Sunday, December 13, 2009

Higher Level Books for Younger Readers

This list is not for a specific reading level or age, nor is it comprehensive in scope—it is merely a compilation of series/titles/authors that could work well for younger students who are reading at high levels. (Thanks to my colleagues at LM_Net for helping to build this list.)

Keep in mind that, just because a child can sound out or read the words, it does not mean that they comprehend what they are reading. These children need help learning to pick “just right books” for themselves—books that might be a little challenging, but not so challenging as to frustrate them out of reading. Remember too that, just because a child can read a book does not mean that they are emotionally/socially mature enough to understand some of the situations that arise in some stories or some of the interactions that occur on a deeper level. If you have a younger reader who reads at a higher level, read with your child so that you can discuss things that may be of concern to you or to them. Not only does it help their understanding, it offers a wonderful chance to help you understand them just a little better. Ask questions. Share your views. Let them share theirs.

Some wonderful resources for helping students with developing their book selection skills include: the 2Sisters website, and Jackie Mims Hopkins' picture book, Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians.

Series (title and author):

American Girl-multiple authors
Animal Ark-Baglio
Araminta Spooke-Angie Sage
Beany and the Meany –Wojciechowski
Black Stallion-Farley
Captain Underpants-Pilkey
Carol Marsh Mysteries-
Charlie Bone- Nimmo
Chasing Vermeer (series by Balliet)
Children of Greenview-Knowles
Chronicles of Narnia -Lewis
Dear America Series-
Dragon Slayers Academy-
Emma -Warner
Enchanted Forest Chronicles-Wrede
Flat Stanley -Brown
Geronimo Stilton-
Guardians of Ga'Hoole -Lasky
Gooney Bird Green -Lowrey
Gregor the Overlander-Collins
Hank the Cowdog-John R. Erickson and Gerald L. Holmes
Hardy Boys (graphic novels and regular)

Judy Moody-McDonald
Little House-Wilder
Magic School Bus-
Mercy Watson -DiCamillo
Misty of Chincoteague -Henry
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle -MacDonald
My America-
My Father’s Dragon -Gannett
Nancy Drew (graphic novels and regular)-
Pippi Longstocking -Lindgren
Pony Pals-
Poppy –Avi
Ramona Quimby -Cleary
Redwall -Jacques
Saddle Club-
Sandy Lane –Usborne
Septimus Heap series-Angie Sage
Mouse and the Motorcycle and other books by her-Cleary
Time Warp Trio -Scieszka
Wizard of Oz -Baum

Specific Titles:

A Bear Called Paddington -Bond
Abel's Island-Steig
Babe, the Gallant Pig and others by this author-King-Smith
Because of Winn-Dixie-DiCamillo
Ben and Me -Lawson
Big Idea, Ben Franklin?-Jean Fritz
Chalk Box Kid -Bulla
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -Dahl
Charlotte’s Web-White
Doll People
Dr. DoLittle-
Dragon Rider-Funke
Freedom Rider-Ryan
Frindle -Clements
Half Magic -Eager
James and the Giant Peach -Dahl
Mary Poppins-Travers
Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane-DiCamillo
Mr. Popper's Penguins-Atwater
My Dog, My Hero -Byars
Peter and the Starcatchers
Rabbit Hill -Lawson
Secret of Platform 13-Ibbotson
Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs-Birney
Star of Kazan-Ibbotson
Stuart Little -White
The BFG -Dahl
The Cricket in Times Square -Selden
The Gadget War -Duffey
The Hundred Dresses -Estes
The Meanest Doll in the World-
The Penderwicks -Birdsall
The Shrinking of Treehorn -Heide
The Stories Julian Tells -Cameron
When Santa fell to Earth-Funke
Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus?-Jean Fritz
Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?-Jean Fritz
Who’s That Stepping on Plymouth Rock-Jean Fritz
Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?-Jean Fritz
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?-Jean Fritz
Wilma Unlimited; How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman -Krull
Wind in the Willows -Graham
Winnie the Pooh -Milne
Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet -Cameron
You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton?-Jean Fritz

