April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Real World Readers: Attention-Grabbing Titles | Focus On

1508-FocusOn_opener“Real world readers do not wait for a teacher to tell them what to read. They read what interests them, what suits their purpose….When kids define what they care about, they begin to define who they are.”—Ollman, H. “Choosing Literature Wisely: Students Speak Out.” Journal of Reading 36.8 (1993): 648-653.

Children today are introduced to an ever-expanding array of ideas, information, and entertainment. Bringing books into the lives of these young people is an ongoing challenge, and the term reluctant reader is often used as a negative label, describing kids who do not or cannot embrace reading for pleasure. Rather than expecting these children to enter the “book world,” librarians can and should strive to enter the “real world” of each student. Librarians serve “real world readers” by finding out what each student truly loves and assisting them in locating resources to feed that passion. High interest books may include updated nonfiction, graphic novels, wordless books, and audiobooks. Humor is also an essential collection component for these readers. (A recent Scholastic “Kids & Family Reading Report” found that 70 percent of kids say they “want books that make them laugh.”) For many kids, entering a library can be a daunting experience. Shelf after shelf with rows and rows of spines can be intimidating. Thoughtful organization facilitates a student’s search for appealing books. Libraries might consider the concept of bundling, or grouping materials that are associated in some way. In addition to shelving series together, bundles may include books grouped by topic, author, and or even a distinguishing cover feature. Bundled collection presentation and organization works well for these readers, offering them a reliable tool for book selection. In addition to grouping similar titles together, libraries can serve “real world readers” by displaying books with covers facing out and by creating table displays and small “boutique shelves” that highlight a specific author, series, or topic. Tap into the interests of young library users with these book bundle ideas.

COMICS Adventure awaits

HALE, Nathan. “Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.” Abrams.
Gr 3­-7–Hale recasts U.S. history in graphic novel format. Highlighting an unusual and sometimes gruesome historical event, the volumes include One Dead Spy (featuring Nathan Hale, 2012), Big Bad Ironclad (2012), Donner Dinner Party (2013), Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (about World War I, 2014) and The Underground Abductor (about Harriet Tubman, 2015). All present larger­-than­-life characters, incorporate plenty of humor, and live up to the adage “truth is stranger than fiction.”

KIBUISHI, Kazu. “Amulet.” Scholastic/Graphix.
Gr 3-7–The saga begins in The Stonekeeper (2008) as siblings Emily and Navin are lost in a dark new world. They search for their mother, hoping to save her from a hideous tentacled beast. This highly addictive graphic novel series with lush artwork will keep readers anxiously awaiting the next volume, which is currently at Escape from Lucien (Amulet: Bk. 6, 2014).

KOCHALKA , James. “The Glorkian Warrior.” First Second.
Gr 1-4–In The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza (2014), our three-eyed alien hero and his sidekick, a talking backpack, set off on seemingly routine tasks such as delivering pizza. What ensues are a series of bad decisions, comic gags, and gross­-out humor. Large, colorful images enhance the story’s silliness. Follow up with The Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie (2015).

MAIHACK, Mike. “Cleopatra in Space.” Scholastic/Graphix.
Gr 3-5–The spunky Egyptian princess is transported to a planet in the future where the evil dictator Xaius Octavian is conquering neighboring civilizations. This high fantasy/adventure, complete with a talking cat in the sidecar of a flying sphinx, is chock-­full of action and attitude.
Charming characters with expressive faces seem younger than their 15 years. Look for Target Practice (Bk. 1, 2014) and The Thief and the Sword (Bk. 2, 2015)

1508-FocusOn_Covers1HUMOR Bundle of laughs

CRONIN, Doreen. “The Chicken Squad.” illus. by Kevin Cornell. S. & S./Atheneum.
Gr 1-­3–The stars of the “J. J. Tully Mystery” books star in their own series with two entries, The First Misadventure (2014) and The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken (2014). The spunky chickens, Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie, are detectives who spend their days in the barnyard solving mysteries and fighting crime. Cornell’s comical black-and-white drawings provide a pitch-perfect accompaniment. Audio versions available from Recorded Books.

LACEY, Josh. “The Dragonsitter.” illus. by Garry Parsons. Little, Brown.
Gr 2­-5–Eddie has been enlisted to care for his uncle’s pet dragon. What follows is the email correspondence from nephew to uncle, chronicling the hazards of attempting to “housebreak” a dragon. Plenty of laughs ensue as disaster ensues in the wake of this wild babysitting experience. The Dragonsitter will be available in September, while The Dragonsitter Takes Off is due in November.

