Tag: young adult

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.

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.

The Gift of Slothfulness

Last year I gifted myself a few days of sloth for the holidays. No projects, no deadlines, and few obligations. For someone who usually runs at full throttle, the downtime was amazing. I read books, watched movies, and enjoyed a much slower pace. After a few days my sloth account was full and I jumped back into the new year recharged.

This year I knew it was coming and spent days eagerly planning to be slothful. (How ironic is that?) I prepped myself with a stack of books, a pile of movies, and a knitting project or two. This year I couldn’t fit in days of complete slothfulness due to obligations and deadlines. I did manage a couple of weeks of semi-slothfulness, though.

So here’s what Sloth 2015 looked like:

Read:

  1. Waistcoats and Weaponry“(Finishing School book 3) by Gail Carriger  – I’ve been tearing through this series as quickly as I can get my hands on it.
  2. George’s Secret Key to the Universe” by Lucy and Stephen Hawking – Yes, that Stephen Hawking. Turns out his daughter writes novels. This is a rare gem – a kid’s book that doesn’t sacrifice good storytelling for good science.
  3. Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?” by Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek – What happens in the brain to turn a person into a zombie? Find out along with this accessible read. (TL;DR: check out the TedEX talk for part of the answer.)
  4. Voyager” (Outlander book 3) by Diana Gabaldon – This epic series is addictive. Do not attempt unless you have the next 48 hours cleared. No really. (I’ve been working on the series for a couple of years for just this reason.)

Videos:

  1. Star Wars – We began introducing our kids to the Star Wars movies. It’s important to start your nerdlings on the proper path from a young age.
  2. Crash course Astronomy – Yes, the whole series. (Ok, I skipped over a few early ones.) This is big science explained in layman’s terms.
  3. Crash Course Big History – Yes, the whole series. (Sloth, remember..?)
  4. Drunk History – I covered a good chunk of this over the last couple of weeks, too.
  5. Classic Christmas movies – If I’m honest, though. I had my nose in a book most of the time these were on. Kid’s occupied = reading time for mommy.

All in all, I’m calling it successful slothfulness. Now I’m easing myself back into the real world a little more recharged.

Hmm. I wonder if I can fit in a Summer Sloth….

Find the Perfect Book for Any Kid

Find the Perfect Book for Any Kid

The holiday season is upon us. Hopefully, you’ll consider gifting the kid in your life with a book or two. But what to get? You can find guidelines online but they’re not the best. A clerk at a big box book store will be even less helpful. Why? Most recommendations are based on a lot of assumptions. 

They assume that all kids learn to read at the same time and with the same skill. They assume that younger kids will only get read alouds and older kids will only read independently.

We can do better.

There are two important things to know.

  1. Reading level is different from comprehension level. By the time children start learning to read, they are already speaking fluently. A 5 year old’s reading level might be “The cat sat on the mat” but their comprehension level will be far higher.
  2. What book category do you you want? Children’s interests and abilities change over the course of childhood. The children’s book industry has created categories to reflect this:
    • Board books are written for babies and toddlers. Example: “Moo, Baa, La La La” by Sandra Boynton.
    • Picture books range from young toddlers to older children. These books are meant to be read aloud by a parent. That means the book is written at a child’s comprehension level. Example: “Rosie Revere Engineer” by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts.
    • Leveled readers or easy readers are for children just learning to read. They have simple sentences and tightly controlled vocabulary. These are written at a child’s reading level. Example: “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss.
    • Chapter books are generally written for older children to read themselves. These are longer, with more mature content. There are categories within chapter books, as well. First chapter books are for newly minted readers. Middle grade books are for older elementary kids. Young adult books are for middle and high school students.

Age ratings on easy readers and chapter books assume that a child is going to read the book themselves. A book that is rated for an older child often is suitable for read loud with a younger child.

Adults often feel that kids are too old for read alouds once they can read. Just the opposite. Reading above a child’s reading level builds comprehension skills and vocabulary.

Plus reading is just plain fun.

But be aware: content maturity also goes up. A younger child may not be emotionally ready for a book intended for older kids. If you pick a read aloud book rated for older children, take the time to check out a review or two.

So, here’s my guide to finding the perfect book for the child in your life:

  1. How old is the child? How skilled are they at reading? Do they like to read?
    • Older children and more skillful readers usually can handle more difficult books.
    • Not all kids like to read. For these “reluctant readers” shorter, high-interest books are the way to go.
  2. Do you want a read aloud book? Or one to read independently?
    • Very young children can’t yet read.
    • Adolescents and teens probably won’t be interested in a read-aloud if you haven’t built the habit. (Sorry.)
    • Kids in that middle sweet spot can go either way. They can cuddle up for a juicy read aloud chapter book or pick up a shorter book to read alone.
  3. What are they interested in? Once you’ve got an idea of what category you want, you can check out some book recommendations to get ideas. I’ve gathered over 500 recommendations for kid’s books.

Want something easier? Next time I’ll post my book gifting guide.

Do you have favorite books to recommend?