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12 Short Chapter Books to Get Your Reluctant Reader Reading

July 11, 2013

Having trouble getting your elementary-schooler to start reading chapter books?  Then give these book a whirl!  They are sure to delight and entertain even the most reluctant reader. 

(The books are listed in alphabetical order by title, not in order of preference.)

Abel1. Abel’s Island by William Steig

Ages: 8+

This Newbery Honor book is a classic castaway story about being stranded alone on an island, except for the tiny fact that Abel is an anthropomorphic mouse!  How he survives a winter alone and eventually escapes is a delightful story and a testament to his humanity…oops, I mean “mouse-anity.”

 

 

2. Bbunnicula2unnicula by Deborah and James Howe

Ages: 8-12

Chester the cat and Howie the dog are contented house pets until the day that a new pet, a rabbit, enters the household and starts exhibiting strange behavior.  Could it be true?  Could Bunnicula be….a vampire rabbit?  Bonus:  If your reluctant reader likes this book they can continue the adventure with The Celery Stalks at Midnight, Howliday Inn and several other Bunnicula books!

 

 

call it courage3. Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Ages: 10-12

In this Newbery Award winning tale, Mafatu, a young boy of a sea-faring tribe, is considered a coward by his people because he is afraid of the sea.  In order to conquer his fear and prove that he is not a coward, he undertakes a harrowing journey alone on the open sea and discovers his true destiny.

 

 

 

9780688161330_p0_v2_s260x4204. The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

Ages: 8-10

What would you do if suddenly everything you touched turned to chocolate?  In this spin on the classic tale of King Midas, a young boy discovers that there are some wishes that should probably never come true.

 

 

 

books5. Fat Men From Space by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Ages: 8-10

In this delightfully zany tale a young boy named William discovers that the filling in his tooth can pick up radio signals.  At first he is excited, but then his tooth begins picking up signals from alien ships planning to invade earth!  When he is picked up by a spaceship, William becomes the unwitting witness to the  strange invasion of the Fat Men from Space!

 

 

 

Frindle_cover6. Frindle by Andrew Clements

Ages: 8-12

Nick is a creative child who always finds ways to liven things up a bit at school.  When he learns how new words are invented, Nick decides to make one up for himself.  Thus “frindle” is born.  The resulting battle of words between students and teacher grows until it has engulfed the whole town and  goes further than Nick could have ever imagined…but in a good way!

 

 

 

9780440419242_p0_v1_s260x4207. I, Houdini by Lynne Reid Banks

Ages: 8-10

Named after the famous escapes artist, Houdini the hamster escapes from every cage that his humans place him in, however, sometimes his cleverness and curiosity can lead him into a bit of trouble.  Despite narrow scrapes with cats, dogs, and even a refrigerator, Houdidni perseveres and has some great adventures along the way!

 

 

 

mermaid summer8. The Mermaid Summer by Mollie Hunter

Ages: 8+

Mermaids are vain and dangerous creatures, as Jon and Anna know all too well.  Their grandfather was nearly killed by a mermaid after he spoke ill of her and she wrecked  his ship.   A ruined sailor, he bid his family goodbye to seek another fortune, but when his two grandchildren meet the mermaid themselves, they put a plan in motion to tame the mermaid and bring their grandfather home again.

 

 

 

07857384529. Morning Girl by Michael Dorris

Ages: 8+

Morning Girl always wakes early.  Her brother, Star Boy, always stays up late.  The siblings don’t always get along, but they try to understand each other and bridge the differences between them.  This delightful story is set in the Bahamas in 1492, shortly before Columbus arrives to claim the “New World” for Europe.  This tale of two siblings and their island tribe gives the reader a glimpse of a world that was lost, and a sense of peace that it would be wise for us to regain.

 

 

18107710. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Ages: 8+

Based on a true story, this heartbreaking tale of hope and love is set in Hiroshima in the 1950s.  Sadako is an energetic and lively child, but she soon falls ill with leukemia–a result of radiation left over from the atom bomb dropped by the Americans at the end of WWII.  Japanese legend holds that if a person folds one thousand paper cranes they will be granted one wish.  Sadako sets to work folding cranes in hopes that she can wish her way back to health once again.  Note:  This is a very sad book but children will identify strongly with 10-year-old Sadako.  No better children’s heroine could be created.

