The Read-Aloud List

Sharon October 18th, 2011

I will finish my 150 Children’s books list one of these days, but one of the great things to do when times are tough, nights are late, power is out or when everything’s normal for that matter, is read to your kids.  If you don’t have any kids, I encourage you to borrow some if you can, because frankly, reading to children is one of the great pleasures of the universe.  There’s nothing like reading an old favorite (or one you never knew about) and watching someone discover it for the first time to make you happy.  If you don’t have any kids, reading aloud to a partner can be lovely as well, but  a small person snuggled on your lap is nice addition.

With my oldest at 11 1/2, I have now read My Side of the Mountain, the entire Little House series 3 times (and will shortly embark on the fourth), Winnie the Pooh and the Mary Poppins Series four times.  We’re still discovering new books to read and re-read, but I thought I’d mention some of the best, including a few less obvious ones than the classics above.   I’ll also mention a few classics we’ve had less than total success with, although, of course, your mileage may vary.

Every kid in my house gets a story at bedtime (sometimes both of us reading simultaneously) most nights, and the range of preferences is pretty large.  Isaiah likes animal stories and  adventure, Simon likes everything, especially stories that seem real to him,  Eli loves poetry and Asher jumps back and forth (at nearly six) between picture books and chapter books, and has a taste for magic and fantasy.

Good books and good read-alouds are different, I find.  There is considerable overlap between them, of course, but some books that aren’t quite as compelling read to yourself are fabulous read-alouds if you hit them at the right moment in childhood, and some wonderful classics aren’t ideal read-alouds unless you do considerable on-the-fly editing.  Different families will have different opinions, of course, but I find a few ingredients make books especially good for reading out loud.  Many of them come from the virtue that for most of us, reading out loud slows you down, and forces you not to skim over anything.  As a fast reader, what I find is that I am required to take full notice of parts of the book that I might not attend to fully were I not simultaneously reading (or listening to Eric read) and listening.

1. A certain kind of dry humor.  There are some books that are simply funniest when you read the jokes out loud.  My favorite example of this is _Cheaper by the Dozen_ where much of the humor involved is most effective when you hear it read – even the reader will find it funnier that way.  _Three Men in a Boat_ which incredibly wonderful anyway, is another book where simply slowing down to read it out loud makes the comedy more effective.

2. High adventure of a certain sort – storms on boats, pirates, sword fights, horseback races, etc… all demand to be read aloud in minute and meticulous detail – every sword slash or adventure is detailed.  For someone reading silently to themselves, it can be hard to fully savor every detail in the way you can when voices and description beg to be read outloud.  _Treasure Island_, Howard Pyles _Adventures of Robin Hood_ and _The Hound of the Baskervilles_ are obvious examples, but this is, of course, one of the appeals of the Harry Potter books and books like _The Tale of Despereaux_ as well.

3. Certain kinds of style and language.  There isn’t one kind of writing style that is suited to being read out loud to children – wonderful children’s books come in all sorts.  At the same time,  it is harder to hide weaknesses of style when reading aloud than reading to oneself.  I know for example, that I wept at _Black Beauty_ as a girl.  I made a stab at reading it out loud to my kids, however, and we were all bored stiff.  Some children’s books substitute extensive description for good description, frankly.  Particularly for younger children (or for everyone when it is well done) I’m partial to a certain unadorned quality in my language – just good, clean, elegant bare prose (of the kind I never write myself, sadly).  Laura Ingalls Wilder (particularly in _Little House in the Big Woods_ which was the book of hers least amended by her daughter), Robert Heinlein (whose juvenalia like _Have Space Suit Will Travel_ makes for delightful read alouds) and Patricia MacLachlan are all very different practitioners of the art of producing amazingly clean prose for children.  When the writing is more elaborate and stylized, there’s a certain flow and grace to it that allows for good reading – why children who don’t really understand all the words can enjoy _Ivanhoe_ or _Midsummer Night’s Dream_ or _Robinson Crusoe_.  There are some children’s book authors who really have this gift down – Sterling North, E. Nesbit and Jane Yolen can be counted on for stylized prose universally perfect for reading aloud.

