Editor's note: These recommendations come from Orange County librarians who share their expertise on the public library system's blog, Book Talk.
By Book Talk
One of the most fun groups to connect with is the reluctant readers. Eager readers find their own way, and sometimes even lead the way into what is current and popular, but for the student who is required to read a book and is not enthusiastic, it is a challenge and a joy to find a book that they look forward to reading. So here are some suggestions of books that students will enjoy if shown.
Younger Children (Beginning Chapter Book Readers)
Most children beginning to read chapter books are familiar with the well done Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne and the very funny Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park. Most of our libraries try to fill their paperback shelves with these popular books in the "O's" and "P's" as well as hardback editions.
Other good series to try at a level just above are The Secrets of Droon, a fantasy series by Tony Abbot, and Underworlds, The Haunting of Derek Stone, and the humorous mystery series Goofballs by the same author.
For girly girls the Rainbow Magic books about fairies of every color and type are never on the shelf. The author is Daisy Meadows.
And ever popular and reliable . . . The Boxcar Children series.
The series begins with The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner and it's best to start with the first book, The Boxcar Children. Four orphaned children are afraid to go to live with their grandfather who they have never met and who they imagine to be mean, so they hide out as long as possible in an abandoned boxcar and try to make do by doing odd chores and taking care of one another. Although over a hundred and twenty pages, this book reads at a second grade level with simple sentences but a lively plot. Orphans and children who take care of themselves are always fun reading for the young world so ruled by adults. A series of dozens of mysteries follow as the children go on to be detectives. This series has been popular for over sixty years.
Little House on the Prairie, the long-beloved series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, is based on her own childhood of a family pioneering first in the woods of Wisconsin, and later moving on to Nebraska and Missouri. It is fun to read because of the hardships and adventures, told from the young girl Laura's point of view.
The series begins with Little House in the Big Woods and continues with eight more as the moves and new developments continue. There is a good sense of American pioneering life to be enjoyed while reading these books. Sometimes over three hundred pages, they are still simple, at just about the third grade level, so a struggling reader can be proud to be carrying a big, fat book.
For the most enthusiastic fans, this series continues with the Martha and Charlotte books by Melissa Wiley, the Caroline books by Maria D. Wilkes and Celia Wilkins and the Rose books by Roger Lea MacBride and one, Young Pioneers by Laura's daughter, Rose Wilder.
Older Children (Intermediate and Upper Grade Readers)
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a page turner. A boy traveling by small aircraft to see his divorced father is left to survive on his own when the pilot has a heart attack. Survival stories engage and there are three sequel or parallel books to this one that follow. Gary Paulsen is a great survival story and adventure author. Will Hobbs is another quality author to try for hair-raising outdoor adventure often connected with history. Take Me To the River is his latest.
Another engaging read is The Fear Place by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Two boys have made a backpacking camp with their parents, but then the parents need to go back. The boys argue. One walks off on a side trail with a steep drop-off, does not return by dark, and the brother who is afraid of height must find him. Add a cougar following for a dash of extra excitement.
Also by Naylor are the Alice books. Alice is young girl whose mother has died, leaving her being brought up by her father and older brother. The series begins when she is in third grade and continues up until her teens. Alice is a remarkably normal young lady who keeps her two best friends close, but being raised with only male insights can be comical. Girls will relate to the episodes along the many stages of growing up.
Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer begins an intermediate series by John Grisham. So far there are two sequels to the first, Theodore Boone: The Abduction and also The Accused. These books are full of legal excitement as young Theodore cannot help staying out of local legal drams, even a murder case. Each book leads to even more suspense.
From the Files of Madison Finn is another engaging series for the girls. Madison is twelve when her parents divorce and she journals into her computer files to deal with her feelings. The books mirror a typical girl growing up, with every day concerns with school, friendship, and even first crushes.
Two other books that kids always like are Freak the Mighty and Max the Mighty by W.R. Philbrick. Freak is a gentle giant of a boy who is learning-disabled but great of heart. Max is a brainy little disabled boy who rides about on Freak's shoulders. Together they make a great team and in the second book they attempt a daring rescue of an abused girl.
And you can't go go wrong with Margaret Haddix's Among the Hidden. In this futuristic story the population police forbid an extra child and third child Luke has had to live all his twelve years hidden in his home. Six exciting books follow in this series.
Visit the to track down these books. Get more reading recommendations on the OC Libraries' blog, Book Talk.