Please welcome author David Kelly of the Ballpark Mystery series and also my neighbor here in Newton, MA. We’re not exactly next-door neighbors but we live in the same town! How cool is that? Other notable children’s book authors from Newton include Mitali Perkins (until she moved two years ago) and Karen Day. Jacqueline Davies of The Lemonade War series lives one town over in Needham, MA.
Today, David Kelly is writing about finding books for reluctant boy readers. His series is another great choice for boys or girls who like baseball, particularly those of the Red Sox Nation.
How about you? What books have kept your kids reading? Please share! Thanks!
As the father of two boys, I know how magical it can be when your child finally connects with a book. When my boys Steven and Scott were younger, I spent plenty of hours in the library and bookstores looking for books or series that would attract their interest and hold their attention. And now, as the author of the Ballpark Mysteries chapter book series from Random House, I’m lucky to hear from the parents and teachers of boys (and girls) about how individual Ballpark Mysteries books connect with specific readers. It’s always thrilling for me to hear how excited some kids get about a book or my main characters.
But I know from experience that it doesn’t take long for an interested reader to get through most books or even book series! That’s why I’m always on the lookout for books for kids that are more interested in doing things than in reading. Here are nine recommendations for reluctant reader books or series that I’ve accumulated over the years from friends, colleagues, and personal experience.
If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear what books your reluctant readers like.
Great Books for Reluctant Boy Readers
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Instead of dying from boredom during summer vacation, Wesley creates a new world in his backyard, harvesting strange new fruits, creating a new language, inventing new sports, and finding friends. This is a great book for escaping from everyday life and being transported to a new world. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville
What do you do when you find your substitute teacher peeling off his face? Sixth-grader Susan has to stop her “alien” substitute teacher from kidnapping her classmates. It’s hard to go wrong with an “us-against-the-teacher” book like this one. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
There’s a reason that lots of good reluctant reader books take place in or around schools. With ever-changing social structures, strict authority figures, bumpy bus rides, playground problems, and stomach-turning cafeterias, there’s rich material and lots of experiences for kids to connect with or fantasize about. Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Lunch Lady series is a great option for reluctant readers who always knew there was something more behind those innocent-looking lunch ladies in the cafeteria—they have superpowers! [graphic novel, ages 6 and up]
Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol
I grew up on Encyclopedia Brown, purchasing every one that was available in the Scholastic Book Club. Short but fun mysteries that enable the reader to match wits with Leroy Brown (also known as Encyclopedia Brown for his immense knowledge). Each chapter is a new mystery, with answer and explanations at the back of the book. I always tried to wait to figure them out before I checked the answer, but I didn’t always succeed. In either case, the mysteries are fun, short, and engaging. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce
Graphic novels or comic books that follow the adventures of Nate Wright, a sixth-grader who’s often in trouble. He claims to be a genius but has the most detentions ever for his school. These are fun books for kids who will enjoy the comic book format and the sarcastic tone. [graphic novel, ages 8 and up]
Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tom Greenwald
A fun anti-reading book for kids. Charlie Joe Jackson’s aim is to get through life without reading an entire book, but it’s hard to do in middle school. Charlie Joe has to take increasingly desperate measures to keep his record intact. [notebook novel, ages 9 and up]
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie*
A good book for slightly older readers, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian follows goofy 14-year-old Junior (Arnold Spirit) as he switches from a reservation school to school in a rich neighborhood. Junior moves between white suburban society and his tribal reservation community, encountering a range of teenage challenges. [Young Adult notebook novel, ages 12 and up]
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Ever wish you could be someone else? Jin Wang does. Jin is an Asian American middle school student who would like to fit in with the white students in his school. He’d like to escape the school bullies and lonely lunches by himself. Another book for older readers, American Born Chinese is a thoughtful but fun graphic novel organized around three different characters and storylines that all converge to a satisfying conclusion. [Young adult graphic novel, ages 12 and up]
Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos
Not everyone can fit it. And Joey Pigza is just the person to prove it. Joey has ADHD and can’t always control his behavior. But it doesn’t stop him from thinking about changing the world. Gantos’s books are always off-kilter and interesting. They’re great for engaging kids who want something a little bit different. [middle grade, ages 10 and up]
A Little More About David A. Kelly
David A. Kelly is an established children’s book author, travel writer and technology analyst. He’s the author of the Ballpark Mysteries series from Random House, in which cousins Kate and Mike solve mysteries at different major league ballparks. Mr. Kelly is also the author of the early reader, Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse and the picture book Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and Secret Mud that Changed Baseball. He has written about travel and technology for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun Times, and many other publications. He’s currently the business travel expert for About.com. Click to view Mr. Kelly’s website.
Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse
Before 1918, the Boston Red Sox were unstoppable. They won World Series after World Series, thanks in part to their charismatic pitcher-slugger Babe Ruth. But some people on the Red Sox felt the Babe was more trouble than he was worth, and he was traded away to one of the worst teams in baseball, the New York Yankees. From then on, the Yankees became a golden team. And the Red Sox? For over 80 years, they just couldn’t win another World Series. Then, in 2004, along came a scruffy, scrappy Red Sox team. Could they break Babe Ruth’s curse and win it all?
Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and Secret Mud that Changed Baseball!
Learn the incredible story behind the slippery, slimy stuff they have to rub on baseballs before each major league game. Lena Blackburne loved baseball. He watched it, he played it, he coached it. But he didn’t love the ways players broke in new baseballs. Tired of soggy, blackened, stinky baseballs, he found a better way. Thanks to a well-timed fishing trip and a top-secret mud recipe, Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud was born. For seventy-five years, baseball teams have used Lena’s magic mud to prepare baseballs before every game. Read the story of how Lena’s mud went from a riverbank to the major leagues and all the way to the Hall of Fame.
The Ballpark Mysteries series
The Ballpark Mysteries follow the two main characters, Kate and Mike, as they visit different major league baseball stadiums to see a game or take a tour, but then get involved in a mystery. Since the books are basically mystery/adventure stories, kids don’t need to be sports or baseball experts to enjoy the books—but they will learn a few interesting facts about each team, city, or ballpark. There are currently nine books in the series, starting off with Boston’s Fenway Park and running up to book 11, set in Detroit.
Ballpark Mysteries Giveaway: 3 Winners Will Win a Pair of Signed Books!
3 winners will each receive a pair of signed books of David Kelly’s latest Ballpark Mysteries: Book #10 The Rookie Blue Jay and Book #11 The Tiger Troubles. Please enter the Rafflecopter below to enter.
p.s. Related posts:
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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.