I’m so pleased to see the “kooky chapter books” Elissa Gershowitz reviews above. First, because they’re chapter books: while there is hand-wringing about the state of picture book publication and The Hunger Games is dominating the media, chapter books—which I define in A Family of Readers as the first place “kids get to be on their own, both as readers and as characters”—deserve more of our attention, especially as the population bulge of young people moves south. And, second, I love when the chapter book genre, too often characterized by series (however excellent) allows for some individuality and even strangeness, as in Sadie and Ratz (hands with minds of their own?) or in the 2012 Newbery Honor–winning Breaking Stalin’s Nose, about a young boy facing down the state in the Soviet Union of the 1950s. Books for teens and older children currently allow for a wide variety of reading tastes; if we give new readers similar riches we have a better chance of keeping them for life.
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