 

underwear11. The Secret Life of the Underwear Champ by Betty Miles

Ages: 8-10

Isn’t it every kid’s dream to be on television?  After Larry is “discovered” on a street corner and told he will be in a national TV commercial, he is very excited.  But then he learns that he will be advertising underwear!  The resulting story is hilarious and heart-warming.

 

 

 

8721912. Who Ran My Underwear Up the Flagpole? by Jerry Spinelli

Ages: 9+

Although this story sounds like just another silly tale (involving underwear), this tale from the four-part School Daze series by Jerry Spinelli is actually a showcase for four amazing characters:  Eddie, Sunny, Salem and Pickles are four very different sixth graders who become close friends and have many adventures as they figure out how to navigate their first year of middle school!

 

 

Happy Reading!

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The Five Best Children’s Book Series (#1) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

July 8, 2013

In case you missed the first four series on this list:

#5 The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

#4 The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling

#3 The Time Quartet/Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle

#2 The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

And now we finally we come to our #1 series, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis!

Like the Time Quartet/Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle, the choice of the Chronicles of Narnia could be considered controversial because of the strong Christian themes in the books.  In fact, they are pretty overt.  However, like with L’Engle’s books, as a child I didn’t even notice that the books were “Christian Literature.”  All I knew was that they were fantastic stories!  I believe that all children, regardless of their faith or religion should be able to find something that they identify with and love in Narnia.  In fact, I’m going to go to bat for The Chronicles of Narnia and claim that they are the best children’s fantasy books out there. Period.  (I would love for you to argue in the comments with me about this statement.)  C.S. Lewis created an entire world of fantastic proportions in which children, always children, are the agents of power and change in the fight against evil forces.  And what an amazing world he created!

C.S. Lewis was good friends with J.R.R. Tolkien who is the famous author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  They were both members of the Inklings, an informal literary discussion group at the University of Oxford.  They two friends greatly influenced each other’s writing, and it is no coincidence that the two writers created two of the most beloved fantasy worlds of all time: Narnia and Middle Earth.  Though C.S. Lewis does not write about Narnia in the rather excruciatingly detailed (in my opinion) way that Tolkien wrote about Middle Earth, Narnia is just as well conceived and rich in detail as Tolkien’s world.  Especially in The Magician’s Nephew, The Horse and His Boy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair, readers are transported beyond the boundaries of the fictional country of Narnia and into the rest of the vast, complex universe that Lewis created.  Don’t pay any attention to the movies, which make Narnia seem like it is only a few square miles!

pix_1narnia

CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

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PUBLISHED ORDER

Some people have very strong opinions about in what order the Chronicles of Narnia should be read.  I am one of those people.  What most everyone agrees upon is that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe should be read first.  I agree, but then there are two (main) options for how to read the rest of the series.  You can read them in chronological order.

Or you can read them in the order that they were published.  Many people like to read them in this order because the first two books have the same four main characters and the third book has two of those same characters.

I personally advocate a slightly different method (because it is the order in which I read them.  Please feel free to completely ignore this advice.)   I would read  The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader first, then I would go back and read the rest in chronological order, starting with The Magician’s Nephew and then The Horse and His Boy, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle.  I recommend this method because as mentioned above, the first three books in the written order contain the same main characters and occur on a relatively smooth timeline.  Then when you go back and read The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy and The Silver Chair you not only get fresh and unique stories but essentially you a get a prequel, a side story, and a follow-up story (when it comes to a certain Witch) for what happened in the first three books.  Finally, The Last Battle is the final book in both the chronological and published orders and in the end it brings together all the characters from our world (except Susan, and I don’t have a time for a feminist rant about that at the moment) together for a final adventure.  If this entire conversation has been confusing let me refer you to the Chronicles of Narnia wikipedia page which may clear up any questions.

The Chronicles of Narnia has a cornucopia of all the best fantasy tropes and themes:  witches, talking animals, unicorns and centaurs, king and queens, princes and princesses, magic and love, perilous journeys, castles and ships and underground kingdoms, evil magicians, benevolent lions, shy fauns, warrior horses and fire salamanders.  And more. It is a beautiful mysterious magical world.  I can’t imagine any childhood without it.  So go find a child nearest and dearest to your heart and share with them the wonderful world to be found within The Chronicles of Narnia!

