We read a great group of books this month in our longer read-aloud category! If you have independent readers at home, or are looking for family read-alouds, these would be great to add to your summer reading list!
After starting another round of Pooh stories last month, naturally we had to continue with The House at Pooh Corner. Predictably, I cried at the last page. The kids were incredulous, but that’s because they aren’t old enough to see how poignant it is when Christopher Robin asks Pooh not to forget him, ever, even when he’s 100. Also they are not marinating in pregnancy hormones. But anyway, the second volume is quite as clever and lovely as the first, and again the incredible illustrations make it even more wonderful. A perpetual favorite!
The Twenty-One Balloons turned out to be a really great adventure story about a man’s attempt to spend a year in a hot air balloon only to wind up on a (fictional version of) the island of Krakatoa shortly before the volcano erupted. We thought the world building was really imaginative, and enjoyed thinking about an entire hidden community living off of the profit of diamonds lying about for the grabbing and eating a different cuisine every day due to their “restaurant government.” The book was particularly well suited to reading aloud, with chapters of manageable length, good illustrations, and good cadence.
Hannah and I don’t know how we feel about verse novels. On one hand, we do like poetry, and conveying details in a smaller space can be beautiful and powerful. On the other hand, verse novels are attempting to be two things at once and I don’t think it always works. May B. has a great concept–a young girl on the Kansas prairie who struggles with dyslexia is not doing well at school and her parents decide to send her out to work for a young couple in a sod house 15 miles from home. When the couple disappears, May is left alone to fend for herself, and she triumphs over adversity. Hannah says she wishes that the book had more words. I have to agree. On one hand, the sparseness of the short lines of free verse reflect the hard prairie life, but on the other hand, that choice renders the story very short and made me wonder what could have happened had it been more deeply developed.
We also read Caroline Starr Rose’s second book, Blue Birds. Unlike May B., I couldn’t think of any reason that the book was written as a verse novel. It’s about the lost colony of Roanoke, so nothing about the setting really requires the short line free verse style. Unless the author hoped to make a point about the lack of information available about what really happened to the settlement? Again, both Hannah and I were left wondering what might have been if the book had been a fully developed novel. I heard an interview with the author that really impressed me, and I am impressed with her story concepts, but I have to confess that I think verse novels are kind of gimmicky and we probably won’t try any more. Still, it was kind of fun to try something new, and there are so few words that you can easily read either book in a very, very short time. I will continue to follow the author in hopes that she isn’t pigeonholed into verse novels for her whole career–her concepts, characters, and imagery are strong so I hope she writes a prose novel someday!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car is a bonus book in our library’s summer reading program, so we decided to give it a go. Boy, are we glad we did! This book is a really, really fantastic read-aloud. The story is superb, the characters are funny and well developed, and even the illustrations are great. We couldn’t limit ourselves to one chapter at a time so we read this book in record speed and are glad to know that there are two sequels written by the same author. If you need a fun, lighthearted read-aloud for this summer that will appeal to boys and girls of multiple ages, we recommend Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is another true delight to read aloud. It’s funny, the characters are memorable, and the story moves right along. We got a 40th anniversary edition which was larger sized with colored pages and full color illustrations by Quentin Blake. Worth it. We all really enjoyed this book and moved right into the sequel after we were done. Although I think this book shines as a read aloud, I can also see it working well for a reluctant reader, because it’s quite compelling and hard to put down.
We have loved Opal Wheeler’s biographies of great composers. Geared for children, the books highlight interesting stories from the composers’ childhoods, include musical scores, and have excellent black and white drawings. Over summer term (yes, we are in school until July 3 here–banking days so we can take maternity leave this fall!) we are learning about Chopin and the kids were excited that Wheeler wrote TWO books about him. Frederic Chopin: Son of Poland, Early Years was a big hit as a read-aloud and the kids now want to name our new baby Frederic–edging out previous favorites “Agamemmnon” and “Little Caesar.” 🙂 Anyway, the book is a treasure. If you ever see Wheeler’s series in a used book store, nab it. Or add it to your Amazon list. They are keepers.
What was your family’s favorite read-aloud this month?
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