Charlie Bumpers

What is it:

Charlie Bumpers is a series of chapter books about a 4th grader and his problems at school.

There are audiobook versions of the stories, read by the author, that are fun to listen to in the car.

BOOK 1 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year
BOOK 2 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome
BOOK 3 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull
BOOK 4 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey
BOOK 5 Charlie Bumpers vs. the Puny Pirates
BOOK 6 Charlie Bumpers vs. His Big Blabby Mouth
BOOK 7 Charlie Bumpers vs. the End of the Year

Who is it for:

Ages 7 to 10 is probably about right. Kids younger than 4th grade may be interested but probably can’t focus on books with only scattered pictures. And older kids will no longer be able to relate to the problems of a 4th grader.

The audiobook versions of the books are more accessible to slightly younger kids.

What Kids Like:

The stories are funny and engaging, and they feel authentic. So much of media aimed at kids is a] heavily sanitized, and/or b] a representation of adults’ unrealistic and idealized vision of childhood. But not many depict issues such as bullying, or antagonism with teachers and parents and other kids in a realistic, but also fun way.

What Parents Like:

Again, the stories are funny. My first exposure was hearing an excerpt from one of the audiobooks and it reminded me of the scene from “Stand by Me” when the kid throws up at the pie eating contest. I also like the stories balance of wholesomeness with reality.

The books cover important themes, including Friendship, Following rules, Overcoming fears, Learning lessons, Kindness, Making good choices
(this list is from the publisher’s teacher’s guide)

What the Critics Think:

Goodreads gives the books an average of 4.0 out of 5

Some of the books have won awards. The first one got:
2013 Parents Choice Award (Fall) (2008-Up) — Fiction (Recommended)
2014 Delaware Diamonds Award — Grades 3-5 (Nominee)
2015 Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award — Grades 4-6 (Nominee)
2015 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award — Children’s Book (Nominee)
2015 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award — Grades 3-6 (Nominee)
2015 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award — Grades 3-6 (Nominee)
2015 South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award — Children’s (Nominee)
2016 Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award — Intermediate (Nominee)
2016 Golden Sower Award — Intermediate (Nominee)
2016 Sequoyah Book Award — Children’s (Nominee)
2016 Virginia Readers Choice Award — Elementary (Nominee)
(from fictiondb)

Who Made it / History:

Bill Harley is a performer who travels to schools, singing, telling stories and entertaining.

More of Adam Gustavson’s art can be found on his website

Where Can I Get it:

The books are easy to find, although the publisher, Peachtree doesn’t have the same reach as Scholastic, so you won’t find these books at school book fairs.

Peachtree has excerpts of the books as well as little videos that give a sense of the mood and tone of the stories.

How to Build a House – Technical Tales Series

[amazon_link asins=’1633221415′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’matchstickkidboo’ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’2c3fa3ab-daa0-11e7-a59e-71387e274c28′]

Quarto is a publisher of art books, children’s books, and science kits, among other things. They have dozens of imprints, including Walter Foster Jr. which focuses on “art, transportation, history, craft, gardening, and more”. It is a welcome alternative to the Disney-dominated world of children’s media.

One of their series is Technical Tales, in which a mouse named Eli and his mouse, bird, and frog buddies build things such as a plane, a car, or a motorycle.

The one we got the other day was the one about building a house. The book has a ‘layered’ approach, which I have seen more and more lately, in which there is a story interweaved with more technical descriptions. This has the advantage of making the book more appealing to a broader audience, since a child may be only interested in the story while a sibling (or the same child years later) is more interested in the technical explanations.

The illustrations (by Martin Sodomka) are highly detailed and interesting to look at just on their own. They are somewhat reminiscent of the David Macaulay, although these are in full color and almost photo-realistic in places.

The story (by Saskia Lacey) is about friendship and how group projects need to take all voices and needs into consideration, which is a good lesson for our kids to hear.

This is a good book for an adult to read to a child, or for more experienced readers to read on their own.

Love, Triangle

[amazon_link asins=’0062410849′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’matchstickkidboo’ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’412f4086-da94-11e7-ae74-8fad9672d89a’]

This is a cute book about the friendship of three shapes that gives rudimentary geometry instruction while telling the story. In addition to basic shape names (circle, square, triangle) the text includes usage of words including ‘angle’ and ‘apex’. Toward the end of the book, one of the characters has to come up with an invention in order to resolve the central dilemma.

I wouldn’t categorize this book as STEAM (or STEAM) but I might consider it a proto-STEM book because it places value on knowledge of geometry and on the ability to use ideas and invention to solve problems.

And the kids like it.