Six Summer Reads for Six-Year-Olds…


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The words “summer” and “reading” are beautiful on their own, but joined together they create sunny images of decks, beaches, poolsides, and back yards – preferably with a cold drink nearby!  It doesn’t really matter what you’re reading. Maybe you’re planning to read a book from your childhood or tackling a classic you missed in high school.

Kids enjoy summer reading too. There are usually no major writing assignments attached to their books. At Inly, our 4th through 8th grade students are required to read during the summer and they contribute to an on-line book discussion which most of them enjoy. They are given a list, but we hope it points the way to the riches in their local libraries and bookstores. They can choose, from among other categories: fiction, biography, history, nature, poetry, and graphic novels.  I have read pro and con arguments about summer reading lists – and completely agree that the selections made by some schools don’t make sense for summer reading. A friend’s son entering the tenth grade was assigned to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Even though he lived in another state, I was tempted to call the school and ask what they were thinking. For most students, Twain’s novel requires discussion and support. Trying to read it on your own at the end of August is guaranteed to destroy any joy in the story.

That being said, if selected carefully, the books on summer reading lists can enrich a child’s summer. Many wonderful books are not featured at chain book stores and may not be on display in the public library. Each September, during the first few days of school, I hear variations of this comment: “That was such a good book, and I would never have known about it!”  It is our goal to choose books that can be read and enjoyed and make a kid laugh, explore a new interest, or consider another point of view.

Time to get to this year’s list!  Because we want kids to have lots of choices, the list is too long to include here.  Over the next few weeks, I will highlight some of my favorite titles for different age groups. Today: six books that will be enjoyed by most six-year-olds, either to read on their own or to enjoy with a friend or parent.  The next post will have eight books for eight-year-olds and after that ten books for… get it!

Six Books for Six-Year-Olds:


Ling and Ting by Grace Lin (I’m cheating a bit with this title because there are three books in the series so far – with a new one coming this fall. Each short chapter book includes six related stories about Ling and Ting, twins who stick together, but are not – as the title says – “exactly the same!”)


Tales for Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider (Winner of the 2012 Geisel Award honoring books for beginning readers. Schneider knows what makes kids laugh – gross foods, references to funny smells and over-the-top silliness. James is a picky eater, but when he tells his father that broccoli is disgusting, his dad suggests James eat “a very sweaty sock.” The stories continue as James names more foods he won’t eat and his father’s ideas get more outrageous.)


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (Most six-year-olds may already be familiar with this hilarious book about crayons protesting their predictable uses, but every time I pull it off the shelf, kids want to hear it again.)


Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes (I love the Toon Books series of mini graphic novels for new readers. In this adventure, Penny wants to play pirate with her brother, Benny, but he’s not too excited about that idea. He even tries to lose her by pretending to play hide and seek, but not “seeking” after Penny hides. Of course, they ultimately play pirate together and it’s lots more fun!)


Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin (Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie from Cronin’s The Trouble With Chickens get their own series!  In their first “misadventure,” the small detectives try to figure out what “ENORMOUS and FRIGHTENING” thing frightened a squirrel named Tail.)


Princess in Black by Shannon Hale (The system tells me we have two copies of this brightly colored book in our library. The books have not actually spent any time on the shelf though so it’s hard to know!  Hale’s book looks like something Mary Blair would have illustrated for Disney, but Princess Magnolia stands firmly in the 21st century. She’s not singing with birds flying around her head – she’s an action hero!)


One more thing – unrelated to six-year-olds……I read in today’s New York Times that Chelsea Clinton has written her first book, a children’s book titled It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! The book will be released in September. If you want to know more, here’s the link:






The Number of the Day is……5

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In mid-May (the fifth month), five groups of five……

1. Summer Reading!

For those of us in New England, winter was especially long this year. As we made another cup of hot chocolate, dreams of summer reading on my deck gave me hope. So many good books coming out this summer, but here are five I’m especially looking forward to:


Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (I’m curious about Lee’s novel – and admittedly somewhat apprehensive given all of the drama about eighty-nine-year-old Harper Lee’s condition – but how can you not look forward to entering Scout’s world again?)