I do have one rule for reading children’s books – never assume you want to read a sequel – and never start a book with a thousand sequels unless you are ready to read the other ones.  I admit, my children’s passion for the _Redwall_ books has worn me down some – they are all exactly the same, and while one is delightful, nine is not better.  Also, beware the tagged on sequel – _Ella of All of a Kind Family_ (the last of Sidney Taylors series about a Jewish family in WWI era NY), _The First Four Years_ , _Jo’s Boys_ and all the books after the second Anne Shirley book get old pretty fast for the reader.  Some children are content to say “ok, this isn’t very good, let’s stop” others must complete a sequence.  It certainly won’t kill me to read books I find dull, and I do (and hey, it is better than the years of reading _Green Eggs and Ham_ nine times a day, or worse when Eli at about a year had to read the thrilling cliff-hanger _Who Says Quack?_ over and over again), but it can save someone some trouble to establish a stopping point early on.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich  A wonderful, charming, funny book about growing up among the 19th century Ojibwe.  Frankly, if I was going to read the _Little House_ series, with its problematic relationships to Native Americans and westward expansion, I thought it was important that my kids read books that were just as compelling and brilliant about the Native Experience – and this is a glorious book to balance the expansionist, manifest destiny narrative that underlies so many westward bound children’s books.  Elizabeth Speare’s _The Sign of the Beaver_ is another good one.

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  We first read this on a car trip into Vermont (if you can read in a car without getting sick  (I can, Eric can’t)  and have an adult or teen to do so, it is a wonderful way to make trips pass) and read the entire book.  It is a wonderful story for younger kids about a little girl who has been denied competence by her loving aunts, and who gains it when she comes to live with a Vermont farm family.  Simon has asked us to read this several times, even though he’s really a bit too old for it, because it is so beloved.

Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan  There is no real evidence that this ever happened, but that doesn’t change the fact that the story of young Norwegian children sneaking gold past Nazis on their sleds isn’t just one of the most enjoyable children’s books out there.  I adored it as a child, and after reading it out loud to my sons, it received the encomium “It is just too short.”  It also has a somewhat unique narrative in that this is a story not about children shedding the adults in their lives, or about malicious or foolish adults, but about adults and children of both genders working in tandem together, and respecting each other’s capacities.

Rascal by Sterling North  I loved this book as a child, and particularly enjoyed reading it to my sons.  Isaiah, especially adored the stories, which are tinged with both nostalgia and sorrow, and regard the adult world with a critical eye that I think resonates with children.  Rascal is Sterling North’s pet racoon, and his stories of growing up in a world only marginally touched by adults are glorious.  This is the ideal animal story book.

Meet the Austins by Madeline L’Engle.  My kids liked here Wrinkle in Time and the Murray/O’Keefe series a lot, but somehow the Austins, without the science-fictiony details have appealed to them more, perhaps because they feel very real.  We picked this one because it deals with some of the issues of adding difficult children to your life, but it also is a book that simply describes what it is like to be a kid in an unusual family very well.  Unfortunately, most of the sequels deal with Vicky Austin’s love life and aren’t of any particular interest to my boys, all of whom are too young to regard that as anything but revolting.

Captains Courageous I admit, I’ve often Kippled. I like Kiping’s children’s literature quite a lot, and this is my favorite – perhaps because I grew up along the New England coast in a family that included a number of fishermen, I have a taste for boat literature.  We’re working our way on this now, and loving every second of it.  This is the perfect children’s adventure story in many ways.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis – my sons loved this story of Great-Depression era wanderings of an orphaned Michigan boy seeking to find his father.  Through tent cities, bad foster homes and into the jazz world, Bud is just a delightful character and again, very real seeming.

Some failures:

The Swiss Family Robinson I remember liking this one, but my kids hated it.  Besides the heavy handed Christian moralism, which didn’t bother me as a kid, but does annoy my children, their main objection was the perfectly correct statement “but every time they see a new animal, they shoot it.”  Plus, they correctly thought that it was too convenient that everything anyone could want was always available on the ship.

