Book List for early to mid-level readers

Here are a couple of book lists that may help guide you in selecting books for your children.  These were sent to me by a parent in our community.

A to Z Mysteries  grade 3 reading level

These fast-paced mysteries are suspenseful and feature three children who are in third grade.  A good series to read after Magic Treehouse
Amber Brown   grade 2-3 reading level
Amber Brown is funny and appealing and the plots revolve around problems with friends, school, her name and her parents' divorce.  Amber is a third grader.
Amelia Bedelia  grade 2 reading level 
Amelia Bedelia takes everything literally with humorous results.
Andrew Lost  Ages:7-10   grade 2 reading level
Gross enough to interest boys but lots of well-researched science.  Each ends with a cliff-hanger.
Bailey School Kids  grade 3 reading level
Short chapters with pictures make this appealing.  In each book, an adult is suspected to be an imaginary creature like Frankenstein, aliens, gremlins, dracula, or such.  Clues do point the way to a rational explanation. 
Cam Jansen   grade 2 reading level
Cam Jansen uses her photographic memory to solve cases that are less complicated which makes them within the reach of the younger reader.  Short chapters help.
Captain Underpants  Ages:7-10   grade 4 reading level
Hilarious superhero in the history of elementary school.
Capital Mysteries   Ages: 4-8   grade 3 reading level
Mysteries which take place in our nation's capital.  Written by author of A to Z Mysteries
Dragon Slayers' Academy Ages:7-10  grade level high grade 2
Wizards, dragons, a secret princess, a pig who speaks Pig Latin, and a hero who is served boiled eel on a bun.  What more can you ask for?
Geronimo Stilton Ages:7-10  grade 3 reading level
Hilarious adventures but check out the text- lots of fun
Henry and Mudge   grade 2 reading level
Mudge is a 180 pound dog who is Henry's best friend.  The text is simple and rhythmic and humorous.
Horrible Harry  grade 2 reading level
Set at school with lots of mischief. 
Jigsaw Jones grade 2 reading level
Second-grade detective Jigsaw Jones and his partner have an eye for detail and a top-secret detective journal.  Lost coins, missing hamsters, haunted houses are all cases solved by the duo. 
Judy Moody Ages:6-10  grade 3 reading level
A 3rd grader with attitude and a mood to fit every occasion. 
Junie B. Jones Ages: 4-8  grade 2 reading level

Junie is an exuberant kindergartner who is always in trouble.  The sentences are short and the ideas are easily understood. 
Katie Kazoo Switcheroo Ages:7-10  grade 3 reading level
A 3rd grader with a secret. Never a dull moment with Katie. 
Magic Tree House  Ages: 4-8  grade 2 reading level
Travel through time with lots of danger and lots of history. Usually this is the first chapter book that children pick up. 
Nate the Great  grade 2 reading level
Engaging mysteries for those just starting reading chapter books.  Nate and his dog Sludge solve classic mysteries. 
Rainbow Magic Ages: 4-8 grade 2 reading level
Fast paced adventures involving rescuing the weather fairies from the evil clutches of Jack Frost's mean goblins. Great beginning chapter books.
Secrets of Droon Ages:7-10  grade 3 reading level
The action is fast and whimsical in this fantasy realm. 

Favorite Books for Fifth-Graders
Our panel of children's book experts recommends these great books for your fifth-grader.
I Am the Ice Worm by MaryAnn Easley (Boys Mill Press, 1998).
This book is sort of a girls' version of Gary Paulsen's classic Hatchet. In both stories, a teenage character is stranded in the wilderness following a plane crash. In I Am the Ice Worm, 14-year-old Allison is rescued from the Alaskan wild by an Inupiat trapper, who takes her to his village to stay until she can be reunited with her mother. Allison's upbringing in an upper-class family in southern California certainly didn't prepare her for this icy adventure, but she turns out to have courage and adaptability that she didn't expect. Though Allison may initially seem too "girly" for boy readers, this novel has a great blend of adventure, wilderness and family matters that will captivate boys and girls alike.127 pages. Click here to buy the book on
Sheila Ashdown and the Kids' Team at
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
The story is about Brian, 13, and how he manages to survive 54 days in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. Brian was flying to visit his father when the pilot dies of a heart attack in mid-flight. Brian crash lands the plane into a small lake and swims out of the wreckage. He has his clothing, a tattered windbreaker and a hatchet (a gift from his mother). The novel takes us through Brian's days, how he learns patience through his experiences with failures and small successes: building a fire, fishing and hunting, making his shelter a safe one. He endures a porcupine attack, a tornado and being utterly alone for almost two months. This is a tale of adventure but, more importantly, it is a tale of character growth. This edition includes a new introduction and sidebar commentary by the author. 192 pages. Pauline Harris
Kit's Wilderness by David Almond (Dell-Laurel Leaf, 1999).
Kit's family moves to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town where his family has lived for generations, to be near his ailing grandfather. Here, Kit is invited by an odd neighbor boy to play a game called Death. The game and the town's haunted history get under Kit's skin, while the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur. This multi-generational tale is engrossing and chilling. 229 pages. Click here to buy the book on
Sheila Ashdown and the Kids' Team at
Peak by Roland Smith (Harcourt, 2007).
