to-summer read. Though it’s not new, I hadn’t heard of it and I didn’t expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. Once I read it to my grade five class, who enjoyed and connected with the sibling rivalry, I brought it home to read to my 8 year old daughter. Re-reading it, this time as a mom, I was able to connect to it on a new level. My 8 year old reminds me of Jessie with her thorough plans and detailed organization. My 5 year old daughter reminds me of Evan, with his charm and easy social skills. It was easy to imagine the two of them participating in a Lemonade War of their own. Jacqueline Davies realistically portrays the feelings of her main characters, making you connect with both Evan and Jessie. That connection has you turning the pages, unsure of who you want to come out the winner!

The Lemonade War website includes teachers’ guides, lesson plans, a wordsearch and more.

The Lemonade War book trailer

The Lemonade War at Amazon.com

Lemonade War at Amazon.ca


Encouraging Us to Rethink Boys and Reading: Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys

Posted on June 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Dialogue is key... Storytime Standouts recommends Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys My thirteen year old son knows exactly how to extend his bedtime. It involves picking up a book, turning on his bedside lamp and gazing at us with puppy dog eyes. “Please let me finish this chapter. I know you want me to read.” He’s right. Reading has always been a priority in our household and enjoying a chapter or two at bedtime is pretty tough to argue with. Tomorrow, we are off to pick up Rick Riordan’s latest because, due to my error it is not yet in the house. I’m not complaining, I know that raising boys who love to read can be a challenge. We’ve had our moments but, thanks to Rick Riordan, Michelle Paver, Kenneth Oppel, J.K. Rowling and others, we are fortunate that both our sons love to read (especially at bedtime).

Storytime Standouts looks at Pam Allyn's Best Books for Boys This afternoon, before the boys arrived home from school, I had a chance to check out Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys – How to engage Boys in Reading in Ways that Will Change Their Lives

Pam Allyn is the Executive Director of LitWorld and the author of a number of books including What to Read When. These are both books that should be on every teachers’ bookshelf and tucked into every parent’s bag of tricks. In Best Book for Boys, Allyn answers frequently asked questions about boys and reading, she also describes the keys to raising children who love reading; ritual, environment, access and dialogue.

After making a strong case for rethinking widely accepted ideas about how children ought to read and what they ought to be reading, Allyn provides an extensive, annotated reading list that has been labelled for emerging, developing and maturing readers. Whether seeking a title for a boy who enjoys action and adventure, humor or mechanics and technology, there is something for even the most reluctant reader.

This is a great resource for families and teaching professionals, highly recommended.

Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives at Amazon.com

Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts suggests 35 ways to engage reluctant readersYou may be interested in our page about reluctant readers.


Catch my profile of John Wilson in the spring issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

Posted on May 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview John Wilson. He is one of my eldest son’s favourite authors. You will find my profile of John Wilson in the Spring 2011 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News.

Surrounded by Testosterone: My Thoughts About The Loser List

Posted on April 25th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts writes about The Loser ListThe Loser List – written and illustrated by Holly N. Kowitt
Anti bullying (handwritten text, generously illustrated) chapter book published by Scholastic



Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

I spent the Easter weekend with three teenaged boys and so it was only fitting that I should reach for The Loser List when I had some time to read. It is a generously illustrated chapter book that is very reminiscent of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Danny Shine is twelve years old and in grade seven. He’s not good at sports but he loves to draw. When Danny runs afoul of Chantal Davis, she informs him that she’ll be adding his name to the loser list in the girl’s bathroom at school. Danny’s best friend, Jasper is not worried about being labelled as a geek and doesn’t care if his name is put on the loser list but Danny is bothered by the threat. A lunchtime tangle with the school’s biggest bully (Axl Ryan) followed by a failed attempt to remove his name from the loser list results in Danny joining Axl and other members of the Skull gang in an after school detention. “We stared at each other. Him: studded wristband, greasy blond hair stuffed into a do-rag, and army jacket. Me: Acme Exterminators tee, video watch and grandfather sweater.” Danny is terrified of Axl and is sure he will be beaten until Axl shows off his Sharpie tattoo and Danny knows that he can draw “Something really cool and unique, something that’s you know, worthy of the Skulls.”

It is not long until the threat of a beating subsides and Danny is creating cool tattoos for Axl and his sidekicks. Danny enjoys his new celebrity until Axl steals a comic book from a shop Danny frequents. Suddenly Danny finds himself accused of theft and regretting his association with the thugs.

A clever tactic by Danny and Jasper enables Danny to escape the clutches of the gang and restore his reputation.

