I was snuggling with my son at bedtime recently and thought he’d fallen asleep. I was enjoying the quiet and psyching myself up to do that slow slither out of bed to avoid waking him. Just as I started to stretch one leg off the bed, my son suddenly says to me, “Mom, I had a good day at school.”
Sometimes I second-guess our life choices and then one of my kids will say something like this and I think “Phew. We’re okay. It’s all working out.”
I was certain he’d had a good day because it was Active Week at school and they had done tennis and gymnastics that particular day. Or maybe because of lunch. He likes lunch and outside play time. But no. He told me he had a good day because he read a book about robots making cars and how robots can make cars 24 hours a day.
He had all of these other really specific facts about robots too. So I asked him if he read this book or if his teacher read it. “I read it, mom.” Then I asked him if he just looked at the pictures or if he read the words too? I know, awesome parenting moment. But he’s 6, so I was trying to understand how the learning and reading were progressing. He said, “I looked at the pictures and read the words. Ms. Dempsey said I did a good job reading. I read a lot of books today.”
The last thing on his mind at the end of the day was a compliment from his teacher and a book about robots. Consider my heart melted.
Reading will open the world to him and I can see glimpses of that happening already.
Here’s the best of what my kids (boy, age 6 and girl, age 9) and I have read recently. There have been other books that were okay, but these were the books that stood out and are worth sharing.
The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
We recently read The Astounding Broccoli Boy and it was about a boy who is bullied who turns green. The doctors didn’t understand what had caused his skin to change color, but the boy figured it was because he had become a superhero. A series of fantastic adventures unfold from there.
This was a long book and I wouldn’t have minded if it was a wee bit shorter. However, my kids loved it because the story was highly engaging and just real enough to make them imagine being in the characters’ shoes. There were twists and turns and in the end, all the plot points came together. Sprinkled throughout the book were messages about being bullied, the bullies themselves and self-worth.
This is the very last paragraph of the book and I wish every kid out there who feels like they don’t fit in would be able to take this message to heart.
“And I thought, the best thing about people is how different they are. When we went green, people wanted us to stop being green, to be the same as everyone else again. But it was only because we were different that we could be astounding. The thing that makes you different is the thing that makes you astounding. The thing that makes you different from everyone else – that’s your superpower.” – the character Rory in Frank Cottrell Boyce’s book, The Astounding Broccoli Boy
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I picked Wonder up at the bookstore and was ready to bring it home, but then my daughter looked at it and said, “we’re reading that at school.”
My daughter’s teacher reads to the class everyday at lunchtime. I can’t tell you how much I love this practice. My daughter seems to like it too!
Anyway, my daughter told me this book was really, really good. In fact, it’s going to be made into a movie soon.
To quote the book jacket: “August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face… In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”
Brilliant by Roddy Doyle
I have never heard the word “brilliant” uttered more than in my time living in Dublin. Or “brill” as some of the moms like to text. I still can’t do that. If you’d like to learn some Irish lingo and take a pretty accurate tour of Dublin, this book, Brilliant, nails it.
But that’s just the surface level and this book addresses a much deeper issue – depression. It was interesting to read about an adult topic in a children’s book. As depression’s reach is far and wide, it made me wonder how kids process this reality.
Roddy Doyle’s approach to tackling this topic definitely brought it down to my kids’ level. They didn’t ask me a lot of questions about depression. They were more interested in the characters’ adventure through the city. But one night they did ask me about people being sad. It was a gentle way of letting them know that being sick isn’t always just about the sniffles.
Despite this book sounding like it was a downer, it wasn’t. The kids and I enjoyed it. It made them think a little and me too. Always a good thing.
I liked what this reviewer on GoodReads had to say: “What adults will like: The book’s accessible treatment of depression, the fantastic writing (especially the dialogue – which Doyle is really a master of), the positive and hopeful themes, and the romp through Dublin (an expert tour if there ever was one). What kids will like: The sibling hijinks, the talking animals, forbidden nighttime adventures, the quest to do the right thing, jokes, and victory at the end. The book might not work for every reader, but there’s something in it for readers of all ages.”
The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snaer Magnason
The kids and I devoured this book about a planet where only children live. No one knows how old the kids are or how they got there, but each day is filled with danger, excitement and simple pleasures. What’s not to love, right?
Things are happy and perfect on the planet until a stranger crash lands. An adult.
There were SO MANY real life lessons hidden in The Story of the Blue Planet. For instance, how what we do might make our lives better, but it might come at a cost to someone else.
Or, what happens if the sun really does go away? Can plants grow in darkness? Can animals survive?
Or, how the truth can be manipulated.
Or, how the majority is not always right – because the truth is manipulated or they get caught up in the moment – and how doing the right thing can be very difficult.
Or, how the most generous people are sometimes those who have the least to give.
I could go on and on.
The Story of the Blue Planet was written back in 1999 by an Icelandic author and it wasn’t translated into english until a few years ago.
If there is one book you read this year, this should be it. It was SO engrossing. My kids begged me to read this book when it wasn’t “story time.” They begged me for just one more chapter each night and I was glad because I wanted to read more too!
Here are past posts on books we LOVE
1. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 2
2. Books My Kids Are Reading Now (Part 1)
3. Two Children’s Books That Made My Eyes Leak – Cried my eyes out. Still my favorite books.
4. Star Wars Phonics Books – These worked miracles at encouraging my son to read
If you know of some books my kids might enjoy, please let me know. We are continually on a quest for new stories to devour. Starting a new book makes us so happy. Finishing a good book always makes us a little wistful…until we start the next one!