41 posts categorized "Booklights" Feed

Tips for Growing Bookworms: #1 Read Aloud: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on November 2, 2009. It was the first of a 10-post series on Tips for Growing Bookworms. Each of the Booklights posts was actually an extended discussion of a tip originally proposed here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page. Thus I am especially happy to be bringing these detailed tips home by republishing them here.

Jpg_book007 Tips for Growing Bookworms: #1 Read Aloud

Back in 2007 I wrote a post on my own blog called 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. This has remained a popular post, and people have suggested several other tips in the comments there. I've decided to expand upon each of these tips, and create a new Tips for Growing Bookworms series here at Booklights. Of course other Booklights contributors talk about tips for encouraging young readers here, too, as in Terry's Bedtime from Afar post from last week. But I say, we can't focus on this important topic too much. So, without further ado:

MomReading.jpgTip #1: Read aloud to your children from (or even before) birth, as often as possible, and keep reading aloud to them even after they can read on their own. Reading aloud has been shown to have a huge impact in raising readers, and is the number one thing that parents and other concerned adults can do to help grow bookworms. By reading to kids in a comfortable, safe environment, you help them to think of reading as a pleasurable activity. You also increase their vocabularies and attention spans, and show them that you think that books are important. And with all of the many wonderful books out there, reading together should be enjoyable for you and the kids.

DadSonReading.jpgIt's especially helpful when Dads or other male caregivers can participate in at least some of the read aloud activity. This shows boys that reading isn't just something that girls do, but rather something that's fun for everyone. A recent survey by UK charity Booktrust found that "some 67% of mothers of four to five-year-olds claim to be the principal reader, compared with 17% of fathers, although many more fathers were said to be reading than in last year's survey." The Booktrust study (as reported by BBC News) found that 96% of children surveyed reported enjoying reading, but also reported that only one in three families read with their children every day. I would personally love to see that last statistic increase.

ReadingOlderKids.jpgIt is, of course, tempting to think that once your child can read on his or her own, you can stop reading aloud. However, if you can find the time and the motivation to continue reading aloud with your older children, your whole family will reap rewards. You'll be able to read books that they aren't ready to read on their own, and share the experience of discovery. You'll be able to introduce your kids first-hand to the books that you loved as a child, and talk about why you loved them. You'll be able to discuss all sorts of topics that are raised in books, allowing you and your kids to learn from and about each other. Andrea Ross from Just One More Book! wrote a wonderful article for Canwest Newspapers last month about the benefits to parents of reading aloud with their children.

Of course sometimes it's hard to find the time for read-aloud. But I promise that if you do, you and your children will find the time well-spent. For parents who aren't comfortable reading aloud, you can listen to audiobooks together (libraries have audiobooks you can check out), or turn the pages of a picture book and make up your own stories. Children, young children especially, are a forgiving audience. They'll find the attention and the closeness and your time much more important than your particular pronunciation of a word, or the fact that you aren't skilled at giving the different characters distinct voices. The more you try, the easier it will get, too. See also Susan Kusel's post at Booklights about the ups and downs of reading aloud.

Reading aloud together. It's enjoyable time for parents and kids. It helps kids to do better in school, and builds family closeness. And it's free (all you need is a library card). It is well worth a try. Do any of you have success stories or tips that you'd like to share about reading aloud with your kids?

This post was originally published at Booklights on November 2, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on September 21, 2009. It has been modified here to add the 2010 award winners (for books published in 2009). The 2011 shortlists will be announced in April.

The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards

eb-white-award-final-emboss.gifPam and Susan K. have both written recently about reading aloud with kids (here and here). Pam asked readers about their favorite read-aloud chapter books, and received some excellent suggestions. I thought that this would be a good time to talk about the E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, another great source for family reading titles.

The E.B. White Read Aloud awards are awarded by the Association of Booksellers for Children. Here's the description from the ABC website:

"The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, established in 2004, honor books that reflect the universal read aloud standards that were created by the work of the author E.B. White in his classic books for children: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. In the first two years of the award, a single book was selected. In 2006, in recognition of the fact that reading aloud is a pleasure at any age, the award was expanded into two categories: Picture Books, and Older Readers. Books are nominated for their universal appeal as a "terrific" books to read aloud."

The books are selected and judged by ABC Booksellers. And I, for one, think that they've been doing an excellent job. Here are the recent winners (note that the award is given for books published during the previous year, so the 2009 winners were published in 2008, etc.):

Curious The 2010 Award for Picture Books: The Curious Garden, written and illustrated by Peter Brown (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). We received a copy of this book as a gift for Baby Bookworm, and we love it. I reviewed it here, saying: "It's the sort of book that one wants to read aloud... There's no word-play. It's straight-up narrative text, written with a relatively advanced vocabulary, but the innate suspense of the story propels the reader forward."

Brilliant-fall The 2010 Award for Older Readers: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner (Walker Books for Young Readers). I reviewed this one here, saying: "I liked the way the many threads of the story came together, and the balance between happy and realistic endings... I think that The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. will work well for fifth or sixth grade girls, especially those of an artistic or outdoorsy disposition. I could see it as a classroom read-aloud, too. There's plenty to discuss, and Zig is a strong enough character to pull in the boys."

Visitor for Bear.jpgThe 2009 Award for Picture Books: A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick). A Visitor for Bear is one my all-time favorites. It's about a grumpy bear, dragged reluctantly into friendship by a determined mouse. I reviewed it here. I said: "what really made me LOVE the book is the tremendous read-aloud potential. By the second page I was reading aloud to myself in an empty house. The use of repetition, the presence of informal asides, and the varying font sizes to indicate emphasis all contribute to what is nothing less than a compulsion to read this book out loud."

masterpiece.jpgThe 2009 Award for Older Readers: Masterpiece by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Henry Holt). I read Masterpiece in part because it had won this award. It's about an unlikely friendship between a boy named James and a beetle named Marvin. While Masterpiece is about art forgery, and Marvin's adventures out in the wide world, at it's heart it is a story of friendship. My review is here. I said "Masterpiece is wonderful! It's the type of book that ought to become a classic over time, set alongside The Borrowers and A Cricket in Times Square... This is a must-read title for children and adults."

