Books to challenge gifted 3rd grade readers
The Thing About Luck
by: Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by: Julia Kuo - (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014) 304 pages.
Summer’s family is plagued with bad luck. When a family emergency sends her parents to Japan, Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left with their grandparents, who come out of retirement to harvest wheat and help pay the bills. As her family’s luck goes from bad to worse, Summer must figure out how to make it better. Like Kadohata’s Kira-Kira, this story explores the inner lives of tweens in a stark and sometimes heartbreakingly real world; but this story’s slow pace requires a patient appreciation for her nuanced characters and evocative settings.
Perfect for: Patient readers who enjoy reading lyrical, character-driven stories.
Find The Thing About Luck at your local library.
Africa Is My Home
by: Monica Edinger, illustrated by: Robert Byrd - (Candlewick, 2013) 64 pages.
Magulu, a 9-year-old from the Mende region in Sierra Leone captured by slave traders and taken to Cuba, offers the focal point for this little-known chapter in the history of slavery. Upon being sold in Cuba, she ends up on the Amistad, a 19th century Spanish slave ship. There, the Mende captives revolt against their captors, free themselves, and demand to be taken back to Sierra Leone. This book recounts the abduction, mutiny, and legal trials that ensue — all from young Magulu’s point of view.
Perfect for: Teaching kids about the abolition movement.
Find Africa Is My Home at your local library.
by: Cornelia Funke - (Scholastic, 2003) 534 pages.
Meggie’s life changed forever one rainy night when she looked out the window and saw a stranger standing outside her window. This was her first sighting of Dustfinger, one of many colorful characters that her father brought to life from the pages of the book Inkheart. Meggie’s father, Mo, has a special talent — when he reads aloud, characters from the book switch places with people from the outside world. In fact, Meggie does not know this yet, but this is how her own mother disappeared nine years before. Now, the evil Capricorn wants another character brought to life, and is determined to have Mo read aloud. This fascinating multi-layered story is an enjoyable but dark read for anyone who loves a good story within a story.
Want to see the movie? The 2009 adaptation stars Brendan Fraser and Helen Mirren and stays fairly close to the book’s storyline.
Perfect for: Kids who like science fiction and fantasy.
Find Inkheart at your local library.
The Sisters Grimm Book One: The Fairy-Tale Detectives
by: Michael Buckley - (Scholastic, 2007) 284 pages.
Have you read the Brothers Grimm classic book of fairy tales? Did you think they were “just stories”? That is what sisters Sabrina and Daphne Grimm thought until their parents mysteriously disappeared one day. After being shuffled through several foster homes, they end up with a woman named Relda Grimm. Relda claims to be their grandmother and informs the sisters that the fairy tales are actually historical events collected by their ancestors, whose role has always been to maintain the fragile peace between the humans and the Everafters, the proper term for fairy-tale creatures. Daphne, the younger sister, loves Relda and their new life, while Sabrina is skeptical. Everything changes, however, when their grandmother and Mr. Canis, the butler, are kidnapped by a giant and the girls have no choice but to rescue their newfound family.
Perfect for: Kids who like science fiction and fantasy.
Find The Sisters Grimm Book One: The Fairy-Tale Detectives at your local library.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
by: E.L. Konigsburg - (Simon & Schuster, 1967) 162 pages.
Twelve-year-old Claudia and her younger brother Jamie are running away from the tyranny of unappreciative parents and the drudgery of day-to-day living. Claudia has carefully hand-picked the beautiful Metropolitan Museum of Art as their new home. There they quite unexpectedly stumble upon an unknown statue by none other than Michelangelo…or is it? Winner of the 1967 Newbery Award.
Perfect for: Kids who like mysteries.
Find From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler at your local library.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
by: Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by: Bagram Ibatoulline - (Candlewick Press, 2006) 228 pages.
