The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
When you discover a little mouse in your hotel room and he rides a little toy motorcycle, plenty of playful fun awaits.
Magic Moment: The joy of a mouse with his motorcycle.
Ralph felt proud to think he was going to be written about in a composition in far-off Ohio. Pb-pb-b-b-b. He grabbed his tail, gunned the motor, and took off, heading for the threadbare part of the carpet that made such a good speedway. Round and round he sped, faster and faster until his whiskers blew back and he was filled with the joy of speed. He longed to wave to Keith, but he realized a good driver must keep both paws on the handgrips. He glanced up and noticed that Keith’s eyes were closed. The boy had fallen asleep with a smile on his face.
Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Poor Peter Hatcher doesn’t think the repeated antics of his two-and-a-half-year-old brother, Fudge, are funny at all. But the reader sure does.
Magic Moment: When Fudge refuses to eat, Peter must come to the rescue.
Finally my mother got the brilliant idea of me standing on my head while she fed Fudge. I wasn’t very excited about standing on my head in the kitchen. The floor is awfully hard in there. But my mother begged me. She said, “It’s very important for Fudge to eat. Please help us, Peter.”
So I stood on my head. When Fudge saw me upside down he clapped his hands and laughed. When he laughs he opens his mouth. That’s when my mother stuffed some baked potato into it.
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Clementine tries her best to solve problems like glue in hair and pigeon poop on the stoop, but often finds herself in trouble, especially with her principal, instead.
Magic Moment: Clementine shows her brother what responsible play looks like.
“I’m coming, Radish,” I called to him.
“Go for a wok?” he asked, when I came into his room.
“You’re lucky to have me for a big sister,” I told him. I have to remind him of this every day, because he forgets. We went into the kitchen and I got out the wok. “Nobody invented this trick for me when I was little.”
Then he climbed into the wok and grabbed the handles and I gave him a really good spin. He went whirling around, bumping into the cabinets, and then he got out and walked wobbly until he fell over, which he thinks is the funniest thing in the world.
“Again!” he yelled.
But, I didn’t spin him again, because he throws up on the second ride and somebody has to clean it up which is N-O-T, not me. This is called Being Responsible.
The toys read books, tell stories, and play chess at night. There’s even an adventurous trip to the basement for a full cycle with the singing washing machine.
Magic Moment: Lumphy discovers it’s more fun down on the floor where you can play than stuck on the big high bed waiting for “private time.”
[Lumphy] crawls to the edge of the high bed and looks down.
The toy mice are playing leapfrog. Plastic is reading one of the big books and rolling slightly side to side. The one-eared sheep is laughing with the wooden rocking horse in the corner.
Lumphy sighs, and rearranges himself on the bed. The problem is, he usually stays up late. This time of night, he likes to be doing stuff. Playing marbles, or checkers, or pick-up sticks. Something.
It is not his bedtime yet. Not even close.
Bonk! Lumphy jumps down. It hurts his bottom when he lands, but he doesn’t mind. He is so happy to be down again that he kisses all four toy mice with his buffalo mouth and then trots over to Plastic and offers to watch her roll down the staircase.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
This wackiest of books is bursting with playful fun, from students turning into apples to kicking spoil-sports over the fence.
Magic Moment: Don’t cross Mrs. Gorf…unless you like apples.
Joe couldn’t add. He couldn’t even count. But he knew that if he answered a question wrong, he would be turned into an apple. So he copied from John. He didn’t like to cheat, but Mrs. Gorf had never taught him how to add.
One day Mrs Gorf caught Joe copying John’s paper.
She wiggled her ears—first her right one, then her left—stuck out her tongue, and turned Joe into an apple. Then she turned John into an apple for letting Joe cheat.
“Hey, that isn’t fair,” said Todd. “John was only trying to help a friend.”
Mrs. Gorf wiggled her ears–first her right one, then her left–stuck out her tongue, and turned Todd into an apple. “Does anybody else have an opinion?” she asked.
Nobody said a word.
Mrs. Gorf laughed and placed the three apples on her desk.
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
TsTs, Chai, and Tchke just might be the most fun squirrels in the history of children’s literature. Join them as they rescue Jed and leverage the playful spirit of squirrels to save the rest of their community.
Magic Moment: Jed escapes the talons of the hawk who has captured him by practicing the ancient squirrel martial art of Hai Tchree, making “like water,” and falling safely to earth.
…Jed slipped from the hawk’s grasp and plummeted through the air to earth. Or almost to earth. At the last possible moment, a porcupine walked beneath him. Followed by a curious dog. Jed bounced off the dog, who was headed for some serious trouble, and landed in a pile of autumn leaves.
Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins
Wonky magic leads to kittens with dragon wings, boys turning into rocks, rain inside the classroom. Mastering that magic requires new friendships, teamwork, and appreciating your own unique talents.
Magic Moment: Discovering the power of upside down magic – the prospect of revenge!
She knew this animal. She had done it before.
She was a skunk.
Step away. Just leave them alone, thought Girl-Nory.
But Skunk-Nory didn’t step away. She was too angry at the Sparkies. How dare they be so mean to Elliott?
