Top Ten Books to Get Your Reluctant Reader for Christmas

When my kids—who are now 15 and 9—were younger, I read to them every night at bedtime. And they both used to be good readers. As they’ve gotten older, it’s become harder and harder to muster the energy to fight them to get off their screens for the time it takes to read to them, or to read to themselves as homework. So, I’ve become more purposeful, strategic, and creative in my approach to getting them to read. I do this because I believe strongly that there are books out there for everyone to enjoy, and reviving my kids’ love of reading will help them be happier in the long run.

But being more purposeful, strategic, and creative doesn’t mean that I’m forcing them to sit down and read Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations in one sitting. It means that I try to parent in a way that is firm but also ties in with their interests and builds on their strengths. I encourage them to explore what, if anything, might make them happy about reading. I emphasize balance and moderation in all that we do. I’ve still got a lot to do; we all know that parenting is a process, not a destination. But here are 10 books that I and my kids have enjoyed or greatly benefited from. They’ve helped us in our journey of improving my kids’ reading experiences, and, with the deals I’ve provided, might help you too!

Top 10 Books for Reluctant Readers

10. Fly Guy by Ted Arnold

Evan, my 9-year-old reluctant reader, and I discovered these about three years ago at the library. They’re not text-heavy, and they’ve got big illustrations. When I give Evan “buck-a-book” challenges—where he gets $1 for each book he reads (more for chapter books, etc.) to earn money for toys he wants, etc.—these are his go-to books. They’re easy and dynamic (i.e., you often have to twist the book upside-down to write text in all different directions). And I think there’s something about the “gross factor” that appeals to him (i.e., it’s about a kid’s pet fly and their adventures in garbage and imagination).

Fly Guy and the Frankenfly is $4.99 on Amazon.


In big green letters: "Fly Guy and the Frankenfly", with an illustrated green fly with bulging eyes and screws protruding from the sides of its head, walking with hands outstretched like a zombie,

9. Amazing World of Gumball by Megan Brennan (Author), Ben Bocquelet (Creator), Katy Farina (Illustrator)

Sometimes, the best way to get your kids to read is to get them books that tie in with what they’re watching on other channels. My kids used to love the Amazing World of Gumball when it was on Netflix, so they gobbled down the Gumball books I got for them.

The Amazing World of Gumball Original Graphic Novel: Cheat Code is on sale on Amazon for $9.30. That’s more than $4 off it’s original price.

"Amazing World of Gumball: Cheat Code" above a picture of a villainous, armored wolf scowling down at Gumball and his siblings, who are all dressed and looking like fighters...on top of some kind of game controller.

8. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

This book doesn’t have a lot of text either, but it’s so cool in its message and the way it’s portrayed. It’s not your typical Dr. Seuss book at all. It’s about how our emotions relate to colors. It’s a great way to help young  readers (and even older ones) articulate their feelings. Of the book, GoodReads says that it was based off a manuscript that he wrote in 1973, but didn’t publish during his lifetime. He couldn’t find the right visual artist to effectively convey the message he wanted. Somehow, the right artists found the book, or vice versa, in the early 90’s, and “using a spectrum of vibrant colors and a menagerie of animals, this unique book does for the range of human moods and emotions what Oh, the Places You’ll Go! does for the human life cycle.”

And I found it for only $3.95 on BetterWorldBooks.com, with free shipping.

"My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss" in black in front of a large red circle surrounded by squares of various sizes and colors, on a black background.

7. Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

Some may scoff at my inclusion of this book on this list, but I think it’s a very useful book, thank you very much. In the same way that My Many Colored Days artistically connects emotions and color, Go Away Big Green Monster connects nightmares with pictures. Its premise is that it’s best to disassemble whatever’s scaring the reader, in the same way that the narrator’s disassemble the face of the Big Green Monster, page by page, until there’s nothing left. You could say that this could be a young kid’s first “self-help” book.

And a new, hardback copy is $2 off on Amazon.

"Go Away, Big Green Monster!" by Ed Emberley in a large yellow square, partially hiding the face of a "monster with a large blue-ish greenish nose, yellow eyes, and squiggly purpose hair, in front of a black background

6. Fortnite Season 6 Guide

Some may scoff too at the inclusion of a book about a popular video game on a list of books to get reluctant readers reading, but if they’re as interested in the game as my kids continue to be, this is a good book to get. There may be a million YouTube videos about other people playing the game (which I don’t get, by the way. Why would you want to watch someone else play the game when you could be playing yourself?), but very few of them are actually designed to help other players (i.e., your kids). Likewise, one can find game chat boards and walkthroughs online, but those aren’t always the most helpful either. This puts more power at your kids’ fingertips, and it gets them reading. It’s a win-win.

