Readers 7 and up

Author Focus: Jennifer L. Holm

I have noticed the covers of Jennifer L. Holm’s numerous books on the shelves of our school and public libraries for years. Last month, I picked one up for the first time. Followed by another, and another until I’d read a good chunk of them. I am now a fan.

If you are looking for quality middle grade books for almost any kind of reader, Jennifer L. Holm might be just the author you are looking for. A few of the categories her books fall into include: historical fiction, science-themed stories, novels starring girls, books starring boys, a pinch of fantasy, humor, and a host of graphic novels that she co-wrote with her brother Matthew Holm.

Plus, her stories are really good!

Many of her novels are based on or inspired by stories of Jennifer’s own family. I learned bits of history that I never knew before, discovered characters I loved, laughed, cried and was thoroughly entertained by the stories that fill up her books.

The following books are excellent middle grade reads (including 3 Newbery Honor books) and I am excited to recommend them to you.

A Book List of Mysteries for All Ages

Mysteries are the perfect type of book to read on a cold and blustery fall or winter night. If your child loves the thrill of following clues along with the danger and suspense that literary detectives always encounter. I’ve got a list for you.

So get a fire going in the fireplace, grab a cozy blanket and a mug of hot chocolate, and dive into one of the following books.

Author Focus: Steve Sheinken

Sometimes history gets the bad rap of being boring. If your kids think this, or if they think the opposite and LOVE history, I have an author for you to check out immediately.

Steve Sheinken used to write history textbooks, but don’t let that stop you from picking up one of his middle grade or young adult books. His first book King George: What Was His Problem? is filled with stories from the American Revolution they wouldn’t let him put in the history books. It has a cover that is anything but boring and might be the perfect way to help your kids dip their toes into the subject of history in a way that is not at all boring.

In one of Steve’s most recent books for elementary-school aged kids, Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler, I found the following quote:

“‘Kids say [history] is… Abby lowered her voice to a whisper, ‘boring.’

‘Some shows are boring, some books,’ Mr. Douglass said. ‘But history is just stories. Surprising, sad, funny, gross stories. Set in all different times and places. What’s boring about that?’”

To me, this feels like the perfect description of what Steve accomplishes with his books. He finds and shares unique stories from history that have been overlooked or forgotten and shares them in an exciting and very readable way. His knack for creating historical books that read like suspenseful novels is legit.

Quick Pick Books for When Your Kids Don't Know What to Read Next

Have you ever walked into your local public library with your kids determined to emerge well-stocked with armloads of books only to find yourselves overwhelmed and unsure what books to pluck from their overstuffed shelves?

Me too! 

With so many options, it can be challenging to figure out exactly what book to read next. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are 10 books (covering a variety of genres and ages) to give you some direction. The next time your kids feel library overload, see if they'd like to give one of these stories a try: 

What I've Been Reading - the April Edition

Some of my current reads make it into lists that go straight to the blog, others will make it to future lists yet to be determined. And, some may never grace a list, but I want to share them anyway which is why I do posts like this one. :)

Below are three books I have enjoyed over the past month and wanted to share.

What have you and your kids been reading lately?

Author Focus: Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite authors. She is a storyteller extrodinaire. Her characters are rich. Her word choice is perfect. She captures emotion in a way that very few can. I haven’t read all of her books yet, but I have read most and each one is special.

My kids have also connected with her work. In fact, my most reluctant reader would say that two of her books are among his favorites. Her books are some of my favorites to recommend. If you or your young reader are looking for something to read, you can’t go wrong with a Kate DiCamillo book.

Below are some of my favorites. 

Superb Series for Early Chapter Book Readers (geared towards girls, but gratifying for all)

The Rainbow Fairies and The Rescue Princesses were some of the first series my girls grabbed and read with gusto. I can’t say I was sad when she finally moved on from the Rainbow Fairy books (how many slight variations can you make from the same exact plot!), but I am thankful for the part they played in her love of reading. 

The more books in a series the better when your child has just begun to work up their reading mojo. It makes the question of what to read next a lot easier to answer. So, if you are on the lookout for a series of books for your new and improving reader, fear not, there are numerous options outside the obvious and forevers like Boxcar ChildrenMagic Tree House, and Junie B. Jones. And while these series are great, having stood the test of time, if they don’t capture your kid, or they’ve already been read, here are six more options to pursue. 

Quick Picks AKA What My Kids Are Reading

As I have been blessed with a large passel of kids with a variety of ages, interests, and reading levels, I thought I’d do a “quick pick” list inspired by them. Below are the books my kids are currently reading. If you are looking for ideas for your young reader, maybe one these books will interest them.

Eleven-year-old Boy Seeking Page-Turning, True-to-Life Stories

Drew is a eleven-year-old boy who loves to be outdoors. Some of his favorite things include:  nerf wars, exploring, rip-sticking and jumping on the trampoline. Drew doesn’t love reading, but he doesn’t hate it either. As his mom says, “he is growing in his like of it.” A slower reader by nature, Drew’s favorite books draw him in right away with a strong hook. He leans towards nonfiction and historical fiction and if a book looks too big or has too small of print he has a hard time starting it. 

Drew’s mom asked me for a few personalized picks. To help me help him, I asked Drew to share three of his favorite books and one he was not so crazy about. Here are his favorites:

First Grade Girl Seeking Funny Books

Natalie is a friendly, fun-loving seven year old. Currently in first grade, she enjoys reading (especially with her mommy). However, she does not like being stuck in a reading group at school when it’s not her turn to read. Boring! 

Some of Natalie’s favorite things to do outside of reading is drawing, playing with friends and her siblings, and playing with dolls, especially Barbies. Speaking of which, Barbie books are some of her favorites but if you hand her a Clifford book, she will most likely respond with a "no thank you." 

Natalie’s mom asked me for a few personalized picks. To help me help her, I asked Natalie to share three of her favorite books and one she was not so crazy about. Here are her favorites:

Engaging Stories for Early Chapter Book Readers (geared towards boys; enjoyable for all)

My Weird School, Roscoe Riley, and Stink will always have a special place in my heart. They were the series that started my boy readers on the path to reading for fun. 

The more books in a series the better when your child is in the early stages of building up their reading mojo. It makes the question of what to read next a lot easier to answer. If you are on the lookout for a series of books for a new and improving reader, fear not, there are numerous options outside the obvious and forevers like Boxcar Children, Magic Tree House, and Junie B. Jones. These series are classics, having stood the test of time (relatively speaking). But, if they don’t capture your kid, or they’ve already been read, below are six more options to explore. 

Inspiring Biographies for Kids

There are people in this world who have lived amazing lives and done amazing things, literally changing the world for the better. Some accomplished this in big and famous ways; others made their impact flying under the radar of public awareness. Regardless of how they did it, a life well-lived is an inspiring thing. We all want our kids to grow up to be productive members of society and make an impact for good. What better way to inspire them, than sharing stories about real people who did just that? 

Below is a list of three biographies (including one series of biographies, so really a whole lot more) that have made an impact on our family.

A Book List for Dog Lovers who want the Dog to Live On.

There is nothing quite like a good dog story. Dogs are loyal and love unconditionally. They help their owners through tough times. They follow their kids everywhere and love them well. The problem is, so many of these books end with a dead dog. I will freely admit that I love a good cry at the end of a well-told story, but sometimes you just want to read about a dog who survives to love on. You want to close the book with warm fuzzies instead of cold, wet tears.  If you or your child can identify with this sentiment, the following list of dog stories is for you.