Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MG Books for Reluctant Readers - Part 3

Here are a few more books recommended by readers in my network for middle-grade reluctant readers, especially boys.

Children of the Lamp series by Rick Riordan

Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger

Flush by Carl Hiassen

Gregor the Overlander, Book #1 of The Underland Chronicles series by Suzanne Collins

39 Clues series by Rick Riordan

Swindle series by Gordon Korman

Captain Underpants series  (grade 2 and up) by Dav Pilkey

Case File #13: Zombie Kid by J. Scott Savage 

The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart

Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

Saturday, October 26, 2013

MG Fiction for Reluctant Readers - Part 2

I asked readers in my network to recommend books suitable for reluctant middle-grade readers and they came up with quite a few interesting titles. Many or most of these titles have appeal for boys, who, on average, tend to be less interested in reading than girls. Here are some of the suggestions. More to come later. I'd like to know if you agree with these recommendations. Please add your comments and additional recommendations. If you have difficulty using the comment box, you can e-mail me at maggielyons66 at gmail dot com, and I'll add your comments.

Winchell Mink: The Misadventure Begins by Steve Young

15 Minutes by Steve Young

Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine

Wild Born by Brandon Mull (Book #1 of Spirit Animals series)

Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

The Inventor’s Secret, Book #1 in the Cragbridge Hall series by Chad Morris

Milo series by Alan Silberberg (Simon & Schuster)

Ballpark Mysteries series (grades K–3) by David A. Kelly (Random House)

Matt Christopher Sports Classics series by Matt Christopher

The Winning Season series by Rich Wallace

Football Genius series by Tim Green

Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

The Hunchbacb Assignments series by Arthur Slade

A Living Nightmare, Book #1 in the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan

The Show Must Go On: Ellie McDoodle Diaries series by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Books for Boys

The School Library Journal recently presented a webcast discussing books suitable for boys, who are very often reluctant readers. Presenting their recommended lists of titles were representatives of three publishing companies: Cheryl Herman, marketing director of Random House Listening Library, Margaret Coffee, marketing director of Egmont USA, and Paula Ayer, editor with Annick Press. The moderator was Ed Spicer, School Library Journal.editor.

The following titles are suitable for middle-grade readers (children ages ten through thirteen) and slightly younger readers(chapter books for children ages eight through ten). Although the books were written to make reading fun for boys who don't really like to read, girls should find them fun too.

Annick Press middle-grade nonfiction
Bones Never Lie by Elizabeth MacLeod
How modern science has helped solve the mystery of the demise of seven historical figures, including King Tutankhamen and Napoleon among others.

Before the World Was Ready: Stories of Daring Genius in Science by Claire Eamer
Eight stories of scientists ahead of their time, including Ignaz Semmelweis who believed washing hands can prevent the spread of disease, among others.

Bodyguards! From Gladiators to the Secret Service by Ed Butts
Meet the heroes, villains, and bunglers hired to protect others, including the bodyguard who saved the life of Alexander the Great and the jujutsu-trained female bodyguards who protected suffragettes.

It's a Feudal, Feudal World: A Different Medieval History by Stephen Shapiro.
Infographics and humor tell the facts of life a thousand years ago in Europe, and the Middle East, including what life was like for kids.

Duped! and Robbers! in the It Actually Happened series by Andreas Schroeder
True stories of the most daring scams and heists in history including the story of D. B. Cooper, who hijacked a plane, demanded $200,000 and parachuted to safety.

Crazy About Basketball by Loris Lesynski
Forty poems about basketball techniques, training, and teamwork.

Annick Press middle-grade fiction
Horrendo's Curse by Anna Fienberg
What happens when horrible, nasty pirates kidnap a twelve-year-old boy who was born to be polite, kind, and gracious?

Kenta and the Big Wave by Ruth Ohi
Based on events during the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Kenta's prized soccer ball is swept away by the waves and washes up on a beach on the other side of the world.

Random House - New Audio Books for Fall 2013
Middle-grade fiction
Al Capone Does My Homework (Al Capone series) by Gennifer Choldenko (originally published by Dial Books)
In 1935 a twelve-year-old boy moves to Alcatraz where his father has taken a job at the prison. This is a coming-of-age story with historical appeal.

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody (originally published by Knopf Books for Young Readers)
A retelling of the Robin Hood story.

The City of Death by Sarwat Chadda (originally published by Arthur A. Levine)
A fantasy quest novel in the spirit of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series.

