Marmaduke Multiply’s

I’ve lots to say about the flurry of ongoing excitement over Multiplication Facts, as they were, but as long as they continue to torment and elude many a young person (and older person, come to think of it), I shall continue to look for ways to make it a smoother ride.  The other day in the course of perusing my favorite algebra text, I came across a very old book that might do just that for some with a sense of humor and/or a taste for the old-fashioned.  (I’m never sure what “old-fashioned” refers to, but I’m quite sure that this qualifies.)  It’s called Marmaduke Multiply’s, and as far as I can tell it was originally published in 1841.  It’s been reprinted several times since, as demonstrated by the fact that you can order a copy for which you’ll be asked to pay anywhere from $.01 to $209.99.  To get a taste of it, and read about the pages that were modified along the way, have a look at Google’s book search.


Roscoe Riley Rules

The Roscoe Riley series has recently lit up one of the reluctant readers I know, so I figured I better include a quick mention, though I’m sure it’s probably already popular with most library-frequenters.  My young reading friend shared a passage that had us both chuckling, in which Roscoe describes his fractured femur as a “busted leg.”  Roscoe’s narrative voice (thanks to author Katherine Applegate) feels spirited and authentic.  The stories seem to revolve primarily around school, where Roscoe finds himself to be something of a trouble magnet.  Each book in the series has as its subtitle the cautionary tale told inside: Never Swim in Applesauce, Never Swipe a Bully’s Bear, Don’t Tap Dance on Your Teacher, Don’t Swap Your Sweater for a Dog, Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs, and the latest Never Walk in Shoes that Talk.  The chapters are short, and there’s plenty of white space on the pages.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

When I work with new reading students the first book I use is The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. What makes this an excellent first book is that the story is astonishing – French tightrope walker Phillipe Petit, with the help of several friends, strings a cable between the two World Trade Center buildings during their final stages of construction. Though the story alone could have carried it, the book won a Caldecott Medal for its illustrations, and they don’t disappoint. It’s hard not to linger on the page that offers the wirewalker’s view of the city at dawn, from over 1300 feet up. There is of course the added wonder and poignancy of a story from early in the life of the now-destroyed towers. The book has proven a great way to show kids not only that there are books they can enjoy but also that books with pictures aren’t only for very young readers. Check it out – the story’s enough to amaze anyone, and whether you’re reading it to an emerging reader or offering it to a resistant reader as an opportunity to be amazed and inspired by books, it’s unlikely to let you down.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Guys Write for Guys Read

This is a book worth trying with young male readers fall into either category (or both). It’s a collection of very short stories and essays (one to two pages) by male authors whose work has proven popular with male readers. Many of the stories are funny, many contain useful life lessons, and many contain the kind of content and language parents may want to review before their child jumps in. In one story a neighbor launches his brother high over a fence with a makeshift catapult. Of course, the edgy content is part of the reason many of the boys I know have liked this book. The stories have action, and often action of questionably good judgment. If you don’t mind doing the work of managing the questions and ideas that may arise from your child’s reading of the stories, you’ll also likely find that the book is great for generating discussion. The collection is also a good way to expose readers to authors they may be willing or even excited to read.

Guys Write for Guys Read is available new and used from amazon. While you’re looking, you might also check out 13: Thirteen Stories that Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen, which I’ve found often appeals to readers who like Guys Write…