January 2015 Read-Alouds

At the end of every month I do a round-up of longer books (100 pages or more, non-picture books) that I read out loud to the kids or read myself for purposes of discussing with them if they read the book independently.  The older two kids often bring me books they’ve read so we can have Mama-Kid book clubs, and I’m having trouble keeping up!

The Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobeSarah can’t remember the last time we read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe out loud so she requested it for our pre-bedtime read aloud this month.  I love the book and find it so easy to read out loud.  Hannah and Jack each got their own sets of the Narnia series for Christmas, so enthusiasm for the series runs high.

If you’re looking for a read-aloud that appeals to boys and girls of multiple ages, and that is not a slog for the parent to read night after night, this would be a great pick.

despereauxJack received The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread for Christmas and loved it.  He was wild for me to read it and discuss it with him, so I obliged.  What a fun book!  After assuring Jack of the proper pronunciation of the main mouse’s name (he was SURE it was “Des-pair-ee-ooks” – perhaps we’ll add French to the To Do list), we had a great discussion about it!

While much of the moral/lesson aspect was more overt than I usually like, the story’s funny style and narrator’s clever asides to the reader made these more palatable.

The Tale of Despereaux would be an excellent choice if you’re just moving into chapter book read-alouds.  The chapters are VERY short (good if you’re building up your read-aloud voice stamina and easier to keep kids listening), there are some illustrations, and the story is funny and fast-paced enough to bridge the gap from picture book to chapter book very well.

mocassin trailWe are moving West in our history studies, and are completely wrapped up in the pioneers and the Oregon Trail.  This era appeals to all of my kids and they are loving the adventure of it.  Because I am a sucker for educational experiences I even found myself agreeing to make pemmican (Easy recipe: mix equal parts buffalo grease and powdered buffalo jerky, allow to congeal into bars.  Yum!).  I draw the line at starting fires with buffalo chips though.  I have some standards.

In all of our reading on this fascinating topic, we have most enjoyed Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  The story centers around a boy who was adopted into the Crow tribe after running away from his family’s farm back east.  Providentially reunited with his siblings who were orphaned on the Oregon Trail, Jim/Talks Alone makes a decision about his role in the booming West and in his family.

This book generated many interesting discussions about the Native American way of life versus the pioneers, because it came at the distinction from a very unusual perspective.  I did have a serious issue with the conclusion of the book though, in which [spoiler alert!] Jim chooses Christianity (of a sort) over his Crow “medicine.”  His brother says that Jim was “white all along” because of the parallels between Jim’s medicine dream and Psalm 23.  Many of the pioneer characters imply that to be a Christian Jim would need to cut off his Crow braids and act like the settlers rather than like an “injun.”  Super cringe.  It did lead to a very good talk with the kids about how that attitude was prevalent back then, but that the Bible says Christ is for all the nations, with no mention of having to dress, act, or look like a Western believer to be saved.  The kids got it, but I’m glad we talked about it.

In any case, Moccasin Trail was a rip-roaring adventure tale and we all enjoyed it.  Hannah and Jack are actively trading each other Lego sets for the privilege of reading it again right away.

boundfororegonBound for Oregon is another pioneer tale, this one about a girl on the trip with her father, stepmother, and siblings.  It’s based on a true story, and mentions many of the same locations and trials we read about in Mocassin Trail, but Hannah was not as into it as I expected.  I think if she had read it prior to starting Mocassin Trail she would have loved it, but as it stands she tells me that she didn’t think it was as exciting.  Plus it had very little information about Native American tribes and Hannah has decided that on the Oregon Trail she would prefer to be a tribal maiden rather than a girl forced to wear a sunbonnet.  (Her favorite Little House character is Laura–betcha didn’t see that coming.)

That said, if you have a girl who prefers tamer adventures, or a girl who still needs to understand the pioneer perspective of the Oregon Trail as Hannah did, I thought Bound for Oregon was pretty good and quite interesting.


What did your family read aloud this month?


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One thought on “January 2015 Read-Alouds

  1. Stefan got Despereaux last year for Christmas and that was one of the read alouds he and I did alone. We had a lot of great discussions and I agree with it being a good intro to longer books. The chapters were a great length.

    Also, we’re reading Little House on the Prairie and there are a few cringe moments in there as well about Indians. Sigh. But I still love the book and it’s good to talk about these issues with the kids!
    Johanna recently posted..Snapshots of life #1

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