Wrap-Up Wednesdays: Early Chapter Books

It’s back-to-school time, and many kids will experience an exciting first this year: independently reading their first chapter book.  Here are some ideas for what that book might be.  (And yeah, I know Wrap-Up Wednesday is on Thursday this week.  The kids aren’t the only ones going back to school.)

Sprout Street Neighbors: Five Stories by Anna Alter.  Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Five animal neighbors help each other solve their problems with friendship and gentle humor.  Each chapter stands alone and features one of the five friends.

Dory and the Real True Friend by Abby Hanlon.  Published by Dial Books.

Dory and her wild imagination are back for a second book.  She’s starting school, and her brother and sister recommend she leave her imaginary friends at home and make a real friend.  Dory decides to listen to the voices of experience and takes their advice…sort of.

Space Taxi: Archie’s Alien Disguise by Wendy Mass, illustrated by Michael Brawer.  Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Archie and his dad are back with another adventure driving the space taxi.  This time Archie’s on his own on a mission to rescue a princess, and gets a crazy alien disguise to help him succeed.  Plenty of adventure and humor.

Danger in Ancient Rome (Ranger in Time) by Lisa Messner.

Ranger the golden retriever time travels to ancient Rome where he uses his search and rescue skills to help two young gladiators.  Magic Tree House fans will enjoy the combination of history, time travel, and adventure, all seen through the eyes of a really cute dog.

Wrap-Up Wednesday: Making a Difference

Can one person make the world a better place?  Read one of these books to see the answer is a resounding yes!

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls.  Published by Random House.

Growing up in Ghana with only one leg that worked, Emmanuel refused to believe he couldn’t do what all the other kids could do.  He learned to walk to school, play soccer, and ride a bike.  Eventually he rode that bike from one end of Ghana to the other to raise awareness about disabled people.  His work led to the passage of the Ghanaian Persons With Disabilities Act in 2006.

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Simone Shin.  Published by Kids Can Press.

Even a simple act like donating your old bicycle can help people thousands of miles away.  Follow the story of this bike, donated by an American boy, as it travels to Burkina Faso for multiple reincarnations.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery.  Published by Dial Books.

The youngest person on the Selma march, Lynda Blackmon Lowery wanted to show Governor George Wallace her injuries from the beating she received at the Bloody Sunday protest on March 7, 1965.  “You have a voice, too,” she tells readers.  “And with determination, you can be a history maker, just like me.”

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia by Miranda Paul, illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon.  Published by Millbrook Press.

When Isatou Ceesay first encountered a plastic grocery bag in her Gambian village, she thought it was a light, strong alternative to the baskets she usually carried.  Years later, the bags were choking the goats who ate them and attracting mosquitoes as they festered in the trash.  Isatou got the idea to crochet the plastic into purses she and other women could sell to make money for improvements in their village.

Wrap-Up Wednesday: American History

Love history? Hate it?  Doesn’t matter.  Just about any kid will be able something to connect with in one (or more) of these books.

The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale.  Published by Harry N. Abrams.

You know those 11-year-old boys who really love history?  Give them Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, impeccably researched graphic novels.  The Underground Abductor, the story of Harriet Tubman, is number five in the series.  (And don’t worry, girls will like them, too, especially this one.)

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Published by Schwartz & Wade.

This is one of my all-time favorite books of the year.  The concept is simple: four families from different time periods in American history make a dessert called blackberry fool.  But the execution is so cool, with loads of details about period clothing, technology, and social norms.  It’s a book to be savored, just like the treat it describes.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno.  Published by Candlewick.

Oh, that Benjamin Franklin!  What eighteenth-century pie didn’t he have a finger in?  This book tells the story of how he debunked mesmerism, a practice the was sweeping France when Franklin was over there drumming up support for the American Revolution.  It’s also a good example of the scientific process, and has amazing illustrations to boot.

The Founding Fathers!: Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Barry Blitt.  Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

If you want in-depth information about the founding fathers, look elsewhere.  If you want a book chock-full of interesting facts and tidbits about George, Ben, John, Thomas (and a few others you might not be familiar with), set aside a good chunk of time to spend with The Founding Fathers.

Wrap-Up Wednesday: Books for Wimpy Kid Fans

Okay, I’ll admit to a little Wimpy Kid burnout (I actually hid the books in my library for a brief period last winter to get kids to check out something else).  But my literary tastes can be pretty low-brow, and I actually enjoy many of the books in the whole genre that seems to have spun out from this series.  Good news: every book on the list is part of a series (or is the first book in a new series):

The Rat With the Human Face by Tom Angleberger.  Published by Harry N. Abrams.

