Tag: middle grade

3 Children’s Books With Disabled Main Characters: Kidlit Karma August 2018

3 Children's Books with Disabled Main Characters with Guest blogger Charlotte Riggle

Charlotte Riggle HeadshotAt the end of 2017, I made a pledge. I challenged myself to review good books every month in 2018, particularly books that haven’t gotten as much love as I feel they deserve. I call it Kidlit Karma because I’m aiming to spread the love for books that I love.

This summer I’ve welcomed several writing friends to share books that they love. Today I’m happy to welcome Charlotte Riggle, my friend and fellow children’s book writer. Charlotte and I have never met in person, but we’ve traveled in the same small online writing circles for many years.

Charlotte is a voice for disability representation in children’s books. Both her most recent picture book, THE SAINT NICHOLAS DAY SNOW, and her the previous book, CATHERINE’S PASCHA, feature the main character’s disabled best friend. Neither story is about disability, they’re about children being children. They just happen to be different.

Cover art for THE SAINT NICHOLAS DAY SNOW by Charlotte Riggle          Cover art for CATHERINE'S PASCHA

Take it away Charlotte!


Books are magical. When you read a book, you can travel into the future or into the past. You can visit cities and worlds you’ve never been to. You can see animals that you never knew existed. And you can meet people that aren’t like the people in your neighborhood.

And all of this magic has a wonderful influence on the minds and hearts of children. Children who meet all sorts of people – different ages, different races, different abilities – are less likely to accept stereotypes. They are more likely to respond with empathy to all sorts of people. And, wonderfully, magically, meeting those people in books does the same thing.

So it’s important that our children read books about all sorts of people. Including people with disabilities. But there are genuinely not many children’s books with disabled characters. So here are three to get you started: a picture book and two middle grade novels. 

 

Picture Book: A SPLASH OF RED: THE LIFE AND ART OF HORACE PIPPIN by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

Book cover for A SPLASH OF RED: THE ART AND LIFE OF HORACE PIPPIN

If you’re not a student of American art, you probably haven’t heard of Horace Pippin. I hadn’t until I discovered this wonderful book. Pippin is considered a folk artist, or an American primitive artist, like Grandma Moses.

A Splash of Red is a richly detailed biography of Pippin. He was born in 1888 and had what might be considered a privileged life for the grandson of slaves. He attended school through eighth grade. He loved art and drew and painted with whatever materials he could find.

When World War I started, he volunteered to serve. He was injured in combat – his right shoulder was badly damaged. He couldn’t draw anymore. He couldn’t paint. And he couldn’t find anyone willing to hire him.

He married. He helped his wife with her business. And he longed to draw and paint.

Eventually, that passion drove him to do what everyone thought was impossible. He supported his injured right arm with his left hand, and with time and determination, he began painting again.

A Splash of Red is gorgeous, as any book about an artist should be. There’s a wealth of detailed information in the back of the book. The book isn’t intended for very young children. But a child interested in history or art will read this one over and over again.

A SPLASH OF RED: THE LIFE AND ART OF HORACE on Amazon

 

Middle Grade: INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS by Dusti Bowling

Cover art for INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS

Aven, the main character of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, was born without arms. But she hasn’t let that stop her. She has learned to do almost anything any other kid can do, using what she does have: her mouth, her feet, and her wit. Her friends at school have known her since forever, and they’re used to the way she does things. It’s just not a big deal.

But then her dad gets a job running an run-down theme park in Arizona. The family moves across the country. And at age 13, Aven finds herself in a new school, with kids who don’t know her, and who think she’s a bit of a freak.

Aven doesn’t like being stared at. She doesn’t like being treated as if she can’t do things for herself. She just wants to go home to Kansas. But that’s not an option. So she finds a mystery that needs to be solved. Disappearing tarantulas. Missing photographs. A locked room and a locked desk.

Somehow, the mystery seems to have something to do with her.

Along the way, she makes friends with a couple of boys who are also outsiders: Zion, who is seriously overweight, and Connor, who has Tourette’s. Together, they could do what none of them could do alone.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactusis notable for its realistic and unsentimental portrayal of uncommon disabilities. The characters aren’t written as collections of stereotypes. They are well rounded, interesting, utterly charming human beings. And while they grow and develop through their experiences, they do not encounter miraculous cures.

