A couple of weeks ago, in a post about the delightful Ivy and Bean series, I complained that the chapter books shelves were row upon row of girl series with nary a boy title in sight. Now, I’m back to report that we found a few of these elusive boy chapter books.
First, an oldie but goodie. Mushroom and BalletBoy adore the Flat Stanley books, which we started reading more than a year ago. For anyone who doesn’t know them, Stanley is a kid who turns flat and has adventures using his new special flat skills. At the end of the book, he re-inflates, but later books tell about more adventures he has. I think Stanley in Space is my kids’ favorite. Stanley’s adventures are always silly and they usually give me a chance to do my silliest reading voices. For some reason, I imagine Stanley’s mother with a Minnesota accent.
I have to warn that there are new editions of these that have just been issued in the last year or so with new illustrations, along with a new series called Flat Stanley’s Adventures, which is not written by Jeff Brown. The new books are borderline horrible and the new illustrations just make me sad. They aren’t so bad on their own, but the original illustrations, with the cut out of Stanley that kids took all over the world, seems like a deeply ingrained part of the story. You can re-illustrate some classics, but not others. What would Green Eggs and Ham be if you got someone else to draw Sam-I-Am? Sure, some other clever illustrator might come up with something amazing. But would it be right?
Next, I don’t know how it missed my attention for so long that Judy Moody’s brother has his own series. We even caught the tail end of Megan McDonald at last year’s National Book Festival. Well, now that we’ve discovered them, we’re fast on our way to finishing all the Stink books. As read alouds, they only take a couple of nights, which is even quicker than most chapter books, but will be a nice starter length when BalletBoy grows into reading chapter books on his own. Stink is just a normal kid with a funny name. The books are filled with cute facts and silly, simple stories about smelly sneaker contests and free candy. Also, I appreciate that the stories aren’t completely centered around school, as so many series for this age seem to be.
The first Andrew Lost book by J.C. Greenburg found its way into my hands recently. Andrew is an inventor who can shrink himself down and have adventures at the microscopic level. The science of the shrinking is very Phineas and Ferb, but the science of what he sees while shrunk is more like The Magic Schoolbus. This is a hesitant recommendation. I read the first bit and thought the kids would really like it. There’s a cute robot and a lot of gadgetry, but it’s also pretty educational. However, when the husband finished it as the bedtime read aloud, it was with a lot of frustration because it ended on a cliffhanger, something I don’t really expect from books these days, even series. When I read a little more, I was also a little disappointed by how the book seemed like it was all action and very little characterization of Andrew or his cousin, Judy. Still, the kids may want to give them another chance.
Finally, I read the first in the Roscoe Riley Rules series by Katherine Applegate. This is on the shorter end of chapter books. Roscoe is a well-intentioned first grade troublemaker. In the first volume, he glues his whole class to their chairs to help the teacher keep order and not look bad in front of the parents and the principal. It works until all the kids have to get their pants cut off in order to stand up. I think this would appeal to younger kids, like mine, who also like Stink. I didn’t love it as much as the Stink books, but this was a funny, very easy to read title. The kids especially liked the structure of the story, where Roscoe, who has already gotten in trouble for the glue incident, tells the reader he can explain it and then unfolds the rest in a flashback. This piqued their interest and made them immediately want to hear the details.