Kids pick their top 100 books

The National Education Association did an online poll a while back and here’s what kids picked as their favs.

1. Harry Potter (series) by J. K. Rowling

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – AR 5.5
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – AR 6.7
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – AR 6.7
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – AR 6.8
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – AR 7.2
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – AR generic 7
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – AR 6.9

2. Goosebumps (series) by R. L. Stine

Beware, The Snowman by RL Stine
The Haunted School by RL Stine

3. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Accelerated Reading level – 1.5

4. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Accelerated Reading level – 2.1

5. Arthur (series) by Marc Brown

6. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Accelerated Reading level – 4.4
(read aloud edition)

7. Shiloh (trilogy) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
(boxed set)
Accelerated Reading level – 4.4, 4.8, 4.9

8. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Accelerated Reading level – 5.7

9. Holes by Louis Sachar
Accelerated Reading level – 4.6

10. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Accelerated Reading level – 5.7
by Lois Lowry

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NY Times Best of 2010

Notable Children’s Books of 2010

 

Illustration by Jakob Hinrichs

BUSING BREWSTER
By Richard Michelson.
Illustrated by R. G. Roth.

Unpaged. Knopf. $16.99. (Ages 6 to 10)

Brewster is a black child living in a segregated neighborhood in the early 1970s. He’s not dreaming of a way out, only of starting first grade with Miss Evelyn — until his mother announces that he and his brother will be bused to the “white school” an hour away. The understated honesty of Michelson’s writing and Roth’s art capture the period perfectly in this tale, one of this year’s New York Times best illustrated children’s books.

CENTER FIELD
By Robert Lipsyte.
280 pp. HarperTeen/HarperCollins. $16.99. (Ages 12 and up)

Lipsyte’s pitch-perfect young adult novel follows a jaded but likable suburban kid who wants only to play center field, where it’s “open and clean, no foul lines or crazy angles.” But it takes time to get there. The suburb he lives in, with its neglected teenagers, overworked adults and scheming, self-serving authority figures, seems like a stand-in for early-21st-century America.

DUST DEVIL
By Anne Isaacs.
Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.

Unpaged. Schwartz & Wade. $17.99. (Ages 5 to 9)

In this gorgeous sequel to the Caldecott Honor-winning “Swamp Angel,” the brave and resourceful Angelica Long rider, all of 16 years old, once again proves herself worthy to wear the boots of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill or John Henry. Zelinsky’s precise and witty illustrations, in American primitive style, match Isaacs’ text, which captures the outsize tone of the frontier, where the soil is “rich enough to open its own bank.”

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I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to be your Class President

“If War and Peace had a baby with The Breakfast Club and then left the baby to be raised by wolves, this book would be the result. I loved it.” –Jon Stewart.

I guess to be fair, it should be noted that Mr. Lieb is a producer on the Daily Show.  Nevertheless, Jon Stewart is spot on.

I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to be your Class President by Josh Lieb (12 – 15) is a deliciously wicked YA book that will appeal to the 12 and up crowd but also to those finicky, difficult-to-please middle school boys.

Twelve-year-old Oliver Watson’s got the IQ of a grilled cheese sandwich. Or so everyone in Omaha thinks. In reality, Oliver’s a mad evil genius on his way to world domination, and he’s used his great brain to make himself the third-richest person on earth! Then Oliver’s father—and arch-nemesis—makes a crack about the upcoming middle school election, and Oliver takes it as a personal challenge. He’ll run, and he’ll win! Turns out, though, that overthrowing foreign dictators is actually way easier than getting kids to like you. . . Can this evil genius win the class presidency and keep his true identity a secret, all in time to impress his dad?  (product description)

I dare you to click here

How much of Oliver’s elaborate world as a 7th grade evil genius is in his mind and how much is actually happening remains a bit unclear.  But then again, I suppose the simple fact that a grown woman is even pondering this question demonstrates just how fully realized Oliver’s world feels to the reader.  Although Oliver’s incredible universe is bigger-than-life, the theme of a boy striving for his father’s love is subtle and touching.

Lately it seems that the list of anti-hero, evil geniuses is growing.  I’m pretty sure Oliver is my favorite one yet.   Loved this one.

Why Judy Blume is Still Awesome

We must, we must, we must increase our bust!

