All posts in Reading Lists: Grades 3-5

Beatrice Zinker prize pack

#BeatriceZinker #UpsideDownThinker GIVEAWAY

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy to check out, and is partnering with me for a giveaway!

I’m giving away a prize pack in celebration of Shelley Johannes’ debut chapter book, Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker, in collaboration with Disney Hyperion. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom. It’s in stores now!

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

Beatrice does her best thinking upside down.

Hanging from trees by her knees, doing handstands . . . for Beatrice Zinker, upside down works every time. She was definitely upside down when she and her best friend, Lenny, agreed to wear matching ninja suits on the first day of third grade. But when Beatrice shows up at school dressed in black, Lenny arrives with a cool new outfit and a cool new friend. Even worse, she seems to have forgotten all about the top-secret operation they planned!

Can Beatrice use her topsy-turvy way of thinking to save the mission, mend their friendship, and flip things sunny-side up? [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

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Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up (part 2 of 2)

Summer Chapter Book Reading List GIVEAWAY (part 2 of 2)

I’ve been “book tasting” or sampling two dozen or so middle grade chapter books to find books for my 12 year old son. I’m also reading for myself, trying to discover that possible Newbery gem in these piles.

From this list, I’m narrowing down my reading pile to:

  • Lemons by Melissa Savage (getting buzz)
  • A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold (for possible autism list I’m working on)
  • Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis (I do like magical realism)
  • Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo (my son likes graphic novels and I’m also going to add to my Medieval/Middle Ages book list; a period of history that is growing on me)
  • Mabel Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying by Amanda Hosch (I have a spy/superhero chapter book list that I can add this one to)
  • A Dog Like Daisy by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb (I might make a service dog book list)

How about you? What middle grade books are you loving right now?

p.s. I’m giving away 6 of these books. Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.

p.p.s. Part 1 of this list here.

 

Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up & GIVEAWAY (part 2 of 2)

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager

I loved Hour of the Bees so I’m excited to read Lindsay Eager’s newest book that has a breezier feel than the slight melancholic heaviness of Hour of the Bees. 11 year old Fidelia Quail becomes an orphan where her parents are killed in a submarine of her own invention and now it’s up to her to escape a pirate who has kidnapped her, and figure of the mystery of a treasure he’s desperate to find on the bottom of the ocean. This book feels a little like Half Magic meets The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Lemons by Melissa Savage

There seems to be a growing buzz for Lemons, Melissa Savage’s debut chapter book. It’s 53 chapters of about 6 pages each. I personally find short chapters appealing because the pacing tends to be fast and thus hold my son’s interest. Nearly 11 years old Lemonade Liberty (Lem for short) is moving to a tiny town to live with her grandfather after her mother dies. It’s here that she makes a new friend who is determined to capture Bigfoot on film. This book reminds me of The True Meaning of Smekday thus far. I’m excited to read further. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

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Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up & GIVEAWAY

Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up & GIVEAWAY

I have a stack of middle grade chapter books to review so I thought I would do a book tasting to screen them. It’s basically a perusal — check out the cover, the back cover, the flap summary for first impressions — then read the first few chapters, skip around the middle reading here and there, and see if you can guess the ending. If the book grabs me, then I’m pulling it aside to read in depth.

I’m also including my sixth grade 12-year-old son’s book recommendations of the books we’ve read together. He like Rick Riordan and fantasy adventure like Percy Jackson, but also mysteries, nonfiction, and graphic novels. Here are his recommendations:

Summer Reading List for ages 8 and up

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

I loved Schooled by Gordon Korman so when I saw Ungifted at a used bookstore, I snapped it up for my son. Korman knows how to write for middle school kids. This is a funny, realistic story about a boy who evades punishment by being accidentally enrolled in a school for gifted students and the transformation he creates by being the average student that he is. We are almost done with it and will seek out more of his books. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

The Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibottson

Readers who like the Half Magic series or Roald Dahl will like this British realistic fantasy caper about aunts living on a remote island with magical creatures. My son read this for a class assignment and we both really liked it. It’s perfect for readers who think Harry Potter might be scary because it has that same fantasy magical element but is a more gentle story. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