Beast Feast, Insectlopedia, Mammalabilia and others -Florian
Flicker Flash-Graham
New Kid on the Block -Prelutsky
Where the Sidewalk Ends, and others -Silverstein

Ride on the Red Mare’s Back -LeGuin
Saint George and the Dragon -Hodges
Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett: A Tall Tale -Kellogg
Swamp Angel -Issacs
The King’s Equal -Paterson
The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies -Forest
Young Guinevere -SanSouci

A Picture Book About… (series includes a wide variety of biographies in picture book format)
A Story of John James Audubon -Davies
Alvin Ailey -Pinkney
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?-Jean Fritz
Bard of Avon: the Story of William Shakespeare-Diane Stanley
Beatrix Potter -Wallner
Brendan the Navigator: A History Mystery about the Discovery of America-Jean Fritz Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George-Jean Fritz
Cleopatra-Diane Stanley
Dare to Dream: Coretta Scott King and the Civil Rights Movement -Medearis
Dear Benjamin Banneker -Pinkney
El Chino -Say
Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series-Venezia
Good Queen Bess; the Story of Queen Elizabeth I of England-Diane Stanley
How Ben Franklin Stole Lightning -Schanzer
Joan of Arc-Diane Stanley
Leonardo da Vinci-Diane Stanley
Leonardo’s Horse-Jean Fritz
Michaelangelo-Diane Stanley
Saladin: A Noble Prince of Islam-Diane Stanley
Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution-Jean Fritz
Teammates -Golenbock
The Boy Who Drew Birds;
The Lost Colony of Roanoke-Jean Fritz
The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson -McGovern
The Story of Ruby Bridges -Cole

Bats-Gail Gibbons
Beacons of Light: Lighthouses-Gail Gibbons
Chicks and Chickens-Gail Gibbons
Deserts-Gail Gibbons
Giant Pandas-Gail Gibbons
Grizzly Bears-Gail Gibbons
Horses-Gail Gibbons
Rabbits, Rabbits and More Rabbits-Gail Gibbons
Spiders-Gail Gibbons
The Berry Book -Gail Gibbons
The Honey Makers-Gail Gibbons
The Milk Makers-Gail Gibbons
The Monarch Butterfly-Gail Gibbons
The Pumpkin Book-Gail Gibbons
Whales-Gail Gibbons
Wolves-Gail Gibbons
Nature-Related Books by Jean George

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Margaret Peterson Haddix has woven a wonderful story from the stuff of fairytale legend--but with a "what if" twist that brings the story of Cinderella into the real world. What if there was no fairy godmother? What if Cinderella was a girl who took her destiny into her own hands and made her own fairytale ending? What if "happily ever after" is buried in lies, politics, and etiquette lessons, and Prince Charming isn't? Just a short time after the famous "glass slipper" incident, Ella is finding herself to be less than happy and is beginning to wonder if the royal life is really what she wants.
If you enjoy fairy tales with a twist, have always wondered about what happened next in the Cinderella story, and don't want to depend on a fairy godmother for your own happy ending? Read Just Ella.
As a note--some of the reviews suggest that this story might work well as a read-aloud for "younger readers". If you choose to use this story with "younger readers", be sure to read it for yourself first. There are some more mature elements to this more realistic Cinderella story.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kat Cooks the Books--kids' lit-inspired recipes

