Mind your own beeswax! Take a secret peek into “Amelia’s Notebook”

Got a pretty little reader who isn’t crazy about actually reading?  All the Junie B’s and Judy M’s of the world hold no appeal for her? “Too many words!”  Then check out this fun, colorful series.  Your kidlets will be reading without even knowing it’s good for them.

Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss (ages 7-10, strong girl appeal) is designed as an upbeat, first-person story which resembles a real diary.   The cover bears the familiar black-and-white abstract design of a .99 cent composition book, decorated with color

Got a sweet young reader who isn’t crazy about actually reading?  All the Junie B’s and Judy M’s of the world hold no appeal for her? “Too many words!”  Then check out this fun, colorful series.  Your kidlets will be reading without even knowing it’s good for them.

Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss (ages 7-10, strong girl appeal) is designed as an upbeat, first-person story which resembles a real diary.   The cover bears the familiar black-and-white abstract design of a .99 cent composition book, decorated with color cartoons by Amelia, the book’s nine-year-old “author.”

Inside, on lined pages, Amelia writes about her recent move to a new town, doodles pictures of people she meets and saves such mementos as postage stamps and a birthday candle.

She misses her best friend, Nadia, but her moments of sadness are balanced by optimism-she distracts herself by drawing and by writing short stories. In appropriately conversational terms, Amelia complains that her big sister invades her privacy (“So Cleo if you are reading this right now-BUG OFF and STAY OUT”); gripes about cafeteria food (“Henna says they use dog food); and jokes in classic elementary-school gross-out fashion.  

Readers will understand Amelia’s wish to put her “top-secret” thoughts on paper, and they’ll notice that even though she’s uneasy about attending a different school, she’s starting over successfully. (Reed Business Information, Inc).

Keep in mind that there are some 15 books in the series.  Also, a mildde-school aged Amelia has another series of journals about life after elementary school.

 

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Easy Reader Series That Boys Will Love

The question I  get asked the most often is — can you recommend something my 5, 6, 7-year-old boy will actually want to read?

It’s a tough age, for both boys and girls, because they’re used to being read to and frequently haven’t quite gotten into the habit of reading on their own.  Or they want to read, but get frustrated because the material that interests them is too difficult for their reading level.

Here are three different series, each of which has lots of books in the series so if he likes it you can get more.  I’ve included a sample page from each series so you can gauge for yourself if the reading level is appropriate for your little man.

The Fly Guy series by Tedd Arnold is adorable fun with quirky cartoons and zany plots that keeps kids reading and laughing.  In the first book we meet a boy who goes out searching for a smart animal to take to The Amazing Pet Show and bumps into a fly that is intelligent enough to say the child’s name, Buzz. Although his parents and the judges feel at first that a fly is only a pest, not a pet, the insect puts on a performance that astounds them all and wins an award.

Got a little superhero at home?   It doesn’t matter if his favorite crime-fighter is Superman, Batman, Spiderman or even, gulp, Wonder Woman, there are tons of these “I Can Read” books in which good always defeats evil. This series will have them reading without even knowing that it’s good for them.

The P.J. Funnybunny series is a very sweet series that deals with problems that feel relatable to kids.  For example, in this book P.J. thinks that camping is not for girls.  At least, that’s what P.J. and his pals tell Donna and sister Honey Bunny when they want to tag along on a camping trip. But when two mysterious ghosts frighten the boys all the way home, only the girls know the real story.

Next time, I’ll tackle the same topic except we’ll switch genders and talk about girls as emerging readers.

“The Adventures of Nanny Piggins” by R.A. Spratt

Mary Poppins, move over—or get shoved out of the way. Nanny Piggins has arrived!

Why didn’t I come up with this idea?  The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt (grades 3 – 6) is irreverent fun that is impossible to resist.  This is a most excellent choice for out loud bedtime reading that I guarantee will have both parent and child giggling.

As the story opens we learn that Nanny Piggens was most recently employed at the circus as the pig shot out of a cannon.   She assumes the title Nanny when she spies a “Help Wanted” sign on the lawn of the Green family.  Mrs. Green is dead, and Mr. Green is so tight-fisted he refuses to pay a human nanny. So when a pig with no criminal record who will work for ten cents an hour applies, Mr. Green is delighted.

The children—Derrick, Samantha, and Michael—promptly fall in love with Nanny Piggins because she lets them eat sweets all day, watch as much TV as possible and stay up quite late.  She also comes up with the most marvelous ideas, like taking a boat to China to get Chinese takeout.

Even when things don’t exactly work out as planned (and they rarely do), the high-jinks and hilarity make them excellent adventures. Stuffing adjectives into this review is as easy as watching Nanny Piggins stuff pies into her mouth. This smart, sly, funny book is marvelously illustrated with drawings that capture Nanny’s sheer pigginess.

