Now that Summer is over and school has begun in right earnest, I thought I should jot down the books that the then 3rd grader read over summer. Just random picks. I didn't have an agenda. Well, I sort of did, but did not enforce it.
So far, almost every book by Roald Dahl has been much enjoyed by both the kids. The BFG is a hit, of course, thanks to his whizpopping and his strange grammar. The Witches made him wonder about the women he sees - seemingly ordinary people - whether they could be secret witches. The Giraffe, the Pelly, and Me was nice too. Matilda was fantastic.
As a non-fiction fan, it is gratifying for me to see the younger one finish fiction chapter books voluntarily. Especially because non-fiction picture books have filled our lives with wonder, right from the kid's infancy.
Here are a few fiction chapter books that the 3rd grader has enjoyed this summer either listening to me read it out loud, or reading them by himself as he lost patience waiting for me.
by Swapna Haddow
illustrations by Sheena Dempsey
A quick read pumped with the kind of silliness that appeals to kids, Dave Pigeon has its laugh-out-loud bits as well as some bits that the jaded adult in me knew was a drag but just put in there to get the kids to giggle.
Two pigeons are scrounging for scraps, and not doing so well, when a Human Lady (with a cat in her basket) comes along with a perfectly stale bread that is a heavenly treat for the said pigeons. Her cat, however, finds its own treat in tormenting the two pigeons, one of which gets its wing hurt. That's our "Dave", so named when the Human Lady takes him home to mend.
The friend pigeon, Skipper, follows along and finds that life can be good with the Human Lady if only the Mean Cat was out of the way. They both embark on schemes to throw the cat out, but end up with a different problem when the book ends.
So, there is bound to be a part 2 that tells us more about how things progress.
[image source: Author website]
Oggie Cooder (2 book series)
Oggie Cooder, Party Animal
by Sarah Weeks
Veteran author Sarah Weeks manages to create a likable character whose life is realistic enough for kids to take notice and bizarre enough for kids to keep reading. Oggie Cooder is a naturally talented charver. What is charving? It is carving cheese with teeth.
There's the usual super-privileged girls, the boisterous jocks, the dorky smarties; and despite fame trying to change him, Oggie remains true to his sweet nature.
The second book, Party Animal, is all right. There is the requisite diva-ish girl who does not want Oggie to come to her party but invites him anyway, and then imposes these impossible rules for him to follow if he is to come to her party. Not my cup of tea, but all in all, Oggie comes out nice and likable again.
[image source: scholastic]
Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing
(Superfudge, Double Fudge)
What's not to love about these soon-to-be classic books? Peter Hatcher, his little brother Fudge, and their lovely family are quite a bunch. Virtually every kid I know has read at least one "Fudge book".
Ms. Blume is a master at her craft, spinning seemingly mundane everyday events into wild adventures that turn out to be entertaining, and yet full of heart and tons of humor.
Although Peter is our protagonist, he mostly talks about his brother, Fudge, whose attention-getting antics might be all-too-familiar for parents with high-energy/highly-imaginative kids. Baby sister Tootsie brings new fodder for such antics and the anecdotes flow into a general story with not necessarily a huge conflict/resolution style arc but more of a things-happened-and now-it's-all-right kind of sequence.
Read an Excerpt
[image source: Puffin- Penguin/Randomhouse]
(Rapacia, Blimpo, Fibble)
by Dale E. Basye
illustrated by Bob Dob
This is a book I did not scan ahead, or read to the child, so I kept getting updates from the reader in installments as and when he read it. It seemed so bizarre that I had to pick it up and do my usual rapid-reading to make sure.
Marlo and Milton get sent to Heck after they are killed. They meet Virgil there, in Heck, which is practically like Hell: there is school there! The threesome try to escape this freakish world.
There are a few more books in the series and the kid has been working his way through them. The rich wordplay and fantasy world building might just be offbeat enough to keep the kid engaged.
Read an Excerpt
[image source: Penguin Random House]
by Judy Cox
A heart-warming book where kids are not bystanders in their own art enrichment education. Hayley can play the ukulele, it must run in the family since her great-aunt Ruby was famous for it. But, when her school decides to cut funding for the music program, she gathers her fellow music enthusiasts and puts together a show, and in effect appeals to the board to change their mind.
Kids can identify with Hayley and her seeming lack of special talent: while others can sing, dance, juggle and what-not, she seems to be talentless. Until she discovers ukulele, and discovers that with just 3 chords she can learn to play many tunes.
[image source: Holiday House]
The Story of Diva and Flea
by Mo Willems
I must admit that the main reason the resident Elephant and Piggie fan picked up this book is the name-recognition factor: being familiar with the Mo Willems name.
It's a sweet story of friendship between an alley cat, Flea, surviving on pure wits and next-to-nothing-scraps and a pampered little 'fraidy-cat dog, Diva. Their friendship grows gradually, organically. They each help the other out of their comfort zone and find that life isn't so bad on the other side.
