Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers



We all know that some kids inhale books as quickly as they can read them. Keeping them reading is not a problem. But what about kids that just don’t want to pick up a book? Nothing seems to spark their interest. Can you add a book to their Christmas stocking without having them look at it like a lump of coal?

In many cases, it's just that they have not found that one book which perfectly matches their interests. Admittedly, connecting a reluctant reader to a book that they will love can be a challenge. Here is a list of tried-and-true books chosen by librarians for their ability to hook even the most reluctant reader.

Ages 6-7

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst 

Lulu's parents refuse to give in when she demands a brontosaurus for her birthday. So she sets out to find her own, but while the brontosaurus she finally meets approves of pets, he does not intend to be Lulu's. In this silly, sarcastic story, Lulu is in for a big surprise... and readers get to pick their favorite of three different endings.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker 

Armed with attitude, individuality, and a penchant for disaster, Clementine, a wonderfully wacky girl who is the inventor of the world's first pair of bologna glasses, makes her first appearance in this hilarious chapter book. Clementine  goes to great lengths to be friends with fourth-grade neighbor, Margaret, but more times than not, both girls end up in trouble. Energetic and imaginative, Clementine  is luckily gifted with patient parents.

Little Shaq by Shaquille O'Neal 

NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal presents a first installment in an early chapter book series starring a young basketball hopeful and his cousin Barry. When they break their favorite video game, the two start a gardening business to earn enough to replace it. By learning that hard work pays off, they eventually have enough to buy two games. Instead, Barry and Little Shaq decide to use the extra money to help out their community. 

Lola Levine is Not Mean! by Monica Brown 

Second-grader Lola has a wonderful family, a great teacher, and the best friend ever, Josh. They all help her feel better after she is teased and forbidden to play team sports at recess for having accidentally hurt classmate Juan during a soccer game. The appealing protagonist is energetic and enthusiastic, and her bi-cultural family is unique; they celebrate both their Peruvian and Jewish roots and encourage the use of peaceful words. 

Weekends with Max and his Dad by Linda Urban 

Linda Urban presents a sweet and funny illustrated novel about third-grader Max, who pursues neighborhood adventures with his dad as they both adjust to Max's parents' recent separation. The tale is broken up into a series of weekend vignettes, each ending on an upbeat note, as Max and his father adapt to their new lifestyle.

Rabbit & Robot : The Sleepover by Cece Bell 

Rabbit is excited about the sleepover he has carefully planned for his friend Robot, but Robot has some different ideas about how things should go. But while Rabbit’s hair-trigger temper and Robot’s logical outlook seem like a recipe for disaster, each strong personality is willing to bend just enough to make their friendship work.

Hamster Princess : Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon 

Never a conventional princess, Harriet becomes an adventurer after learning she is cursed to fall into a deep sleep on her 12th birthday. After two years of slaying ogres, cliff-diving and more, things go awry at home and she must seek a prince to set things right. The spunky, slightly bonkers Harriet is a delightful heroine who turns this fairy tale on its head.

Ages 8-9

Lucy & Andy Neanderthal by Jeffrey Brown 

A laugh-out-loud adventure by the author and illustrator of the best-selling Jedi Academy series stars two prehistoric kids who take on a wandering baby sibling, bossy teens, cave paintings and a mammoth hunt before encountering a strange group of humans. Brown is particularly adept at drawing out humor in everyday situations, thanks to his spot-on comedic timing and deeply expressive cartoon figures.

The Contract by Derek Jeter 

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, eight-year-old Derek Jeter, who dreams of playing for the New York Yankees, learns what it takes to be a champion on and off the field. His parents even have him sign a contract—the  first of many—stipulating expectations for his schoolwork, good sportsmanship, and self-respect. Jeter is adept at adding nuance to team dynamics; for example, the coach’s son continually receives undeserved accolades despite his poor sportsmanship.

Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe 

Facing a world of changes when his family moves from the city to the suburbs, excitable Jack Russell terrier Fenway revels in the nearby dog park and despairs of ever catching Evil Squirrels. Fenway feels a bit jealous now that his short human best friend, Hattie, has begun spending time with a new short human, Angel. Get a dog's-eye view of the world in this heartwarming book.

