Two things happened last week in the Library that reminded me that children are acutely sensitive to adult anxieties and tensions. Of course, the over-the-top media attention paid to a presidential candidate that exploits our fears doesn’t help, but it’s nearly impossible to escape the dangerous rhetoric swirling around us.
The first reminder came from a teacher who told me about a young student who is fearful of ISIS. She asked for inspiring stories about people who make a difference by doing good things. I suggested two picture books by Jeanette Winter: Wangari’s Trees of Peace and Biblioburro.
The teacher’s story was still on my mind when, a few days later, a fifth grade girl came in to check out a book. I suggested several novels to her, but after looking at them, she asked “is there anything that’s not a sad story? It seems like everyone has something wrong with them.” When I looked at the “problem novels” I had chosen (all excellent and popular middle grade novels), I realized she was exactly right. It’s my fault for not offering her a wider range of choices, but she had a good point.
After that I started pulling books from our middle grade shelves, zeroing in on books that are warm and lighthearted – books guaranteed to make a child smile. Here are ten happy reading choices:
Frindle by Andrew Clements (I’ve yet to meet a student who doesn’t enjoy Frindle. Even the most reluctant reader will admit that it’s a fun read.)
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins (The first in a trilogy of books about three friends: a stuffed buffalo named Lumphy, a stuffed stingray named StingRay, and….Plastic. A behind the scenes look at the adventures toys have when no one is looking.)
Doll People by Ann Martin (The first in a set of four books about two sets of dolls, one contemporary and the other over one hundred years old)
When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad (A Danish and younger version of Anne of Green Gables about a spirited girl named Inge Maria who leaves Copenhagen to live with her grandmother.)
The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea by Eileen Beha (A sock monkey decides to reunite his far flung family. The first book I’ve read that includes a “Grand March” of sock monkeys!)
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (A novel length fairy tale about a brave mouse who falls in love with Princess Pea – as magical as all of DiCamillo’s stories)
Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (Downton Abbey for the younger set – starring mice traveling by ship so that Olivia, an upper class mouse, can find a husband!)
Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley (The town of Remarkable has lots of remarkable citizens, but Jane isn’t one of them! Foley’s novel was on my desk the other day and three kids walked by and said “I love that book!”)
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (first in a trilogy of clever stories about a thirty-story school)
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood (Another trilogy – this one takes place in the Bliss Bakery that makes things from a magical cookbook called Bliss Cookery Booke.)
On a final whimsical note….a few students clearly thought the Library Teddy Bear wanted to jot down some notes about nut free recipes…