My Fave Book in the Series #7 (or #4) The Silver Chair51yzZgqHyAL._SL500_AA300_

The Five Best Children’s Book Series (#2) The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

July 5, 2013

9155Frankly, it irritates me that when most people think of “Little House on the Prairie” they think of the beloved (and sometimes not so beloved) television show.  The Little House books encompass such a wider breadth of experience, not to mention covering a bigger range of actual mileage!  How can I explain what a profound effect these books had on me as a child?  First of all, when I stopped being engrossed in the story long enough to focus, I would realize that these books, although they are classified as historical fiction, are based on real memories from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood.  While it is true that the books are not straight autobiography, and despite Ingalls Wilder having written them in the third person, the descriptions are so vivid and the emotions are so real that the child reader truly feels that they are a part of the Ingalls family. The Little House books totally beat out any of the historical fiction the teachers at school tried to shove down our throats.  (Now, I am not ragging on historical fiction.  Books like Across Five Aprils, The Slave Dancer, The Sign of the Beaver, and Captive are all amazing examples of children’s historical fiction.  However, the ones given to us at school seemed designed to make us detest history!)  What the Little House books capture that most works of historical fiction cannot is the sense of innocence and the normality of the experience of the child characters This was their lives.  They didn’t get caught up in a historically significant event and witness first hand important things that were outside the normal experience of everyday children.  No, they were a living, breathing part of history.  Perhaps more importantly, the Little House books capture the fierce love of a family trying to carve a life for themselves on various frontiers.

The first three books about the Ingalls family were my absolute favorites.  I read Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, and On the Banks of Plum Creek over and over and over again.

9780064400039(Farmer Boy is the second book in the series, but it is about the childhood of Laura’s future husband Almanzo Wilder.  Now, I was a very stubborn child and because this book was not about Laura Ingalls and her family I was absolutely not interested and refused to read it.  I wish I had read it though, and as of the time of this blog post, Farmer Boy is sitting in my stack of “books to read.” Perhaps I will do a post later on reading Farmer Boy as an adult, eh?)

Starting with the fifth book, On the Shores of Silver Lake, and even more apparent in The Long Winter and Little Town on the Prairie, the series starts to take a dark turn.  The Ingalls family deals with illness, near-starvation during the harsh winter of 1890-91, and severe poverty.  Perhaps more distancing is the fact that Laura is growing older in these books, entering adolescence and then teenage-hood.  My nine year old self didn’t quite know what to do with these darker, less nostalgic books.  I could no longer identify with Laura as a child protagonist, so, as an adult now looking back at this experience, I wish I had waited until I was a little older to read these books.  Yes, I would have been impatient to read the later ones, but the warm, safe world of the first few books would not have been compromised.  In my opinion, like some of the other series on this list, parents should wait until their children are a little older to introduce them to the last four books of the series:  The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years But don’t worry!  The first five books of the series should provide many happy hours of reading for your children!

The Little House books are set on the western American frontier during the late nineteenth century.  The first book, Little House in the Big Woods, begins in 1871 and the series continues into the 1890s as they cover Laura Ingalls Wilder’s entire childhood and young adulthood.  What children do not realize however, is the context of these “pioneers.”  In 1862 the Homestead Act took lands that were given to the Native American tribes after they were pushed out of the East (most notably on the Trail of Tears) and reduced them significantly.  The “excess” land was opened up to white settlers who wanted to make a homestead “claim.”  This is the land that the Ingalls family was heading out across the prairie to farm.  While an extremely detailed history of the relationship between white settlers and Native American tribes would obviously be way too much for a young child to understand, these books might give parents a good opportunity to introduce their children to the idea that Native Americans were not “savages” like they are portrayed in so many books and movies, and furthermore that they were treated unfairly by the government and white settlers. (Obviously we should stay away from the genocide aspect until much much later…)  In the Little House books the Ingalls family does encounter “Indians,” and their interactions with them are friendly, but the “Indians” are portrayed as people that the Ingalls family should be cautious of and that they should fear at times.  While this is certainly true considering the state of relationships between Native American tribes and white settlers at that time, it might be helpful to give your child a little bit of context to go on.  My hope is that these books will not give your children the impression that Native Americans were anything like the appalling images of them in other children’s works (like Disney’s racist portrayal of “Indians” in the film Peter Pan.)  You know what your child can understand and handle emotionally, so I leave it up to you if you want to give your child a “real” history lesson to go with these wonderful stories.

