Eleanor Estes/Moffat Books

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.

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    Little Golden Books

    Many of the classic Little Golden Books are in print and readily available. I saw a display this morning in the grocery check-out line. And many more can be found from used book sources.
    Here are some classic titles from Random House's website:

    Poky Little Puppy
    The Shy Little Kitten
    Richard Scarry's Best Little Word Book Ever
    The Little Red Hen
    The Happy Man and His Dump Truck
    Thomas Breaks a Promise
    Walt Disney's Cinderella

    I'm a Truck
    Walt Disney's Bambi
    The Monster at the End of This Book

    For fans, here's more from RH:

    When Little Golden Books launched in 1942 at 25 cents each, they changed publishing history. For the first time, children's books were high quality and low-priced. They were available to almost all children, not just a privileged few. Little Golden Books were designed to be sturdy (a new concept), delightfully illustrated, and to be sold not only in bookstores, but department stores and other chains (another new concept).

    Little Golden Books were an instant success story, even though WWII was on and paper shortages loomed. Five months after the launch, 1.5 million copies had been printed, and LGBs were in their third printing.

    Since then, over two billion Little Golden Books have reached the hands of children all over the world. Who hasn't heard of The Poky Little Puppy, star of the best-selling Little Golden Book of all? It has sold well over 15 million copies worldwide, in many different languages. Tootle the Train, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, The Shy Little Kitten, The Little Red Caboose, The Tawny Scrawny Lion, and Scuffy the Tugboat soon followed, to become household names.

    Little Golden Books have mirrored children's popular culture over the years, having featured Lassie, Raggedy Ann, Uncle Wiggily, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Howdy Doody, Annie Oakley, Captain Kangaroo, Bozo the Clown, Gene Autrey, The Lone Ranger, Smokey Bear, Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbera, Sesame Street, Pokemon, and Between the Lions characters, Mister Rogers, Barney, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Underdog, Peter Cottontail, Barbie, and others. Dr. Ruth Westheimer has just penned a story about grandparents starring herself.

    Many famous writers and illustrators created Little Golden Books, notably Margaret Wise Brown, author of GOODNIGHT MOON (Harper). Her LGBs were often illustrated by Garth Williams, most famous for his illustrations for CHARLOTTE'S WEB, STUART LITTLE, and the "Little House" series. Richard Scarry began his career at Golden Books and did most of his most famous books here, from Little Golden Books to his beloved oversized books CARS AND TRUCKS AND THINGS THAT GO, and RICHARD SCARRY'S BEST WORD BOOK EVER! Eloise Wilkin, famous for her stunning paintings of cherubic children, illustrated dozens of LGBs. Caldecott medalists James Marshall, Tibor Gergely, Leonard Weisgard, Alice and Martin Provensen, and Trina Schart Hyman have illustrated Little Golden Books.

    Today, Little Golden Books are an icon. The Smithsonian Institution includes Little Golden Books and artwork in its Division of Cultural History.

    A House is a House for Me

    by Mary Ann Hoberman
    (1978, 48 pages)
    A hill is a house for an ant, an ant.
    A hive is a house for a bee.
    A hole is a house for a mole or a mouse
    And a house is a house for me!

    A web is a house for a spider.
    A bird builds its nest in a tree.
    There is nothing so snug as a bug in a rug
    And a house is a house for me!

    So starts one of my favorite picture books of all time. The musical, galloping meter propels us through every manner of "house." The illustrations are intricate and inviting to look at, providing lots of content for little ones to ask and talk about, without being overtly educational:

    An igloo's a house for an Eskimo.
    A tepee's a house for a Cree.
    A pueblo's a house of a Hopi.
    And a wigwam may hold a Mohee.

    The author gets carried away and predicts that you will, too:

    And once you get started in thinking this way,
    It seems that whatever you see
    Is either a house or it lives in a house,
    And a house is a house for me!

    You'll enjoy A House is a House for Me at least as much as your child does.

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    I Can Read It All By Myself

    Some vintage Beginner Books~

    A dog party! A big dog party!

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

    by Eleanor Cameron
    (1954, 195 pages)

    The imaginations of two boys, David Topman and Chuck Masterson, are captured by the following ad in their local paper:

    WANTED: A small spaceship about eight feet long, built by a boy, or by two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven. The ship should be sturdy and well made, and should be of materials found at hand. Nothing need be bought. No adult should be consulted as to its plan or method of construction. An adventure and a chance to do a good deed await the boys who build the best space ship. Please bring your ship as soon as possible to Mr. Tyco M. Bass, 5 Thallo Street, Pacific Grove, California.