I've long been a recipe buff and am always tickled when I find a good children's book that includes a recipe. That said, I never once thought about making up a recipe inspired BY a children's book. Then, LM_Net (a librarian's listserv) dropped this blog onto my lap: Kat Cooks the Books at The "why didn't I think of that!!!" factor hits me big-time when I look at this blog. So far, there are recipes inpsired by Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal, Kevin Henkes' Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and Peggy Parrish's Amelia Bedelia series. These recipes and stories just beg to be used in a book club or in any number of of storytime related activities. Wonderful!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Kat is a 7th grader who'd love to have just one good friend. She thinks she's finally got her chance when she's partnered with one of the most popular girls in school for a social studies project. The only problem? Well, let's just say that ghostly wails of bagpipes, strange temperature changes, and a mother who talks to dead people may not be conducive to "fitting in" with the popular crowd. To make matters worse, at least from Kat's point of view, she herself has started to see dead people too. Spend some time with Kat as she tries to come to terms with her own gift, make friends, and figure out what the ghost in the library wants Kat to do. Visit Kimmel's website at:
I started this one at about 11:00 p.m. and finished it up in the wee hours of the morning. Why? I didn't want to put it down. I'm getting too old to do that, but I really liked this story. I'd recommend this one to anyone who like ghost stories, paranormal twists, or mysteries with both of the other elements. Bonus? There are sequels!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Some Great Sites for Mystery Lovers and More

As an avid mystery reader, I'm a big fan of the Stop You're Killing Me (SYKM) website ( The site is wonderful in that it offers you easy access to mystery books, allowing you to search outright, or if you remember the main character name, by character, or by author. This alone makes the site noteworthy, but it also includes some other handy features including a "read-alike" section, a genre index and and location index. While the site does include some mysteries written for the young adult, it does not list mysteries geared specifically toward children. However, Lucinda Surber, SYKM Webmaster, has another wonderful site called Bookworm for Kids ( The site is geared toward parents, grandparents and teachers interested in encouraging kids to love reading. There are links to Caldecott and Newbery Award winners, links to books by theme (such as divorce, sibling rivalry), books by genre and by subject, and more. If you want to find some great recommendations for mysteries for children, just visit the site's genre link and select "mysteries".

Enjoy exploring these wonderful sites and happy reading!

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Capture by Karen Lasky

The Capture, first of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, is the story of a young owl named Soren who is captured and taken to a horrible place where young owls from all over the kingdom are basically brainwashed into forgetting who they are and made to work mining "fleck". The story if filled with adventure and suspense and quite a lot of mystery. How did Soren fall from his nest? Did his sister and nest-maid survive? Will Soren and Gylfie escape or will they, too, succumb to the mind-numbing effects of moon-blanking? What is the purpose of the flecks and what is housed in the mysterious "orphanage" library. Don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to learn more about these amazing creatures.

Recommended for Grades 4-8, this series will appeal to readers who like adventure and suspense with animals as the main characters, such as the Redwall series by Jacques and the NIMH series by O'Brien.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Jimmy Coates, Assassin? by Joe Craig

Jimmy Coates is 11, has an annoying older sister, a best friend who likes to joke around and has no idea that his life, as he knows it, is about to change. Forever. This story is set in an England that has gone haywire--just like all that Jimmy believed--about himself, his family, and his country. I can not wait to see what happens in the next installment.
The book is listed as Grades 4-8, with a reading level from ages 9-12. That said, anyone who enjoys a good romp and a bit of a mystery will zip through this story and be chomping at the bit for more.
Who will enjoy this book? Readers who enjoyed Alex Ryder's adventures (by Horowitz) or H.I.V.E (by Walden).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Books popular with my 5th graders, and some ideas to help you help them

I am always on the lookout for recommended reads, and I often get requests for a list of books for a specific grade level. There are lots of lists of recommended books out there--right at our fingertips--so, with all the lists out there, how do you know which list is the best one for you to use with your child (or students)? The best thing I've found so far is to just take it on a case by case basis. I'll include a few tips first, then a list of series and titles that are popular with my students, and some links to just a few websites that may be helpful for you.