Now I cannot do a post on the Little House books without mentioning another childhood staple of mine:  Little House on Rocky Ridge.  854252

(I did not realize until I was doing research for this post, just how many Little House book series had been written in addition to the original series!  Written by various authors, these Little House books chronicle the lives of Laura’s mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother!  I was already familiar with the series chronicling the life of Laura’s daughter, Rose, which I discovered was written by Rose’s adopted grandson and heir, Roger Lea MacBride (who was quite a character himself!).  I highly recommend that you research the history of the Little House franchise, as it is actually quite a fascinating story.)

Despite not being written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the first book of the Rocky Ridge series about Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder–Little House on Rocky Ridge–I remember just as fondly as the original Little House books.  MacBride manages to evoke the same warm prose and loving sense of family as Ingalls Wilder did in her books, and Rose is as captivating a character as her mother was.  There are seven more books in the Rocky Ridge series, and while I cannot personally recommend them, I can vouch for the excellent writing skills of Roger Lea MacBride as demonstrated in Little House on Rocky RidgeAlso, the first few Rocky Ridge books should make a good addition to the original Little House books because Rose is the same age as her mother was and therefore the books will appeal to the same children as the (original) first five books of the series.

My Fave Book in the Series: #4 On the Banks of Plum Creek
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The Five Best Children’s Book Series (#3) Madeleine L’Engles Time Quartet/Quintet

June 28, 2013

(3.)  Madeline L’Engle’s Time Quartet/Quintet

Many people have heard of Madeleine L’Engles Newbery award-winning novel A Wrinkle in Time but not as many people know that it is actually the first book of a quartet/quintet. 

(The quartet/quintet debate is due to the fact that the fifth book, An Acceptable Time, has a second generation protagonist–the daughter of one of the protagonists in the first four books who is technically a part of the O’Keefe family, not the Murry family.  Madeleine L’Engle wrote extensively about three fictional families {the Austens, the Murry’s and the O’Keefe’s} and many of her characters cross over into her other books.  In a family tree published in Many Waters, L’Engle divided her major characters into two categories–“chronos”  and “kairos”–two Greek terms for different concepts of time. Rather than taking up the rest of this post trying to explain various arguments over why this series is a quartet or quintet, I will instead refer you to this wikipedia page, which may help dispel any confusion.  However, if you put any stock in my personal opinion, I did not enjoy An Acceptable Time–the story becomes rather tedious–and I do think that leaving it out diminishes the series in any way.)

Time Quartet Box Set

Time Quartet Box Set

The first three books of this series, A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in The Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet remain to this day three of my absolute favorite books.  All three are a unique and brilliant blending of fantasy, science fiction, and spirituality.  For non-Christian parents who may be wary of having their children read a book by a “Christian” author you might be interested to note that Madeleine L’Engle got just as much, if not more, criticism from her Christian critics as she did from those who thought her books were too religious.

…being a bestselling author did not put L’Engle beyond criticism. She was attacked for being too religious by the most secular of critics while also being one of the authors most banned from Christian schools and libraries that regarded her brand of religion as deeply suspect. She was also condemned in print with assertions such as: “Madeleine L’Engle teaches universalism in her books and denigrates organized Christianity and promotes an occultist world view”….[but the] children for whom her books were intended have probably rarely worried about L’Engle’s theological views…

-Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian, Monday 1 October 2007

As a child I certainly never noticed or cared that the books were “Christian” works.  I only noticed that they were brilliant works of fantasy.  And did I mention that the books have elements of science fiction?  Madeleine L’Engle was a huge science geek!  (If you want your children to have a grasp of quantum mechanics then you have discovered the right series!)  The Time Quartet books seamlessly blend elements of science fiction and fantasy.  The Murry children travel to different planets (including a two-dimensional planet), inside the mitochondria of Charles Wallace’s cells, and back and forth in time.  They become friends with witches, unicorns, snakes, stars, and dragons (or rather, “dragons”).  They rescue their father from an evil planet, cure a deadly disease, prevent nuclear war, and learn about the joyful harmonious dancing of the galaxies.  Is there any way I could have possibly NOT wanted to read these books?

