About Me

My name is Genevieve Woods and in addition to being the mother of an adorable preschooler named Oscar and his adorable toddler brother Henry, I am the Children's Buyer at Spellbinder Books, a small independent bookstore in Bishop, California. I am often asked by customers for recommendations...and thus the idea for this blog was sparked.

Many sites recommending books for kids are created by librarians and non-profits. While these are great sites, they often recommend out-of-print books. This site is all about the great books that are available now! While I am not being paid for these recommendations, I would appreciate it if readers would purchase the books I recommend from local independent bookstores, or even B&N. Basically don't buy from the evil empire (A_A_O_), because if you do much of our literary knowledge will be lost.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Easy Readers Can Be Fun!

A lot of teachers come into the store lamenting about the difficulties of teaching to students who can be grades below their age in reading abilities. These teachers often pick up what I now think of as "reluctant reader classics", Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series. These books are illustrated like comic books, but with some paragraphs thrown in; though they are written for kids aged 7-10 (Wimpy Kid goes a bit older) 12-year-olds can be seen reading them in class without being embarrassed.

Teachers purchase these books so often that I sometimes think of Captain Underpants as a book for reluctant fifth-grade readers. But the truth is, Captain Underpants is a book for 7-year-olds starting to read, as well as 11-year-olds who feel intimidated by a page chock-full of text. Pictures illustrate the text, making the words easier to understand. But of course pictures can do more than illustrate text.

At the latest Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show I spent a long time talking to a very passionate Diamond Publishing Rep about comic books and their power to inspire reading. As the Diamond Rep correctly pointed out, because comic books tell stories with pictures, even children who don't know how to read can enjoy them; because they already enjoy the comic book children are not reluctant to pick them up; because the comic's speech bubbles clearly show where words are coming from children are not confused about who is saying what; and because the words are few, but part of the story, children are motivated to read them. Schools and libraries that formerly shunned comics are now starting to embrace them.

Mr. Diamond Rep then showed me some books from a new publisher called TOON BOOKS. They were comics, but with the sense of humor of a six or seven-year-old, and they were the size of a level reader, but they were much more entertaining. Level readers, typically start with level 1 with three or four words in a row and go up to level 4 with full paragraphs and sometimes full pages of text. Level readers are good learning tools, but they are SOOOOO BORING! This is an example of a Spiderman level 2 reader :

I have to stop him.
It's time for me to go to work.
I cannot enjoy my Party if a bad guy is planning a crime.
Sandman is stealing other people's money.

This is an example from Otto's Orange Day from TOON BOOKS :
Orange is pretty. It's bold and it's strong!
Now check out this ditty; it's my orange song.
I like orange flowers...
...and I wear orange socks...
...and I build a tall tower...
...out of bright orange blocks!
So just give me orange. It's bright and it's pretty.
Just give orange - And I'm one happy kitty!

I certainly enjoy reading Otto's Orange Day more than Spiderman. In fact, I am a fan of Otto's Orange Day. It has chapters (three of them), and it has a plot. Level readers are notoriously short on plot, but with pictures illustrating new developments in addition to words, you can actually say quite a bit. I will happily teach Oscar to read with comics, especially with TOON BOOKS, and then we can work up towards Captain Underpants, but we will probably try potty-training first.

To see if other people (well kids) like these books as much as me I had them quality tested. I can safely say that they are 4-year-old and 8-year-old approved. In fact the kids LOVED the books.

Spellbinder now has a number of TOON BOOKS in the store. Some are very affordable at $4.99 in paperback, but some of the best stories ( like the Benny and Penny books) are only available in hardcover and run $12.95. They all have excellent quality binding and the artwork is spectacular. And for a while, they are 20% OFF.


  1. It's so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it,especially boys. In fact, I've recently completed a feature magazine article on this subject that came out in October, "Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers."

    I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

    My blog, Books for Boys http://booksandboys.blogspot.com is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading. And I have a new book, Lost Island Smugglers, coming out in June.

    Keep up your good work.

    Max Elliot Anderson

  2. Thanks Max! I appreciate your kind comments. -Genevieve