Saturday mornings are dedicated to kids. What they’re reading and what they like.

Today’s recommendation of one of my favorites, the “Horrible Harry” Series.

Some kind person left these in my Little Free Library.

Harry is the typical second (and third) grader, not HORRIBLE; however, the situations he manages to get himself into are indeed just that–HORRIBLE. This is a laugh-out-loud series of chapter books that boys, especially, will adore.


9781684371785     The story of the Philadelphia Athletics who played in the American League at the famous Shibe Park in the year in which the story is set, 1938, is personalized in the life of the team’s biggest fan, a young boy who lives close enough to the park to sell tickets to sit on his roof and watch the games. This is a real blessing to his family during the Depression, when money was tight for everyone. Idolizing Jimmy Frank, based on the real Jimmy Fox, the protagonist eventually is hired as a bat boy for the team, meets his idol, and receives good life-advice from him. His adventures and misadventures, all centered around the Athletics team, are the crux of the story. This historical novel is the story of the heyday of the American League (which started in 1901 and ran through 1954) and describes life in America, during the peak of the American sport of baseball.


The title should read, “Saturday Mornings for Kids,” but it’s almost 2:30 p.m. Once again in this pandemic environment, I sit here asking, “Where did the time go?”saturday-morning-for-children  Today’s recommendation for kids ages 6 and up is for the Horrible Harry Series. Some private day care teacher must have retired and left her entire classroom library to my Little Free Library, for a whole box of “donations” were left at my back door a couple of weeks ago, I assume by someone in my neighborhood. I have been having as much fun as I had in 2019 when I read over 200 books as a Cybils first round reader.

Harry is a second grader, and he is both horrible and lovable. His group of friends is memorable and appear in almost every book. The book I finished this morning is Horrible Harry and the Purple People. Out of the eight or ten books in this series that came to me, this cover grabbed my attention. We see Harry and his friends approaching their classroom where sitting, waiting for them are grotesque, little purple “monsters.” Harry insists early on in the story that the Purple People are not monsters, but small, purple people, and only he can see them. As the students approach the end of second grade and plan their tea party, based on the one in Alice in Wonderland, read aloud by their teacher, Harry runs off his mouth to Mary, his nemesis who does not believe in the Purple People, and finds himself telling her that one of the Purple People will attend the tea party. Harry, as usual, has something up his sleeve, and as usual, it backfires hilariously. One warning: Like not being able to eat one potato chip, reading one Horrible Harry book leads to another, and another and another.


This Saturday Morning for Kids I introduce a week-long series, “Tween Treasures.” Each day from Saturday, May 16th until Saturday, May 23rd, I will recommend and write a short review of a book that appeals to ages 10-14. Many of these are books I came across in 2019 as a Cybils Award First Round Reader; others are from donations to or purchases for my Little Free Library.


The first Tween Treasures recommendation for Saturday, May 16th is The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel. It involves a boarding school secret society where Emmy’s father supposedly disappeared when he was a student at the school and the efforts she and her friends make to solve the mystery.51cGXY5HHlL._SY346_

This was a suspenseful read even for an adult, and when it’s a kid and it’s your father that had gone missing, well, let’s just say there’s a great deal at stake. Emmy’s ingenuity and perseverance even in the face of danger made her one of my favorite protagonists in my Cybils’s Reader assignment.


In honor of Children’s Book Week, May 4-10, I am offering a longer version of Saturday Mornings for Kids

saturday-morning-for-children.jpgAnd a big thank you to Carla of Carla Loves to Read for the awesome logo!

The books I am recommending today are all Cybils contenders from last year for grades 5-8, grades I am familiar with because I teach 5th graders in Sunday school, and I also spent nearly twenty years teaching 6th-8th graders in Alvin Public Schools in what seems like another lifetime ago. Here we go with the recommendations:

Pay Attention Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt had the most grabbing gimmick as its opening of all 200+ books I read for Cybils. It begins on a dark, stormy night with a  pounding on the front door. When Carter opens the door, there, drenched on the mat is…A BUTLER! This “Jeeves” type character is sent to help out a frantic mom and her four kids, who are experiencing hard times. With his butler, Carter is able to “save the day” and save the future of the world as we know it. Hilarious!

