When I think about matching students to books, I want my students to find books for a variety of reasons. I know that finding favorite series and characters are key to a child's development as a reader. I spend lots of time sharing books with my students that have characters they can read about in other books. I know the excitement they feel when they discover a new book about Fancy Nancy or a new title in the Magic Treehouse series. As readers, many of us do this — we look forward to catching up with characters we love.
I house many of these books together in baskets. Instead of leveled baskets, books are often organized by character or series in the library. This helps students in book selection, because they learn that if they enjoy one book about a character, chances are they will enjoy another about the same character.
Many wonderful new characters were introduced to readers through books published in the past year. Several characters who we had read about in one book a year or two ago have also reappeared in a second book, giving us hope that there will be more to come!
Series Book Characters
Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs by Katherine Applegate
The main character in these books, Roscoe, tells each book in the series from his Official Time-Out Corner. Each book begins with Roscoe calling you over to his Time-Out Corner and then telling the story of why he is there. Of course, he never really means to get in trouble!
All Mixed Up! (Amy Hodgepodge, No. 1) by Kim Wayans
Amy Hodge has been home schooled, but now she wants to go to school and be part of all the things that being in a learning and social community with others can bring. Amy's family is multiracial. Amy is part Asian, part Caucasian and part African-American. I am finding that it is often hard for kids to see themselves and their families in the books they read, especially children who are mixed race. Amy Hodgepodge and the friends that she makes at her new school help to fill this gap in children's books — especially for middle grade readers.
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell
Ottoline is a fun character — a bit like Pippi Longstocking in that she seems to live alone and her traveling parents love her. She is well cared for by Mr. Monroe — a funny, hairy character — and a team of people who maintain things at the house. Ottoline is an interesting girl — strong and curious with lots of interesting traits, plus she loves disguises! Ottoline has two interesting collections, which you will learn about if you read the book.
The book is not quite a graphic novel, but the illustrations tell much of the story. The drawings are black and white with a bit of red, and really bring the characters to life.
Characters We Already Love
One of my favorite characters is Moxy from Peggy Gifford's Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little and Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes. Moxy is a character that many of us can relate to – she has procrastinating down to an art! It is fun to read about the ways that she avoids the things she hates to do.
Clementine's Letter by Sarah Pennypacker is part of the Clemetine series. Clementine is an independent girl who needs things to make sense, and she often gets into a little bit of trouble because of her inquisitive mind.
Sharon Creech's Hate That Cat: A Novel is a wonderful companion to Love That Dog, both about the same character who continues to write in his notebook and share his writing and thoughts with us.
We first met Pacey in The Year of the Dog, and I loved reading more about this character in The Year of the Rat. Both books are filled with timeless issues — dealing with change, stereotypes, traditions, and more. Stories from the parents' past are woven into each story to teach Pacey (and readers) about something important.
Picture Book Characters
I find that when young children read several books about the same character, they are better able to predict the actions of the characters.
Jan Thomas has created a great set of characters in her books What Will Fat Cat Sit On? and A Birthday for Cow!. The Doghouse is another fun book about these characters. The illustrations, predictable text, and humor in all of these books make them favorites among young children.
I also enjoy the crazy, disgusting Wild Boars in Meet Wild Boars and Wild Boars Cook. These are truly hilarious reads for all children of all ages.
Jon Scieska delights many children with the characters of Trucktown. In Smash! Crash! (Jon Scieszka's Trucktown), we met all of the vehicles in Trucktown, each with a unique personality. Kids love reading about vehicles that smash and crash. Scieszka and his team of illustrators have created books that engage students almost immediately.
Chester's Back! is a fun book about the cat who wants to be the star of the story. Just as in the first book, Chester, this cat uses a red marker to take over the story and to cause problems for author, Melanie Watt.
I am looking forward to reading more about all of these characters and know that my students are too. Falling in love with book characters is crucial for becoming lifelong readers, so I try to use a large part of my book budget building this part of the classroom library for students.