All the world’s a gamer, my friend. We have tiny computers in our pockets that we do our banking on, that give us directions, and so much more. They provide entertainment and a way to connect with people far away. We’ve all seen the very young child mimmic a parent on the phone, or even using the phone themselves. These children see itneractivity as a natural component of entertainment, and sometimes finding books for these little ones can be challenging.
For Early Readers books are very important. Finding a book that sparks their imagination or interest might be as easy as making certain the text doesn’t obscure the dinosaur pictures, or that there’s a princess on the cover. For others, that interactivity and frantic fun is the key.
Titles that talk
Some books speak directly to the reader. These interactive titles are keys to the kingdom of young readers’ interests. The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak is a great example, but so are Press Here by Hervé Tullet and This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Bryne. They invite interactivity and bring the child into the joke.
We’re looking for this same feeling in our emergent readers books.
Bring the emerging reader who also loves games or playing make believe stories they can relate to their lives. Either something interactive, as with the picture books mentioned, or something that relates to the games they love. The 2019 OTTER Award nominees include some fantastic examples. These three series brought everyone joy.
- Flintham, T. (2016). Game over, super rabbit boy! A Branches book (Press Start! #1).
- Flintham, T. (2018). The super side-quest test!: A Branches book (Press Start #6). New York: Branches. 80 pages, 978-1338239782
King Viking creates robots to spread No Fun across the world and Super Rabbit Boy might be able to save the day. He follows video game rules and worlds to overcome evil.
The 2018 installment, The Super Side-Quest, follows Super Rabbit Boy as he embarks on quests to stop King Viking’s new giant robot.
I have to admit, Press Start escaped my love at first. I had trouble seeing value in the stories until I stopped thinking with my teacher brain (ahem, trying to find a standard that this story could meet for measurable edification) and started thinking solely with my librarian brain (the one that wants kids to read, just read, read anything you want, but for the love of books and your future and the future of our economy and empathy, READ). The kids who loved this book, LOVED these books. They came in jumping up and down to get the next one. If that doesn’t speak to an undefinable quality in these books, I don’t know what does.
Hopper, A. (2016). The Data set collection: March of the Mini Beasts; Don’t disturb the dinosaurs, the sky is falling, robots rule the school. New York: Little Simon Boxed Set edition.
Gabe, Laura, Cesar and Olive are the Data Set: a group of kids who can overcome anything from the mysterious to the ridiculous. They have great adventures and model friendship in the many ways we get along with others. Slightly didactic, but very fun, these books circulate. That’s what we want, right? There’s a whole series, and we know that series mean continued reading.
I’ll talk more about Catstronauts in the comics post, but suffice it to say, this space-loving family is into these books big-time.
The Catstronauts save the world and solve solar system secret missions. Major Meowser, Waffles, and genious inventor Blanket work with science officer Pom Pom in space.
The Good: Tons of NASA easter eggs for knowledgable readers and fun characters for younger readers.
The Bad: there really isn’t any.
Brockington, D. (2018). Catstronauts: Robot rescue. New York: Little Brown Books for Young Readers. 184 pages, 978-0316307567
Brockington, D. (2017). Catstronauts: Mission moon. New York: Little Brown Books for Young Readers.
Of course I’m going to include Dog Man! With the fun characters, snappy dialogue and the flip-animation pages, this is a must! Dog Man was a police officer who was hurt on duty. His head was replaced with a loyal K9 officer’s head and they continue keeping the city safe. With each addition, we see characters grow and become more of a family. Villians have story arcs, as does a side character. Dog Man himself is a static character, always helping his colleagues (who are usually supa excited to see him) and friendly to all but the bad guy.
Pilkey, D. (2018). Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild. Graphix. 224 pages. Ages 7-13
Don’t limit yourself in age or genre when looking for the book to connect a young reader with their new favorite story. The OTTER Awards are a great place to start, but search around and see what you can find. I’m going to wrap up this post with a favorite of mine from 2018: Cardboard Kingdom. I don’t say this just because I have a child who created a LARP for her favorite chapter books, or because I have a child who creates cardboard armor and robots for any occasion.
Very inclusive and with relatively few words, Cardboard Kingdom is the story of a neighborhood where the children create characters and play them in costume. These LARP sessions are met with every parental reaction. The imagination and acceptance on one hand are a counterpoint to the bully and the misunderstanding parents on the other. The kingdom pulls together for a satisfying ending battle.
Sell, C. (2018). The cardboard kingdom. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers. 288 pages. 978-1524719388.
Hopefully these ideas get you off and running on your search for a book with a gamer in mind. They can be anything, though. If you know the child loves lizards, there’s a book out there that will be just right.