Time Quintet Box Set

Time Quintet Box Set

Madeleine L’Engle writes of an exquisitely beautiful universe– torn but not destroyed by an ongoing battle between good and evil–continually renewed by the ties which reach across time and space to bind all living beings together in glorious harmony.  It is a universe which children will recognize in their hearts as awesome and majestic, but the books are grounded in the firmly stable (yet eccentric and brilliant) Murry family.   The child characters in these books are extremely intelligent and gifted in various ways, but they still deal with the problems of normal children.  Meg feels hopelessly awkward and plain and despite her intelligence struggles through school.   Charles Wallace is bullied by children at school who sense that he is much smarter than they can comprehend. Calvin doesn’t fit in with his own emotionally abusive family so he seeks comfort in the Murry household.  I loved these characters fiercely and I wanted to be a part of the Murry family.  I wanted to move into their rambling farmhouse to spend cold and stormy evenings sipping hot cocoa, cuddling with the ever-present kittens…and solving complicated equations while discussing particle physics.  I hope that more generations of children will love the Murry family as much as I did.

I firmly recommend these books to all children, regardless of their religion, faith, ect. However, families who are not of the Christian or Jewish faiths may want to steer clear of the fourth book, Many Waters, in which the Murry twins Sandy and Dennys accidentally travel back to the time of the Old Testament, where they meet Noah and become involved in a complex story involving Seraphim and Nephilim.  This book is a bit more mature and complex than the first three books in the series and (like the later books of the Harry Potter series), you may want to wait to introduce Many Waters until your children are a little bit older.  As for the the fifth book, An Acceptable Time, as mentioned above I did not particularly enjoy it.  But if your child becomes a huge fan of the Time Quartet books I would say go ahead and read this last book in which Meg Murry’s daughter Polly spends a summer at her grandparent’s farmhouse and has an unexpected adventure.

Fave Book in the Series: #2 A Wind in the Doora wind in the door

DOMA’s Repeal + Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

June 26, 2013

In honor of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today regarding DOMA, here is a quick review of a YA/Teen book that I think is quite appropriate for the occasion…

Hard Love by Ellen WittlingerHardLove

Simple Synopsis:  Teenage boy falls in love with teenage girl.  Teenage girl is a lesbian.  Teenage boy tries to force her to love him anyway.  Ensuing anguish, heartache, and life lessons.

Warning:  you will probably get mad at the protagonist, John/Gio.  He is kind of an idiot. But hey, what teenage boy, especially one falling in love for the first time, isn’t a little bit of an idiot?  And who wouldn’t fall in love with the intelligent, rebellious, kick-ass Marisol, who, in her own words, is a “…Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee Cambridge, Massachusetts rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love.”  The story that follows these two teenagers who are, of course, figuring out who they are, is one that every teenager should read.  Why?  Hard Love teaches us the lesson that you cannot force someone to be who they are not, even if you are doing so out of love.

See, I told you it was perfect for today. 🙂

The Five Best Children’s Book Series (#4) The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling

June 26, 2013

(4.) The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling

Thought this series would be number one on the list, didn’t you? 

Well, I happen to believe that Harry Potter is just teensy bit overrated.  It may be that I have become weary and jaded to the innumerable ways in which Harry Potter has influenced our culture; the movies, the countless fan-fiction sites, tribute bands, merchandise and even vocabulary (Muggle made it into the Oxford English Dictionary) that has been injected into our society. But hey, who am I to judge?  J.K. Rowling got the whole world reading again, and that’s quite a stupendous accomplishment.  I certainly spent a great deal of my adolescence eagerly anticipating the release of the next Harry Potter book, and I believe (and hope) that more generations of children will be reading Harry Potter just as eagerly as I did.   What child wouldn’t want to delve into a world of witches and wizards and incredible magic that is hidden right beneath our noses as part of our modern world?  What child doesn’t like to read about courageous children battling the forces of evil and emerging victorious?  Harry Potter is what good children’s literature is all about.

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One note of caution, however:  The first three books are fine for readers 8-10, but I cast a disapproving eye upon parents who let their young children read the last four books (which get significantly darker) without at least some parental guidance.  Starting with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire  parents should be cautious.  You know your child’s disposition better than I do, so I would simply recommend reading the books yourself before you allow your children to read them so you can be prepared for any questions they may have.

P.S.  I did not go into this book series as in depth as I have done with the other book series on this list because if you don’t know anything about Harry Potter then you must have been living under a rock for the past 15 years.  (I’m joking…sort of.)

