May Read-Alouds

We wrapped up quite a few read-alouds from the end of our school year reading, plus some regular family read-alouds. We also branched out to audio books for a long road trip, which wound up working really well and helped to delay the need for movies, cut down on inter-sibling violence, and even reduced the number of “Can we stop for a snack soon? No? Can I at least have some gum? Because I’m starrrrrrvinnnnnng” episodes we normally encounter on 11+ hour drives. Good times. We are always building memories, right? ¬†ūüôā
Amos Fortune, Free Man¬†is a well-written biography of a man brought as a slave to America who won his freedom, then selflessly worked to purchase the freedom of other slaves. ¬†In addition to being a good historical perspective on colonial times, I thought the author did a great job of pointing out contradictions. ¬†For example, one of Amos’s owners is a “good master” as slave ownership goes, but he is also shown to little regard for Amos’s personhood and ability to think, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. ¬†Another black woman, who also has her freedom, is shown to be shiftless, disregarding her valuable freedom. ¬†Through it all, Amos keeps a good attitude and a strong sense of his own worth, balanced with humility and genuine love for others. ¬†This sort of nuance is rare in a children’s book, especially one dealing with topics like slavery. ¬†I admire that the author managed to make the focus on being a person of good character no matter what color you are and what your circumstances. ¬†This is a fairly easy read, with short chapters, so would make a good independent read for elementary kids or a good read-aloud if you’re studying the time period.

If you decide to read Boys and Girls of Colonial Days, I recommend looking for a copy that does NOT look like the one pictured here. ¬†The book is free on Kindle if you want to go that route, but since I wanted Hannah and Jack to read it independently and discuss it with me, I got the paperback. ¬†The pictures are painfully bad. ¬†Like poorly rendered computerish cartoons. ¬†Simply awful. ¬†The stories themselves are very moralistic and have a strange Disney-esque slant (for example, Indians referring to things as “heap big” this and that, or people saying “How” and other Disney Peter Pan type stuff). ¬†There is some good historical information, and each story has questions at the end. ¬†However, the questions are not the ones I would ask if I were trying to elicit a narration. ¬†If anything, I’d recommend getting the free Kindle version and then self-editing as you read aloud.

George Whitefield: The Voice that Woke the World ¬†is listed as a read-aloud for Tapestry of Grace Year 2, but I think it would be better as assigned reading for upper grammar kids. ¬†Some books just don’t lend themselves to reading out loud, and this is one of those. ¬†I don’t know if it’s the sentence construction or what, but it was laborious going. ¬†It’s too bad though, because Whitefield was an interesting character and had a huge impact both in England and the United States.

One of the book clubs I’m in has a children’s meeting once a year, and this year our selection was L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz¬†(link is to free Kindle edition). ¬†We read the book aloud for our pre-bedtime reading and quite enjoyed it. ¬†Hannah and Jack also read it separately because they could not bear to wait to find out about the rest of the story. ¬†I had never read the actual book, and have to say that it’s vastly superior to the movie. ¬†The book has a lot more interesting detail and, in fact, rather a different focus than the movie. ¬†It really lends itself to being read out loud. ¬†There are lots of other Oz books in the series, so I think we will read a few others and see if we like them as well.

Meet Felicity¬†was a read aloud from Tapestry of Grace, during the weeks we were learning about the Revolutionary War. ¬†Since we were planning a trip to Williamsburg and Jamestown at the time of the reading , it was fun to read this book, although I didn’t find it terribly detailed from a historical perspective.

Another book we read out loud for school was Louisiana Purchase.  The book is a good one for elementary school learners, because it includes a lot of interesting and sort of funny details (such as ideas that struck Napoleon while he was in his bathtub) while also presenting historical facts and putting the facts into context.  I like history books that are engaging as well as informative.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch was a re-read, since we read it aloud a couple of years ago, but we still liked it.  The book includes the story of a colonial boy who teaches himself lots of languages, mathematics, and other skills in spite of not being allowed to go to school (good lesson of being self-motivated!), and along the way you also learn a lot about navigation and history.

We listened to The Patchwork Girl of Oz¬†(Note: free on Kindle!) in audio book form on our long drive out east. ¬†It kept us happily distracted for the first six hours of our trip, and six hours without having to resort to movies is a win! ¬†It makes a solo drive with small children far, far less terrible for the mama anyway! ¬†Like the first Oz book, this one involves a quest, many of the same characters, and everything gets resolved in the end. ¬†However, I can see how the formula would become annoying after a while, so I think we’re going to chill on Oz for a while and maybe come back to it later.

I thought wrong. After an ill-fated attempt to listen to Cheaper By the Dozen (only one of five files would load, frustrating) on another leg of our journey up the east coast, I resorted to another Oz book. This time, we went back a little in the series to try Book 2, The Marvelous Land of Oz. ¬†This is the one wherein we meet Ozma, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Sawhorse. ¬†After three books in this series, I’m flat tired of the formula! ¬†Oz overload! ¬† I have to admit that since this time my mom was in the car with us, at times I was talking to her or figuring out logistics and only listening with half an ear. ¬†But I did register some dismay at the way that the army of Oz women rebels was described–we often talk about books out loud as we read them, so I remarked “I don’t think Mr. Baum had a very high opinion of women voters, do you?” and we talked a bit about how when women vote they don’t vote for spending the treasury on pretty dresses and jewelry or make petulant demands (at least not always). ¬†Sheesh. ¬†My recommendation? ¬†Read the first Oz book and skip the rest or have your kids read them to themselves!

What did your family read aloud this month?

 

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4 thoughts on “May Read-Alouds

  1. Catherine,

    Just wanted to say thanks for keeping my “to read” list well supplied. I appreciate your book reviews, and it’s fun to be reminded of some of the many (thousands, probably!!) books that I read my own children during our homeschooling years.

    Blessings –
    Julie recently posted..Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

  2. I’m really surprised by your review of The Marvelous Land of Oz! Baum’s wife was a suffragette and Baum himself a fairly ardent feminist, something fairly clear from the themes in the series as a whole. Of course, it’s been a long time since I read the Oz books, and I don’t remember that particular scene. He was VERY fond of satire, so I suspect that’s what was going on here, and the effect was lost when only half-listening to the recording.

    I did read them as a child and had a higher tolerance for formula, so you might be right there, but the books are filled with such interesting characters that it’s a shame to write off the whole series.

    1. You could be right, and maybe my listening was also colored by the annoyance of traveling and having just read and listened to three of the books in a row. Mostly I found the formula tiresome, but again, I read or listed to three right in a row so perhaps if I had spread them out a bit it would have been less troublesome. I’m not against letting the kids read them for themselves, but there are lots of other books to read aloud so I won’t be reading any more personally.

      1. I mean, you have to narrow down the To-Be-Read List somehow! ūüėČ

        I just didn’t want you to decide they were off the kids’ lists because of that one scene or anything. Fairy tales where the princesses rescue themselves and there’s nary a love interest in sight are few and far between.

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