On to Oregon by Honore Morrow.  You know, I’m a big proponent of addressing the problems of racism and sexism in older children’s books by discussion, rather than demanding that all great books be untroubling in those regards.  At the same time, there are a few books we’ve taken a shot at that turned out to be so appallingly racist without having much else to redeem them that I simply couldn’t read them.  _On to Oregon_ was one of them – the “all indians should be murdered” rhetoric is just to revolting to bother with.  I found _Half Magic_ (which I’d loved as a kid) and _Hitty: Her First 100 Years_ to also be simply without sufficient virtue to justify working through the worldview they arose from.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri  I’ve never been able to get my kids into this, even though they should like the goats, the reasonably light-handed German romanticism and the story.  I admit, when I was a kid I kind of skimmed lightly over the long section about Heidi’s exile in the city myself, preferring her life on the mountain, but my children just got bored there and started to wander off.  I don’t think it is the gender thing (plenty of books about girls in our repetoir, giving the lie to the claim that boys won’t read about girls – although if they start kissing, boys or girls are right off Simon and Isaiah’s list), and I’m not sure what it is.

This is only a partial list of some of our favorites, but perhaps you’ll have suggestions of your own!

Sharon

50 Responses to “The Read-Aloud List”

  1. Sue McCormick says:

    If you haven’t already, you need to try “The Dark is Rising” sequence by Susan Cooper. The first one in the series is actually “Over Sea, Under Stone”. It has a lot of English and Celtic myth in it. My kids found them all riveting, as did I! I have reread them as an adult.

  2. It might be too advanced and/or a little scary (towards the end) for young children, but Watership Down makes for wonderful out loud reading. Your description of Snow Treasure rings very old bells for me. I’m sure I read that as a child, and liked it, but had long since forgotten title and details. If pressed, I might have said they were colonial children smuggling stuff past the Lobsterbacks. I’m pretty sure there were nice illustrations in the copy I read. I remember at least one of them. Thanks for giving me back this snippet of my childhood.

  3. Jen M says:

    A few more:
    Igraine the Brave, by Funke, is a great read-aloud with a female protagonist that my boys were still excited to hear

    The Phantom Tollbooth just turned 50! It has the advantage of being entertaining for adults, too!

    E.B. White’s three books: Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan are great stories and beautifully written.

    If you can stand the description of just how bad the bad count is, The Thirteen Clocks by Thurber is poetry in the form of prose — it must be read out loud, or you’ll miss all the in-line rhymes.

    Anything by Astrid Lindgren, including Pippi Longstocking, The Children of Noisy Village, and others.

    Also, if you can’t read in the car (I can’t), you can download free audiobooks at librivox.org, where they’re trying to get volunteers to record every book in the public domain. We’ve particularly enjoyed Jules Verne (the readers of Around the World in 80 Days do a great job) and L. Frank Baum, which is pretty drippy to read after the first one or two, but moderately entertaining to listen to.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  4. Rachelle says:

    I find C. S. Lewis is good for that “certain unadorned quality in language – just good, clean, elegant bare prose” and I have enjoyed the Narnia books as a child and an adult. There are some Christiany themes here but not as didactic as Swiss Family Robinson.
    Laura Ingalls Wilder is beautiful for that simple style though–I’m amazed sometimes how she makes such vivid images with 2nd grade words, like the scene where she and Mary are jumping on the haystack (Plum Creek, I think?) and you can really smell the hay. These were my all-time favorites as a child and really shaped my imagination. I still love to reread them.

  5. JRB says:

    I remember loving -Island of the Blue Dolphins- by Scott O’Dell.

  6. Susan in NJ says:

    The lives of my siblings and I were no doubt irrevocably altered by having Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland read to us repeatedly from a very very early age (the first three Oz books were liked read aloud) — probably as much for my father’s enjoyment as ours. We were nerdy even then – he like to read and explain the annotated versions. The Narnia series was very popular as was “The Hobbit.”

    Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was the only Jules Verne he read aloud — although we gravitated quickly to the others when we could read. I remember being obsessed by Heidi — but not my brothers. We all liked Charlotte’s Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  7. Lise says:

    Thanks for this list! You named some I didn’t know; I’m eager to check them out! (And now I have to re-read Half Magic to find out what’s wrong with it. I love love loved it as a child, but don’t remember details.)