The book is a delight on every level. The publisher recommends it for kids in grades 3 to 7. But if you have an older child who has a significant disability, or who knows someone with a disability, I’m sure this book will resonate with them.

To learn how Dusti Bowling made sure the characters were realistic, read the interview on the Nerdy Book Club.

INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF A CACTUS on Amazon

 

Middle Grade: HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS by Merrie Haskell

Covert art for HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS

Tilda is the Princess of Alder Brook. But she isn’t particularly interested in being a princess. She would much rather be a nun, working alone in a scriptorium, copying books – or, even better, writing her own books. 

Of course, she’s got a lot of reasons for preferring books to the life of a princess. For one thing, her principality is in dire financial straits. For another, many of her subjects think she’s cursed. She’s got a club foot, after all.

The club foot affects who Tilda is and what she does. It’s not just the people who think she’s cursed. Her own mother won’t let her ride horses or do anything else where she might get hurt.

And there’s the pain. Her foot hurts. A lot. Her maidservant, Judith, knows how to help. But the pain and disability make it hard for her to do some things that are easy for others.

There are days that running away from her life at Alder Brook seems like a good idea.

And when her cousin Ivo kidnaps her mother, and then Tilda, to take Alder Brook away from them, she has to run away to survive. Judith and a would-be squire named Parzifal join her. They decide that, while avoiding Ivo, they should go on a quest to kill dragons.

Because it gives them something to do. And dragons are evil, right?

Well, that’s what Tilda and her companions think at the beginning of their quest. But through their encounters with the Wild Hunt, the Horses of Elysium, an evil magician, and (of course) a dragon, they learn a great deal about dragons – and about themselves.

I don’t just read YA – I read middle grade novels and picture books, too. And Handbook for Dragon Slayers is perhaps my favorite middle grade novel of all time. Tilda’s encounters with the dragon are especially wonderful.

You can read an interview with author Merrie Haskell on Disability in Kidlit, along with a fabulous review by a reader who also has a clubfoot.

HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS on Amazon

 

Thank you, Charlotte!

3 Children's Books with Disabled Main Characters with Guest blogger Charlotte Riggle

200+ Children’s Book Reviews

200+ Children's Book Reviews

I love reviewing connecting people with books almost as much as I love reading them. That’s one reason I review so many books here on my blog. And since I’ve started doing my Kidlit Karma project, I’m doing a lot more reviews.

Just one problem: it’s not that easy to find things here on the old blog.

So if you need, say, a nonfiction book for a tween – sure I’ve got it. …Somewhere… Something had to be done.

Now I’ve created a master page for all my book reviews. Yay!

It’s sorted in two ways:

  1. Ages and stages – this includes age ranges like baby, child, tween, teen, and adult. It also includes stages like early reading.
  2. Topics – Jump here to get a collected list of all STEM, nonfiction, diverse books, and books for writers. Within each topic they’re sorted by age to make things easy.

So, go forth and find a book to read!

 

CHECK IT OUT

Kidlit Karma Reviews: June 2018

June 2018 Kidlit Karma book reviews with Katherine Rothstein

At Katherine Rothstein Photothe end of 2017, I made a pledge. I challenged myself to review good books every month in 2018, particularly books that haven’t gotten as much love as I feel they deserve. I call it Kidlit Karma because I’m aiming to spread the love for books that I love.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I moved into a new house earlier this month. Lucky for me my critique partner and fellow kidlit writer, Katherine Rothstein, has agreed to share her summer kidlit reading list for this month’s review. You can follow her on Twitter at @krothsteinslp2.

Take it away Katherine!

 

 


It’s officially summer!  Whether you hit the beach, lounge in your hammock, or float around the pool it’s the perfect time to read a good book. I am a speech pathologist, kidlit lover, and mommy of two. My daughter is one eager reader and enjoys reading everything from the back of a shampoo bottle to novels. My son has particularly high standards, and he prefers a read with humor and loads of action.  One thing they have in common…they both LOVE funny. Determined to keep them reading all summer, I’ve strategically created a book exchange with their friends, designed enticing book displays throughout the house, and even tucked a book or two under their pillows.  Here are a few of our favorites:

 

PICTURE BOOKS

I am a huge advocate of rhyming books for all ages but especially for children under six years old and emerging readers.  Rhyme is an essential phonological awareness skill that is necessary when learning to read.  Our brain best learns new words and information by classifying into categories. If a child can read Cat, they should also quickly learn Hat, Bat, Fat, Mat, Rat, and Sat.  Plus, rhyming books are fun to read aloud!