    This book appeals equally to both boys and girls, even to those who do not generally like science fiction. And no one who reads it will ever forget Mr. Bass.

    Click here for more information, including links to the Amazon reviews (but watch out for spoilers).

    "B" is for Betsy

    "B" is for Betsy
    by Carolyn Haywood
    (1939, 144 pages)

    Children, parents, and grandparents will be touched by the simplicity and innocence of childhood which Carolyn Haywood brings to life through six-year-old Betsy. She has just arrived at school for the first day of first grade, and is feeling fearful:
    "If I got up now and ran out the door," thought Betsy, "I could catch Mother. I could be out in the sunshine again with Mother and take hold of her hand. I could tell Mother that I don't want to go to school, that I know it is a terrible place, Old Ned said so." But Betsy knew that she couldn't do that.
    How she gets through this first day and the rest of the school year is the subject of this charming story. Betsy's home and school life, her everyday problems and joys, are presented from her six-year-old point of view. Nothing "big" happens in this book, but children will connect with the commonplace yet meaningful experiences of Betsy's childhood. The author has provided the perfect illustrations for the story.


    John Christopher wrote The White Mountains (192 pages), the first book in this riveting series, in 1967. Elements include alien invasion, loss of free will, fighting against impossible odds. Lots of suspense and intensity. It is not necessary to be a sci-fi fan to be enthralled by this series.

    For reviews, go to Amazon, but watch out for spoilers.

    Eloise Wilkin

    Illustrator of Little Golden
    Books from the 40's to
    the 80's.

    Most of us will recognize the characteristic Wilkin child.

    Loganberry Books has a great page about Mrs. Wilkin.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    The Snow Queen

    (this edition: 1993, 48 pages: story originally published 1845)

    by Hans Christian Andersen

    A very beautiful story for intermediate readers, or younger listeners, this is one of Andersen's longer fairy tales. Classic conflict of good and evil, innocence and experience, loss and recovery of love.

    Illustration is from the Mary Engelbreit edition.

    Little Fur Family

    by Margaret Wise Brown

    A cozy picture book for the very young. Poetic and evocative.

    Amazon product description:

    The Little Fur Family tells the story of a little fur child's day in the woods. The day ends when his big fur parents tuck him in bed "all soft and warm," and sing him to sleep with a lovely bedtime song.

    Cuddle up to a classic with this timeless story! Garth William's soft illustrations join Margaret Wise Brown's rhythmic text to create a gentle lullaby. Bound in imitation fur, Little Fur Family is sure to comfort and delight.

    Description refers to the miniature, fur-covered edition. The book is also available in a regular edition.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Maria Chapdelaine

    by Louis Hemon
    (1913, 132 pages)

    Suggested for young adults (and adults). Kind of a "Little House in Quebec." Set in the early 1900's in sparsely populated Quebec, land of pioneers, loggers, trappers, farmers, and long, long winters. The talented Hemon visited this remote country, living and working with its people, and wrote the book in 1913.

    The Chapdelaine family (fictional but loosely based on real people) conducts their family life in a warm bubble amidst the hostile environment of primitive Quebec. The depictions of the brutally cold climate and the courage and back-breaking physical labor necessary to survive in it are compelling. But the simplicity of the Chapdelaines and their friends, their relationships, and their faith in God, are what gives this book its beauty.

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Ralph Moody books

    These autobiographical accounts of the author's childhood, as a rancher and cowboy in Colorado, a farmer in Maine, and a young entrepreneur and survivor everywhere, are enthralling. If only half of what little Ralph Moody is supposed to have done as a boy is true, he was as sharp, persistent, and resourceful as any adult. Cowboys, horses, cattle drives, and rodeos fill the first couple of books, set in Colorado. The Moodys demonstrate strong family values and the American pioneering spirit. These may be compared to the Little House on the Prairie books, but take place a bit later in time, and are written from a boy's point of view.

    The series contains eight or nine books. The four listed here are, in our opinion, the best. As Ralph gets older, some of the content of a couple of the books is better suited to the adult or young adult. If you enjoy these four titles, you might want to preview the others before offering them to your children.