Books for 7 to 9 yr olds

Some time back, a friend asked if I could recommend some books for a seven-year old boy.  I’m asked variations on this somewhat frequently so I finally decided to sit down and write out a list.  For this post, I’ll focus on series. I’m sure there will be more to come and these recommendations are in no particular order.  Most will appeal to both boys and girls, but not every child will enjoy each series below equally.

1. The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne – I have yet to meet a child who rejected this series in its entirety. There are nearly 50 books in the series so it can keep readers busy for a while.  Jack and Annie are siblings who find a magic tree house in the woods near their house.  The characters open a book they find in the house, say “I wish we could go there,” and are transported to the desired location. Before they can go home, they have to solve a puzzle and help either a person or animal. I like the message behind these books, even if as an adult reader, the writing style is a bit repetitive.  For kids just beginning with chapter books, the series offers mild thrills and the chance to learn about the structure of narrative – without even realizing it.

2. A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy – Three relatable kids, Josh, Dink and Ruth Rose solve mysteries in and around the town of Green Lawn.  My daughter and I loved the friendship presented in the books.  Sometimes the kids get mad with each other, but they find ways to resolve their differences in a peaceful way.  There are enough clues to help readers solve the mystery. Each book comes with a map and readers can use that to help solve the mystery too.  It’s nice to see map skills in use.  Also, I like the way the three kids teach each other.  If one uses a harder vocabulary word, or casually mentions a tougher physics or natural world concept, a second character will be a bit confused so the first speaker explains him or herself, or they will talk about what they learned in school and compare notes on what they each remembered.  Ron Roy has two other series – Calendar Mysteries geared toward the same age range and Capital Mysteries geared toward more confident readers.

3. Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton – These rodents both know how to spin a good yarn and get human kids excited about geography, science and the newspaper industry. Heavy illustrations support the text, giving it the feel of a graphic novel, but these are chapter books. My daughter prefers the Thea Sisters series, but the Geronimo Stilton is equally good, if not better. Also, there are a lot of bad puns and literally cheesy dialogue.  The phrases “Moldy mozzarella” and “Fabumous” have become household favorites.

4. Bad Kitty Series by Nick Bruel – For earlier readers, pick up wacky alphabet book Bad Kitty which runs through the alphabet four times and serves as an origin story for our anti-heroine. I love the series for featuring a not so lovable feline who gets her comeuppance in a humours way.  Again, there is a bit of a graphic novel feel, and the heavy illustrations make this a good step into chapter books. The author “breaks the wall” so to speak, inviting the reader to become the anonymous narrator who talks to Bad Kitty. Also clever, asides by Uncle Murray to explain more advanced concepts and the glossary.  Some readers may be put off by the “bad” language. Uncle Murray often refers to “that stupid cat” but  the reader is asked to laugh along with and at the bad examples they see on the page.  Bad Kitty for President is one of the best explanation of politics I’ve seen.

I’ll stop here for now.  What series or individual books do you recommend?  My daughter is always looking for new reads and my son is a few years away from needing some other suggestions.

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For the love of bookmarks

I’ve been experimenting with ebooks lately.  I don’t have a dedicated e-reading device, just an app for my i-Touch, but it is enough to give me a taste of the e-reading experience and to teach me something about myself.

I really like bookmarks.

The e-reading app lets me turn down the corner of virtual pages.  The ability to stop mid-chapter and not lose my place is handy, but the folded corner is no bookmark. I don’t fold down the pages of my physical books.  I will use anything at hand — a gum wrapper,a business card, a leaf, or a twig– in lieu of damaging the book by folding the page.

Besides, bookmarks bring me joy.  I recently gave my daughter the Garfield bookmark I treasured at her age.  I held back a tear as I recycled the beautiful gold foil trimmed rose my mother gave me when I first started reading chapter books.  It fell apart from years of use.  Han Solo accompanies me on Sci-fi journeys and my “Meg Cabot’s got your back” goes well with comedy.  I love promotional bookmarks from authors.  The clever pitches get me excited to read what ever book is being advertised next.  Sometimes, these pitches and a cute picture propel me to finish my current book faster so I can get started on the one touted by the bookmark.