When 14-year-old Peak Marcello is caught scaling a skyscraper to place his signature graffiti tag, he is offered a choice: spend three years in juvenile detention or climb Mt. Everest with his long-absent father. Though the choice might be easy, the journey is not. Peak is physically and emotionally challenged by the grueling climb, the weather, and the politics and drama of climbing culture. And the pressure is on, because if Peak can reach the summit before his 15th birthday, he'll break a world record and gain glory and money. Peak is gripping and surprising, and though it's written for a middle-grade audience, readers young and old will be sucked in by the sharp writing and memorable characters. 246 pages. Click here to buy the book on
Sheila Ashdown and the Kids' Team at
The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean (Harper Teen, 2005).
Sym Wates is obsessed with everything Antarctic - especially the doomed explorer Titus Oates, who died in a 1911 expedition to the South Pole. She is thrilled when her uncle Victor arranges to take her to Antarctica, but her delight doesn't last; it turns out that Uncle Victor has a strange ulterior motive for the trip and that some of Sym's fellow travelers aren't who they claim to be - especially Uncle Victor. The White Darkness weaves history, family drama and adventure into a thrilling tale. 373 pages. Click here to buy the book on
Sheila Ashdown and the Kids' Team at
Classic Childhood Favorites
Baseball in April and Other Stories by Gary Soto (Harcourt Paperbacks, 2000).
Set in a Latino community in Fresno, California, these contemporary short stories take on universal life lessons. Perfect for a fifth-grade reader, Soto is gifted at telling tales that intrigue and instruct kids. Baseball in April is sure to inspire discussion, so chat about it with your child. Originally published in 1990. 111 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
The Light Princess by George McDonald, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1984).
Just when you think your child might be getting too old for fairy tales, along comes this amazing 19th-century princess story to change both of your minds. Chock-full of puns and mixed with just the right blend of whimsy and ethics lessons, The Light Princess deserves a fresh set of 21st-century eyes. Resoundingly recommended. 110 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer (Yearling, 1988).
Described by many children as "the best book ever," this is fantasy at its best. Full of irony and insights, Juster created a masterpiece when he wrote The Phantom Tollbooth. Give this book to your child and let the wave of words and numbers sweep them into a fantastical world. A clever, almost indescribable book that you may already know about, but is too indispensable to keep from mentioning it here. First published in 1961. 255 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett, illustrated by Tasha Tudor (HarperCollins, 1911).
Beautifully written, the book shows two selfish, disagreeable children transformed by the magic of nature and their own imaginations as they work to bring a near-dead garden back to life. For the serious kid reader, this is a stay-up-all night, flashlight-under-the-covers story with fine watercolor illustrations. Hodgson combines realism, mystery and moral sensibility to make a world children will love. 368 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Read Aloud: Ages 9+. Read Alone: Ages 11+.
Common Sense Media
Fun Books About Math
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table: A Math Adventure by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Wayne Geehan (Charlesbridge Publishing, 1999).
This book is the perfect read-aloud to introduce the concepts of circumference, diameter and radius. Students will be exposed to many other geometric shapes as well. Children of all ages will enjoy this mathematical adventure. Sir Circumference and his Knight work to solve a mathematical dilemma. What would be the best-shaped table for Sir Circumference to gather his knights? Will it be a square, rectangle, parallelogram or circle? You must read to find out. 32 pages. Jennifer Thompson
Historical Fiction
Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).
Life in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912 wasn't easy. ... Born to Italian immigrants, Rosa's parents and older sister work in the mills. After her father died in a mill accident, Rosa's mother took in a family of boarders. Even though they needed the money, Rosa's feisty mother insisted that 12-year-old Rosa attend school rather than work in the mill. ... With her unfailing empathy for the young, Paterson combines the thoughts and feelings of a timid child who is torn between the admonitions of an admired teacher who talks against an unfolding mill strike and her earthy Italian mother who, along with Rosa's older sister, participates wholeheartedly in the strike. ... Once again, Paterson displays her gift for bringing the hard past to life for present-day readers. 288 pages. © Parents' Choice
The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Yearling, 2002).
Set during World War II in the Dutch West Indies, this is a story about true friendship, survival and overcoming racism. This enduring tale strikes many of the same chords today as it did in 1969, the year it was first published. 144 pages. Krisha Roach
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (Yearling, 1971).
The Newbery Medal winner for 1961, this book could be seen as a precursor to Gary Paulsen's Hatchet (see below). Karana is a 12-year-old Native American who refuses to abandon her 6-year-old brother when her island, Ghalas-at (off the Southern California coast) is evacuated. Shortly thereafter, he tragically dies after being attacked by wild dogs, and Karana begins her solitary wait for a ship to come for her. She waits 18 years. Karana survives by foraging, fishing in the ocean, defending herself from wild dogs and elephant seals, and hiding from the Aleut tribe. Told from her point of view, we share the details of her day-to-day life, watch the days turn into years, and wait for the ship to carry her off her lonely island. O'Dell based this novel on an actual historical figure, known as The Lost Woman of San Nicolas, who lived on the island from 1835-1853. 192 pages. Pauline Harris
The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E. L. Konigsburg (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
This is brilliant writing for brilliant kids. There are mentions of matters sexual and violent, but they are glancing references, nothing more. There is some mild swearing. Families can talk about the general historical background and Hitler's specific views of art. Why would controlling art have been so important to a dictator like Hitler? Why would others risk their lives for it? What could make a painting so important? Also, the author is sometimes very subtle, and even gifted readers may need some help sorting out the story. 244 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 10-12, Read Aloud: 10+, Read Alone: 11+. Common Sense Media
The Mystery of Rascal Pratt by Robbie Scott and Gary Cianciarulo (Perfect Paperback, 2007).