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy called Eel  by Deborah Hopkinson (originally published by Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Historical fiction with adventure and mystery, the boy hero of this story helps a British doctor (John Snow) discover the cause of cholera during the London cholera outbreak of 1854.

Paperboy by Vince Vawter (originally published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
Story about the coming of age of an eleven-year-old boy who is great at baseball but who has a stutter he struggles to overcome.

Egmont USA Chapter Books - Fiction
Guinea Dog and Guinea Dog 2 by Patrick Jennings
Rufus wants a dog but his parents give him a guinea pig instead, a guinea pig that acts like a dog.

Egmont USA middle-grade fiction
Dognap, Lucky Cap, My Homework Ate My Homework by Patrick Jennings
Three more humorous stories from Patrick Jennings.

The Jaguar Stones, Book Three: The River of No Return (The Jaguar Stones series) by J & P Voelkel
Max and Lola's adventures mixed with life lessons, archaeology, and Mayan culture.

What I Came to Tell You by Tommy Hays
Story about a boy coming to terms with the loss of his mother.

Vordak the Incomprehensible: Time Travel Trouble (Vordak series) by Scott Seegent
Spoof on superheroes with evil mastermind and quite unsuccessful villain Vordak.

The Code Busters Club, Case #3: Mystery of the Pirate's Treasure by Penny Warner
The adventures of four kids who love playing with codes and solving puzzles in The Code Busters Club interactive mystery series.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Fiction Series

Writers Digest recently ran a helpful article by Karen S. Wiesner, author of Writing the Fiction Series. The magazine allowed me to reprint a portion of that article here. The advice, though not specifically targeted to children's series, certainly applies to them. For the full article, go to:
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One of the main concerns writers should have when planning and writing a series is consistency. But what does it mean to be consistent? It’s more than just keeping track of the character names, physical attributes, family trees, and locations in a notebook or Excel spreadsheet; it’s about presenting the logical facts that you’ve established in a series in a consistent manner, from book to book. Why is this so important? Because even if you (or your editor) don’t notice your inconsistencies, the fans of your series most certainly will—and they’ll definitely call you out on it. If you keep your facts straight and avoid inconsistency mistakes, your readers won’t be pulled from the story–and will stay hungry for more.

Below, Karen S. Wiesner discusses the five major red flags of inconsistency—and what you can do to prevent them in your own fiction series. 

[Excerpted paragraphs]
2. Changed Premise

This category includes information given in one episode that directly contradicts information in another. In a series this can be fatal. If your book series has a Changed Premise from one book to the next, readers will lose respect. If anything concerning character, plot, or setting conflicts with something that was previously established, it would fit under the Changed Premise heading. If you alter the structure or foundational facts that were previously set up in the series, even if you do it for a very good reason, you’ve changed the premise for the story, and readers will notice. If you can’t find a way to make something believable within the entire scope of the series, you’ll lose readers, perhaps for the remainder of the series. As an example, if your vampire can’t see his own reflection in the first two books in the series, but in the third he desperately needs to be able to see his reflection in order for your plot to work, you’ve changed an established premise. You’ll have to come up with a solid bit of plausibility to get readers to accept the change. If you create a world in which no outsiders are tolerated in the first three books, yet in the fourth one a stranger shows up and is ushered into the heart of the community with open arms, you’ve changed the premise of your series.

3. Technical Problems

While problems with equipment and technical oddities were often an issue in science fiction shows like Star Trek and The X-Files, (and may be in your series, too, if you include a lot of technology that must be realistic), this kind of inconsistency can also deal with inadvertently or indiscriminately jumping into alternate viewpoints or changing descriptions of characters or settings because what was previously mentioned has been forgotten. If your character always speaks in a certain dialect and suddenly stops in a subsequent book, that’s a technical problem. Names and jobs can also accidentally change through the course of a series. If your character’s hair color or eye color changes, or if he was 6’5″ in the first two books in the series but drops an inch in later stories, you have what may be considered technical problems.

For instance, in The X-Files both main characters used cell phones throughout most of the series, but the phones were used inconsistently, in ways that forced the viewers to question the logic. In one episode, Mulder was trapped underground in the middle of a desert called Nowhere—was there actually a cell phone tower nearby that allowed him to get good reception? In other cases Mulder and Scully didn’t use the phones when they should have, and in each of these cases, it was convenient to the plot and for the writers/creators that they didn’t use their phones to call the other to their rescue because it would have solved the plot of that particular episode too quickly.
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What additional tips can you give writers?