Category Archives: Kids Book Reviews

Bedtime stories: choosing books for ages 7-11 wisely

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I like to complete a task.  At work, my execution is thorough, and at home I relish crossing errands off lists and finishing chores. I’m not someone who can walk out of a bad movie, turn off a tiresome show, or stop reading a tedious book.

But that dogged instinct can sometimes get in the way.

One of my great joys as a parent is reading to my kids. As they get older and our lives get increasingly busy, it’s difficult to find the time, but when we do, I love snuggling in their beds and sharing a story. My 13-year-old is too cool to partake, but 9-year-old Aden and 7-year-old Eli are a good audience.

Lately we’ve had trouble getting into a good book. I’ve never read the Harry Potter books because I wanted to read them with my kids, but disappointingly, Aden’s not interested. Maybe I’ll get another shot with Eli.

the horse and his boy cover best books boys 7-11

We decided to tackle the C.S. Lewis books and started with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which we loved.  (The movie is also excellent if you liked the book.) Next in the series was The Horse and his Boy, which we just couldn’t get into. It was very slow and the characters didn’t grab us. We started and stopped and then forgot about reading altogether for many weeks.

Every time I thought about picking that book up, I felt ambivalent, but it was hard to let go of the idea of carrying through to the end. It was only number 2 in a series of 7, and I wanted to finish what we started. We could have skipped Book 2 and moved on, but that option also made me squirm.  So basically, I avoiding reading time, which left me feeling blue.

Until last week, when I recognized how much I missed that time at night, winding down and reading together. I opened my mind to the possibility of dumping the boring boy and his humdrum horse and starting a new book.

Danny Champion of World cover best books 7-11 years

I went to Aden’s shelf and picked up Roald Dahl’s Danny, Champion of the World, and started reading that night. We love it. It’s a more modern story with sharper focus on character development, rather than plot. I realized that despite their popularity and value, the fantasy genre might not be for us, and that’s ok.

Dahl’s classics Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach captivated us, so I was hoping we’d like Danny too.  (FYI: Despite marketing, not all Dahl books are appropriate for kids: we tried a few others, including Esio Trot, and some of the Henry Sugar stories but found them dark and creepy.)

One of my fondest childhood memories is my father reading to me before bed. I love carrying that on with my kids. My dad read Danny to me, so experiencing it with Aden and Eli has special meaning.

Once I let go of the idea of finishing the Lewis books, I felt free and excited about reading with them again. I also felt foolish that I almost let my stubborn need to complete a task stop one of my treasured activities with my boys.

Maybe I’m growing after all.

hugo cabret book cover best books 7-11 years boys

I’d love to hear about any books you recommend for boys, ages 7-11. Other books we’ve loved are the Kate DiCamillo books (Because of Winn Dixie, Edward Tulane, etc.) and Brian Selznick’s Hugo.  Please tell me your suggestions in the comments.

We’ll need a new story soon!

More About Me as the Parent Du Jour

There’s a great website I highly recommend for working parents and those who are perhaps contemplating work, called The site features a different working parent each day, with the goal of a year’s worth of sharing.  Parents answer a list of questions, including ones about their work situation, how they balance work and home life, and their best and worst parenting moments.

It’s easy to read because it’s in Q and A form and somehow, blogger Lisa Duggan get people to spill their guts about their relationships with their partners and kids. She is always looking for diversity so the site includes both moms and dads of many backgrounds and in all different types of families.

She also includes a question about which books you read to/with your kids so it’s a helpful resource for new kid book titles. Perfect for those who believe if they have to read “Go, Dogs, Go” or  another “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” sequel they may lose it.

All are welcome to participate so if you’d like to be featured or know someone who make good reading material, log on and make it happen.

If you want to read more about me– yes I divulge a few juicy details–  check out my answers here.

Candy Reading List: Best Picture Books Ages 3-9

It’s challenging to read to my younger kids (ages 6 and 9) at bedtime lately because we’re out late several nights a week at games or other family events.  I’ll forgo it a few days until a wave of guilt and longing washes over and draws me back to the pillow, head-to-head with them, telling tales.

Picture books have become a favorite for those summer nights when you don’t want to commit to a chapter book. I’m picky about the books we take on because we read them multiple times. We love a compelling story and beautiful or funny illustrations with details that allow us to discover new things each time we read it. Even 9-year-old Aden likes these entertaining books, which are great for girls and boys.

