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Great Books About Things Kids Love

More Than 750 Recommended Books for Children 3 to 14

Great Books About Things Kids Love by Kathleen Odean
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Most children want to read a book because it's about something they love or are curious about--dinosaurs, magic tricks, ballerinas, sports, secret codes, and a host of other topics. Now with this unique book, Kathleen Odean, current chair of the Newberry Award committee and author of Great Books for Girls and Great Books for Boys, makes it easy for parents and teachers to satisfy a child's individual cravings for good reading on any subject. Inside you'll discover

¸  More than 750 books divided into 55 categories, from Airplanes to Zoos
¸  Professional appraisals that are balanced, intelligent, and fun to read
¸  Stimulating book-related activities and helpful tips for parents

Whether the format is picture book, poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, here are wonderful selections like Why Does the Cat Do That? and Exploring the Titanic . . . tried and true characters, from the beloved aardvarks Arthur and D.W. to the hilarious Junie B. Jones and the courageous Harry Potter . . . new heroes and heroines to cheer for such as Katherine Paterson's Princess Miranda from The Wide-Awake Princess and the exciting Jack Black from Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves by Carol Hughes.

Great Books About Things Kids Love creates a book-rich environment in which the habit of reading can take hold and flourish for a lifetime.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Random House Publishing Group; Read online
Title: Great Books About Things Kids Love
Author: Kathleen Odean

"I like stories about children and wild animals and

Garnet in Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

"Would you like me to read to you?"

"Yeah. About airplanes."

So Anastasia climbed up on the high hospital bed
and read to Sam from one of the library books she had
brought him.

Anastasia at Your Service by Lois Lowry

Annie put the dinosaur book back with the other
books. Then she gasped.

"Wow," she whispered. "Look at this."

She held up a book about Egypt.

Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne

"What sayeth he?" asked the red-cross knight's

"Methinks they know of us," whispered the tall one.

"Sure," I said. "I've read all about you guys--the
sword in the stone, Lancelot and Guenevere, Merlin
the Magician."

Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka

"The best kind of book," said Barnaby, "is a magic
book. . . . The best kind of magic book . . . is when it's
about ordinary people like us, and then something
happens and it's magic."

Seven-Day Magic by Edward Eager

"What is the use of a book," thought Alice, "with-out
pictures or conversations?"

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Wild animals, explorers, airplanes, ancient Egypt, knights
and wizards, and stories about magic in everyday life--these
are just a few of the things children love to read about. The
speakers quoted above are all fictional characters, but they
speak for real children, too, who have so many interests they
want to explore, often starting when they are young.

When I think about what motivates a child to pick up a
book and read, or prompts a young child to ask a parent to
read aloud, the answer often has to do with the subject of the
book. True, some avid readers have an inner drive to read, but
most children choose a book because it is about something they
love. In my seventeen years as a children's librarian, I have
seen child after child check out a book not just because I said
it was a good story but because it was about dragons, dinosaurs,
or dolls. Children who ordinarily wouldn't pick up a book unless
they had to changed their minds when offered a collection
of brain teasers, a photo-essay with great shots of snakes, or
books about baseball, ballet, trucks, horses, monsters, or drawing.
Most children don't realize what a rich array of books
exists on so many fascinating subjects. Parents can take ad-vantage
of their children's excitement about different subjects
as a way to get them excited about reading. This guide will
help parents and children find books to satisfy their curiosity
and their thirst for "pictures or conversations."

The larger goal of this guide is to help your child learn to
love reading and to make sure that books mean more to him or
her than just a school assignment. (For ways to incorporate
reading into your child's everyday routine, see the sections of
the book under the heading "Encouraging Your Child to
Read.") If a child isn't enthusiastic about reading in school but
loves soccer, a book on soccer technique may suddenly make
reading worthwhile. A novel with a lot of soccer action or a
biography about a favorite player may capture his or her inter-est.
The child's devotion to soccer will spill over to books on
the subject, giving books and reading a new and positive status.
Learning can take on a practical purpose--such as under-standing
soccer better--that hooks a child into reading.

Oftentimes, children don't understand why they are taught
certain things in school, particularly when they have to study
things they don't enjoy. Why do they have to study geography?
What is the point of learning math? Outside of school,
parents can encourage their child's individual interests and
help make learning an active process that arises from the
child, not from a set curriculum. Many children who can't see
the relevance of reading in school feel differently if they are
calling the shots and deciding what they learn about. Frequently
these are subjects that never surface in a classroom,
like figure skating, detective work, magic tricks, or marbles.

