If you’ve ever been a classroom teacher, you know that the month of February is the “longest shortest month” of the year. It’s true. Those 28 days seem to D–R–A–G on, the weather is yucky, and spring break seems like forever away!

Even if you’re at home, February can be a dull month; everyone is sick, no one wants to visit because of germs, and, again, the weather….

It’s time to lighten it up, folks! Try one of the books/series below this February for a quick reprieve from heavy duty school work and more intense reading. Are these books destined to be ones you’ll reread? Probably not. Are they modern classics? Probably not.

BUT, will they be fun? Yes. Perhaps even laugh out loud funny? Yes. Will your youngsters enjoy the sheer delight of reading a good book on the couch while it’s cold and yucky outside? Absolutely. Will this be more fun if Mom makes a cup of chai to enjoy simultaneously? Of course. And, will your kids enjoy watching YOU enjoy some light reading? Most definitely. Try one of the book/series below for some quality time with your kids–if discussion topics arise, great. If not, take note of any issues/character traits/events which might provide good fodder in future discussions (i.e. “Aren’t you acting a bit like … here?”).

The Odd Squad: Bully Bait
Michael Fry
Hyperion, 2013 (comes out THIS month!)

Hilarious in a very middle school way, The Odd Squad is the latest comic/illustrated novel (a la Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries) to hit shelves; I must say, it’s a heap site better than those other two in my opinion. In fact, this is sort of Lunch Lady meets Wimpy Kid: a motley and unlikely collection of 3 misfits learns how to beat the bully with some behind the scenes help from the school janitor (there’s more to the janitor than meets the eye!). But it’s more than just a lesson in standing up for yourself. Along the way, the three learn how to be friends, how to look past someone’s outer exterior to what might be going on inside, and how to be themselves–quirks and all. And there are definitely some quirks. The main character, Nick, reminds me of the main dude in Wimpy Kid, but I like Nick SO much better. He’s a jerk at times, but he learns from it and recovers. This will have your 5th, 6th, and 7th graders laughing and nodding along, especially if they’re in a school big enough to have lockers! I viewed the ARC, so the artwork wasn’t final–but what I saw added to the text tremendously and was well done.

Babymouse
Jennifer and Matthew Holm (brother and sister!)
Random House

I have a confirmed Babymouse addict in the house in the form of one 7-year-old little girl. And I gotta say, folks, that I’d take Babymouse over Angelina Ballerina or Olivia ANY day. Is there snark? Sure. Does Babymouse have an attitude? Yep. But the Babymouse Christmas won me over: when Babymouse gets the handheld gaming gadget of choice for Christmas, she actually puts it down and goes over to play with her younger sibling and the new doll house. And, more to the point, since this is a graphic novel, the pictures were worth more than a thousand preachy words. In the Puppy Love installment pictured here, Babymouse is dying for a puppy, but she learns a lot about how hard pets are to take care of–especially when you’re a bit absent-minded. When she finally does figure it out…well…  (Recommended for middle elementary–early middle)

Lunch Lady
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf

Another graphic novel series, this one is for those among you who go to school and/or appreciate some great schooltime humor. Solving “crimes,” the Lunch Lady and her kid cronies are ka-powing, blam-ming, and karate-chopping away (only the Lunch Lady does this with fantastic kitchen-implements-turned-secret-agent-weapons). Funny, quirky, and a terrific break from heavy reading for the 3rd-7th grade crowd (although my K5-1st grade crowd enjoy them, too).

TinTin
Herge
Little, Brown

There’s some serious vocabulary in these original TinTin books!! And while the movie might be fun, the comics are so much… more. More plot, more action, more TinTin! TinTin travels the world in his various adventures, solving crimes and having daring adventures. Middle grades.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Jeff Kinney

I’m not a huge fan of the Wimpy Kid series, but Janie Cheaney over at Redeemed Reader makes some worthwhile points in favor of this (admittedly hilarious) series.

Capture the Flag
Kate Messner
Scholastic, 2012

4 kids. 4 ethnicities. 1 President-Hopeful. 1 poodle. 1 missing Star Spangled Banner (yes, THE Star Spangled Banner). 1 Secret Society. 1 airport full of people stuck during a 24-hour snowstorm and subsequent grounding of all planes. And LOTS of Tootsie Rolls, crazy baggage carousel rides, and action. The only true chapter book in this lineup, Capture the Flag is a terrific adventure read for a snowy winter day or two….Middle grades (4th-7th perhaps)

All cover images from goodreads; all books save The Odd Squad from my local library; ARC for Odd Squad thanks to Hyperion via netgalley

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