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After Harry : Wimpy Kid, Tamora Pierce, Mo Willems
© Deanna Toxopeus
July 30, 2009

Summer is here. You are dragging your child to some ungeekly place such as the beach. They aren't going willingly, so sweeten the deal with some of these books. (For more suggestions, here's the After Harry archive.)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Author: Jeff Kinney / Reading Level: Grade 4 / Suggested Audience: Grade 5 and up / Target Reader: Boys, struggling readers

At first glance, this does not look like it fits in sci-fi-ish stuff, but it bills itself as a novel told through cartoons. So it's a graphic novel. In my book, graphic novels count as genre fiction. The whole thing started as a webcomic in 2004. How genre is that?

Diary is about Greg, who is trying to fit into middle school. His mother forced him to keep a diary of his thoughts to improve his writing. We follow Greg through his first year of middle school. Greg is pretty clueless about how his behavior impacts his family and friends. For example, he and his best friend taunt bullies then take refuge in Greg's grandmother's house. Greg notices the next day that it has been TPd. Greg momentarily feels bad, as it looks like the mess will take a long time to clean up, but then he remembers his grandmother is retired and has a lot of free time on her hands. I'm not saying that tweens are self-centered . . . well, OK, I am.

This book captures the typical pre-teen voice with Greg's comments and focus. The funny cartoons illustrate and expand on the story. Harry Potter fans will love the child's point of view narrative.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Author: Mo Willems / Reading Level: Kindergarten / Suggested Audience: Everyone / Target Reader: Parents of pushy kids, pushy kids

Mo Willems exploded onto the picture book scene and has been nominated for three Caldecott Medals and won the Geisel Medal twice. What have you been doing, slacker? His background as an animator on Sesame Street gave him a unique perspective on the picture book format and its audience. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is about a pigeon who wants to drive the bus while the bus driver is away. He alternately begs, wheedles, threatens, guilt trips and flatters.

This book is absolutely hilarious. Readers will see someone they know in the pigeon, perhaps themselves. The illustrations are uncluttered, adding an intimate feel. Potter fans will enjoy the humor, and so will parents. which is good, because you will be reading this one aloud at least five hundred times.


Author: Tamora Pierce / Reading Level: Grade 6 / Suggested Audience: Grade 6 and up / Target Reader: Girls, police procedural fans

I have written about Pierce's work before. I waxed poetic about the first book in this series in a previous After Harry. But I have just finished the long awaited (and delayed) second book of the Beka Cooper series, and if I did not include it here, I would not be worthy of being the RevolutionSF Youth Fiction expert.

Bloodhound finds Beka in her first year of being a dog. She has been unable to keep a partner, finding them too lazy or too corrupt. This means our young heroine has been assigned to work with her old training partners. After a bread riot, one is laid up with two broken legs, so Beka and her remaining partner are sent to the port city of Port Caynn to investigate the sudden appearane of counterfeit silver currency.

Pierce has once again delved into her rich world of Tortall, giving us a look at a more lawless time of its past. Girls will find Beka is a tough, believable heroine. Boys will like that Pierce shows the rough side of life, with plenty of death and misery to go around. Harry Potter fans will love that, once again, our young heroine uses a mix of intelligence, magic and perseverance to save the day.

From the classics

And now, dear reader, it is time to turn to the dusty, dark shelves of the library as we look at a book teachers, librarians and other adults in our lives think we should read because they read it when the dinosaurs still roamed the earth. But don't let the age of the book turn you off. It's good, even if turning the pages produces more crackle and pop than your breakfast cereal.

Tom's Midnight Garden

Author: Phillipa Pearce / Reading Level: Grade / Suggested Audience: Grade 5 and up / Target Reader: Time travel fans

Tom's brother is staying with his aunt and uncle to avoid catching measles from his brother. Unfortunately, once there he is not allowed out because he might be carrying the virus and could act as a Typhoid Mary. This means that he is stuck in a spare bedroom with his aunt's girl's adventure books.

One night the clock strikes thirteen. Tom finds the door that used to lead to the back alley now leads to an old manor house. Tom befriends a young girl, oblivious to time passing much faster for her than for him.

For a forty year old book, this is surprisingly readable. You will not get bogged down in thees and thous or other archaic language. Potter fans will love the example of male/female friendship. They will also love the two BBC adaptations and maybe the 1999 movie.

Deanna Toxopeus can not die as there are too many books left to read. She writes about books she is reading and about seaQuest dsV in her RevolutionSF blog.

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