In April we finished our average number of read-alouds (currently defined as longer chapter books of at least 100 pages), and a couple of books that Hannah, Jack, and I read for a discussion, but I decided to make that a separate post for later. Two of our books were for school reading and two were our family bedtime read-alouds.
The Green Ember has been much discussed in the read aloud pool, and so when it was free on Kindle one day I snagged it. We found the book engaging, adventurous, and funny in parts. Jack wanted his own copy so he could read it again. I thought the book was good for reading aloud, with a story and topics that appealed to both boys and girls and could be good for multiple ages. I do think the book has been overhyped a bit (at least among the people I follow online) and I don’t think it’s the next Narnia or Lord of the Rings. Had I not seen the superlatives, I would have still said that although I doubt this book is destined as a lifetime favorite for our family, it’s a solid choice either for a read-aloud or individual reading for kids and I do recommend it.
Kidnapped by River Rats is a fictional book about two orphaned kids in London who are rescued by the Salvation Army. It’s the sort of book that aims at a little bit of history while telling a story, which I normally like, but there were some flaws. First, the dialog is dreadful for reading aloud. It’s anachronistic and clumsy. I found myself changing it every time there was a direct quote. If you’re ok with in-process editing as you read, that might be ok, but although I can change wording as I read aloud, I found it annoying that I had to do that throughout the book. Also the illustrations are really third-rate. I didn’t bother mentioning to the kids that there were illustrations, because they were really that bad. The kids didn’t strongly dislike the story, and we did pick up some information about the Salvation Army that we used in a later history discussion. To warn you, the book does deal with human trafficking and child prostitution–it’s glossed but be aware that you’ll probably need to have a discussion about it if your kids notice.
Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale is a fairly long but nuanced biography. We read it aloud for school and I found it a little long, but the kids liked it. The book does a good job of balancing between the popular ideal of Florence Nightingale–the angel with the lamp, etc–and the reality that as a person Nightingale was critical and demanding and self-absorbed. We had some interesting talks about this, with the kids speculating about whether or not Nightingale would have gotten as much done if she had been kinder.
We have probably read The Bears of Blue River aloud five or six times and we keep coming back to it. The book is a great story of the adventures pioneer kids in Indiana had–including brave rescues, daring deeds, and the sort of independence that is probably illegal in Indiana these days. I like the subtle emphasis on keeping a cool head, being brave, and standing up for your friends. The kids like the action, particularly the stand-offs with huge wild animals. If you’re looking for a great read-aloud for boys, this is your ticket. But girls love it too, and it’s an overall awesome pick for family read-aloud time.
What were your favorite read-alouds this month?
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