Best for children aged eight through twelve, The Loser List has a positive message about self acceptance and friendship. It will have a special appeal for boys

The Loser List at Amazon.com

The Loser List at Amazon.ca

Cheer for Gunner

Posted on November 25th, 2010 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts writes about middle grade fiction: Gunner by Judy Andrekson
Gunner Hurricane Horse written by Judy Andrekson
Middle grade fiction published by Tundra Books





I approached Gunner Hurricane Horse with some trepidation as I’m not particularly interested in the lives of horses and, while I like animals, I don’t consider myself to be an ‘animal lover.’ In fact, Gunner Hurricane Horse is a compelling true story that will appeal to young readers on many levels. Gunner was a very young and unkempt American Paint Horse when he arrived on Heather Lott-Goodwin’s ranch. He challenged his trainers and was constantly getting into trouble of one sort or another.

As Gunner learns, grows and matures, we come to know his personality and those of the people who helped to shape him into a World Champion. We care about Heather Lott-Goodwin, her husband and her young son. When Hurricane Katrina passes directly over their ranch, we learn about the challenges faced by Heather as an emergency room nurse, the difficulty in coping for those who remained at the ranch as well as the incredible damage inflicted by the storm.

Highly recommended as a read-aloud or for independent readers aged seven and up.

Gunner: Hurricane Horse at Amazon.com

Gunner: Hurricane Horse at Amazon.ca


Looking for Great Chapter Book to Read Aloud? This One’s a Masterpiece

Posted on December 5th, 2008 by Carolyn Hart

Masterpiece by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Chapter book for children published by Christy Ottavians Books, Henry Holt and Company





People often ask me to recommend a chapter book to share with young children. Often they have made the transition from picture books to chapter books and find themselves overwhelmed by the selection of books on the shelf. This month I want to wholeheartedly recommend Masterpiece. It tells the story of a very unusual friendship that develops between James Pompaday and a beetle named Martin who lives under the kitchen sink in his apartment. When James’ father gives him a pen and ink set for his birthday, it is Martin who creates an astonishingly good miniature picture. James is credited with artistic talent and before long James and Martin are working together as they attempt to thwart an art thief.

Highly recommended as a chapter book read aloud and/or for children (grade four +) to read independently.

Masterpiece at Amazon.com

Masterpiece at Amazon.ca




A Quirky, Pleasant Read Aloud for 9-12 year olds – The Funeral Director’s Son

Posted on September 1st, 2008 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Suggests Read Aloud for 9-12 year olds: The Funeral Director's SonThe Funeral Director’s Son by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Chapter Book for Middle Grade Readers published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers






This summer I have really focussed on delving into chapter books for children who are able to read independently but may need some help in locating good books. I selected a number of books that target 9 -12 year olds. I read a couple of them aloud to my ten year old.

Possibly the quirkiest book we read was The Funeral Director’s Son by Coleen Murtagh Paratore. I really had no idea what to expect and hoped that the cover, which is somewhat flowery, would not deter a hockey-playing ten year old male. Anyhow, I read and he happily listened. We both enjoyed the Charles Dickens quotes that preceded each chapter (at times quizzing Daddy to name the source of the quote). The relatively short chapters will appeal to some reluctant readers who may be overwhelmed by longer books. On more than one occasion we read three or four chapters in one evening. Ms. Paratore poses an interesting question: What happens when the heir apparent to a family business is not at all interested in taking up the reins and can’t wait to escape life in a small town? The Funeral Director’s Son offered a breezy, enjoyable glimpse of a rather unusual family life wrapped up in a fun read aloud for 9-12 year olds.

The Funeral Director’s Son at Amazon.com

The Funeral Director’s Son at Amazon.ca




Darkside: Suspense for Middle Grade Readers in Secret London

Posted on August 26th, 2008 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts Recommends Suspense for Middle Grade ReadersDarkside written by Tom Becker
Suspense Novel for Middle Grade Readers published by Orchard Books





Yesterday’s blog post introduced Measle and the Wrathmonk. Today’s book will appeal to a similar demographic – middle grade boys and girls. Darkside is the first in a suspenseful and exciting fantasy series about a secret part of London. Inhabited by dangerous characters, this underbelly of London is nothing like the city we see on postcards or television. The atmosphere in Darkside is gothic and intense. We accompany fourteen year old Jonathan on his frightening journey to save himself and his father. His first trip into this mysterious location is both disturbing and intriguing. At the conclusion we are certain that one trip to Darkside will not be enough.

If you dare, visit Tom Becker’s Homepage.

Darkside at Amazon.com

Darkside at Amazon.ca


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