The 2008 Award for Picture Books: When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small (Simon & Schuster). This one, I must confess, I have not read. But fellow Cybils organizer Kerry from Shelf Elf reviewed it back in 2007. She said: "All kids love free stuff. A lot of kids love dinosaurs. So, for many kids, a world where dinosaurs came free with everything would more or less equal total bliss. A picture book that is cute, clever and charmingly illustrated is for me, more or less total bliss." It sounds fun, doesn't it? I'll have to give this one a look.

mysteriousbenedict.jpgThe 2008 Award for Older Readers: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). This book is an exciting adventure story, filled with puzzles, for middle grade readers. It's about a group of talented children recruited to work as investigators for a mysterious benefactor. As I noted in my review, the book has a bit of an old-fashioned feel, but it's also funny on multiple levels. My review of this title is here, of book 2 is here, and of book 3 is here.

The 2007 Award For Picture Books: Houndsley and Catina by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay (Candlewick Press). I haven't read this title, but another book in the series, Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time, was shortlisted last year in the Easy Reader category of the Cybils, for which I was a judge. I liked it very much. Cybils panelist Andi from A Wrung Sponge reviewed it, saying: "Howe's language is so poetic in spite of the limited vocabulary and concrete imagery that beginning readers require... I find this book to be a gem that will hold readers of all ages in the magic. It's as sweet as a read-aloud as it is a beginning reader. You must find this and snap it up!"

The 2007 Award For Older Readers: Alabama Moon by Watt Key (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). I read Alabama Moon earlier this year, because one of my blog readers recommended it to me. It's about a 10-year old boy named Moon who is raised alone in the woods by his survivalist father. When his father dies, he has to learn to interact with other people. It's an excellent adventure story, great for boys, one that is also genuinely moving. I think that what makes this book a good read-aloud title is the strength and uniqueness of Moon's voice. My review is here. I haven't read the new companion novel, Dirt Road Home, yet, but it is a 2010 Cybils shortlist title for Young Adult Fiction.

As you can see, the ABC Booksellers have an excellent track record in picking fine titles for this award. To see the E.B. White Read Aloud Award titles from 2004-2006, click here. What titles do you think will make the E.B. White Read Aloud shortlists for 2011?

This post was originally published at Booklights on September 21, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


Two Types of Series Books: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on September 7, 2009.

Two Types of Series Books

Inkheart Continuing my post on favorite series from last week, I've spent a bit of time thinking about two types of series books. The first type of series consists of multiple books that follow one primary story arc. Examples include the Inkheart series, the Percy Jackson books, and the Lord of the Rings series. While there are, of course, multiple plot streams within each of these series, the books are meant to be read together, to tell a single, epic, story. Clues are planted in one book that aren't explained until the end. There are sometimes major cliffhangers between books. When I wrote about series books last week, I limited my discussion to series with more than three titles, to keep the number of favorites under consideration manageable. But obviously, most trilogies fall within the spectrum of these single story arc series. In general, many fantasy titles fall within this single arc, multiple-book format.

Junie.jpgThe other type of series is more episodic. Susan alluded to this in her original post, when she talked about kids who need to read even the Magic Treehouse books in order (even though there's no strong continuing arc across the books). An episodic series (like the Captain Underpants, Junie B. Jones, and Encyclopedia Brown books, to name a few) might have dozens of titles. While the books generally all feature the same primary characters, each book has an independent storyline. This is commonly observed in mystery series (for kids and adults). The same characters solve each mystery, and the story is usually wrapped up within the course of each book.

Of course the difference between these two types of series is not always black and white. For example, in many episodic series (though by no means all) the characters experience personal growth and/or changes in their personal lives from book to book. This keeps the series from becoming flat, and adds an additional incentive for readers to pick up the next title. Still, there's nothing stopping a reader from picking up and reading a title from the middle of the series - the plot won't be confusing.

Also, just because a series ends after a few books doesn't mean that it was a single arc series. All of the books might be only loosely connected, and able to be read out of order. The end point of the series could be arbitrary. It's also not uncommon for something to start out as a standalone book, and then have one of more sequels added. By definition, such books weren't originally published to tell a single story. I don't think that we can expect them to hold up together as one, consistent story arc when they weren't planned that way (though the books may still be wonderful as individual books).

Still, despite some blurriness in this classification, I do think that this breakdown of single story arc vs. episodic is helpful in thinking about series books. The different formats serve different needs. Episodic series are a huge part of various markets, from early readers to adult mysteries. There's something satisfying about reading bite-sized books, at one's own leisure, and then having new books, with familiar characters, become available later. But there's nothing like a tightly-connected continuing series for generating excitement among readers. Harry Potter and Twilight together have created thousands upon thousands of avid readers (not to mention the Hunger Games Trilogy), in part because of the suspense from book to book, the compelling need to know how the series will end.

I've always remembered something that Rick Riordan said about this. He wrote on his blog, on the eve of publication of Harry Potter 7: "The series is still wonderful and I will be sad to see Harry go. On the other hand, I hope Rowling sticks to her guns and ends the series at seven. Nothing should go on forever. Even the best series must have a solid, strong ending. Again, I know many would argue with this. There are readers who would happily buy Harry Potter #28 years from now, but I think seven is plenty."

It seems to me that Riordan is talking more about the single story arc series than about episodic series like the Magic Treehouse books. For new readers who want to read 50 books from the same series, I would argue that it's great to have those 50 books available. And for me as a reader of adult mystery series, I hope that my favorite authors will keep those new mysteries coming.

All Harry Potter books.jpgBut for series based on one primary story, like the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, I think there's real value in limiting the number of books. One of my favorite things about the last Harry Potter book was the way that Rowling hearkened all the way back to events from the first book. She made it clear that she had planned out the whole series in some detail. Stephenie Meyer did the same thing with the last Twilight book. This approach makes the reader feel cared for and respected, in a way that a more haphazard approach to ending a series can't.

What do you all think? Have you noticed this divide in series books? Do you favor one type or another? Or do you like different ones for different times? And do you have any suggestions for a better name for these single story-arc series that I'm talking about? ("Epic" arose in the comment discussion on the Booklights post. Does that work?)