Zen Shorts/Jon J Muth

One in a series of Zen books that are so simple in their storytelling yet carry powerful messages that reach both kids and adults. The Impressionist watercolors illustrate Stillwater, a giant Panda who befriends some neighborhood kids and teaches lessons through stories and experiences. Each parable challenges readers to examine how we react to the world around us.

Giraffes Can’t Dance/Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

I’ve brought this book to read to my kids’ classes at least 6 times over the years because it combines eye-catching illustrations with a sweet life lesson. Gerald the Giraffe can’t dance like all his jungle friends, which makes him an outcast with low-self esteem. He overcomes the teasing with help from a wise old cricket who teaches him to groove to his own beat.


Bear Wants More/Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

This series of Bear books are always on my go-to list because of their adorable art, poetic storytelling, and amusing plot twists at the end.  In this one, hungry Bear is looking for food and gets help from many furry friends. The “Bear Wants More!” rephrase gets kids really into the story because they know what to expect and love to repeat the line.  It’s fun to follow the creature characters from book to book.

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee/Chris Van Dusen

This one’s a gem! Mr. Magee and his dog Dee’s wild adventure in the woods never gets old. The artwork is vibrant and fun with amazing details but it’s the clever, lyrical words that make the story sing.  The surprises and danger keep my boys hooked, no matter how many times we’ve read it.

When we’re not reading these, I want to tackle Harry Potter with 9-year-old Aden. I’ve never read the series and have purposely avoided the movies so I could discover the stories with my kids.  Aden is set on reading the Percy Jackson series, but that doesn’t interest me as much. Please tell me in the comments which series you would read first.

Carpool Candy Reading List for 5-9 Year Olds

I’m always looking for good books to read to my 6 and 8 year old boys. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my father reading to me at night.  He always read in funny voices and chose books that sparked imagination. I remember describing what we thought Willie Wonka looked like, long before Johnny Depp and Tim Burton put their modern spin on it.

Maybe that’s why reading to my boys (ages 12, 8 and 6) is important to me. Ever since they were babies, I have been building a library and trying to steer them towards the classics like Big Red Barn, Make Way for Ducklings, and Charlotte’s Web. But sometimes your vision of your relationship with your kids does not mesh with reality. They are their own people with strong opinions, and one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned is how to let them be who they are, even if it means I have to read books about Dora, Star Wars, and Captain Underpants 7,000 times.

My oldest son, Jacob, is 12 and has not wanted to read with me since he was about 8, and able to take on chapter books without help. I mourned that shared time together when he told me he preferred to read on his own, and figured my younger boys would feel the same when they hit that age. So I was practically giddy when I realized my almost 9-year old, Aden, still loves to cuddle up to hear a story.

Six-year-old Eli likes to listen as well but his attention wanes more, especially since most of the books we read now have few pictures. He will wander in and out of the story but I’m always surprised by how much he retains.

I should tell you all my boys are little jocks and prefer to play, watch, and talk about sports ad nauseum, so they are much more likely to handle a ball than a book. But I require them to read at least three or four times a week and get great satisfaction when my kids read fiction.  We have compiled a terrific reading list this year that will appeal to both girls and boys between the ages of 5 and 9.

Consider this the beginning of my Carpool Candy Reading List. I hope to add to it whenever we take on a book that makes my kids ask to stay up late to read “just one more chapter.”

Because of Winn Dixie/Kate DiCamilo

One of my all-time fav stories about a lonely girl new to a small southern town who’s looking to make connections with people and is helped by a stray dog.  After you read the book, rent the movie, which we loved too.

Because of Winn-Dixie


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane/Kate DiCamilo

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I know it’s the same author but she’s so nice you must read her twice. Actually, more than twice because most of her books are excellent. This one is about a stuffed rabbit who gets lost and passed on from one kid owner to another, learning what it is to love. (Caution: keep a hanky handy!)

The Invention of Hugo Chabret/Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

A suspenseful story illustrated with beautiful drawings. Hugo is a young orphan living on his own in a Paris train station in the 1930’s. As all his secrets unfold– despite his lies and petty theft– you can’t help but root for him and his will to survive and follow his dreams.

Aesop’s Fables

Sometimes I don’t have the energy for a long chapter and just want to get to the couch, the DVR and the cookies waiting for me downstairs. These very short stories are great for kids who love animals, and they’re usually a little twisted, which makes them fun. They have also sparked interesting discussions about morals.

Please comment on the kids reading list and add your favorite books and the ages of your kids. I’d love to get some new recommendations. Happy reading!