Edward Tulane is a smug china rabbit owned by a little girl who loves and cherishes him. But everything changes for the not-so-nice rabbit when he’s launched into the sea during an ocean voyage. Tulane begins a tumultuous adventure that takes him from the bottom of the sea to the busy streets of Memphis. His travels frighten him, but also show him how to love. Gorgeous illustrations enhance the moving narrative.
Perfect for: Kids who like fantasy stories.
Find The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at your local library.
by: Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by: Marla Frazee - (Hyperion, 2006) 144 pages.
The hook: Clementine, a precocious third grader, is paying attention. Really, she is. It’s just that there are so many more interesting things to pay attention to than the teacher, like the janitor embracing the lunch lady. And she’s not skipping school because of that haircut disaster, it’s because she must have caught arthritis from Mrs. Jacobi. Clementine’s mischievous but well-intentioned antics, coupled with the lively pen-and-ink drawings in this seven-book series, will attract early readers ready for chapter books and younger readers looking for a read-aloud treat (especially fans of the Ramona books).
Perfect for: Kids entertained by a little mischief.
The Cello of Mr. O
by: Jane Cutler, illustrated by: Greg Couch - (Dutton Children's Books, 1999) 32 pages.
Sarajevo is the unnamed, bombed-out setting in this somber view of wartime. The cold, famished, despairing residents enjoy brief pleasure and relief every Wednesday at 4 o’clock when Mr. O plays his cello in the square. A triumphant reminder that art can transcend the ugliness of war, with luminous illustrations.
Perfect for: Kids who like music.
Find The Cello of Mr. O at your local library.
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by: Shel Silverstein, illustrated by: Shel Silverstein - (Harper & Row, 1974) 176 pages.
Fantastical tales and common childhood fears and habits (the dentist, snakes, nose picking, etc.) are the chosen topics here, in the best selling children’s poetry book ever. Exuberant cartoons — by the author himself — amplify the humor. Simultaneously outrageous and profound, it connects deeply with young imaginations. Delightful to read out loud over and over.
Perfect for: Kids who like wild stories, humor, or poetry.
Find Where the Sidewalk Ends at your local library.
by: Seymour Simon - (Morrow Junior Books, 1989) 32 pages.
Brilliant full-color photographs of thunderstorms, hailstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes accompany the factual text of this beautiful informational book. Simon carefully explains how storms form and describes the havoc they wreak on humans who are still fascinated with the power of weather. Simon includes not only what we do know, but also what we don’t, in a book that sheds light on all those mysterious symbols, diagrams and maps on the weather channel.
Perfect for: Kids who like science and nature.
Find Storms at your local library.
Where the Red Fern Grows
by: Wilson Rawls - (Laurel Leaf, 1997) 304 pages.
It’s the Depression and money is tight in the Ozarks, but Billy finally saves enough to buy two coon hound puppies. Billy raises Old Dan and Little Ann to be great hunters and the three take first prize in a hunting contest. But when his dogs tree a mountain lion, Billy faces painful lessons about loss and growing up. Although kids may not relate to the harsh realities of rural life in the 1930s, they’ll connect with the raw, deeply emotional details in this coming-of-age classic.
Want to see the movie? Check out the classic adaptation from 1974.
Perfect for: Kids who love universal coming-of-age stories.
Find Where the Red Fern Grows at your local library.
So You Want to Be President?
by: Judith St. George, illustrated by: David Small - (Philomel Books, 2000) 56 pages.
Books about the presidents are usually boring, but not this one. This is a lighthearted look at the presidency, including the ages, looks, backgrounds, occupations, pets, favorite sports and personalities of the men who’ve lived in the White House. St. George outlines the positive points about being president (big house with its own swimming pool, bowling alley and movie theater) and negative points (having to dress up, never get to go anywhere alone and lots of homework). David Small’s cartoon-style illustrations add to the fun. The book concludes with the oath of office, and there is an appended list of brief biographical sketches of each of the presidents. This would be a timely read with the presidential race that’s already beginning.
Perfect for: Kids who like history.
Find So You Want to Be President? at your local library.