This post was originally published at Booklights on September 7, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


Favorite Series Titles: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 31, 2009. Because the birth of Baby Bookworm kept me from reading many new books in 2010, it's still a fairly accurate reflection of my favorite children's and YA titles.

Favorite Series Titles (Children's and Young Adult)

I enjoyed Susan's recent post about reading by number. Judging by the comments, lots of people have a strong preference for series books. Personally, I am compulsive about reading series books in order, because I hate having any surprises spoiled. When I read adult titles, I enjoy mystery series. Even though each book might wrap up an individual puzzle, I don't like the character development to be spoiled for me, so I'll rarely read those out of order. And of course for a series like the Harry Potter books that follows a dramatic arc across all of the books, I think that it's critical to read in order. I tend to prefer the original order in which a series is published over any arbitrary changes to follow chronological order - I'm happy to take in the information in the order that the author intended.

Susan's post got me to thinking about my favorite series reads. For the sake of simplifying the discussion, I'm going to define a series as having more than three books (trilogies are a topic for another day). After mulling this over, I came up with a few simple rules for identifying a series as a favorite. I just ask myself, did I eagerly read through all of the books (either during a short time, if the series was finished when I came across it, or as the books became available, for series that were in progress)? Did I rush out to the store to get any new installments? Did I, if applicable, buy the books in hardcover, or go to the trouble to reserve them from the library? Do I ever re-read the books? If so, then this was (or is) a favorite series.

Trixie.jpgUsing this as a guideline, my favorite series as a child were:

  • The Five books by Enid Blyton
  • The Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell/Kathryn Kenny
  • The Melendy Family books by Elizabeth Enright (see reviews of the first two books here and here)
  • The Maida books by Inez Haynes Irwin
  • The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
  • The Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery
  • The Borrowers books by Mary Norton
  • The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

gregor.jpgOf more recently published series for children and young adults, I've enjoyed and eagerly read all of the books of:

  • The Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins (reviews here, here, and here)
  • The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane (review here)
  • The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Tomorrow series by John Marsden (series review here)
  • The Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer (reviews here, here, here, here)
  • The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (see reviews here and here)
  • The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

I may not consider all of these books great literature, though some are. A few of the childhood favorites, in particular, haven't held up for me as an adult [along with one newer series that hasn't held up well]. But all of these books met my stated criteria above for favorite series at the time that I read them. I distinctly remember grabbing up multiple Trixie Belden books from the bookstore as a kid. I still have all of my copies of the Maida books. And I'm certain that 40 years from now, I'll still have all of my Harry Potters. Other series are on target for inclusion in future favorites lists, but don't yet have more than three books published. (The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins came to mind in 2009, for example, but ended up with only 3 titles. Clementine is on track for remaining a favorite.) See also the books in my series books featuring adventurous girls post. I'm expecting great things from Theodosia Throckmorton.

In case any of you are interested, I've posted a list of some of my favorite adult mystery series on my personal blog. I can think of several other series (for both adults and children) for which I went through three or five or ten books, but have let the last few books sit, unread. I'm not listing those here.

But that made me wonder: what is it that keeps a series from losing my interest? Obviously, I have to care about the characters. No matter how good the plotting is, no matter how interesting the setting, I'm not going to follow characters that I don't care about through more than 2 or 3 books. And the books have to keep surprising me in some way. Humor helps, too, though it's not 100% necessary. But I think that what it really boils down to is that the author has to have captured a world that I want to visit. This world can be anything from an old-fashioned house in the country to a camp for half-blood Olympians. But if it feels authentic, and feels like a place where I want to spend time, and is populated with people I care about, then I'll come back. There's a whole other discussion to be had about series books that have a dramatic arc, and are planned to end after five or seven books, vs. ongoing series that have no particular end in site. That, too, is a topic for another day.

What about you all? What are your favorite series titles? What makes you come back to a particular series time and time again?

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 31, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


Revisiting Old Friends: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 17, 2009. It is one of my very favorite posts from Booklights, about the joys of revisiting books that have become, through repeat reads, old friends.

Revisiting Old Friends

21WXW4GJCQL._SL500_AA140_.jpgLast week Susan wrote about the gift of reading a wonderful book for the first time. She asked readers: "What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?". This post inspired a host of thoughtful and (sometimes) nostalgic responses. The next day, Pam wrote about three of her favorite summer books and asked readers to share their favorites. These posts, in part (along with a post by Charlotte from Charlotte's Library), inspired me to re-read one of my own favorite books, one that is for me the very essence of summer: Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright. I previously listed Return to Gone-Away as one of my favorite children's books, and just reviewed it here. Re-reading Return to Gone-Away last week made me think about something that is, in a way, a mirror image Susan's post. It made me think about the joy that comes from re-reading an old favorite, one in which each character and scene are already familiar.

ForgottenDoor.jpgI was only a few pages in to my re-read of Return to Gone-Away when it literally brought tears to my eyes. It wasn't the content of the book that made me weepy-eyed. It's that I was so happy to be back reading this particular book that my emotions just bubbled over. I can only think of a few books that evoke tears from me, just from being themselves. Return to Gone-Away is one of them. Two others are The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key and Listening Valley by D. E. Stevenson (my all-time favorite book, published for adults). (You can read about some of my other favorite re-reads here.)

I love everything about these cherished books. I love the language, especially when I read particular sentences that I remember verbatim. I love the characters, and the way that they remind me anew of the things that make them special. I love re-visiting my younger self, remembering earlier reads of the same book. I literally give these books a little pat on the cover when I see them on my bedside table - I'm unable to rein in my affection. And why should I? These are the books that made me who I am.

When I read new books, I generally require a considerable amount of plot. The more complex and suspenseful, the better. But I'm reminded by Return to Gone-Away that the books I already love, the books that I read over and over again, don't need suspense at all. The re-reading experience, for me, is all about revisiting beloved characters and settings. It's about visiting old friends. It's about a personal connection between me and the particular book. I don't want the opportunity to read these particular books again as if it was the first time (as Susan discussed). Part of what makes these particular books special for me is the incremental appreciation I've built up over dozens of readings.