  8. Lisa says:

    Books you may not have come across: the entire Swallows and Amazons series (Arthur Ransome, British author) and The Saturdays series by Elizabeth Enright. And I mention them, because my FAMILY loved that I read these aloud but I was exhausted: The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. I read them with accents and dialect…my Yorkshire accent wasn’t bad ;)

    Lisa

  9. Brad K. says:

    Sharon,

    These are YA books I have enjoyed. They might be targeted for a bit older reader, but not necessarily that much older.

    Robin McKinley. _Beauty_. You know how it comes out because it is the same story retold, but the telling is the point. Also _The Blue Sword_ and _The Hero and the Crown_.

    Tamora Pierce. The Protector of the Small quartet (the main character ages from 10 to 18). I liked _Trickster’s Choice_ a lot; _Trickster’s Queen_ is a great follow in. _Arrows of the Queen_, _Arrow’s Flight_, and (I think) _Arrow’s Fall_ are great. You might like that most of Pierce’s main characters are female, I imagine your boys would be like me and hardly notice, most of the time. _First Test: Protector of the Small_ gets into stereotyped gender roles. ‘most all of Pierce’s many books take place in a fantasy, swords-and-sorcery setting. I have read and re-read them, though not aloud. Some of Pierce’s books are for 10 year olds (Protector of the Small quartet, Alanna quartet, Magic Circle quartet), others for 14 (_Wild Magic_ and the rest of that quartet, the two Trickster books, The Circle Opens quartet, a sequel to the Magic Circle books, and _Will of the Empress_) or 16; all are good reads. _Wild Magic_ may be one of the best story beginning I have encountered.

    An oldie, H. Beam Piper’s _Little Fuzzy_ was a delight.

    Elizabeth Moon’s _Remnant Population_ gets into some interesting age role stereotypes, and passive resistance to strong government.

    I fondly recall Jim Kjelgaard’s _Big Red_, and _Rufus the Red-Tailed Hawk_ for animal stories. Kjelgaard wrote several very good books.

    Then there was a staple from my substitute teaching interlude, Roald Dahl’s _Marguaritte, go wash your feet_. (The board of health’s across the street.) With illustrations.

    I shouldn’t mention Danny Dunn stories.

    Blessed be!

  10. Holly in Virginia says:

    I loved reading aloud to my boys when they were younger. Now they all enjoy reading on their own. Another vote for the Dark is Rising series. Carolyn Reeder writes great historical fiction that looks at an issue from both sides: civil war: black/white, Civil war: north/ south/ pacifist, Japanese internment, moonshining, the depression: imminent domain/ Shenandoah park/ opportunity- Way more entertaining than that sounds. Ralph Moody’s series starting w Little Britches about his and his family’s resourcefulness in hardtimes- super.

  11. jengod says:

    If you and your kids like the Little House series, run don’t walk to Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. It’s a memoir of her spending her childhood in Depression-era Iowa with her pleasantly-stuck-in-the-19th-century grandparents, and you will LOVE it.

  12. Sharon says:

    We’ve been working our way through the picture book recommendations and love them. I just picked up the next installment last night from the library and look forward to the rest of the list! Keep them coming : )

    We’ve begun reading chapter books at night, all piled onto the bed, making my favorite time of the day. I didn’t read much as a kid and it’s nice to catch up on all that I missed.

  13. Sue McCormick says:

    Oh, and “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen! There’s also others he’s written, but this is the one I remember the most. A boy is flyng thru the Canadian wilderness in a small plane that crashes and kills the pilot. It shows how he survives the winter. Shades of “The Other Side of the Mountain”. It’s called Hatchet because he has one, and that’s what helps him survive.

