Posts Tagged ‘read-alouds’
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009. Review copy received from publisher.
Read to: Huck.
Gorgeous art in this sweetly captivating tale of a boy who, wandering the sterile streets of a bleak city, finds a little outpost of thriving weeds and wildflowers on an abandoned elevated rail track. He begins quietly tending the green and growing things, and his found garden begins to spread, gradually transforming the city—and its people.
We’ve loved every Peter Brown book that has walked through our doors, and this was no exception. It’s the art that makes it magical, the wave of vibrant green creeping across the city. Makes a lovely companion to an older picture book that has long been a favorite here: This Is Your Garden by Maggie Smith (now out of print, alas, but available used).
Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn. Clarion Books, to be published Sept. 15, 2105. Advanced review copy received from publisher via Netgalley. Read by: me.
Middle-grade horror story about a (formerly) wealthy Connecticut family who moves into an old West Virginia house near a haunted cabin in the woods. Every fifty years an evil, ancient ghost—known locally as Auntie—kidnaps and ensorcels a young girl. The main character is Daniel, a 13-year-0ld boy who doesn’t believe the wild tales he hears from kids at school—until his little sister goes missing. A suitably creepy tale which will appeal to readers of Vivian Vande Velde’s Stolen.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. HarperTrophy. My copy: purchased with my employee discount at the children’s bookstore I worked at during grad school—with a dream in my heart of one day having children to read it to. Read to: Huck and Rilla (chapters 1-4).
After we finished Winnie-the-Pooh, my youngests picked this for their next read-aloud. Great joy is mine because they are the perfect ages (six and nine), just absolutely perfect.
*In related news, I need to add another row to my Rillabooks post. Conversations ensuing its publication resulted in the addition of four more books to her already overstuffed shelf:
Charlotte’s Web (which it turns out she didn’t remember hearing before—she was probably pretty little last time it came around);
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (because OBVIOUSLY, and what was I thinking, leaving it off?);
The Mysterious Benedict Society (which I had thought to save for another year or two, but I am informed I was mistaken); and
The Two Princesses of Bamarre (whose appearance in a photo of books that almost-but-didn’t-quite make the original list sparked a flurry of happy reminiscences among Jane, her 21-year-old cousin, and Alice’s oldest daughter, aged 22, causing me to reconsider its omission).
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes. Harcourt Young Classics. My copy purchased when Jane was about eight years old. Read to: Rilla.
This was Rilla’s first read-aloud pick from the Rillabook shelf. She was quite keen to have me read it just to her (no brothers involved). She giggled mightily over the meet-cute of Mr. and Mrs. Pye (with Jane popping in to shriek over the startling fact—which went over her head at age eight—that Mrs. Pye was just seventeen when she married. We began this book the day after Rose’s seventeenth birthday, which put it into stark perspective). Methinks Rilla and I will have fun with this. I’m not sure I’ve read it aloud since that first time (gulp) twelve years ago.
D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. Read to: Huck and Rilla. Rose’s copy, purchased some years ago to replace her first copy, which was read to tatters. Read to: Huck and Rilla.
Monday and Friday are our Greek Myths days. This week’s selections were about Hera and Io, and Hephaestus and Aphrodite.
The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book by Bob Hartman. Lion Children’s Books. Our copy, purchased for Beanie at age four. Read to: Huck and Rilla.
Tuesday and Thursday are folk and fairy tale days.* This week, they picked “Tortoise Brings Food: A Story from Africa.” A grumble with this otherwise charming book: that nonspecific from Africa. The other stories are “from Greece,” England, Finland, Puerto Rica, Australia, Wales, Japan, and so on. How about “from Kenya” or Ethiopia or Nigeria? Native American stories get a similarly vague treatment: “from North America.” I’d like a word with this book’s editor. But the stories themselves are amiably written and a good size for reading aloud.
*Any day is a great day for a fairy tale or Greek myth. I just assign them days in my head to ensure that I make the time. The kids don’t know about it.
Among the Dolls by William Sleator. Knopf Books for Young Readers. An old copy I brought home from work. Read by: Rilla.
Me: So how do you like it so far?
Rilla, emphatically: I DON’T.