 

MONSTERS NEW UNDIES by Samantha Berger and Tad Carpenter

MOSNTER'S NEW UNDIES book cover

MONSTER’S NEW UNDIES is adorable!  Your tush will fall in love with this sweet little monster on a search for new undies.

Get MONSTERS NEW UNDIES on Amazon

 

FROG ON A LOG by Kes Gray and Jim Field

FROG ON A LOG book cover

Every animal has a place to sit and conveniently, each animal’s seat rhymes with that animal’s name. But Frog does not want to sit on a log. “It’s not about being comfortable,” explains the cat. “It’s about doing the right thing.”

Get FROG ON A LOG on Amazon

 

ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR by Laura Gehl and Tom Lichtenheld

ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR book cover

ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR will show you that it is fun to count and share, and it all starts with one big pair of underwear.

Get ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR on Amazon

 

EARLY READERS

Here are two that are laugh out loud funny. They teach a basic concept of opposites. They also offer fun and colorful illustrations to capture the attention of non-reading listeners.

 

STEVE AND WESLEY: THE ICE CREAM SHOP by Jennifer E. Morris

STEVE AND WESLEY: THE ICE CREAM SHOP book cover

Get STEVE AND WESLEY: THE ICE CREAM SHOP on Amazon

 

THE LONG DOG by Eric Seltzer

THE LONG DOG Book cover art

Get THE LONG DOG on Amazon

 

GRAPHIC NOVELS

These are a hit with my reluctant reader.  They have more text than early readers, deeper plots and fun illustrations to support the story.  Best of all, they are hilarious!

 

THE BAD GUYS series by Aaron Blabey

THE BAD GUYS #1 book cover art

A wolf, a piranha, a snake and a shark make up this Bad Guy team.  They plan and execute missions to support their new image of being good. Full of humor to make any kid chuckle.

Get BAD GUYS on Amazon

 

NARWHAL AND JELLY series by Ben Clanton

Book cover for NARWHAL AND JELLY: THE UNICORN OF THE SEA

Narwhal and Jelly are awesome friends with big imaginations.  This book has real fun fish facts and a waffle who battles a robot.  Yep, all that excitement packed into 65 pages!

Get NARWHAL AND JELLY: THE UNICORN OF THE SEA on Amazon

 

MIDDLE GRADE

Okay, so these two favorites do not check the funny column, but they are sure to make you smile.  And, who can resist a heart-warming story of friendship between a dog and their person?

 

CHESTER AND GUS by Cammie McGovern

Book Cover Art for CHESTER AND GUS

Chester wants to be a service dog but fails his certification.  A family adopts him in hopes that he will be a companion to their 10-year-old son with autism. Chester is lovable, smart and determined to find a way to connect with Gus and find his fit in this family.

Get CHESTER AND GUS on Amazon

 

BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo

Book Cover Art for BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE

There is a reason this book has received so much attention.  The author has a way of making the characters come to life. A brilliant story about forgiveness and friendship.

Get BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE on Amazon

 

Have a fun summer and happy reading!

 

 

 

 

Kidlit Karma Reviews: February 2018

Kidlit Karma February 2018 post picture

At the end of 2017, I made a pledge. I challenged myself to review good books every month in 2018, particularly books that haven’t gotten as much love as I feel they deserve. I call it Kidlit Karma because I’m aiming to spread the love for books that I love.

Last month, I shared my first batch of books and today I’m sharing another batch.

With Easter on the horizon, I considered going with a theme and posting all Easter-related books. But my good friend and fellow Kidlit writer, Charlotte Riggle, has already put together several roundups of Easter-related picture books. Like this list of multicultural Easter books and this list of Easter books for toddlers. 

So instead, today I’m going to save my gushing for Charlotte’s book itself along with some other great, non-Easter books.