  14. Sharon Astyk says:

    Interesting – I like Susan Cooper, but hadn’t thought of her as a read-aloud. I’ll have to try it. Simon and Isaiah have already read _Hatchet_ to themselves – maybe for Asher. I want to read _The Haymeadow_ which is actually my favorite of Paulson’s books. I loved _Little Heathens_ but haven’t read it to the kids – I wasn’t sure how much discussion of self-induced abortion they were ready for, but maybe we could work around it. Eric and Simon just finished _Watership Down_ – Isaiah got bored, but Simon enjoyed it. I admit, I didn’t read that one as a kid, and I think that spoiled it for me – I don’t really like it much. I’ve been meaning to do _Swallows and Amazons_. We’re partway through _The Saturdays_ but the boys haven’t been totally entranced by it – I know people who adore the Melendy children, but my kids find them kind of too good.

    Lots of good stuff here.

    Sharon

  15. Dave says:

    I’m having a hard time remembering all of our successes but one that stands out was The Black Cauldron (Lloyd Alexander) as a book on tape while driving.

  16. Katharine says:

    Ooh, I’d completely forgotten about Snow Treasure and Understood Betsy. Those are both fantastic – thanks for reminding me! I also love Elizabeth Enright – any of hers are good, if The Saturdays turns out to be a success. I also remember liking Lois Lenski as a child, but I don’t know if they would be good read-alouds.

    Here’s some others that are not only good read-alouds but also interesting glimpses into other cultures: The Wheel on the School by Miendert DeJong, and The Singing Tree and its sequels by Kate Seredy. I don’t know if your boys would like the Shoes books by Noel Streatfeild but many of them have lovely depictions of family loyalty and relationships. Oh! And I also remember my mom reading us Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates and we all loved it.

    Funny, my siblings and I also made fun of the too-convenient plot lines of Swiss Family Robinson. Kids pick up on these things, I guess.

  17. Beth says:

    Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, by Margaret Sidney

  18. Amy says:

    My boys both liked Wind in the Willows, and they also enjoyed The Hobbit and the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy. I started that set of four books as “read-alouds” twice: once when Jake was about 10 and again when Zack was about 10.

  19. karen from CT says:

    i love book lists! Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright was a fave of mine when I was young. Any book by Joan Aiken, in particular the antics of Dido Twight, beginning with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. I think my daughter wore out that book! Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell was another book that I loved so much and read to my kids as well. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle- a beloved family favorite. When I was a young reader I was obsessed the Little Maid series. Here is a link for them-http://www.hstreasures.com/littlemaidtitles.html
    I am currently reading Watership Down to my 8 yr old grandson who loves it but the 12yr old was bored by it. We are also reading A House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs. Zelpha Keatly Snyder has quite a few good books out, my daughter discovered her and we have both read most of her books. The Egypt Game and The Headless Cupid were the first two we read. Now I want to go and re-read all of the above as well as all the selections mentioned in this thread! Happy reading everyone! Karen from CT

  20. Margit says:

    Thanks for the recommendations!

    Our family loved listening to Freddy the Detective (and other books in the Freddy series, written by Walter R. Brooks from ~1928). It recounts the adventures of Freddy the Pig and his animal friends, who live on the Bean’s farm in upstate New York. Brooks is a great storyteller with an excellent sense of humor.

    Other read-aloud favorites are Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (and also The Silver Crown) by Robert C. O’Brien, and The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald.

  21. Susan in NJ says:

    wow, I forgot about the Black Cauldron — that really was a family favorite, and perfect for Halloween too. It’s the best of that Lloyd Alexander series.

    I liked the Frances Burnett books, there’s another less cited one called the Lost Prince which we all liked (my brothers weren’t entranced by the secret garden, etc.)

    If you can find it, the original T.H. White Sword in the Stone (stand alone book rather than part of Once and Future King) is good read aloud fodder.

  22. Denys Allen says:

    Laddie – by Gene Stratton Porter
    Wonderful story of a girl growing up in on a farm, her family and her love of nature

    Across Five Aprils – Irene Hunt
    This one stuck with me and it is a boy’s view of growing up during the Civil War while living in a farm on a border state. Not much of the war, but the effects of war.

    Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun
    My girls loved this story of what happened when we sent the navy to Japan in the early 1800′s to try to open trade relations.

    So Far from the Bamboo Grove
    They love this book of two Japanese sisters and mom fleeing Korea during WWII. They were the occupiers and now on the run trying to return to Japan. Another war story!