The State We’re In by Ann Beattie (linked stories set in Maine by one of my favorite short story authors)


In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (As she was for many other girls, I thought of Judy Blume like an absent big sister. She’s the one who answered all of the questions I didn’t want to ask anyone else. Blume’s new adult novel takes place in the early 1950s when Elizabeth, New Jersey was the site of a series of plane crashes.)


The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein (A debut novel getting lots of attention. From Publishers Weekly’s starred review: “In Dinerstein’s captivating debut novel, an isolated island above the Arctic Circle is the setting for two people trying to surmount grief and find love. After being jilted by her boyfriend, 21-year-old Frances flees Manhattan to apprentice with a laconic Norwegian artist in a remote community called Lofoten, where she learns to adjust to the unending daylight of a Scandinavian summer. Meanwhile, Yasha Gregoriov, five years Frances’s junior, comes there to bury his father, Vassily, a Russian immigrant to the U.S. whose wish was to be interred in a peaceful place “at the top of the world.”)


Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (The further adventures of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern Gaither in a companion novel to One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven)

2. List #2 – Scenes Around School That Make Me Happy….no one was asked to pick up a book for a picture!






3. Cookbooks!

The third graders made lists of their favorite books. Maybe this student will be a future competitor on Chopped!


Inly’s five most circulated cookbooks are:




Grandpa’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Cookbook


Cool Nut-Free Recipes (we’re a nut free school!)


– Cool Cakes and Cupcakes


Around the World Cookbook by Abigail Johnson Dodge

4. A Display of Five Spring Books:


5. And…..5 Five-Year-Olds Reading!


The books they’re reading: It’s Hard to Be Five by Jamie Lee Curtis, Five Creatures by Emily Jenkins, My Five Senses by Aliki, Five Little Monkeys Reading in Bed by Eileen Christelow, and Five Trucks by Brian Floca.

It seems appropriate to close this post with a picture of the Count from Sesame Street!


10 Practically Perfect Fictional Mothers….

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In honor of Mother’s Day, here are 10 mothers from the world of children’s books. These characters may not be perfect, but they do their best to love, protect, inspire, and comfort their children….


1. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Mrs. Rabbit does exactly what a good mother should do – she points out potential danger and provides comfort when things don’t go so well. “Don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden” she tells her mischievous son. With good reason – since Mr. Rabbit was put in a pie. But after Peter decides the prize is worth the risk, his mother still puts him to bed and makes him camomile tea.


2. Owen by Kevin Henkes

Owen’s mother is the perfect combination of supportive and resourceful. Her son, Owen, loves his fuzzy yellow blanket. He loves it so much that he wants to carry it to school. After trying a few things that many parents will recognize – like a Blanket Fairy who will take Fuzzy, but leave a “big-boy gift in its place,”  Owen’s mother has an “absolutely wonderful, positively perfect, especially terrific idea.”  Her solution helps her son feel secure and ready for school in a way that protects his dignity, and more importantly his heart.


3. A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams

The mother in this classic book is an excellent role model for her young daughter – she works hard as a waitress and  “….each evening every single shiny coin goes into the jar.”  They are saving for a “wonderful, beautiful, fat, soft armchair.”  But when a fire destroys their home, they have to start saving again.  They finally save money for the perfect chair – and Mama curls up to watch TV with her daughter “asleep in her lap.”


4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

She’s off screen, of course, but never far way. The supper was still hot! And she clearly values Max’s artistic endeavors. His art work is thumbtacked to the wall.


5. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

After hatching eight ducklings, Mrs. Mallard teaches her little ones to “swim and dive….walk in a line, to come when they are called, and to keep a safe distance from bikes and scooters and other things with wheels.”  She even guides them to the safety of the Public Garden – with the good natured help of Michael, the policeman.


6. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

A tiger at the door requesting tea does not fluster Sophie’s mother for a second. “Of course,” she says to the tiger. She even offers him a sandwich. I know many wonderful mothers, but not one who would invite a tiger in for a sandwich.


7. Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Sarah is a mail-order bride from Maine who becomes the mother to Anna and Caleb, two children who live with their father on a farm. She sings and draws and tells stories about her life back East: “In Maine, there are rock cliffs that rise up at the ends of the sea. And there are hills covered with pine and spruce trees, green with needles….” giving Anna and Caleb a glimpse of a world far away from their own.


8. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The real deal pioneer mom: “Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday.”  She even “colored the butter” to make it look prettier!


9. Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

Little Bear’s mother provides certainty. She is there. And when you’re beginning to read, reliability is important.  After Little Bear makes his Birthday Soup, his mother arrives with the all important cake: “This Birthday Cake is a surprise for you. I never did forget your birthday, and I never will.”


10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I jumped up a little on my self-imposed age restriction (I started with books for younger readers), but Mrs. Murry has to be included on a list of memorable mothers. She is Meg’s greatest inspiration – a disciplined scientist who is deeply committed to her family. She is trusting (welcoming Mrs. Whatsit into their house in the middle of the night – and offering her a sandwich) and gives Meg things to think about: “I think that with our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanations. But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean the explanation doesn’t exist.”

Happy Mother’s Day!




Independent Bookstore Day – and the Glories of the 70s!

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This afternoon I was in a large chain bookstore and noticed that The Children Act by Ian McEwan is now in paperback. McEwan’s novel is on my summer “to read” list, and so I was tempted to buy it when just in the nick of time…..I remembered that tomorrow is Independent Bookstore Day!  I pulled myself back from the brink, waited until I got back home, and purchased it at my favorite local independent bookstore – Buttonwood Books and Toys in Cohasset. In the spirit of “Buy It Here, Keep Us Here,” support your local independent bookstore tomorrow – and every day!


I seldom (really – hardly ever) laugh out loud while I’m reading. But today on the train back from Boston, I literally had to stifle my laughter so that my fellow passengers did not get up and move away. I was reading I Was a Child: A Memoir by Bruce Eric Kaplan. If you grew up in the 70s or have friends who grew up in that uniquely strange decade, read this book!  I’m tempted to quote hundreds of passages to you, but that doesn’t help independent bookstores. Here are two favorite passages:

The gum that came with baseball cards was always covered in white dust and was so brittle, unlike other gum. Sometimes you would open up the baseball cards package and the flat stick of gum would immediately break into little pieces, in which case you couldn’t really chew it.”

(I did not buy baseball cards, but I totally remember dusty chewing gum!  I didn’t really understand it. Apparently others shared my concern.)


There were always cartoons about people you would see in real life, like the Jackson Five or the Brady Bunch or the Harlem Globetrotters. I watched those ones, but they made me feel weird. I was happy when the show would get canceled and the people would go back to existing in real life.”

(This one brought me right back to Xenia, Ohio!  I remember the cartoon version of The Brady Bunch, my favorite show, but something about it didn’t work which unsettled me. I thought I should like “animated Marcia” because I related to the “real” Marcia!)

There’s a bittersweet tone to Kaplan’s anecdotes, but it captures the decade. Kaplan, a New Yorker cartoonist, is a master of mixing humor and melancholy – my favorite combination.

Happy Independent Bookstore Shopping – and have a good weekend….

Two New Middle Grade Novels…

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In preparation for talking to Inly students about the summer reading list, I’m reading lots of middle grade fiction and think it’s causing me to do 5th grade things like doodling on my notebooks and having conversations about which puppies are the cutest (a conversation I heard today)!  The best part is reading so many good stories – and thinking about which kids will enjoy them the most…

Over the past week, I read two new books: Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Julia and the Art of Practical Travel by Lesley M.M. Blume.


I was particularly happy to read Hunt’s new novel, Fish In a Tree. As I read, I thought about all of the teachers who will enthusiastically add this novel to their “bag of recommendations.” It’s the story of Ally, a smart girl who spends lots of energy trying to hide the fact that reading is hard for her.  Although she is a talented art student, Ally has tried so hard to keep her “secret” that she unintentionally alienates kids and adults at school.  She’s right to avoid the mean girls, but there are some awesome kids in her diverse class as well – Ally just can’t recognize them. Her roadblock is reading, and her anxiety around that issue is so all consuming that she can’t see beyond it. Luckily for Ally, she has an awesome teacher who figures out that she is dyslexic. With his support, Ally learns strategies to be more successful in the classroom and, of course, what follows is more success in other areas of her life – both at home and at school.  Fish In a Tree is excellent. The kids are quirky and believable. The sometimes messy ways that Ally attempts to hide her learning difference is spot-on. And her warm and supportive teacher will inspire every educator who is lucky enough to read this book.