Me: Too scary?
Rilla: It’s terrible! She’s trapped in the dollhouse and they’re being mean to her AND HER MOTHER WALKED RIGHT BY WITHOUT EVEN HEARING HER.
Me: Are you going to keep reading?
Rilla: ::doesn’t hear me, is already immersed again::
Batman Adventures: Rogues Gallery by the devastatingly handsome Scott Peterson (oh, fine, and Dan Slott and Ty Templeton too). Read by: Wonderboy.
This is a digest-sized compilation of several Batman Adventures stories. The Batman Adventures and Gotham Adventures comics of the 90s were aimed at kids, unlike most Batman comics. It’s nice to see them a book-sized edition that can survive on a library shelf.
Huck enjoyed this collection too, and it only took him five times through to notice that his daddy was listed as an author.
The Story of the World, Volume 4: The Modern Ages by Susan Wise Bauer. “The Boxer Rebellion” chapter. Read aloud to: Rose and Beanie.
While aimed at slightly younger readers, I find the Bauer series to be useful in setting the stage for more advanced studies. We’re doing the 20th century this year, my teens and I.
The Usborne History of the Twentieth Century. Read/explored with: Rose and Beanie. Again, for context. Mostly we just pored over the overview page at the start of the century. We’d read about Teddy Roosevelt last week in Landmark History of the American People, and this week we found a few videos about him.
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. First Second Books. Copies received from publisher. Read by: me. On deck for Rose this week. Bean has already read them.
Gene is a friend of ours whom we see far too seldom (mainly at SDCC). He is spectacularly talented, but no one on the internet needs me to tell them that. I’d been meaning to read Boxers & Saints, his graphic novel duo about the Boxer Rebellion—told from two different points of view, thus the two books—since the day they were announced. Reaching this time period in my teen’s history studies meant now was the perfect time. Deeply absorbing, unsettling, moving, and educational. I always appreciate Gene’s thoughtful exploration of people’s motivations, and the fearless way he unpacks his characters flaws along with their strengths. Beautiful, beautiful books. Highly recommended.
Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Audiobook. Listened to by: Rilla and me.
The current pick for our Saturday night sketchbook date. After all the Roald Dahl we enjoyed all summer, this Streatfeild gem got off to a bit of a slow start for Rilla, but she’s well and truly hooked now. Hilary is about to perform her Dulcie-Pulsie dance in the talent competition. Pulses racing. Delicious.
The Best of H.P. Lovecraft. Scott’s copy. Read by: Rose.
Her first encounter with his work. I haven’t heard her reaction yet—looking forward to it.
An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. My old copy. Read by: Beanie. (And I need to revisit it this week.)
A friend of hers is reading it for her homeschool program, so we and some other chums have joined in. We’ll be discussing it soon. I’d better revisit it right quick!
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Kindle copy. Read by: me.
Woolf is one of my gaps, which is odd when I think of it—she’s so right for me. I’m sure we did A Room of One’s Own in women’s lit, but somehow she never appeared on a syllabus after that. I’ve been determined to rectify this glaring omission and this summer I have finally found the time. And OH MY. She’s just…she…I want to quote everything. Her prose—I mean, I knew that about her. But only from the outside. Now I’m inside and I can barely speak. I’ve highlighted so many passages, it’s a bit ridiculous. I’ll pull some quotes into a commonplace book when I can.
Scott is rereading Sandman, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what my older girls are reading these days—I can only keep up with so much. Rose got a bunch of T.A. Barron’s Merlin novels for her birthday, I know that. (Since I wrapped them.) 😉 Beanie pops up with interesting tidbits gleaned from National Geographic (her favorite magazine). Jane was toiling through some Kant in preparation for a philosophy class she’ll take at school this year. I’ve also seen some Maggie Stiefvater in her library pile.
Do you know, I thought this would be a quick and easy post? I’d just dash off a list of things read around the house this past week. Turns out I am delusional. But it was fun!
Sarah Mackenzie of Amongst Lovely Things interviewed me about my family’s book-crazy lifestyle for her wonderful Read-Aloud Revival podcast.