Sometimes children want to learn more about what they've
studied in school, after the teacher has gone on to the next
subject. For example, children who develop their love of poetry
thanks to an enthusiastic teacher may want to make it part
of their lives at home. Children who have learned origami in
school while studying Japan often want to do more origami
outside of school. Or they might listen to a novel about
knights and castles in school and want to read other books like
it on their own. These are great opportunities for parents to
promote books at home and this guide is a great resource for
these times.

Parents can also use this book to nudge children who already
enjoy reading to widen their horizons. Readers who
have been immersed in fiction sometimes extend their enthusiasm
to nonfiction if the topic is right. Biographies offer an effective
segue into nonfiction thanks to the strong narrative
line biographies use to tie the facts together. Historical novels
pair naturally with books about history. Children who read
Number the Stars, a novel about the Danish resistance during
World War II, will readily pick up Tell Them We Remember, an
informational book about the Holocaust.

Conversely, readers who prefer nonfiction may be drawn to
novels related to a topic they love. Children who like the outdoors
and treasure their field guides often relish wilderness survival
books like My Side of the Mountain, or fiction about wild
animals like Swimming with Sharks.

Children who have not developed strong interests or an
affinity for books can be steered toward both with help from
adults. All too often, children assume that the books assigned
in class represent all books, and their experience tells them
that reading leads to worksheets or book reports. These children
are delighted to hear about books that require no work-sheets,
on topics they never thought books would address, like
secret codes or roller coasters. Even television and movie fans
can find tie-ins that lead them to reading, as more children's
books are made into movies and television shows. Interest in a
popular movie can spill over to books, too; for a while, any
book with the word Titanic in its title snagged even the most
reluctant readers.

Adults need to remember that there's a lot children don't
know about the world of books. Children don't automatically
ask if a novel they like has a sequel or if the nonfiction book
they just read is one in a series, yet if they knew, it would extend
their enthusiasm about one book to the next. Most children
don't realize that they can find directions for building
forts, making pop-ups, or knitting finger-puppets in a book.
And they have to be introduced to different types of books
like field guides and shown how to use them. But with help
from caring adults and with access to the growing number of
wonderful books, children can move smoothly along the path
to becoming lifelong readers.

How I Made the Choices
To choose the books in this guide, I read or reread every one,
and read many of the shorter ones and some of the novels
aloud to children. A number of the novels have also been read
aloud by classroom teachers I know, with great success. Still
others I've given to older children to read and tell me their

The guide is a selection from the many good children's
books in print and is far from exhaustive. I had to make
choices among the relevant books available, trying to achieve
a balanced whole, so inevitably many fine books are omitted,
which should not be interpreted as rejection. For most of the
subject categories, many other books are available. In the back
of the guide, I list resources to help parents find more books if
their child wants to pursue a topic further.

The subjects I've included do not exhaust the topics that
interest children. You will not find entries on fads such as
Pokemon or Beanie Babies, or music and movie stars, simply
because their popularity can wane so quickly. Plenty of books
are available on these topics, and they might be a good choice
for the child who doesn't usually enjoy books but is caught up
in the fad.

I drew on my extensive experience as a children's librarian
in choosing the topics, but I know that individual children
will have serious interests I didn't cover. In my work, I've had
children ask for books on fencing, specific military battles, how
to perform magic spells, and much more. Children who have
immigrated from other countries often want to pore over
photographs of their countries of origin. I couldn't cover every
topic, on account of space limitations, but I urge parents to

pursue their children's specific needs for information at a library,
through the public library interlibrary loan system, or at
a large bookstore. Again, a section at the back of this guide
gives useful information about locating more books.
In the area of picture-story books, I looked for different art
styles as well as strong writing, since these books often provide
the main way many children see art. I looked for novels with
good prose, fully developed characters, and strong plots. Not
all topics lend themselves to novels, so in some areas, the list
of novels is shorter than in others. The nonfiction varies the
most, from nearly wordless books of visual puzzles to photo-essays
to long, well-documented texts on serious subjects. In
areas where information changes quickly like geography and
science, I tried to find the most recent good books whenever

In all the categories, my goal was to include a diversity of
cultural groups, to reflect the many backgrounds of children in
this country. I also tried to include a balance of books in
which the main characters are girls and others where they are
boys. This effort is most obvious in the sports fiction lists, al-though
it was not always possible to find enough books on girls
to create a balance. My annotations reflect the strengths and
weaknesses of each book to make it easier for parents and children
to make decisions on what to try.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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