This is great historical fiction for children. The story takes place in 1866 at the tip of the Marin Headlands in Northern California. Shipwrecks, pirate adventure, bigotry, friendships, local flavor - this book has it all to hold the attention of the tween crowd. The protagonists are Emma, Sue and Harris (all 12 years old) and Rascal Pratt, a self-proclaimed pirate who is older than he looks. Achilles, Sue's grandfather, a blind, Native American ranch worker, asks Rascal to find the long-lost treasure of Sir Francis Drake, so that he can buy his freedom from the ranch. The action takes place at a lighthouse and the nearby shoreline and ocean. Because of the wonderful period detail found here, this book is a perfect tie-in for "Talk Like a Pirate Day" on September 19! 207 pages. Pauline Harris
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, 1989).
A brave Danish girl helps smuggle her Jewish friends to safety. Lowry's sense of timing and choice of details put readers in the middle of the story. A riveting read, but your kids may have questions afterward. 137 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 9-12, Read Aloud: 9+, Read Alone: 10+. Common Sense Media
On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck (Dial Books, 2007).
This book is a funny, poignant book about life on the home front during World War II. There is some violence: a father is knocked out with a wrench, a girl's hand is caught in a rat trap, and an old lady likes to tell tales of gruesome injuries. Families can talk about the differences between life then and now. What aspects of Davy's life sound similar to your own? Which are completely different? Does it sound like it was fun to grow up then? Is it more fun now? What else have you seen and read about World War II? 148 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 9-12, Read Aloud: 9+, Read Alone: 10+. Common Sense Media
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood (Puffin Books, 2000).
Fourteen-year-old orphan Widge works for a mean and unscrupulous master who goes by the name of Falconer. Ordered to steal the script for Hamlet, Widge is taken to London and forced to attend a performance of the play. Instead of concentrating on stealing the script, he becomes engrossed in the show. Reluctantly, Widge admits his failure to Falconer and is told to return until his mission is accomplished. Nothing goes as planned and a very surprised Widge finds himself an accepted member of the backstage crew. Once a lonely outcast, he has friends and a place to call home for the first time in his life. Will he have the moral integrity to disobey his master or will he betray his new family? Set in Elizabethan London, The Shakespeare Stealer introduces us to Shakespearean stagecraft, life on the streets of London and to the truth behind the youthful appearance of Queen Elizabeth I! 216 pages. Kepler's Books
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (Penguin Putnam, 2004).
This moderately graphic depiction of the worst of the slave trade, told exclusively from a white boy's point of view, will raise many questions, both historical and moral. Though the reading level is middle to upper elementary, sensitive children may find it very disturbing. 176 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 9-12, Read Aloud: 10+, Read Alone: 11+. Common Sense Media
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2007).
This award-winner shows a child's view of the Cold War. This serious book deserves time and close attention. There are many big political and philosophical ideas, and mentions of events that may disturb some children, including a plane hijacking, imprisonments and deaths. Families can talk about and compare what was happening in America during that time. Are grandparents available to share their own memories of the Cold War era? Families can also explore the Western cultural touchstones that meant so much to Sis - the Beach Boys, the Beatles. Awards: Caldecott Honor, New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award, Kirkus Reviews Editors' Choice, School Library Journal Best Book, Parents' Choice Award Winner, Horn Book Fanfare. 56 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 8-12, Read Aloud: 8+, Read Alone: 12+. Common Sense Media
The Canning Season by Polly Horvath (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003).
Ratchet loves her selfish mother but receives little in return. Without warning or luggage of any sort, Ratchet's mother ships her to Maine to spend the summer with two elderly relatives. Tilly and Penpen are un-identical twins who are tremendously eccentric; they are also kind and generous. A laugh-aloud, farcical story evolves from this unlikely premise. Winner of the 2003 National Book Award for Children's Literature. 208 pages. © Parents' Choice
The Pepins and Their Problems by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Marylin Hafner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2004).
Whether it's waking up to find toads in their shoes or searching for cheese when their cow makes lemonade, the Pepin family's endless tangles entertain the reader. Lucky for them they have the author, whose insight into their hilarious misfortunes helps guide them in problem solving. 192 pages. Children's Choices
The Top 10 Ways to Ruin the First Day of 5th Grade by Kenneth Derby (Holiday House, 2004).
Tony Baloney is obsessed with David Letterman and is determined to be a guest on his show. This fast-paced, action-packed story is sure to keep the reader amused - top 10 lists and all! 144 pages. Children's Choices
What Would Joey Do? by Jack Gantos (HarperTrophy, 2004).
Now that Joey's divorced mom has a new boyfriend, his dad has returned to town to buzz their house on his roaring motorcycle. The fact that his own sick, elderly mother is living with his son and former wife doesn't deter him at all. When Joey's mom sends him to be homeschooled with a bratty blind girl with a religious mother whose motto is "What Would Jesus Do?" Joey adopts this motto - with his own modifications. While the premises of Joey's story - no allies except a small dog and a sick old lady - are harsh, the book is hilarious. 240 pages. © Parents' Choice
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (Eos, 2005).
