10 books to keep up kids’ reading skills

We admit defeat. Trying to pick the best books of the summer is like trying to pick our favourite child. It’s just not right. But alas, the selection had to be made (among the books, not the children, of course). Coming up, a write up of our two favourite books for each age, from birth to teen, and a few extra titles tossed in for power-packed summer reading list. Enjoy!

0-2 years
If Rocks Could Sing
If you’ve ever walked along the shoreline with your children, then you may have seen just how fascinated they are by rocks. Author Leslie McGuirk is a little fascinated by rocks as well, especially the ones she collected near her home that look like letters of the alphabet, numbers, even animals. If Rocks Could Sing displays her wonderful rock collection in a way that will make kids want to start their own!

If Rocks Could Sing by Leslie McGuirk, $18. Available through Random House.

Astonishing Animal ABC
There are alphabet books, and then there are astonishing alphabet books. Author Charles Fuge has created the latter, with silly rhymes and even sillier images, like a cosy cobra curled up in a comfy chair and a fat flamingo feeling frightened on one leg (you would be too if you saw the mean dinosaur he’s face to face with). Guaranteed adults will laugh out loud.

Astonishing Animal ABC by Charles Fuge, $15. Available at Amazon.ca.

Other gems: Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate by Michael B. Kaplan (penguin), Nighty-Night by Richard Van Camp.

3-5 years
The Woods
If camping is part of your summer plans, take along a copy of The Woods. Although not about the outdoor activity per se, author/illustrator Paul Hoppe weaves a lovely tale about a boy who goes into the woods to search for his missing stuffed bunny and must muster up courage in the face of scary things, from a big brown bear to a hairy, scary monster. A sweet lesson in being brave and helping others.

The Woods by Paul Hoppe, $15. Available through Amazon.ca.

Fans of Harry and Horsie will be happy to know that the fearless twosome is back in a delicious new adventure. When Harry and Horsie are hungry they turn to the cookie jar, which is way too high for them to reach. No problem! They build a robot tall enough to get the cookies for them, but the plan backfires when the robot gets out of control. Lincoln Agnew’s retro illustrations and Katie Van Camp’s perfectly simple story will mesmerize boys and girls alike.

Cookiebot by Katie Van Camp, $15. Available at Amazon.ca.

Other gems: Fandango Stew by David Davis (manda), Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherry Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld.

6-10 years
Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers
Boys will be boys. As much as we as adults tire easily of the pee and poo jokes, they love them. And so do George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the dynamic duo who turned a whole age group onto reading because of their simple premise for both the Captain Underpants and Super Diaper Baby series – write what they like. In Invasion of the Potty Snatchers, evil genius Dr. Dinkle is transformed into a walking puddle of pee (and the butt of many sarcastic snaps by his cat) after an experiment goes awry. In retaliation, he vows to steal every toilet in town (a humorous ode to Dr. Seuss’s Grinch) unless Super Diaper Baby and his trusty sidekick Diaper Dog can stop him.

Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, $9.50. Available at Amazon.ca.

Daisy Dawson at the Beach
Sometimes the loveliest books are the quietest ones. There are no robots, no monsters, no ribald humor, no mean parents and no evil villains in Daisy Dawson at the Beach, just a young girl on a family camping trip, enjoying the beach and the animals she meets. Although Daisy has a special gift that allows her to talk to the animals, her adventures really lie in the everyday, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary as young kids like to do and as parents we should do more often.

Daisy Dawson at the Beach by Steve Voake, $17. Available through Random House.

Other gems: Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Pierce, Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg.

10-12 years
The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook Ultimate Adventure Everest

School’s out and your tween has no desire to read anything more than the back of a box of cereal? Totally get it. Now hand him or her a copy of this Ultimate Adventure book and watch your reluctant reader shoot through it in no time flat. The thing is, this is no ordinary book – as the reader, and as part of the youngest team ever to climb Everest, he or she has to make the right decisions (stay clipped to the fixed rope or unclip and take shelter? Stay in your tent or run out and hope the avalanche misses you?) to actually reach the top of the mountain. One wrong choice and it’s dreams dashed or worse.

The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook Ultimate Adventure Everest by David Borgenicht, $11. Available at Amazon.ca.

Okay for Now
Is there any hope for a boy who has an abusive father, a bully of a brother and an overall bad attitude towards everything and everyone? Yes, and it comes from a most unlikely place — an Audubon print of a falling Arctic tern. Unhappy eighth-grader Doug Swieteck’s life takes a turn for the better when his family moves to a backwater town, where adults beyond his immediate family see promise in the face of combativeness, see intelligence beyond the bad grades. Part comedy, part tragedy, Okay for Now delivers a gripping story of one boy’s struggle to climb out of the life he’s been dealt and realize that there’s more to the world than baseball and war.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, $15. Available at Amazon.ca.

Other gems: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier, Between Two Ends by David Ward.

13+ years
Beauty Queens
Be warned: this book is laugh out loud funny! When a planeload of beauty pageant contestants crash lands on a deserted island, the surviving teenagers have to organize themselves in order to stay alive. Can they do it? take one part Lord of the Flies, stir in one part Lost and shake a bit of Glee into the mix and you’ve got your answer. Have no idea what that means? Read the book, you won’t be disappointed.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, $15. Available at Amazon.ca.

Blood Red Road
Blood Red Road also begins in a deserted land, but that’s where the similarities between these two YA picks stop. Blood Red Road is a dystopian True Grit, with all the ravaged scenery, the killings and the non-stop action quest by a fierce heroine. Here, 18-year-old Saba sets out to find her kidnapped twin brother, venturing for the first time outside the singular, lonely world her now-dead father caged them in. Author Moira Young’s post-apocalyptic world reads so tangibly and her teenage lead so believably, it’s no wonder the film rights have already been bought by Ridley Scott.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young, $20, available through Random House.

Other gems: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge, I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler, The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han.

First published on SweetMama July 2011.

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