GOOD READ: Are your kids up to the (Reading) Challenge?

April is less than a week away and this signals the beginning of another year of Reading Link Challenge competitions. If your child is entering Grade 4 or 5 and likes to read, this may be the program for him or her.

In British Columbia, Reading Link Challenge began with the Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam public libraries in 2002. Today, teams take part all across the province.

In order to play, students read six books chosen by librarians and begin by competing against other teams within their schools. Teams of six children apiece answer questions on characters, plots and settings. The winning team advances to the library challenge, where it represents its school against other competitors from within the municipality. From there, winners advance to the Grand Challenge, where they face off against winners from other municipalities or library systems. This year, children are reading the following six books:

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects and Other Man-made Catastrophes is the third book in the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look. Alvin is laugh-out-loud funny and afraid of everything. He is desperate to be invited to the popular boys’ party but, instead, a female classmate invites him to her party. Even if she does have a cool eye patch and a limp, this is a catastrophe. What is Alvin to do? Not only does he face the stigma of not being invited to Hobson’s party, he has to deal with the scariest creatures of all: girls. Alvin Ho books are a good choice for Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans.

• Local author Kit Pearson’s The Sky is Falling is book one in the Guests of War series. When fear begins to grow over a German invasion in the summer of 1940, Britain decides to send many of its children to other Commonwealth countries for the duration of the war. Nearly 15,000 are evacuated. Ten-year-old Nora and her five-year-old brother Gavin are sent to Toronto but they are placed with a family that only wanted a little boy. Rich in British and Canadian history, The Sky is Falling is a longer read suitable for Grade 5 and higher-level Grade 4s, and is the most difficult book in this year’s challenge.

• Another local author chosen is Lois Peterson, whose The Paper House is an eye-opening look at the lives of children in less-developed countries. Safiyah lives in the Kibera slum outside Nairobi and makes a meagre living by selling items she finds rummaging through the garbage dumps. Her greatest dream is to go to school but her grandmother is too poor to send her. When she begins to cut pictures out of magazines and glue them to her grandmother’s hut, an unexpected door opens for her. This is an easier read at the Grade 3/4 level.

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies is the first book in the series of the same name. Evan and his younger sister have always been close until the summer Evan finds out his very intelligent sibling is being moved forward a grade in the fall so they will be in the same class. Embarrassed and afraid of being shown up, he picks a fight with his sister that escalates into a full-blown war. The reader is carried along as each child tries to make his or her lemonade stand the most successful, learning some useful financial and business tips along the way. This is a great series for boys and girls in Grades 4/5.

• We chose the second book in the Poppy stories by Avi. This is a wonderful series for children who like animal stories. Poppy is a deer mouse living with her family in Dimwood Forest under the so-called protection of Mr. Ocax, a great horned owl who calls himself the ruler of Dimwood and expects the mice to ask his permission for every move they make. When they don’t, he feels within his rights to eat them. But when Mr. Ocax attacks Poppy’s soon-to-be husband, the mouse finds a strength she didn’t know she had and becomes an unlikely hero.

The Contest by Gordon Korman is the first book in the Everest trilogy about a number of kids competing to be the youngest person to ever reach the top of Mt. Everest. Dominic Alexis is 13 years old and determined to win a spot on the Everest team. When he manages to collect enough drink caps and energy bar wrappers to qualify for one of the wild-cards spots at boot camp, he is ecstatic. But as he has a small build and stands less than five feet tall, the team leader plans to cut him even before training begins. This is a great adventure story that will appeal especially to boys in Grades 4 and 5.

If you would like to have your child participate in the Reading Link Challenge, starting in September, contact your school librarian.

A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published on Wednesdays. Barbara Weston is youth services coordinator at Coquitlam Public Library.

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