 

Picture Book: CATHERINE’S PASCHA by Charlotte Riggle

Cover for CATHERINE'S PASCHA by Charlotte Riggle

 

Catherine can’t wait for Pascha, the middle of the night Easter celebration at her church. And this year, she is definitely not going to fall asleep and miss Pascha. She’ll keep her eyes open all night for the candles and giggles with her best friend. Plus, there’s a giant feast afterward! But she might close her eyes for just a minute…

I love this book for two reasons. It’s a peek inside how another culture celebrates Easter. But it’s foremost, a really amusing story told from a child’s perspective.

A disclaimer: Charlotte and I have never met in person, but we travel in many, many of the same online circles. Over the years, she has firmly come over to the side of being a friend rather than just a colleague. However, I bought her book for my own kids long before we “met” online. Her work speaks for itself in its quality. The best testament I can give is that my kids pull it off the shelf all year long to read. They quote it at Easter time. We’re on our third copy because we loan it out and the little readers can’t part with it.

CATHERINE’S PASCHA on Amazon

 

Middle Grade: THE METROPOLITANS by Carol Goodman

Cover for THE METROPOLITANS by Carol Goodman

Four kids from very different walks of life, all find their fates bound together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They are entwined in centuries of secrets and magic but the Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor and they’ll have to stop something even more catastrophic in New York City.

The author has woven together solid history with fantasy and the results are engrossing. I devoured this book and I’m hoping it will become a series.

THE METROPOLITANS on Amazon

 

Young Adult Nonfiction: ALEXANDER HAMILTON REVOLUTIONARY by Martha Brockenbrough

Cover of ALEXANDER HAMILTON REVOLUTIONARY by Martha Brockenbrough

Brockenbrough does a great job of stringing together the relevant facts in a way that both tells a true and complete story of Alexander Hamilton’s life, and also keeps the reader engaged way past their bedtime. If you think you don’t like history books, try reading this one to change your mind.

I am obsessed with Hamilton the musical. Lin Manuel Miranda is a musical genius, but he also had a really great subject to work with. Alexander Hamilton’s life was a real-life soap opera (just add musical score). I’m not alone in my obsession and the glut of Hamilton books on the market in the last year is a reflection of that. If you’re going to read only one of the Hamilton biographies, this is an excellent choice.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON REVOLUTIONARY on Amazon

Kidlit Karma Reviews: January 2018

At the end of 2017, I made a pledge. I challenged myself to review good books every month in 2018, particularly books that haven’t gotten as much love as I feel they deserve. I call it Kidlit Karma because I’m aiming to spread the love for books that I love.

Today, I’m proud to share my first batch of books. Yes, batch. While my stated goal is one book a month, I read and fall in love with many more books than that.

 

Picture book: MY BEAUTIFUL BIRDS by Suzanne Del Rizzo

Cover of MY BEAUTIFUL BIRDS by Suzanne Del Rizzo

Sami loves living in Syria with his family and his pet pigeons. But when the war forces his family to leave, he worries about his pigeons. He is now safe in a refugee camp, but he finds that the world still feels black. Until one day, three beautiful birds find him and he rediscovers a world of color.

This book brought tears to my eyes in a good way. This book deal with a heavy but important topic: the ongoing crisis in Syria. It does it in a way that doesn’t oversimplify a complex issue but is appropriate in tone and content for a young child. This book is great for showing how hope and beauty can be found in the hardest of situations. Also, the illustrations are simply GORGEOUS.

MY BEAUTIFUL BIRDS on Amazon

 

Middle Grade: THE EXACT LOCATION OF HOME by Kate Messner

Cover of THE EXACT LOCATION OF HOME by Kate Messner

Zig’s dad suddenly cancels his visit and his mom won’t tell him why but Zig has a plan. With a new-to-him GPS unit and his faithful friends, he’s going to track down Senior Searcher, the geocaching alias he’s sure is his dad.

This is another book that I think sheds light on an important social issue without sacrificing good storytelling or becoming didactic. Homelessness is common for children in the United States, but it’s rarely addressed in books. This book does a good job of showing the reality and difficulties that homelessness can create for kids and families, while also maintaining the character’s dignity.

THE EXACT LOCATION OF HOME on Amazon

 

Young Adult Nonfiction: RADIOACTIVE! HOW IRENE CURIE AND LISE MEITNER REVOLUTIONIZED SCIENCE AND CHANGED THE WORLD by Winifred Conkling

Cover for RADIOACTIVE! by Winifred Conkling

I love a good nonfiction book, particularly when true events are woven together to make a compelling story. And this book does exactly that.