FunJungle novels series by Stuart Gibbs

My son picked the first two books from a used bookstore and he’s enjoyed it so much we’ve read all the books written so far, and are waiting impatiently for more. Teddy is a sixth grade boy who lives at zoo with his world renowned primatologist mother, and wildlife photographer father. FunJungle is a new state-of-the-art zoo built by a billionaire for his seventh grade daughter, Summer. Someone is trying to sabotage the zoo, and Teddy’s detective skills are called into play. Working with Summer, Teddy has to find culprit or risk juvenile hall since often he’s the main suspect. This series also has an endangered animal environmental message. [chapter book series, ages 8 and up]

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Homelessness in Children's Books

Homelessness in Children’s Books

In creating this list, I noticed that most of these homelessness stories have parents who work part-time jobs, often more than one. Despite shelter uncertainty, they are going about their lives, sending their children to school, and even going to college themselves. It’s usually a series of setbacks or a tragedy like the death of a breadwinner than sends them spiraling downward. This is not surprising given that most Americans are one paycheck away from the streets.

On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. National Alliance to End Homelessness

Part of this 564,708 homeless number includes women and children. It’s a heart breaking statistic. Imagine families with children trying to go about their everyday life without a place to sleep. It’s becoming a more common sight in cities like Boston where I live.

With the spike in homelessness, has come the homeless spikes. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds. MacDonald‘s is one such company that puts anti-homeless spikes designed to keep the homeless away.

Some artists decided to fight back against the anti-homeless spikes, starting a movement they call “Space, Not Spikes.”

not spikes

“Space, Not Spikes” reclaimed the spiked area by covering it with bedding, pillows, and a bookshelf stocked with reading material. Upworthy

Hostile design doesn’t solve the issue of homelessness. It just tries to remove the homeless from the line of sight of those who have a place to live. And yet, there are humane solutions to homelessness like these tiny homes the size of garden sheds.

tiny homes for the homeless

My oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, is headed for art college. She thinks about social issues from a design perspective. I hope that one day she will work on the issue of homelessness.

Maybe this book list will inspire kids to tackle this problem with solutions that start and end with compassion, not spikes? Here’s hoping!

How about you? What books would you add to this list? Thanks for your help!

 

Homelessness in Children’s Books

Homelessness in Picture Books

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Nationally, about one out of every eight people is poor. Many of them are children. The patrons of the soup kitchen include the unemployed, the needy, and the homeless. No one is excluded.

A young boy is nervous to see the Can Man in his neighborhood, but his Uncle Willie who works at the soup kitchen knows him well. The boy notices a woman sleeping on a park bench and decides he wants to learn more about his uncle’s soup kitchen. On his day off from school, he accompanies his uncle to work. It’s little things that he learns: children who sit in high chairs eat here; not everyone is homeless; somehow there is always enough food for everyone. [picture book, ages 6 and up]

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Poets and Their Poetry Books for Kids

Poets and Their Poetry Books for Kids

Are You An Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi who wrote the narrative and did the translation, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri

All Japanese children read her deeply compassionate poems about creatures in the natural world. Think of her as a Japanese Pablo Neruda and/or Emily Dickerson. Her sad, short life is depicted in this biography/poetry hybrid picture book. This combo really works for me since she is unfamiliar to most of us. Her poems are deceptively simple and kids can really relate to them. I hope this wins a Caldecott but I hesitate to add it to my watch list because the rendering of the faces in the illustrations were too cartoon-y and didn’t go with the rest of the illustration style. [biography and poetry picture book hybrid, ages 4 and up]

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

This is Kwame’s personal favorite collection of poets with original poems created by himself, Chris, and Marjory in the style of each poet. “Poems come out of wonder, not by knowing.” Lucille Clifton. Kwame invites you and your kids to discover the joy of poetry, and to perhaps come up with a poem of your own. [picture book, ages 8 and up]

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Dave belongs to Mr Miles /
wher the oven bakes & the pot biles ///

