Category Archives: Check It Out

Check It Out: Guyku


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In honor of World Poetry Day, I wanted to let you know about a charming book of poems called Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys .

Read on to see if Guyku is for you!

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys

Guyku is a quick read!

Spring’s arrival has a tendency to disrupt our winter routines of after-school homework and bedtime books. Budlong and Ashman want to get as much fresh air as possible until the sun sets. While they are not at an age to truly appreciate haiku as a poetic form, they can appreciate the digestible length of each of the musings in Guyku. And the sooner they’re done reading, the sooner they can get back outside!

Guyku celebrates playing outside!

Divided into four collections—winter, spring, summer, and fall—this sweet little book of haiku celebrates the simple, unplugged fun kids can have when nature is their playground. Kites, snowballs, baseball cards in bike spokes, and flattened pennies on railroad tracks are just some of the subjects to which Raczka and Reynolds pay tribute.

An example of spring haiku for boys

Guyku connects boys to poetry!

What about that title, you ask? Is it right to imply that only boys will enjoy this type of poetry? Probably not. But if it’s going to help connect a boy to poetry, a genre often considered feminine, I’m okay with it alienating half the population. These are not the crude, sing-songy “beans, beans the magical fruit” kind of poems that are often associated with boys. The haiku range from silly and mischievous to sentimental and contemplative. When we first sat down to sample the pages of Guyku, I didn’t call it poetry because…ahem, (whisper) it doesn’t rhyme. You might want to lead with something like, “Let’s read this boy’s thoughts about playing outside and see if you can relate to them.” Or don’t say anything at all; just leave the book lying around (Jedi Mindtrick #3, my friends).

I also recently discovered the book’s website where you can get teacher resources to help your young readers write their own haiku. There’s even a page about girls who have protested and started a “Galku” movement!

Reading this book will inspire you and your kids to go outside and play. Get to the library and check it out!




Check It Out: a Valentine’s Day book for boys (and other pragmatists)


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“Check It Out” is a new series in which I recommend gems we’ve discovered by chance at our public library. Since it’s February, I wanted to share this Valentine’s Day book:

The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever by Brenda A. Ferber

Yuckiest Valentine book cover

That moment Valentine ’s Day becomes less about candy and more about declaring your love for a classmate can be, well… AWKWARD!!! (to use Ashman’s new favorite word). Romantic, risky, gross, terrifying, this book understands that immature love is complicated.

Join Leon as he chases his mortified Valentine card through town only to run smack into his crush, Zoey Maloney. What will she say? And will his Valentine card cooperate?

Valentine's Day Book

This is my favorite page. I love the teenagers’ reactions!

This book has been a February favorite in our house for the last three years. The boys love the comic book layout and vibrant full-page drawings by illustrator Tedd Arnold (Fly Guy; Parts). But I’m pretty sure it’s the Valentine card’s refrain that keeps Budlong and Ashman coming back:

Love is yucky. Stinky too. It will turn your brain to goo!

Sweeten your little reader’s V-Day with a trip to your local library to check it out!


Check It Out: Chapter Book Series by Steve Brezenoff


Budlong is currently on a mystery fiction kick thanks to his teacher’s awesome third grade reading unit. During winter break, we went to the public library to stock up. While Budlong went in search of Zombie Zone, the last book in Ron Roy’s series A to Z Mysteries, I went on a desperate hunt to find his next favorite series. Gotta stay one step ahead! That’s when I discovered author Steve Brezenoff and three of his series that were guaranteed to meet Budlong’s (unspoken) criteria:

  • Pictures (Like many boys his age, Budlong judges a book worthy of his time by whether it has pictures. The full-page, color illustrations in these books score huge points with him),
  • Just right reading level (Grade 2-3)
  • Adventurous, fast paced plots with relatable (but slightly older) characters

Series are particularly useful in creating positive reading experiences at this age. A story’s exposition (that part of the book that introduces the characters, the setting and the conflict) is often the most challenging to get through but also the most essential to understand. When readers already know the background information, they are motivated to read more books in the same series.

It’s only been a week and a half since my discovery and Budlong has read six books from these series. If you are wondering what your grade school reader should read next, check these out!

Museum Mysteries

The Capitol City Sleuths are four friends with exceptional access to the city’s museums, thanks to their parents who work there. They solve crime and learn a little culture along the way. Currently, there are eight titles in this series.

Museum Mysteries Series by Steve Brezenoff

Field Trip Mysteries

Help four best friends in Mr. Spade’s sixth-grade class solve crimes on their field trips before they get back on the bus to school. With field trip destinations that range from national parks to big cities to bowling alleys and amusement parks, your reader is sure to find a topic that interests him. This series contains at least 20 titles and is now branching into another series called “You Choose Stories.” They feature the same characters but allow the reader to choose from multiple possible endings.

Field Trip Mysteries by Steve Brezenoff

Return to Titanic

Tucker and Maya discover a collection of special Titanic artifacts that have the power to transport them back in time to the ship’s maiden (and final) voyage. After meeting a new friend traveling aboard, they decide to race against time and fate to save him. This series has the added benefit of also appealing to Ashman. If you know Ashman personally, you know he is our resident Titanic historian. He builds Lego replicas, draws diagrams and subjects random strangers to Titanic trivia quizzes. The three of us started this series as a read aloud, but Budlong went rogue and is just finishing the last book today!

Return to Titanic Series by Steve Brezenoff