Tua and the Elephant by R. P. Harris 

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, 9-year-old Tua releases Pohn-Pohn, an abused elephant, from its chains. In the process of guiding the elephant to the safety of a refuge, Tua finds exactly what she's been searching fora friend. Vivid descriptions, a heavy sprinkling of Thai words in the dialogue, and Yoo’s evocative full-page art, keep the setting firmly in Thailand without feeling overtly educational or heavy-handed.

Ruby Goldberg's Bright Idea by Anna Humphrey 

Ruby is determined to win the gold with her fifth-grade science fair project, a Rube Goldberg machine to help her grandfather, but the real prize turns out to be something completely unexpected, a new friendship with an old rival. This story, complemented by wild illustrations of Ruby's inventions, is great for kids interested in science. 

Maker Lab : 28 Super Cool Projects : Build, Invent, Create, Discover by Jack Challoner 

Created in association with the Smithsonian, a treasury of kid-friendly activities for aspiring young inventors combines engaging facts with vibrant photographs that explain basic scientific concepts and includes instructions for such projects as an exploding volcano, bath fizzies and an eggshell geode.

365 Things to do with LEGO Bricks by Simon Hugo 

Two master LEGO model builders present a year's worth of games and activities for young LEGO enthusiasts, sharing such creative challenges as building a LEGO pet, hosting a competition for the tallest LEGO tower and organizing a LEGO treasure hunt.

Ages 10-12

Wing & Claw: Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park 

Discovering a medicinal plant deep in the forest while treating an injured animal, a gifted young apothecary is alarmed when the creature manifests disturbing side effects, prompting the young man to conduct research in a city filled with untrustworthy people. By the Newbery Medal-winning author of A Single Shard.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds 

Aspiring to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school's track team, a gifted runner finds his goal challenged by a tragic past with a violence-prone father in this novel about four teammates from very different backgrounds. By the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award-winning author of When I Was the Greatest.

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin 

Enduring days of avoiding bullies and reading sci-fi books, a misfit former foster kid bonds with a scruffy abandoned dog and a librarian's daughter before confronting the dual challenges of his adoptive mother's death and his new friend's returning cancer. By the award-winning author of Burning Blue.

Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi 

After moving into an old ancestral home, Emily and Navin's mother is kidnapped and dragged down the basement stairs by a mysterious creature. After giving chase, the kids find themselves in a magical but dangerous world of man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, and shadowy enemies. This action-packed graphic novel moves at a quick clip and is a great introduction to Kibuishi's ongoing series.

The Crossover 
by Kwame Alexander 

A middle-grade novel in verse follows the experiences of twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan, who struggle with challenges on and off the court while their father ignores his declining health. This may be just the right book for those hard-to-match youth who live for sports or music.

Oh, Ick! : 114 Science Experiments Guaranteed to Gross You Out! by Joy Masoff 

The best-selling author of Oh, Yuck! and Oh, Yikes! presents an A-to-Z compendium of hands-on, icky experiments, from "Pop a Pimple Cake" to "Grow a Mold Zoo," to engage readers with activities grounded in actual science.

American Born Chinese 
by Gene Luen Yang 

Here is an award-winning graphic novel that aptly explores issues of self-image, cultural identity, and transformation. In a series of three linked tales, the central characters are introduced: Jin Wang, Danny, and the Monkey King. The three stories finally intersect in a nuanced tale about learning to accept yourself for what you are,

Ages 13-14

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Warned away from magic all of his life, Callum endeavors to fail the trials that would admit him to the Magisterium only to be drawn into its ranks against his will and forced to confront dark elements from his past. This engaging adventure is great for its page-turning pace, and readers of all stripes will quickly want to find out more about Call’s world. The first in a growing Magisterium series, this book is sure to please.

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

On her first day at Berrybrook Middle School, Peppi Torres is determined to blend in. Unfortunately, she does exactly the opposite when she collides with—and then pushes—quiet, geeky Jaime. Too embarrassed to apologize, Peppi ignores Jaime, instead looking for friends in the art club. But Jaime is hard to ignore, especially since he's a member of the science club, the art club's main rival. Readers will find themselves quickly hooked on the realistically diverse characters, quirky humor, and cartoony artwork.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson & Brooke Allen

Five best friends spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp, defeating yetis, three-eyed wolves, and giant falcons. What's not to love?! If you're hooked on this upbeat, high-octane comic book starring kick-butt heroines who believe in "friendship to the max!", we've got good news for you: this collection is the first of an ongoing Lumberjanes series.

