Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some great chapter-book read-alouds

After reading my review of Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan, a mom emailed me to ask about more good read-alouds for her 7 1/2 year old daughter. This, as I mentioned in my post, is one of my favorite sorts of reader's advisory questions, especially since all it takes to answer it is to lead the parent to the fiction shelves and trail my hands along the books - soon I've heaped his or her arms full.

Writing out a list of wonderful read-alouds is a different proposition. For one thing, I'm sitting at home tip-tapping away on my netbook instead of wandering the stacks of a library, and the old brain sometimes doesn't function as well when having to dredge up memories rather than using sight and touch. Also, there is this terrible pressure to create a List to End All Lists, one that has everyone's favorite read-aloud on it and will be of use to parents for Years to Come.

Luckily, Jim Trelease has already done that for me with his The Read-Aloud Handbook. Phew! And as for the first problem (that memory issue), I can think of just enough books to tide over the average 7 1/2 year old, and perhaps even most 6 to 8-year-olds. These are chapter books, short and long, that are a joy for adults and kids to share together. For the most part (although not in every case), they are wonderful candidates for read-alouds because the reading level is far above the average beginning reader but the content is just right.

So here are just a few read-alouds I have known and loved:

Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan.
Like Mary Poppins, this is one that many folks don't ever read - but if you do, the complexity, lilt, and humor of the language will blow you away.

Blume, Judy. Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing.
This book, a favorite of many kids, is the kind of read-aloud that may have you laughing too hard to talk.

Chase, Richard. Jack Tales.
Your kids will probably never read these on their own, so you're going to have to be the ones to introduce them to this excellent piece of Americana - and man, are these stories fun to read aloud.

Cleary, Beverly. Beezus and Ramona. (and all the others)
What is entrancing about these books is that both Beezus and Ramona types listen to them with rapt attention - and I am still amazed at Cleary's insight into the minds of kids. She is a genius of the world.

DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux. (also The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane)
Plenty of adventure, plus mice and royalty. How could you go wrong?

Gannett, Ruth. Three Tales of My Father's Dragon.
A boy rescues a baby dragon, and they go off to a magical land and have adventures - 'nuff said!

Ibbotson, Eva. The Secret of Platform 13. (and her other fantasies)
For kids still too young for Harry Potter, Ibbotson's charming and thoughtful fantasies offer magic without quite the intensity of HP.

Jenkins, Emily. Toys Go Out (and its sequel Toy Dance Party)
Short, sweet, and funny, these are perfect read-alouds for 5 and 6-year-olds - and good read-alones for kids just leaving easy readers behind.

Jonell, Lynne. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat. (and its sequel Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls)
A girl with a problem meets a rat with a talent - this is Dahl-like but without the mean-spirited edge he has sometimes (which I quite like, actually, but which some parents don't).

King-Smith, Dick. Three Terrible Trins (and Babe and Ace and Lady Lollipop and just about everything he has ever written).
Warm-hearted, sweetly funny, and always a joy to read aloud.

Martin, Anne M. The Doll People (and its sequels).
This series about the friendship between old-fashioned china dolls and their modern plastic counterparts is enlivened by the genius illustrations of Brian Selznick.

Patron, Susan. The Higher Power of Lucky. (and also its sequel Lucky Breaks).
Although Lucky is 10, her friendships and frustrations in Hard Pan, CA will appeal to younger kids as well.

Riddell, Chris. Ottoline and the Yellow Cat (and Ottoline Goes to School)
Illustrated with detailed and piquant drawings, these tales are off-beat, quirky, and irresistible.

Sandburg, Carl. Rootabaga Stories.
The lyrical language in these imaginative stories makes them an obvious read-aloud choice. My mom read these to me - I can still hear her voice in my head telling the story of the White Horse Girl and the Blue Wind Boy.

Selden, George. A Cricket in Times Square.
This Newbery-winning tale of a musical cricket and his friends is sometimes overlooked these days - time to rediscover it.

Travers, P.L. Mary Poppins.
Like Peter Pan, this was one that I discovered by reading it to my daughters. What fun! Don't rely on Disney's version - read the original to your favorite kid.

White, E.B. Charlotte's Web.
Yes, you will choke up at the end and have to compose yourself before you can continue reading. Your kids might cry too (although mine didn't...they took it all in stride). That's okay. You must read this aloud to your kids - possibly multiple times.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House in the Big Woods. (et al)
My mom read these all to me, of course. But not only did my own repeated attempts to read these to my daughters fail, but they refused to read them on their own. Where did I go wrong??? This is one of the Big Mysteries of my life as a mother.

Don't see your favorite chapter book read-alouds for 6 to 8-year-olds? Please list them in the comments!


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  2. thank you, thank you! i *so* appreciate you taking the time to put this together - and so do my girls.

  3. I can relate to having failed as a mother. Often I would try a book with the girls and they wouldn't listen. A few months would go by and they would come home raving about a book their teacher was reading to them. It was the same one I had tried! Go figure...

  4. I love to suggest The Doll People by Ann Martin.

    A lot of our family have also enjoyed The Moffats by Eleanor Estes.