I have found that there is often one book that hooks a child on reading. Children may know how to read other books, they read other books . . . but they aren't hooked. Then they read a book or series that they fall in love with and they can't stop reading! It is what we hope will happen for all of our students. I always feel extra lucky when kids have fallen in love with a book in a series. I know that when this happens, they are likely to read all of the books in the series without stopping, and they are set for awhile in their reading lives.
Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey is a series that does this for so many middle grade readers. In my teaching of 3rd and 4th grades, I have seen numerous students become hooked on reading because of Captain Underpants. The books have so many things for kids to love — the humor, the graphics, the characters. Many of my students read all of the books in the series, and then they go right back to read them all again. I have been on the lookout for books that I can hand to these students when they are ready to move beyond Captain Underpants.
I often put these books together so that students can access them easily. I might title this basket "If You Like Captain Underpants, You Might Like These." When I think about classroom library set-up, it is baskets like this that are critical for students who have recently found a book that they love. This kind of planning on my part allows me to hand books to students that have some similarities to the books they have fallen in love with and to invite them to try something new. It also gives me the opportunity to stretch their reading a bit by giving them some new things to try. For this basket, I am looking for books that combine text with graphics, books with humor and books with strong characters that children can relate to. This is what I've put in the basket so far:
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell
Ottoline is an interesting girl — strong and curious with lots of interesting traits. And she loves disguises and solving puzzles! The book is not quite a graphic novel, but the illustrations tell much of the story. The illustrations are black and white with a bit of red, and really bring the characters to life. This is the first book in a series of three.
Roscoe Riley Rules by Katherine Applegate
Right away, I could tell kids would like the concept of this book. The main character, 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. Pretty clever. Roscoe seems to enjoy his corner well enough, and his parents and teachers seem to love and understand him well.
Ellie McDoodle Series by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Ellie McDoodle is a girl who is easy to like. These books are actually Ellie's sketch journals. The combination of text, sketches, comics and white space will definitely appeal to fans of Captain Underpants. Ellie is always dealing with things that are typical for kids in this age group — moving, new school, family vacations, and more.
Babymouse Series by Jennifer and Matt Holm
This is a terrific series for readers who are new to graphic novels. Babymouse is a character who has a vivid imagination — one that we often get to see! The graphic novels are done in black, white and pink, and the text is simple.
Hikaru No Go Series by Yumi Hotta
This is a more complex graphic novel series for readers who are new to the format. Hikaru teams up with a ghost of an ancient master of the Chinese board game Go. The book is part fantasy, part adventure. This is an engaging series for readers who enjoy graphics and adventure.
Stink Series by Megan McDonald
Stink is Judy Moody's younger brother. These books are a bit easier than the Judy Moody series and they incorporate more graphics. Illustrations appear on several pages in each book. There are also related comics and graphics throughout the book. In each issue, Stink tries to solve a variety of problems.
Martin Bridge Series by Jessica Scott Kerrin
This book is full of adventure as Martin creates new projects. This is a wonderful book for readers who are new to chapter books. Each book contains three chapters but each chapter is almost like a short story. The drawings support the text in this series.
Journal of a Cardboard Genius Series by Frank Asch
Alex invents many things in this series. Readers get to peek into his inventor's notebook that is full of his thinking, with drawings, labels, and other jottings. The author has done a great job finding a unique way to combine text and graphics in crafting a humorous story.
Just Grace Series by Charise Mercie Harper
Grace is one of four girls named Grace in her class, so she is called "Just Grace." Grace is a strong-willed girl who has amazing adventures. Throughout the text, illustrations and graphics add to the story, and the text is rich in humor.
Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod
I try to include picture books in all of my baskets of books. Superhero ABC is a great comic-style book that takes a look at creative superheroes whose names begin with each letter of the alphabet. Each character has special powers that relate to the letter that begins their name.
Transformed: How Everyday Things Are Made by Bill Slavin
Kids love to know how things are made. Including this book in the basket invites readers to try a nonfiction text. Readers who love the graphics of Captain Underpants will love the diagrams in this book. Each two-page spread shares the steps necessary in making an item such as a football. The funny cartoon-like illustrations make this a fun read.