Want An Escape? Same. Here’s TPM’s May Reading Recommendation List

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May 1, 2020 10:00 a.m.

Is it May already? Does time mean anything anymore?

Yes, it’s disappointing that we’re all still stuck inside our homes with summer right around the corner. We know this is made especially difficult if you’re a parent with children who are trying to finish off the school year online. With that in mind, TPM is sharing some recommendations of children’s books that might help your little ones — or you — pass the time. No, this will not just be a page listing the Harry Potter books in order of best to very best. (I actually have not read the Harry Potter series, but that’s a discussion for another time. Bring on the roasting in the comments.)

Check out our list below (in order of guided reading level), and be sure to comment with some of your childhood favorites. And check back next month. We’ll have another reading list for you and if you (somehow) don’t already own all of the books below, you can find them all through TPM’s Bookshop profile.

Nicole Lafond, Special Projects Editor

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery 
Guided Reading Level: G
The Cuthberts are in for a shock. They are expecting an orphan boy to help with the work at Green Gables – but a skinny red-haired girl turns up instead. Highly spirited Anne Shirley charms her way into the Cuthberts’ affection with her vivid imagination and constant chatter, and soon it’s impossible to imagine life without her.

Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Guided Reading Level: I
When a bus driver takes a break from his route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place-a pigeon! But you’ve never met one like this before. As he pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, children will love being able to answer back and decide his fate.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Felicia Bond and Laura Joffe Numeroff 
Guided Reading Level: K
If a hungry little traveler shows up at your house, you might want to give him a cookie. If you give him a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. He’ll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and then he’ll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim.

David Taintor, Senior Editor

The Story of Ferdinand by Robert Lawson and Munro Leaf 
Guided Reading Level: K
Ferdinand is the world’s most peaceful–and–beloved little bull. While all of the other bulls snort, leap, and butt their heads, Ferdinand is content to just sit and smell the flowers under his favorite cork tree. Leaf’s simple storytelling paired with Lawson’s pen-and-ink drawings make The Story of Ferdinand a true classic.

Derick Dirmaier, Head of Product

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz
Guided Reading Level: M
Alexander knew it was going to be a terrible day when he woke up with gum in his hair. His best friend deserted him. There was no dessert in his lunch bag. And, on top of all that, there were lima beans for dinner and kissing on TV!

Matt Shuham, Reporter

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judy Barrett and Ron Barrett
Guided Reading Level: M
The tiny town of Chewandswallow was very much like any other tiny town except for its weather which came three times a day, at breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it never rained rain and it never snowed snow and it never blew just wind. It rained things like soup and juice. It snowed things like mashed potatoes. And sometimes the wind blew in storms of hamburgers. Life for the townspeople was delicious until the weather took a turn for the worse. The food got larger and larger and so did the portions. Chewandswallow was plagued by damaging floods and storms of huge food. The town was a mess and the people feared for their lives. Something had to be done, and in a hurry.

David Kurtz, Executive Editor

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton 
Guided Reading Level: N
A modern classic that no child should miss. Since it was first published in 1939, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel has delighted generations of children. Mike and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes for trains, and hollow out cellars for city skyscrapers — the very symbol of industrial America. But with progress come new machines, and soon the inseparable duo are out of work. Mike believes that Mary Anne can dig as much in a day as one hundred men can dig in a week, and the two have one last chance to prove it and save Mary Anne from the scrap heap. What happens next in the small town of Popperville is a testament to their friendship, and to old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity.

Kate Riga, Reporter

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Alexandra Boiger and Betty MacDonald
Guided Reading Level: O
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house and smells like cookies. She was even married to a pirate once. Most of all, she knows everything about children. She can cure them of any ailment. Patsy hates baths. Hubert never puts anything away. Allen eats v-e-r-y slowly. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has a treatment for all of them.

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

The Adventures of Captain Underpants Series by Dav Pikley
Guided Reading Level: P-Q
Young readers will laugh out loud at this action-packed, easy-to-read chapter book by award-winning author and Caldecott Honor illustrator Dav Pilkey. Introducing FLIP-O-RAMA, a wonderfully silly and fun-filled illustration technique that allows readers to animate the action.

Cristina Cabrera, Newswriter

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Guided Reading Level: Q
Two is a crowd when Peter and his little brother, Fudge, are in the same room. Grown-ups think Fudge is absolutely adorable, but Peter and his pet turtle, Dribble, know the truth. From throwing temper tantrums to smearing mashed potatoes on the wall, Fudge causes mischief wherever he goes!

Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher

Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
Guided Reading Level: Grades 6-8
The Secret of the Old Clock is the mystery that began it all for America’s favorite teenaged sleuth. The accidental rescue of a little girl who lives with her two great-aunts leads to an adventurous search for a missing will.

