Gigantic Carnival of Children's Literature at Midwestern Lodestar
Publishers Weekly's Children's Book Blog

Top Ten Books of the Week (Reading with a Second Grader)

1. My second grader likes picture books, so that's what we're reading much of lately. Kane/Miller sent me a review copy of Who's Hiding?, and the boy just thinks this book, which is really targeted at preschoolers, is the cat's meow. (Big A little a ran a thorough review back in January.) Junior likes the humorous animals and the bold graphics. With one sentence per page, the interactive book (you find the hidden creatures) is very easy for him to read, and he often chooses it for his school-mandated 15 minutes of reading time at home. He reads it quickly, so I urge him to seek out additional titles, too.

2. Which brings us to Rat Attacks. This one travelled home in the backpack from the classroom library, and Junior has kept it for a long time. I am so skanked out by rats that I have nothing to do with the book, about which Alibris says, "Discusses the history of rat attacks on humans and other animals as well as descriptions of rat species, their life cycle, and habitat." Part of a series, "Animal Attacks," aimed at reluctant readers  aged 9 to 12. So far I haven't seen the ones on tigers, coyotes, and sharks, and that's fine by me.

3. Moving right along, both of us read and enjoyed A Sock Is a Pocket for Your Toes, a rhyming picture book by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, who has stopped by Chicken Spaghetti to visit and who blogs over at Liz In Ink. The sweet book, with whimsical illustrations by Robin Preiss Gleisser, encourages children to look at familiar objects in a different way. "A sock is a pocket for your toes,/a vase is a pocket for a rose." Perfect for kindergarten and perfect as an antidote for #2.

4. In the middle of allegedly getting dressed this morning, Junior sat down to examine Seashore, a DK Eyewitness Book that he got from Santa Claus and had heretofore spurned. Why, he can't possibly go to school; he needs to read! Right now! (I think he has Mom's number.) Santa found Seashore less frenetic than some other DK Eyewitness titles, and in fact it's a nice addition to the library for Beach School, the perfect hands-on school of my imagination.

5. Bunny Cakes, written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells. Surely you know bossy big rabbit sister Ruby and her brother, Max. There's now a whole TV show about them. Ruby wants to bake a cake for Grandma, Max keeps messing things up, Ruby keeps sending him to the store for more ingredients, Max doesn't communicate so well... We have almost worn this book out from repeated readings, and it recently made a reappearance in the beloved stack after a prolonged absence.

6. Swine Lake, written by James Marshall and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. My personal favorite book of the year so far; it was published in 1999. You'll have to trust me when I say that Swine Lake is about the transformative power of art. It's hilarious. The wolf, from the Three Little Pigs, goes to a ballet performed by porkers. Another one Junior chooses often for reading time.

7. The Story of Jaguar, by Jim Mezzanotte. A neat little book about the fancy auto, with photos, good suggestions for further reading and places to visit, web sites, and a glossary—all in 24 pages. Gareth Stevens publishes the "Classsic Cars" series, and Junior, who reads this independently, has already requested the ones on Thunderbirds and Porsches.

8. Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song, by Les Beletsky, has built-in recordings that you can play as you look at the pictures of different birds.  Since we're now participants in Cornell's Backyard FeederWatch program,  Beletsky's guide has come in handy, though I rely more on Roger Tory Peterson's Eastern Birds for identification. Our whole family loves watching the birds (and the squirrels and the deer) at the feeders, and I don't push the i.d. thing at all, lest I drain the fun out of the experience. Junior does enjoy playing the bird songs, though.

9. In the photo-essay/picture book Just for Elephants, Carol Buckley tells the true story of the arrival of a circus elephant, Shirley, at Tennessee's Elephant Sanctuary. Another elephant, Jenny, immediately recognizes her from their carny days. There  is joy, there is elephant trumpeting, there is an elephant sorority reunion.  Recommended by our friend P. at the library (thank you!), this book is one we'll have to buy for ourselves.

10.  Gina Wilson's Ignis, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, is a perennial favorite. A dragon must search for his inner fire. I used to have to read it to Junior; now he can read it himself.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

My son (6) liked "Who's Hiding" too :)

And "Bunny Cakes" is a classic both kids loved, especially my son who is Max to his big sister's Ruby. Reading Bunny Cakes aloud to him was a continual subversive act he enjoyed greatly.

"Bunny Cakes" is one of my very favorites, too. It's great to read aloud to kindergarteners. And even though I'm a bossy older sister myself, I can't help rooting for Max.

I have to admit that once or twice I've considered watching the "Max & Ruby" cartoon by myself. We've been reading Bunny Cakes since my son was 3 or 4!

Swine Lake sounds wonderful! And I agree, Liz's book, A Sock is a Pocket for your Toes is sweet. Great list Susan! Thanks for these suggestions.

Oh, Vivian, do get a hold of "Swine Lake," and tell me what you think. I cannot BELIEVE that I missed it over these years. I am a huge fan of James Marshall.

Thanks SO much for the tip of the hat, Susan. Hugely flattered!!

See what kind of pockets your kiddo can come up with on his own -- some of my personal favorites include "my body is a pocket for my guts," "a hat is a pocket for a rabbit," and "a napkin is a pocket for my green beans."


great list!

I love the Dk books, if for nothing else they get my 10 year old to READ, he really hates to read (and, yes, it kills me!) but he will sit up in his bed at night with his stack of Dk Eyewitness books and read about WWII and WWI and basketball and baseball and Tennis. I look at it this way, at least he is reading and keeping the light on just one more minute to finish the book.

Love the Max and Ruby books, it was an early favorite in this house when my oldest was little. I love when he tries to explain what Red zingers are to the grocery man!

I love the "Top Ten Books of the Week". Great idea to do with your son. The Rat Attacks books reminds me of a second graders at my school who loves checking out creepy animals books to scare his mother and older sister. Second grade is a fun age.

Liz, when is your next book coming out? We want more, we want more!

Kathy, the DK's are really high-interest; I can see why your son likes them so much. They're good ones to read on your own, too, because they can be kinda of hard to read aloud together, like the Magic School Bus books.

Jone, thanks! The second-grade boys really do go for some of these books with the big "ick" factor, don't they!

Terrific list. I adore elephants -- an elephant illustration hangs above my desk as we speak -- and will be sure to check out Carol Buckley's essay-photo book. And I'm with you on the rats thing. Yuck -skanky! -- although I am told they are quite intelligent.

You just reminded me that I really want to read Liz's book, so I finally requested it from the library. Thanks for the good list. Good stuff.

I hope that Liz has another book in the works.

Blushing over here.

Thanks Susan and Jules. A few other books in the works. Stay tuned...

Sigh. Blushing some more...

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)