I like smiling when Mrs. Blake says, on page 1 of Return to Gone-Away "We'll have to think of a new name for that house right away", because I already know the outcome. I like already knowing whether or not Julian will find the missing safe, and whether or not the rope in the old dumbwaiter will break. I like shaking my head on page 9, because Foster's behavior is just so typically Foster.

This affection for particular books is more than just taking comfort in familiarity (though that's part of it). I don't think that you can just pick any old random book off the shelf, and re-read it once a year for 20 years, and have the book become meaningful to you (though that would be an interesting experiment). I think that there has to be something already in the book that makes you want to re-read it every year. Something that connects you to the book. For those books, the ones that you love enough to revisit throughout your lifetime, the connection just gets stronger every year.

This isn't to say that I disagree with Susan about the wonders of reading a great book for the first time. I envy every single person who hasn't read The Hunger Games yet, because they still have it ahead of them. And I know that sometimes childhood favorites don't hold up at all. But I also think (and I'll bet that Susan will agree) that there's something very special about re-reading a favorite book, one that is loved, in part, because it's so familiar.

HarryPotter1.jpgI'd like to believe that everyone has books like these, books that they can turn to for comfort reading on bleak days. Books that remind them of where they came from, and what mattered to them when they were younger. Parents, what books will bring tears to your children's eyes when they're 40, because they're so happy to be back reading the books again? Will it be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? The Penderwicks? The Lord of the Rings? Clementine? Will the teens who have read Twilight seven times already re-read it as they get older? Will reading Twilight when they are 60 help them to recapture that feeling of falling in love with a book at 12? I hope so. Because me, I feel blessed to have my favorite books as part of my life. What do all of you say?

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 17, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


Three Very Different Fairy Tale/Fable Retellings: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 3, 2009. It includes mini-reviews of three books, two of which I've already read to Baby Bookworm on multiple occasions.

Three Very Different Fairy Tale/Fable Retellings

I've decided to take a page from Pam's Thursday Three posts, and share with you three new picture books that illustrate the wide range available in fairy tale and fable retellings. The first is a straight up reissue of a classic story, made special by the gorgeous illustrations. The second is a multicultural reimagining of a well-known fairy tale, with added humor. And the third is a modern picture book that bears only the kernal of the original fable.

goldilocks.jpgGennady Spirin's new edition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a faithful rendion of the well-known story, from "Once up a time, there were three bears" to Goldilocks leaping up and running out of the house (though the bears are surprisingly cheerful at the end). But what makes this book worth a look are Spirin's lavish watercolor and colored pencil illustrations. The bears are dressed in fancy, gold-braided clothing. Their clothes match, in tone, detailed gilt headers and footers on each page, and the bears' fancy carved furnishings. Everything is conveyed with fine texture, from the bears' fur to their clothes to the grass outside. And after breakfast (most days), the bears site, and Mama Bear and Little Bear each read books (while Papa naps). As for Goldilocks - she looks like something out of an old painting, with shining hair, rosy cheeks, and an ornate hat with a feather. In short, this is one that I'm keeping for my own bookshelves. I will pair it with Eugene W. Field and Giselle Potter's Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

tamales.jpgThe Three Little Tamales is a retelling of The Three Little Pigs, written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Valeria Docampo. In Kimmel's version, three little tamales, two sisters and a brother, run away from a Texas taqueria before they can be eaten. One builds a house of sagebrush, and another of cornstalks, but the third builds her casita out of cactus. And eventually, Senor Lobo, the Big Bad Wolf, comes around looking for some lunch. You all know, pretty much, how the story goes from there. I like that this book is a celebration of Texas, and Mexican foods, complete with a short glossary of terms. And, ok, I like that the smartest of the three tamales is a girl, and that this is handled in a completely matter-of-fact manner. Docampo's oil on paper illustrations are beautiful, with appropriate colors for prairie, cornfield, and desert. The winds that the wolf huffs and puffs are enchanting swirls of colors and textures. The tamales are adorable, especially the smart one with her big glasses, and the brother with his dramatic eyebrows and mustache (you have to see it to appreciate it). I can really see this one becoming a family favorite. See also Kimmel's book, with Stephen Gilpin The Three Cabritos, a Billy Goat Gruff retelling.

dumptruck.jpgThe Grumpy Dump Truck by Brie Spangler is quite different from the other two. It's a modern-day story about a dump truck named Bertrand who is good at his job, but constantly grumpy with his co-workers. He is "rude to the backhoe" and "a real pain to the crane", and constantly grumbles about his "itchy axle" and "sore tires". Until... a little hedgehog worker named Tilly sticks him (accidentally) with one of her quills. Plucking out the quill, she discovers all sorts of other uncomfortable things stuck in Bertrand's tire, weighing him down. Once Tilly relieves him of these things, he's a new dump truck altogether. Much like a certain lion and mouse that you might recall. This one is a bit overlay sweet at the end ("I want to do something NICE!" "Horray!"), but I think that the inherent humor of a grumpy dump truck, and a bunch of animal construction workers, outweighs this. And Spangler's digitally created illustrations are bold and eye-catching, almost like cartoons. I think that preschool boys, in particular, will find this one tough to resist.

How about you? What are your favorite fairy tale retellings and reimaginings?

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 3, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


Series Books Featuring Adventurous Girls: A Booklights Reissue

This list was originally published at Booklights on July 13 and July 20, 2009, in response to a request for book suggestions for series titles featuring adventurous girls. I kept the original list fairly well focused on a few spunky, middle grade, female protagonists. However lots of others were suggested in the comments of the original post, and so I did an add-on list. This post combined the two lists into one.

Series Books Featuring Adventurous Girls

A commenter on my personal blog asked an interesting question the other day about book recommendations for girls. Susan wrote:

"My friend and I each have a son and daughter in the 3rd to 5th grade range. We were talking about what the kids were currently reading. In the course of our conversation, we both agreed it was much harder to find books that our girls were interested in than our boys. Given that I often read about the reverse here and on other kidlit blogs, I thought I'd mention it.