    Did you do any posts about teaching, encouraging, or bribing children to write? We’ve been doing a structured program so that we do different types of writing and know how to move from idea to final result, but it is beginning to control our day! It looms over us and it takes so long to do!

  23. Tegan says:

    Holy cow I had forgotten SO MANY of these books. Also, I totally thought that my grandparents had the only copy of Understood Betsy in the entire world. :-P

    Other books I read around the time of that one were: Lydia in the Summer, A Girl Called Al, and The Shoeshine Girl. I often reread them every summer. Lydia in the Summer is about a girl who really really wants a dog, and realizes that the family who gets the dog in the raffle really are better for it, also, that the secrets adults hide aren’t always that entertaining (there are secret discussions of a “breech baby” that mystify her and her friend :-P ).

    (There’s also one that I CAN’T REMEMBER THE NAME OF where its set in the 70s, the girls dad is a principle of an elementary school with open classrooms, her mother is a female reporter, and she fights the system to be allowed to deliver newspapers.)

    A Girl Called Al deals with societies views on women, as Al is large, and they aren’t allowed to take Shop, and the death of the janitor that the girls befriend.

    The Shoeshine Girl is set in 80s or 90s, and a girl who “needs” money, winds up getting a job to spite her aunt, and likes it anyway.

    Depending on what type of family structures you want to bring into discussion, The Silver Coach is also excellent, as the girl fully uses her imagination with her grandmother’s miniature Silver Coach to imagine glorious trips with her beloved father (the parents are divorced, and the kids are spending the summer at the house of a grandma they don’t know). When the father DOES arrive, he brings a lady friend and her kids, and almost ignores his own kids. One of those “growing up” type books. But I remember beautiful descriptive language.

  24. The Wheel on the School is marvelous. We checked the audio out from our local library and listened to it on a long car ride. It works wonderfully aloud.

    My husband and I read aloud to each other in the evenings after our son goes to bed. We’ve been reading together since right before we started dating twenty years ago. A wonderful tradition.

  25. Mara says:

    I hope I’m not going with the obvious, here, but Harry Potter? Of course not around when I was a kid (I’m 30 and so was 19 when they first started coming out) but I’m looking forward to reading them to my boys.

  26. Tegan says:

    Oh and how could I forget my fiance’s fave read aloud book: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmoun Rushdie. A story about a the child of a storyteller, and the storyteller runs out of stories — so Haroun has to sail the Sea of Stories to fetch new ones.

  27. Tara says:

    As a child, I LOVED hearing The Legend of Sleepy Hollow read aloud. Another book I adored was Richard Adams’ The Ship’s Cat – this was one I read to myself (and it has amazing illustrations) but I imagine it would be quite fun to hear read as well.

  28. Margaret Yoder says:

    I couldn’t read in the car either, but one dramamine takes care of that, all day. I don’t think we’d have survived our last car trip without it!

  29. Sarah says:

    Makes me wish I had more kids!

    Some of our favorites that you didn’t list:
    The Penderwicks by Birdsall
    anything by Deborah Wiles
    The 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith — not the Disney version!
    From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by Konigsburg

  30. Anna says:

    Little Britches- Father and I were ranchers by Ralph Moody.

  31. karyn says:

    Now if only I could get my son to stop requesting Hardy Boys – and there are so many of them! We have a truce of “I pick one, you pick one” going now, but I sure am bummed out when it’s his turn and he invariably heads for those Hardy boys!