Matt is a cabin boy on board a luxurious airship, the Aurora. Matt meets Kate, who has arranged for a flight on the Aurora so that she can investigate diary entries her grandfather made regarding large, feline creatures with bat-like wings. Soon, the Aurora is attacked by pirates and forced by a storm to land on a tropical island. While exploring the island, Matt and Kate stumble across the bones of one of the "cloud cats" and observe one living in the treetops. But they are captured by the pirates, whose hideout is on the very same island. Will Matt and Kate be able to escape? You won't want to stop turning the pages until you know the answer! Rich with action, the character development does not suffer. Matt and Kate are likable heroes, the pirates vile and even the airship, Aurora, takes on a personality of its own. 544 pages. Kepler's Books
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (Scholastic, 2004).
Mysterious letters, picture puzzles called "pentominoes" and a stolen painting by the Dutch artist Vermeer unite unlikely friends, Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay, in an effort to solve a mystery. 254 pages. Krisha Roach
Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case by Donald J. Sobol (Dutton, 2007).
Children will enjoy beating Encyclopedia Brown to the solution in each of these 10 short stories. The cases require different knowledge to solve them, so this collection is good for budding history buffs and scientists. 128 pages. Children's Choices
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Simon & Schuster, 1967).
Twelve-year-old Claudia and her younger brother Jamie are running away from the tyranny of unappreciative parents and the drudgery of day-to-day living. Claudia has carefully hand-picked the beautiful Metropolitan Museum of Art as their new home. There they quite unexpectedly stumble upon an unknown statue by none other than Michelangelo...or is it? Winner of the 1967 Newbery Award. 162 pages. Krisha Roach
The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman (Simon & Schuster, 2006).
Young readers will recognize their classmates and maybe themselves in the key witnesses who describe the events (interrogation-style) leading up to the discovery, use and destruction of a computer that was supposed to make kids' lives easier. It didn't. 160 pages. Children's Choices
The Lady Grace Mysteries (series) by various authors writing as Lady Grace Cavendish (Random House, 2004-2006).
Lady Grace Cavendish is the Nancy Drew of the Elizabethan Age, an independent-minded teenager whose godmother just happens to be Elizabeth I. Court intrigues and rivalries, swashbucklers, unlikely friends and a mystery in each book make these very lively historical novels. © Parents' Choice
Spy Force Mission: In Search of the Time and Space Machine by Deborah Abela, illustrated by George O'Connor (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2005).
An 11-year-old girl discovers boredom is the least of her problems during the summer she spends at her aunt's farm. Her secret-agent stories take on a new reality when she happens upon a real spy ring. This story is the ultimate thriller for our age. 240 pages. Children's Choices
Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye (Penguin, 2004).
Hermux is a watchmaker who also happens to be a mouse. He is mostly content with his life of order and quiet nights curled up with some cheese and a good book, but that all changes when one Linka Perflinger, aviatrix and daredevil, enters and mysteriously exits the picture. 279 pages. Krisha Roach
Alabama Moon by Watt Key (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006).
In the piney woods of south Alabama, 10-year-old Moon Blake has been raised by his survivalist father, a paranoid Viet Nam veteran. When his father dies, Moon buries him beside his mother, who had softened their harsh existence while she lived. Not long before he died, Moon's father told him to write him letters after his death - and if Moon burned the letters, the messages would reach him. Pap called these "smoke letters." ... With a wonderful villain and touches of distinctive humor, the author takes his wiry, tough, goodhearted hero through a residence in a boys' "home," a true friendship, assorted escapes and into a happy ending. ... This debut novel is absolutely first-rate. 304 pages. © Parents' Choice
Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan (Scholastic, 2005).
Naomi Leon Outlaw is many things: a great sister, a kind granddaughter and an excellent soap carver, but she is having a harder time just being Naomi. Her journey to find her own true voice and reconnect with her father takes her from a trailer park in Lemon Tree, California, to a radish-carving festival in Oaxaca, Mexico. 272 pages. Krisha Roach
The Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (Harper Trophy, 2001).
Set in India, this is a lyrical and compassionate portrait of a survivor. Thirteen-year-old Koly is getting married to someone she has never met. When her new husband turns out to be gravely ill, things take a turn for the worse. Koly finds herself widowed, hopeless and on the streets. 192 pages. Krisha Roach
The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going (Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005).
Frita Wilson works hard to help her friend Gabe to overcome the fear of bullies in fifth grade. This is an inspiring story about friendship and understanding between an African American girl and a white boy. 151 pages. Children's Choices
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (Little, Brown, 1990).
A homeless orphan becomes a legend in a town divided by racism in this sometimes funny, sometimes moving, always exciting story. Jeffrey Magee's exploits may have made him famous, but reconciling a town filled with hate and finding a decent life for himself may be more than even he can manage. 184 pages. Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and Newbery Medal.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: Ages 9-12, Read Aloud: 9+, Read Alone: 9+. Common Sense Media
No Talking by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Elliott (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
This is an ear-to-ear-grinningly delightful school story. Parents need to know that there is nothing to be concerned about here and lots to cheer. It's a story that even reluctant readers can love, about good-hearted children and adults who grow in compassion and understanding. Families can talk about silence and civil disobedience. Why does the silence seem so powerful? How does it change everyone's perceptions? What do you think of the standoff between Dave and the principal? 146 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 8-12, Read Aloud: 8+, Read Alone: 9+. Common Sense Media
Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter (Simon and Schuster, 2002, first published in 1913).