There are some great series that are more geared for boys like The Ranger's Apprentice, The Overland Chronicles and even the Percy Jackson books. While many girls enjoy these books, they have more of a boy bent to them to me. The series books for girls are about fairies or horses or mean girl behavior. In terms of currently popular series books, you've got those subjects or the Clementine/Ramona/Junie B. Jones genre which our daughters loved but have outgrown.

Where are the adventure series with the female main character that have our daughters eagerly anticipating the next book being published? There are lots of good single books, but I find that my kids dig into the series more. I haven't run across a great series that appeals more to my daughter than my son yet."

I responded briefly to Susan last week, but I thought that this might be a topic that other parents would find interesting, so I have expanded on my response here at Booklights. I think that the proliferation of adventure series with boy protagonists happens because of a common perception that boys won't read about girl heroines, but girls will read about boys. This was mentioned in a recent post by Mr. ChompChomp at Guys Lit Wire. He said: "I read somewhere that the reason Disney makes so many more "boy" movies than "girl" movies is that girls will go to see boy movies but boys won't go to see girl movies. "We don't like it. That's just the way it is," Disney executives say. But if you look at the girl movies that they make, it's no wonder guys aren't interested. They are nearly all about princesses."

I do think it's a bit of an unfortunate situation, for girls and boys, resulting in fewer adventures with girl protagonists, and kids of both genders potentially missing out on great books. I also think that this viewpoint is probably why there seem to be more adventure series out there centered around male protagonists.

Fortunately, I have several ongoing series to suggest that feature girls as the hero. In all cases, I've read at least the first book or two. They are listed roughly in age order, from books for elementary schoolers up to books that I think will also work for girls in middle school. [Ed. note: As this list was originally generated for PBS, I did not include young adult recommendations. But there are some great titles for adventurous high schoolers, too, like the Scarlett Wakefield series by Lauren Henderson]

gilda_joyce_cover.jpgThe Gilda Joyce series, by Jennifer Allison, about a young girl who is a "psychic investigator". These are very fun, and set in a more modern setting. Gilda is fun, smart, and a bit wacky. There are four books out, and hopefully more on the way (I wasn't able to confirm that). The first book is Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator (reviewed here). [Update: Book 5 is due out in June of 2011]

THEO_crop.jpgThe Theodosia series by R. L. LaFevers, featuring Theodosia Throckmorton, Egyptologist and adventurer. These are historical / supernatural mysteries, featuring a smart Victorian girl who runs rings around her distracted parents. There are 2 books out, and a third on the way. The first book is Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (reviewed here). [Update: Book 4 is due out in April of 2011]

enola_holmes1.jpgThe Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer, featuring Sherlock Holmes' younger sister. Enola runs away and starts her own detective agency, and is more than a match for her smug older brother. There are five books currently available in this series, and I would imagine that more are on the way here. The first book is The Case of the Missing Marquess (reviewed here). [Update: Book 6 was apparently the final book in the series]

Blackbringer pb cover sm.jpgLaini Taylor's Dreamdark series, about Magpie Windwitch, the strongest and feistiest of fairies. Currently the first book, Blackbringer, is available in paperback, with the sequel, Silksinger, due out in September. Others are planned for this series. Don't let the books being about fairies fool you - these are excellent books for strong middle grade and middle school girls.

suddenlysuper.jpgElizabeth Cody Kimmel's Suddenly Supernatural series, featuring a middle school girl who discovers that she has psychic powers. Despite the supernatural aspects, these books also feature realistic tween friendship dynamics. There are currently 3 books available. The first book is Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit (reviewed here). [Update: Book 4 was released in May 2010]

kiki.jpgKristen Miller's Kiki Strike books, about a team of tween girls who fight crime in New York City. These books are clever and quirky, with interesting settings (including a city below NYC). There are currently two books available, and I'm hoping for a third. The first book is Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City (reviewed here).

[Here are the add-on titles, after suggestions from commenters on the first post]

sistersgrimm.jpgMichael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series was suggested by both Stephanie and Laura. I actually had this series on my mental list at one point, and then neglected to include it. I've only read the first two books (reviews here: The Fairy Tale Detectives and The Unusual Suspects), but there are seven books available. [Update: now 8 titles] This is an excellent series for elementary school readers. It features two sisters who find themselves in the family business of investigating criminal behavior among the EverAfters (fairy tale characters living real lives in a particular town). The irrepressible Puck was my favorite character from the first book, The Fairy Tale Detectives. They're lovely hardcovers, too, excellent gift books.

YoungWizards.jpgDiane Duane's Young Wizards series (currently at eight books, with a ninth expected in 2010), was recommended by Deva Fagan. This series actually has two primary protagonists, a boy and a girl who are wizard partners in a society that lies hidden within our own. The presence of a very strong younger sister character makes this series definitely qualify for inclusion. Nita, Dairine, and Kit are all among my favorite characters. This is a series in which the magic is relatively mathematical, and in which real-life family dynamics play a strong part, too. As with many series, the books do get a bit darker as the series progresses, with the later books more suited to middle school and up than elementary school. The only one that I've reviewed is the most recent, Wizards at War, because I read the other books before starting my blog. (And, in fact, this series is one that kept me reading YA as an adult, even when I wasn't blogging.) The first book is So You Want to Be a Wizard, in which Nita discovers a wizard's manual, and is partnered with Kit.

200px-Sandry's_book.jpgDeva and My Boaz's Ruth also both recommended Tamora Pierce's books (specifically, the Protector of the Small and the Circle of Magic series). I hadn't included Pierce because I think of her books more as straight-up YA, but Deva and Ruth both remind me that these series start with the characters around 10 or so. The only Pierce title that I've reviewed is Wild Magic (#1 in the Immortals Quartet). But I have read the first Circle of Magic book, Sandry's Book. The first book in the Protector of the Small series is First Test. Tamora Pierce is known for writing about strong female characters, and her books are huge hits with teen readers. I personally tend more towards fantasy that is set in and around our modern world, rather than your knights and castles sort of fantasy, which is why I haven't read more of these. But I have read enough to feel quite comfortable recommending these books.