This book is equal parts science and intrigue. You’ve probably not heard of these women (though Irene’s mother, Marie Curie, may ring a bell), but they each make enormous contributions to science and, in particular, the development of the atomic bomb. They did it all in the midst of two world wars that put them on battlefronts and made them part of elaborate conspiracies to flee Nazi’s.

If you like Steve Sheinkin’s BOMB, you will love this book that dives into the science and the women behind the race for the Atomic bomb.

RADIOACTIVE! on Amazon

 

What about you? What books have been bringing you joy this month?

Big List of Books to Give to Kids, 2017 edition

It’s that time again! Time for me to gush about some of the books I read this year in the hopes you will buy some.

Lucky for you, that makes gift giving easy. Books make great gifts for kids and with so many new and classic books, you can find something for every kid.

I’ve broken down the book recommendations into helpful categories. These let you find books that are appropriate for the age and reading ability of the child. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of how children’s books are classified, check out this post.

For independent readers, this guide will help you determine if a book is appropriate.

You can also check out the lists for 2015 and 2016.

BOOKS FOR BABIES AND EXPECTANT PARENTS

Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering cover

No one is too young for a book! Nothing says love more than cuddling up in the lap of a grownup and listening to a story. And since reading to children is the number one best thing you can do to promote school success, you’re also making an investment in their future success. These books have stiff, durable pages perfect for the littlest readers.

Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering

Besos for Babies

Goodnight Jesus (You just knew that was coming, right?)

 

FIRST PICTURE BOOKS

Marta Big and Small Cover

These picture books are perfect for kids that are ready to graduate from board books. They have shorter texts (to match short attention spans) but big humor. These are a great fit for preschool through lower elementary.

Marta Big and Small

Sophie’s Squash and the sequel Sophie’s Squash Goes to School

Bitty Bot

Stick and Stone

Water Song

 

PICTURE BOOKS FOR KINDERGARTEN – ELEMENTARY

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake cover

These texts are a tad longer. Perfect for the slightly older kid that still loves picture books.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Nothing Rhymes with Orange

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast

Charlotte and the Rock

Great Now We’ve Got Barbarians

READ ALOUD CHAPTER BOOKS FOR PRESCHOOL AND KINDERGARTEN

Kids can begin listening to chapter books as young as preschool or kindergarten. These books have short chapters and pictures can help ease the transition. They’re also free of mature or scary content.

No. 1 Car Spotter

Winnie the Pooh and while you’re at it read about the true story behind the fictional bear in Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

BOOKS FOR NEW READERS

Is That Wise Pig cover

These books are great for kids that are still learning to read. These are arranged from easiest to hardest. Choose the one that seems just right or a little ahead of where your reader is currently.

Is That Wise Pig? and Jan Thomas’s other books are always a big hit with my kids.

 

Ballet Cat: What’s Your Favorite Favorite?

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea

 

BOOKS FOR KIDS THAT DON’T LIKE TO READ

Catstronauts: Mission Moon cover

Comics and graphic novels have been the gateway to reading for many kids. Apparently, I didn’t read many graphic novels this year, but what I lack in numbers I make up for with quality. I love all the books in this series (and stalk Drew Brockington’s twitter to find out when there will be more).

Castronauts: Mission Moon

 

BIG BOOKS FOR BIG KIDS

Wonder cover

The one category where I read significantly more than in any previous year: middle grade. Middle grade is the term for upper elementary to middle school readers. I tried to thin down this list. I really did. But…. I can’t. #sorrynotsorry To help you sort through, I’ve added the genre of each but these should be taken with a (large) grain of salt.

Wonder – Realistic

Book Scavenger – Realistic/Mystery

Refugee – Modern Historical Fiction

Amina’s Voice – Realistic

The Metropolitans – Fantasy/Historical Fiction

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Fantasy

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – Mystery

The First Rule of Punk – Realistic

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls – Fantasy

The Detective’s Assistant – Historical Fiction/Mystery

The Case of the Missing Moonstone – Historical Fiction/Mystery

 

YOUNG ADULT

The Hate U Give cover

There is only one book on this list, but it was the most powerful book I read all year. If you’re only going to read one YA novel all year, let it be this one.

