Saturday, June 2, 2012

Reading suggestions...

I have been promising this blog post to Gabriela at Luminous Fire for some time now, and I'm finally putting it up!  In part, this post is fulfilling that promise with some reading suggestions for kids that have outgrown Beverly Cleary, but aren't ready for William Golding.  This is just a small sampling of our favorite books for this point in a child's reading life.  This, of course, is by no means a complete list, and it would have been a lot longer except that my son is asleep still and I don't want to wake him by going into his room to photograph books! :) So, expect more posts on this topic in the future...  Additionally, I've added a few books that we are using in our homeschool right now, and a few from my own reading list.

First, for the kids in the "middle readers" category (generally, kids aged 8 to 12)...some of these are just as easy as the Ramona books, but others are a little more challenging.  I am including the easier ones because, even though JP is 13, they are books he still enjoys rereading when he wants something simple and fun.  Let your kids read both below, at, and above their level...reading below their level on occasion gives them the confidence to tackle harder material.

Grace Lin is both a fantastic writer, and an amazing illustrator.  There are several links on her website for activities, more info on her books, and more.  There are also some interesting videos.  Although she has more than three books out, these are the ones we have read:

Year of the Dog, Year of the Rat, Where the Mountains Meet the Moon

In addition to Grace Lin's books, JP and I both enjoyed Gennifer Choldenko's Al Capone books.  Her website also has interesting content related to the two books.
Al Capone Shines My Shoes, Al Capone Does My Shirts

If you aren't familiar with the Wayside School books by Louis Sachar, these are very easy to read, and loads of fun. We've read many of Sachar's other books, and have several in our home library, but these are the ones JP has enjoyed the most.
Sideways Stories From Wayside School, Wayside School is Falling Down

For more hilarity, check out Carl Hiaasen's books for younger readers. Although not pictured here, we have also read his book, Scat.
Flush, Hoot

For a child with an interest in World War II and Holocaust history, Art Spiegelman's Maus and Maus II are fantastic.  They are graphic novels, and mice depict the human characters which I think greatly helps younger readers to synthesize the horrible atrocities of the Holocaust. I couldn't find a website for Spiegelman.  If you know of one, please let me know. Thanks.

In our homeschool, we've been evolving a lot of what we do, and how we do it.  I don't even know what to call our style anymore! :)  One of JP's regular assignments, and one that he seems to enjoy, is to read two newspaper articles every day, and to read several golf articles each week.  The news articles keep us both in touch with what is happening in the world, and have allowed him to have in depth, and interesting, conversations with many people.  The golf articles help him to understand his chosen sport, and improve his skills.
While researching our unit study on Ancient Greece, I discovered several books by writer Roger Lancelyn Green.  His books are fantastic!  They are educational, but informal enough to keep a child's interest.
Tales of Ancient Egypt, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Tales of Greek Heroes

For language arts, I had planned for JP and I to read and write together, but he balked at that idea.  Instead, he wanted to do both on his own, then discuss, and have me edit silently.  :)  For writing, we are focusing both on creative writing in the area of poetry, but also on improving his everyday writing and essay skills.  Of the three books pictured here, the only one we are reading together is the book on the Periodic Table.  It is by far the most complex of these three books.  For On Writing Well, JP reads a couple of chapters, then attempts to employ whatever lessons have been discussed.  For Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, he reads a poem (or several) by a famous poet, reads the description of lessons taught by the author, and reads the poems of other students.  Then, he attempts a poem of his own using the same style, or following the lessons given.  So far he's written several featuring zombies, one featuring pickles, and another about a butterfly.  I blogged about Kenneth Koch and teaching poetry to children HERE.
 On Writing Well, Rose Where Did You Get That Red, Periodic Tale
Now, on to my June reading list.  You may read about my previous self-imposed reading challenges HERE and HERE.  Well, now that I've finished graduate school (I graduated on May 18th!), I have a lot more time for my favorite activity - reading, reading, and reading, with a dash of rereading.  My current reading list is pretty light.  The four books on my list right now are:
 Jack's Book, Jack Gilbert - Collected Poems, The 4-Hour Workweek, The Undomestic Goddess

Amended to add....I don't have them with me as we still have many boxes at my mom's house in California, but I wanted to add a few more books to my suggestions for middle readers.  These are thicker, and a bit more challenging, but still middle reader appropriate:

Anything by Cornelia Funke, but especially The Thief Lord, and the
Inkheart trilogy (Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath).

Skinnybones by Barbara Park - This was a favorite of mine when I was in
grade school, and my son enjoyed it too.

Any children's book by Bill Wallace, but especially A Dog Called Kitty.  Many of Wallace's children's books focus on the relationship between children and animals, in particular dogs.

And, although it has been made into a movie, I highly recommend the book How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. 

Happy reading!



  1. Thanks Malea!!!

    MIL is visiting soon and can bring books, so I'm off to check these out and update my Amazon wishlist.


  2. I'm with you on the part of not knowing what to call our style of homeschooling.
    Reading the newspaper is great for current events!
    Books books and more books is always our answer.

  3. I have a distinct weakness for children's chapter books. Before I was even married or had children, I had probably over 300. It's a serious problem. I have some you've listed, but some are new. I'll have to add them to my wishlist!

    Mary Beth

  4. First of all, congratulations on your graduation!!! That's wonderful!

    And, thanks for the book recommendations. My daughter has read most of those! She bought her first "Al Capone..." book when we visited Alcatraz! We're not familiar with the Grace Lin books, so thanks for those! And, the Maus books sound interesting. We'll be studying the Holocaust this year, so those might be a great addition! Alex has never read a graphic novel before, though, so we'll see how she likes them.

  5. So many great books in this list :D I love any book written by Carl Hiaasen, Louis Sachar, or Cornelia Funke!

  6. A bunch of new books on there that I've never read. Thanks for the great suggestions!

  7. I have never heard of any of the books on your list. The Roger Lancelyn Green books look wonderful though! Thanks a bunch :)

    Have you heard of Beautiful Feet Books before? They have a history through literature philosophy and offer a wide variety of options.


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