The post includes links to the many books I gushed about (I swear, once you get me started on book recs there’s no stopping me) and a Prairie Thief giveaway. I had a great time chatting with Sarah about how read-alouds work in my family with our many ages of kids, how I do dialects, how we squeeze book time into the various parts of our day, etc. Basically: my favorite topic in the entire world.
While you’re checking out the podcast, you’ll want to bookmark the two Jim Weiss episodes! What a treasure.
I have a question which you may have written about somewhere… but anyway, I have a just-turning-3 boy. We’ve enjoyed a lot of the picture books you’ve recommended, but I think he may be getting ready for some longer books. I’m curious what chapter books have gotten your kids interested at early ages? Not to replace beautiful picture books of course! Just in addition. I’m thinking to try Winnie the Pooh… other ideas?
I guess I have two questions, because another thing I’ve wondered about is early readers. I think my son would love Frog and Toad, and Elephant and Piggie–but should I save those for when he can actually start to read them himself? Have you ever struggled with this?
These are great questions. I’ll start with the second batch first: nope, I’ve never saved beginning readers for actually-beginning-to-read children because—well, at first it was probably because I couldn’t wait to share those stories, but also it’s because beginning readers make such wonderful read-alouds for toddlers. It’s funny, though, now that you’ve made me consider the question, Harmony: I don’t think I’ve ever seen much discussion on this topic. But here’s what I think—wait, to get there, first I have to back up to picture books.
Picture books are written to be read by an adult to a child. The vocabulary is often quite sophisticated—think of Beatrix Potter: “Jemima Puddle-duck became quite desperate. She determined to make a nest right away from the farm.” Many contemporary picture books are tending toward simple, spare text (many of them quite wonderfully, like I Want My Hat Back or the charming Me Hungry); but in my mind the form is dominated by longish stories with rich vocabulary.
(To run off on a tangent: I’ve known parents who steered their children away from picture books once the kids learned to read, or hit first grade. Too young, not challenging enough, etc. Au contraire, I say! Picture book text is often MUCH more challenging for an emergent reader than the Early Reader books, about which more in a second. Besides, no one, not anyone, is ever too old for a good picture book. I mean it. All the Places to Love or I Remember Papa can be every bit as moving and cathartic a read for an adult as Persuasion. The Quiltmaker’s Gift is better therapy than Pinterest. I get the same uplifted, happy rush from Mordant’s Wish as I do from About a Boy.)
I’ve had toddlers who liked to cuddle up and listen to long picture books (especially Jane, who spent nearly a year of her toddlerhood in a hospital bed—sitting and listening was one of a very limited range of options, in her case) and toddlers for whom the concept of sitting in one place for a 32-page stretch was a notion for another universe. (Hello, darling Bean.) 😉 For those children especially, but really for all my two- and three-year-olds, I drew (draw, since Huck is this age exactly) heavily on treasured Early Reader favorites like Little Bear, Frog and Toad, The Best Nest, Newt, Biscuit, Mouse Soup, Owl at Home—oh, anything by Arnold Lobel really. And yes, yes, yes, absolutely Elephant and Piggy. We’ve had stretches these past few years where I bet I read five or six Elephant and Piggy books a day—five or six times each! Both Wonderboy and Rilla made giant leaps toward reading thanks to Mo Willems and his animal antics.
I also had the fun of trying out both my Inch and Roly series and Fox and Crow Are Not Friends on my ready-made test audience here at home. I read my littles the manuscripts straight off the computer. It’s always helpful to read your work aloud, but when you’re writing an early reader or picture book, it’s imperative: if I’m going to inflict a book upon a parent who may, if I’m lucky, be called upon to read the book over and over and over, I’ve got to do my best to make sure that isn’t a torturous experience. And not just that. Reading a manuscript aloud always alerts you to clunky bits that need more polish. And children, even (especially?) your own children, will inform you with unabashed clarity where you’ve lost their attention. My early reader manuscripts are much tighter after a round or two (or ten) of read-alouds to Huck and Rilla. When they start asking for ‘that story’ again—‘you know, Mommy, that book on your computer’—then I know I’m on the right track.
Anyway, to return to the question:
By all means, add Early Readers to the toddler’s read-aloud shelf.