A tonic in cynical times, this book offers a philosophy of life that can have a big impact on younger children. Playing the Glad Game is worth a try for any family. Like other books of its time, Pollyanna contains a few comments that are considered racist by modern standards: a maid is referred to as "Black Tilly," and there are several comments to the effect that little boys from India are "heathens" who "don't know any more than to think that God was in that [idol]." 304 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 9-12, Read Aloud: 9+, Read Alone: 10+. Common Sense Media
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt (Clarion Books, 2007).
On Wednesday afternoons half of Holling's class leaves school early for Catechism class. The other half leaves early for Hebrew School. That leaves Presbyterian Holling alone every Wednesday afternoon with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Neither of them is happy at the prospect, and Holling is sure Mrs. Baker hates him as a result. At first, Mrs. Baker just has Holling clean erasers, but then decides to make better use of the time by introducing him to Shakespeare. And as events in the larger world during the 1967-68 school year unfold in the background, Holling begins to learn about himself, his family, friends and the mysterious adult world. 264 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Read Aloud: Ages 10. Read Alone: Age 11.
Common Sense Media
The View From Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg (Simon and Schuster, 1996).
Main characters not only compete in an academic contest (contest answers included at the back!) but also outwit the class bullies using brains, not brawn. Nadia, Noah, Ethan and Julian, so closely linked in friendship that they call themselves "the Souls," each narrates a part of the book. Part of the pleasure comes from watching the foursome's varied life experiences help them succeed as an Academic Bowl Team, and part comes from the suspense generated at the story's beginning: How does Mrs. Olinski select the children for her team? Only Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian know - and in alternating chapters, each one tells a different piece of the story of how they became friends. The calamitous wedding of Nadia's grandfather and Ethan's grandmother, where Noah fills in as best man, is just the beginning. Mrs. Olinski, a paraplegic, proves to be an indomitable coach as the foursome wins one victory after another. 163 pages. Newbery Medal winner.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Recommended Reading Level: Ages 9-12. Read Alone: 11+.
Common Sense Media
Science Fiction and Fantasy Davin by Dan and Zaki Gordon (Random House, 1998).
Children are encouraged to interact with the exciting story. When melodramatically read aloud, it's a sure success. The Bugle Boy models brave steadfast friendship. The toys are animated by the power of imagination, and represent characters from various other stories. 170 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 9-12, Read Aloud: 7+, Read Alone: 9+. Common Sense Media
The Emerald Wand of Oz by Sherwood Smith, illustrated by William Stout (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2005).
This book transports the reader back to the enchanted land of Oz, but it is a much different Oz than the one to which Dorothy traveled. Two girls named Dori and Em will try to save Oz from yet another wicked witch. 272 pages. Children's Choices
The Five Ancestors: Snake by Jeff Stone (Random House, 2006).
Follow the adventures of 12-year-old Seh (snake), Fu (tiger) and Malao (monkey) in 17th-century China. With the many twists and turns in the plot, you never know who is friend or foe. Even family members are not always who they seem to be. 208 pages. Children's Choices
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (Penguin, 1999).
Rushdie's only children's book begins somewhere in Western Asia. Drawing upon the folklore of India and Muslim cultures, the story takes its father and son heroes on a quest from our contemporary world into a magnificently conceived "other" world. In the real world, Rashid Khalifa, the father, has lost his remarkable ability to tell stories, earning the moniker the Shah of Blah. Simultaneously, in the fantasy world, stories are disappearing from the Sea of Stories. Haroun, Rashid's son, searches for the mysterious cause of his father's loss and remedy to restore his talent. He encounters situations and characters of great originality, humor and imagination in a fast-moving tale full of word play and clever dialogue. 224 pages. © Parents' Choice
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, translated from the German by Anthea Bell (Scholastic, 2003).
Meggie's life changed forever one rainy night when she looked out the window and saw a stranger standing outside her window. This was her first sighting of Dustfinger, one of many colorful characters that her father brought to life from the pages of the book Inkheart. Meggie's father, Mo, has a special talent - when he reads aloud, characters from the book switch places with people from the outside world. In fact, Meggie does not know this yet, but this is how her own mother disappeared nine years before. Now, the evil Capricorn wants another character brought to life, and is determined to have Mo read aloud. This fascinating multi-layered story is an enjoyable but dark read for anyone who loves a good story within a story. 534 pages. Mindy Thuna
Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure by Georgia Byng, illustrated by Mark Zug (HarperCollins, 2005).
Molly's time travels take her to India in the late 1800s. The high-speed novel fascinates readers as the nasty maharaja of Waqt sets about kidnapping Molly at ages 10, 6 and 3, and as a baby. 400 pages. Children's Choices
Ranger's Apprentice Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (Philomel, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005).
Will wants to attend Battleschool to serve the kingdom. His small size leads him to be assigned as a Ranger's apprentice. His bravery and skills eventually fulfill his dream of protecting the kingdom. 249 pages. Children's Choices
The Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman, illustrated by Peter Bailey (Random House, 2005).
This scarecrow is not from a cornfield in Oz. He is from a real cornfield, but he springs to life and goes on many dangerous adventures. The biggest danger is from a family that the reader is sure to find exciting. 229 pages. Children's Choices
The Sisters Grimm Book One: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley (Scholastic, 2007).
