By Laura DeCarufel
“It’s essential to keep kids enchanted with reading, especially at this transitional age,” says Joanne Schwartz, children’s librarian at Toronto’s renowned Lillian H. Smith Library. Luckily, kids in this age group have an amazing capacity to stretch their imaginations while challenging their brains, making chapter books a natural leap forward for those who are ready, and intelligent picture books comfortable favourites for all. Here are some sure bets.
Clementine (Hyperion) by Sara Pennypacker; illustrated by Marla Frazee
Clementine is like an updated Ramona Quimby ““ imaginative, with a knack for mischief. This is the tale of her bad week: she’s in the principal’s office, her mom is mad at her, and though she makes it to the gifted math class ““ “so far, no gifts.”
Mouse Noses on Toast (Faber and Faber) by Daren King
This more challenging book follows the adventures of Paul, a mouse allergic to cheese, and his friends, who (mis)hear that humans are eating mouse noses on toast, and vow to stop them.
The Farm Team (Kids Can Press) by Linda Bailey; illustrated by Bill Slavin
Vivid characters charm in this hockey tale. The Farm Team competes for the Stolski Cup against the villainous Bush League Bandits: a nasty grizzly, Needles the porcupine and, in net, a skunk.
Peg and the Yeti (Harper Collins) by Kenneth Oppel; Plasticine illustration by Barbara Reid
This spirited story from a kid’s-lit dream duo charts plucky Peg’s trek to the top of Mount Everest, where she faces freezing storms, avalanches and ““ most dangerous of all? ““ a real live yeti.
One Red Dot (Little Simon) by David A. Carter
Kids will have a ball trying to find the elusive dot on marvellously intricate “wiggle-wobble widgets” and “flip-flop flaps.”
The Perfect Pop-Up Punctuation Book (Dutton Children’s Books) by Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels
This fun and useful book teaches the basics of commas, colons and semicolons, with lots to pull on, pop up, spread and slide.
The Cowgirl Aunt of Harriet Bean (Knopf Canada) by Alexander McCall Smith; illustrated by Laura Rankin
This intelligent, absorbing mystery series by McCall Smith, known for novels such as The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, follows nine-year-old detective Harriet Bean and her six extraordinary aunts.
Dragon of the Red Dawn: The Merlin Missions (Random House Books for Young Readers) by Mary Pope Osborne; illustrated by Sal Murdocca
Jack and Annie, from Osborne’s popular Magic Tree House series, return in these fast-paced, funny books about their escapades with Merlin the magician.
Sparks Fly High: The Legend of Dancing Point (Douglas & McIntyre/FSG Kids) by Mary Quattlebaum; illustrated by Leonid Gore
This folk tale about the dangers of arrogance pits Colonel Lightfoot against the devil in a suspenseful dancing competition. Vividly rendered illustrations and rhythmic language make this a unique telling of an important lesson.
Laura deCarufel is a Toronto writer and editor who loves children’s books.
TIPS FOR HELPING YOUR YOUNG READER GET THE MOST FROM BOOKS
which kids can look forward to. Before bedtime is great, because it’s cozy and quiet.
Browsing the shelves promotes a kid’s sense of independence. Plus libraries offer author readings and other events, which help bring the page to life.
When you’re familiar with what your child is reading, you can use the situations and characters in the book to broach topics you might not otherwise find easy to bring up.
If a reluctant reader only likes graphic novels or Archie comics right now, don’t sweat it. Reading for pleasure means feeling comfortable around books ““ a great step toward becoming a lifelong reader.