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Step Four: Crayons on strike, obviously.

Ahem–If you haven’t read the picture book, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by the exceptional Oliver Jeffers, then perhaps you are still stucthe_day_the_crayons_quitk in the vacuum of all things Frozen. So Let it Go (get it?), and check it out. And while you’re at it, check out Oliver Jeffers’ brand spanking new, Once Upon an Alphabet and thank me later, because you had no idea you were hoping to read short stories about each and every letter in the alphabet. I know you didn’t. But now you do. Trust  me. Oliver Jeffers. That is all.

jeffersThe Dolphin’s got copies of both!

Happy reading on a happy Fall day!

Note: Everything by Jeffers is magic, see also Stuck, This Moose Belongs to Me, The Heart and the Bottle, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, and on and on it goes…


Step Three: How to get that certain someone to pick. up. a. book. Not a device. Not a ball. A Book. (Oh Boys!)

I’ve been known to go on and on about books for kids, I know. I can talk about good read-alouds all day, and I can talk funny books and ej readingclassics and coming-of-age and historical fiction and I hardly ever get stumped. Okay, fantasy stumps me a bit, and Vampires—yikes!—but mostly I can handle it. Bring it on. Lately though, most everyone I know is stuck. They want to know which books will appeal to a certain group of reluctant readers—ones who would rather maybe play soccer or fantasy football or play Minecraft or build Legos or, I don’t know put daggers in their eyes—rather than read a book. These (non) readers are boys—young ones, and older ones and even fully grown up ones. Boys are complicated like the rest of the us, but for some reason, I get asked specifically about what books they will love more often than I get asked anything else. (Except maybe, “Can I have a playdate?” I get asked that a lot.)

But they have to read, these boys. Have to fill in that nightly log with titles, and authors and minutes (and blood and sweat and tears apparently). So, hoping to continue my streak, here are my faves for boys in a few key age ranges. Check ‘em out here, then pop in to the Dolphin Bookshop and head home to interrupt some unsuspecting kid’s regularly-scheduled programming…

Chapter books for the younger set:

Captain Awesome series by Stan Kirby (perfecto for new readers to dig in on their own!)

Jake Drake by Andrew Clements

Hank Zipzer series by (ahem) Henry Winkler (don’t let the fact that it is written by the Fonze dissuade you—this series works on a lot of levels and boys will relate)

Stink! (Annoying little brother of Judy Moody is a great ally for 5-8 year-olds boys!) By Megan McDonald

The Yeti Files by Kevin Sherry (brand spanking new and all kinds of fun for brand news readers to read on their own)

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (read my this-is-one-of-the-best-books-ever-written piece here and then read this one with your kid and try not to love it)

Middle elementary and up
Frindle, No Talking, and pretty much any Andrew Clements books (he knows boys, trust me)

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (known for Ramona, Cleary nails a boy in this one and especially one struggling with divorce and other new and uncomfortable matters)

The Genius Files by Dan Gutman

*If you have a reluctant reader, or one who really digs comics, try the epic BONE series by Jeff Smith and they will not be disappointed.

Upper Elemtary/Middle School

FantastyLeague by Mike Lupica (watch out: dads might accidentally swipe this one)

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Hoot by Carl Hiaason (Survival! Florida! Ecological Mystery!)

Hatchet by Gary Paulson (Survivalism and adventure abound–will keep your kid turning pages!)

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli (especially excellent for boys with a sister)

Loser by Jerry Spinelli

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling (Obvious, but had to include!)

Percy Jackson and the Olympains series but Rick Riordan (see previous parentheses)

Happy Reading-logging!

(The fine print on this one: my daughter has read almost every one of these books and never once thought she was reading a boy book, so this blog is kinda for everyone. Shhh.)

Step Two: The New Classics (these books are playing for keeps!)

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Hello Port Washington!

Are you itchy for some new titles for your kiddos (or is that a little hay fever)? Let’s assume it’s the books and—on the count of three—bid a fond farewell to winter. Wait, was that ice on my car last week? Were we four inches deep in 44 degree rainwater yesterday? I know, I know. Let it go…

Last time around we talked classics, books which appeal to most of us because we think no time has passed since we were flopped on our beds in Tretorns and friendship pins reading Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. But alas, some years have gone by and lucky for our kids (and us) there are some new books out there that must be read by you and yours and for eternity. We’re calling them…The New Classics. (You were hoping for something more exciting, probably but it is what it is. This isn’t an episode of 24.)

Check ‘em out on the great blog wall at the Dolphin! Come on, give your kid the gift of great fiction after plugging through standarized tests all week. Oh, and rumor has it there will be a teen blog coming your way (for all of you not-so-closeted YA fanatics), so my list will always be heavy on pre-school and middle grade growing pains, lighter on teen angst and vampires.

