Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Reading--for Kids who Hate Reading

Summertime--and the living is reading. (Sorry George Gershwin.) Summer for me has always been about reading. All those school-free hours when I binge read until my mother threw me out of the house.
How I spent my summer vacations...

OK, I'm a self-admitted bookaholic. There are still some kids out there who woof down every book in their path. Then there are the "reluctant" readers, the ones for whom the term "pleasure reading" has no meaning. Some have a learning disability (my own daughter is one of them), but some just find reading tedious and boring. Big hunks of text, undiluted by any sort of illustration send them into a semi-stupor. There is always something more interesting to do, usually involving a TV or gaming device. I found this prevalent among my own Young Author's workshop kids.

For years, all I could so was model reading by always having a children's book to read myself during lunch and breaks. (You can't ask a student to do something you don't do yourself.)

Now I have a better suggestion for the I-Hate-to-Read-Kids.  Graphic novels. (Not to be confused with manga novels which are genre unto themselves,) Books that are long on pictures and short on words. I think of them as literary comic books. My own daughter is dyslexic. Presented with pages of unillustrated text, she struggles. Illustrations give her visual clues as to what the words say. (She has always done well in history because the textbooks are heavily illustrated.)

The graphic format looks like a comic book, but it reads like a novel. They are action heavy, and fairly straightforward in plot. The text comes in small "thought balloons" or panel captions. I fell in love with the genre when I read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, an adult graphic that was a National Book Circle Award finalist in 2006. (The Tony Award-winning show that is still on Broadway.) Since then I have scarfed down many graphics, both for adults and kids. Here is a starter list by age and interest level that I have read and loved. (Understand that my recommendations are purely) subjective.)

Young Adult--Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. A Siebert Honor book last year for non-fiction.

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir--Maggie Thrash.  Summer camp.  First love. A true vacation read.

Nimona-Noelle Stevenson--This National Book Award finalist features a strong female character (who happens to be a shapeshifter) in the print version of this webcomic, a combination of medieval culture and modern science/technology.

March: Books One and Two--John Lewis. Congressman Lewis relates his involvement in the pivotal moments of the Civl Rights Movement (Freedom Rider, Selma March, The March on Washington) Book Three will be out this August.

The Shadow Hero--Gene Luen Yang, Sunny Lieu--The return of a real 40's Chinese superhero (which lasted all of five issues.) If you love superheroes, check out the Green Turtle!

In Real Life--Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang. Taking place in the world of gaming, this book also manages to be about social justice and forming personal values.

Middle school--Anything by Raina Teigemeier. Drama is my favorite (I've mentioned it here before), Sisters and Smile are equally good. Teigemeier is doing graphic versions of the old Baby Sitters Club series for the chapter book crowd. (I haven't read them.) Amazon says she has another middle school appropriate novel, Ghosts, coming out in September.  I've pre-ordered mine!

The Dumbest Idea Ever!--Jimmy Gownley. This memoir is similar in tone to Teigemeier's books.

 Roller Girl--Victoria Jamieson. This was my favorite graphic of last summer. It was a 2015 Newbery Honor book, and named to more "best books" lists than I care to list. Especially for people looking for strong female characters and sports-themed books for girls

Sunny Side Up--Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. These siblings are so prolific I can scarcely keep up with them!  Good stuff, all the way.

El Deafo--Cece Bell. Another Newbury Honor winner! The author's own story (often funny) about growing up deaf in a hearing world.

The Secret Coders series--Gene Luen Yung, Mike Holm.  These coders are of the computer variety. Those looking for multicultural inclusive books...this is one of them.

Any graphic by Brian Selznick. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (a Caldecott winner), Wonderstruck, The Marvels--they're all terrific. Don't let the thickness of the books scare you!

Into the Volcano--Don Wood.  A hiking trip turns deadly when brothers Sumo and Duffy become trapped in a lava tube---and the volcano is erupting!

Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities--Jason Shiga. This is a super coaster ride of a choose-your-own- adventure. Jimmy meets mad scientist and chooses from time-travel, mind-reading or doomsday machines. What does Jimmy choose, and what happens then?  That's up to the reader!

Middle grade--Flora & Ulysses--Kate DiCamillo, K.G.Campbell--This was the 2014 Newbery winner.  Case closed!

The Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust--Loic Dauvillier. I know. A graphic about the Holocaust? For younger readers? Trust me, I wouldn't recommend if it weren't an outstanding piece of fiction, gentle, poetic and completely age appropriate.

The Hereville series--Barry Deutsch. Another strong female character, a modern day Orthodox Jewish girl, 11-year-old Minka, in a fantasy world that is grounded by the real world. Fun and unusual!

The Lost Boy--Greg Ruth. Creepy, scary, action-packed and ultimately satisfying,

The Monster on the Hill series--Rob Harrell. Consider this the fantasy equivalent of the next entry on this list.

The Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney are considered graphics, although they are not set up in the classic panel style. I hardly need to "recommend" these since every kids I know has read at least one, but in case you are the one adult in this country who hasn't read it is.

Chapter book The Babymouse and Squish! series --Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

The Bird and Squirrel series--James Burke

The Amelia Rules series--Jimmy Gownley. Although Amelia stars in this series, her friends are both male and female, members of G.A.S.P. (Gathering of Awesome Superpals.) Another strong female character.

My Summers in Bluffton--Matt Phelan. What would happen if a small-town boy in 1908 had met the vaudevillian-soon-to-be-silent-movie-comedian Buster Keaton?  Incorporates so much of Keaton's real-life that it almost reads like non-fiction.  But it isn't.

Nathan Hales' Hazardous Tales series--Nathan Hale--These non-fiction tales from American history, presented in an easy-to-swallow, and frequently funny, format. Some of the events covered are the Alamo, the historical Nathan Hale, the Underground Railroad and the Battle of the Ironclads. So far there are six titles...and I'm eagerly awaiting the next one. Especially for the reluctant history student.

These are only a handful of the many terrific titles out there--serious, funny, exciting, thoughtful. Check out the graphic goes down like melting ice cream on a summer day.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Bobbi Miller said...

What a nice selection of books! Thank you!

mary ann rodman said...

Thanks, Bobbi...rechecking all my sources to make sure these books are still in print is why this was such a late-in-the-day post.

Linda B said...

Terrific selection. I found a few new to me, Mary Ann. I just read a new one that I enjoyed: Baba Yaga's Assistant, middle grade. It was a combo of the Baba Yaga story and a young girl's story. Thanks for the list!

mary ann rodman said...

Linda B--Thanks for the addition to the list...that one is new to me. Must find!