Mar 262020
Neel’s must read list of 15 for every tween! #kbcKeepCalmAndReadOn
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I am writing this post on behalf of my 8 year old son Neel, who is an avid bookworm as a part of the #kbcKeepCalmAndReadOn Campaign. Life with Neel is especially fun as he has a very inquisitive mind. I call him a “trivia junkie” because he loves to explore books and resources that have a lot of trivia. Since schools closed down on March 14th, we have been completely home bound like many of you, and I have made it my personal endeavour that Neel gets to explore new genres from new authors and actively reads a wider variety of books.

These are the books that he has read since March 15th, and I am not counting the multiple re-reads he has done of some of these as well as the books he already has on his bookshelves. The re-read favourites, not surprisingly, include Tom Gates’ series, Wimpy Kid’s series, and a few Geronimo Stiltons and Harry Potter series.

  1. El Deafo by Cece Bell

I chanced upon this book earlier this month on Amazon, and loved the idea of it. This is non-fiction graphic novel format memoir of the author/Illustrator Cece Bell. She grew up in the 70’s in America as a hearing impaired child and that was fraught with challenges. This book takes us through her childhood until she was around 10-11 years of age. The format is that of a graphic novel or comic, which I am increasingly discovering is a brilliant way to read between the lines. My son loved the book, so much so, that he read it cover to cover three times in 2 days, and then when I finally wrested the book from him to read myself, he would just lurk behind me looking over my shoulder and trying to read it all over again. I recommend this highly for the age group 8+ as well as for parents to build a better understanding of inclusive behaviour in themselves and their kids. The cherry on the cake for me was that once we had both read the book, we talked about how my son and his friends interact with children who have learning or physical disabilities.

2. Everyone’s a Aliebn When ur a Aliebn Too by Jonathan Sun

This is a gem of a book. My son loved it, he hugs it and sometimes also sleeps with it. For me this was a chance discovery on Amazon, and I loved the idea of it.

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too is the illustrated story of a lonely alien sent to observe Earth and meet humans, only to meet all sorts of creatures with all sorts of perspectives on life, love, and happiness, all while learning to feel a little better about being an alien – based on the enormously popular Twitter account, @jonnysun. With all of us being home-bound and humanity being tested everyday, this book truly holds a lot of life lessons for all of us.  The book is great for 6+ I would say but makes for an equally riveting read for grownups too.

3. Aranyanka: Book of the Forest by Amruta Patil and Devdutt Pattanaik

I am positively biased towards books written by Devdutt Pattanaik and Amruta Patil is one of India’s first female graphic novelist. I hadn’t researched it much since it had a high rating, but it looked a bit out of his usual reading patterns and seemed like it would give him something to think about environment and conservation. As per the authors, Aranyaka is about the great forests within us, and without. It is about food, feeding and love. Braiding the stories of three spirited rishikas—Katyayani the Large, Maitreyi the Fig and Gargi the Weaver—it explores the fears and hungers that underpin all human interactions.

While Neel said he liked it, I personally think this is better suited for an older age group. From gender politics to man-animal conflict to appropriation of forest land, issues that have brought people out on India’s streets in recent times run through its pages, and draw lessons from the Vedic age. I would recommend this for 10+ but if your child is an advanced reader like mine, by all means have them start with this early and then this is a great book for keeps and having them re-read and analyse it as they grow older. 

4. Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleburger and Cece Bell

My son loved El Deafo by Cece Bell, that he wanted to explore some of her other books.

The authors – Tom and Cece are a husband-wife team and have created a great read for young readers. This is part of a book series about a mystery-solving Venus flytrap. It is a chapter-based books meant for early readers, and there are illustrations on almost every page. It is funny, it is whacky, and it does imbibe values around inclusion and equality for the disabled. Great for 6+ age group.

5. Martin Luther King Jr. by Kitson Jazynka (National Geographic Kids)

My son’s school had some assignment around Martin Luther King Jr. so I thought this would be a great supplementary resource for him to check out. He read this as a read-aloud book on a reading app we use.