I love finding other people’s bookmarks tucked inside books from the library and second-hand books.  I wonder who left their library receipt. More than once, I’ve been compelled to check out the other books printed on a stranger’s bookmark, I mean receipt.  I’ve run across hand written notes, credit card receipts, bank receipts, post cards, grocery lists and the occasional bookmark.  When I drop off books for my library’s book sale, I try to pass on promotional bookmarks where appropriate.  My own sort of recommendation.  “If you like Melissa Marr, you’ll love Memories of Murder by Lara Nance.”

I know I’ll get a dedicated e-reader soon, but I’m not ready to give up paper books yet.  I’m not ready for a world without bookmarks.

Books I hate to read (but do) – part I

I take my kids to the library weekly so they can pick out new books to enjoy at home.  My daughter (8) graduated to chapter books and picks a variety of fiction and non-fiction, but my son (4) gravitates to the same four shelves every week, just as his sister did at the same age.  Occasionally, he accepts my suggestions, but for the most part, I know we will come home with at least one Clifford or Berenstain Bear book.

Contrary to the slogan, I’m just going to say it — I don’t love Clifford.  I’ll give props to Norman
Bridwell for creating an iconic character that kids love, but that doesn’t mean I’ll share the love. As a parent, I loathe reading them.  As my husband points out, the art is terrible, but perhaps the kids like the drawing because the skewed perspective is a bit like theirs.

I’m more troubled by the continuity issues in the art rather than the style and quality of the art.  Buildings change color, size or disappear completely.  There are three distinct versions of the mother and at least as many versions of the father.  It makes me think Emily Elizabeth and Clifford have spent a lot of time bouncing through the child welfare system.

Artistic choices aside, I find the message unsettling.  The kids think Clifford’s foibles are funny.  I take away the message “you can only do good if you are big.” Clifford the puppy slips and falls and has to be rescued.  Clifford the Big Red Dog steps in to save a kitten from traffic, by causing an auto accident that so badly crunches the car, it’s a miracle the driver survived.  It makes sense that he could support a bridge, but the idea a building would burn to the ground if Clifford didn’t step in to help the fire-fighters is asinine. And an insult to the brave men and women who train hard to be fire fighters.

Time after time, Clifford is the best because he’s big.  I am not a big person.  I’m shorter than the average adult.  Does this mean I can’t do good? Does this mean my children cannot be helpful? That they will never be able to find the most easter eggs or lend a hand because they of merely average height? Is size really all that matters?  I hope not.

p.s – I’ll tackle the Berenstain Bears later.  In the meantime – what do you think?  I’m ready for the onslaught of Clifford lovers to sway my opinion.

How do they get so much done?

Every day or week that goes by without my posting a new blog, my mailbox fills with announcements of a new blog post by one of the many people I follow.  Several of my favorites find the humor in parenting and the surprising reality of being a stay at home mom.  They hit home and make me smile.  They also make me green with envy. How do these women find time to blog on a regular basis?

Suburban Snapshots details Brenna’s unexpected parenthood journey. And it’s freakin’ hilarious.  Most moms will probably wet their pants (a side effect of childbirth) the rest of you can simply enjoy learning how having a toddler is like being at a frat party.  I am in awe that her parenting brain works well enough to be witty. I’m not sure what happened to my brain.  I think it slunk off in shame during an endless game of Chutes and Ladders.

I am also utterly impressed with Amber of Parenting, Illustrated with Crappy Pictures.  For one thing, her art skills are superior to mine. After hours spent at the kitchen table with paper, crayons, markers and pencils, I end up with a beautiful refrigerator (the kids’ pictures) and a bunch of paper for the recycling (my efforts). I love the mix of humor and heart, but most of all I love knowing that I’m not the only one with the “five-hour rule.”

When I read these bloggers in particular, I feel better about neglecting the housework. I’m inept at it anyway. As for the kids letting me have a chance to read, well, thank goodness for bloggers who know how to make a site look good. The kids love the pictures, but my 8 yr old thinks Amber should hire her to do the illustrations.

I would love to blog about important stuff (see the half finished blogs on tunnel tolls and ultrasounds), or even the everyday stuff (Legos) and produce something on a more regular basis.  But I don’t.  I like my sleep, my TV and playing tapfish. My kids can play nicely on their own for hours, but once the computer comes out, they hang all over me, desperate and clingy.  They are jealous of the laptop. Just as I am jealous of those parents who can write a book, or a blog or even just have clean floors.  My hat off to those superheros among us.

Oh – and if you know of anyone else I should add to my regularly scheduled blog reading list, let me know.  I could use a few more ways to waste time.