Readers may worry that this first novel is so full of stories about Nanny Piggins that there won’t be enough left for sequels. Never fear!  The last line of the book predicts Nanny will be stirring up more adventures, possibly even before breakfast. (synopsis excerpts stolen directly from Booklist)

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.

Stink Stands Alone — Judy Moody’s brother gets his own series

Megan McDonald, author of the hugely successful Judy Moody series, said, “Once, while I was visiting a class full of Judy Moody readers, the kids, many with spiked hair a la Judy’s little brother, chanted, ‘Stink! Stink! Stink! Stink! Stink!’ as I entered the room. In that moment, I knew that Stink had to have a book all of his own.”

Every morning, Judy Moody measures Stink, and it’s always the same: three feet, eight inches tall. Then, one day, the ruler reads – can it be? – three feet, seven and three quarters inches!

Is Stink shrinking?

In Stink’s first solo adventure, his style comes through loud and strong – enhanced by a series of comic strips, drawn by Stink himself, which are sprinkled throughout the book. These homespun sagas reflect the familiar voice of a kid who pictures himself with super powers to deal with the travails of everyday life – including the occasional teasing of a bossy big sister.

Currently you can get “Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid” along with the next two books in the series “The Adventures of Stink in Shrink Monster” to “The Adventure of Stink in Newt in Shining Armor,” as a three-pack.

These books are ideal for early grade boy readers, say, in first thru third grade.  Large print and lots of illustrations keep the pages turning.

And then there’s the Stink-O-Pedia.   Want to know where you can view the world’s oldest ham? Who holds the record for the world’s loudest burp? The answers to these and many, many more essential questions can be found in Stink-O-Pedia — just the sort of reference book that Stink Moody, who reads encyclopedias in his spare time, might make up himself. From J-for-Jawbreaker (and how long it would take an average frog to digest one), to P-for-Professional Smeller (and other strange but true careers), to Y-for-Yeti (why not?), this volume contains enough amazing stuff to keep readers saying “No way!” for a googolplex* of years. At the back of the book, facts are cross-referenced with related Stink and Judy Moody titles.

 

“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (ages 8 and up) is a novel in words and pictures, an intriguing mystery set in 1930s Paris about an orphan, a salvaged clockwork invention, and a celebrated filmmaker.  It takes the illustrated novel to a whole new level.  Or it puts a spin on the current resurgence of graphic novels.  I’m not sure exactly which one.  Not that it matters because it’s a bit of a quiet masterpiece.

Once you open this book, you”ll understand how it can become addictive.  You want to pick it up over and over, paging back and forth, studying the illustrations, scanning the details and searching the character’s faces.

It’s the story of orphan boy, clock keeper, and thief named Hugo who lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life and his most precious secret are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

The result is somewhat similar to a graphic novel, but experiencing its mix of silvery pencil drawings and narrative interludes is ultimately more akin to watching a silent film.  This hybrid creation, which also includes movie stills and archival photographs, is unexpected and often poignant.

It’s no surprise that movie titan Martin Scorsese is directing the film adaptation to be released next year.  Please don’t tell Mr. Scorsese that I said this, but I sort of doubt even he can do cinematic justice to this fanciful tale.   Either which way, please please please read the book before you see the film.

“Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine is having not so good of a week.
– On Monday she’s sent to the principal’s office for cutting off Margaret’s hair.
-Tuesday, Margaret’s mother is mad at her.
-Wednesday, she’s sent to the principal…again.
-Thursday, Margaret stops speaking to her.
-Friday starts with yucky eggs and gets worse.
-And by Saturday, even her mother is mad at her.

As Clementine says, “Spectacularful ideas are always sproinging up in my brain.” All the better for the young readers who like to laugh. Reminiscent of Ramona, Judy Moody and Junie B. Jones, “Clementine” by Sara Pennypacker (ages 7 -11) is an ingenuous third-grader with a talent for trouble and a good heart.
Her best friend is her neighbor Margaret, a fourth-grader who experiences both qualities firsthand.
After all, plenty of kids may have had their hair chopped off by a helpful friend in an effort to get the glue out, but how many of those friends would think to improve matters by drawing hair back on the scalp, forehead, and neck with a Flaming Sunset permanent marker?
“It looked beautiful, like a giant tattoo of tangled worms,” Clementine observes in the fresh, funny, first-person narrative.
Marla Frazee’s expressive ink drawings capture every nuance of the characters’ emotions, from bemusement to anger to dejection. Sometimes touching and frequently amusing, this engaging chapter book is well suited to reading alone or reading aloud to a roomful of children.  (Booklist)

Clementine has loads more charm than some of the other “girl” series. It’s a wonderful choice if you have a 2nd or 3rd grade girl who isn’t clicking with other series books.

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