Last year, several of my boys loved mysteries so they read A-Z Mysteries and other similar series like crazy. But for my other boys, I wasn’t quite so lucky. Some of them religiously carried around a copy of whatever Diary of a Wimpy Kid book they could get their hands on and pretend to read and understand it, while others would just shut down altogether after spending several minutes browsing the shelves only to find nothing they even wanted to try to read. I realized that my classroom library had lots of variety for girls, but not much for boys.
Last week while I was browsing the shelves at the local public library, I came across five reading series that I was mostly unfamiliar with. Some I had seen before but never read and some I had never even heard of. I read a book from each series and I'm kicking myself for not knowing about these sooner. The following five series offer a little bit of everything in contexts I know some of my boys (and girls!) would have enjoyed.
**Warning- At this point I am only speculating and have not recommended or given these books to any of my students (it's summer!). When I do, I will update this post!** :)
1. Rotten School by R.L. Stine
Of course I know about Goosebumps and Fear Street, but I have never heard about R.L. Stine's Rotten School series. I must have been living under a rock!! In this 16-book series, the main character, Bernie Bridges, takes part in lots of crazy antics. This series doesn’t have the horror themes of Goosebumps, but still has lots of disgusting descriptions that made me cringe! I mean, the first book is called The Big Blueberry Barf-Off, so just use your imagination! Here is the series description from KidReads:
Welcome to Rotten School! A place where Chef Baloney serves chicken with the feathers still on, where an armpit is a musical instrument, where the winning prize for art goes to the student with the best tattoo. But on this campus of losers, there's one winner who really stands out: Bernie Bridges. The king of schemers, Bernie can figure out a creative solution to any problem. Whether it's finding a way to steal --- er, win --- his hated enemy's new watch, or turning the tables on a bully by turning his dorm into a haunted house, Bernie always has a brilliant idea. Of course, things don't always turn out exactly as Bernie plans...but then, what would be the fun in that?
I highly enjoyed reading this book and I am looking forward to reading more of them.
2. My Weird School by Dan Gutman
I have seen these books before and even have a couple in my classroom library, but because I had never read them I was hesitant to suggest these to my boys. After reading one, Ms. Todd is Odd, in particular, I wish I would have been more familiar with these and I'm mad at myself for not reading them sooner!
In this hilarious series, the main character is second-grader Arlo Jervis, known to his friends as A.J., who attends Ella Mentry School with his friends. A.J. thinks school is boring and pointless, but at Ella Mentry School, the school is crazy and the staff is even weirder! I know my boys would enjoy the bizzare things that happen. This series offers tons of books to keep readers engaged and each book features a new crazy grown-up. With three additional series, My Weird School Daze, My Weirder School, and My Weirdest School, readers can follow A.J. and his friends to the third grade where things just keep getting crazier!!
The series also has a great website where kids can read about Dan Gutman and even see him describing his series! I have to admit that I am excited to read them all! I was cracking up!! These books range in level from 3.3 to 4.4.
3. The Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott
In this 44-book fantasy series written by Tony Abbott, three kids, Eric, Neal, and Julie, discover a hidden rainbow staircase in Eric's basement. This stairway leads to the troubled city of Droon, a magical place full of adventure. They meet Princess Keeah and discover flying lizards and magical furry creatures. With the help of a wizard named Galen, and a furry red-headed spider troll named Max, they fight to help save Droon from the evil Lord Sparr. This series would be good for my boys (or girls, of course!) who enjoy magic and fantasy but need a fast-paced book with a less complicated plot structure that still provides engaging illustrations. The books range in reading level from 3.0 to 4.3.
Fantasy is not my favorite genre, but for a kids' series, I enjoyed reading the story. I read book 13, The Mask of Maliban. I must admit that I am a little curious to see what happens to Lord Sparr....
4. The Doodles of Sam Dibble by J. Press
This four-book series featuring third grader Sam Dibble is perfect for those students who aren't quite ready for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other similar series. The text looks hand-written and is full of doodles that add an additional layer of humor. Sam is a typical boy who loves doing boyish things like competing in burping contests and eating live worms. He also has a rival, Max, who Sam and the other students call “Wax" due to his annoying habit of tattle telling. Max's dad also happens to be dating Sam's mom, which only adds to Sam's annoyance. Grandpa Dibble is a hilarious minor character that adds a unique element of comedy. The books follow Sam through his school-day adventures and are quick reads. The books range in level from 3.6 to 4.1.
I read book two, Double Trouble. I enjoyed the light-hearted nature of this book and the familiarity of the typical elementary school classroom including the class pet, a hamster named Fluffernutter. I didn't think I would like them, but I actually enjoyed looking at the doodles. :)
5. Vampire School by Peter Bently and Chris Harrison
In this six-book fantasy series, Lee Price and his other young vampire friends attend St. Orlok's Elementary School where they learn and perfect their vampire skills. Their teacher, Ms. Gargoyle, teaches them everything they need to know, even how to blend in among the “fangless folk.” This series would be great for a struggling or reluctant reader who enjoys monsters, vampires, mummies, etc., but not the gore and violence that comes without traditional monster stories. I read book two, Ghoul Trip, and enjoyed it! The students worked together to solve a crime and even I couldn't predict the ending! I know some of my boys would have enjoyed these books and felt successful after completing them. The text is a larger print and has lots of supplementary illustrations to enhance the story. The books range in level from 3.2 to 3.7.
Well, there you have it! Jeff will probably kill me when he sees how much the Amazon bill is this month, but hey! A teacher’s gotta have books! I’m anxious to try these books out with my boys (and girls) next year and see how they feel about them. I’ll get back to you when I do!
I realize that there was not a single book about sports. Surprisingly, my boys this past year weren't very interested in sports. I'm still on the lookout for great sports books for struggling readers, though, so if you have any suggestions, I'll take 'em!
Do you have any experience with any of these series?? Thoughts? Recommendations?
I’d love to hear!