Have you read the Brothers Grimm classic book of fairy tales? Did you think they were "just stories"? That is what sisters Sabrina and Daphne Grimm thought until their parents mysteriously disappeared one day. After being shuffled through several foster homes, they end up with a woman named Relda Grimm. Relda claims to be their grandmother and informs the sisters that the fairy tales are actually historical events collected by their ancestors, whose role has always been to maintain the fragile peace between the humans and the Everafters, the proper term for fairy-tale creatures. Daphne, the younger sister, loves Relda and their new life, while Sabrina is skeptical. Everything changes, however, when their grandmother and Mr. Canis, the butler, are kidnapped by a giant and the girls have no choice but to rescue their newfound family. 284 pages. Mindy Thuna
The Sisters Grimm Book Two: The Unusual Suspects by Michael Buckley (Scholastic, 2007).
Now that Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are living with their grandmother Relda in Ferryport Landing, New York, the time to start school has arrived. Daphne is in second grade, with Snow White as a teacher, and school could not be more fun. Sabrina, on the other hand, is in sixth grade and quickly discovers that the entire sixth-grade teaching staff is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Not only that, but the majority of the students sleep through every class and have not done their homework. When Sabrina's homeroom teacher, Mr. Grumpner, is found dead and dangling from a spider's web, the Grimm family must step in and try to solve the crime before more people get hurt. 290 pages. Mindy Thuna
Skellig by David Almond (Random House, 1998).
Is the creature dying in Michael's garage a man, a bird, an angel or all three? And what is his connection to Michael's baby sister, who's in the hospital with a heart problem? This gorgeously weird novel holds readers entranced in a spell woven of moonlight, owls and poetry. Among the many pleasures of this atmospheric and stunningly beautiful novel are the characters of Michael, a deeply empathetic boy, and Mina, who studies birds and William Blake (and who should be the poster child for home schooling) - and the tender and touching relationship Michael and Mina develop in caring for Skellig and worrying about his baby sister. 182 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Recommended Reading Level: Ages 9-12 Read Alone: 11+
Common Sense Media
The True Meaning of SmekDay by Adam Rex (Hyperion, 2007).
A rollicking adventure told by young Gratuity Tucci, this is the story of the invasion of Earth by aliens known as the Boov. All Americans are relocated to Florida (but then to Texas, once the Boov figure out the joys of orange juice). Gratuity only wants to find her mom. She sets out on her own, joins forces with a renegade Boovian mechanic named J.Lo, has to figure out how to save the Earth, and then the Boov from the Gorg. Good grief, what a mess! But Gratuity Tucci is a heroine of the most invincible kind: a small, 12-year-old girl. And in the grand tradition of small, 12-year-old girls everywhere, she is completely underestimated by absolutely everyone! 423 pages. Kepler's Books
A Wizard of Earthsea: The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1 by Ursula Le Guin (Bantam Books Published, 2006).
This is high fantasy, written by a master, one of the great works of young adult literature of the 20th century. So what keeps the pages turning? For turn they do - this thoughtful and thought-provoking novel hasn't stayed in print for 40 years for nothing. It's all in the details, the gradual unfolding and perfecting of another world, with its own rules and geography and magic. 183 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 10+, Read Aloud: 10+, Read Alone: 11+. Common Sense Media
Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin by Dugald A. Steer, illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert, John Howe, and Helen Ward (Candlewick Press, 2005). This book is chock full of information presented in somewhat old English. The fascinating thing about this book is all the manipulatives it has on each page. These manipulatives give added depth to the spells, diagrams, and ultimately to the learning. 28 pages. Children's Choices
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Yearling, 1973).
A children's classic from the 1960s, A Wrinkle in Time still captures audiences today. Lovers of fantasy, science fiction and time travel will devour this book. And they will certainly want to read the other books in the series. Join the Wallace children in this magical adventure to planet Uriel. Many complex themes, such as good versus evil, family relationships, and love and courage, offer a great springboard for important character education discussions. 256 pages. Jennifer Thompson
Seasonal Stories
Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge (TorBooks, 1993).
In this enduring winter classic, Hans and his sister Gretel must find a way to help their desperately poor family survive. Their chance to win the coveted silver skates in a race on the village's frozen canals could save them all. Continuously in print since 1865, this is a timeless classic of love and loyalty to share with a new generation.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
Snow Wings by Jutta Goetze (Allen & Unwin, 2006).
Snow Wings is a fantasy where evil forces have taken over the world. Six kids must learn to face their fears and work together to save the planet in this page-turner that takes its heroes on alpine adventures involving avalanche rescues, ski races, snow lizards, flying sleighs and magical snowmen. An engaging fantasy mixed with a modern-day thriller. 300 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
The Winter Room by Gary Paulsen (Laurel Leaf, 1998).
The winter room is where Eldon, his brother Wayne, old Uncle David and the rest of the family gather on icy-cold Minnesota nights, sitting in front of the stove. There the boys listen eagerly to all of Uncle David's tall tales of bygone loggers. When the boys begin to doubt their uncle's stories, he stops telling them altogether, until they discover something special about him. Modern day mythology filled with incredible descriptive scenes. 112 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
Gorilla Doctors: Saving Endangered Great Apes by Pamela S. Turner (Houghton Mifflin, 2005).
The veterinarians of Rwanda's Mountain Gorilla Project make house calls - or rather, "forest calls" - tracking down and treating ailing gorillas in the wild. Short chapters present dramatic accounts of real incidents, such as an expedition to untangle a gorilla from an antelope snare or the rescue of an orphaned baby gorilla. Factual information about these endangered animals is included, as well as full-color photos of the gorillas and the doctors. This book will appeal to animal lovers and to kids thinking of careers as veterinarians or naturalists. 64 pages.