  32. Yvonne Rowse says:

    My kids loved Ursula LeGuin, Alan Garner and Diana Wynne Jones (The Power of Three was the first book Sally read on her own) but our favourite reading aloud books were by Margaret Mahy. As far as I know she hasn’t written any adult books. She writes books for children from the age of just understanding simple phrases up to young adult novels. Our favourite picture book was “The Boy Who Was Followed Home” illustrated by Stephen Kellogg. Who wouldn’t want to be followed home by a hippopotamus? What parents wouldn’t want to cure this when multitudes of hippopotami are gambolling in the fish pond?
    I liked the books for 11-12 year olds (The Great Piratical Rumbustification) and I loved her young adult work (The Changeover, The Catalogue of the Universe, The Tricksters, Memory, 24 Hours & etc) but our very favourite books were the short stories, designed for reading aloud. We started with ‘Chocolate Porridge & Other Stories’ which was ideal for bedtime reading for very young children. We moved on to ‘The Boy Who Bounced & Other Magical Tales’ which was delightful. The remaining three short story books I read to myself still, whenever I need cheering. ‘The Chewing Gum Rescue’, ‘The Door in the Air’ and ‘The Downhill Crocodile Whizz’. As you can well imagine, the crocodile in question receives a pair of roller skates from his grandmother who has taken up hang-gliding instead. Full of confidence he does not turn the letter over (PTO) to see her wise warning, and sets out from his house on the top of the hill.
    What I love about these short story books is that they never talk down and there is plenty for adults to be amused by, from General Confusion, a military man, to Captain Rectitude together with Miss Dignity and her sister Miss Edwina Dignity. There are pirates, dragons, crocodiles, orphans, giants and wonderfully adventurous older women including Miss Celia Slipstitch, who had been a freedom fighter in the Anguish Hills…and had been named Freedom Fighter of the Year in 1925.
    I really can’t think of any books better for reading aloud. I would really recommend you look her work up. You won’t be disappointed.

  33. Coco says:

    Can I put in a vote for Beatrix Potter? I remember getting them from the library in a tiny little book format that fascinated me and I loved having them read aloud.

  34. Susan Haley says:

    Kim, Just So Stories, Jungle Books I and II — Rudyard Kipling
    Treasure Island, et al. Stevenson
    Arthur Ransome — Swallows and Amazons, etc. Thes e
    changed my whole life.

  35. Liz says:

    Okay, to be fair, I only scanned the list because my reading glasses are in my car. My daughters 8 and 12 are always reading and still enjoy family read alouds. I scanned the comments for Swallows and Amazons as that was one of our all time favorites! (Mine, too!). Jules Verne is wonderful. 20,000 Leagues was a great read aloud but the kids enjoyed 80 Days on audio book. If you kids are into audiobooks (which actually REALLY has enhanced their vocabulary), look into anything done by Jim Weiss. We just had the opportunity to see him live for the second time. He has short abridged stories but also longer ones for older children. My 8 year old just finished Beric the Briton (by GA Henty) and LOVED it (historical fiction…lightly abridged) and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. The Enchanted Forest Series by Patricia C. Wrede and The Hero and the Crown (Robin McKinley) are favorites. I will find my glasses and look back at your list because I am ALWAYS on the look out for quality books for my children! Oh, and by the way, this is for young kids: (you’ll love the humor) Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm! (My 8 year keeps shouting out more favorites as I type!).

  36. Liz says:

    Sorry, one more: I saw the mention of Gary Paulsen. His kid books are good but if you haven’t read Winterdance, you are in for a treat! Technically, it is for adults but I read it to my kids and they LOVED it. One of my all time favorites!

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  38. Grandma Misi says:

    I’m surprised that “The Princess Bride” wasn’t mentioned as a GREAT read-aloud book. All those cliff hangers! I guess too many kids have seen the movie, eh? We read this book every year, with loads of neighborhood kids hanging on to every word and screaming when I stopped at the cliff hangers. “Sorry, next installment tomorrow!” We read this book aloud many years before it became a movie and the copy we had used red and black text for just the story and the narration, awesome! We skipped some of the long winded “history”, lol.

    Also, I’d like to add, anything by Cynthia Rylant, many of which are especially great for country kids! I truly loved “The Van Gogh Cafe” – a very magical true life story!

    I second the mention of Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth”!! This one works on so many levels that young kids will love the adventure, and the older ones, plus adults, will get a kick out of all the more sophisticated twists and turns. We read this on aloud so many times!

    Keep the book suggestions coming, I’ve got grandkids from 7-23!

  39. Tegan says:

    Not for this list, but just to leave this for you.

    http://fashionismymuse.blogspot.com/2010/07/book-review-subversive-stitch.html

    It’s a review of a book on how embroidery and feminism are linked. It looks interesting, and you might appreciate it.