O’HARA, Mo. “My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish.” illus. by Marek Jagucki. Feiwel & Friends/Square Fish.
Gr 3­-6–Due to a science experiment gone wrong, Tom’s pet goldfish, Frankie, has become a mutant fish with a killer attitude and hypnotic zombie eyes. Tom must constantly protect his pet from the machinations of his older brother, Evil Scientist Mark. Detailed black-and-white drawings complement their wacky escapades. To date, three titles are available, My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish (Bk. 1, 2014), The SeaQuel (Bk. 2, 2014), and Fins of Fury (Bk. 3, 2015).

PICHON, Liz. “Tom Gates.” Candlewick.
Gr 3-5–Fifth-­grader Tom Gates copes with family disasters and school assignment pressures by telling fantastic tales and chronicling his life in a journal illustrated with clever doodles. Tom’s often hilarious observations are sure to appeal to “Wimpy Kid” fans. These imports include a glossary of British words and phrases. See The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (2014), Tom Gates: Excellent Excuses (and Other Good Stuff) (2015), and Tom Gates: Everything’s Amazing (Sort Of), coming out September 2015.

RODKEY, Geoff. “The Tapper Twins.” Little, Brown.
Gr 3-7–Twelve­-year-­old fraternal twins Claudia and Reese, who live on New York’s Upper West Side and attend Culvert Prep, engage in a full-scale prank that moves from home to school and eventually online. Their sibling rivalry is told as an oral history through text messages, screenshots, interviews, digital gaming art, and smartphone photos. Look for The Tapper Twins Go to War (with Each Other) (2015) and The Tapper Twins Tear Up New York, coming out September 2015.

VERNON, Ursula. “Dragonbreath.” Penguin/Puffin.
Gr 2-4–Danny Dragonbreath is one discouraged dragon: he cannot breathe fire. Danny’s failed attempts finally meet with success when he saves his friend Wendell. Comic panels and spot drawings in black, white, and green highlight Danny’s adventures which began in Dragonbreath (Bk. 1, 2009) and have continued to appeal to readers, most recently in Knight-napped! (Bk. 10, 2015).

MAKERS Things to make and do

EGAN, Kate & Mike Lane . “The Magic Shop.” illus. by Eric Wight. Feiwel & Friends.
Gr 3­-5–In The Vanishing Coin (Bk. 1, 2014), Mike stumbles onto a strange magic store where the owner teaches him a magic trick. Soon Mike’s hooked, learning tricks to impress his friends and confound his detractors. Yet, he wonders, is the shop’s magic just an illusion? The likable fourth-grader’s story continues in The Incredible Twisting Arm (Bk. 2, 2014), The Great Escape (Bk. 3, 2014) and The Disappearing Magician (Bk. 4, 2015). All include instructions for simple magic tricks.

LIPKOWITZ, Daniel. The LEGO Ideas Book. DK. 2011.
––––. The LEGO Book. 2012.
––––. LEGO Play Book. 2013.
Gr 2-­5 –Perennially popular LEGO bricks encourage children to think, build, and play creatively. Detailed photographs of models will inspire young enthusiasts. Each volume contains tips and tricks to get the most out of these construction pieces.

PFLUGFELDER, Bob & Steve Hockensmith. “Nick and Tesla.” Quirk.
Gr 4-6–Eleven­-year­-old twins Nick and Tesla use deductive reasoning to build gadgets, solve mysteries, and outsmart evil­doers in these STEM-­themed, adventure­-packed mysteries. Titles include step-by-step instructions for readers to make their own gadgets. Introduced in Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab (Bk. 1, 2013), the twins are currently creating new designs in Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular (Bk. 5, 2015).

WARNER, Peggy. “The Code Busters Club.” EgmontUSA.
Gr 3-6–Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. have their own club, along with a secret hideout and passwords that change every day. This interactive mystery series, which begins with The Secret of the Skeleton Key (Bk. 1, 2011) and includes The Haunted Lighthouse (Bk. 2, 2013), The Mystery of the Pirate’s Treasure (Bk. 3, 2014) and The Mummy’s Curse (Bk. 4, 2014), features numerous codes and puzzles to decipher. Answers are provided in the back of the books.

REAL LIFE It’s all true

BISHOP, Nic. “Nic Bishop.” Scholastic.
Gr 2­-5–Bishop’s stunning animal photographs, many pictured larger than life, fill each page with realistic intensity. Although readers will be captivated by the images, the accompanying simple descriptions and explanations enrich their viewing experience. These standouts include Spiders (2007), Frogs (2008), Butterflies and Moths (2009), Marsupials (2009), Lizards (2010), and Snakes (2012).