Reading grade level: 7, Interest grade level: 4-8. Ellen Phillips
Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion by Russell Freedman (Clarion Books, 1999).
This is an uplifting sports bio for tweens and up. Parents need to know that Babe struggles with prejudice against women. Written with verve that matches Babe's personality, this true story will encourage young readers, especially those interested in sports. Families who read this book could discuss how Babe's discipline helped her win at a time when women were not accepted in sports. Why were woment treated this way? How have things changed? Do they need to change more? 192 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 9-12, Read Aloud: 10, Read Alone: 11. Common Sense Media
Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming to Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane (Free Press, 1998).
Mathabane's autobiography is testimony to living in a brutal, bigoted society. Intended for older readers, this story informs first-hand about the unpredictable attacks and sheer madness of Apartheid and a government that is now, fortunately, historical. The author eloquently rises above the suffering inflicted by the secret police on his family and friends, giving readers a story that powerfully portrays personal ingenuity and courage. 368 pages. © Parents' Choice
Books to Inspire Young Writers Mythology written by Lady Hestia Evans, edited by Dugald A. Steer (Candlewick, 2007).
The illustrations, maps and interactive pop-ups in this book will develop a child's interest in mythology. Add to that a sidebar of mystery on every page, and they will learn the relationships between the characters in no time. 332 pages. Children's Choices
Show; Don't Tell! Secrets of Writing by Josephine Nobisso, illustrated by Eva Montanari (Gingerbread House, 2004).
This nonfiction text offers older students the chance to explore the genres of writing in an easy-to-use format. The characters and illustrations were found to be intriguing enough to make students want to finish the book. 40 pages. Children's Choices
Fun Books About Math
The Grapes of Math by Gregory Tang, illustrated by Harry Briggs (Scholastic, 2004).
Parents and teachers alike, if you want a fun and innovative way to motivate your math students, this book is for you! Tang cleverly teaches problem solving through the use of mind-stretching riddles. Don't expect the ordinary with this book. Children are taught to look for patterns and solve problems in unexpected ways. In fact, your child will be so engrossed that he won't even realize the educational value of this book. 40 pages. Jennifer Thompson
General Knowledge Do Not Open: An Encyclopedia of the World's Best-Kept Secrets by John Farndon (DK Publishing, 2007).
The name of the book alone gets readers to pick it up. Once open, they'll find weird and interesting facts. Readers engage in learning through rich illustrations of the world's best-kept secrets. This book contains much more than just trivia. 256 pages. Children's Choices
Pick Me Up: Stuff You Need to Know... by Jeremy Leslie and David Roberts (DK Publishing, 2006).
Longtime publisher of kid's information-weighted books and software, Dorling Kindersley (DK) is trying to bring the computer-mesmerized, videogame-addicted, next-generation kids back to books. And this energetic, colorful, oddball compendium of info "you need to know" tackles that objective head-on. ... True to DK's approach, this plump collection of all and everything is illustrated to the extreme, some of its pages dominated with poignant or wacky photos and minimal explanations, others filled with words in the tiniest of type. ... Unconventional, yes, but the book is fun and fascinating, and aptly titled. Young readers will pick it up again and again, and undoubtedly learn something they "need to know." 352 pages. © Parents' Choice
Recipe Books
Emeril's There's a Chef in My World! Recipes that Take You Places by Emeril Lagasse, illustrated by Charles Yuen (HarperCollins, 2006).
Star chef Emeril Lagasse takes readers' taste buds on a trip around the world in this follow-up book to his two previous kids' cookbooks (There's a Chef in My Soup! and There's a Chef in My Family!). Young chefs will enjoy this lively cookbook that includes more than 70 recipes from every region of the world. The format is friendly with clear ingredient lists and numbered directions. There are pronunciation guides for foreign names, interesting food and cultural facts (for instance, in Ireland, salmon is the most prized fish and thought to have magical powers), and bright and colorful illustrations of the dishes. This book would be a great way to get the whole family into the kitchen and cooking together. 210 pages.
Interest grade level: 5+. Ellen Phillips
Roald Dahl's Even More Revolting Recipes by Felicity Dahl and Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake and Jan Baldwin (Puffin, 2003).
If the Addams Family had a favorite cookbook, this would be it. Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake have teamed up again to create the companion volume to his first culinary compendium, Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes. Aficionados will recognize some of the dishes from Mr. Dahl's other works, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While some of the recipes may sound fairly disgusting, none of them really is. The titles alone are enough to fill young and mischievous cooks with glee as they look forward to presenting company with a plate of Soil with Engine Oil or some Boiled Slobbages. Parents, please note: While the dishes are calculated to appeal to younger appetites, the directions may get a bit overwhelming for junior chefs. Adult supervision is the rule rather than the exception here, so get a firm grip on your sense of humor and wade on in. Who knew lizard's tails could be so tasty? 64 pages. © Parents' Choice
Science and Nature Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself by Maxine Anderson (Nomad Press, 2006).
This book begins with an introduction to the Renaissance and a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, including excerpts from his notebooks and reproductions of his drawings. But the main attraction of this book is the inclusion of step-by-step instructions for making 19 of da Vinci's inventions, including a perspectograph, camera obscura, hydrometer, invisible ink, walk-on-water shoes and miniature versions of his helicopter and tank. Adult supervision is recommended, where appropriate. Hands-on kids will love this book. 128 pages.
Reading grade level: 6, Interest grade level: 5-8. Ellen Phillips
Everything Kids' Environment Book by Sheri Amsel (Adams Media, 2007).