My Boaz's Ruth also mentioned several older titles that feature strong girls (Trixie Belden, etc.). This reminded me of a list that I created on my blog in 2006, 200 Cool Girls of Children's Literature. I started with a list of a few girls from children's literature who I thought were smart, brave, strong, and independent. With the help of many, many reader suggestions, I eventually collected a list of more than 200 cool girls. I later added a Cool Boys list, now at about 175 or so. Mary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading were inspired to create their own list, of 100 Cool Teachers of Children's Literature, which is delightful. And TheBookDragon collects "Great and/or Infamous Librarians in Children's and YA Literature" in her sidebar. One day, I'll find time to update the Cool Girl and Boy lists with my discoveries from the past three years. Meanwhile, I thought that I would share the links here, in case any of you find them useful.

Once they are ready for young adult books, there are tons of series featuring female protagonists, including Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series and Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls spy series [and Kristin Cashore's Graceling books, though those are only loosely a series]. And there are other series books for younger girls that are wonderful, though not "adventures". For example, The Penderwicks books by Jeanne Birdsall and the Casson family books by Hilary McKay.

Readers, can you suggest any other series with adventurous female main characters that will have middle grade girls "eagerly anticipating the next book being published"? And if you're interested in the issue of gendered readers' advisory in general, check out Lisa Chellman's recent post on this subject.

This post was originally published at Booklights on July 13, 2009 and July 20, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


The Power of Social Reading: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights in June of 2009. It discusses the concept of Social Reading (kids recommending books to one another), something I first saw discussed at The Reading Zone. The original post sparked quite a few comments, and I'll be interested to see if this idea still captures people's imaginations. See also this follow-on post at Booklights (which I won't be republishing here) with links to a variety of other posts about social reading and reading and grade levels. I also shared some links to other people's posts in defense of escapist summer reading here.

The Power of Social Reading

A post that I read recently at The Reading Zone inspired me to write about "social reading" for kids. Blogger Sarah Mulhern is "a 6th grade Language Arts teacher who strives to instill a love of reading and writing in her students". Recently, Sarah wrote about a book club that she observed in her classroom between two best friends. The two girls decided, on their own initiative, to read the same book (Gone by Michael Grant). Sarah observed:

"They talk about the book with each other and with me, coming to me to share their responses and exclamations. I LOVE IT! ... It's amazing the power that social reading has. Why don't we harness this in more classrooms and use it? Students reading, recommending, and talking about books is more powerful than any literacy kit, basal reader, or literature set."

I certainly agree with that. I don't remember much about what I was reading in the classroom in 5th or 6th grade, beyond a vague memory of workbooks and reading comprehension questions. But I DO remember talking about books with my friend Holly. We especially enjoyed a book about Gnomes, Fairies, and Elves, and we were thrilled to discover a hidden path to an island of sticks in the swamp behind my house. Surely there was magic there! Holly moved out of the country after fifth grade, and for quite a while we took turns writing a shared story, sending chapters back and forth by airmail. I think that our shared experience with books worked a dual magic - it strengthened my friendship with Holly, while at the same time reinforcing my love of books. And I've been fortunate to have that dynamic with friends in my adult life, too. We benefit from the recommendations that we share with each other, and our friendships grow while we discuss the books.

In The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, Donalyn Miller talks about the importance of her own shared reading experiences with her husband, her children, and her best friend. Talking about her classroom, she says:

"By setting the expectation that reading is what we do, always, everywhere, it becomes the heart of a class' culture. Even the most resistant readers can't fight if all of their friends comply." (Chapter 3)

I know parents who have had good success with parent-child bookgroups (see MotherDaughterBookClub.com, for example, or read Heather Vogel Frederick's book The Mother-Daughter Book Club). I think that bookclubs are a great idea. There's no doubt that by talking about books with their kids, parents can have a tremendous influence. Last summer, our own MotherReader hosted a wonderful summer book club for her rising seventh-grader's Girl Scout Troop. (You can find all of the posts here.)

I also think that when kids talk about books on their own, and make recommendations to one another, great things can happen. I'm not sure what can be done to encourage this social reading, exactly. I'm sure that the best response comes from the spontaneous bubbling over of genuine enthusiasm, and you can't orchestrate that. But I would be willing to bet that kids whose close friends are avid readers are more likely to be readers themselves (and vice versa).

Surely social reading has been a big part of the Twilight phenomenon, with girls reading the books because their friends rave about them. It was clear when I attended the signing for The Last Olympian this spring that part of the reason that kids were so excited about the Percy Jackson books was because OTHER kids were so excited about them. And that's great. J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Rick Riordan deserve every iota of success, as far as I'm concerned, because their books have turned kids into readers. But what I'd also love to see more of is kids recommending books back and forth that aren't necessarily huge bestsellers. A kid recommending The Magic Thief or Alabama Moon to his best friend because he loves it, and he wants his friend to read it so that they can compare notes, and discuss it. I'd like to peek into Sarah's classroom, just for a moment, to see those two girls, heads bent together over their matching books. I think that social reading is a beautiful thing, something worth cultivating.

What do you all think? Have you observed social reading between your kids and their friends? In their classrooms? Teachers, is this something that you've been able to harness? Do you have any suggestions for how to do it? I would love to hear your feedback.

This post was originally published at Booklights on June 22, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


Reading and Grade Levels: Keeping it FUN: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights in June of 2009, a result of posts that I'd seen, and discussion on my own blog and at Booklights. Since I wrote this post, I've become a parent myself. And although I have hopefully nicknamed my daughter Baby Bookworm, I certainly don't intend to ever pressure her to read books at any particular grade level. I do very much hope that she will love books, and I believe that the best way for that to happen is for her to read the books that she loves. Don't you?

Reading and Grade Levels: Keeping it FUN

I posted on my blog on Friday [in June of 2009] about the question of whether or not it's a good idea to encourage kids to read above their grade level. I was inspired by an excellent post on this subject by Dashka Slater at Babble. I discovered very quickly that quite a few people have opinions on this, as you can see in the extensive comments of both of the previous two posts, and the cropping up of other posts like this one at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, this one at Here in the Bonny Glen, and this one at Best Book I Have Not Read. I decided, based on this response, that it was a worthwhile topic to bring up here at Booklights. This is also, I think, a logical follow-up to Pam's post from last week about encouraging summer reading. Pam talked about the importance of bringing home a variety of books from the library. She said: "Don't overrule a book your child picks as being too young for him, but also reserve the right make some selections yourself." Like Pam, I'm not a reading specialist, but I do have something to say about this topic.