As for the first question, about longer-form read-alouds for three-year-olds, we usually do Pooh around age four (though Rilla didn’t cotton to it at that age; nor did Wonderboy), and we nearly always read the My Father’s Dragon series as our first novels. I have a list of other good read-alouds for four-year-olds here. I remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Jane at age four, and Rose’s obsession at that age (and long afterward) was anything to do with Greek myths, but Rilla (at age six) still MUCH prefers picture books and Early Readers over anything that looks like a novel. She eyed Brambly Hedge with suspicion at first, because of its size (we have the large Treasury edition that includes all the books), but its profusion of pictures won her over. She also loved The Cottage by Bantry Bay and The Family Under the Bridge. But now it’s back to ‘Too long, not enough pictures, I only like picture books.’ Which is fine with me. Our picture-book collection occupies a formidable amount of square footage in this little house; it’s got to earn its keep. 🙂
Besides the list of short novels and story collections I linked to above, let me throw in a vote for Thornton Burgess’s various animal stories (available in inexpensive Dover editions). Also the Family Treasury of Little Golden Books: obviously, those are picture books, not novels, but the older Golden Books tend to be quite text-rich. Any good collection of folk or fairy tales is an excellent choice for three- and four-year-olds (though don’t be surprised if most fairy tales turn out to be too long for a three-year-old to hear in one sitting; that goes for any longer-form prose story, really). Just So Stories—delicious—already on my other list, I think.
As I list all these suggestions, I’m aware that Huck (who will be four in January) is not ready for many of them. Too much text for his busy, bouncy body. I could woo him with Just So Stories, I think (note to self: give it a try) and the Little Golden Books, but he wandered off quickly when I was reading a Burgess story to Rilla the other day. What he wants, over and over and over and whyyyy did we succumb to the request?, is a Thomas the Tank Engine 8×8 we picked up after my booksigning last week. I am Beezus, he is Ramona, and this book is our Scoopy.
(I guarantee you no one involved in the publication of this Thomas book read it out loud even once, much less six times a day, every day for a week. I’m just saying.)
Speaking of picture books and early readers! (And every other kind of children’s book.) There’s still a week left to nominate your favorite books of the past year for the CYBILs Awards. Book apps, too! That’s the committee I’m serving on this year. I’d love to hear what your 2012 picks are.
Oh, and it’s Monday, which means a new Thicklebit.
January 4, 2012 @ 8:57 am | Filed under: Books
To Jane, Rose, and Beanie: David Copperfield. (At twenty minutes a day, we figure it will take us in the neighborhood of 100 days.)
To Rose, Beanie, and Rilla: The Family Under the Bridge. (Last time I read this aloud, Jane was about Rilla’s age. Eep!)
To Wonderboy, Rilla, and Huck: new Elephant and Piggie books appeared under the Christmas tree, so they are dominating our read-aloud time this week.
At night, Scott continues his read-aloud of The Return of the King. His voices are the best.
Thought I’d start tackling some of your open thread questions. Here’s one from sashwee:
Do you have chapter book recommendations for a 4yo girl who is very verbal, and has a good attention span for listening, (similar to your Rilla?) but still only 4 (well almost 5) and not ready for the full brunt of…life?…fiction?
Matter of fact, I do!
(Last night, at the weekly kidlitchat on Twitter, I realized that one of the things I enjoy most in the whole world is helping people find good books to read—being a book matchmaker. If there were such a thing as eHarmony for readers, I could totally work there.)
All right, suggestions for a four-year-old who is ready to listen to chapter books:
• My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Our family’s favorite choice for that first “book with chapters” read-aloud. Scott is working his way through the trilogy with Rilla right now.
• The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I’ve written much about this lovely tale here and here.
• My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards.
• Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley, and its sequel, More Milly-Molly-Mandy. Like Naughty Little Sister, these are episodic books; each chapter is its own little story. Milly-Molly-Mandy’s busy daily adventures—very much rooted in simple domestic village life, running errands for her family, staying alone for the first time, deciding what to spend her hard-earned pennies on—have enchanted all four of my girls around age four or five.
• Winnie-the-Pooh (does that go without saying?)
