Growling Eyeballs, Fluffy Bunnies and Bullfrogs

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One of the greatest pleasures of life in the school library is playing matchmaker between kids and books. When a child finds just the right book or series, it’s magic. Sometimes the perfect book flips a switch for a student and turn them into enthusiastic readers.

A parent stopped by the library today to ask for some recommendations for her son. This boy is in 3rd grade, a really good reader, and he’s smart and curious. He’s past the Magic Tree House series, but not ready for young adult novels. He’s a transitional reader. These are the third and fourth grade students who are reading fluently, but not ready for the emotional content of books written for kids a bit older.

Here are some good transition books that I often recommend to kids and parents:

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor (I love all of Barbara O’Connor’s books, but this one has been especially popular. It’s about a boy, a girl, a submarine that falls off of a passing train, and most importantly, a bullfrog.)

Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings (Rufus wants a dog. He gets a guinea pig instead. A guinea pig named Fido who acts like a dog.)

Attack of the Growling Eyeballs by Lin Oliver  (The first in the Who Shrunk Daniel Funk series about a boy with three normal size sisters and a twin brother who is one inch tall!)

Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies by Andrea Beaty  (This book also features twins, but these two heroes are battling Three Fluffs – “Fierce, Large, Ugly, and Ferocious Furballs” who land at summer camp.)

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (My son loved this series when he was younger. The stories of a sideways school are quirky and funny – as you might expect.)

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (A story about a family of mice sailing to England in 1887 – in time for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubliee. This book has it all: humor, drama, adventure, a happy ending, talking mice.)

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer by Kate Klimo (This is the first volume in the Dragon Keepers series. The “keepers” are cousins Jesse and Daisy who find an egg that hatches…and guess what it is!)

The World According to Humphrey by Betty Birney (There are lots of books in this delightful series about a classroom hamster. The stories are all told from the hamster’s point of view which leads to some engaging and funny observations about school and friendship.)

And don’t forget Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl!  As soon as a student begins to ask for “longer chapter books,” the first books I show them are about Ramona Quimby and Charlie Bucket.


Firefighter Ted by Andrea Beaty

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I’m sometimes called on to read a story to a group of young children with very short notice – and a request to read one crowd-pleasing picture book.  When that happens, there are a few “go to” books on my mental list, many of them by Rosemary Wells.  But…there are a few others, and last year Doctor Ted by Andrea Beaty was one of them.   Doctor Ted, the bear who decides to become a doctor when he can’t find one, is a wonderful character with particularly funny and endearing facial expressions.  At the end of that story, even my three-year-old listeners know that Ted will soon become a fireman – and now he has!

Firefighter Ted is just as sweet and funny as Doctor Ted.  The illustration of him searching under his covers for a firefighter (when he smells toast burning) is priceless…I can’t wait to share this book with the children when school begins in September.  The best part is that by the last page of the book, the kids will know what Ted is planning next!

Calling All “Q’s”!

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I’ve faced bigger challenges, but this one certainly ranks right up there.

You see, I’m playing this game with my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students in which we read a book each week by an author whose last name begins with the “next” letter of the alphabet. For example, during the first week I read Milo’s Hat Trick by Jon Agee. The second week was Doctor Ted by Andrea Beaty. You get the idea…

Anyway, I was moving right along without any trouble, but next week has loomed large in my mind—the letter Q! There just aren’t too many good picture books written by people whose last name begins with Q. Thanks to Harriet Ziefert and Charlotte Zolotow, Z is no problem, but Q has proved a formidable challenge. Luckily, I discovered Robert Quackenbush, the author of a delightful series of stories about a duck named Henry. I ordered one today, and with any luck, it will arrive in time for Q week.

In the meantime, it would certainly fill out every children’s library if a few people with the last name of “Quigley” wrote picture books.  And, of course, the letter “X” is only 8 weeks away!