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A little girl came in, looking for computer time at the AWE computers, just now. In her hand was the biggest, shiniest red lollipop. “It’s hollow!” she told me, cheerfully. I asked her if she’d like to see a book about another girl who had a big red lollipop. Big-eyed, she nodded and her caregiver beamed. We walked over to the “Kh” section in picture books. When I handed her Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, her eyes got even bigger and her smile wider.
This is the type of moment that makes my day.
Today, a young girl came to the library, seeking two specific books. One was a Grimm’s fairy tales book which she knew was checked out and which she wished to place on hold. The other was a fairy tale book which she wanted to find on the shelf. As we were seeking the second book, I took the opportunity to explain to her the magic of the 398.2 shelves and all the treasures contained therein. She beamed at this bit of library lore, and so we got into a bit of a longer conversation. Wanting to encourage her to join our Summer Reading program, I asked her name and what grade she was in. “I’m in fifth grade,” she said, “and my name’s Arieanne**, that’s Ari with an ‘e,’ and Anne with an ‘e’)”
At this, I stared at this clear-eyed ten year old, and remarked, wow, that reminds me so much of a character in a book called Anne of Green Gables! “Oh yes, I know,” she said, “Lucy M. Montgomery is my second cousin twice removed.”
Stunned and thrilled, I told her how many times (embarrassing to admit here) I’d read and reread Anne of Green Gables in middle school. Turns out her mother is reading the eighth “Anne book” to her now.
I feel like I’ve met royalty. Pinch me, someone, please and bring me down to earth.
Here are a couple of Anne of Green Gables quotes, for those who are just as delighted as I am with this very Anne-ish encounter:
**The name and some other details have been changed, for privacy reasons, but the spirit of the exchange has been saved.
Calling all bookish folks:
Do you have favorite, go-to books that you immediately turn to when recommending books for third and fourth graders? I’m compiling a recommended books list for my library, and thought it would be fun to learn the favorites of other library people (and bookish folk) to better inform my selections.
- Frindle by Andrew Clements
- the Fudge series by Judy Blume
- The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami
- The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
- Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- Half Magic by Edward Eager
- Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw
- Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
- The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
- The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
A few that I often rely on are listed above, (in no particular order), but I look forward to refreshing my repertoire with your tried-and-true suggestions!
As a librarian working with children and teens, I often am asked about what are some of my favorite books for various age groups. The problem is, I have a zillion “favorites!”
But I thought it would be fun to list just a few today, a taste, as it were, of beloved books that come to mind. There are more, but those will have to come another day!
For the first five years set, Goodnight, Gorilla and Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman make great read-alouds. I also love Bark, George by Jules Feiffer and Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora. This last one is a riff on the “Old MacDonald” song, and it was a hit at our Día de los Niños celebration!
For upper-elementary kids, one perennial classic that I simply adore is Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I love the fact that even though this book is 50 years old, its themes of friendship, secrets, and betrayal continues to appeal to children today. For this age group, one of my favorite newer fantasy series to recommend is the Wildwood series by Colin Meloy. Set in Portland and its adjacent (fictional) “Impassable Wilderness,” this book captured my heart with its refusal to follow any set stereotypes about heroic characters.
For young teens, I love Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan, in which the voice of the main character immediately engages the reader into wanting to know what will be the fate of this unique teen. A creepy (but in an awesome way) book that I loved was The Riverman by Aaron Starmer, which is a haunting exploration of coming of age among children just on the cusp of their teen years, with a strong fantasy theme that interplays very well with what it means to come of age.
And last but not least, in this age of Hunger Games and Divergent, one series that I always recommend to all teens – old and young – craving more post-apocalyptic dystopian excitement is the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, which, with its intrepid female lead characters really gives those other books a run for their money!
So, for today, these are a few of my favorite go-to Children’s and Teen books. What are some of yours?
Okay, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to post this on my blog, as it seemed a little ‘braggy’ to post this here. But then I thought, well, why not? After all, I am proud of this video (and the experiences and stories that led to it).
So, without further ado, here are some of my library stories in the form of a video celebrating not just Brooklyn Public Library, but really, libraries and librarians everywhere! And of course Judy Blume, for writing Iggy’s House, that wonderful book! As I say to friends, this is really my favorite career I’ve ever had!
So excited to have found this great page on FB: 101 Indian Children’s Books We Love. There is a lot to peruse and discover on that page – check it out!
Oluguti Toluguti: Indian Rhymes to Read and Recite in turn led me down an internet rabbit-hole whereby I read further into publisher Tulika’s website, (they also have a site based in America, in New England), which then led me, via a hop, skip, and jump, to 101 Indian Children’s Books We Love
And many thanks also to Elaine, whose inquiry about good chapter books with Indian characters, led me through this mini-journey of discovery!
And now I’m out of breath!
Oh wait: Here is a link to Mathu’s (aka Mathangi Subramanian’s) upcoming new book: Bullying: The Ultimate Teen Guide. More on this soon!