Matt Shuham, Reporter

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Guided Reading Level: R
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, haunted by his secret knowledge of his mother’s infidelity, is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce. When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. He is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present. At first consumed by despair and self-pity, Brian slowly learns survival skills–how to make a shelter for himself, how to hunt and fish and forage for food, how to make a fire–and even finds the courage to start over from scratch when a tornado ravages his campsite. When Brian is finally rescued after fifty-four days in the wild, he emerges from his ordeal with new patience and maturity, and a greater understanding of himself and his parents.

Cristina Cabrera, Newswriter

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson
Guided Reading Level: U
That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift. When I cried inconsolably through my first hour of life, my tears were her inspiration. Shaking her head sympathetically at Mother, the fairy touched my nose. “My gift is obedience. Ella will always be obedient. Now stop crying child.” So begins this richly entertaining story of Ella of Frell who wants nothing more than to be free of Lucinda’s gift and feel that she belongs to herself. For how can she truly belong to herself if she knows that at any time, anyone can order her to hop on one foot, cut off her hand, or betray her kingdom – and she’ll have to obey? Against a bold tapestry of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella’s spirited account of her quest to break the curse is a funny, poignant, and enchanting tale about an unforgettable heroine who is determined to be herself.

Kate Riga, Reporter (along with all of TPM)

The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling
Guided Reading Level: V-Z
Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility. All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley — a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years. But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry — and anyone who reads about him — will find unforgettable.

Cristina Cabrera, Newswriter

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke and Christian Birmingham
Guided Reading Level: V
Two orphaned brothers, Prosper and Bo, have run away to Venice, where crumbling canals and misty alleyways shelter a secret community of street urchins. Leader of this motley crew of lost children is a clever, charming boy with a dark history of his own: He calls himself the Thief Lord. Propser and Bo relish their new family and life of petty crime. But their cruel aunt and a bumbling detective are on their trail. And posing an even greater threat to the boys’ freedom is something from a forgotten past: a beautiful magical treasure with the power to spin time itself.

Summer Concepcion, Newswriter

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett 
Guided Reading Level: V
If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted, but their lives are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched and will most likely fill you with deep despair.

Derick Dirmaier, Head of Product

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer 
Guided Reading Level: W
This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth’s gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets such characters as the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, and the not-so-wicked “Which, Faintly Macabre, who gives Milo the “impossible” mission of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom.

Josh Kovensky, Investigative Reporter

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
Guided Reading Level: W
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. Wild nights are my glory, the unearthly stranger told them. I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract. A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem. A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal. It is the first book in The Time Quintet, which consists of A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time.

Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Guided Reading Level: W
Everybody loves Mother Paula’s pancakes. Everybody, that is, except the colony of cute but endangered owls that live on the building site of the new restaurant. Can the awkward new kid and his feral friend prank the pancake people out of town? Or is the owls’ fate cemented in pancake batter?

Derick Dirmaier, Head of Product

The Last of the Really Great Whangdooles by Julie Andrews Edwards
Guided Reading Level: X
Ben, Tom and Lindy Potter are ordinary children. They lead ordinary lives – until they meet the brilliant Professor Savant. He tells them all about the Whangdoodles, the wise and magical creatures who once lived on earth but then disappeared to another land, and were forgotten forever. Except by Professor Savant and the three children, who are determined to visit Whangdoodleland, where the last of the really great Whangdoodles rules over his kingdom of fantastic creatures. Getting there isn’t easy. The children must look “beyond” the ordinary, and see things in a completely different way. It’s hard and dangerous work, and sometimes it seems that they’ll never reach the Whangdoodle’s castle. But little by little the children learn that with a bit of imagination, “anything” is possible.

Matt Shuham, Reporter

The Giver by Lois Lowry 
Guided Reading Level: Y
The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

Cristina Cabrera, Newswriter

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Guided Reading Level: Z
When Death has a story to tell, you listen. It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist-books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Nicole Lafond, Special Project Editor

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Series by J.R.R. Tolkien
Guided Reading Level: Z
In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins is whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in Hobbiton by the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves. He finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the dwarf; Legolas the elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider. J.R.R. Tolkien’s three volume masterpiece is at once a classic myth and a modern fairy tale–a story of high and heroic adventure set in the unforgettable landscape of Middle-earth.

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

His Dark Materials Series by Phillip Pullman
Guided Reading Level: Z
These thrilling adventures tell the story of Lyra and Will–two ordinary children on a perilous journey through shimmering haunted otherworlds. They will meet witches and armored bears, fallen angels and soul-eating specters. And in the end, the fate of both the living–and the dead–will rely on them.


 

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