I have read the Ramona series close to 30 times, and Harriet the Spy over 100 times. My adult favorites have been devoured just as much; I am a re-reader you might say. As a child I really enjoyed revisiting these rich literary worlds, and getting acquainted with new ones; I spent every spare second in a book. I was that kid that had to be told, “No reading at the dinner table.” If you’re chuckling and thinking “What a nerd! She must be a cat lady with crazy eyes.” You’re right, I do have crazy eyes… so you may move on. If, however, you’re chuckling in knowing agreement with kitties perched on each shoulder, I give to you the newest crop of books that should promptly be fallen in love with. (Editor’s Note – The following are listed in random order)
- 2013 Scholastic Book of World Records By Jenifer Corr Morse
I think of this book as one of the purest forms of nerding-out while reading. It’s just authentic, distilled, random facts. Much like how we poured over the Guinness Book of World Records growing up, the 2013 Scholastic Book of World Records will delight you and your little factoid geek. This book is filled with obscure information like when the first tweet was sent from space, and which country has the fastest passenger train.
- Noah Webster and His World of Words By Jeri Chase Ferris and Vincent X. Kirsch
After coming down with the flu last week, (instead of thinking “ugh, why me? Do we have any ginger tea?”) I mused about the word disease possibly originating from dis – ease, like a lack of ease or comfort. I said to my husband, “Isn’t it interesting that the Latinate word for sick is morbus, like morbid?” He actually didn’t find that too interesting; but if you do, or if your seven-year-old is asking, “May I please procure a refreshment from the fridge?” instead of “where’s my apple juice!,” pick up Noah Webster and His World of Words. This hilariously illustrated book details the life of the man behind Webster’s Dictionary. Perfect for even the smallest of word nerds.
- Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs By Mo Willems
“Once Upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.”If you did not chuckle at this (at least in your head) it means that you have no soul. Just kidding; it means that you’re secretly a cyborg from Cyberdyne Systems’ manufacturing plant. Okay, again, I’m kidding. It probably just means that it’s Monday and the cat has peed in the ficus again. In any case, the above sentence is a good example of author Mo Willems’ ability to tell a story that entices both children and adults to start giggling. Willems gave us Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, as well as several other delightfully wry stories. In 2012, he adapted the classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears; with his tweaks, the story is both unexpected and witty.
- Wonder By R.J. Palacio
“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”August Pullman was born with a facial deformity, and Wonder opens with Auggie facing 5th grade at Beecher Prep, his first mainstream school. This is a story about wanting to fit in, and when you just don’t. But this book isn’t just another tale of the school “weirdo;” it opens up the discussion of difference by presenting Auggie’s family’s and classmates’ points-of-view, making it more than a simple coming-of-age story. The New York Times #1 bestseller is really a conversation about fear, empathy, and understanding.I admire this book because it’s not a lament or a rant about the existence of bullying, it’s an unwavering look at how to be kind and to find kindness despite the fact that, as the book honestly admits, doing so can be hard. If I may be frank for one second (then I promise I’ll return to my regularly scheduled snarkiness), many of us nerds have suffered some kind of bullying. Because of that, and lots of other reasons, Auggie is a welcome hero for the younger members of our ranks, especially if your little four-eyes is about to the 5th grade.
- To Market, To Market By Nikki McClure
Nikki McClure is already well known for her art. Her paper cuts celebrate community, motherhood, hard work, and living in harmony with our planet. In To Market, To Market, McClure’s art takes young readers to the farmers market. This book teaches kids (and maybe their parents too) that food comes from somewhere other than just the grocery store. A mother and son check off weekly grocery list items. With each item the reader learns where it came from, how it grew, and how it came to the market. It’s a beautiful book for showing the sometimes unseen journey that our food takes before it gets to our table, and a perfect place to start when teaching children to be aware of their role in the production of good, healthy sustenance.
