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.

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“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)

“Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli

“She was homeschooling gone amok.” “She was an alien.” “Her parents were circus acrobats.”

In “Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli, these are only a few of the theories concocted to explain Stargirl Caraway, a new 10th grader at Arizona’s Mica Area High School who wears pioneer dresses and kimonos to school, strums a ukulele in the cafeteria, laughs when there are no jokes, and dances when there is no music.

The whole school, not exactly a “hotbed of nonconformity,” is stunned by her, including our 16-year-old narrator Leo Borlock: “She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl.”

In time, incredulity gives way to out-and-out adoration as the student body finds itself helpless to resist Stargirl’s wide-eyed charm, pure-spirited friendliness, and penchant for celebrating the achievements of others. In the ultimate high school symbol of acceptance, she is even recruited as a cheerleader.

Popularity, of course, is a fragile and fleeting state, and bit by bit, Mica sours on their new idol. Why is Stargirl showing up at the funerals of strangers? Worse, why does she cheer for the opposing basketball teams? The growing hostility comes to a head when she is verbally flogged by resentful students on Leo’s televised Hot Seat show in an episode that is too terrible to air.

While the playful, chin-held-high Stargirl seems impervious to the shunning that ensues, Leo, who is in the throes of first love (and therefore scornfully deemed “Starboy”), is not made of such strong stuff: “I became angry. I resented having to choose. I refused to choose. I imagined my life without her and without them, and I didn’t like it either way.”

Jerry Spinelli, author of Newbery Medalist Maniac Magee, Newbery Honor Book Wringer, and many other excellent books for teens, elegantly and accurately captures the collective, not-always-pretty emotions of a high school microcosm in which individuality is pitted against conformity.

Spinelli’s Stargirl is a supernatural teen character–absolutely egoless, altruistic, in touch with life’s primitive rhythms, meditative, untouched by popular culture, and supremely self-confident. It is the sensitive Leo whom readers will relate to as he grapples with who she is, who he is, who they are together as Stargirl and Starboy, and indeed, what it means to be a human being on a planet that is rich with wonders. Amazon.com review (Ages 10 to 14)

Best Kid’s Books to Just Leave in the Car

A battered, old copy of “Where’s Waldo?” has been living in the backseat of my car for months.  My kid never seem to tire of searching for Waldo or Odlaw or that strange little dog.  In fact, just yesterday my friend’s teenager picked it up with a gleeful “Oh I love Waldo!” and proceeded to spend the 15 minute car ride studying it with her little sister.

I know that one of the best things about being in the car with your kids is that they’re a captive audience, trapped backed there and often willing to have an actual conversation you.  But it doesn’t hurt of have a backseat book for those times when you’re driving and you need to concentrate on texting while putting on mascara.  (Oh settle down, I’m kidding)

Here are my favorite “waste-a-little-time-while-potentially-increasing-brain-cells” books.

– The “Waldo” series started in England in 1987 and to date there are dozens of different “Waldo” books.  This particular one happens to be the book that currently resides in my car.

 

– Did you know that Charlie Brown’s father is a barber?  Or that Tokyo has the world’s largest bowling alley?  How about that in Oklahoma it’s illegal to hunt for whale?   For a few thousand things you might want to know, but probably don’t, pick up one of the many books by the Society for Useless Information.

 

– The world record for continually chewing a piece of gum is 4 months. My daughter is determined to break this record.   She made it almost two days before her karate teacher made her spit it out.  No!  And we were so close.  I guess making it into the Guinness World Book is not an easy journey, but reading about some of the crazier records is a blast.

Best Kids Book Ages 12 and up from The Guardian

From the much-loved classic Tom Sawyer to the modern classic His Dark Materials, Lucy Mangan and Imogen Russell-Williams pick their top reads for children aged 12 and over.

