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



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.

Best Boxed Sets Gifts for Readers 4 – 8

If Santa is looking for some gift ideas for good little emerging readers, I have a few suggestions.

1.  What do the Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones, A to Z Mysteries, Andrew Lost, and Nate the Great series have in common? Not only are the main characters spunky and lovable kids whose exciting adventures have captivated readers for decades—they’re also all found in one place in the Favorite Series Starters boxed set.

This is the first-ever sampler of its kind, introducing young readers to five favorite series through the first book in each. Kids will be clamoring to read more—and will have five different series to pursue—after they’ve read the “favorite firsts” in this collection.

This is an awesome collection for any young reader.

2.  How did four strange teachers get into this little box?

Meet a teacher who eats bonbons, a principal who kisses pigs, a librarian who thinks she’s George Washington, and an art teacher who dresses up in pot holders! They’re all inside this box! They must be getting pretty crowded in My Weird School Collection by Dan Gutman.

3.  Ivy and Bean are two friends who never meant to like each other. This boxed set, Ivy and Bean: books 1 – 3 by Annie Barrows,  is a delightful introduction to these spunky characters. It includes the first three books in the Ivy and Bean series and a secret treasure-hiding box with a surprise inside.

“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  Sadly, this will surely include my own household.

“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.

“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. 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.

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