On a more serious note, Melanie Sumrow’s The Prophet Calls is a thought-provoking look at New Mexico polygamy. Gentry Forrester, the young protagonist has to save herself and her family from The Prophet and his teachings and control.

Set across the world in India, The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman is also very thought-provoking. Runaways from a poverty-stricken, abusive home must make their way in a city inhabited by “slavers.” This story was inspired by children the author met in India.

On Snowden Mountain by Jeri Watts deals with 12 year old Ellen’s difficulties during WWII. Her father is away and her mother is severely depressed, leading to Ellen and her mother having to live with Aunt Pearl, a hard, demanding woman.

Finally, Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles, an author I’ve read before, addresses diversity in an outright manner. Basically, it is a look at the emotions and impressions of 13 year old Rachel, who is dealing with multiple family problems as she deals with the inner questioning of whether she even likes boys.

All of these are books that deal with the questions and issues their target audience deals with on a daily basis, if not for themselves, vicariously with their family members and friends. Isn’t it good to have authors who are not afraid to address the issues parents and teachers are sometimes uncomfortable discussing? These books are a good “jumping off places” to begin such conversations with simple questions of “What did you think of the book?” or “What was the book about?”




Here it is, Saturday morning, and here are a few recommendations for books targeted at 5th through 8th graders:

Jess Keating has set her series, “Elements of Genius” within the Genius Academy, a school for masterminds. Her latest offering, Nikki Tesla and the FerretProof Death Ray (2019) finds the academy in an uproar. The death ray has been stolen. Enter Nikki and her genius crew, and they travel around the world, seeking to find the death ray and save the world from sure extinction. Very humorous.

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange strikes a note of mystery as the reader meets Pet, and eleven year old girl, obsessed with the legend of The Daughters of the Stone. All the elements of a good, suspense read are there: an old lighthouse, a castle, and a humongous storm.

Finding the only kid around a roller-skating girl who wears a cape and is searching out a secret leaves Gideon reeling and repulsed after a move from the east coast to Nevada. In this novel by Shaunta Grimes, The Astonishing Maybe,our hearts are with Gideon as the two new “friends/enemies” search for Rona’s long-lost father and the truth.

Parents divorcing is a theme often dealt with in middle grades fiction today. Dear Sweet Pea, Julia Murphy’s novel does just this. Patricia, “Sweet Pea” deals with the tension at home at the same time as the tension between her and her ex-best friend, Kiera. How this is resolved is not necessarily “happily ever after” but realistic and satisfying at the same time.

All of these are good reads for tweens and teens looking for characters that share their concerns and who are dealing with the same day-to-day issues as themselves.


Just like the Saturday mornings during the 50s and 60s when cartoons were the only thing on TV, this post is aimed at kids.

Here are a few more books I read aimed at 5th-8th graders during my 2019 stint as a Cybil’s first round reader:

Jada Sly Artist and Spy by Sherri Winston presents a ten year old frequently involved in adventure and hilarity. The author/illustrator is best known as the first African American cartoonist, but here she aims her talents directly at 10 year olds.

Laurel Snyder’s My Jasper June , recommended by the author of Wonder, deals with a homeless girl, Jasper, living in Atlanta, who makes a friend at school, an unusual event for her. The friend, Leah, and she construct a “hideaway” in an an abandoned house, something that begins as a lark, but puts them in real danger. A secondary plot of Leah’s guilt over her brother’s death and the result of it, which has Leah’s parents “just going through the motions” is abruptly interrupted by the scary conclusion, a nail biter, for sure.

In the What Happened series by Verity Weaver, a new offering, Math Test Mischief, looks into  a serious accusation of a group of eighth graders, disguised as an April Fool’s prank. It is a true Who dun it, and I am sure the conclusion will surprise you as much as it did me.

Another series, Survivor Diaries, written by Terry Lynn Johnson, offers another great story, Dust Storm (which may be based on an online game), and teaches kids the mantra, “Stay calm. Stay Smart. Survive.” This particular series reminds me of an older-kid’s version of the Treehouse books.

And for older readers, Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles opens with the statement that Rachel and Micha, the protagonists were engaged at the age of six. They are boyfriend and girlfriend as well as best friends until Rachel begins to have feelings for another girl. This conflict in Rachel’s heart exacerbates the conflict at home for Rachel and her family when she loses her family home, a farm, and has to move to an apartment in the city.

