Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Izzy the Impatient

So I was in the children's section of Borders last night looking for a book I'm mentioning in Grindhopping (the picture book is "Big Sister, Little Sister," by LeUyen Pham, who's a great young illustrator if anyone's looking for kids' picture books). While there, I was reminded of something. It's quite difficult to find good kids' books for very bright young kids. This is particularly true for 6- or 7-year-olds who are reading at an adult level. Most adult books have more adult themes than 6- or 7-year-olds can handle. So what do you do? The Harry Potter books are wonderful in this regard, as are Madeleine L'Engle and others whose work can be enjoyed by young and old alike. But even Harry Potter and Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain can be a little dark at times for six-year-olds who have nightmares. I'm curious what books parents have found to be best for these adult-level readers who aren't quite adults.

The other thought I had while there is that the morality tales you see in children's literature are sometimes too cut and dried. Remembering the "Mr. Man" books from my own childhood, I had a brainstorm. I'd love to see a kids' picture book that stated that impatience is not always a bad thing. Gifted young kids are impatient to learn!

I'm thinking a little girl named Izzy could star in this role. She'd be 3. She'd do things like call out words on signs and spell words when people say them. Someone would say "how many is this?" holding up fingers in the supermarket line, and she'd tell them "nine fingers -- that's three threes." Some astonished people would tell her "Slow down little one!" Maybe even well-meaning people like the mailman, neighbors, etc. She's a little confused by this. What did she do wrong?

The plot thickens. She could also have a garden she works on with her parents in the back yard. She gets impatient waiting for the plants to come up and so digs them out. Her mom or dad will then say that sometimes it's not OK to be impatient. It certainly doesn't help the plants. But with learning, sometimes it is OK. There's a lot to learn in this world, and there's no reason to slow down if you don't want to.

Of course, the third thing I observed in Borders is that half the kids' books are now "written" by celebrities, as it's one of the few ways to be sure a book will stand out in the glut of picture books. So I guess I'd have to get Madonna to illustrate Izzy the Impatient if I was going to have any hopes of it going anywhere. :)

16 comments:

Pink Ink said...

Our son is 5 right now and boy are we ever having trouble with this issue. He started to read Harry Potter but quickly told us it was too scary. One series he has really enjoyed is the Geronimo Stilton chapter books. The themese are appropriate to his age, he finds them funny and perhaps a little easy to read, but they are still harder than alot of stuff he reads.

He also just started the Secrets of Droon series. It's quite a jump in maturity content for him, but after reading the reading the first chapter book, he has yet to find them too scary.

Finally, we find our best option right now is non fiction books. We never run out of stuff that challenges him and it's easy to determine which subjects we don't want him to read.

Angela

Kim Moldofsky said...

The Secrets of Droon series is a hit with my boys. Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series is exciting (and educational) for early readers--and their parents, too. Beverly Clearly's books and Judy Blume's "Fudge" stories are also well-liked.

I recommend a picture book by Simon James called Baby Brains about an outrageously precocious baby. A fun read for the family that might even spark some interesting discussion.

Laura Vanderkam said...

I seem to remember Matilda by Roald Dahl as being another good kids' book about precocity. But yes, non-fiction is probably a great idea. Dinosaurs and cathedrals and all that will keep 'em entertained without too much in the way of nightmares.

Anonymous said...

Try the Oz Books by L. Frank Balm, Junie B. Jones, Sideways School, Mrs. Pigglewiggle, My father's dragon.

This question highlights the importance of Parent (and Teacher) networking. For example, one could get a password to the Gifted Issues Forum, and join a discussion book suggestion there: http://giftedissues.gt-cybersource.org/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi

Anonymous said...

We had the same problem with our son, who had read Harry Potter before kindergarten. I tried enlisting the help of both the school librarian, and the local librarian, who both pointed me back to lower reading ability books. There are some good non-fiction sports books available, but when my son asked why no african americans were allowed to play in the national baseball league in the "old days", it opened a new can of worms. Some of his favorites were Roald Dahl books. I started previewing all books and reading the "scary parts" together. Danny the Champion of the world, and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator were the ones he enjoyed most. Sadly, our son is now 7 and I am still amazed by the lack of age appropriate higher level FICTION books available. Any additional suggestions are appreciated!

Anonymous said...

