Eleanor Estes/Moffat Books

Monday, February 09, 2009

Are your kids 'reluctant readers'?

We've linked to Max Eliot Anderson's blog before. Check out his article below.

Confessions of a Reluctant Reader

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gideon the Cutpurse

by Linda Buckley-Archer

The first part in a time-travel trilogy set in London in the 18th and 21st centuries.

EagerReaders is leery of contemporary books because of their political correctness and modern values. This book isn't without these elements, but overall it passes the smell test.

What I like the most about this book:
  • The emphasis on the importance of family relationships. Every important character is influenced by his parents and siblings, or the lack of them.
  • The theme of redemption. The three best characters are men who have committed some serious wrongs. Yet they aren't portrayed as cartoon villains, but rather as human beings with weaknesses, strengths, and consciences. These are, for me, the most compelling characters in the book.
  • The evocation of 18th century London, with a heavy emphasis on the smell. Manners, clothes, and criminal justice also explored. We meet Johnson and Boswell and a few other historical figures.
What I didn't like:
  • The main characters, two 12 year-old children from the 21st century, aren't very interesting, and their ill-mannered sniping at each other through much of the book is tedious. Perhaps they'll improve in the next book.
  • The age of the children seems off. There is nothing like teen romance in this book, but it seems just a little out of place when an 18th century young man is attracted to 12 year-old Kate. It would have made more sense for her to be a couple of years older. I suppose the author wanted to start them off young so she could age them through the forthcoming books.
Warning: being part one of a trilogy, this volume doesn't finish the story.

I've only read the first volume but I'll probably read more.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Hi Lo Books for Boys

Books and Boys

Interesting blog by Max Elliot Anderson, an author of books for boys. We haven't read any of his books yet. Let us know if you have, and what you think.

When I began writing action-adventures and mysteries for kids, I was particularly interested in making sure that my books would reach boys…especially reluctant readers.

There is a category in literature called Hi Lo Reading Level. My books have been identified as fitting the description of Hi Lo.
About Hi Lo books, from About.com:
Finding the right reading material for children with learning disabilities in basic reading, reading comprehension, or dyslexia is a challenge. This is especially true for "tweenaged" boys ages eight through twelve. For this group, books must include content kids of this age can relate to and be written at a lower grade level. These books are referred to as high interest, low reading level books.
Our list is predicated on the principle of high interest. We encourage parents to match the book to their children's tastes. This will make reading worth their while, which is critically important when they are still learning and aren't yet reading with ease. Though a parent may prefer historical fiction, for example, it may not capture the child's imagination. Keep a child going with something that truly appeals to him.

At some point we hope to go through the list and identify books that fit the "Hi Lo" criteria.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Book suggestions for very sensitive little readers

A reader wrote in with this problem: her very bright child had taught herself to read at age 3, and now at age 5, wants to read fiction, but her parents are having a hard time finding books that don't make her anxious or frightened. The little girl has not been exposed to rudeness or meanness, yet, so her mom is trying to avoid that kind of content. too.

This is a real challenge. My children and I brain-stormed through the ER list and tried to recall what elements they might contain that would be scary for a 5-year-old. Humor seemed to offer the most possibilities.

We told the mom that she would have to screen all of these first. (So much for having a great list to go by! But her child is especially sensitive. At least most of the books are quick reads.)

Here's what we came up with:

Carolyn Haywood:
Betsy books
Eddie books, but NOT Eddie's Menagerie (a kitten dies)
Here's a Penny
Robert Rows the River

Little Bear (just picture books, which won't be very satisfying for the little girl in question.)

Cam Jansen by David Adler: does feature thievery, etc. Very easily screened by parents, though.

Enid Blyton: Wishing Chair, Faraway Tree

Peggy Parish: Amelia Bedelia

Richard Atwater: Mr. Popper's Penguins

Michael Bond: Paddington books

Walter Brooks: Freddy series

Henry Reed books by Keith Robertson

Thornton Burgess books: Old Mother West Wind, and many many others (there is hunting in these). For some reason Burgess is not on our list. Note to webmaster: let's add some of those titles.

Forget about traditional fairy tales. Some of them scare me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Redwall series

Our 11 year old is burning through the Redwall series. For avid readers, these have the virtue of length; a child can't whiz through one in an hour.

The characters are animals living communally in a medieval-ish setting. Lots of feasting and fighting, fairly violent and even gory at times (more so in the later books). Jacques increases suspense by cutting from plot to subplot to subplot, leaving the reader hanging at the end of the chapter. This can be a great encouragement to the reluctant reader who must keep reading to find out what happens next.

Just what order to read these in is open to discussion. Brian Jacques was all over the map with sequels and prequels. I think our children have settled on this order, chronological according to the storyline, rather than by year of publication:

  • Lord Brocktree
  • Martin The Warrior
  • Mossflower
  • The Legend of Luke
  • Outcast of Redwall
  • Mariel of Redwall
  • The Bellmaker
  • Salamandastron
  • Redwall
  • Mattimeo
  • The Pearls of Lutra
  • The Long Patrol
  • Marlfox
  • Taggerung
  • Triss
  • Loamhedge
  • Rakkety Tam
  • High Rhulain
  • Thursday, September 04, 2008

    The Dark is Rising sequence

    Editorial review from Amazon:
    In the five-title series of novels known as The Dark Is Rising Sequence, these children pit the power of good against the evil forces of Dark in a timeless and dangerous battle that includes crystal swords, golden grails, and a silver-eyed dog that can see the wind. Susan Cooper's highly acclaimed fantasy novels, steeped in Celtic and Welsh legends, have won numerous awards, including the Newbery Medal and the Newbery Honor. Now all five paperback volumes have been collected in one smart boxed set. These classic fantasies, complex and multifaceted, should not be missed, by child or adult. --Emilie Coulter

    Must be read in order:
  • Over Sea, Under Stone (IA) +
  • The Dark is Rising (IA) +
  • Greenwitch (IA) +
  • The Grey King (IA) +
  • Silver on the Tree (IA) +
  • Saturday, August 30, 2008

    Return of the Twelves

    The Return of the Twelves
    by Pauline Clarke
    (1962, 296 pages)

    I think our 8-year old read this literally 12 times in row. (At age 11, she still likes it.) Similar in concept to the (later) Indian in the Cupboard books. The very cool thing about this story is that it is about the set of toy soldiers actually owned by the Bronte children, around which they created an elaborate fantasy game. The soldiers are rediscovered by children living near the old Bronte house. I won't give the rest away.