Another month of read-alouds – some for school and some for fun:
Thursdays with the Crown is the latest installment in the Castle Glower adventures by Jessica Day George. We have really enjoyed this series, which involves a mysteriously morphing castle, evil villains, visiting royalty with penchants for puppies, and griffins that you can ride on. In this book, the Glower kids and their friends find out about the origin of the castle and then fight to save it. There’s a lot more detail about the griffins too, which the kids particularly enjoyed. Naturally, the end of the book leaves open the possibility of another story, which pleased us all. If you’re interested in the series, it begins with Tuesdays at the Castle (link is to my review).
Many of the missionary biographies we’ve read have been really laborious to read aloud. Shanghaied to China–while more of a historical fiction piece than a strict biography–was a pleasant exception. The book tells the story of a fictional boy shanghaied into being a cabin boy on the ship that took Hudson Taylor to China. The fictional boy’s adventures and wrestling with faith are set against true facts about Taylor and his work in China. So you get a great adventure story with lots of detail about ships and China, but also plenty of history about Hudson Taylor. It’s a good mix. The kids really loved this book.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was our Shakespeare selection last term, and we did read some adaptations, but we also read the actual play out loud. One day after we read a section Jack said, “I don’t really have any idea what’s going on with this book, but it sounds AMAZING.” That’s kind of my philosophy about reading Shakespeare to kids. They may not actually understand it or get everything that’s going on, but the language itself is so rich that there’s value just to hearing the words and phrases.
The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook is full of simple yet delightful stories about a little English girl and her life in a thatched cottage in (I think) the 1920s or so. I got the book primarily for Sarah, but the other kids wound up liking to listen to it as a read-aloud too. I liked the details of how much joy Milly Molly Mandy and her friends got from very simple toys and the descriptions of the food. The kids liked the scrapes MMM and her pals got up to, and I think we all enjoyed the language and illustrations. If you can find a copy with the original illustrations, go for that. I looked over a modern selection which was, inexplicably, re-illustrated, and didn’t like it nearly as well.
We enjoyed the Audible unabridged version of The Two Towers far, far more than we did the first book in the series, a circumstance that I attribute to the fact that no one had a stomach virus whilst we listened. For a very long book, the Audible version is really, really well done and I’m very glad we own (or whatever) this series in this format. Jack found it especially fabulous because he’s a big Tolkein fan right now, and he said to tell you that the Samwise parts at the end are particularly gripping.
As non-fiction books go, I would say that The Irish Potato Famine was middling. It started out really well, with most of the information given in a story format that helped it to be more readable and of higher impact for the children. However, it soon grew very long for what it was. I probably should have just assigned this to Hannah and Jack to read independently, but I knew it was above Sarah’s reading level and didn’t want her to miss out on the concept. If you’re learning about the 1800s or have a child who, for some reason, is interested in the Irish potato famine or Irish immigration in general, this would be a solid choice. But for a family read-aloud at bedtime, probably not your best bet.
Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun is one of those rare childrens’ history books that combines facts with stories and excellent pictures. We really enjoyed learning about this interesting time in history when feudal Japan was first opening up to the modern world. The illustrations include paintings and drawings by Japanese people first observing the American visitors, old photographs, and other Japanese-style line drawings. If your kids are interested in Japan this would be a great choice, and it dovetails nicely with the Shipwrecked title by the same author that I reviewed in last month’s read aloud post.
What was your family’s favorite book to read aloud this month?
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