And this particular book is recently-published, with a ton of tips and strategies. Of all the books on Fortnite in GoodReads, this was the highest-rated. It’s $18.12 for three books, down from $18.95.

"Fortnite Season 6 Guide 3 Books in 1: Advanced tips & strategies for jumping into season 6"

 

5. Top Gear: Top 500 Coolest Cars Ever Made by Matt Master

Again, fiction might not be your child’s “thing,” and cars might, so a book like this, especially because it ties in with another one of my kids’ favorite Netflix shows, is Top Gear’s Top 500 Coolest Cars Ever Made. It’s too bad we can’t go back to the good ol’ days when Jeremy and the producers of Top Gear got along so we could watch them make “bumper cars” for old ladies and race/get stuck/race through the wilds of Africa, right? But I digress. This book is $5.25 on Amazon.

"Top Gear: The Cool 500 The coolest cars ever made" in caution-tape yellow and black, over a grayscale compilation of various new and old luxury cars.

4. Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce

People debate about the effectiveness of the graphic novel in getting kids to progress in their reading abilities, but I say, get them to really enjoy reading first, and their desire to read harder and harder books will develop as a side effect of their growing interest in whatever they’re reading about. My oldest read all of the Big Nate books, and has now passed them down to my youngest.

And Big Nate on a Roll is $3.49 through NewEgg.

"Big Nate on a Roll" above a cartoon Nate on a skateboard.

3. Geronimo Stilton 

Forget the kids, I loved these books. They’re kind of like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH meets Get Smart, the TV series. Geronimo, the main character, is a newspaper reporter/unwitting adventure seeker, and he tells his tales with lots of color and excitement, like this:

They’re chapter books, but with flair. And the first one, Geronimo Stilton and the Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye, is $4 off it’s original $7 price on Amazon, making it $3.99.

"Geronimo Stilton: Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye" above an illustrated mouse with a terrified expression on his face holds on to someone who's controlling the motorcycle he's riding.

2.  Destiny 2 Collector’s Edition Guide by Prima Publishing

Along the lines of connecting what your kids read with what they’re really interested in, if they’re anything like me, they will probably have played, or at least heard of the Destiny video game, especially a new expansion pack has just been released. If they haven’t played all the way through Destiny 2 yet in preparation for getting the Forsaken expansion pack, they should, and they should read this too. Yes, they might be able to figure out what they need to get unstuck, if they’re stuck, from watching various YouTube videos (I think IGN Walkthroughs and Happy Thumbs Gaming are the most helpful), but this book has everything they’ll need not only to complete the game, but immerse themselves in it. It is a TOME. It’s huge. It was $40 when we bought it, but now it’s only $23.64.

"Destiny 2 Collector's Edition Guide" showing three versions of the large, hardbound book: one with a slipcover showing a large metal planet hovering over 3 armed people, and two without showing characters from the game, one with white and red armor, and the other with gray and yellow.

 

Now, are you ready for my number one recommendation? Drum roll please…. It’s…

1. Guinness Book of World Records 2018

What?, you say. “That’s not even a ‘real’ book,” you say? I say, for purposes of getting your reluctant reader to read, probably for hours on end…with nary a screen in sight…this is one of the best. This year’s edition, like all the ones before it, was full of odd and amazing pictures and descriptions creatively laid out. It matches, I think, the shorter attention span of today’s readers, but because of it’s thickness, encourages them to read a ton, just in sizable chunks.

And it’s almost $10 off. You’re welcome.

"Guinness World Records 2018"

There you go!

Let me know what your kids think of these books

or

If you’ve found other books that your reluctant reader(s) has/have enjoyed, what were those books?

 

 

 

 

Book Review & Deal: Lost Years of Merlin, For $3.46

You know when you’re looking for a book to capture your kids’ imagination, or find one that’ll make them realize that they actually like to read? Maybe you make your kids keep their brain’s active during the summer, like me, or you have a child that’s a voracious reader and are struggling to keep up with their demand for books. Or maybe you’re an adult looking for a fanciful read yourself. For all of you, I recommend Merlin: The Lost Years, Book 1 by T.A. Barron. It’s one of those books that is just fanciful enough to enchant even the most recalcitrant reader, but plenty fanciful for those who like a good escape. I read it for the first time as an adult a few years ago, and enjoyed it alot. Merlin: The Lost Years, Book 1 is a great book for which I found a great deal.

What Is Merlin, The Lost Years About?

From Goodreads:

A raging sea tosses a boy upon the shores of ancient Wales. Left for dead, he has no memory, no name, and no home. But it is his determination to find out who he is – to learn the truth about his mysterious powers – that leads him to a strange and enchanted land. And it is there he discovers that the fate of this land and his personal quest are strangely entwined. He is destined to become the greatest wizard of all time–known to all as Merlin.

Who Would Like The Lost Years And Why?

