Super Book Series and Sensational Sequels

Part of my Harry Potter book collection. Original box set purchased in England. Advanced reader’s copy of Prisoner of Azkaban (no cover art).

I have not done any official research on this or anything, but I am pretty sure Harry Potter kicked off a demand for books with sequels. I know it inspired a whole slew of fantasy-wizard-magic books. In my never ending quest to find the best young person’s book, I feel like the majority of my new reads often have “Book I” printed on the spine.  I also noticed my students tend to reach for books with a sequel more than ever. I actually had a student who read nothing but Hank the Cowdog books all year (there are 59 of them). I tried to encourage a little diversity in his reading, but he was determined to finish the series. I have to admit I was a little impressed that he stuck with it; a series like that can get pretty repetitive. My point is, books with a sequel seem to be more popular than ever.

Which series are the most satisfying to you? Which series didn’t work and should have ended after that great first book? Below are my picks.

Young Readers (1st grade to 4th grade)

  • Magic Treehouse by Osborne (on the verge of the repetitive thing but that can be a good thing for emerging readers)
  • Boxcar Children by Warner (up through book 19, author changes after that and falls victim to repetitiveness– see note above)
  • Henry Huggins by Cleary
  • Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing and Fudge by Blume
  • Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist by LaFevers
  • The Sherlock Files by Barrett

Older Readers (4th grade and up)

  • Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis
  • Ranger’s Apprentice by Flanagan
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Riordan
  • The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Kessler (have not read the newly released 4th book yet)
  • Mistmantle Chronicles by McAllister
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Barry
  • Conspiracy 365 by Lord (must be read in order)
  • The White Mountains (Tripods) trilogy by Christopher
  • Wrinkle in Time by L’Engle
  • 43 Old Cemetery Road by Klise
  • The Magic Thief by Prineas
  • The Magickeepers by Kirov

Not exactly a series, but there are companions

  • Rosie and Crooked Little Heart by Lamott
  • Lemonade Wars and Lemonade Crime by Davies
  • The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger by Lowry
  • Hoot, Flush, Scat, and Chomp by Hiaasen

Sequels are in the works, and I am anxiously awaiting more

  • Museum of Thieves by Tanner
  • The False Prince by Nielsen
  • The Books of Elsewhere by West

Series that should have stopped after the first or second book (in my opinion)

  • Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart
  • Secret Series by Bosch
  • Series of Unfortunate Events by Snicket (Can these kids ever catch a break?)
  • Junie B. Jones by Park (Kindergarten was great; first grade was obnoxious.)
  • The Gideon Trilogy by Buckley-Archer (long and slow)

Teddy Bear Picnic Birthday Party

I saw a bag of mini Stauffer’s original animal crackers on the impulse buy rack while waiting to check out at Office Depot several weeks before my daughter’s second birthday. That sighting sparked the idea for the teddy bear picnic where we could serve all mini food to our guests (human or fuzzy).

The Invitation: I used a local stationer, The Party Basket, in New Orleans for this one. The invitation included a little poem that told our guests, “A favorite teddy bear is a welcome guest to make (name’s) birthday the beary best!” Everyone RSVP’d to “Mama Bear”.

The Location: We hosted the party at the playground at our local park.

The Picnic Baskets: I located the baskets at Michael’s. I shopped at a fabric store for bright fabrics, which I cut into squares. My mom found colorful plastic tea sets that came in clear backpacks at a discount store. One tea set served four, so we divided up the complete sets.  Each picnic basket contained dishes to serve two guests– the child and his/her stuffed animal friend.

The Food: I made bear shaped tea sandwiches using a teddy bear cookie cutter. Each guest had one turkey sandwich and one ham and cheese sandwich in my favorite clear cellophane bags from Michael’s. I packaged mini Goldfish and the mini animal crackers in bags too and closed all the bags with stickers. We also included mini boxes of raisins and served small juice boxes. My daughter was going through an Elmo phase at the time, so the juice boxes, stickers, paper napkins, and the cake toppers were Elmo-themed. This mixed well with the fun colors in the tea sets.

The Picnic: We found brightly colored tablecloths in the sale bin at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and spread those out near the playground. There was room for our friends to set out the food from their picnic baskets and eat with teddy bears, dolls, and other party guests.

The Cake: Since we were serving all mini items, we purchased a small cake for the birthday girl (they call them “smash cakes” in some places), and the guests ate cupcakes.

The Party Favors: Guests took home their picnic basket with the plastic tea sets.

Classic Summer Reading

There is great juvenile literature published every year. With so many choices, it is easy to forget older publications.  However, some of my favorite children book recommendations today are the ones that I read over and over again as a child. If you are looking for some new-but-old summer reading choices, take a look at the list below. Whether you are school aged or an adult, these are great reads (or re-reads) for the summer. All of the books were originally published over twenty years ago. Many of the titles may be ones you remember reading while growing up, but there might be something unfamiliar. What was your favorite childhood chapter book? Please add a comment with your favorite!

** I tried to avoid duplicating titles I have on the “Read-Alike” and “Style-Alike” posts, so be sure to check out those articles too. I also included a suggested grade range.

