As second graders become more competent readers, a key reading skill under the Common Core Standards is to “describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.” Reading these second grade books and then watching the movie can spark a lively discussion about what happens in the book versus what happens in the movie. Take it a step further by making up new scenarios and asking your child, How would the character respond to this? How about that?
2nd grade books so great, they made a movie
The Ant Bully
by: John Nickle - (Scholastic, 2006) 32 pages.
Lucas is being targeted by the neighborhood bully, Sid. But instead of standing up to Sid, Lucas takes out his anger on a colony of ants. But the ants don’t let their small size get in the way of defending themselves. When the ant queen uses a special potion to shrink Lucas down to ant-size and he joins their colony as a worker ant, Lucas learns some important lessons about friendship and teamwork. Bright and engaging illustrations and a compelling message make this a great read for elementary school kids, who may never look at ants the same way again.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2006 animated film featuring the voice talents of Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and Lily Tomlin.
Perfect for: Kids who have felt like the smallest in the group.
Find The Ant Bully at your local library.
A Bear Called Paddington
by: Michael Bond, illustrated by: Peggy Fortnum - (HarperCollins, 2014) 176 pages.
The hook: We first meet this young, marmalade-loving bear when he arrives, alone and friendless, at Paddington Station in London from Lima, Peru. He attracts the attention of the Brown family, who take him home with them. Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their children, Jonathan and Judy, soon discover that bears, while wonderful to have in the family, are prone to all sorts of misadventures. But whether he’s overflowing the bathtub or destroying the neighbor’s watch in a flubbed magic trick, Paddington always comes out on top, his politeness and sweetness intact. With each chapter standing alone as its own story, this quaintly old-fashioned book (the first in the series) is a good choice for young readers who have made the transition to chapter books and an entertaining read-aloud for younger kids.
Want to see the movie? The 2015 live-action version featuring a computer-animated Paddington has many details from the first book in the series, plus a few plot twists and mild thrills to stretch it to a full-length feature.
Perfect for: Kids with gentle souls
The Boxcar Children series
by: Gertrude Chandler Warner, illustrated by: L. Kate Deal - (Albert Whitman & Company, 1990) 160 pages.
The hook: This series, which spans more than 100 books, begins with the introduction of the four recently orphaned Alden children who range in age from 5 to 15. Desperate to avoid being sent to live in separate homes or with their frightening-sounding grandfather, the plucky kids run away and set up housekeeping in an abandoned boxcar. The siblings enjoy mini domestic adventures without the interference of adults until 10-year-old Violet falls ill. These old-fashioned but engaging stories are a sweet introduction to chapter books for young readers.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2014 animated film featuring Martin Sheen and J.K. Simmons, which follows the plot of the first book in the series.
Perfect for: Kids who have ever fantasized about a world with no grown-ups.
The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda
by: Christianna Brand, illustrated by: Edward Ardizzone - (Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2005) 382 pages.
Meet The Brown family, who have so many naughty children it’s impossible to keep track of them all. At their wits’ end, Mr. and Mrs. Brown send for the very ugly but highly recommended nanny, Nurse Matilda. Using magic, the clever nanny reins in the incorrigible Brown kids and, as their behavior improves, so does her foreboding appearance. Kids will chuckle at the endless ways the Brown children find to be disobedient, but they’ll also learn some valuable lessons about being kind to others. Expect some questions about the British words, such as nappy instead of diaper and pudding instead of dessert.
Want to see the movie? Check out Nanny McPhee and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, adapted by and starring Emma Thompson, which loosely follow the plot of all three books.
Perfect for: Kids who are fascinated by naughtiness — and magic.
Find The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda at your local library.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
by: Roald Dahl, illustrated by: Quentin Blake - (Puffin Books, 2007) 112 pages.
The hook: It’s a Robin Hood tale with a sly, Roald Dahl flair. Mr. Fox uses his foxy wiles to steal from the wealthy farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, who are “about as nasty and mean as any men you could meet.” Though the farmers employ elaborate means to try to catch him, the slippery fox always finds a way to evade their grasp. But when the scheming farmers finally trap the Fox family in their den, Mr. Fox must come up with the most fantastic plan of all to save his family — and the neighborhood — from starvation.
Want to see the movie? The animated 2009 film, which features the voice talents of Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, and George Clooney as the cagey Mr. Fox, captures the edgy humor of the book.
Perfect for: Kids with a wicked sense of humor.
Find Fantastic Mr. Fox at your local library.
by: Janell Cannon - (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993) 46 pages.
The hook: Stellaluna is a baby fruit bat happily flying along with her mother when an owl attacks. The poor little bat is knocked out of her mother’s grasp and lands in a birds’ nest. The mother bird accepts Stellaluna as long as she acts like a bird, not a bat. Soon enough, Stellaluna learns to eat bugs and stop hanging by her feet. When she finally has a chance to show her bird siblings, Pip, Flutter and Flap, what life as a bat is like, they are left all in a muddle: “How can we be so different and feel so much alike?” one asks. Anyone who has ever been in a position where they can’t be who they really are will relate to Stellaluna’s predicament. Cannon’s award-winning illustrations convey the nocturnal world beautifully. Readers will be enchanted by this book with its messages of acceptance, friendship and a mothers’ love.
Want to see the movie? The 2012 animated adaptation fleshes out the picture book with additional characters and songs while staying true to the story.
Perfect for: Kids who like making friends.
Find Stellaluna at your local library.
by: A.A. Milne, illustrated by: E.H. Shepard - (Dutton, 1926) 176 pages.
The hook: Did you know that Christopher Robin and his bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, are inspired by the author’s son and his teddy bear? The tales of their adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood have been charming kids since 1926. The original book and its companion, The House at Pooh Corner, follow the bumbling Pooh, the wise Christopher Robin, the timid Piglet, the silly Tigger, and all of their animal friends through a series of small, everyday adventures. The reading level will be too challenging for most kindergartners, but the books’ themes and pacing make them appealing read-alouds for this age group.
Want to see the movie? The 1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the 2011 Winnie the Pooh are faithful adaptations of the original books that will especially appeal to preschoolers and kindergartners.
Perfect for: Kids who like to imagine their stuffed toys coming to life.