The Hate You Give

 

TRUE STORIES FOR TRULY AWESOME KIDS

Over and Under the Snow cover

It’s a great time for people that love nonfiction. There is some terrific nonfiction out there right now. This list was just as hard to thin down as the middle grade novels. After each book, I’ve listed the age category. PB = picture book and can range from preschool to upper elementary. MG = middle elementary to middle school. YA = middle school to teen.

Over and Under The Snow – PB

I’m Trying to Love Spiders – PB

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective – PB

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness – PB

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code – PB

Spot the Mistake: Lands of Long Ago – PB

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Right’s Activist  – older PB

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower – MG

Hidden Figures Young Reader’s Edition – MG or YA

Bomb: The Race to Build – And Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon – YA

Radioactive! How Irene Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World – YA

Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA – YA

 

Still looking for inspiration? Check out these 500+ Great Kid’s Books.

Note: I get no compensation for making these recommendations. I just really, really like books.

My October: Back Pain, Binge Reading, and NaNoWriMo

Three weeks ago, I threw out my back. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that this is like a forced vacation. A chance to catch up on reading and Netflix.

I have, indeed, done a ton of reading. According to Goodreads, I’ve clocked an average of one middle grade or young adult book every two days. That’s great for my 2017 reading challenge, but the novelty has worn off.

2017 Goodreads Books reading challenge status

So now that I can sit upright again (at least for awhile), I’ve been back to writing.

And with November on the horizon, that means NaNoWriMo.

This will be first year participating in NaNo – the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in November. In my case, I’ll be writing a middle-grade novel, so I’m aiming for closer to 30,000 words.

Last year, I was hesitant. I had never written any fiction longer than a short story. I wasn’t sure I could maintain a story for that long. So I signed up for a NaNo account but never did much.

Then this summer, an idea hit critical mass. It had been simmering on my brain’s back burner for months before suddenly hitting a roiling boil. After some intensive brainstorming, the entire rough draft came together in about four weeks.

Rough draft is the key phrase. I knew from the get-go that I would need many rounds of revisions. I was not wrong. In my first pass of revisions, I had to backfill character motivations, add subplots, and make sure my characters were three dimensional. It’s a work in progress, but I can already see it taking shape.

I was not wrong.

In my first pass of revisions, I had to backfill character motivations, add subplots, and make sure my characters were three dimensional. It’s a work in progress, but I have hope that I’ll come out the other side with something people want to read. More importantly, I have confidence now.

So this year I’m embracing NaNo wholeheartedly. This idea has been simmering for a few months now. I’ve been itching to work on it. Now that other projects are wrapping up, I’m ready to stoke up the fire and get things going.

Plot twist: it will be my first historical fiction piece. It’s the perfect marriage of my love of story and my love of nonfiction.

I’m using the month of October to prepare (Preptober). For most NaNoers that means fleshing out characters, figuring out plot points, and the like. I’m doing all that plus having to research the real events and places where my novel is set.

Right now I’m neck-deep in research. I’m not quite drowning, but I do feel a bit seasick.

I just hope that by November, I’m back on my feet, literally.

 

 

 

Help! How Do I Find Books for My Child?

HELP! How do I find Books for my Child-

Having a child that loves books is a wonderful thing. But often in the next breath, parents lament “how do I find books for my child?”

Kids in middle to late elementary seem to inhale books. Parents often find that keeping their child supplied with books is an impossible task. How can a parent tell if a book is going to be appropriate? Is it the right reading level? Will there be content that is too mature?

Mature content is especially a problem if your child reads above their grade-level. A child may be capable of reading a book but not have the emotional maturity to handle it. Imagine a sensitive 8-year-old reading the death scenes in the Hunger Games.

So what’s a parent to do?

Most of us can’t quit our day jobs to read children’s novels full-time. (Even if we would like to.)

I’ve gathered together some resources to help you wade through it all.

Help! How do I find books for my child?

First, you can check out lists of book recommendations. I read widely, and every year I made a list of my favorite books from the year. Check out the lists from 2016 and 2015.

2016 Big List of Books to Give to Kids

Big list of books to give to kids

Second, I also have a Pinterest board full of book recommendations. Need ideas for a 2nd grader? Or books set in Asia? Or adventure books for girls? Books for reluctant readers? Scroll through, and you’ll probably find something.

500+ Great Kid's Books to Read

Ok, but how can I tell if the reading level is right?

