Training Your Baby Nerd, Part 2

Where I continue to provide the material to ensure nerdery is passed on to the next generation!

So you’ve introduced your kids (or yourself cause, let’s be honest, these books are awesome regardless of age) to everything over in Part 1 and you’re looking for more. Totally understandable. Nerdy things are highly addictive (only there’s no downside here). Never fear, the Killer Moose are ready and waiting (and not in a murdery way, despite the name) with a fresh batch of recommendations!

As I covered in Part 1, half of my professional life is spent as a bookseller, a job I rather love. These are recommendations I often give in the shop when asked for books for a certain age range. Inevitably, my recommendations sway into the realms of science fiction and fantasy, as that is my particular area of expertise. Part 1 covered books for younger children, to be read to them, with them, or to challenge them as they develop their reading skills.

Part 2 builds upon that. These are books that, through reading level, theme or content are a natural continuation from the five books/authors/series listed in Part 1.

Dive in and enjoy these wondrous stories we put down in paper and ink.

1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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Neil Gaiman writes for both children and adults and he has a very specific love for hidden and parallel worlds (seriously, almost every single one of his books features one). The Graveyard Book is a beautiful book that is a unique spin on a classic tale: the coming of age story.

The main character is an orphan raised by ghosts in a graveyard. There is a mystery at hand and a villain to be dealt with but the book is mainly about Bod, the orphan, growing up and his adventures in the graveyard. It is wonderful and suspenseful and tragic all at the same time and a great gateway into the larger breadth of Gaiman’s written works (good ones for younger readers are Coraline, Fortunately, the Milk, Hansel and Gretel and The Sleeper and the Spindle).

2. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

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The Thief is the first in a series but stands easily on its own merits as a standalone story. The world is heavily inspired by Ancient Greece and its mythology mixed with a heist-style caper. Its fun with a sarcastic and clever narrator. If you (or your nerd in training) enjoy it, have no fear, there are sequels! The story continues with The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings.

3. Inkheart (and sequels) by Cornelia Funke

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Inkheart is a fantasy about the magic and wonder of reading and words and stories, taking place in a world where the stories and books we read are real and certain people have the ability to read them into flesh and blood right off the page. It’s a fascinating concept, full of Funke’s typical prose, full to the brim with beautiful words and phrases.

If the book is a hit check out its sequels, Inkspell and Inkdeath as well as some of Funke’s other titles like The Thief Lord and Dragon Rider.

4. Raina Telgemeier

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No, that’s not a book title, that’s an author. Raina Telgemeier specifically has an impressive repertoire of graphic novels for younger readers. She’s currently adapting The Babysitter’s Club into a multi-volume graphic series and she also has Smile and its sequel Sisters. All are excellent. But my personal recommendation goes to her standalone story, Drama. It’s about the behind the scenes hijinks of a high school play and it’s funny, touching and has an excellent message about teamwork and acceptance.

Graphic novels are actually a great gateway for kids as they start to read. There is still plenty of text to read and absorb but that’s alongside the artwork. Start with Raina Telgemeier, she’s one of the best. And if you like her a lot? Move onto Bone by Jeff Smith or Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, two other excellent series with more fantastical themes than Telgemeier tends to cover.

5. Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

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I know what you’re thinking: it’s a comic strip! That doesn’t qualify!

But it totally does. Just stick with me a moment. What I’m talking about here is handing this to a kid to read on their own. Like with graphic novels you’re dealing with something that is a merger of a textual and visual medium. So it has a variety of appeals. The other thing: the humor of Calvin & Hobbes is often over the heads of younger children. I myself remember running to parents and asking them to explain certain strips. And then there’s the fact that the nature of Calvin and Hobbes’ conversations mean that the vocabulary within their dialogue is often quite advanced.

So while some of the books in Part 1 were definitely more daunting in terms of chapters and word counts, I recommended them under the basis that they are perfect to read with younger children. This here? Just give it to them and let them run with it.

Plus Calvin & Hobbes is nothing if not a love letter to imagination and that’s the cornerstone of nerdy and wonderful things!

And that’s it for Part 2! Stay tuned for Part 3!