Books to challenge gifted 2nd grade readers
My Father’s Dragon
by: Ruth Stiles Gannett - (Random House, 1948) 112 pages.
Pardon me while I gush. This book is, by far, the most memorable early chapter-book of my childhood. While it has never been forgotten in my household, I find that many people nowadays don’t know about this magical book, the first of a trilogy featuring Elmer Elevator and his adventures. In My Father’s Dragon, Elmer rescues a baby dragon from the cruel animals on Wild Island and in the process takes you on a fantastic journey. My most highly recommended book on this list.
Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.
Find My Father’s Dragon at your local library.
Amos & Boris
by: William Steig - (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971) 28 pages.
Perfect for kids who love adventure. A mouse named Amos and a whale named Boris quickly become friends after Amos goes sailing on the high seas.
Perfect for: Inspiring kids to make new friends.
Find Amos & Boris at your local library.
The Stories Julian Tells
by: Ann Cameron - (Random House, 1981) 80 pages.
Julian loves to make up tall tales and make his little brother, Huey, believe them. Each chapter in this wonderful early-reader’s chapter book is an individual story and makes for a great introduction to the concept of short stories in general. The tales are imaginative, fun and a great depiction of a loving family in everyday situations. The bite-size length of the chapters keeps the book from feeling overwhelming for a young reader.
Perfect for: Kids who like classics.
Find The Stories Julian Tells at your local library.
Sarah, Plain and Tall series
by: Patricia MacLachlan - (Harper & Row, 1985) 112 pages.
The hook: After their mother dies, Anna and Caleb’s father advertises for a mail order bride. Sarah responds to the ad, and heads out from Maine to join the family on their Midwest farm. The children are apprehensive before she arrives, wondering what she’ll be like. When Sarah arrives, bringing her cat, gifts from the Maine coast, and warmth back to their desolate home, family bonding ensues. Part one of a heartwarming five-part saga.
Perfect for: Kids intrigued by pioneer families.
Henry and Mudge series
by: Cynthia Rylant - (Aladdin, 1996) 48 pages.
The hook: Perfectly captures the love between a 180-pound, drooling dog and a lonely young boy who — finding himself without brothers, sisters, or friends — can face any struggle (moving to a new neighborhood, being achingly bored at home on a rainy day) with his best friend, Mudge.
Perfect for: Boys who love enormous dogs (and the dogs who love them back).
Poppleton in Winter
by: Cynthia Rylant - (Blue Sky Press, 2001) 48 pages.
This collection features three short stories for early readers. In “Icicles,” the downfall of Poppleton’s beloved icicles leads to a new friendship. In “The Bust,” Poppleton’s creative juices get flowing, inspiring him to take up sculpting. And in “The Sleigh Ride,” he’s disappointed that all of his friends stay inside to bake when he wants to go for a sleigh ride … until he finds out that they were baking in honor of his birthday! Cynthia Rylant’s Poppleton in Winter is creative and fun — a perfect read on a snowy day.
Perfect for: Kids who like realism.
Find Poppleton in Winter at your local library.
by: Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by: Robert Andrew Parker - (Roaring Brook Press, 2002) 32 pages.
How did Jackson Pollack, the American abstract expressionist, create his huge splattered paintings? The development of “Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)” — one of his most famous kinetic creations — is described with lyrical text, vibrant watercolors, the artist’s biography, his major inspirations, and a reproduction of the masterpiece.
Perfect for: Kids who like to read about real people.
Find Action Jackson at your local library.
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors
by: Hena Khan, illustrated by: Mehrdokht Amini - (Chronicle Books, 2015) 32 pages.
Through radiant illustrations and simple text, this book provides a down-to-earth explanation of Islam. Each illustration is a combination of different hues of a single color. “Blue is the hijab mom likes to wear. It’s a scarf she uses to cover her hair,” it reads on a picture showing a little girl and her mom walking along a store-lined street, where a dog plays and another woman is not wearing a headscarf. Through these verses, children learn about prayer rugs, mosques, Ramadan, the Quran, and even a special type of painting. “Orange is the color of my henna designs. They cover my hands in leafy vines.”
Perfect for: A lovely, non-judgmental introduction to Islam.
Find Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors at your local library.
Too Many Tamales
by: Gary Soto, illustrated by: Ed Martinez - (Putnam, 1993) 32 pages.
It was a snowy Christmas Eve night and Maria was in the kitchen helping her mother make stacks of tamales for Christmas dinner. Relatives are about to arrive and the excitement is high, when Maria makes a mistake that threatens to ruin the party, and maybe even Christmas itself: she’s lost her mother’s wedding ring in the tamales. Maria’s cousins pitch in to help her find the ring. Fortunately, both Christmas Eve and a precious family treasure are rescued in the end.
Perfect for: Kids who like to learn about other cultures.
Find Too Many Tamales at your local library.
Why the Sky Is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale
by: Mary-Joan Gerson, illustrated by: Carla Golembe - (Little, Brown, 1995) 32 pages.
This traditional folktale, from the Bini tribe of Nigeria, tells of a time not so long ago when the sky was so close that even the smallest child could reach right up and grab a piece to munch on. The sky got very angry and moved out of reach when the tribe became greedy and wasteful.
Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.
Find Why the Sky Is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale at your local library.