F in Exams: Pop Quiz: All New Awesomely Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson

A new collection of hilariously wrong test answers. From the same wellspring of failure as the million-selling F in Exams series, this special pop quiz collection will amuse and entertain anyone preparing to face down a test paper as well as those just glad to be far away from a classroom. One way to reach a reluctant reader is to tickle their funny-bone, and the hilarious answers in this book are sure to make you giggle.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Lord Blackheart, a villain with a vendetta, and his sidekick, Nimona, an impulsive young shapeshifter, must prove to the kingdom that Sir Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are. Much like Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along BlogNimona proves it's fun to root for the misunderstood bad guys.

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

Years after writing stories about a superheroine character she created with a friend who died in a car accident, sixteen-year-old May discovers an underground culture focused on the webcomic, and believes her friend must be alive. Priest's novel is an engrossing cyberthriller packed with a puzzling mystery, crackerjack detective work, and an eerie, atmospheric sense of place. Teens who roll their eyes at adults out of touch with Internet culture will eat this up and ask for seconds.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Bod has a series of adventures, both in and out of the graveyard, and the threat of the shadowy assassin who continues to hunt for him is ever present. Bod's love for his graveyard family provides the book's emotional center, amid suspense and spot-on humor.

Ages 15-18

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Mare is a red blood, a mere thief in a poor village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the silver court where she discovers she has a supernatural ability of her own. As Mare is drawn further into the silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard -- a growing red rebellion -- even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. Reluctant readers will be quickly drawn into the intrigues of the silver court in this new series, where every direction hints at a new betrayal.

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

The celebrity promotion of a trendy diet sweetener is overshadowed by the product's dangerous side effects and a famous actor's preference for a girl who is not the reality star selected to revitalize his career. Sweet takes readers on a dream vacation that goes first comically, then horrifyingly, wrong.

Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee

As seventeen-year-old Carr 'the Raptor' Luka rises to fame in the weightless combat sport of zeroboxing, he learns a devastating secret that jeopardizes not only his future in the sport, but interplanetary relations. Zeroboxer is an intense, smart, and action-packed read, sure to hook you in quickly as the violence spills out from the arena to the whole solar system.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geek by Sam Maggs

Perfect for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom, filled with interviews with fangirl faves. Maggs shows girls how to make nerdy friends, how to rock awesome cosplay, how to defeat Internet trolls, how to attend their first con and much more.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Questioning her plus-sized body for the first time when an athletic boy appears to return her affections, Willowdean enters her city's beauty pageant and uses her sassy styles and talents to compete against thinner contestants. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine, this book is sure to steal your heart.

The Silence of Six by E. C. Myers.

After his best friend Evan kills himself, Max Stein finds himself the target of a corporate-government witch-hunt and is forced to go on the run. Max must dust off his own hacking skills and maneuver through the dangerous labyrinth of underground hacktivist networks, ever-shifting alliances and virtual identities – all the while hoping to find the truth behind Evan's death. The fast paced action and suspense is sure to keep you up reading into the wee hours of the night.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

When a local mural mysteriously begins to weep, Brooklyn teen Sierra Santiago is unsettled, but it's not until she's attacked by a walking corpse that she really gets scared. Sierra will have to uncover the truthand tap into the spirit powers of her Caribbean ancestorsin order to protect everyone she loves. Filled with intriguing magic, authentic dialogue, and a realistically multi-ethnic cast of characters, Shadowshaper is a an addictive read.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History by Kate Schatz

Schatz presents a collection of short biographies of notable American women representing each letter of the alphabet, from Angela Davis and Billie Jean King to Yuri Kochiyama and Zora Neale Hurston. And the list of great women spans several centuries, multiple professions, and 26 diverse individuals. There are artists and abolitionists, scientists and suffragettes.

If you are still looking for more ideas for that reluctant reader in your life, The American Library Association regularly compiles a book list with them in mind.  To see the complete list of recommended titles for 2016, check out YALSA's Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Another great resource is BookRiot's list of 60 Book Gift Ideas for Reluctant Readers

As you head into the Christmas break, make sure to take advantage of all your MY Link card has to offer. You can browse e-books, e-audiobooks, comics and more with OverdriveHooplaAxis360 and OneClickDigital. Stream and download music for free with Freegal.

Happy holidays,
Dan J., Virtual Library Services

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