—July 31, 1840

Dave the Potter is a puzzle to unwind. A slave living in South Caroline during the 1800s, he wrote enigmatic poems into the pottery that he crafted. Born into slavery, Dave worked as a potter in a factory while he was still in his teens making stoneware vessels. It is on these vessels that Dave would inscribe short rhyming poems. This is remarkable given that slaves were forced into illiteracy and South Carolina passed a harsh anti-literacy law shortly after Dave’s first poem was published on a pot in 1834. Poetry thrives even in inhospitable climates, and because his artistry with clay, Dave the Potter’s life story and creative talents endure for posterity. [picture book, ages 5 and up]

p.s. Learn more about Dave the Potter from Leonard Todd, whose family owned Dave.

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Sci-Fi Junior High Chapter Book GIVEAWAY

Did you know that author James Patterson of Maximum Ride series now has a publishing imprint through Little, Brown called Jimmy Patterson Books. The books that he’s putting out have his name on the cover: James Patterson Presents. This is an interesting concept of brand extension for authors.

I’m giving away a James Patterson Presents book, Sci-Fi Junior High by John Martin and Scott Seegert that is a notebook novel like Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. This book is actually a hybrid — part doodles, part graphic novel pages, and part chapter book. This is a book to draw in reluctant boy readers with both humor and illustrations on every single page.

I’m giving away a prize package for Sci-Fi Junior High!

One winner receives:
Copy of Sci-Fi Junior High
Branded iron-on patch and pencil case
Plus rocket ship pens! Read more…

My 2017 Newbery Predictions

My 2017 Newbery Predictions

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

This is the true story of how children’s books came to be, the brainchild of John Newbery, considered the father of children’s literature. In 1726, there were no children’s books at all. His first book, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, was marketed as a book and a toy! It was a hit! For kids who appreciate Newbery books, have them read this engaging picture book biography, about the man whose name is a book award, but his own story largely unknown. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

I’ve been trying to pick Newbery winners for some time now, analyzing what pundits have picked and noting what books seem to be getting buzz all year. Sometimes this is a good predictor; sometimes not.

I have a few theories about what I think makes a good Newbery pick, but, of course, the actual Newbery committee pays no mind to what I think and has their own criteria which may or may not change slightly from year to year. Who knows?

A Newbery Book Should Have Broad Age Appeal

There’s nothing worse, in my mind, with a Newbery winner that is too high such that only the most advanced elementary school readers can attempt it. The Westing Game is a good example of that for me. It won in 1978.

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Top 10 Fantasy Adventures for Kids & 3 Signed Book GIVEAWAY

Top 10 Fantasy Adventures for Kids & 3 Signed Book GIVEAWAY

Please welcome author G. A. Morgan with her list of Top 10 Favorite Fantasy Adventures. The final book of her own fantasy adventure series, The Five Stones Trilogy, releases today called The Kinfolk!

I’m thrilled to be giving away 3 SIGNED copies of The Kinfolk to 3 winners. Please see Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter. If you follow me on Instagram, I’m doing more book giveaways there as well.——————

Greetings readers of Pragmatic Mom! Thank you for encouraging your kids to read fantasy. The great news about fantasy-adventure books is that kids tend to devour them. The best ones, in my opinion, tell a riveting story with relatable characters, but offer—at the core—some irrevocable, universal truths.

With technology ever-present and Hollywood bringing to screen many of our favorite stories, it’s more important then ever to have reading choices that are broad and deep; that offer exciting narratives but are also thought-provoking and linger in the imagination long after childhood is over. They also should appeal to both girls and boys.

That’s what I tried to accomplish in The Five Stones Trilogy, and these are the qualities I looked for when creating this list. By and large, the books in this list are appropriate for ages 8-14 (and beyond!), depending on reading ability, and my list gets “older” as we move down it. Read more…

164 Chapter Books for Difficult Situations: #MGGetsReal

166 Chapter Books for Difficult Situations: #MGGetsReal

Please welcome my guest blogger today, Kerry Cerra. She’s the author of Just a Drop of Water (9/11 and Religious Intolerance), but she’s here today with author friends –Shannon Wiersbitzky of What Flowers Remember (Alzheimer’s),Kathleen Burkinshaw of The Last Cherry Blossom (Hiroshima), Joyce Moyer Hostetter of Comfort (War Trauma), and Shannon Hitchcock of Ruby Lee & Me (School Integration) — to create a comprehensive list of realistic fiction for middle grade (ages 9 and up).