Paperback: 176 pages
Book: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Genre(s): Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication date: 2007
Hardcover: 224 pages
Other: was made into a film in 2010
Summary: Greg Heffley is an average middle school kid who is not as popular or strong as he’d like to be, and yet he seems to enjoy life. He has his video games, his sweet but odd friend Rowley, and parents who care (perhaps a bit too much for his liking, as it makes it hard to get away with stuff). Told in journal format, with humorous illustrations on each page, we learn about Greg’s life in his own words. As the title implies, Greg is indeed a wimpy kid, in more ways than one. Kids will appreciate that Greg is not a perfect role model and struggles with making decisions when it’s between what he knows is right and what would be more fun.
To whom will this appeal?: This humorous book will appeal to lovers of contemporary humorous realistic fiction, and especially to reluctant readers. The age level intended for this book ranges from the elementary grades through middle school. However, adults have also been observed giggling with recognition as they eagerly leaf through the pages for a relatively painless trip back in time to the awkwardness of junior high.
It’s a quick read and the first of a whole series (with movie tie-ins) and so it’s become somewhat of an institution, which might lead some skeptics to wonder what the hoopla isall about. And yet, mixed in with the humor and the easy-to-digest prose is a brilliantly sketched exposure of what life is like for contemporary middle school boys. Readers of all ages will appreciate both the humor and the pain — and the brilliant and minimalist illustrations round out the reading experience by adding sly details which will make the avid reader want to flip back again and again.
Caveat: While some of Greg’s less-than-noble actions get him a deserved comeuppance, there is no overt moralizing in this book. The good are not always rewarded, nor are the guilty always brought to justice. This quality is often simultaneously perceived as refreshing by tweens and troublesome by some adult readers.
Book: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Genre(s): Very difficult to categorize, but here goes: Mystery, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction (in some ways)
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication date: 2009
Hardcover: 208 pages
Other: Newbery Award Winner, 2010
Summary: Sixth-grader Miranda is having, well, a sort of weird time lately. Her best friend Sal has suddenly stopped talking to her, and won’t say why. There’s a bum who’s recently taken up residence on the corner near her apartment building (located in 1970s Upper West Side Manhattan), and who creeps her out with his sudden laughing episodes. And then there are the cryptic notes that start appearing in odd places where no one could have access.
What does it all mean? Figuring out what is going on is half the fun of this literary sci fi realistic mystery. (Yes, this book does indeed defy categorization!)
To whom will this appeal?: When You Reach Me is a literary novel written for the “middle grades” (and as such has extremely well-observed and realistic middle grade characters) but will appeal to a number of different “constituencies.” Fans of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (which, incidentally, won the Newbery Award in 1963) will appreciate the literary (and timeless) quality of Stead’s writing. Stead herself is a fan of A Wrinkle in Time, as evidenced by the ubiquitous AWIT references in WYRM. In fact, one could go so far as to say that reading (or re-reading) A Wrinkle in Time is a necessary prerequisite to properly enjoying When You Reach Me.
It is a pity that many libraries will only carry this in their children’s section, as this book has an appeal for all ages, especially the teen or adult who enjoys the challenge of solving a tantalizing esoteric mystery that is zillions of miles away from (and more sophisticated than) the average juvenile mystery. Any child/teen/adult who has enjoyed the books of E. L. Konigsburg (especially From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The View from Saturday) will be very likely enjoy WYRM.
Another audience to whom the book will appeal is adults who may have grown up in, or relish the description of, 1970s New York. The description of late 70s era NYC — the freedom the kids had, the vague feeling of danger and yet innocence, the falling-apart-ness of buildings, the ethos of the time — is extremely well-done. While tweens or teens may also appreciate this description, I suspect that the draw of this type of historical detail is especially strong for those who have lived through the era and in the place. (Having myself lived in 1979 NYC, this observation may well be colored by my personal experience!)
Book: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
Genre: Contemporary (historical?) Realistic Fiction
Publication date: 1983 (reprint 2000)
Paperback: 134 pages
Other: Newbery Award Winner, 1984
Summary: Leigh Botts really, really likes the book Ways to Amuse a Dog by his favorite author Boyd Henshaw. So much so that he writes to Mr. Henshaw as part of a school book report project, but then continues to write to him long after the project is done. Through his letters, we follow his growth from second to sixth grade, as he describes to Mr. Henshaw how lonely it is to be a new kid in school whose lunch is always getting stolen and who “no one knows.” On top of it all, his mom and dad are separated and he misses life the way it used to be. When Mr. Henshaw finally writes a letter back, Leigh gets inspired to write, and soon he’s on his way to a new way of looking at the world.
To whom will it appeal? Dear Mr. Henshaw will appeal to children and tweens who like a slower paced book, divided evenly between humor and the more serious themes of divorce, loneliness and moving away from one’s home to a new unknown area.
Fifth grade and middle school kids who are bookish, and aspire to be writers will especially be drawn to this book, as it provides excellent writing advice and even models how to become a writer. It should be noted that, as the book was written in 1983, there are certain elements which will strike the tweens of today as being ‘historical’ and/or ‘old-fashioned.’ For example, there is a sense of isolation when Leigh yearns to be in better touch with his father, who is a trucker constantly on the move, and cannot be expected to call from the road. The lack of ubiquitous cell phones and internet will be a tipoff to kids that this book is set in a different era. While it may turn off the kids who are looking to see their lives reflected in their reading material, the themes of loneliness and learning how to make friends are universal and will appeal to the tween who is willing to explore a more thoughtful approach to solving problems.