Transitional Readers

Independent Readers

Tried-and-True Book Club Books

    by Lori Ragsdale

If this issue's The Wire has convinced you to start one or more literature circles or book clubs in your program, you may want to start with some of the books listed below: proven book club favorites with a few newer titles mixed in. You may also want to try A Wrinkle in Time using the book club discussion guide in this month's issue.

Transitional Readers

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
When James loses his parents in a terrible rhinoceros accident, he is forced to live with his two mean aunts. After three years of misery, James meets an old man who gives him some magic crystals. The crystals change a peach tree into a giant peach, in which James is finally able to escape. Book clubbers will enjoy discussing the funny characters James meets on his journeys.

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe
A vampire bunny?? The family animals, Chester the cat and Harold the dog, are suspicious when strange things begin to happen after a new pet rabbit joins their household. Kids can center their book discussions on possible reasons for the strange events: Are there reasonable explanations, or is the bunny really a vampire?

The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis
This Newbery Honor book tells of Michael and his great-great-aunt, Dew, who is 100 years old. Dew comes to live with Michael's family when her health begins to fail. She shares with him the story of her box filled with pennies—one penny for each year of her life. Literature circles can discuss the relationship between Michael and Dew and compare it to the relationships in participants' own families.

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
In this novel, Beverly Cleary introduces many of her best-loved characters on Klickitat Street, including Henry Huggins and his new puppy, Ribsy. Readers can compare the setting of these stories, written in the fifties and early sixties, with their own present-day neighborhoods.

Junie B., First Grader: Boo ... and I Mean It! by Barbara Park
The newest volume in the Junie B. Jones series finds Junie B. as precocious and funny as ever. In this story, Junie B. is afraid that real monsters and witches go trick-or-treating on Halloween and that the pointy teeth on jack-o'-lanterns will bite her. Readers will enjoy discussing Junie B. Jones' antics and misunderstandings in this book, or any other in the series.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
When Chester Cricket accidentally turns up in New York City, his lovely songs catch the attention of the inhabitants of Times Square. Chester is befriended by a boy named Mario, Tucker the mouse, and Harry the cat. If your participants know New York, turn discussion to the familiar landmarks; if they don't, the characters' adventures should still keep them talking.

Independent Readers

Heartbeat by Sharon Creech
This story about a 12-year-old runner, Annie, is told in free verse. The poems tell of Annie's love for running and of the ways she accepts and embraces the changes going on in her life. A book of poetry that nevertheless tells a story will make a nice change from prose fiction in your literature circle, as readers can discuss the poetic style as well as their understanding of and relation to the events in Annie's life.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Ten-year-old Bud Caldwell lives in depression-era Michigan. The orphaned boy, tired of living in abusive foster homes, sets out to find Herman E. Calloway, the man Bud thinks can lead him to his father. Armed with a poster of Herman E. Calloway with his band of renown, Bud makes his way to a new life and to new understanding of a family he never knew. Children Bud's age and older can discuss their own family situations in relation to Bud's search for his father.

Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy by Jenny Nimmo
The adventures of Charlie Bone—this is the third book in the series Children of the Red King—are similar to those of Harry Potter, but are somewhat simpler and may be easier for younger readers to understand. Comparisons of Charlie's and Harry's magical powers and interesting problems should make for lively discussions.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
The fifth in the Harry Potter series finds 15-year-old Harry facing adolescent issues along with the never-ending adventures at Hogwarts. Older readers can identify with and discuss Harry's teenage issues; they may also be able to "help" Harry figure out how to convince everyone that Lord Voldemort will indeed return.

Holes by Louis Sacher
Unlucky Stanley Yelnats finds himself banished to a camp for juvenile delinquents after he is unjustly accused of stealing a pair of sneakers. At Camp Green Lake, Stanley joins other "delinquents" in trying to survive and support each other as they work out their sentences; part of their strategy involves digging holes to try to find a treasure. Young adolescents will be able to identify with Stanley's injustices and the hero he becomes.

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
In this first book in the Series of Unfortunate Events, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire learn of the tragic fire that claimed the lives of their parents. Their lives go from bad to worse as they go to live with evil Count Olaf. Olaf is only interested in the orphans' fortune, which he tries to acquire by threatening to marry 14-year-old Violet. Kids will root for the Baudelaire orphans in all of the books in the series, and the plights of the three children will make for interesting discussions.

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