They were enemies. Hairless enemies. And she was a skunk! She could do stuff to enemies.
Bad stuff. Smelly stuff.
Young Cece loses her hearing and learns how to manage her hearing aid and friendships during her 1970s childhood, complete with sitcoms and a sweet first crush…
Magic Moment: Cece’s Phonic Ear includes a transmitter worn by her teacher, allowing Cece to hear her teacher wherever she goes.
Squeeeak. Zzzzip. tinkle tinkle. “Oh no! Hee hee!” tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. “Aaah…what a relief!” wop wop. “Toilet paper? I know what’s coming!” zzzzzzip! FLUSH!
Judy Moody is in a Mood by Megan McDonald
Third-grader Judy Moody is interested in so many things, from crafting her own t-shirt messages to Venus fly-traps. She has a great friend, Rocky, and she is frustrated by her little brother, Stink, at nearly every turn.
Magic Moment: Judy discovers her not-quite-yet friend, Frank…is a collector!
Frank Pearl’s shelves were lined with coffee cans and baby food jars. Each one was filled with marbles, rubber bugs, erasers, something. Judy couldn’t help asking, “Do you have any baseball erasers?”
“I have ten!” said Frank…
“Really? Me too!” Judy smiled…
He also had two pencil sharpeners—a Liberty bell and a brain—and a teeny-tiny flip book from Vic’s. Frank Pearl showed her his buffalo nickel, which he kept in a double-locked piggy bank….
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
It’s a game of mystery play as the kids in Mr. Lemoncello’s Library have to solve puzzles – together – to make their way out.
Magic Moment: The infamous Mr. Lemoncello introduces himself.
“Tank you. Tank you. Grazie. Grazie.”
He bent forward so his mouth was maybe an inch away from the microphone.
“Buon giorno, boise and-uh girls a.” He spoke very timidly, very slowly. “Tees ees how my-uh momma and my-uh poppa teach-uh me to speak-eh de English.”
He wiggled his ears. Straightened his back.
“But then,” he said in a crisp, clear voice, “I went to the Alexandriaville Public Library, where a wonderful librarian named Mrs. Gail Tobin helped me learn how to speak like this: ‘If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?’ I can also speak while upside down and underwater, but not today because I just had this suit dry-cleaned and do not want to get it wet.”
Mr. Lemoncello bounced across the stage like a happy grasshopper.
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
As Malú navigates the new school, her divorced parents, and the resident mean girl, she finds fun and playful outlets in her own artistic zines and her budding punk band.
Magic Moment: Malú takes the classic nostalgic song, “Cielito lindo” by Lola Beltran, and plays it punk. She honors her mother and stays true to herself, all at the same time.
When I got home, I kicked off my shoes and grabbed my laptop. I plugged in my headphones, popped in Señora Oralia’s Lola Beltrán CD, and waited for the music to start. Which old ranchera song could we turn into a cool punk rock song?…
Most of the songs were heavy, sad love songs that made you feel like you were drowning in tears. I didn’t know anything about being in love, so none of them felt like the right song.
Then I heard one I recognized. I had a memory of Mom singing along to it while she made breakfast on a lazy weekend morning. The tune was lighter and happier than the others. It was the opposite of a sad love song. The lyrics spoke of how singing could make hearts rejoice. I listened to the song over and over as I tried to imagine it louder and faster and with me singing it. I picked up the CD case and looked at the list of track titles. It was a song called, “Cielito lindo.”
Class Dismissed by Allan Woodrow
The teacher checks out, and doesn’t tell the administration. Instead of chaos in the classroom, the students take responsibility to teach themselves, yielding weeks of fun…and learning.
Magic Moment: The discovery of what it means to have no teacher: freedom!
A clean desk is begging to be doodled on. Really.
Still, I lick my thumb to rub over my drawings and erase them. I don’t want our teacher to yell at me.
But then I stop and look down at a now half-erased, smudged heart.
Ms. Bryce won’t yell. She’s not even here.
She just quit.
I can do anything – anything at all! – and no one will send me to the principal’s office.
No more being screamed at. No more getting into trouble for no good reason.
A feeling of happiness spreads over me. I feel free.
The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin
At her quirky new school in Vermont, Caitlyn learns she’s not really replacing the departed, mysterious, prankster legend (Paulie Fink). She’s actually coming to learn how to connect with each of her distinct classmates and contribute to the culture of her new school.
Magic Moment: One of the responsibilities for students at the Mitchell School is feeding the goats…
On the second day of school, Mr. Farabi asks Henry to carry the bucket into the pen. Henry blinks hard, swallows nervously. But he goes in.
We grab and throw the pellets, but we run out before Henry’s done filling the first bowl. The goats notice him, and they charge at him. Panicking, Henry drops the bucket, sits down in it, and covers his head with his arms.
“Goats have no upper front teeth!” he shouts. “Goats are herbivores!” A second later, we can’t see Henry, or hear him, because he’s disappeared beneath a swirl of goat hair. By the time Mr. Farabi rescues Henry, his glasses are barely still on his face, and his hair is a mess.
As Henry stumbles out of the pen, Mr. Farabi lifts the bucket and asks, “Anyone else want to give it a try?”