Lyle, Marilla, and Dave go on their second adventure as the Qwikpick Adventure Society, a quest to see the rat with the human face rumored to live in the basement of an old research facility.  There are just enough quirky details to make this story seem realistic.  By the author of the Origami Yoda series.

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell.  Published by Harry N. Abrams.

Miles hopes to keep his prankster reputation when he moves to a new school.  Little does he know his school already has a prankster with capabilities far exceeding Miles’.  The mystery trickster turns out to be the last person Miles would have suspected, and the two of them join forces to pull off the biggest prank ever.

The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry.  Published by Disney-Hyperion.

On the flight to Washington, D.C., Wyatt and his best friend Matt witness two men acting like terrorists, and decide to take matters into their own hands.  There are plenty of laughs, but also a pretty good adventure story with a number of twists and turns.

Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting (And Lives to Tell About It!) by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by J. P. Coovert.  Published by Roaring Brook Press.

When Katie Friedman accidentally sends a nasty text about her boyfriend to the boyfriend himself, she vows to give up texting.  On top of that, she gets an offer she can’t refuse if she can get ten friends to join her for a week.  Can she really pull it off?

My Life As A Gamer by Janet Tashjian, illustrated by Jake Tashjian.  Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Derek and his friends get an amazing opportunity to test a hot new video game before it’s released.  He breaks the rules by telling his new tutor some things about the game.  When details about it are leaked to the gaming world, Derek finds himself in hot water.

Wrap-Up Wednesday: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

I believe at least one of these books will get some sort of Newbery recognition this year.  They are not only the best historical fiction I’ve read this year, but among the most memorable books overall.  Put your beach time to good use by picking up one of these this summer!

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi.  Published by Algonquin Young Readers

12-year-old Pete gets caught up in a tangle of lies and secrets in Cold War-era Brooklyn.  A good introduction to McCarthyism and the 1950’s, presented in a page-turning story.  Personal aside:  This book gets my vote for this year’s worst cover.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  Published by Dial Books.

This may be my favorite book of the year (so far).  Ada and her brother are evacuated to Susan’s house to escape the bombing of London during World War II.  Susan, overwhelmed by loss and grief, has no room in her heart to love these two children.  Ada, kept a virtual prisoner by her mother because of her club foot, is desperate to stay.  You can’t help but take the characters to heart, and the ending is so, so perfect.


Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.  Published by Scholastic Press.

 So engrossing the 592 pages fly by.  Three stories–Friedrich in Germany just before World War II, Mike in Pennsylvania a few years later, and Ivy in California in the midst of wartime–share the common link of a magical harmonica. Music ties all three stories together in a satisfying conclusion.


Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen by Eve Yohalem.  Published by Dial Books.

A maritime adventure worthy of the Bounty or Charlotte Doyle.  Petra and Bram struggle to survive on a Dutch sailing ship, complete with keel-hauling, pirates, and mutiny. Life in the twenty-first century never looked so good.


Wrap-Up Wednesday: Rhyming Picture Books

As I’m approaching 150 books reviewed so far this year, I thought it might be fun to revisit some of my favorites.  Every Wednesday will now be “Wrap-Up Wednesday” where I provide a wrap-up of a few of my favorites in a chosen category.  This week I was reviewing all the picture books I’ve reviewed, and I realized all my favorite read-alouds are rhyming books.  Publishers often caution picture book authors against writing rhyming stories.  Thank goodness these authors didn’t listen. I’ve kid-tested most of these, and they passed with flying colors!

 Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.  Published by HMH Books for Young Readers.

The kindergarten teachers at my school beat me to the punch and  read this to their classes before I could.  No matter; the kids all loved hearing it again.  Stick and Stone beat bullying, shyness, and a ferocious storm to form a friendship that’s a perfect 10.

Monkey and Duck Quack Up! by Jennifer Hamburg, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.  Published by Scholastic Press

Okay, maybe not the most thought-provoking choice, but the rhymes are way catchy, and the joke of the last page made me  laugh.

Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Josh Schneider.  Published by Clarion Books.

This is the only one I haven’t tried out on kids, but I’ve got to believe they would love it.  Best of all (in my opinion), it has sly humor that will entertain the parents as well.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt.  Published by Chronicle Books

I’m in awe of people who write good fractured fairy tales.  And the ones who can do it in rhyme…I have no words.