Monday, September 17, 2007

Wish List

Last week, when AJ and I were at the library, he wanted to play a game on one of the computers, so after I installed him in front of one of the hypnotizing screens, I took the opportunity to talk to the head children’s librarian about what books AJ might like. After wandering the stacks with her, I learned that I had a pretty clear idea of the kind of book I was looking for for AJ and very little that fit the bill.

One of the big difficulties we have in finding books for AJ, or any early reader, is that the books that are at an appropriate level of language usage often contain subject matter that doesn’t interest him or even that is downright inappropriate. Add this problem to the fact that there is generally a lack of quality literature for young boys, and you’ll see why we have such a hard time at the library and why we usually end up in the nonfiction section.

I think nonfiction is great, but I also think it’s important for kids to read fiction, to learn how to tell a story, to know that a person can make things up out of their heads. Kids need to be exposed to more poetic language than generally appears in non-fiction for kids.

When I got home from the library, I sat down to think about what kind of books I would like to see for AJ. I took as a starting point The Magic Tree House series, which AJ loves, but which is no longer challenging enough for him. I came up with this list of criteria:

1. A boy should be at least one of the main characters.
2. There should be some non-fiction information integrated into a fictional context.
3. It would be nice if it were a series that included recurring characters. These characters should be well-developed.
4. It should be adventurous.
5. It should be funny.
6. It should have pictures. Good pictures.
7. The non-fiction topics dealt with should include some science and not just history (almost all of the boys series at an appropriate level, by which I mean book series aimed at or about boys, in existence are either history or mystery or both).
8. It should have 10-14 chapters.
9. A good puzzle worked into the story and/or the pictures is always a bonus.
10. It should have vivid visual descriptions. This helps with the transition from a reliance on pictures to pure text.

And now for my next plan: to convince Mr. Spy to write these books!

3 comments:

Chris Tarr said...

There is a series -- I'm trying to remember it -- it's goofy and partially non-fiction and it's about a group of boys, and I think it's by Jon Sczeska -- the time warp trio! N liked those --

Harriet said...

Oh, I think I've seen those. And AJ loves Sczeska's other books. That's a great suggestion. Thanks!

readersguide said...

Another, sort of similar series than N loved was the Sideways School series (just a few books, I think) by Louis Sachar. And of course, there's Roald Dahl, if he's not too creepy. There are girl and boy main characters (James and the Giant Peach, of course, and the Witches) Also, I wonder if he'd like the Phantom Tollbooth. Alice in Wonderland is a girl, but not too girly. Would it be too hard? I think N read it (or I read it to her) in first or second grade. Oh, there's another series that starts with a book called Half Magic (I think, and I can't exactly remember the author -- Edward Eager, maybe?) And E.S. Nesbit, which will probably be much too hard, but not if you read it to him. I think it's still good to read books to kids, because even though he's an advanced reader, he's probably an even more advanced comprehender, and that's a good skill, too.
Oh, and what about Mr. Popper's Penguins! (I lobed that book -- probably about the perfect level, too.) And another boy series I've heard about is the Indian in the Cupboard.
(I really really loved to read to my kids -- can you tell?)
Peter Pan is a little interesting, too --
There's also a pretty good kid's abridgement series of classics, like Gulliver's Travels.
And there are some pretty good DK factual books that are fun to read about historical characters like Robin Hood. M liked those.
And -- Treasure Island is good, but you'll have to read it to him. As is a Christmas Carol (and the time for that is not far away!)
Diana Wynne Jones is good if he likes magic-y things. She's got boys, so I think her books are probably written with boys in mind.