As for me, I’m in the middle of writing a new novel and parenting through the Common Core—no one talk to me ‘til I’m done. (Unless you have book blog requests, or want to commiserate, or want to grab a coffee and talk about the Clinton grandchild.)

Until then, get on over to the Dolphin for books and treats and coffee and gifts…and books!


Picture Books

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (read it aloud to a group of kids and watch what happens)

Skippyjon Jones (They’re all good but Lost in Spice in a personal fave because well, Lost. In. Spice. It’s just so funny)

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes (ah, the way Henkes lets a kid work all the way through their drama stuff is genius, you guys!)

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willem

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin


Because April was National Poetry Month and I’m kind of a joiner so I feel super bad about missing it…

Firefly July (yes, July!) by Paul Janeckzo and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Absoutely every last thing Shel Silverstein ever wrote (in verse, that is, since the co-dependent message of The Giving Tree…not for me so much)

Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech (as well as most everything Sharon Creech has written)


Elementary (or middle grade, as they say)

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (click here for my deep thoughts on this one)

The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Desperaux and Flora and Ulysses—these parentheses are my way of loading up this list with a whole lot of Kate DiCamillo)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (lovely old-fashioned feeling, summer read for girls 8 and up)

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (if you or your kids loved and were moved by Wonder, read this next)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (forgive me, but if you’ve ever sung a Broadway tune when maybe it wasn’t a good time, you must read this and here’s why…)

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Frindle by Andrew Clements (if you happen to have a boy (or a girl!) who won’t read anything but sports stats and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, try this one)

And now, a (non-dystopian) YA selection because these belong on any new classics list…

The Fault in Our Stars by the incomparable John Green (because had this been around when we were teens, we’d ramble on about it to our parents–who wouldn’t understand!–through snotty tissues…)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (charming and magical and about as strong a non-conformist message as you can get without anyone knowing what you’re up to.)

And not to be missed by tweens, teens, and adults alike… The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (National Book Award-winner, anyone?)

As always, more book recs to come!


STEP ONE: Get the Classics*


Welcome to (How to Make) Tin-Can Stilts, brought to you by your local indie, The Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington, NY.

If you know me (which you might—we’re neighbors!) then you know I have a personal blog, which I call You can read all about why that is when you have minute (click here if you have a minute). But here, in this space, I’m thinking you’re looking for guidance, some instructions maybe–so many kids books, such jam-packed shelves. So here is where I will try to help you find what you are looking for. Books for your kid’s biography project? Books to snap your toddler out of a mood? Books that just plain take you all away from weekend sports and snow days and the common core? Done.

Have a question? Comment away!  I’ll do my best. But for now, let’s get to step one of this little how-to manual.


It’s only proper to start with the basics. The books we loved as kids and the ones we will bully (okay, not bully so much as beg) our kids into reading just so we can say in a shrill, slightly hysterical way:

“See? See? Isn’t it wonderful? Don’t you want to go carve a hole in a tree and live in the wild now? Don’t you think Ms. Finney was the best English teacher ever? Don’t you?”

No, really there are just some books that are meant to be read for generations—once you get past the very 70’s ambiance of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, you get to the heart of the original, my-teacher-saved-my-life story. These books transcend. They make great gifts. Here they are—come and get ‘em (at your local –ahem–bookstore, preferably).

Picture Books

A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss (trust me)

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illus by Helen Oxenbury

Lyle, Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak  (movie will freak a kid out—stick with the book)

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (what? tired of snow? this might help.)

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst (see here for more on this book)

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

The Story of Ferdiand by Munro Leaf (this bull is the best kind of stubborn)

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (obviously)


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (read then turn off the tv for a day—see what happens. And by a day, I mean a few hours.)

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban (don’t blame me if your kid wants their own lunchbox salt and pepper shakers afterwards—I mean blame me, but don’t be all mad about it)

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

The Box-Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (for more on this, see here)


The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by the late great Paula Danziger (I’ve been known to go on and on about this one)

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret  by Judy Blume (in case by some strange glitch in the universe, you forgot about this one)

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sidney Taylor

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

(Every single last Ramona book, but especially…)

Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Kongisburg (an essential, pre-Amber-alert read)

The BFG by Roald Dahl (You can pick any Dahl you like, I went with this one)

Poetry (great gift alert!)

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (‘nuff said)

You know what else is located where the sidewalk ends?

The Dolphin Bookshop.

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*(I will re-visit each category from time to time and dig deeper as we go, so please don’t be mad if I left off a personal fave. We’ll get there. Promise.)

(How to Make) Tin-Can Stilts

@ the Dolphin Bookshop

tin-can stilts

(on writing + other distractions)

educating alice

monica edinger, teacher and reader of children's literature


Read it and Eat