If your child’s reading-level is different from their grade level, then recommendations for their grade may not be a good fit.

The Accelerated Reader website lets you search for books. It tells you the reading level and word count for each book. Not every book is listed, but most often I can find what I need. Let’s look at a recent favorite of mine: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Screen Shot of THE HATE U GIVE from Accelerated Reader page

The ATOS level is the grade level. In this case, this Young Adult book is readable to a student who is in the 9th month of 3rd grade.

Other things to note are the Interest Level and Word Count. The language of this book might be understandable by a 3rd grader, but it is interesting to a much older child – 9th to 12th grade. Plus, I don’t know any 3rd graders that wouldn’t balk at the sheer volume of a 95,000-word book.

Compare this to a book like Wonder by R.J. Palacio:

Screen Shot WONDER on Accelerated Reader website

 

Here the book is a bit more balanced: The reading level is later in 4th grade, and the interest level is 4th-8th grade. The length is also better for a 4th grader at 73,000 words.

But how do I know what my child’s reading level is?

You have a few options. You could grab a stack of books that your child read recently, and look them up on the Accelerated Reader website. Get an average of the ATOS level, and you’re good to go.

The Scholastic website also lets you look up books to find their reading level. It uses a different measurement of reading level: Lexile scores. Lexile scores are widely used but don’t translate easily to a grade level.

You could give them a test such as the reading level test on the free website Moby Max. You will need to make an account, but the website is free to use.

Great. Now how do I tell which books are appropriate for my child?

The Common Sense Media web page rates media designed for children. It will flag any mature content. That means you don’t have to read a whole novel to find out there’s a sex scene in chapter 37. Let’s take a look at our two books:

Screen Shot of THE HATE U GIVE on Common Sense Media

At the top, there’s a rating of quality (5 stars) and approximate age appropriateness. The age rating takes into account both reading ability and mature content. As we saw before, The Hate U Give has a low readability level, but the high-interest level bumped it up here. Further down, it breaks down mature content by type. You can click on each to get more information. The “What Parents Need to Know” section, gives you an overview.

Reading over this, I could tell that this is a powerful book that would be perfect for a high schooler or mature middle schooler.

Now let’s look at our other book example.

Screen Shot of WONDER on Common Sense Media

Wonder is a better bet for an elementary school child. The rating of age 11 reflects that there is some minor mature content (bullying and kissing).

 

Though I read a lot of children’s books, I still have to use these tricks to help my kids. Hopefully, now you feel confident helping your child find books. Do you have any tips or tricks to add?

Big List of Books to Give to Kids, 2016 Edition

2016 Big List of Books to Give to Kids

I’ve written before with book recommendations for the gift-buying holiday season. Funny thing, though, they keep publishing new books. Also there are still existing books out there that I’ve never read. (Amazing, I know.) Which means, this year I can write a whole new list! 

If you’re not sure what kind of book is best, check out this comprehensive blog post about picking the right book for the kid in your life.

Without further ado, the 2016 BIG LIST OF BOOKS  TO GIVE TO KIDS

 

Goodnight Jesus

Board book for expectant parents and little babies

Babies love books. What’s better than cuddling up with a favorite grownup to read a book? These books have stiff, durable pages and short texts for baby bookworms.

Goodnight Jesus (You just knew this was going to be in there, didn’t you?)

Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering

Llama Llama I Love You

 

Space Walk By Salina Yoon

Books for active babies and toddlers

These books are for babies and toddlers who want to move and do. Built-in actions help squirmy kids focus and sturdy pages help books last.

Space Walk

Goodnight Jesus (Yes, again. Toddlers love kissing the icons on every page. Parents love that the sturdy pages last a long time.)

 

Rain! by Linda Ashman

Picture books for preschoolers

Preschoolers love pictures books. These favorites have short text (for short attention spans) but big humor and adventure.

Rain!

Pipsie the Nature Detective series

Edmund Unravels

Vegetables in Underwear

The Thing about Yetis

 

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko

Picture books for kindergarten and elementary

I tried keeping this list short. (Really!) It’s not my fault so many awesome books were published this year. For kids with longer attention spans, these books are just plain brilliant

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be In This Book)

Little Red Gliding Hood

Nuts in Space

A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting

Space Boy and his Dog

Ada Twist, Scientist A new book in the same series as Rosie Revere!