This list of 165 chapter books covers a plethora of topics. Let me know if you need a category that isn’t listed. I hope you find this list as useful and I do!

  • Chapter Books with Abandonment
  • Chapter Books with Verbal or Physical Abuse
  • Chapter Books with ADD/ADHD
  • Chapter Books with Adoption/Foster Care
  • Chapter Books with Substance Abuse
  • Chapter Books with Alzheimer’s/Dementia
  • Chapter Books Covering Anxiety
  • Chapter Books with Autism/Asperger’s
  • Chapter Books with Blended Families
  • Chapter Books with Body Image Issues
  • Chapter Books with Bullying
  • Chapter Books with Civil Rights/Integration
  • Books for Tweens with Deaf/Hearing Loss
  • Chapter Books with Death of a Parent/Grandparent
  • Chapter Books with Death of a Sibling
  • Chapter Books with Depression and Mental Illness
  • Chapter Books with Discrimination & Prejudices (religious, ethnic, etc.)
  • Chapter Books with Divorce
  • Chapter Books with Dyslexia
  • Diverse Chapter Books
  • Chapter Books with Eyesight/Blindness
  • Feeling like You’re a Bad Friend Chapter Books
  • Chapter Books About Following Your Dreams Despite Odds
  • Chapter Books with Gifted Characters
  • Chapter Books on Homelessness
  • Chapter Books Dealing with Illness
  • Chapter Books on Immigration
  • Books with LGBTQ
  • Chapter Books with Physical Disability/Disfiguration
  • Chapter Books with Self-Doubt
  • Chapter Books with Stepfamilies
  • Chapter Books with Suicide
  • Chapter Books with Survivor’s Guilt
  • Chapter Books About Wanting to Fit In
  • Chapter Books with War Trauma

——————–

Hands down my favorite thing about visiting schools as an author is the ability to recommend books to readers. Of course I speak about my own novel, but I always bring others with me. Lots of them. Why? Because I wholeheartedly believe it’s important for kids to be able see themselves in a story, and I know my book may not be that book for everyone. So I’m thrilled to be part of an exciting campaign, #MGGetsReal, with four other awesome authors. Our goal is simple: to highlight books which kids can relate to on a personal level—so they don’t feel so alone, afraid, or different.

All most of us have to do is remember back to our pre-teen years to know that kids long to feel one with the masses. To be accepted. To fit in. The recent video of a young girl, Emma, from Texas who wears a prosthetic leg is proof of this. With videotape rolling, Emma’s excitement is palpable as she realizes she’s getting an amazing gift, an American Girl doll. And lucky for myself and the millions (yes, millions) of viewers who have now seen the footage, we witness Emma’s genuine happy-shock reaction when she opens the box to discover that the doll is actually sporting a prosthetic leg just like her own. Seriously? Can you imagine anything better for this girl? Go ahead and view it here, but be careful, for Emma’s tears are infectious!

My own middle-grade novel, Just a Drop of Water, is the story of two thirteen-year-old boys—one Christian, one Muslim—and how their friendship is tested in the wake of September 11, 2001. It has strong themes of friendship, loyalty, bullying, and peace. Every so often at a school visit, I’ll encounter a Muslim student who pulls me aside to say how much the book, particularly the character of Sam, resonates with them and to thank me for writing it.

A handful of times, I’ve had kids tell me they are like the main character Jake. They too only see the world in black and white. With no gray. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. They are Jake! And like Jake, they sometimes get in trouble for it. I feel like the luckiest author in the world when I get to have these important discussions with them about how it’s okay to stand up for what you believe in, but to do so peacefully. And to know that sometimes my book is one that a kid connects to in such a personal way, well, it’s singlehandedly the reason why I write!

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