I hope some of these will appeal to your middle grades readers, and that they will enjoy them as much as I did!


Today’s selections are books I read while I was a Cybils’ first round reader for middle school readers last fall. I am happy to mention these books as good reading for this age group.

Beverly Right Here by Kate DiCamillo is for older junior high to early high school readers. It deals with runawaysdrugs, and other mature themes. After Beverly’s dog dies, that is the last straw in her troubled family relationship, so she buries the dog and runs away. She is a strong, self-sufficient young woman with whom the reader immediately bonds.

The secondary characters in this novel are strong as well: Elmer, Beverly’s love interest; and Iola, the eccentric elderly lady she meets at the VFW turkey raffle (Iola rigs the raffle, a hilarious plot gimmick). Oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny, the story is also heartbreaking in places. The author’s portrayal of teen angst is spot-on as is her engaging writing style.

Anthem by Deborah Wiles is also a challenging read for junior high through early high school This description of a road trip taken to protest the Vietnam War brings together young friends in a historical novel teens will enjoy.

Nina Soni: Former Best Friend appeals to tweens and younger readers. There are many clever illustrations, and it deals with complex friendships and relationships so prevalent within this age group. A tiny book by Kashmira Sheth (writer) and Jean Kocsmiersky (illustrator), it had its funny moments as well as an adorable protagonist who reminds me of myself with her constant list making. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.



Saturday Mornings for Kids is a meme that recommends books for kids from toddlers to middle school. Hopefully it is read by parents, teachers, and grandparents plus those interested in what is “out there” for children.

Today’s recommendation was sent to me by Oni Press when I was a Cybil’s judge last fall.

Dewdrop, a graphic “novel/picture book” by Katie O’Neill is a gently worded, gently illustrated delight for the youngest readers or read-to’s. The author embodies the concept of SIMPLICITY in her colorful drawings as well as text while she tells the story of Dewdrop who teaches her pond-dwelling friends “how to be mindful,  [to] go at their own pace, and  to find joy in their own achievements,” a lesson all children need to hear and learn. Her friends, “Mia, the weightlifting turtle;” “Newman, the musical newt;” and “the minnows who love to cook;” are all struggling with perfecting their talents for the Sports Festival at the pond. As they look at others who are preparing, they lose their confidence and feel they are “not as good”, becoming discouraged and sad. Dewdrop, who has been practicing her cheerleading skills, goes to each of her friends and literally cheers each of them on.

After talking to Dewdrop, Mia realizes that although she is not as strong as some contestants in the weightlifting contest, she “is stronger than I used to be. The only person I need to compete with is myself and try to do better than I did yesterday.” In today’s competitive world, what child does not need that life lesson?

This little graphic novel for pre-K age kids guarantees these youngest audiences will come away with a sense of peace and satisfaction that they are always good enough and need only focus on the good side of things to stay happy with themselves and their lives.


Just like Saturday morning cartoons, today’s post is aimed at kids, specifically those in grades 5-8. The following are kid’s books that your tween might like:

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day features a much neglected population of the U.S., Native Americans. Not only is this novel accurately representative, but it also is crammed full of family secrets.

For younger readers, grades three and four, who like chapter books, check out The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Calfer. This is illustrated by P.J. Lynch and is a must for dog lovers.

Speaking of dogs, Angela Cervantes has written a delightful chapter book, Letty Out Loud for upper elementary grades. Letty works at a local animal shelter as a volunteer and wants to adopt Spike, aka Hunter, who is the “perfect boy” in her opinion. As she works with Spanish ESL, she reads aloud to dogs at the shelter, thus perfecting her English skills. Letty is an “idea person” who gets things done–her way. She is a spunky, caring protagonist kids will identify with.

Switching to books that offer more adventure, Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs is a rollicking read, a spy novel where Charlie, a kid-genius on a secret mission for the government, receives instructions that he must carry out to save the world.

In a quieter, more introspective read, Eric Walters and  Kathy Kacer write a lovely novel for upper elementary and early junior high age readers, Broken Strings. Several life lessons are taught in this novel which deals with friendship, competition among musicians, and familial love against the background of Holocaust memories.

These are just a few of the special books, recommended by librarians for the Cybil award which I had the privilege of reading as a first round Cybils’ judge last year. It was a wonderful experience and one I hope to repeat if I am asked again in 2020.