The books in Adams Media's Everything Kids' series provide encyclopedic yet entertaining introductions to their topics, and this volume on the environment is no exception. Perfect for the curious child, this guide - filled with eco-friendly activities and puzzles - shows them how to reduce waste, recycle materials and protect plants and animals. 144 pages.
Danielle Marshall
Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold Self-Experimenters in Science and Medicine by Leslie Dendy and Mel Boring, illustrated by C. B. Mordan (Holt, 2005).
This book tells the true stories of 10 scientists and medical researchers who devoted their lives and risked their own health to do scientific research. The accounts are intriguing and fascinating, but be warned that they don't all have happy endings. George Fordyce explored the limits of the human ability to endure extreme heat. Peruvian medical student Daniel Carrion and American doctor Jesse Lazear inoculated themselves with deadly tropical diseases. Lazzaro Spallanzani swallowed a variety of things (that most people wouldn't and shouldn't) to study the process of digestion. Each chapter includes a section "Now We Know," which extends the information and brings it up to date. This book will appeal to young scientists, but it's not for the squeamish. 224 pages.
Reading grade level: 6, Interest grade level: 5-8. Ellen Phillips
A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids: Understanding Climate Change and What You Can Do About It by Julie Hall, illustrated by Sarah Lane (Green Goat Books, 2007).
A great find, A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids features the very latest information about the causes and effects of climate change without being heavy-handed. Through its hands-on activities, eco-hero stories and hopeful message, this book will inspire kids and their families and schools to join the fight against global warming. 88 pages. Danielle Marshall
Hurricane Force: In the Path of America's Deadliest Storms by Joseph B. Treaster (Kingfisher, 2007).
The author of this book, longtime New York Times reporter Joseph Treaster, was in the New Orleans city hall when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005. He draws on his experiences covering Katrina and its aftermath to provide younger readers with a first-hand look at the deadly storms we call hurricanes. Along with his eyewitness accounts, there is information about what scientists currently know about how and why hurricanes form, how they are tracked, and how they impact coastal areas. Precautions and planning for future storms are also discussed. Dramatic color photos enhance the solid information presented in this book. 128 pages.
Interest grade level: 5+. Ellen Phillips
An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming by Al Gore (Viking Juvenile, 2007).
An Inconvenient Truth is an adaptation for younger readers of the 2006 bestseller and Oscar-winning documentary by the same name. This juvenile and teen edition contains simplified text enhanced by dramatic photographs, illustrations and graphs. Al Gore suggests that the global-warming crisis provides an opportunity for change through four simple steps. A head start on environmentalism and a must-read for kids and their parents. Highly recommended. 192 pages. Danielle Marshall
How Basketball Works by Keltie Thomas, illustrated by Greg Hall (Maple Tree Press, 2005).
Young readers who enjoy basketball will love this book. Beyond the usual retelling of the history of the game (the physical education teacher who nailed the peach baskets to the gymnasium balcony to give athletes something to do in the winter), this book provides information about the rules of the game, how to become a better player, anecdotes about legendary players, how equipment has evolved over time and tips on game strategy. Conversational text is interspersed with lively illustrations, diagrams and photographs. Even reluctant readers might actually take a break from shooting hoops to read this one. 64 pages.
Interest grade level: 5+. Ellen Phillips

Meet Our Experts Pauline Harris is a children's librarian with the San Francisco Public Library, and the mother of three daughters, all under the age of 6.
Darlene Kenny is the librarian at San Francisco's Clarendon Elementary School, a California Distinguished School. Darlene has been Clarendon's librarian for 20 years, during which time both her son and her nephew graduated from the school.
Dr. Jan LaBonty is a professor in the School of Education at the University of Montana.
Danielle Marshall is a former longtime bookseller, most notably for Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon. She continues her love of all things book related by now working as the marketing manager for Beyond Words Publishing, best known as the publisher of The Secret. When not working or reading, you can find Danielle with a saucepan or an iPod in her hands.
Ellen Phillips holds a master's degree in library and information management and has been a librarian in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District in California for 22 years. She has worked in both elementary and secondary libraries, created recommended book lists for K-12 teachers and managed motivational reading programs for both elementary and secondary school students. Ellen is the mother of two grown daughters, both avid readers.
Krisha Ashley Roach is an early education administrator. As a former book seller for over 16 years she created reading lists for K-12 teachers. Krisha is the mother of three boys, ages 13, 10 and 2.
Jennifer Thompson is a Reading Specialist for the Manassas City Public Schools in Virginia. She was recently awarded the Washington Post's Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. Jennifer has 18 years of teaching experience, a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Reading Specialist License for K-12.
Mindy Thuna has worked in both public and academic libraries, including the children's department at the largest library in the Toronto Public Library system. Prior to librarianship, Mindy completed her B.S. degree in paleontology and a masters in vertebrate morphology. She has also worked as an educator in a variety of eclectic locations, including The National Museum of
Kenya in Nairobi, Kenya.
Children's Choices, a project of the International Reading Association and The Children's Book Council, is an annual list of favorite books chosen by children.
Common Sense Media is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents make informed media and entertainment choices for their families.
Kepler's Books, a half-century old, full-service general bookstore in Menlo Park, California. Antonia Squire is the buyer and manager of the children's department there. Squire believes that a reluctant reader is one who has not yet found the right book, and takes great pleasure in putting the right book in the hands of the right child.

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