RES_AnInterestInArt.jpgAs all of the above discussions make clear, there is, in some circles, a bit of competitive pressure going on regarding kids' reading levels. I've heard about the five year old who likes the unabridged version of the Iliad, and the six-year-old reading at a sixth grade level. Melissa Wiley writes about a woman who discouraged her four-year-old from reading picture books, in favor of "something more challenging". An elementary school librarian commented on my earlier post: "I have some students who are "weightlifting" in second grade, carrying Eragon and Inkspell around rather than reading it." The Babble article says: "I hear parents dropping the names of children's books as if they were designer labels. "Junie B. Jones?" one might say witheringly. "My daughter loved that in preschool, but now she's reading the sixth Harry Potter." [Image credit: photo by ToymanRon, shared at MorgueFile. And no, I don't know exactly what this girl is actually reading.]

I can see how it would be easy to caught up in all of this. The parent who reads aloud to her child from the womb, provides lots of books, and is a role model for the importance of reading might be understandably thrilled when said child becomes an advanced reader. Particularly if teachers are encouraging the child to read ever more "challenging" books, and other parents are all talking about what tremendously advanced material their children are reading. A recent Sydney Morning Herald article says (in the context of homework, but I think there's a clear parallel), "Parents who cannot remember homework when they were in kindergarten now help their five-year-olds with up to 45 minutes a day of sheets filled with literacy and numeracy problems. Even those who doubt the wisdom of homework at such an early age reluctantly go along with it, driven by fear of their child falling behind." I know that the "fear of their child falling behind", in our competitive society, is significant.

BUT, there are problems with the relentless progression towards ever-more-advanced reading material for kids. The short-term problem is that children can miss books that they would enjoy reading. Books about kids their own age, having relatable experiences. Fun books. Books with pictures! Instead, they can end up reading books before they are ready for them, which often leads to not appreciating the books, and never going back. The long-term problem is that if you turn reading into a competition, you run the risk of turning it into a chore. You run the risk of having that bright-eyed five-year-old advanced reader grow, in the blink of an eye, into a fourth-grader who won't read anything beyond what's strictly necessary for homework. And that is a tragedy.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't ever let your kids read books that are above their grade level. If they want to do that, and if you deem that books aren't too mature for them thematically, then by all means let them read ahead. Kids usually have a pretty good notion of what they can manage. If they find a book too difficult, they are likely to get bored with that book, and move on to something else. (As Stacy Dillon commented on my post, "I'm bored" is often code for "I don't understand"). So, I'm not saying that the occasional first grader reading the first Harry Potter book is a problem.

JGS_Reading.jpgWhat I am saying is that it's not a good idea to pressure kids to read above their age level. Reading, especially in the summer, should be fun. It isn't meant to be a race. It's a pastime, a journey, a way to teach kids to love books. You don't instill a life-long love of reading by belittling the eight-year-old who wants to flip through picture books on a rainy afternoon. You don't encourage reading by turning down your nose at Goosebumps or comic books or (for teens) the Twilight books. Just because your seven year old CAN read at a sixth grade level, you don't have to deny her the joy of reading about Clementine, Ramona, Pippi Longstocking or Ivy and Bean. Just as we adults sometimes want to read recreationally, it's ok for kids, too. More than OK, in fact, it's something that can help them to maintain the joy of reading. That's what I think, anyway. And it's what many of the authors of and commenters on the posts above think, too, though I've only been able to capture a small amount of that discussion here. [Image credit: photo by Gracey, shared at MorgueFile]

What do you all think? Have you felt pressure, from teachers or other parents, to keep your children reading above grade level? How do you handle this? Or have you found it to be more of a problem the other way, with your library not letting kids read above grade level?

This post was originally published at Booklights on June 15, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


10 Favorite Chapter Books: A Booklights Reissue

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I'm republishing some of my Booklights posts. Here's a list of my favorite chapter books, created in May of 2009. As these are mostly childhood favorites, I wouldn't change a thing today.

10 Favorite Chapter Books

JenRobinsonEarlyReader Continuing last week's discussion of favorite books, I would like to share some of my favorite titles for middle grade readers (ages 8 to 12). I've been a reader since a very young age (as is apparent from the photo to the right) It's nearly impossible to narrow down to 10 titles, out of all of the children's books out there. But here are a few of my treasured favorites, books that I've read multiple times. I've limited myself to one title per author, though many of these authors have written other books that I loved, too. Most of these are books that I own in multiple editions, because I can never resist them when I run across them. I have not ranked this list, because that would be truly impossible. It is alphabetical by author.