BRAUN, Eric & Jeff Savage. “Super Sports Infographics.” Lerner.
Gr 3-­5–Braun tackles Super Football Infographics and Super Baseball Infographics, while Savage handles Super Basketball Infographics and Super Hockey Infographics, all published in 2015. Engaging graphics present facts related to each of these popular sports, while detailed “data art” allows readers to visualize important concepts. The vibrant, information-packed format will appeal to sports fans and help them analyze and interpret facts and statistics.

“Weird but True!” National Geographic Kids.
Gr 2-­5–Kids discover fun and quirky facts (such as “A bat can eat 3,000 insects in one night.” and “A sneeze travels one hundred miles an hour.”) in these books which serve up 300 snack­-size trivia per volume, complete with simple explanations and bold graphic design. Perfect for sharing with a friend.

SCREEN TIME Media connections

DITERLIZZI, Tony. The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. illus. by Ralph McQuarrie. Disney Press. 2014.
Gr 1-3–Luke Skywalker’s journey from farm boy to Jedi Knight is brought to life with art from Ralph McQuarrie, concept designer for the original movie trilogy. This picture book introduces the galaxy from “far, far away” to a new generation of Star Wars fans.

FARWELL, Nick. Minecraft: Redstone Handbook. Scholastic. (Updated ed. 2015).
MILTON, Stephanie. Minecraft Manual: Essential Handbook. Scholastic. (Updated ed. 2015).
––––. Minecraft: Combat Handbook (Updated ed. 2015).
NEEDLER, Matthew. Minecraft: Construction Handbook (Updated ed. 2015).
Gr 3-­6–Official handbooks cover essential information, construction tools, combat techniques, and protection from monsters. Tips from Minecraft experts, including developer Jens “Jeb” Bergensten and creator Markus “Notch” Persson, make this collection of volumes an excellent introduction to the wildly popular game.

WEST, Tracey. Temple Run: Race Through Time to Unlock Secrets of Ancient Worlds. National Geographic. 2014.
Gr 3­-7– In this epic story based on the Temple Run mobile gaming app, readers learn about the ancient world as they travel through cultures and civilizations in Cambodia, England, China, Jordan, Mexico, and more, seeking to unlock secrets and save the world from demons. Color graphics and photos combine with engagingly formatted blocks of information to build excitement.

WILDER, Chase. “Temple Run: Run for Your Life!” EgmontUSA. 2014.
Gr 3­-5–Travel with adventure-­seeking Guy Dangerous and Scarlett Fox in this survival story series based on the popular app. Readers determine their fate by deciding what will happen next. Choices change the story and provide a different adventure every time. Exciting escapes happen in locations ranging from ancient temple ruins to the frozen Arctic. See Jungle Trek (Bk. 1, 2014), Doom Lagoon (Bk. 2, 2014), Arctic Rescue (Bk. 3, 2015) and Pyramid Peril (Bk. 4, 2015).

Barbara Moon is a Librarian at PS 110 in New York City.

Digital Picks


America’s CryptoKids: Future Codemakers & Codebreakers. www.nsa.gov/kids/home.shtml . National Security Agency. (Accessed 6/23/2015).
Gr 5 Up–Information about code and cipher systems includes opportunities for visitors to make their own ciphers. Additional pages of games and activities feature brainteasers, cryptograms, Morse code, and more.

Funbrain. www.funbrain.com. Family Education Network. (Accessed 6/23/2015).
Gr 1-6–Kids will find loads of arcade-type games, math games, comics, and web versions of popular books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Galactic Hot Dogs . Games are grouped by type and grade.

Science Bob. sciencebob.com . Science Bob. (Accessed 6/23/2015).
Gr 5 Up–Bob Plfugfelder is a science teacher and coauthor of the “Nick and Tesla” series. His website offers science fairs ideas, experiments, research help, videos, and projects for gadget makers and tinkerers.


Comic Life 3 . Plasq LLC. 2015. Version 3.0.4. iOS, requires 7.1 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. $4.99. (Accessed 6/23/2015).
Gr 2 Up–Users can create comics with their own photos or drawings. Templates, panels, fonts, and balloons are provided along with filter effects and customizable lettering options. The program is also available for Mac and Windows with a special edition for schools. See http://ow.ly/PLyep for trial subscriptions and pricing.

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Grisel Clavell says:

    After several years of teaching, I remember a workshop about the process a lector goes through before selecting to read a book. Besides looking at book cover and title, a lector may read several pages in the beginning, middle and end of book. I call this a book overview.