Past the “read me a story” stage? Try these books next!
If your young reader’s relationship with books has progressed beyond sitting quietly as you read aloud to them, this roundup is for you. We’ve gathered three titles of varying lengths and difficulty levels that are perfect for readers ready to go it alone. Each is sure to challenge and delight kiddos who are on their way to tackling stories independently.
Baloney and Friends
Greg Pizzoli’s Baloney and Friends, a collection of short tales presented as a graphic novel, is the first entry in a new series. A scene-stealer from the start, Baloney is a precocious pig that little ones are sure to adore. In the introductory tale, he tries to hog the spotlight, but he’s soon joined by his pals, who are all equally deserving of attention. There’s Peanut, an imperturbably good-natured horse; Krabbit, a crotchety cottontail; and Bizz, a very wise bee.
Pizzoli brings the crew’s contrasting dispositions to vivid life in cleverly designed comic panels. When Baloney tries to stage a magic show, Krabbit is skeptical of his skills, while Peanut, a pushover, falls for Baloney’s tricks. Bizz, meanwhile, serves as the voice of reason throughout the proceedings. Whether Baloney is feeling sad or trying to disguise his fear of water when his friends go swimming, his chums will always cheer him up. Pizzoli’s colorful illustrations and easy-to-take-in text will attract up-and-coming readers and leave them wanting more madcap episodes of “the one and only Baloney!”
Charlie & Mouse Outdoors
Story lovers ready to take on a more intricate tale will enjoy Laurel Snyder’s Charlie & Mouse Outdoors. Featuring charming artwork by Emily Hughes, it’s the latest entry in Snyder’s beloved Charlie & Mouse series. This time around, brothers Charlie and Mouse trek into the woods with their parents for an overnight stay that’s full of surprises.
On the long car ride to the campsite, the boys are bored, but once they hit the hiking trails, the excitement begins. During a walk, they battle a big bush monster and get startled by a wild pig. Afterward in their tent, they shut out the spooky stuff by focusing on things that are nice. “You know what isn’t ever scary?” Charlie says. “Kittens!” As darkness falls, they roast marshmallows with a little direction from Dad. Sundown also brings storytime, a cozy conclusion to an eventful day.
In Hughes’ delicate yet expressive illustrations, Charlie and Mouse are endearing brown-eyed boys awakening to the wonders of the big wild world around them. Their latest chronicle will engage youngsters while helping them build reading skills and confidence.
Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom
Self-reliant readers primed for a longer, more substantial story will find big fun in Louis Sachar’s Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom. The fourth entry in Sachar’s popular Wayside School series (and the first new Wayside title in 25 years!), Cloud of Doom documents the daily doings of the oddball institution. Wayside is still no ordinary school; Principal Kidswatter shrieks into a microphone to signal the start of the day, and Miss Mush, who runs the cafeteria, serves up pepper-only pizza and spaghetti and feetballs.
Mrs. Jewls’ class is back, too, and filled with the usual suspects, including curmudgeonly Kathy; Dana, an expert at making funny faces; and Jason, who somehow manages to read a 999-page book. Everyone is stressing over a big exam called the Ultimate Test when the formidable Cloud of Doom appears. All manner of strange incidents ensue, and the students struggle to stay on task.
“Someday, the Cloud of Doom will be gone,” Mrs. Jewls predicts. “And the world will be a much better place. . . . Even Miss Mush’s food will taste good.” Does her forecast come true? Readers will have to find out for themselves. Sachar’s off-the-wall take on academic life is enlivened by Tim Heitz’s ace illustrations. It all makes for an A-plus read from start to finish.