Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ordered chapter book list

Here is a book list I've been making for myself (that will keep growing as I read more).  These are not necessarily endorsements; some of these books are higher quality than others, or you might find one inappropriate for some reason.  This is just my list of approximate difficulty balanced with the "babyish" factor.  (If you want the rest of the explanation, it's below the list.)

(Titles with a purple font link back to my own reviews of those books.  Titles highlighted in green are books that, I think, are more likely to appeal to boys than girls; titles highlighted in pink are more likely to appeal to girls.) 

My family's personal favorites have asterisks next to them.  I am learning how much we like to just re-read favorites, so if we were only going to read a few books, these are the ones we'd pick.

**Frog and Toad series and other Arnold Lobel books
**Fancy Nancy series
Gus and Grandpa series
**Mercy Watson series 
**Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut series
Amelia Bedelia books 
A Light in the Attic
**Jack Prelutsky books
**Flat Stanley series
The Littles series
Sam the Minuteman
In Grandma's Attic series
A to Z Mysteries series
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain 
**My Father's Dragon series
Cam Jansen series 
**The Great Cake Mystery:  Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case  
The Imagination Station series 
Magic Tree House series 
Lafcadio:  The Lion Who Shot Back
The Courage of Sarah Noble
**Sarah, Plain and Tall
Babe, the Gallant Pig
The Akimbo series (by Alexander McCall Smith)
**Phoebe the Spy
**The Chocolate Touch
**Encyclopedia Brown series
**The Boxcar Children series
Betsy-Tacy and Tib
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown 
**Sideways Stories from Wayside School series (including Sideways Arithmetic books)
**Fergus Crane
Detectives in Togas (and The Mystery of the Roman Ransom)
**How to Train Your Dragon
The One and Only Ivan
**The BFG
**Charlotte’s Web
**Winnie the Pooh (both books)
**Mary Poppins
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Stuart Little
**The Mouse and the Motorcycle series 
Socks (by Beverly Cleary) 
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Moby Dick (Junior Classics for Young Readers--ISBN 9781453058169)
Owls in the Family
**Eric Liddell:  Something Greater Than Gold
The Whipping Boy
The Tale of Despereaux
**Hank the Cowdog series 
**Henry Huggins
Henry and Ribsy
**Caddie Woodlawn
James and the Giant Peach
**Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
**The Freedom Fighter (a biography about William Wilberforce by Derick Bingham)
The Toothpaste Millionaire
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles 
The Wish Giver (by Bill Brittain)
The Borrowers
Pippi Longstocking
How God Stopped the Pirates
**Doctor Dolittle series
**Courage to Run:  A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman
Freedom's Pen:  A Story Based on the Life of Freed Slave and Author Phillis Wheatley
The Cricket in Times Square
**The Great Brain series
A Dog's Life:  The Autobiography of a Stray
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (by Howard Pyle)
Homer Price 
The Wind in the Willows
Little House on the Prairie series
**Narnia series
**Maniac Magee
**The Candymakers
**Ella Enchanted 
**From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
**Leepike Ridge
Because of Winn-Dixie 
George Washington's Socks
**The Ocean of Truth: The Story of Isaac Newton
Lawn Boy series (by Paulsen) 
**The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
**The Wingfeather Saga series
**Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales history graphic novel series
**The Westing Game
**The Penderwicks
Annie Henry series 
**Ronia, the Robber's Daughter
Will Northaway series 
The Mysterious Benedict Society
Hittite Warrior
Archimedes & the Door to Science
**Tuck Everlasting
**Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
The Phantom Tollbooth
Alice in Wonderland
Peter Pan
**The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Sign of the Beaver
The Railway Children
Viking Quest series
**Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
**Johnny Tremain
**Little Women
**Anne of Green Gables series
**The Hobbit
**The Hiding Place
**Gladys Aylward:  The Adventure of a Lifetime
other Betsy-Tacy books 

Great resources exist to help parents find books better than Goosebumps for their kids, resources like Orange Marmalade and Honey for a Child's Heart and Calvary Classical School and The Best Children's Books and Ambleside.  We all have different taste in books, but those are great places to start.

Sometimes the suggested age ranges trip me up a little, though.  When it comes to a book I'm unfamiliar with, I wonder:
   is that book listed at that age because of its academic complexity?
   or because of tricky subject matter (such as Charlotte's death in Charlotte's Web?)
   is it because it seems a bit babyish?
   or just because of its length?

I don't think I could make age recommendations for myself, either.  If I did, later I would wonder:  Did I read it aloud to Michael at seven or did he read it independently at seven?  Even if we read it together, could he have read it alone?  Now I don't know whether to read it to Jake before or after these other two books.

When I've chosen books for Michael and me to read aloud, I've ended up reading some a bit out of order.  Michael and I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory months before we read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because I assumed that made the most sense; but it didn't, really.  I'd like to remember that for when I pull out those books for Jake and Olivia in the future.

So I have begun keeping a very unscientific list for myself of what-book-should-come-next.  I'll keep updating the list as I read more books.  And this continuum is just my very subjective gut feeling of which book is trickier as far as vocabulary, syntax, and academic concepts go (including how unfamiliar the setting is), as well as I can remember and judge for each book.  (There are all kinds of formal methods out there that establish a "grade level" for different kinds of texts depending on a lot of factors, but those usually don't take into account how unfamiliar the setting is, which seems an important consideration to me.)

Additionally, I'm considering "the babyish factor."  Basically, I'm trying to balance how much it could make their brains hurt if read too early, and how offended they'd be if read too late.  :)  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz rank pretty similarly as far as complexity of language, but somehow the world created in Oz feels younger than that of the chocolate factory, witches factored in and all.  It feels more like a little kid book.  

And where would you rank a technically difficult book about a young boys' collection of stuffed animals (a la Winnie-the-Pooh?).   Tricky!

I'm sure I'll adjust this list as I reread things.   

Anyway, what I'm not factoring in (consciously, at least) are "tough topics," like abusive family members or the death of a main character.  You'll have to pre-read books and judge for yourself.  I'm just thinking more of:  does this include talking stuffed animals?  protagonists that are eleven-years-old or seven-years-old?  etc.  And I'm not necessarily endorsing each book, either.  Peter Pan is on here, listed where I think it falls, but I'm not sure when I'll hand that one over to my kids.  It might be a very, very long time.  There are some things I really like about that book and some things I really dislike about that book.

So, with all of those qualifications, that's my ordered reading list of chapter and poetry books!

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