I Capture the Castle: Dodie Smith

The first entry in Cassandra Mortmain’s diary ends with her feeling happier than she ever has in her life, despite her depressed father and impoverished state. “Perhaps it is because I have satisfied my creative urge; or it may be due to the thought of eggs for tea.” The story of the restoration of a degree of the family fortunes unfolds in the same briskly beguiling voice and appeals to the romantic streak in every teenage heart. Trust no one who does not love this or, of course, 101 Dalmatians.

His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman

Bleak, brutal, warm, lush and exhilarating by turns, fiercely intelligent, compassionate and compelling always, it will undo all the harm or all the good you feel was done by letting your offspring loose on Narnia. That’s what reading is for.

 

 

The Chaos Walking trilogy: Patrick Ness

An unbelievably thrilling read that nevertheless poses profound questions – about the effects of war, the constraints of love and hate, the competing claims of vengeance and forgiveness – as the epic tale of Todd’s efforts to escape various warmongering forces unfolds. Profoundly humane and utterly magnificent. More

THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ORIGAMI YODA by Tom Angleberger

Is Origami Yoda real or not?

The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (ages 8 -12) is a funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class, as well as a look at greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages.

It seems Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda.  If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice.

Dwight’s classmate and reluctant friend Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so totally clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, Tommy assembles the “case file” that forms this novel.

There’s something undeniably intriguing about the metaphysical dilemma the premise of this book raises. If Origami Yoda gives good advice does it matter if that advice is coming from Dwight the loser or from the manifestation of Lord Yoda himself?

Make your own Yoda!

It’s a question that kids understand. Is Christmas morning any less special if Santa isn’t real? Why do we avoid the crack if we know we won’t actually break our mother’s back?

I found this quirky little book to be a complete joy and read it in two quick sittings, yet I wouldn’t quite go so far as to recommend it to grown ups. However, every kid I know that has read it (okay that’s only 3) has found it nearly impossible to put down once they began reading.  Origami Yoda pulls a sort of  Jedi-mind-trick on its readers sucking them in and making them want to devour the story.

Hey c’mon, isn’t that exactly what we parents want from a kids book!

YOU’RE A BAD MAN, MR. GUM by Andy Stanton

Book 1

Mr. Gum is an old rotter.  He’s absolutely grimsters.

You’re a Bad Man Mr. Gum (ages 7 and up) by Andy Stanton had my book baby laughing so hard milk came out her nose.  This irreverant series is most certainly not for those of the prim and proper persuasion.

But if your kids like to laugh then these Roald-Dahlesque books are guaranteed to get them reading.

Mr Gum is a truly nasty old man. But the stories are not just about him. There’s also a little girl called Polly, an evil butcher, heroes and sweets and stuff, and Jake the dog, who must be saved from terrible, terrible evil.

I love the Mr. Gum series beyond words!  Author and stand-up comic Andy Stanton’s books have been called “Monty Python for kids”.  Originally published in Europe, it was difficult to get them for a while, but as their popularity has grown, the series is now readily available.

In the first book, You’re a Bad Man Mr. Gum, we meet the old rotter right away.   Mr Gum lives in a disgustingly filthy house where “he slept, scowled, and picked his nose and ate it.” Even the bed isn’t made—Mr. Gum chucked “bits of wood on the floor and dumped a mattress on top.”

But his garden is the most beautiful in the town. Why? Some speculate that he likes to garden, but the real reason is the angry fairy who gives him “pan whacks” if the garden isn’t perfect.

The Original British Cover

Unfortunately for Mr. Gum, the neighborhood dog, Jake, frequently messes up the garden—causing Mr. Gum too many whacks with the frying pan. So Mr. Gum leaves spoiled cow hearts laced with rat poison and sweetened with lemonade powder in the center of the lawn.  Jake takes the bait, but is ultimately saved by nine-year-old Polly and some magic chocolate (a questionable remedy, since chocolate is dangerous to dogs).

English author Stanton provides flawless narration of his books.  His deadpan delivery and comic timing are perfect. With its quirky cast of characters and silly sense of humor, these stories are a great choice for reluctant readers.  (Library School Journal)

There are 8 books in the series so far.  Hopefully, there will be many, many more!

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

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