A few tips:
  • Know your child/student--For example: Is this child inclined to have nightmares? If yes, don't choose "scary" stories"
  • Know what your child is interested in--does this child prefer action? fantasy? mysteries?
  • Let your child see you read something you enjoy.
  • Know how to help your child pick books that are "just right" for them--there is a simple strategy for this that doesn't require test results or any thing complicated--check out the five-finger rule
  • If you have concerns about certain topics or issues of language, use your child's reading choices as an opportunity to discuss these issues with your child.
and finally
  • If you want to encourage your child to read for fun, please, give your child some freedom of choice. It's OKAY for them to choose picture books, graphic novels, non-fiction, "easy" chapter books, magazines, poems, etc. A book doesn't have to be "classic good literature" to encourage someone read (and if you want to stir up a stink, just get a group of people debating what's "good" and "classic" literature!).
A few of the books &/or series that are popular with my 5th graders:

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
The Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls by Meg Cabot
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Ranger's Apprentice series by Jeff Flanagan
The Bone series by Jeff Smith
The Baby Mouse series by Matthew and Jennifer Holm
The Animal Ark series by Ben Baglio
The Molly Moon series by Georgia Byng
The Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator series by Jennifer Allison
The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright
The Among the Hidden series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
Because of Winn-Dixie and Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Warriors series by Erin Hunter
Judy Blume's books, including the Fudge series and The Pain and the Great One

In general:
  • Anything related to Star Wars
  • Any Guinness Book of World Records
  • "Scary" stories, including Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Ask the Bones, Goosebumps, etc.
Somes sites that may help you in your quest for books for your child/student: national multimedia project that offers informationa nd resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle and how caring adults can help multicultural books (with specific focus on Pacific Rim and South Asia), offering a wealth of book-related resources for teachers, librarians, and parents for kids and parents to find info about their favorite books, series, and authors, including reviews, author interviews, trivia and games, and more

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book

This is just too cool. If you would like to watch Neil Gaiman read each chapter of The Graveyard Book, head over to his website at and click the link for "Video Tour" (or just click on this link The Graveyard Book). From there, you can open each chapter of his video tour. Apparently, the author is reading a chapter at each of his book tour stops and these readings are being posted for our viewing/listening pleasure. What a wonderful way to allow our students to hear the author speaking his own words! Thank you Mr. Gaiman!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

What a deliciously creepy tale! Love the characters, love the imagery, and love the ending.
Now, on a personal note. . .
Every now and then, a book will have a phrase or passage that puts into words something I have felt and didn't know how to say. These are the kinds of passages that stick with me and make a character or story really resonate for me. There were a couple of these passages that stood out for me in this story--one speaking to how we see ourselves, and another describing a different type of love--one that may sadly be more common than it ought to be.
On Page 67, Coraline has just woken up in her "other" bedroom. "For a moment she felt utterly dislocated. She did not know where she was; she was not entirely sure who she was. It is astonishing just how much of what we are can be tied to the beds we wake up in in the morning, and it is astonishing how fragile that can be."
On Page 106, Coraline's "other mother" has told her again "You know that I love you." This sets Coraline to thinking:
"And, despite herself, Coraline nodded. It was true: the other mother loved her. But she loved Coraline as a miser loves money, or a dragon loves its gold. In the other mother's button eyes, Coraline knew that she was a possession, nothing more. A tolerated pet, whose behavior was no longer amusing.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden

Have you ever felt like your schoolwork is killing you? Well, Otto Malpense has been kidnapped and imprisoned in a school that might literally be the death of him. The story begins as Otto wakes to find himself strapped into a helicopter flying over an ocean. Upon landing he is introduced to the strange island world of H.I.V.E., the Higher Institute of Villainous Education, an exclusive school for turning out world-class villains. There is no communication with the outside world. There seems to be only one way in and no way out.
My son (5th grader at the time) handed this to me after he finished it and insisted that I read it. Before he finished it, he requested a trip to the local bookstore to purchase Book 2 in the series. That's recommendation enough for me! Vivid imagery, great adventure, cool characters and just enough mystery to have my son and I discussing what might come next. Looking forward to more from Mr. Walden.