I read Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool this weekend. It won the Newbery a few years ago, and the title keeps appearing on book suggestion lists I receive, so I had it in my pile of to-reads. There are multiple characters and flashbacks, so you have to stay on your reading toes (and probably be at least a 6th or 7th grader). It has a style and setting that remind me of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters also came to mind while I read.
The main character, Abilene Tucker, is sent to live with a family friend in a small town during the Depression. The town is chock full of quirky characters who are more interesting to me than Abilene. The minor characters are the reason I like the book. It took several chapters before the story grabbed me, but I loved the twist at the end during the courthouse scene– it was worth the wait.
Moon Over Manifest kick-started a new list of books that are set in small towns with memorable side characters. Do you ever read books and get caught up with the stories of the extra characters more than the protagonist? What other books have great quirky characters?
I joined a group of educators to create a collaborative blog with teaching resources for upper elementary and middle school grades. My first contribution to The Lesson Deli is a list of books with characters who have a physical disability or a learning difference.
It was harder than I thought to create the list. There just aren’t that many books with characters who fall out of the “normal” range of abilities, although, the majority of the books on the list were published in recent years, so characters with a mental or physical disabilities in literature is becoming more common.
I highly recommend Counting by 7s by Sloan, Wonder by Polacio, and The Million Dollar Putt by Gutman. I heard through the grapevine that there is a companion for Wonder called The Julian Chapter available on Kindle. Be on the lookout!
Do you like to read books that have characters with some kind of challenge? These books usually carry over to the sad but good list too, which can be a turn off for some readers who don’t want to cry while reading. Will you read a book that might make you cry?
A former student recommended I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein because there is a character in the story who has the same last name I do. It took me a few months to get to it, but I finally read it during my spring break.
This book follows a group of characters who are trapped in a library through a scavenger hunt of library knowledge in order to escape. The book becomes a puzzle for the reader too. It taps into your library skills and background knowledge of classic books. The riddles inserted into the story reminded me of a few other books I read and really liked. I had a starter list of this style of books in my Style-Alike book post, but I thought it was time for a dedicated scavenger-hunt-wrapped-in-a-mystery list.
Most titles on the list have the “riddle” element to them, but I also included classic mystery books like Nancy Drew where characters uncover clues to solve the crime without having to decode a puzzle first to reveal the clue.
The 7th Level by Jody Feldman
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Benjamin Pratt & Keepers of the School series by Andrew Clements
Chasing Vermeer (and others) by Blue Balliett
Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord (must be read in order)
Floors series by Patrick Carman
Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (and The 39 Clues series)
The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. Beil
The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch
The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett
The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier (older publication)
Theodore Boone Detective series by John Grisham
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Mysteries are actually a great book style for younger readers (1st through 3rd grade) because students have to maintain plot details from earlier in the book to understand any resolutions that happen later in the book. There are many series for this lower reading level that are popular. Reading multiple books from a series strengthens reading because they typically follow the same plot pattern in each book. This gets repetitive for an adult but actually helps improve reading skills in kids because they can begin to more accurately anticipate what will happen next, which makes the story easier to follow and remember.
The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I like the ones by the original author the best, 1-19)
During one of our icy snow days, I read a new book called A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. It wasn’t the best book I have ever read but what did stick with me were the connections between the characters. The quirky characters rent rooms in a run down building without knowing they all have a relationship to each other. As the book progresses, little clues are revealed that help the reader solve the mystery about how the characters’ lives intersect. By the end, we know how and why the characters were meant to be together.
A Tangle of Knots made me think about other books I know that have this fate element to them. Books that weave character stories together to create a clever puzzle of relationships. It is a little bit like a modern (and shorter) version of Great Expectations by Dickens who always intertwined lives so cleverly. Here are the books I like that have an element of fate or destiny or secret connections.
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Holes by Louis Sachar
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley
The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
I just ordered The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech, which I think may belong on this list too. Can anyone confirm?
I contributed a guest post to an upper elementary teaching blog, Minds in Bloom. The post is about helping kids find their gateway book and then using that gateway book to generate spin off books that build a love of reading. See my survival book list or the guest post for an explanation of a gateway book.
My favorite part of the article is the Book Trails. This is a list of books that can be generated from one starter book. Check out the post to see how to build your own book trail!
Here is a sample book trail for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Create a list of related books to keep a child reading.