I have a reluctant reader. After reading early (age 3) and reading well, my daughter Blossom seems to have hit a second-grade slump. Life gets more social in second grade, I suppose. She has athletic commitments and friends to giggle with and Minecraft to play. Books have become boring and reading has become a chore. It’s been a struggle all year to get her to complete twenty minutes of reading each night. The only time she gets excited to read is when we read Harry Potter together, a bedtime tradition we started about a year ago. We’re nearly finished with Goblet of Fire and it occurred to me that maybe we should look at titles which were similar to those from our beloved Hogwarts.
One night, Blossom and I hopped online and visited A Mighty Girl (my go-to spot for nearly all kids’ RA, tied with Brightly) and sure enough, they had just what we were looking for. Beyond Harry Potter: 35 Fantasy Adventure Series Starring Mighty Girls featured a variety of picks for various age ranges. One series in particular piqued her interest right away: The Amulet series, written and illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi. Yes, that’s right: illustrated. They’re graphic novels. I was hesitant about going this direction, but the research shows that graphic novels can be just as — and in the right circumstances, more — important in the development of a child’s reading. Leslie Morrison of Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development writes:
In a traditional text, students uncover meaning embedded in sentences and paragraphs. In graphic texts, students must analyze the images, looking for signs of character development, for example, or clues that help build plot. All of this experience developing textual and visual reading skills contribute to students’ understanding of their world — the ways the text and images all around them communicate — and in turn help them in crafting their own stories.
Okay, sounds good, right? And the plot — about a girl, her brother, and their mom who move into a possibly-haunted house that belongs to their great-grandfather, shortly after which the mom is kidnapped by a monster and taken to a scary/magical world, shortly after which the kids go after her to save her only to discover a whole bunch of intriguing and magical costarring characters like a robot and a talking bunny. Oh, and the daughter/sister/main character, Emily, comes into possession of a magical amulet which gives her powers — sounded interesting and similar enough to Potter for my girl.
We started with Book One: The Stonekeeper and she flew through it in two days. Not only that, she retained what she’d read and couldn’t wait to tell me everything that was happening in the book. So far, she’s read the first four in the series and is hoarding her Easter Bunny cash to make a trip to the bookstore this weekend for the fifth. And without further ado, I’m turning this review over to Blossom, age 7 (“and three-quarters!”) since she’s the one who’s reading the Amulet books:
Me: What do you like best about the Amulet series?
Blossom: I like that it’s an adventure and it has a brother and sister like me and Oakley [my brother] but the sister has all the power. She has the power because of her amulet.
Me: Why do you like Amulet better than other chapter books you’ve tried?
B: It’s more of an adventure than other books. And it’s a series so there’s always more of the story. And I like the pictures. Pictures help me understand what’s going on and help me with words I don’t know.
Me: Which character is your favorite and why?
B: Definitely Emily because she’s a really powerful girl who can do a lot of cool things. She uses the powers of the stone on her necklace to protect the people she loves.
Me: What lesson(s) have you learned from reading Amulet?
B: That family is important.
Me: In what ways are these books like Harry Potter?
B: They both use magic. And Emily is like Hermione because they’re both really smart and the most important characters [insert mom fist-pumping]. Voldemort is like Gabilan because they’re evil and they want power.
Me: Is there anything you don’t like about the Amulet books?
B: The beginning. [Heads up, parents: The series opens with the father dying in a car accident. She actually didn’t want to push on after that so we read the first couple of chapters together.]
Me: Would you recommend the Amulet books to other kids who are bored with reading, like you were?
I’ve seen some sources place the Amulet books in a 7+ age category and some who say it’s better to wait until 10. I’ve thumbed through the books myself and have to say that some of it is probably going over her head, but then again, I read plenty of books at her age with vocabularies bigger than mine and I could still get the gist of the story. It has some dark/scary characters in it and some moments of peril. Nothing worse than what you’d find in Harry Potter but the difference here is that there’s a visual representation of the scary parts. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, though, and I’m certain that the vivid illustrations are helping to keep her hooked. Amulet Book Eight: Supernova comes out on September 25, 2018.