 

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

Read aloud chapter books  for preschool and kindergarten

When your child is ready for something a little meatier, try these classic books. They’re also free of scary or mature content that wouldn’t be appropriate for young listeners.

A Bear Called Paddington and all the other Paddington books.

Stuart Little

 

What This Story Needs is a Pig In A Wig by Emma J. Virjan

Books for brand new readers

These shorter books are light on content but heavy on entertainment. That makes them the perfect place for a new reader to flex those reading muscles.

What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig

I Will Take a Nap by far our favorite of the Elephant and Piggie books

In, Over, and On the Farm

Hi! Fly Guy and the rest of the Fly Guy series. This series is more advanced than simple easy readers. Great for kids that aren’t quite ready to jump into reading chapter books.

 

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

Short chapter books for less new readers

Kids that are ready to read longer books but aren’t ready for novels will love these shorter chapter books.

The Story of Diva and Flea

Geronimo Stilton series (see also: Thea Stilton series, Cavemice series, Spacemice series, ………)

 

Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke

Books for kids that don’t like to read

Most teachers (and authors!) believe that kids that don’t like to read just haven’t met the right book yet. Some kids also get stuck because the books at their reading level just don’t appeal to them. Do you know what almost all kids love? Comics. Know what’s easy to read? Comics. Know what builds reading skills? Reading comics.

Zita the Space Girl series

Baby Mouse series

 

Unusual Chickens for the Exception Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Big books for big kids

If you’ve got a bigger kid that’s comfortably reading bigger novels, these are the books for you. These books have more adventure and scarier villains suitable to bigger kids.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab (Nick and Tesla series)

Maze of Bones (39 Clues series)

George’s Secret Key to the Universe

 

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

True stories for truly awesome kids

So far I’ve listed all fiction books. There’s a reason for that. Most kids like a good story the best. Some kids love true stories best of all.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of The World’s Most Famous Bear

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

The Camping Trip that Changed America

I am Martin Luther King Jr.

Welcome to Mars, Making a Home on the Red Planet

 

Still looking for inspiration? Check out these 500+ Great Kid’s Books.

Note: I get no compensation for making these recommendations. I just really, really like books.

5 Spectacular Space Books for 4th – 8th Graders

5 Spectacular Space Books for 4th - 8th Grade

It’s no secret I’m a space lover. If you follow we on Facebook and Twitter you know that half my posts are about space. Lots of kids love space, too. There are oodles of lists of space picture books. There are even whole lists of Pluto picture books. While picture books aren’t just for little kids, older kids crave more. More information, more depth, more excitement. There are lots of great books for the 4th-8th graders but there aren’t many lists to help you find them. This post goes out to my fellow space-lovers just looking for a good book to read.

These books are my top picks for 4th-8th graders.  I love a true story told well. All of these books are nonfiction but most are written as engaging stories, rather than textbooks. They’ll let you experience what it’s like to roam the red planet, Mars, or sit on Earth sweating bullets when things go wrong far out in space.

 

The Might Mars Rovers by Elizabeth Rusch 

The tale of the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, two rovers that were only supposed to work for a couple of months but kept going for years. (Mighty, indeed.) Along the way they taught us a lot about Mars and about problem solving.

 

Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet by Buzz Aldrin and Marianne Dyson

Buzz Aldrin wasn’t just the second man on the moon, he’s also a space researcher who is helping to plan the first mission to put people on Mars. This book will tell you all about what it will be like to be one of those first few Martian pioneers.

 

A Black Hole is Not A Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano and Michael Carroll

This book is a fascinating read about black holes, quite possibly some of the coolest (and scariest) things in our universe. Black holes hold our galaxy together and have such strong gravity that they can even bend light.

 

Team Moon: How 400,000 people landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

Lots of books will tell you about the astronauts that went to the moon. This is the only book that tells you about the seamstresses that sewed their suits or the photographer than taught them to take those amazing photos. This book is all about the people who made it possible for the astronauts to go to the moon.

 

Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon by Andrew Chaikin and astronaut Alan Bean

This beautifully illustrated books tells the story of every mission that took men to the moon. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to go to the moon, this is the book for you.

 

There you have it. Five of my favorite space books written just for middle grade students.Do you have a favorite one to add?