The book is meant for 7+ and is perfect for kids to learn about the fascinating life and legacy of the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. What Neel and I really liked about the book was that it talks about difficult concepts in a very simplified way. The book uses beautiful pictures, and lots of timelines, diagrams and sidebars to keep their attention to keep kids’ attention on its pages. 

6. Primary Source Reader: Martin Luther King Jr. by Wendy Conklin

My son dived into this because he was in full research mode on MLK. He read this book in a few minutes to learn a little bit more about the life and accomplishments of the civil rights leader, highlighting important events, the historical context, and his influence.

He had lots of questions about MLK and the racial discrimination that the African-Americans faced in the US. He personally finds those time unjust and cruel. This book is meant for 7+ age group. He read this online via his reading app.

7.       Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

I am committed to instil gender-neutral thinking in my son, and that education can’t start when he is older. Hence, I make it a point to pick up more literature about pioneering women. I picked this up alongwith another one that is about Women in Sports. He hasn’t got around to the latter but has been reading this one with much interest.

This has brilliant bio sketches and stories of women who have been pioneers. Some have earned a lot of recognition in their times or later in history. But many have not. This book introduces young minds to some amazing women in sciences – inventors, discoverers, explorers, risk takers and life savers. From lesser known ancient mathematician and philosopher Hypatia to the more famous women like Ada Lovelace or Marie Curie, the book is written well, covers quite a bit of detail in the one page they have on each of them. The illustrations and infographics are very beautiful, my only complaint is the font size – its tiny! It is a great book for 6+ age group.

8. Amulet: Prince of the Elves (Book 5) by Kazu Kibuishi

My son borrowed this book from his friend and this was his first book in the Amulet series.  He was hooked from the first page. The series follows a graphic novel format and is great for the age group 7-12. There is a lot of fantasy, and the illustrations are beautiful.

This particular book is a story about a war between humans and elves that has been brewing for more than 50 years and is coming to the city of Cielis. The central character Emily, her brother, Navin, and the people and creatures around them must face the past in order to survive the future. The book ties a few backstories and so now my son can’t wait to read the other parts of the series.

9. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

As with most children’s classics, and especially those with Old English, the reading becomes a joint endeavour. This one was no exception. My son and I read this together over multiple sessions at bedtime.

The story is so brilliantly imaginative that it almost seems real. It is based in 16th century England and as the name suggests, a prince and a pauper exchange their places. During a chance encounter, the two realize they are identical and, as a lark, decide to exchange clothes and roles – a situation that briefly, but drastically, alters the lives of both youngsters. My son liked the story but was quite distressed especially in the parts where some child gets beaten up or people are publicly flogged and executed. For him, this was a world he knew nothing about and no matter how much I tried to explain about the practices of those times, he almost hated Mark Twain for it. We were both quite relieved when at the end, all turns out to be well.

10. Bad Dad by David Walliams

I picked a bunch of David Walliams book from an airport bookshop a few weeks ago, in those times when traveling was considered a normal activity. What drew me to them was the description about David Walliams as a modern-day Roald Dahl. I thought you couldn’t really go wrong with that. Walliam’s books are meant for 8+ age group mostly.

It took a bit of cajoling to make my son read it. One because he hadn’t heard about this author before and two, he was in the middle of three other books at that point. Bad Dad was the first one he picked up, and while I personally think the story is great, for my son it hasn’t quite clicked. In this particular book, a young boy and his dad are on an adventure but there is quite a bit about single parenting, the young child managing things on his own, the dad going to prison and the two on the run…it is a bit sad (esp. from a 8yo’s perspective). The illustrations by Tony Ross are great overall. I haven’t given up hope though and really think I will get my son hooked onto David Walliams.

11. Out of Time: Lost on the Titanic (Book 1) by Jessica Rinker and Bethany Stancliffe

Allie and Vic Taylor are just regular kids who help out in their parents’ antique shop. Until one day, when they find they can travel through time! This is an Epic! original series (Epic! is the online reading app we have been using for the past three years). This is meant for 7+ age group and the series is about time-traveling kids who explore important moments in history.

What my son liked about this one was that it has the kids travel back to the Titanic before it sank, and through this book he got to explore the ship. He loved that there was time travel involved, and that there was a bit of trivia to explore at the end of the book. He is looking forward to reading other books in the series.

12. Unexplained Mysteries Series (Epic series)

What can I say apart from saying that my son is seriously interested in the bizarre and unexplained often times. These books are short (read-aloud) and very graphic. They try and explain the unnatural phenomenon that have intrigued adults and children alike. My son is utterly fascinated by these. He has explored and read a number of them from this series:

  • Unexplained Mysteries: Ghosts by Nadia Higgins
  • Unexplained Mysteries: Atlantis by Lisa Owings
  • Unexplained Mysteries: The Bermuda Triangle by Ray McClellan
  • Unexplained Mysteries: Aliens Abduction by Ray McClellan

I can’t really say if he has turned out any bit wiser after reading these but like I have said earlier I don’t mind him treading on to the unknown if he wants to.

13. National Geographic Readers: Mummies by Elizabeth Carney

Why were mummies mummified? These mysterious corpses provide a fascinating window on the past of cultures worldwide. This book has. While the book does provide solid science behind the myths, it has also got plenty of ghoulish intrigue to keep young readers reading.

Neel liked the combination of fun, facts, jokes and nice photos that the book had. There is a lesson on how to make a funny mummy cartoon too. I thought it was great to have him explore this morbid topic in such a fun way and this was a great way for us to relive some memories from our trip to Egypt a few years ago. I highly recommend the National Geographic Readers for kids especially for the age group 5-10 years.

14. Geronimo Stilton Series:

Our kids just love Geronimo Stilton, don’t they? For months I thought that my son was not too fond of them, because he has never asked me to buy any of them but I recently realised that he “LOVES” them (in fact he made sure he shouted it out loud and clear with lots of action to ensure I remembered that!). He read:

  • The Dragon of Fortune
  • Time Machine Trouble (Heromice #7)

Both these were borrowed titles from a friend, and like all others he quite liked them.

In the Dragon of Fortune, Geronimo Stilton travels on the wings of the Dragon of Fortune back to the Kingdom of Fantasy on the request of the Queen (Blossom). The amazing Geronimo Stilton proves his worth yet again by finding a lost ring that had magical powers.

In Time Machine Trouble, The Heromice travels through time to save the rodents of the past – and the future – from the Sewer Rats.

By the way, all you moms and dads with kids who love Geronimo Stilton, do you know who the real author of these books is? Clearly it cannot be a mouse, no matter how smart, as my son would like me to believe.

15. The Big Nate Series by Lincoln Peirce

I admit I have not attempted to read Big Nate but clearly these are in the favourites list for my son. He loves them and who am I to pass judgment, after all haven’t we all read our share of trashy comics…Big Nate is kind of fun and contemporary, and clearly our kids relate very strongly to them. For the uninitiated, Big Nate series chronicles the small and large dramas of life of Nate Wright and his friends, who are in the sixth grade. The illustrations are fun, clean lines and all that, and there is definitely some nudging the kids towards socially acceptable and good behaviour. Neel has read the following in the series this past week:

  • Big Nate Revenge of the Cream Puffs
  • Big Nate Dibs on this Chair
  • Big Nate Say Goodbye to Dork City
  • Big Nate Makes the Grade
  • Big Nate Silent but Deadly
  • Big Nate Thunka Thunka Thunka
  • Big Nate Pray for a Fire Drill

I really hope you enjoy browsing through this list and picking up a few for your kids if it catches your fancy. The books we bought on amazon were picked through the KBC affiliate link, and others were read on the online app (epic!) that we are fans of.

[Note from Team Kids Book Café: For your convenience, affiliate links (MARKED IN PINK) to some of the books have been added to enable you to buy the books from AMAZON, should you wish to! A very small amount of money comes to kidsbookcafe.com when you purchase a book via the amazon affiliate link provided (at no extra cost to you!). Do let us know if you need information about other children’s books by writing to asha@kidsbookcafe.com.]


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