The Lost Years reminds me slightly me Penric’s Demon by Louis McMaster Bujold, as well as The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. They’re mysterious, rural, a little bit moody, with young protagonists. It also shares a lot of elements with The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper, which I also highly recommend; it’s about kids on a quest that brings them in touch with ancient powers. If you or your kids like “quest” books (think 39 Clues), books about kids with powers, or books set in wild, old England, you’ll like this book. There are seven books in the series, mind you, so if you get started with one, you’ll probably have to read the rest.

What’s The Deal?

If you buy The Lost Years from Amazon, it’s $7.10 to $8.99, depending on whether you want a Kindle or paperback copy. BetterWorldBooks.com has a copy, however, for $3.46 with free shipping. That’s a $3.62 difference.

 

Book Review: Quiet As A Church Mouse, an Imaginative Picture Book

Looking at a children’s book from the perspective of my children is always a tricky thing because their reading tastes continually change as they get older. What appealed to my oldest, who is now a teenager, when he was quite young, is not the same thing that has ever appealed to my youngest, who is now nine. Yet, I believe I’ve read enough of them (hundreds) by now, with them, that I can say that not all picture books are created equal. For one to be good, it needs to provoke the imagination, both with text and illustrations, engage as many senses as possible, and basically, just be fun. If it provokes thought, that’s a bonus. I Can Be Quiet As A Church Mouse, written by Stephen Bevan and illustrated by Jeff Harvey, is a picture book that does pretty good on both counts.

What Is Quiet As A Church Mouse About?

“I used to have trouble sitting reverently,” reads the first page of the book, “so my mom said I should be as quiet as a church mouse.” The rest of the twenty-seven pages of this book strive to answer the question in terms of what young Stephen Bevan imagined a church mouse to be. “Is it a spy?” he asks on one page. “Is it sneaky?” he asks on another. Each illustration depicts a mouse in the various scenarios he imagines, and they really are cute illustrations that are just detailed enough to draw in a 3 – 6 year-old child without overwhelming him or her. The question itself is a good one to provoke imagination in a child, since no one actually seems to know what a church mouse really is.

If there were one thing that might confuse a child, it is that the author refers to himself as “I” at the beginning. The fact that it’s the author speaking, as opposed to the main character of the book, a red-headed little boy, isn’t clear. As an adult, and someone who’s conversed with the author via email, I understand that, but a child might not.

Who Would Like Quiet As A Church Mouse?

Anyone, no matter the Christian denomination, who has kids who are toddler age on up to about 6 or 7.

Do You Want to Win a Copy of Quiet As A Church Mouse?

I’ve got an extra copy I’ll give away to a random entrant who uses the Rafflecopter form below and completes the steps:

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And, if you’d like a “behind-the-scenes” look at the book and Stephen’s writerly process, subscribe to my newsletter!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, Cedar Fort, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Reviews: I Can Love Like Jesus, and “A” is for Adam

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been looking for “comfort reads” lately, and I found two more that meet that criteria, although for different reasons than Love Remains did. I Can Love Like Jesus, written by Heidi Poelman and illustrated by Chase Jensen, and A is for Adam, written by Heidi Poelman and illustrated by Maggie Coburn, are Christian children’s books, and the simple truths I believe they contain and the beautiful ways in which they’re expressed brought peace to me.

I Can Love Like Jesus

This page from I Can Love Like Jesus demonstrates both the simplicity and beauty of the whole book:

It says: “When a blind man asked Jesus for help, Jesus blessed him and gave him sight. I can respond when someone needs help, like Jesus.” Having taught children in various LDS congregations for almost 20 years, I can attest to how difficult it can be to translate ethereal, abstract spiritual concepts, like striving to be like Jesus, into concrete actions that they can see themselves doing. But those lines of text, and the accompanying picture do that easily. You’ll notice in this picture that Jesus healing the blind man is depicted in the clouds behind the girl helping the younger girl who scraped her knee; every page has a similar depiction that relates to the text of that page. This is a book that my 8-year-old read easily; its 350 word count and engaging, well-done illustrations would make this a good read for any child from first grade on up, or for the parents of such a child.

A is for Adam

This book, a child’s compendium of Bible heroes, reminds me of Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book, only with a little bit more text and, of course, more religion. That was one of those books that both of my boys, when they were in their preschool and kindergarten years, loved to have me read to them over and over. Each page represents a letter of the alphabet, and each letter a hero of the Bible. “S,” for instance” is for “Shadrach.” A brief paragraph explains who each person was and why he or she was a hero. Halfway through the book, and again at the end, there is a summary page of half of the alphabet and what each letter in that half stands for.

It’s also similar to Brad Meltzer’s Heroes for my Son, which I reviewed here.  I feel like I could easily make multiple family home evenings using those two books, to spark conversation about what kinds of actions makes a person be the kind that other people look up to.