It’s true.  Judy Blume is kind of my hero.  I remember stalking the shelves of Arlington Heights public school library when I was in third grade hoping to find “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” so I could check it out for, like, the twenty-fifth time.  The librarian, seeing what book I was attempting to check out, yet again, would cheerfully suggest other titles that she hoped would inspire me to broaden my literary horizons.  I would listen, smiling and nodding, then thank her for her input and shoved “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” into my backpack.

Unlike many other beloved titles from a childhood long ago and far away, Judy Blume’s books continue to hold up.  Why?  Other than well-rounded characters and excellent plotting, one might posture that it’s actually because she dares to tackle controversial topics that pique kids’ interest like racism (Iggie’s House), menstruation (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret), divorce (It’s Not the End of the WorldJust As Long As We’re Together), bullying (Blubber), masturbation (DeenieThen Again, Maybe I Won’t) and teen sex (Forever).

Ms. Blume has written 21 some novels with sales exceeding 80 million copies that have been translated into 31 languages.  Considering her brave approach to “controversial” topics, it shouldn’t be a surprise that she is one of the most censored authors of all time.  I say good for you, Judy Blume!  In fact, on the list of the top 100 most challenged books between 1990 and 1999 at the American Library Association, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, comes in at number sixty.

This book tells the tale of an eleven year old girl, Margaret Simon, who is growing up with no organized religion (her father is Jewish and her mother Christian).  She, nevertheless, has a close personal relationship with God who she sees as her friend and confidant, someone she talks to when she cannot seem to talk to anyone else about important issues in her life.  When assigned a yearlong independent project at school, Margaret chooses the weighty task of studying people’s beliefs.  Through serious yet sometimes comical situations, the book also deals with several other taboo topics: Margaret having to buy her very first bra; having her first period; jealousy over other girls having more curvaceous figures; and, of course, boys.

Apparently the book lands on the “most censored” list because it deals openly with sexuality and religion.

The Judy Blume books are awesome Christmas gifts.  If you have emerging readers, then start with “Freckle Juice.”  The publishers put together some excellent boxed sets for the holidays for slightly older readers.

“The Golden Compass” by Phillip Pullman

Read the book.   Don’t see the movie.

“The Golden Compass” by Phillip Pullman (grade 7 and up) is the first in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy.  It’s easily the best of the three books and can confidently stand alone.  In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall.

Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors.  First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe.

He leaves Lyra in the care of  Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her.

In this multilayered  narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title.  All around her children are disappearing, victims of so-called “Gobblers” being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their animal daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being.  And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved in this horrible experiment.

If you have a teen who likes to read and hasn’t read this series, buy it for them for the holidays.  But be warned, once they start reading you may not see them again for the rest of winter break.

As an aside, I must also confess that while glued to this book, I fell head over heels in love with a polar bear.  Read it yourself, and you’ll know why.

“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

I didn’t see it coming.  The ending took me completely by surprise.  Which I admit seems silly in hindsight.  I can only postulate that I became so intimately bonded to Pi and Richard Parker that it never occurred to me to consider any alternate reality.  Simply, I wanted it to be true.

Yann Martel’s imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi (12 and up) is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and faith.

The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting “religions the way a dog attracts fleas.” Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter.

Peter Kasim

After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker , “His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth.”

It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don’t burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat’s sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination.

In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: “It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I’ve made none the champion.”

At one point in his journey, Pi recounts, “My greatest wish–other than salvation–was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One that I could read again and again, with new eyes and fresh understanding each time.” It’s safe to say that this heartbreaking fable Life of Pi is such a book.  (amazon review)

This gorgeous tale is on my top-ten list.  A word of warning — this beautiful but brutal tale is not for the overly sensitive teen.  Or adult, I guess.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth” by Jeff Kinney


Wimpy kids unite!  Again.  Actually, uh, for the fifth time.  …Not that I’m counting.

This fifth book in the incredibly popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” illustrated novel series, “The Ugly Truth,” is due in stores nationwide today.  Woo-hoo.

Because it was so highly anticipated, Scholastic even allowed kids to pre-order it directly from them which means that scads of third and fourth grade teachers across the nation will be handing out freshly pressed copies to their eager little readers today.

The “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series by Jeff Kinney focuses on a sixth-grade boy dealing with the various hurdles of childhood and tweenhood.  In this newest book, he faces the pressures of (gasp!) boy-girl parties, among other things.

This past March, the popular series was turned into a (incredibly mediocre) live-action film creatively titled “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

For those of you who just can’t get enough, go to www.wimpykid.com.  Sadly, this will surely include my own household.

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