Tag Archives: free reading

October Books

Since I’ve been doing less specific book blogging, I thought I’d try a monthly book roundup with the best books we’re reading.  We’ll see how that goes.  Obviously October is over, but here’s the highlights.

The Human Body (Hardcover) ~ Seymour Simon (Author) Cover ArtSchool Reading
The Human Body by Seymour Simon
We always have piles of books for school reading, but I’ve been especially appreciating the Seymour Simon body series.  They’re so perfect for independent fourth grade reading.  They’re long and in depth enough to be challenging, but not so long or detailed to be overwhelming.  I also like the illustrations in the body series.

Calder Game (Hardcover) ~ Blue Balliett (Author) and Bre... Cover ArtAudio Book
The Calder Game by Blue Balliett
We’re to the final entrance in this art detectives series and it’s just as pleasing as the others, which we’ve listened to or read in the last year at various points.  In this volume, Calder Pillay leaves his Chicago neighborhood to visit England with his father and encounters an Alexander Calder sculpture that is about to be the victim of a crime.  Meanwhile, his friends Tommy and Petra are left back at home with a terrible teacher and a shaky friendship.  I love the way that Balliett lets balance be a theme in this book.  Things are unbalanced everywhere, which, of course, plays right into the art theme.  I read this one myself when it first came out, but I’m enjoying listening to it again.  We need to get to the National Gallery to visit the Calder Room, where I don’t think we’ve actually been in at least a couple of years.  The kids remembered some of the specific sculptures referenced in the book, but it is nice to have a reason to go see them again.

Black Hearts in Battersea (Paperback) ~ Joan Aiken (Author) Cover ArtRead Aloud
Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken
From art mysteries to historical ones (or alternate historical, anyway).  I let this be the first read aloud of the year and we all really enjoyed it.  In this story, which takes place in an alternate late-18th century London, Simon, a young orphan and artist, comes to London to find a friend and instead finds a plot against the government.  There are a series of wild misadventures, including a shipwreck and a balloon escape.  The book is a bit slow at first and the dialect took even us Anglophiles a little while to ease into, but in the end, it was greatly enjoyed by all.

Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book (Hardcover) ~ Tom... Cover ArtMushroom’s Pleasure Read
Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger
After puttering around with many different birthday gift books, Mushroom settled on reading the second Origami Yoda book and said he enjoyed it very much.  BalletBoy has already read them all and liked them so much, he went as Origami Yoda for Halloween.


The Name of this Book Is Secret (Secret Series) (Paperback) ~ Ps... Cover ArtBalletBoy’s Pleasure Read
The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
I haven’t read this series, so I can only pass along that BalletBoy has enjoyed the first book very much, enough to stay up too late reading it and enough to demand that I buy banana chips so he can make the main character’s special trail mix recipe.  It is in the grand and very recent tradition of books that address the reader directly and when the book tells him to pay close attention or use the bathroom before reading a chapter so he won’t need to be interrupted, he always takes it very seriously.

Cardboard (Paperback) ~ Doug Tennapel Cover ArtGraphic Novel
Cardboard by Doug Tenapel
The boys received this graphic novel for their birthday.  It’s dark and a little bit odd, about a cardboard creation that comes to life and gets out of hand.  It’s full color and had an interesting style.  They both really enjoyed it and Mushroom especially is looking forward to reading more by Tenapel, who has many graphic novels for kids and adults.

Savvy (Paperback) ~ Ingrid Law (Author) Cover ArtMushroom’s Required Reading
Savvy by Ingrid Law
This is such a wonderful little book.  It has been on the long side for Mushroom, who is a slightly slow reader.  However, he has enjoyed getting to know Mibs and figure out her savvy, or her special power, with her.  He was very intrigued by the idea that you could have a contemporary fantasy like this one, where things are magical, but also very realistic.

Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt! (Unforgettable Americans) (Paper... Cover ArtBalletBoy’s Required Reading
Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt by Jean Fritz
Yet again, I got suckered somehow into letting a book that wasn’t on the required list count for the required reading time.  However, after reading a short picture book biography of Teddy Roosevelt for history, BalletBoy asked could he please read something more in depth about the president.  I happened to have this on hand and it was hard to say no to his request.  It was nice to see him read some longer nonfiction for the first time.  Both the kids have grown up playing in Teddy’s shadow on Roosevelt Island, so I think it’s nice BalletBoy wanted to learn more about him.

Fangirl (Hardcover) ~ Rainbow Rowell Cover ArtFarrar’s YA Reading
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Yes, like everyone else, I read Allegiant this month.  But forget about that. Let me just gush instead about how much I love, love, loved Fangirl.  I liked it so much that I (blush) actually reread it because it went by too quickly.  Basically, the story follows neurotic Cather to college, where she has to deal with other people (other people being terribly difficult to deal with), her first romance, and choosing between the writing her professor wants her to do and the fanfiction that has garnered her a massive online following.  Meanwhile, Cather has to help her father and her twin sister with their own crises.  Bits of Cather’s fanfic end each chapter.  By the end of the book, not only was I in love with Cath, but I was dying to read the imaginary Simon Snow series about which she writes her fanfiction.  It’s clearly an alternate Harry Potter, but Rowell makes Simon Snow seem much more darkly appealing.  If only it really existed.


Required Reading… Sort Of

I went back and forth and back and forth about introducing required reading this year for the first time. It’s third gradeish this coming year. Both the boys can read well enough to be assigned a book like something from the Beverly Cleary cannon. I want them to begin reading more literary books independently. I’m completely fine with piles of Tintin, Amulet, Bones, Choose Your Own Adventures and various things of that ilk as well. We get plenty of classics read aloud, after all.

However, I want to push them a little. They have both read books like Runaway Ralph and Mr. Popper’s Penguins of their own accord, just few and far between. So I think they just need a small push.

The problem is that I do feel a little like their reading is fragile. And that loving reading is fragile in general in the lives of seven year old boys (or soon to be eight year old boys). Every once in awhile they will dive into a book and read for hours, but they are not nose in the book types most days. They enjoy reading, but they aren’t addicted like some children. There is an unschoolish part of me that is fine with our free reading time, but less fine with regulating it by forcing books that I think are better.

In the end, the two parts of me have decided to compromise a little. There will be required reading for third grade, but it will be choice reading, from a longish list and just one book a month. I was struggling to say which books were worthy of being absolutely required anyway, so this frees things a little and makes everything more open. I think the kids will like this as well: being given a choice yet also a push. BalletBoy, especially, craves the changes and new challenges that a new school year or a new math book brings. He’s not always the hardest worker, but having a new system and a new requirement usually spurs him on for the good.

To start us off, I printed a little poster with the book covers and made a box of some of the books, which I’ll unveil whenever we actually start third grade.  Here’s the list for the first half of the school year.  I assume that at some point later in the winter I’ll suddenly want to add some more options, which I think is fine.  I’ll note as well that I’ve ruined a lot of books that would have been perfect by reading them aloud, which I only occasionally regret, but I did sneak a couple of them on the list of choices anyway and I also included some things that one boy has read but not the other.  I tried to pick things across a number of genres and with different levels of difficulty.  Sometimes you’re in the mood for something easy and sometimes something harder.

  • Poppy by Avi
  • Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith
  • Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Avrill
  • Tornado by Betsy Byars
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
  • The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
  • The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
  • Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
  • How to Get Fabulously Rich by Thomas Rockwell
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
  • The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren
  • Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Water Horse by Dick King-Smith
  • Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner
  • By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord