First of all, while I was flattered to be asked to participate during Unleashing Readers’ Launch Week, I was also worried since I am neither teacher nor librarian, just a bookseller at a children’s bookstore. It was like getting an invitation to a party but worrying it was mailed to the wrong address! But I figured booksellers, teachers and librarians all understand and appreciate the role books play in helping shape our lives so maybe I can be a part of this. Indeed, my co-workers and I love it when educators come into our store and ask us for book recommendations to go along with their curriculum or titles that all deal with the same subject.

Read Aloud Pick

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy with illustrations by Todd Harris
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy with illustrations by Todd Harris

Readers will enjoy the twists with the stories and characters they may be familiar with- Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and their respective Princes Charming. While our heroes do have to battle trolls, dragons, and witches (or, at least, one of each), it’s also a journey of self-discovery and finding out what one is truly capable of. Amid all their adventures, it was great to see the friendships between the characters develop. Christopher Healy has a great cinematic writing style. Combine that with his humorous storytelling, this a fun quick read despite it being over 400 pages! Lots of opportunities to compare and contrast it with the respective fairy tales they’re based on!

Lit Circles/Book Clubs

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Wonder by R.J. Palacio

In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing 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.”

Wonder is a feel good story without being saccharine. Knowing it’s aimed for middle-graders, certain things were bound to happen to make the young readers happy. Although, I’m glad they didn’t go too dark because this is a rather heavy story as is- in terms of subject matter.

The book has launched a wonderful and timely anti-bullying campaign: Choose Kind. Pair this with the documentary Bully!

Close Reading/Analysis

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary with illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary with illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky

Dear Mr. Henshaw is about a boy who writes to his favorite writer and through the letters (and later through diary entries) we learn more the boy’s life. This is not a cookie-cutter book. It deals with divorce and trying to fit in in an unfamiliar environment. And it invites readers to go back and ask themselves how they were able to get the information they did about the characters and the situations in the way that the book was written.

It’s amazing how kids books are perceived as simple but the best ones aren’t. This had depth and emotional resonance. And, for anyone aspiring to be a writer, this is a must read!

Classroom Library

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a big book- around 2.5 pounds and over 500 pages. Hardcover, no less. Why would anyone- let alone a kid- want to lug this around for reading material?

The book mixes text and picture in a wonderfully imaginative way. Together they tell the story of an orphaned boy, a toymaker and his goddaughter, an automaton, and a mysterious drawing.

It’s a totally fresh and refreshing storytelling that I think everyone needs to experience. What makes a story? The words? The pictures? How do they complement one another?

Favorite Book- This was hard to pick since I have 38 of them!

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster with illustrations by Jules Feiffer
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster with illustrations by Jules Feiffer

While I may not have had perfect recall of The Phantom Tollbooth from reading it when I was a kid, it left enough of an impression that I liked it for me to want to read it again as an adult.

Immediately, I identified with Milo “who didn’t know what to do with himself- not just sometimes, but always.” And when a mysterious tollbooth arrives and he’s suddenly in a new land, I’m there with him. As one does in Oz or Wonderland, readers have to accept the fact that anything goes and it’s best to just enjoy the ride.

There are so many memorable characters and scenes that it’s almost a shame to talk about it. While there’s plenty of hilarity and Monty Phyton-esque humor, there are also pearls of wisdom peppered throughout- observations about life only an adult can make presented to kids. It may go over their heads but it might stick- or if they end up rereading it at a later stage of their lives, they’ll come to appreciate it.

I can’t believe this book has been around for over fifty years! Classics are like that- ahead of their time while transcending it. I was definitely sad when the book ended but that’s the thing with books- we can always go back to them.

“What you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do.”

This would make a beautiful addition to any library.

Thank you again to Kellee and Ricki again for inviting me to their Unleashing Readers launch week blog hop. Thanks everyone for visiting my site. Happy Reading!

5 thoughts on “Unleashing Readers Launch Week Blog Hop

  1. The Phantom Tollbooth! This was one of my all-time favorite books in school. I am so glad you brought me back because I had forgotten about it!!!

    Thanks for joining us for the blog hop. It was great to see your choices (and walk down memory lane).

  2. Love your list! I haven’t read any of the Hero’s Guide books, but I have them in my classroom library and brought them home for the summer. I picked Wonder for my favorite read aloud. 🙂

  3. I have read and enjoyed every single book on your list. I love your idea of a favorite favorites list! I may have to do that too. When people ask for a favorite I am at a loss. I chose one that was kind of an all around book, but it was hard.

  4. Great list Earl! I think you know a lot to tell about kid lit & imagine customers love your help. My only book here still unread I’d Hero’s Guide, will try to get to it this summer! Thanks!

  5. Love the list. I am ashamed to say I have not read The Phantom Tollbooth. I was told the audiobook was good, so I plan on getting that for the new school year.
    I love all of your other choices – amazing books. I’d never thought of using Dear Mr. Henshaw in the classroom- what a great choice!!

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