My fave book in the series: #3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry_Potter_and_the_Prisoner_of_Azkaban

The Five Best Children’s Book Series (#5) The Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart

June 25, 2013

Before we get started I would like to urge people to argue with me in the comments.  If you are frustrated that I didn’t pick your favorite book series, tell me! I like to keep the conversation going.  Also, stay tuned for the next four posts!

without further ado…

5. The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart

One day I was speaking with my friend about this series of blog posts that I was intending to write about what I consider to be the five best children’s series.  I spoke passionately and excitedly about my choices, but when I mentioned that I had chosen The Mysterious Benedict Society series as one of my top five, she informed me that a child she used to nanny for had told her these books were “boring.”  Now, I also know this girl, and she is a bright, active child, so being informed that she did not enjoy The Mysterious Benedict Society put quite a damper on my excitement.  I started questioning my choice.  Here was the input of an actual child and who was I?  Just a boring old grown up.  The other children’s series I had chosen have all been around a lot longer and I had actually read them as a child and adored them.  The Mysterious Benedict Society has not been around that long and I didn’t read the books until I was already an adult.   I thought and I thought and I thought about it, and I finally came to a surprisingly wonderful conclusion–a reason to keep this wonderful book series on my list.  What is this reason you ask?  Well, The Mysterious Benedict Society books are for NERDS.  Yes! It’s true!  And as I happened to be quite a nerd as a child, and I believe that there are plenty of child nerds (and secret nerds) out there, I am confident that there will be plenty of children who find this book series as intriguing and exciting as I do! images

While it is true that The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequels The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma do not have as much action and excitement as many book series, that is not the point of the stories.  What makes The Mysterious Benedict Society books so intriguing is the mystery. The series begins with an advertisement for “gifted” children who wish to have “special opportunities.”  The four protagonists of the books respond to this ad and are given a series of strange tests and complicated puzzles to solve.  The children use their considerable (and considerably different) talents to help them succeed on these tests and they are introduced to the (mysterious) Mr. Benedict who asks them if they will help him form a special team to save the world! Thus the Mysterious Benedict Society is born and the children begin an adventure in which they must use their minds as much as their eyes, ears, and legs to help them accomplish their great task.  I love these characters.  Reynie Muldoon is a shy orphan with a brilliant mind and an earnest heart.  Kate is a fearless former circus performer who has a bucket full of useful items and a whole lot of bravado.  Sticky Washington remembers every word of a every book he has ever read (which is quite a lot) and has an unhealthy obsession with polishing his spectacles.  Constance Contraire is the grumpiest child anyone has ever met, ever.  Together these lonely orphans (and almost-orphans) form a perfect team.  Any child who has ever felt like they are an outcast (and who hasn’t?) will love them too.  Here is a fantastic rendering of the characters by artist Priscilla Parizeau (who is not the illustrator of the books).

Art by Priscilla Parizeau

Art by Priscilla Parizeau

The four children become a family over the course of the first book, and in the subsequent books they must face adversaries who not only threaten the safety of the world, but also threaten to destroy their new-found family (which also includes the delightful adult characters Mr. Benedict, Number Two, Rhonda Kazembe, and Milligan.)  New secrets are unveiled and new mysteries must be solved in each wonderful story.  If your children are the least bit interested in puzzles, word games, or any other such “nerdy” activity, I recommend that you give these books a try.

nicholas benedictNow, you may have noticed that The Mysterious Benedict Society is a trilogy, and thus not actually considered a true book series, but I am counting the companion book, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict as an equally important part of the series.  In this final installment, the reader is taken back to Mr. Benedict’s childhood, where he himself must use his brilliant mind to solve a mystery or two, find a hidden treasure, and make new friends (or rather, family) himself.  The book is just a delightful as the original trilogy and I would not leave it off of your reading list!  Finally, there is one more book that is part of the series, a non-fiction work entitled The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums Although I (regretfully) haven’t had the chance to check this book out yet, according to Amazon.com the book is absolutely chock full of nerdy fun!51nRUESalJL._SY300_

This exclusive companion book to the bestselling Mysterious Benedict Society series is a mind-bending collection that will put YOU to the test! With full-color artwork throughout, this companion features ingenious new puzzles, riddles, and brainteasers compiled by Mr. Benedict himself, with the help of Reynie, Kate, Sticky, Constance, and other Society associates. Think you have what it takes to join the Mysterious Benedict Society? Open this book and find out!

-Amazon.com

I told you that The Mysterious Benedict Society books were for NERDS!  But perhaps more kids will want to become nerds, if just for a day or two, so that they can enjoy these wonderful books.  So go find the little nerd nearest and dearest to your heart and get started reading The Mysterious Benedict Society.

My Fave Book in the Series: #1 The Mysterious Benedict Societymmbs