What I’m Reading (To My Kids)
This What I’m Reading post is all children’s books. With the holidays coming, I thought some of you may be looking for a good book to gift to the little people in your life. Here are a few that have been popular in my home.
The Hamster Holmes Series
by Albin Sadar, Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti
Children’s Fiction, Leveled Reader
Hamster Holmes and Dr. Watt are on the case! As a lover of old-fashioned classic mysteries, I couldn’t help picking up this 6-book series for my kids. It was a fun way to introduce them to the mystery genre.
Hamster Holmes (a Hamster) and Dr. Watt (a firefly who speaks in Morse Code, by blinking his light) are, of course, animal versions of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Together they solve simple mysteries that are very age-appropriate for new readers. (For example: that mysterious thumping noise in the night turns out to be a woodpecker.)
A surprise feature that makes them most appealing to my boys, is Dr. Watt’s use of Morse Code. Each book has a table of the Morse Code alphabet, and one of my sons takes great care to decode what Dr. Watt is saying in his speech bubbles before turning the page.
Overall, the Hamster Holmes series is cute and a good way to spark interest in reading. I suspect that they will lose their appeal over time, as mystery books do. (You can only re-read a book so many times when you already know “who done it.”) But, I consider getting kids excited about books an important part of a leveled reader’s job, and these definitely do that.
These leveled readers are approximately 30 pages each with no chapters. They are appropriate for Kindergarten-Grade 2. They are “Level 2,” which means they contain longer sentences and unique vocabulary words, but are still short and simple stories.
Kitten Construction Company
Written & Illustrated by John Patrick Green
Children’s Fiction, Graphic Novel
Kitten Construction Company is a graphic novel designed for the youngest of readers. A graphic novel, if you aren’t familiar with the term, is basically an over-sized comic book. It’s an entire book/novel, told in comic book format. Pictures are plentiful, and the majority of the story is told conversation-style with speech bubbles. They are a great solution if you have a reluctant reader since they are not as daunting as a “real” book, yet they encourage reading because of their page-turner stories. They also often introduce unique and higher grade level words that aren’t found in your average beginner reader, so after hooking your kids, they actually go on to challenge them to grow their vocabulary and reading skills. This style of book gets the mom stamp of approval!
This particular novel, Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens is a cute story about Marmalade the kitten, a fully trained architect (See? Architect. Your kids are already reading big words!) who is frustrated that no one is taking her seriously because she is only a cat. After meeting Samson, another skilled tradescat who isn’t taken seriously either, they decide to find more talented kittens and start their own construction company! Even though they are teased and doubted by others, they stick to their project and prove themselves in the end.
I like the theme of perseverance, the challenging vocabulary words, and the humor that I can enjoy as a parent as I sit and read with my kids. My one critique is that there are no chapters, so you need to find your own spots to take breaks.
This novel is 80 pages long. Children as young as Grade 1 will be able to start reading it, but it will remain challenging and interesting for a few years and grade levels to come. I do recommend reading it alongside your First and Second Grade readers to help them with those tricky big words, while Grade 3+ readers should be able to enjoy it on their own.
The Princess in Black Series
by Shannon & Dean Hale, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Children’s Fiction, Beginner Chapter Books
These books were an instant hit for us. They made my youngest son fall in love with reading for himself. I bought them to read as bedtime stories during our summer road trip, but before too long, my son was reading them to me each night.
The Princess in Black series is up to nine books now. We own the first six. (Secret: My youngest is getting the rest for Christmas!) They star Princess Magnolia, a perfect princess who wears pink dresses and hosts tea parties… until the ring she wears starts actually ringing. Then, she dashes to the closet and emerges as a masked hero: The Princess in Black.
I like these books for many reasons:
- They are action-packed without being too scary, so they are good for sensitive kids
- Themes of bravery, creative problem-solving, and friendship
- They are full of a deadpan humor that even parents will enjoy
- They let children see well-rounded characters that have many different interests, and talents. It shows them that they can be more than one thing (both a girly princess AND a monster-battling ninja hero!)
These books are beginner chapter books. Each book is approximately 90 pages, with 5-page chapters, which is enough for a young reader to read out loud without getting discouraged. Don’t think you’ll get away with only reading one chapter, though. These books are so engaging that we simply have to read them cover-to-cover in one sitting. My First Grader and I take turns reading a chapter each until we are through. They’re very visually appealing with embossed covers and beautiful illustrations. They are excellent read-alouds for boys and girls approximately Kindergarten age and up. First-Third Graders will enjoy learning to read/reading for themselves with these books.
Five Stars from the Lilley household!
The Bad Guys
Written & Illustrated by Aaron Blabey
This book first caught my attention when I saw the trailer for the Dreamworks movie based on this series. I’m glad I checked it out! This book is exactly what I have been looking for for my nearly-nine-year-old son who is Autistic.
Finding books for my son can be a little tricky. He is less social than his peers, but he is not a baby. He has good reading skills and can handle complicated vocabulary words, but he lacks the attention span to read for long periods of time. This dilemma usually leaves me reading age-appropriate books to him, and having him read boring, and unchallenging “baby” books out loud for his reading practice.
It feels like this book was made for him. It is interesting, and challenging. It is spread out with only a couple sentences per page, so it is not intimidating. And it is broken into just-the-right-size chapters so he won’t lose his interest. Neurodiversity parents rejoice!
This book is #1 of a large and still-expanding series. This is the only one we have read, so the only one I can “vouch” for, but so far I love it! This book introduces us to Mr. Wolf, a bad guy with a rap sheet for blowing down pig houses, and impersonating grandmothers, but he is determined to change all that. He gathers a crew of other bad guys–a snake, a shark, and a piranha–to form a “Good Guys Club.” Their mission? To change their reputation by becoming heroes! This proves to be no small feat, since most of the animals they try to save are so afraid of them that they run away!
This book is 138 pages long. The chapters average about 15 pages each. The reading level is approximately Grade 2 and up (Scholastic recommends age 7+). It’s funny, it’s entertaining, and it’s the right amount of reading for my boy. It made him laugh so hard and so long, he had to catch his breath. I absolutely give it a thumbs up!
(That said, I recognize that different families have different rules about appropriate content, so by way of a content warning, you should know that this book contains the word “stupid,” and you should also prepare yourself for fart jokes.)
Disclosure: No affiliations here! While this page may contain links to products, I am not an affiliate or ambassador for any brand. I do not receive commission or kickback of any kind for recommending products. Just sharing stuff I love, and hope it helps someone. If you wish to support my blog in some way, please consider following me on social media and sharing my links with your friends. -Ashley
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