Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Good Reads

More than once in the last few days, people with young elementary school kids in their lives have asked me for book ideas, for what Bud and Sis like.  It gave me the chance to think, to list even, the books we've explored and those we hope to read soon.  We rely predominantly on suggestions from our local public and school librarians as well as friends and the wonderful Chinaberry catalog.  Also, the lists (and here) of Jim Trelease, in both his fantastic Read-Aloud Handbook and companion website, are invaluable and include older, out of print, and less well-known titles, as well as all the classics.  The list also levels the books, give suggestions for similar books, and has advisories for advanced listeners or tough subject matter.

I like listing the books we've read, not only because I can share it but also so I remember.  Recently, I've been thinking on my favorite childhood books, remembering weekly visits to the school library.  By far, my favorite choices were from the Childhood of Famous American series, the name of which I'd forgotten until recently.  I did remember, however, years of reading biographies of women--Juliette Low, Abigail Adams, Mary Todd Lincoln, Pocahontas, Louisa May Alcott, and so many others (always women, though)--with their block-colored illustrations and long lists of biographies in the front and back cover. I've only just rediscovered the series through a fortuitous on-line purchase of an early edition Juliette Low, Girl Scout by Helen Boyd Higgins.  This is the book I got caught reading in math class after library one day, complete with illustrations and bio lists.  It's fantastic!  Other books that struck me, that I'm remembering these days, are the history of the Armenian genocide, The Road from Home, by David Kherdian, and a story whose title remains in my mind even if the plot doesn't, The Underside of the Leaf.  Of course, I also loved Little Women, the Little House books, The Borrowers (which we're reading together now), Gone with the Wind, Encyclopedia Brown, Choose Your Own Adventure books, all of Judy Blume, much of Beverly Cleary, Shel Silverstein, and others I'll recall in re-reading them with the kids.

There are some books noticeably absent from our list:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, the Big Nate series, and others.  A mom at the book fair at school yesterday teased me that we need to come down off of Harry Potter and read about snot!  I told her we just must not be a funny family.  (In our defense, we like Stink and Junie B. Jones!  And mine you, not everybody does--see this NYTimes's piece.)  I'm not against any of those choices, but the kids won't choose them--they could have had any or all of the above at the fair yesterday but opted for a Star Wars graphic novel, several Flat Stanleys, a simple version of The Dolphin Tail, a book on penguins, and Phineas and Ferb (yes, yes, lots of pop culture tie-ins, but there weren't many plain novels).

I'd love to see your lists--on your blog or in the comments (or a link to your post in the comments!)--to know what you enjoyed, what your children enjoyed.  And yes, Shelley, I'll eventually set up an actual Good Reads account!

Note:  * denotes favorites; list in no particular order or exhaustive of everything we've read--no assigned school titles were included; sorry I'm too lazy to link or even include authors.

Books They've Heard (read by us or on audiobook)
*Magic Tree House series
Magic School Bus series
The Borrowers 
Junie B. Jones series
Judy Moody series
*Stink series
*The Water Horse
*The Candymakers
Little House on the Prairie
Fantastic Mr. Fox
*Pippi Longstocking
Ivy and Bean series
Rip-Roaring Russell
*The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Boxcar Children series
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
The Giraffe, the Pelly, and Me
Mary Poppins
101 Dalmatians
Sarah, Plain and Tall
The Penderwicks (one of the few we just gave up on, just too slow)
A to Z Mysteries series
The Stories Julian Tells
Wind in the Willows (another we gave up on for being too slow)
Secrets of Droon series
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (I quit reading this aloud, finding its stereotypes offensive)
The Reluctant Dragon
Chocolate Fever
*How to Eat Fried Worms
My Father's Dragon
Stuart Little (we finished it, but they really disliked it)

Books They've Read On Their Own

*Harry Potter books 1 & 2
*Nate the Great series
*Cam Jansen series
*Flat Stanley series (one of Sis's current favorites)
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

*How to Train Your Dragon series (Bud's current favorite)
*Dragon Slayers Academy series
*Charlotte's Web
*Mr. Popper's Penguins
Thea Stilton series (Sis gave up on these)
Geronimo Stilton series
Disney Fairies series (another of Sis's current favorites)
Unicorn Secret series
Dr. Seuss
*Elephant and Piggie series (it's best for K or early readers but an all-time favorite)

Books on Our List to Read or Listen to Soon (next 12-18 months or so)
Catwings series
The Dollshop Downstairs
Tumtum & Nutmeg
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
Bless this Mouse
James and the Giant Peach
Redwall series
Narnia series
The Littles
Minnie and Sophie
The Iron Giant
Owls in the Family
Herbie Jones
The Stray
Because of Winn-Dixie
Stone Fox
Tales of Desperaux
Homer Price
Ida Early Comes over the Mountain
The Indian in the Cupboard
The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle
The Secret Garden
Anne of Green Gables
Tales from the Homeplace
books by E. Nesbit
Norse mythology


  1. I was very keen on 'Swallows and Amazons' by Arthur Ransom(e). It is about children who sail small boats on an English lake, the Amazons are two sisters, the Swallows a family of 2 boys and 2 girls who compete with the Amazons. Written about 1930 it is good clean simple fun and no sex or violence. The characters are all real people so it might be considered the blog of the era having been written by the uncle of the Swallows in the style of the children, who if alive, are all older than me.

  2. This is a great list! I see we have read some of the same and some are new, I'll make a note of those so we can look into getting them for the kids. I think I will make a list on my blog too, one of these days!! Library day was my favorite in Elementary school, it the one of the few things I remember fondly about school.

    my favorites: Anne of Green Gables, Little House and the Story of Helen Keller.