The Big Nate series shares three things in common with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries: it flies off the library shelf, it appeals to all types of readers and is written with text and pictures.
Nate Wright is a sixth grader. He’s not the best student. In fact, he’s trying to avoid having to go to summer school. He has two best friends and a crush on a girl. Sounds like he’s 12, right? Wait until you hear Nate talk about his teachers! Mrs. Godfrey, his social studies teacher, is the worst. “When a teacher snaps and starts screaming, it’s called a Full Godfrey. (When Mrs. Godfrey does it, it’s called Monday.)”
The day Nate gets a fortune cookie that says he “will surpass all others”, turns out to be the worst day ever. He tries lots of different things to “surpass all others.” Whether it’s getting caught trying to set the world record in speed-eating green beans (from the school cafeteria – ick!) or wearing Coach John’s shorts stuffed with paper towels (long story), everything seems to earn Nate detention – everything.
Big Nate hits home with so many of my students. My son read six Big Nate books on one trip. I think it’s because Lincoln Peirce captures a 12 year old’s snarky voice so well. It’s sure to be a hit.
If your students like Big Nate, they’ll also love Lincoln Pierce’s Big Nate comic books.
I love Dan Gutman’s My Weird School series for younger readers, because it is so irreverent. Kids say things in the books that they would actually say to each other, instead of the more “pc” things they say around their parents and teachers. I think that’s what makes the series so successful with its 2nd and 3rd grade fans.
Well, here is the series for older readers – the same snarky, irreverent humor that so appeals to kids with My Weird School, appears in Jim Benton’s Dear Dumb Diary, a real favorite with my 4th-6th graders looking for a funny book. This series tends to be read more by girls.
In her note at the beginning of her “dumb” diary, Jamie Kelly writes, “Dear Whoever is Reading My Dumb Diary, Are you sure you’re supposed to be reading somebody else’s diary? …If you are my parents, then YES, I know that I am not allowed to call people idiots and fools and goons and halfwits and pinheads and all that, but this is a diary and I didn’t actually “call” them anything. I wrote it. And if you punish me for it, then I will know that you read my diary, which I amnot giving you permission to do.” So begins Jamie’s diary and her hatred of “perfect” Angeline, a kid named Mike Pinsetti who has the power to create embarrassing nicknames, and her search to help her good friend Isabelle pick a new “signature” lip gloss.
Ok, the series is NOT deep; but, it is really funny. This series flies off my shelves with its fans reading every book in the series.
I’m so happy to see that graphic novels are expanding to include history, mythology, and adaptations of classics. I have a few readers who will not read anything unless it’s in graphic novel format. They’re big readers and are in the library always looking for new books. They are really excited about this series. I’m excited, because they’re reading American History!
This new series, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales is a funny recounting of the story of Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War spy who famously said, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” In this version, Nathan Hale and the hangman are discussing “last words” and the fact that Nathan Hale should say something memorable before he is hanged. Nathan Hale not only thinks of his last words, but then delays his hanging by recounting the story of the seige of Boston, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and General Howe’s invasion of New York.
This is real American history but presented in a funny and engaging way. I laughed out loud several times at the cleverness of the book. There are two books in the series so far, One Dead Spy and Big Bad Ironclad and more to come. (Thank goodness!) My only regret… is that the pages are not full-color. I think it would add a lot to the book if the illustrations were more attractive. That said, it’s a great series and kids love it.
Recently, there have been a lot of novels written in verse. I like the format and found a few books that I really enjoyed. Here is one that I loved. I thought the diary format and verse helped lighten the difficult issues the main character faces. Short chapters also make it very attractive to reluctant readers. One such reader in my library returned it to me, then promptly checked it out again, because she loved it so much.
Synopsis: This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of Ha, a 10 year old girl living with her family in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Her father is a member of the South Vietnamese navy and is missing in action. Ha lives alone with her mother and brothers. Ha longs for the papayas to ripen on her papaya tree and hopes that her father will return from his mission so that her mother can smile. The family reluctantly leaves South Vietnam with their uncle on a South Vietnamese navy ship. Conditions are terrible on the ship. Everyone is hungry until a U.S. Navy ship arrives, providing food and a tow to a refugee camp in Guam. The family is asked to choose a country where they would like to live. Ha’s mother chooses the United States. Sponsored by a family in Alabama, and dependent on the charity of others, Ha deals with being different struggles learning English.
This book won a Newbery Honor in 2012.
What a book! I read it in one night and was moved to tears by the end of the book. Carley, the main character, has a wry sense of humor that I think middle schoolers and tweens can really relate to. What really recommends this book, though, is the fact that the sixth grader I recommended it to didn’t want to return this book to the library but wanted to keep it because she loved it so much.
Synopsis: Carley Connors ends up in foster care while her mother recovers after being attacked by her stepfather. Carley’s foster mom is Julie Murphy, is a a pretty suburban mom with three small boys. Carley, who was also attacked by her stepfather is haunted by the memory of the attack and has a hard time liking the Murphys. She says of her new home, “The whole place smells like dryer sheets. Reminds me of the Lucky’s Laundromat back in Vegas, but it isn’t nearly as bright.” Carley slowly starts to accept her foster family and even makes a friend at school. Everything is going well until Carley’s mom wakes from her coma and Carley has to go home.