Books, books, books
Anyone who knows me knows my love of books.
While other women dream of Prince Charming stopping by to sweep them off their feet, I just want him to drop me off at the nearest Barnes and Noble with a $500 gift card, please and thank you. If he could manage to reserve one of those comfy chairs while I sort through the aisles, that would be great, too.
Reading is a passion, and I’ve spent way too much time and money through the years supporting my addiction. It wouldn’t be so bad if some of that time weren’t wasted reading books that end up in the garbage because they’re poorly written or just plain trashy.
I don’t like to waste time, and I certainly don’t like to waste money, so I’ve often asked my friends for book recommendations, especially when it comes to family read aloud books. While I’ve had some success with their recommendations, I’ve also had some great disappointments.
It turns out that sometimes your absolute favorite book isn’t the best choice as a read aloud book. There’s also the factor that different families have different choices and timetables as far as when they want to introduce their children to difficult topics such as peer pressure, death, and divorce.
That being said, I decided to make a list of several of our favorite read aloud books with a brief synopsis of each one. We’ve read each of these books within the past few years and we have all enjoyed them. So I guess that makes them suitable for ages 8 to 40-something 😉
I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books and what you think of them.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
I had to write about this book first, as it is MY favorite read aloud book. Well, one of my favorites. When it comes to books, I tend to have a lot of favorites.
I remember my school librarian, Mrs. Kirk, reading this to my 3rd grade class many years ago. Anything that sticks with me that long has to be good, and I was so excited to share this title with my girls. I wasn’t disappointed.
In this Newbery Medal book, Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with four small children who is faced with a problem that could destroy her family. With a sick child and moving day fast approaching, she finds unexpected allies in the rats in the local farmyard.
The characters are so well done in this children’s classic. There are mysteries, conflicts, courage, and loyalty repaid in each chapter. We were truly sorry to say goodbye to these characters. This story is timeless and our whole family enjoyed the book.
Whatever After Boxset, Books 1-6 (Whatever After) series by Sarah Mylnowski
This series currently has 11 books with the 12th due out on October 30.
In each book, the main characters, siblings Abby and Jonah, are transported into different fairy tales (Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, etc.) via the magic mirror in the basement of their new house. Somehow along the way, each tale gets messed up, and Abby and Jonah have to “fix” them. Fortunately and amusingly, they aren’t always fixed in the way we’d expect.
As the series continues, the children are frozen, turned blue, forced to flee from giant spiders, and learn to swim underwater without breathing. The tales are fast paced and perfect for upper elementary readers, especially girls.
I was happy and surprised to discover that each story covers something that kids who are Abby and Jonah’s age may very well be dealing with: jealousy, choices, friendship, moving, problem solving, and fear of new experiences.
The only concern I had with this series is that the children are keeping secrets from their parents. While I realize that all children keep some secrets, Jonah and Abby have to lie to their parents about the magic mirror in the basement in order to keep the secret. I’m hoping that this is resolved by the end of the series, but as it is now, my family discussed this and the girls have agreed that it really would be best, and more fun, to let mom and dad know if they discover a magic mirror — that way we could all participate in the adventures!
If you enjoy light hearted, fast reads with quick humor, the Whatever After series is definitely for you!
JEREMY THATCHER DRAGON HATCHER (Magic Shop Book)by Bruce Coville
My family discovered this book (which is actually book 2 in a series called the Magic Shop Books) on a road trip from coastal Texas to Dillon, Colorado and oh, how it made the miles go by!
In this book, Jeremy, fleeing from the unwanted attention of a girl (that must be read with the disdain of a 5th grade boy) comes upon a small shop he’s never seen before. He enters and has an odd conversation with the owner before purchasing what he thinks is a marble. Of course, it’s not a marble because what kind of story would that be? The marble turns out to be a dragon’s egg and once it hatches the adventure really flies.
This story is fast paced and hilarious. Our family enjoyed it so much that we purchased and read 2 more in the Magic Shop series during our trip.
Each book in the Magic Shop addresses issues that children may face in 4th grade and up: bullies, crushes, jealousy, and irrational teachers. I hope you enjoy the books as much as we did!
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
The title gives a pretty apt description of this National Book Award book that I absolutely loved. (I know, I know….I’ve said that a lot but hey, these ARE my favorite books).
The editorial review says that the Penderwicks series is Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day. I agree! In every page I was pulled back to my childhood vacations in the countryside of Hot Springs, Arkansas — running wild with cousins through the fields, woods, and parks from early in the day to late in the evenings.
Batty, Sky, Rosalind, and Jane are being raised by their father since their mother died of cancer shortly after Batty was born. This summer their father is taking them for a summer holiday in a cottage next door to a mansion. Soon they meet Jeffrey, a boy who is close to their age and the perfect friend for adventures in the lawns, gardens, and attics of the neighboring house.
Of course, what would vacation be without a few close calls, near misses, and frustrated plans? With several sympathetic adults around to guide but not smother them, the children have a summer they will never forget.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Poor Claudia Kincaid. She just isn’t appreciated by her family; no one understands her. This being the case, Claudia decides that she will run away.
Since Claudia is a sensible and practical soul (being the oldest of 4 children will often do that to you) she decides not just to run AWAY from something but to run TOWARD something. The something she has settled on is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Realizing that she wants to live in a style that her allowance alone won’t afford her, Claudia decides to invite her younger brother, Jamie, to go along for the adventure. Somewhat reluctantly, Jamie agrees, so long as he is in charge of the finances ( we all have a sibling like that, don’t we?)
After they arrive and settle into the Met, Claudia is entranced by the discovery of a new addition to the museum: an angel statue that some say was made by Michelangelo himself. Claudia and Jamie use their time alone in the Met after hours to research the mystery of the statue and its origins. They soon discover some truths about the statue, and themselves.
As soon as we completed this book, my girls immediately wanted to search for others by this author. It’s one of the classics that we will read again and again.
These are some of the books that our family has fallen in love with while reading them together over the years. They are appropriate and engaging for almost any age.
What about your family? Are there any books that you’ve read aloud and absolutely loved? Please share them in the comments!
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