Diva shows the joys of regular, reliable, predictable Breck-fest and indoor life to Flea who is used to scavenging for fish bones and food remnants in the dumpsters.
Flea shows the joys of exploring, living free and flâneur-ing, while helping Diva overcome her fear of feet.
[image source: Disney Publishing]
Shelter Pet Squad
by Cynthia Lord
After Rules by Cynthia Lord, I was looking for other books that the younger child might enjoy. Having lost our own pet guinea pig, it seemed like he was ready to read about another guinea pig looking for a home.
Second-grader Suzanna cannot have pets in her apartment, even though she would love to have one. Her parents thought it would be a good idea for her to volunteer at the nearby pet shelter. Suzanna is shy at first, but soon makes good friends at the shelter and takes it upon herself to find a good home for Jelly Bean, a guinea pig that another family dropped off at the shelter as they cannot care for it anymore.
[image source: Scholastic]
by Andrew Clements
illustrated by Mark Elliott
It seems like just about every fourth-grader has encountered this book in school as teachers and librarians seem to put it on every reading list they send home. As they should, indeed!
The noisy fifth-graders, notorious for their rambunctious behavior, decide to stop talking in school suddenly, after being inspired by Mahatma Gandhi who had made it a habit to abstain from speech one day a week during his adult life.
It is a riotous read. The complicated rules for "allowed" talking is laid out organically - three-word sentences only at a time - as the teachers and principal try to deal with this civil disobedience. Of course, on the one hand, the teachers are happy with all the peace and quiet, but on the other, it clearly is not working out well overall.
All's well that ends well, of course, as the two camps (girls vs. boys) end up as allies rather than adversaries and learn a thing or two from each other.
[image source: Atheneum/ Simon & Schuster]
by R.J. Palacio
Ten year old Auggie starts mainstream school after spending his formative years hiding under a toy helmet. His face is quite deformed and that becomes the focus for anybody who meets him. They are unable to see the humanity in him and his struggles.
Told via eight different narrators with unique voices and perspectives, the book allows us to get to know Auggie for who he is, not what he looks like. And, it captures the circumstances and emotions that lead to misunderstandings, perhaps even to friendships. As Auggie navigates his middle-school life, he learns to be more comfortable with himself, and we learn to choose kindness.
As the Dalai Lama said, and as I quote him at home often when kids start fighting with each other:
"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
Read an Excerpt
[image source: Penguin Random House]
Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything
by Lenore Look
illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Ruby Lu ends up being likable, even if not memorable. When her (deaf) cousin, Flying Duck, emigrates from China and starts living with them, things change for the worse at home. At least, that's what Ruby thinks.
At first, Ruby is quite excited about Flying Duck's arrival and takes it upon herself to be the best Smile Buddy. But slowly, things she took comfort in starts to change - more Chinese spoken at home, more Chinese foods at the table, and her best friend Emma doesn't seem like her best friend anymore.
The book easily addresses the challenges of summer school, swimming, emigration and transition to life in a new country as seen through an Asian-American kid whose hopes and fears are quite authentic, convincingly told from a second-grader's point of view.
[image source: Simon & Schuster]
Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Ten year old Bud Caldwell is probably known to most 4th and 5th graders in public schools. Orphaned, and abused in foster homes, he flees his quiet town in Depression-era Michigan, setting out on a journey to meet his father. Rather, the man he thinks is his father - bass player for the Dusky Devastators of the Depression, Herman E. Calloway.
Along the way, Bud-not-Buddy has a lot of weird experiences/adventures. Even the most heart-wrenching moments are infused with hope, and Bud's attitude is ever-hopeful and positive. Bud is extremely likable - polite and sensitive, brave and smart.
Read About the Book at Penguin Random House
[image source: multcolib.org]
by Kate Messner
Although it seemed that this book might be a bit beyond his realm of experience, it worked out all right for our nightly read aloud sessions. Much like the fairy tale, "The Fisherman and His Wife", where the fish can grant a wish but the wish always backfires unless worded carefully, our protagonist, Charlie, catches one while ice-fishing.
Charlie's struggles and daily travails was appreciated more by the eleven year old than the eight year old, but still, he was somehow drawn to it and stuck with it till the end, having us read aloud till the book was done. The heroin-addiction for Charlie's sister was a bit much for him, as it bothered him that it can really happen, even if to a character he doesn't care about...
Or There and Back Again
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Since I love the book a lot, I took it upon myself to read it aloud to the kid. It was a blast as expected, reading a chapter at a time.
And, it was even more fun comparing it to the movie(s) to see what parts got dropped out of the movie and speculating why.
[image source: multcolib.org]
Flora & Ulysses
by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by K.G. Campbell
While this was a fun summer read, I decided to dedicate a separate post to Flora & Ulysses.