  • 21WXW4GJCQL._SL500_AA140_.jpgReturn to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright. I love all of Elizabeth Enright's books. Her Melendy family quartet sets the standard, I think, for kid-friendly, accessible stories about families (see my reviews of the first two Melendy family books: The Saturdays and The Four-Story Mistake). But Gone-Away Lake and the sequel, Return to Gone-Away, are magical. They epitomize summer, adventure, and things that kids find cool. They are timeless. I give the edge to Return to Gone-Away, because I love the house that the children move into. But anything by Elizabeth Enright is worth reading.
  • Maida's Little Shop by Inez Haynes Irwin. Maida's Little Shop was originally published in 1910, and was the first of a series of 15 books about the motherless daughter of a magnanimous tycoon, and her close-knit group of friends. I can't really say how these books hold up for new readers, but they were among the first books that I loved and collected. The Maida books also taught me, early, that children's books are not just for children. My grandmother introduced them to me.
  • ForgottenDoor.jpgThe Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. My review. The Forgotten Door is the book that made me fall in love with science fiction. It's about a boy from an advanced world who falls through a long-unused door into our own world, where most people are less than kind. It's a slim novel, but one that makes readers think. Key also wrote Escape to Witch Mountain.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. A Wrinkle in Time is another classic title that taught me the joy of reading science fiction and fantasy novels. The bonus with AWIT, though, is that the main character feels so very real.
  • TheGiver.jpgThe Giver by Lois Lowry. The Giver was probably the book that ignited my passion for dystopian fiction. It is also famous for having an ambiguous ending (though that ending becomes more clear in a later companion story).
  • AnneOfGreenGables.jpgAnne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I truly believe that Anne Shirley helped to shape the person that I became. There's a reason why people are still reading about her (and even writing prequels) after more than 100 years.
  • Clementine.jpgClementine by Sara Pennypacker (ill. Marla Frazee). My review. Clementine is a modern-day children's book character, one who I feel deserves a place right along with Pippi Longstocking and Ramona. Clementine is 100% real, and hilariously funny. I think that all early elementary school children should have a chance to read about her. I also enjoyed the next two books in the series, The Talented Clementine, and Clementine's Letter.
  • TheLightningThief.jpgThe Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. My review. The Lightning Thief is the first book in Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. These books are modern classics. I think that they will be read for generations. They are well-written, engrossing, funny, and filled with mythological details that never feel like lessons. The fifth and final book in the Percy Jackson series, The Last Olympian, is scheduled for publication tomorrow.
  • HarryPotter1.jpgHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. Of course the Harry Potter books are modern classics, too. The thing that I like best about this series, apart from the fact that I enjoy reading the books, is the fact that they have turned millions of children and adults on to reading children's books. Their impact can't be over-estimated.
  • TheVelvetRoom.jpgThe Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. My reviews: here and here. Zilpha Keatley Snyder was probably my favorite author when I was growing up. Her books are filled with magic,, adventure, and memorable characters. My two favorites, The Velvet Room and The Changeling, are books that I read over and over again. The Velvet Room also houses my favorite fictional room from children's literature. [Update: I just re-read this book, reading it aloud to Baby Bookworm. It held up beautifully. The slower pace of reading it aloud just made me appreciate Snyder's insights that much more. Baby Bookworm will have to hear it again when she's older before she's ready to comment.]

One thing that's clear to me from assembling this list is how strong childhood loyalties are. It take a lot for a recent title to push aside one of my childhood favorites. But the ones on this list made the cut. What are your favorite children's books? Are you able to find recent titles that take their place alongside your childhood favorites, or do your childhood preferences reign supreme?

This list was originally published at Booklights on May 4, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


10 Favorite Picture Books: A Booklights Reissue

Booklights As some of you know, I was a contributing blogger at the Booklights blog at PBS Parents in 2009 and early 2010. Booklights has ended now (my goodbye post is here). Although all of the Booklights posts remain on the PBS site right now, I've decided to follow Pam's example and republish a selection of my Booklights posts here. Just in case... Booklights was a great experience, and I would hate to see some of these posts vanish into the ether someday.

I decided to begin with my second post for Booklights: Favorite Picture Books: Jen. Although I've read lots of other picture books since I created this list in 2009, I still think it's as good a list as any I could come up with.

10 Favorite Picture Books

200px-Where_The_Wild_Things_Are.jpg

Recently [that is, back in 2009], fellow blogger Betsy Bird (aka A Fuse #8 Production) asked a variety of children's book fans to each share their top 10 picture books of all time. Betsy has compiled those lists to come up with a Top 100 Picture Books list (starting here) [Updated: final top 100 list here]. Here is my personal top 10 list, not previously shared anywhere else. I tried to keep it a mix of older and newer titles.

  1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Where the Wild Things Are is a true classic, the ultimate tale of the strength of the imagination. Plus the illustrations are amazing! This was my favorite book as a child, and it holds up well.
  2. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. This choice is a nod to my childhood in Boston. The ducklings are part of many people's cultural heritage. They deserve a place on my list.
  3. A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker (ill. Kady Macdonald Denton). My review. A Visitor for Bear is a book that simply cries out to be read aloud. It is pitch-perfect for toddlers, and my favorite new picture book in years.
  4. Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst (ill. Ray Cruz). This book captures essential truths about life, in a humorous package, and is unforgettable.
  5. The House Takes a Vacation by Jacqueline Davies (ill. Lee White). My review. This book has gorgeous illustrations, and spot-on humor for preschoolers. It offers new tidbits on every re-read.
  6. Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt. My review. Scaredy Squirrel is a fabulous character - the books are funny and creative, and validating for young readers nervous about the world around them.
  7. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin (ill. Betsy Lewin). This is one of my favorite gift books for computer-savvy parents - a reminder to celebrate the ridiculous.
  8. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin (ill. Eric Carle). Brown Bear is a book that toddlers want to have read read and re-read. The rhythm is excellent for read-aloud.
  9. Duck and Goose by Tad Hills. This is a modern favorite, with gentle humor, bright illustrations, and engaging characters. A must-have for any preschooler's library.
  10. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. What can I say that hasn't already been said? The Pigeon, though relatively young, is already a cultural icon. Kids LOVE these books.

978076145331402.jpgOf course I can name lots of other wonderful books, and even now I'm tempted to replace some of these with other favorites. But these are all books that have stood, or that I feel will stand, the test of time.

How about you? What are your favorite picture books?

This list was originally published at Booklights on April 24, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.


Farewell to Booklights

Booklights Today I shared my 54th and final post at Booklights, a PBS Parents blog run by Gina Montefusco (shown below in the lower right-hand corner - photo taken at KidLitCon 2009). Booklights started in April of 2009, with a goal of promoting the joy of reading with kids.

Booklights_team-thumb-300x225-2463 My original co-bloggers at Booklights were Pam Coughlan (lower left) and Susan Kusel (upper right). We were later joined by Terry Doherty (top center) as a regular contributor, and Susan Thomsen (not shown)and Ann Neely (bottom center) as occasional contributors.

Blogging for PBS was a great opportunity, and Gina and my co-bloggers made it a wonderful experience. I'm going to miss it! I have links to some of my favorite Booklights posts here. And I have a copy of that KidLitCon photo on my desk every day. Farewell, Booklights!