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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Keep 'em laughing all summer long

June 17, 2013

Do you ever drag your feet when someone tells you absolutely must do something — especially when it's supposed to be "good" for you? I know I do —and so do lots of young people. Call it human nature. Call it whatever, but foot-dragging can be a real drag on summer learning especially for children who associate books exclusively with school.

Maybe a different approach can help: a carrot rather than the old stick. The potential for a chuckle rather than a push?

The newly appointed Children's Poet Laureate, Kenn Nesbitt seems to understand the power of laughter. He writes Silverstein-esque poetry sure to amuse young readers. In addition to books, Nesbitt has an entire poetry site dedicated to rib-tickling ditties.

Martha the talking, alphabet soup-eating canine, uses her words for wordplay and puns in Funny Bone: Jokes and Riddles (Houghton). This slim easy reader is filled with groaners, old and new.

Wordplay with a sweet, distinct math flavor abounds in Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert (Charlesbridge) by Cindy Neuschwander. In this latest in the series, Sir Cumference and Lady Di Ameter want to identify the most popular baker for the Harvest Faire. A compromise is reached between Pia and Bart Graf; Pia of Chartres' Pies and Bart Graf's Cookies are compared on (what else?) a pie chart and bar graph!

Young and old alike will have a great time when they try to Count the Monkeys (Disney/Hyperion) in a new and outrageously silly book by Mac Barnett. Kids are called upon to count the monkeys, "It's fun. It's easy. All you have to do is turn the page …" to start the giggles.

Sammy's new green bathtub was the best thing that ever happened to him, even better than Terry Trottingham's family speedboat! Margaret Mahy's lively language is matched by Steven Kellogg's animated illustrations for a memorable, swashbuckling ride in The Green Bath (Levine/Scholastic).

Baths are almost as familiar as the story of three swine and a hungry predator. But Mark Teague clearly updates your grandparents' version in The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf (Scholastic), sure to cause laughter with its droll illustrations and understated telling.

So keep 'em reading, laughing and loving summer reading!

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"Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them." — Neil Gaiman