My just-turned-8 niece liked the Junie B. Jones stories when she read them at age 6 or so. I recently gave her a book from Carol Westin's Melanie Martin series and she enjoyed that, too. Chapter books, but very girl-oriented. The Ramona books were personal favorites of mine, though I never liked Howie...

Mary Vanderkam said...

One of the joys of raising children is watching them enjoy the books that you enjoyed as a child. So I will recommend some "classics": the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Encyclopedia Brown series, Boxcar Children, Little Women, Misty of Chincoteague, Ramona, etc.

And one of the joys of this blog for me is having Laura reminisce about her childhood and teenage years--both good and bad.

Laura's mom

Robin said...

Yes to many of those that have been listed: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, Oz books, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and Roald Dahl.

We've also been reading the Edward Eager books (Half Magic, etc.), which are just the right level of adventure without being too scary. Also E.B. White, Fred Bowen's sports stories, The Cricket in Times Square, The Borrowers, The Reluctant Dragon, All-of-a-Kind Family, and the Narnia books (except for the Last Battle, which I think is too scary for my 6-year-old).

I have an excellent reference book (that I keep forgetting to look at) called "Some of My Best Friends Are Books". It's full of recommendations for age-appropriate books for gifted readers.

Anonymous said...

Our son loved the DK series non-fiction books at that age.

He also is a Harry Potter fan and is a voracious reader. Other series that he has enjoyed that are probably on the same reading level and the same intensity of subject matter are;

Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale, Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, Alex Rider series Anthony Horowitz, Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver, The Children of the Lamp series by P.B. Kerr, Eragon series by Christopher Paolini, books by Cornelia Funke and Nancy Farmer.

Hope that gets you started.

Laura Vanderkam said...

We should pull together a list of these -- feel free to continue to post them, and I'll work on pulling together a list.

Anonymous said...

My 8-year-old just started Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which I think he'll enjoy. I can't remember any inappropriate themes in it, but I should probably read ahead to be sure. I second the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and Little Women, as well as any Roald Dahl.

Stormia said...

Yay for the Ramona books, Roald Dahl, Boxcar Children, and Judy Blume. All were books I read in 2nd and third grade. After that though, I had a difficult time finding books--For a while I often chose books by going along the children's fiction shelves (the young adult section in my library was only one shelf and I didn't discover it until middle school) and picking the largest books I could find!

Anonymous said...

I second many of the books mentioned, especially Dahl and Anthony Horowitz. My 7 year old read all the Harry Potter books before his 7th birthday and moved immediately into The Hobbit and the three Lord of the Rings books. He is now reading the Pullman Dark Arts books (The Golden Compass..). His 9 year old brother enjoyed Dahl and still loves Horowitz.

Another one, less scary but full of adventure, is The Lightning Thief and the newer Sea of Monsters by Riordan. I really enjoyed them as well!

Michelle

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm Ana and I'm 9. I love to read, and am gifted. A book that I recommend is Inkheart and Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. The Great Brain series, Narnia series, Nancy Drew series, Rats of Nimh, Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Tarabithia, abridged classics like Les Miserables. Also Arabian Nights and mythology like Greek or Norse myths.

Mom says- There's a great book out there called "Some of my Best Friends are Books" that summerizes good books for different ages and levels, and how to use books as 'bibliotherapy' (it's geared toward gifted readers). This is great so that you can discuss the subject matter of the book with your child- to talk about moral dilemas, friendship, conflict, etc.

This Girl said...

I'm a gifted thirteen-year-old rated PG. Books I would recommend would be Chronicles of Narnia, which are smart but not to frightening. School stories, especially those by Beverly Cleary, are good, and if you haven't read anything by Madeleine L'Engle, you need to read some now. Other good books include the Redwall series--the food is great. However, one of the most wonderful children's books ever is called the Voyage of the Basset, by James Christensen. The series aren't very good but the original is. If you know the Odyssey it makes for great bedtime stories for non-readers; all the cool monsters and people turning into other people and such; a great serial. If you can read something and it looks interesting, then read it. Basically it depends on the child.

ZAGO said...

great suggestions -- just want to second the Oz series by Frank Baum. My son and I read all of them together when he was in 1st/2nd grade. Sophisticated, interesting and yet relatively non-violent. I was so happy to discover that there was a whole series of them!

Meanwhile, I landed here trying to find the age appropriateness of Eragon -- if any one knows I'd appreciate it!!