We Recommend: Help a Kid Out, Now with TWO Levels!

It's We Recommend, in which we use our superpowers to find readers the perfect book. Got a kid who needs a recommendation? Write us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with the age, reading tastes, favorite books, and any other relevant (or irrelevant) information, and we'll give it a shot. And really? All the good suggestions are in the comments.

We've talked about dyslexia, and about reading with audio books. Because for some people reading the words on the page is tough, but they're ready for complex, compelling stories. The thing is, kids like this are reading on two levels—one for audio books, and another on the page. How do you find books for a kid that appeal to their understanding, while working with their decoding challenges?

So here you go: the following question was posed to me by a friend we were riding in a car, so I don't have it written out, I am just going to try to get it down more or less as I heard it:

My son is 10 years old and loves to listen to big, great stories on audio books—Percy Jackson, Gregor Overlander—but he's dyslexic so dealing with the words on the page is much tougher. That's where he likes great stories, but with visual cues. Things like Bone and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (though that one is maybe a little too easy for him now). What audiobooks can I get him, and what can I get him in paper form? He likes all kinds of stories, lots of excitement and thrills, though Septimus Heap, for instance, was not a hit. Also? No interest at all in The Hunger Games. [Editor's note: he's a really great kid.]

I wish I knew what to give him. I think Gregor Overlander is perfect, and of course now that it's in my mind I can't think of anything else. Ooh! Except I just did!

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Chestnut and Diana both LOVED this book, they had that sort of avid, invested relationship that you envy when you're toiling along with your own not-so-loved book. OK, audio book down.

But the reading book? The one that's maybe part graphic novel, complex story, compelling everything?

How about this crazy thing?

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I saw Scott Westerfield speak most wonderfully at a KidLitCon in Seattle two years ago, and he was particularly riveting about the relationship of story and image. I would think, too, of his later series, though I think it would be too tough on paper. But this? This is a manga version of Uglies, and it looks pretty awesome, and I trust him as a writer, though I have not read this.

But that's just me. I know you guys can do the double deal on this one, right? Help a kid out.

11 thoughts on “We Recommend: Help a Kid Out, Now with TWO Levels!

  1. We had exactly this situation with my son – he was a sophisticated listener (Harry Potter when he was three and a half) but had real problems with decoding. He is 15 now and getting A’s in his advanced HS English class. His teacher recently mentioned that the excellent vocabulary and comprehension skills he acquired from listening to stories are what allow him to read at the level he does now – although he still can’t spell and sometimes when he is faced with a visually unfamiliar word, he’ll just make a wild guess which can lead to an occasional unintentionally humorous misinterpretation.
    Anyway, for audiobooks he has listened to everything that Terry Pratchett has ever written multiple times and the readers on those are terrific. Also, P.B. Kerr’s Children of the Lamp series and Redwall. For reading, there are graphic novel versions of the Alex Ryder “Stormbreaker” series. And in non-fiction, he and his cousin really liked the British “Horrible History” series – lots of cartoons, jokes and interesting information.

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  2. There are terrific audio versions of “The Chronicles of Prydain” by Lloyd Alexander. (The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, etc.) A precursor to Harry Potter with a definite homage to Lord of the Rings. Both my son and daughter loved listening to them.

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  3. I’m going to sit here and wait with bated breath for the replies as I, too, have a dyslexic eleven year old son who hates the printed page but listens quite avidly to books on tape. We actually joined a “club” called Bookshare which provides free audiobooks to those with learning disabilities. All you need is a signed note from an educator to sign up. They have hundreds of thousands of books in audible form that you can then download.

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  4. On audio, I love Airborne by Kenneth Oppel, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, icefall by Kirby, and the Bloody Jack series by Meyer. All exciting books to try.
    For paper books, try Spiderwick, or Dragonbreath, and I just read a review of a new book called Timmy Failure that might be perfect. Graphic novels like Lunch Lacy series, or Zita the Space Girl could be great too.

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  5. OK, a couple of more suggestions from the 15 year old – mostly for audio tape. Charlie Bone and Eragon. And Selznick for reading (Hugo Cabret).

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  6. Actually, maybe Hugo cabaret would be good for reading because it is mostly illustrations? The problem is that the word pages are all words

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  7. Hugo Cabret makes a lot of sense. I feel like there is this movement towards (or back to?) making books that are image-connected (if that’s a word)—witness the crazy growth of manga, but it’s hard to corral it all, somehow. Scott Westerfield talked on this so well. I have found something related to it here http://www.tor.com/blogs/2009/10/the-art-of-leviathan-a-conversation-with-scott-westerfeld-and-kieth-thompson but I feel really Lewis Carroll says it best: Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversation?’

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  8. I was just thinking about “Building Stories” in terms of this thread – an amazing image connected story, although clearly for adult readers. And the Alice quote made me smile.

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  9. I was going to suggest Selznick also; Hugo and Wonderstruck. Dinotopia and it’s sequel both have few words with many pictures. Katurran Odyssey is a similar format to Dinotopia, but a more complex storyline (not a fabulous storyline though). Travels of Thelonious is half graphic novel, and while I haven’t read it, it looked good (right before I left it at a friends house and she helpfully returned it to the library for me, doh). Lastly, Calvin and Hobbes, because it’s smart, funny and great for vocabulary building (but mostly because it’s smart and funny).

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  10. I’m late to the discussion but since you mentioned Scott Westerfeld how about his Leviathan series? I loved it. I particularly liked the alternate history/reality aspect of the story. My Manga loving, German-speaking, 11 year-old daughter is reading the first book now and liking it too. It might be too many words on the page for right now but it’s at least worth keeping in mind for the future. The illustrations are fabulous. Also, the audiobook is read by Alan Cummings. I’ve not listened to it but I imagine with Alan Cummings reading it’s gotta be good.

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