My mom friend Julie’s son just finished the chapter book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and then panic set in for her and sadness for her son. He loved Diary of a Wimpy Kid which I think is one of the best early chapter books for kids to get them excited about reading, but alas, a new one needs to come out or reading will be a nightly struggle. She is a teacher herself and feels that children and reading can be a struggle in the early elementary school years. We put our heads together for reading strategies to make reading for kids more fun, especially for her son!
I had posted on Spawn of Diary of a Wimpy Kid so I brought in a selection of chapter books to yoga (we do yoga together) and gave her a brief synopsis of each one. Only a few were going to fly, but hey!, that’s ok! It’s really interesting that her son rejects all Dan Gutman books including baseball chapter books because he’s a really sporty kid. You name it, he plays it and plays it well. But the crux is: not funny. He needs funny! Funny makes him want to read more. I think these reading strategies will work. He just needs more chapter books for boys like Dairy of a Wimpy Kid.
Wish us luck!
The next day, I saw my Mom Friend Julie at Zumba (we do that together too), and she was thrilled that he picked up one book, Tales of a Sixth Grade Muppet by Kirk Scroggs, brought it upstairs to read, and then packed it in his backpack for school! SCORE! Sadly, though, this is a stand-alone chapter book targeted at boys. Perhaps it will become a chapter book series but there is just one book out so far. (A note to Kirk Scroggs: please write more chapter books for boys as fast as possible!! Hey, just passing on what boys are telling me!)
No problem! Armed with the knowledge of what he likes and dislikes, I am right back at it and here’s my new list. (I’ll keep you posted next week after yoga and Zumba to see if these books fly!). So, a few things to think about:
- Format: he likes graphic novel or hybrid graphic novel. He MUST have cartoon illustrations to break up text.
- Humor: he must be laughing like crazy.
- Series: are a plus; once engaged, he’ll work his way through every last book.
- Age Appropriate: Though James Patterson, Middle School The Worst Years of My Life fits the bill, the content is too heavy for 3rd grade.
- Diversity: he’s ok with an Asian American boy character though he’s not Asian
- The key is funny!
3rd Grade Funny Books for Boys
Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon
The fact that I have the author memorized means that I tracked this down at my library for my son who thinks this is hysterically funny. I agree. And the hybrid graphic novel/chapter book format REALLY works well for boys, reluctant reader, or otherwise! Sadly, everyone seems to agree, but I am on the waitlist for the books and still haven’t heard back yet!
Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look
I think I am secretly over-protective of Alvin Ho. He’s a kind of an Asian American nerd so I wasn’t sure if my reluctant reader would identify but his mom thinks that it will be a go. Sorry, Alvin Ho. I totally underestimated you!
How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
I really love this series and it’s both engaging, funny and has a great message about being true to yourself. I’m not sure if my Mom Friend has tried it yet, but this series has all the elements he seeks: cartoon illustrations to break up text, humor, and an underdog boy character.
Max Finder series by Liam O’Donnell
My latest find. Though Max Finder seems geared to Junior High age kids, my first grader is really enjoying these 5 page graphic novel mysteries. And they are HARD to solve, but not so hard that you can’t do it. We get about 50% correct and we are on book 3 now! I just tried it out with another little boy, and he’s in second grade and loving them too! I also love the ethnic diversity of the characters which includes the requisite bully and gang!
Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce
Big Nate is a clever hybrid of graphic novel — cartoon strip style — with a traditional chapter book story. [graphic novel/chapter book, ages 8-12]
Julian Rodriguez series by Alexander Stadler
I really like the premise of this series — alien posing as a human boy in typical family observing human life which he/she/it finds odd and reporting back to alien HQ — and it makes for both great vocabulary and funny observations. This is a new series with just two books out.
Guys Read Funny Business by Jon Scieszka
I have heard a lot of great things about this book, and Jon Scieszka is the king of humor for kids. It’s worth a shot!
I found these two picks of a list for Funny Books for Kids by East Lansing Library in Michigan (and shout out to my college roommate who works at the university in East Lansing!). I don’t know the Third Grade Science Project but seems right up his alley and Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing skews younger so I think it’s perfect for a third grader.
I Was a Third Grade Science Project by Mary Jane Auch
When Josh pairs up with his best friend Brian to do a school science project, he’s sure that “Brian the Brain” will come up with a winning idea. Fiction for ages 7-10.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Peter’s little brother Fudge is always getting into some sort of mischief, and Peter’s had it up to here! Fiction for ages 8-12.
I will present these to my Mom Friend and report back on how I did. So far, we are happy that he likes the Muppet book so fingers crossed …
Thank you to Abi for these two great recommendations!
–Squish – graphic novel by sister-brother duo Jennifer & Matt Holm. (They also did the /Babymouse/ series, but the green & black amoeba Squish is an easier sell for boys than pink & black Babymouse. They are a hilarious and high quality author-illustrator team.)
–Tom Angleberger is hilarious. I have personally read & loved The Strange Case of Origami Yoda but I want to read all his books and I’ve heard good things.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.