Historical Fiction

  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Taylor (3rd/4th grade)
  • Celia Garth by Bristow (6th grade and up)
  • I am Rosemarie by Moskin (5th grade and up)
  • Island of the Blue Dolpins by O’Dell (5th grade and up)
  • Snow Treasure by McSwigan (4th grade and up)
  • When the Legends Die by Borland (7th grade and up)
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Speare (6th grade and up)

Animal

  • The Cricket in Times Square by Selden (3rd/4th grade)
  • The Incredible Journey by Burnford (5th/6th grade)
  • Julie of the Wolves by George (4th grade and up)
  • Kavik the Wolf Dog by Morey (4th grade and up)
  • Stone Fox by Gardiner (3rd/4th grade)
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Rawls (6th/7th grade)
  • The Yearling by Rawlings (6th grade and up– difficult language, dialect)

Fantasy

  • The Borrowers by Norton (5th grade and up)
  • Castle in the Attic by Winthrop (3rd grade and up)
  • Gift of Magic by Duncan (5th grade and up)
  • Half Magic by Eager (3rd/4th grade)
  • Indian in the Cupboard by Banks (4th grade and up)
  • The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Edwards (4th grade and up)
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by MacDonald (1st to 3rd grade)

Realistic Fiction

  • The Hundred Dresses by Estes (3rd/4th grade)
  • The Saturdays by Enright (4th/5th grade)
  • The Secret Garden by Burnett (4th grade and up)
  • A Summer to Die by Lowry (6th grade and up)
  • Wheel on the School by DeJong (5th grade and up)

Adventure

  • The Boxcar Children by Warner (1st to 3rd grade)
  • My Side of the Mountain by George (4th grade and up)
  • Original Nancy Drew Mysteries by Keene (3rd grade and up)

Book Buddies

At one time, I tutored students in high school English. I started making notecards that had lists of key themes, symbols, and character traits. The students would use the notecard like a bookmark and have it with them while reading. The reminders on the card helped guide the students to mark useful quotes. Now that I am back in the classroom, I still make these notecard-bookmarks to help students focus their reading. They can be adapted for so many grade levels. Click Here to purchase Book Buddy templates.

mrs_frisby    year_of_the_boar  mockingbird

Summer Reading: Many students read a book in June but can’t remember the book in August when it is time to go back to school. Fill out a generic card while reading and use the card for review right before returning to school.

mrs. frisby bookmark sample

Elementary Grades: For younger grades, have students note details about the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Students can also list character details and identify the big problem in the story. This is a great way to practice summarizing and keeping things short!

year of the boar bookmark sample

Upper Elementary Grades: As students begin to look for deeper meaning in a story, create a card with the key ideas you want to teach in the novel.

to kill a mockingbird bookmark sample

Middle and High School: At this point, you can provide space on the card for themes, symbols, archetypes and key quotes. Customize the card with any literary details you prefer.

** The cards can be printed with blank space, and the students fill out the information as they read.  Or, depending on the needs of your students, you can create the cards with the key ideas provided.

Hello Kitty Birthday Party

I tend to get a little over excited when planning parties for my children but when my daughter asked about having a Hello Kitty birthday, I was particularly giddy. Hello Kitty is all about crafts and cooking! I actually had to scale back from the original plan to have “shops” in the backyard where guests would go for individual activities (see the carnival booth plans at Mr. McGroovy’s).

The Invitations: Finestationery.com did not have what I needed for this party, so I ordered invitations through Tiny Prints. The cards were purrr-fectly wonderful.

The Crafts: We had several stations set up on low tables under one of those big tailgate tents in the backyard. Children could make giant tissue paper flowers. We folded several layers of colorful tissue accordion style then wrapped a pipe cleaner tightly around the middle. The kids pulled the tissue layers apart to create the flower. We also photocopied a Hello Kitty picture on cardstock. We then hole punched around the edge of the picture and tied a piece of long yarn to one hole. The guests could lace the string (like those nursery school lacing cards) and/or color the picture of Hello Kitty.

The Cooking: We used heart, butterfly, and tulip cookie cutters and made plain sugar cookies. We set up a table with the cookies, icing, and various sprinkles for a cookie decorating station.

The Scavenger Hunt: Each child received a drawstring bag with clues inside. Since our guests couldn’t read yet, we had slips of paper with pictures of places around the yard. You would pull a picture out of the bag, look for the location in the picture, then go to that place to pick up one treat. When the kids finished, they had filled Hello Kitty’s purse.

The Drawstring Bags: My sister made these for my niece’s spa birthday. She very kindly sewed the whole batch for me. Here is the basic pattern, but our bags had a 6″ square base and the sides were 22″ long and 10″ tall.

The Party Favors: Everyone took home the filled drawstring bags. After completing the scavenger hunt, the bags contained a headband with a red bow hot glued to it, lollipops, Hello Kitty lip gloss, Hello Kitty mirror, Hello Kitty mini notepad, and a few other fun items. All of the party stores and places like Target have a pretty big selection of mini Hello Kitty party favors.