- The Strange Case of Origami Yoda By Tom Angleberger
This is another visually interesting pick. The pages look crumpled, and are decorated with cartoon sketches and print that is made to mimic handwriting. In this book, sixth grader Dwight lets an origami finger puppet of Yoda speak for him. While Dwight appears to be a little dopey, the finger puppet is wise and dispenses advice worthy of his full-sized doppelganger. He can predict pop quizzes and knows things only Yoda could know. In a word he seems very un-Dwightlike.The book is set up as a collection of stories gathered by fellow sixth grader, Tommy. By interviewing his classmates, Tommy investigates whether the finger puppet is the real deal, if Dwight is some secret genius, or if he’s just, you know, weird. More selfish motives come to light too. Yoda tells Tommy to ask the girl he likes to the upcoming school Fun Night, and he needs to know: can he trust this mini soothsayer? It’s a fun story about those things that sometimes preoccupy the mind of a twelve-year-old, and yes, there are instructions for making your own finger puppet Yoda.
- Lego Ninjango
I should be able to say the words “book-about-Lego-ninjas,” and it should be pretty self-explanatory and awesome, but I will also add this: The lovely people at Powell’s Books as well as all my teacher friends tell me that to say these books have been popular this year is an understatement.The Lego Ninjago Masters of Spinjitzu line’s theme centers on the world of Ninjago, home to both modern cities and ancient villages. The First Master of Spinjitzu created this world using the Four Golden Weapons: the Sword of Fire, the Nunchucks of Lightning, the Scythe of Quakes (earth), and the Shurikens of Ice. No one could hold them all at once because of their immense power. His son was consumed by evil (later revealed to be from a bite from the Great Devourer) and wanted the Four Weapons for himself…. but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Before I get lost in Lego la la land, the bottom line is this: I’m filing this book under “whatever gets kids to read is great.” Books that center on an already popular toy or concept are a smart place to start, and what better toy than Lego? What better concept than ninjas?
- Son By Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry’s The Giver was the first book I read that transplanted me firmly in a dystopian society. I followed it up with Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. (No, a 9-year-old probably shouldn’t be reading that. Yes, it most likely did make me a little weird — my poor parents. All those rants about book burning.) The story of Jonas is young adult speculative fiction done right; this is why I (along with many other people who are roughly my age) am so excited that the final book in the quartet of The Giver series is here. If you haven’t read the story of this society where there is no war, fear, pain, and freedom of choice, do it now. Go find out what happens when 12-year-old Jonas is assigned the role of the Giver, the only person to have memories of real feeling and emotion. Then go read the next two, Gathering Blue and Messenger. Lowry’s 2012 novel Son brings readers back into the world of The Giver through Water Claire, who appears from this society void of feelings and choice and becomes our new hero. I won’t ruin it for you. One of my favorite things about these books is the unexpected moments and truths they introduce. May I suggest though, perhaps a parent/kiddo book club for these? Yeah, they’re that good.
- Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel By Hope Larson
Kids Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, and Calvin O’Keefe, and otherworldly beings Mrs. Who, Whatsit, and Which are already characters beloved by nerds the world over, but Hope Larson has taken it one step further and turned the well-known story into a graphic novel. I tend to fall into the no-illustrations-please camp, because when a book I first experienced without pictures is brought to life with a visual element, it can take away much of what the imagination fills in. For instance, when I stumbled across an illustrated version of Five Children and It, I was devastated to learn the children didn’t match up with the visualization I’d conjured in my head. But I have recently fallen in love with the graphic novel, and although Larson’s version might be a little less creepy than what I had imagined when I was little, she makes up for it in several stunningly beautiful visual moments. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel is a really cool way to introduce a new generation to the much-loved story.
- Meanwhile By Jason Shiga
Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? You got to be the protagonist in some cockamamie adventure! After a couple of pages you were presented with two or three options, then the story went in different directions depending on which you chose. You’d get to one ending, and then go back and pick your way to a whole new conclusion. They were the best. Remember comic books? The ones you were clandestinely reading behind your geography textbook and that’s why to this day you can’t for the life of you remember the capitol of Missouri. But you do remember exactly what was happening on page 15 of issue #6 of Watchmen. They were also the best. Meanwhile is a mix of the two, a choose-your-own-adventure style comic book with glossy pages and brightly colored adventures to meander through. This one is worth a read just for the fact that it so admirably has taken the concept of “book” and created something with it that is tangibly as well as literarily interesting.
Happy reading my little bookworms!