Julia and the Art of Practical Travel is more lighthearted than Fish In a Tree. The themes aren’t as big as in Hunt’s novel, but it’s a warm and pleasant read – may be just the right book for a sunny July afternoon! This is a road trip story set in 1968. The travelers are eleven-year-old Julia Lancaster who doesn’t go anywhere without her Brownie camera and her Aunt Constance. The event that sets them on the road is the death of Julia’s grandmother, the matriarch of the Lancaster family, a fancy bunch who have traditions and bone china tea cups. Julia and her aunt take to the road to find Julia’s mother who left her upper class family to become a hippie.  Like all good road trips, the travelers meet memorable characters, have entertaining adventures, and learn a few lessons. Yes, the story is somewhat predictable. But that’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to know where you’re going.

More summer reading tips to come…..


Book Fair Wrap-Up

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Today was the fourth and final day of Inly’s spring book fair. As always, there was lots of entertainment if you listened closely. Where else would you get to hear a conversation like this:

Two seven-year-old girls. One girl says to her friend: “Don’t show me anything that isn’t pink!”  I hope she’s willing to look beyond her rose-colored view later, but for now, her parameters help narrow her choices!  Her options were Pinkalicious (the picture book) or Pinkalicious (the early chapter books) or Sleeping Cinderella (which is actually pretty funny), or The Magic Kitten.  Not sure where she landed.


Moments like this one are the best part. A colleague e-mailed to tell me that she was with some preschool kids when she noticed a group that was unusually quiet. Here’s what was going on:

IMG_6969Clearly, they had visited the book fair.

One of our most passionate young readers observed that she has decided to trust all books with fish on the cover. The last three books she’s read are: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. All excellent books. She has a point.


An 8th grade student came in and, as we talked about the book fair, it occurred to me for the 3,379th time, the power of books and reading to change lives. This student’s eyes lit up when she talked about The Selection series by Kiera Cass. We talked about Jennifer E. Smith’s smart and engrossing romance novels. And then she picked up The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies, and she said it was that book that made her realize how important books are to her.

The book fair’s top 10 sellers?  Here they are:

Poisonous Animals by Emily Bone


Minecraft Construction Handbook


Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen


Who Is George Lucas? by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso


Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo


Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (One student said she was jealous of everyone who hasn’t read it yet because it will be new for them in a way it can never again be for her.)


The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck by Emily Fairlie (I bought this one!  Based on good reviews and a friend’s recommendation, it’s on Inly’s summer reading list, but I started reading during a few quiet moments during the week and now I’m hooked!)


Wonder by R.J. Palacio


Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper


On a completely different note, I was in Kohl’s last night and happy to see that their spring Kohl’s Cares campaign features books by Philip Stead and Erin Stead….










The Great Wave and the Great Bookfair….


So much happening!

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to the Hokusai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Hokusai is, of course, best known for his iconic woodblock: The Great Wave from his series, Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji.  It wasn’t hard to find – it was the print with people gathered around  taking cell phone pics.  I’m embarrassed to admit that, until taking the audio tour, I had never noticed the smaller wave (under the big one on the left) that echoes the shape of Mt. Fuji.


It was especially interesting to see all of the Wave merchandise in the museum shop. Check this out…..






After visiting the MFA, we decided to stay with the day’s theme and eat lunch at a Japanese restaurant. When we sat down, this was my view:


The Wave was with us!

Today is the start of Inly’s spring book fair – four days of playing store!  This one is by Book Fairs by Book Ends, and it is excellent. So many good choices that my own “to buy” stack is already kind of high. An avid 5th grade reader just came in and bought 3 excellent books for summer reading – Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  Awesome choices!

Here are three scenes from Day 1:




Two boys are talking as I write this. One of them just said: “I wonder what it would be like if Bobby Orr still played for the Bruins.” I just checked Wikepedia, and Bobby Orr is 67-years-old. I don’t think they realize that. The Magical Thinking of children!