Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pondering some books from Netgalley

I picked up a couple of interesting books this week from .  Both books sent me back to the old question of reading level vs interest level vs what are kids (or adults) going to actually do with the books? The first book I picked up from Netgalley was Jasper John Dooley, Star of the Week. This is a comfortable chapter book level with a funny and sophisticated protagonist, a boy  that seems to be in kindergarten or first grade, max.  The other was Twenty-two Dark Tales edited by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink.  This dark and sometimes confusing set of short stories are loosely based on Mother Goose nursery rhymes and are probably intended for teens.  Both of these books could be read and even enjoyed by children who are too young to get the point - or what you or I would see as the meaning of the story.  So should children read them before they are ready?

The classic Junie B. Jones series provides a similar challenge.  Junie is in kindergarten when we first meet her, and then becomes a First Grader at Last.  The humor, however, is often well beyond a child of Junie B.'s age.  After all, part of her charm is that she doesn't know she is funny!  I sometimes try to dissuade parents and teachers from reading  Junie B. Jones to kindergarten and first, or even some second grade students.  I warn them that they will find themselves explaining almost all the jokes, spoiling the sudden discovery at the heart of humor.  With teachers, in particular, I ask that if they must read a Junie B. Jones book to their class that they not read more than one.  Let the students read these very funny and rewarding books for themselves, discover the humor, and reassure themselves that they would never act that way!

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