The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base: This in interactive reading at its finest. Kids are asked to solve the mystery using just a little text. The focus is mostly on the detailed, intricate, and really spellbinding illustrations. This kind of book is great for kids who aren't totally confident in their reading abilities yet, as it invites them to sit and really focus on each page of a book without forcing them to read too many words. This book can show unconvinced kids that books can be a lot of fun and it's worth spending time inside them.
Miss Nelson is Missing by James Marshall: Thoughtful and funny, this book will simultaneously make your kids laugh and think. I LOVED this book as a kid, and now love reading it to other kids and watching them enjoy the story and wonder about Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp. For die hard fans, there is also Miss Nelson Has A Field Day and Miss Nelson is Back.
Where's Waldo by Martin Handford: In this information age where Google and Wikipedia can answer any question in a matter of seconds, many kids are failing to learn delayed gratification. Books like this help kids develop skills like waiting and patience and diligence, which they certainly won't develop on their iPods.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka: At this point kids are familiar with all the traditional fairy tales, and so will appreciate the humor in seeing those fairy tales just a little twisted. TTSOFTLP (that's a long title) tells the classic Three Little Pigs story from the wolf's perspective, which reveals him to be far less sinister than traditionally believed. TFPC tells what happens after the Frog Prince is turned into a human, which is not quite as happily ever after as one might expect. These stories are funny and completely original. If I were to choose just one book to buy for a second grader, it would be one of these.
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish: Sometimes all you need is a classic. Amelia is charming and endearing, and will make you want to eat a slice of pie. This is a good beginners chapter book. Text is short enough on each page so as to not intimidate young readers, but the chapters are long enough to challenge them. The humor will keep kids turning pages, and laughing as they do so.
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein: I had a lit professor in grad school who predicted that short stories and poetry were the wave of the future because no one would have time for novels. I disagree with the notion that the novel will ever die, but I do think that short stories and poetry should have a higher place on adult shelves. How else to promote short stories and poetry than to get kids reading it? Shel Silverstein is the perfect place to start, with his memorable and witty rhymes and stories. Though the book is thick, kids can easily read a page here and a page there at their leisure. That's the beauty of short stories and poetry.
The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne: Time travel! Dinosaurs! Medieval castles! Mummies! Pirates! Oh man, I so wish these were around when I was a kid. I would have eaten them up. These are for the curious and adventurous child beginning chapter books. There are several books in this series, so if your child does like these then you have struck library gold for several months to come.
The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick: Victor is a boy who is desperately trying to become a magician. Just when it seems like it will never happen, he has a chance encounter with his idol, Harry Houdini, and is left with a sealed box that just might have the answers Victor has been searching for. Compelling, witty, and hopeful, with some really great drawings scattered throughout, this book is great for the budding illusionist.
Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold: This is the story of an unlikely friendship between a boy and a fly. The strength of this book is in its humor. It really is delightfully funny. This is an easy reader that will keep kids engrossed because it's just so dang fun to read this book.
Matilda by Roald Dahl: Can I just take a second and say how much I love Roald Dahl? I do. His books are fantastic. This book is for kids closer to 9 than 6. It has just the right mix of humor, suspense, and intrigue with just a touch of the supernatural that will set your child's imagination wild. This is a definite "buy," not a "borrow," in my opinion.
Coming Tomorrow: Books for Kids Ages 10-12