Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Family Read Alouds: Part II

by Rebecca Berg Manor

Thank you to all who added their favorites to our suggested family read-alouds for young children. I am so glad that Joy mentioned Babar because those are lovely stories! They definitely deserve a place on the list! Sherry had a whole bunch of wonderful titles that I had forgotten about! She recommends:

  • Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (excellent recommendation!)
  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and Loren Long
  • The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese (such a sweet story!)
  • Caps for Sale by Sephyr Slobodkina 
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (all Burton's childrens books are excellent)


  • Henny Penny
  • Frog and Toad
  • Lyle the Crocodile
  • Harry the Dirty Dog
Another great collection for young ones is the Billy and Blaze series by C. W. Anderson. Excellent for boys who have a hard time sitting still as each book is fully illustrated with a brief but engaging text. 

And there are many more great books to read to your young children. And of course, there are some wonderful wordless, or nearly wordless, books that allow you to create a story with your children. Good Night, Gorilla is an excellent example of how a talented illustrator can create a story simply using engaging pictures.

So, there are some additional recommendations for books to share with young children. Now we will move on to recommendations for families with children in middle school. 

Marguerite Henry's books make fantastic read-alouds. For horse-lovers they are the end all of literature yet the stories are well rounded and will appeal to children who are uninterested in species of the equine persuasion. Most famous for her Chincoteague Pony books, Henry also wrote about the western Mustang ponies, the development of the Justin Morgan breed, guides to identifying horses, and even a biography on Benjamin West, the great American painter! And you cannot miss King of the Wind, Henry's wonderful book on the Arabian stallions. 

It seems that most middle school aged children love animals and James Herriot's amazing stories are just the ticket for meaningful family read-aloud time! Known for his All Things Bright and Beautiful series that included All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, and The Lord God Made Them All, Herriot was an English veterinarian who found inspiration for is writing in his work with the animals (and people) of his beloved Yorkshire. The All Things Bright and Beautiful stories may be read aloud but they do deal with some complicated issues, so I would recommend sticking with the James Herriot's Treasury for Children. Herriot also wrote the following books for children.
  • Blossom Comes Home
  • Moses the Kitten
  • Only One Woof
  • The Christmas Day Kitten
  • Bonny's Big Day
  • The Market Square Dog
  • Oscar, Cat-About-Town
  • Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb
I remember the first time I stumbled upon this book at the library. It looks like a lot of fun so I checked it out and it quickly became a favorite. I loved following Homer as he walked through Centerburg and got into all sorts of hilarious and ridiculous situations. Do not miss Home Price and Centerburg Tales by Robert McCloskey. You'll also love the illustrations!

There seems to be an entire genre of children's literature devoted to heartbreaking stories about people and their relationships with animals. Rascal by Sterling North is one of the best. Wilson Rawl's Summer of the Monkeys and Where the Red Fern Grows will break your heart, as will Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, but these are stories that will also make you laugh while teaching compassion, empathy, and generosity. I probably wouldn't recommend reading these four titles consecutively! Break them up with something lighter like the Homer Price stories.

I read every book in the Little House on the Prairie series at least five times when I was growing up. And that was after my parents had read them aloud! There was something about Laura and Mary's adventures and their family's struggles in settling the west that appealed to our my imagination. I will always remember my dad reading the chapter where Jack, the family dog, gets lost. We were all chocked up and simply could not believe that Jack was gone. The characters in this book are so well written, the settings come alive, and the dialogue is superb. These have recently come under some criticism for portraying life as a western settler in too idealized a way, but I disagree. These books portray joy and hardship, sacrifice, family dynamics and much more in a realistic way. They may not be reliable historical references, but they are much much more than that.

Once you've read through The Little House on the Prairie, you will be ready for Little Britches by Ralph Moody. The Little Britches series is more advanced than The Little House books and quite a bit more complex but just as endearing. Also autobiographical accounts of a family moving west in search of a better future. You will find yourself shaking your head in amazement, laughing until tears roll down your cheeks, gritting your teeth in frustration, and yes, crying, as you make your way through the adventures of the Moody family.

Lois Lenski's Strawberry Girl is one that should not be missed! It's an endearing and convicting story of poverty and kindness.

While The Hundred Dresses may be one of Eleanor Estes better known titles, it is simply one among many wonderful titles by this talented author. Her Moffats series and Ginger Pye stories are whimsical and entertaining. Check your library for the following titles:
  • The Moffats
  • The Middle Moffat
  • The Sun and the Wind and Mr. Todd
  • Rufus M.
  • The Echoing Green
  • Sleeping Giant and Other Stories
  • Ginger Pye
  • A Little Oven
  • Pinky Pye
  • Miranda the Great
  • The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode
  • The Lost Umbrella of Kim Chu
  • The Coat-Hanger Christmas Tree
  • The Moffat Museum
  • The Curious Adventures of Jimmy McGee

    Marguerite de Angeli combined exquisitely written stories with beautiful illustrations and made an indelible mark on the world of children's literature. From her stories of Quakers, to her tale of a traveling medieval mistral, her books are all wonderful. My favorites include:
  • Henner's Lydia
  • Yonie Wondernose
  • Thee, Hannah!
  • Bright April
  • Copper-Toed Boots
  • Skippack School
  • Turkey for Christmas
  • The Door in the Wall
  • The Lion in the Box

Mildred D. Taylor's American classics Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Let the Circle Be Unbroken are difficult titles as they deal with complex issues of hate, racism, prejudice, and injustice, but they also depict great courage, generosity, forgiveness and grace. Many do not know that Roll of Thunder was part of a five-book series. My favorites are Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Let the Circle be Unbroken, and The Road to Memphis

And that's just a tiny portion of all the wonderful books available for middle school aged children. I will be listing many more in the future, but I hope that gives you a start. And as always, I would love to hear your recommendations! I know there are so many more out there, I simply cannot get to each and every one in a single blog entry, so we will keep working our way through these!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for these. I am always adding to my reading list for our children (and us!) and you've introduced me to a few authors here who are new to me. I really appreciate your blog!