In a world where adults worry about having enough food, shelter, and money, children have problems of their own. Bullies attack them. New siblings steal their mom’s attention. Summer camp forces kids to be away from home, often for the first time. Reading about characters who encounter these same issues can help independent readers work out solutions. By connecting to the protagonists in the following titles, youngsters will understand that they are not alone as they face obstacles—big and small.
MILLS, Claudia. Kelsey Green, Reading Queen. illus. by Rob Shepperson. Farrar. 2013. ISBN 9780374374853. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).
Kelsey Green loves to read―even during math class. Her principal announces a schoolwide reading contest. The best reader will get his or her name on a plaque in the school library. Kelsey is determined to lead her third grade class to victory. Her strongest competition is Simon who is good at everything. He quickly passes Kelsey and leads by four books. Maybe he’s not reading them all, she thinks. Maybe he’s cheating. The two of them can’t beat the sixth grade class by themselves, so Kelsey encourages everyone to participate. Her best friends would rather run and do math than read, so they aren’t much help. Classmate Cody never reads anything. He already reads below grade level. Maybe she could focus on him, but reading with Cody will take precious time from her own efforts. Family outings take away even more. How can Kelsey make progress towards being the best reader with all these distractions?
MYRACLE, Lauren. The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems. illus. by Jed Henry. Dutton. 2013. ISBN 9780525422648. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).
Life is getting complicated for seven-year-old Ty. His new baby sister is taking up most of his mom’s time. He’s afraid of the cat under his bed. His best friend is in the hospital for leukemia treatment. In the meantime, he plays with Lexie, but she is bound to get them into trouble. Roughhousing with his classmate Taylor (who would put him in a headlock if he refused) gives Ty a loose tooth. Then there is preschooler Price, who is his reading buddy and needs a big brother to look after him. The real problem begins when Ty wanders away from his class during a field trip and finds the penguins. Kids have problems just like adults. Being able to handle them is what Ty has to learn.
STERNBERG, Julie. Like Bug Juice on a Burger. illus. Matthew Cordell. Abrams/ Amulet. 2013. ISBN 9781419701900. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).
“I hate camp. I just hate it. I wish I didn’t. But I do. Being here is worse than bug juice on a burger. Or homework on Thanksgiving. Or water seeping into my shoes.” Grandma Sadie is sure that Eleanor will love summer camp―just like her mother did. Eleanor just wants to go home. She misses the city with its sidewalks full of people. At home her bed is beautiful. It’s not a lumpy bunk bed that’s so tall she could fall off of it. She doesn’t like the food. There’s a no candy rule. How can she survive eating only salad? Campers are sorted into ability groups for swimming. Everyone in her cabin is an upper group swimmer, but Eleanor has to wear a life preserver. Writing a letter to her mom seems the best way to escape this disaster. But life has a way of teaching us hard lessons; summer camp could be the place where Eleanor learns them.
WARNER, Sally. EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer! illus. by Brian Biggs. Viking. 2013. ISBN 9780670784974. JLG Level: I : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).
Eight-year-old EllRay Jakes may be small for his age, but he’s still Alfie’s big brother. Her best friend at preschool seems more like her enemy than her friend. While watching the school rabbit in its hutch, Suzette leads a pack of girls to ignore Alfie and pretend she’s invisible. Just as EllRay walks up, they call her “Rabbit poop girl,” and say her new pink jacket is stupid. “How can four-year-olds be so mean? These are her friends? He knows bullying is wrong―no matter what your age. Something must be done. And, EllRay has his own bullying problems. The two situations collide and readers will identify with him as he resolves these conflict. For strategies about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.
Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.
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