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.


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.

“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.

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.


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

How to Raise Boys Who Read. Hint: Not with gross-out books and video-game bribes.

Fantastic article by Thomas Spence in today’s Wall Street Journal about boys and reading.

By THOMAS SPENCE Wall Street Journal

When I was a young boy, America’s elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can’t read.


According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.

The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.


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