• the first two Betsy-Tacy books can be perfect for a five-year-old, but I have found my girls really clicked with Betsy at a slightly older age—perhaps seven or eight. (More about my Betsy-Tacy devotion here.)
• Sid Fleischman’s hilarious Farmer McBroom tall tales. I recommend starting with McBroom’s Zoo, which can be found in the collection: McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales.
• Kipling’s Just-So Stories. I began reading these to Rilla at age four and she adores them—the belly laughs are irresistible. I rather suspect, however, that she believes “O Best Beloved” is referring to her specifically and is likely to be disgruntled when she realizes I read those words to her big sisters before her, in their day.
• Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.
• The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (the very first one, which has a special kind of sweetness and earnestness to it—this was a head-over-heels-in-love book for Jane at age 4).
• Old Mother West Wind and other Thornton Burgess animal stories—now, for us these were hit or miss. I had come kids adore them, and others who found them dull.
• Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater. In our house, this is a read-aloud reserved exclusively for the daddy.
• Pippi Longstocking, of course!
• The Borrowers by Mary Norton, and The Littles by John Peterson. When it comes to tiny people living hidden in human houses, I’m a Borrowers girl all the way. Then again, the Littles have tails.
• Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn. Small animals behaving like people: almost as much fun as tiny hidden people. And what’s that other very young mouse-people series I’m forgetting? Hedge something. Brambly Hedge! That’s it.
• I don’t find Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann Stories very easy to read aloud—he tends toward the insipid—but I remember how magical I found those books as a very young child. Sodapop fountains!
• The Cricket in Times Square. The kind of middle-grade story that always seems to hold our current four-year-old spellbound when Dad is reading it to the older kids.
• The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron. There’s a sequel, too—More Stories Julian Tells. I love these books! Need to pull them out for Rilla and Wonderboy.
This list could go on for a really long time. I know there are many great books I’m omitting, but these are the ones that come most immediately to mind. HOWEVER, it is almost guaranteed that as soon as I publish this post, I will kick myself for forgetting some particular favorite. Like actually just this minute I have remembered Doctor Boox. I adore Doctor Boox. I must go and find our copy of Doctor Boox immediately. Immediately!
I have a whole nother batch of suggestions for a six- or seven-year-old. For a four-year-old, I’ve seen the most connection and delight with very simple, homey kinds of books. That’s why I haven’t included authors like C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Kate di Camillo, E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, E. B. White, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and Frances Hodgson Burnett—I save those for a few years down the road. (Having said that, James and the Giant Peach might be a great fit for a four-year-old. Humongous bugs! What could be better?)
For a four-year-old, I would also reiterate my enthusiastic recommendation of Jim Weiss and Jay O’Callahan story tapes.
And folk and fairy tales by the dozens.
And I’ll add this thought—although Rilla (who turned five in April) has indeed enjoyed several of the chapter books I’ve mentioned above, and her My Father’s Dragon time with Daddy is her favorite part of the day, she would rather read picture books with me than a “Long Book” at this point. Almost every day she goes around the house collecting a stack of picture books for “quiet reading time.” (By that she means being alone with me—it isn’t actually all that quiet.) 😉 I haven’t added to the Rillabook list in the sidebar for weeks because lately all her choices are books we’ve read and read and read again. I find this to be very common at the emergent reader stage—as opposed to, say, a ten-year-old who seems to want new new new more more more at a rate nearly impossible to keep up with.
(I think these cycles of rereading beloved favorites and hungering for exciting new frontiers continue all through life. In my early teens, I was a binge rereader—both of my childhood favorites and of newer passions like the Pern books or—dare I admit it—the unflinchingly formulaic Silhouette First Love romances of the ’80s, for which I actually had a subscription. It makes sense that in times of great change or stress, formula fiction and the deeply familiar offer special comfort and appeal. This is probably the same psychological need that makes me crave nothing but Agatha Christie when I’m sick.)
I’m sure other people will have great suggestions in the comments! (Hint hint.)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go introduce my children to Doctor Boox.
Related post: Early Readers as Read-Alouds, and Other Book Suggestions for Three-Year-Olds.