  40. Susan Haley says:

    The Once and Future King. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The Wind in the Willows.

  41. Cory Duncan says:

    The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter. Childhood on the Cherokee Rez. Filled with laughter and love.
    Tales From Shakespeare Charles and Mary Lamb
    To tell the truth, I didn’t read that as much as I did straight up bits of Shakespeare. Puck. Falstaff. The witches for Halloween with lots of cackles and screeches.
    The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
    Joseph Bruchac’s stories for children…….Native American
    Have fun! My children are 27, 25 and 21 now and I still miss reading to them.

  42. janine says:

    I agree with you about “Meet the Austins” – the subsequent books weren’t nearly as good as the original story of the doctor’s family. A good read about life in Minnesota around the turn of the 20th century were the Betsy-Tacy series authored by Maud Hart Lovelace. They start at the first grade level and progress (in maturity) to her marriage at the beginning of the First World War.

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  44. risa says:

    We’ve always all read to one another, and the family went through Lord of the Rings and Narnia quite young, in multiple doses. Daughter learned to read using Beatrix Potter in a cooperative venture. Wilder, Cooper, and others have had their turn as well. Beloved reads to library patrons for a living, and there a re few, it seems, children’s books we don’t know.

    But our number-one read-aloud is the Moomin series by Tove Jansson. Daughter still demands a chapter when she’s here (she’s now a grad student in the Big City), and granddaughter goes through a book on each visit.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moomin

    There are Moomin Museums and Worlds all over Scandinavia, and Moomin characters splashed across the tails of Finnair jets. Jansson was a member of the Swedish speaking minority in Finland, and is lovingingly and obsessively claimed by both countries. Each book is a little more complex and adult in its themes, and a bit more melancholy, than the preceding. In all, there is a splendid zest for adventure tempered by an abiding sense of living and loving in the moment, for life (like Finland’s summer) is brief. The sea and seashore figure largely in these tales, as setting and metaphor.

    The Moomins and the Great Flood (Originally: Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen) – 1945.
    Comet in Moominland, Some editions: The Happy Moomins – (Originally: Kometjakten/Kometen kommer) – 1946.
    Finn Family Moomintroll (Originally: Trollkarlens hatt) – 1948.
    The Exploits of Moominpappa, Some editions: Moominpappa’s Memoirs (Originally: Muminpappans bravader/Muminpappans memoarer) – 1950.
    Moominsummer Madness (Originally: Farlig midsommar) – 1954.
    Moominland Midwinter (Originally: Trollvinter) – 1957.
    Tales from Moominvalley (Originally: Det osynliga barnet) – 1962 (Short stories).
    Moominpappa at Sea (Originally: Pappan och havet) – 1965.
    Moominvalley in November (Originally: Sent i november) – 1970 (In which the Moomin family is absent).

  45. Ginny says:

    As a child, I was entranced by Mary Norton’s _The Borrowers_, about a family of little people who live under the floorboards in an English country house and earn their living by sneaking out and “borrowing” things from the humans. If you enjoy it, there are four sequels. Lots of imagination and adventure and both the borrower and the human characters are well developed and entertaining.

  46. aimee says:

    Books my kids have loved read aloud:

    1) Watership Down
    2) the Hobbit
    3) The Once and Future King
    4) The Chronicles of Narnia
    5) The Neverending Story
    6) To Kill a Mockingbird
    7) All Roald Dahl Books
    8) the Phantom Tollbooth

  47. aimee says:

    ooh ooh
    where the red fern grows… the education of little tree… the giver (all Lois Lowry, really)….

  48. Rudy says:

    Sharon, you might want to get rid of the “slimming products” spam in this thread, a few posts up.

    I loved the Melendy books but my kids never liked them. The Little House books were big with our boys. We listened to Harry Potter on tape on car trips. We did a lot more reading out loud when they were very young, like the Richard Scarry books, and lots of the Golden books, especially older ones from used book sales.

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  50. Ed Bryant says:

    I think Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest chronicles are some of the funniest read-aloud books ever.

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