Category Archives: Read Aloud Thursday

Read Aloud Thursday–August 2014

read-aloud211 I don’t know about you, but our new school schedule is seriously challenging my resolve to read aloud!  (This is something I never thought I’d say.  Sniff, sniff.)  Couple the fact that we’re out of the house three mornings a week (!!!) with the fact that our history curriculum this year prescribes our read-alouds, and I’m really struggling to make it work.  I’d love to get into the routine of reading a fun read aloud (which means one I pick ;-) ) at night before bed, but so far our bedtime routine isn’t conducive to that.  Maybe we can work to that end.

I’m also still struggling to fit in as many read-alouds as I’d like with the boys.  I am happy to report that since I started leaving some board books on the table by my bedroom rocking chair that I have read more to Benny than I had been.   My reward has been that Benny’s vocabulary has exploded, and one of his new words is me-me, answered in response to the question “What does the cat say?”  I’m pretty sure he learned that from Big Red Barn, which is still his favorite book.  (I know his vocabulary would’ve likely exploded anyway, but I like to think my reading to him encouraged it just a little bit. ;-) )

The DLM still tends to fixate on a certain few books, so today I thought I’d share his latest library picks:

Jim Aylesworth‘s retelling of Aunt Pitty Patty’s Piggy is one of those books you either love or hate, and which sentiment you choose is likely related to how many times you’ve been asked to read it.  ;-)  According to Aylesworth’s website, this book is an adaptation of the “Old Woman and the Pig” folktale.  It’s something of a “Jack and the Beanstalk” type tale with lots of repetition, which is, of course, what the kids like.  The challenge is saying Aunt Pitty Patty’s Piggy over and over (and over!) again without getting your tongue over your eye tooth so that you can’t see what you’re saying.  Barbara McClintock‘s illustrations are gorgeous, as always.  The DLM gives this one a Highly Recommended, and so do I, though mine’s a little less enthusiastic. ;-) (Scholastic, 1999)

I picked It’s an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall out of the new picture books bin because his style of illustration is unmistakable; we enjoyed his My Heart Is Like a Zoo several years back and even made an art project to go along with it.  It’s an Orange Aardvark is the story of a bunch of ants that live in the stump of a tree.  One of these conversant, hardhat wearing ants decides to drill a hole in their stump to give them a window on the world.  This adventuresome ant has at least one naysayer–What if there’s an aardvark outside?  Each hole the ants drill reveals another color, dividing the ants into two camps–one expecting an aardvark (a “pajama-wearing, ketchup-carrying, gecko-guiding, dozer-driving, orange aardvark pouring purple grape juice,” no less), the other believing it’s something better. The ending is humorous, unless you’re a fan of ants.   The DLM was really taken with this story, and I really wanted to be.  Something about the die-cut, paper piecing style of illustration is appealing to me, though die-cut pages (each hole the ants cut in the stump is a real hole in the page) can be a no-no with small children.  I think our library copy has a defect from the printer because there seems to be duplicates of a couple of pages, and I can’t read the story without being really confused by that.  Still, if you can get your hands on a whole copy, I think this one is a fun one for the preschool and early elementary crowd.  (Greenwillow, 2014)

I must have a thing for the song “Over in the ________.”  I can think of several picture-book renditions of this song I’ve read to my children over the years, including another one by Marianne Berkes.  Over in the River:  Flowing Out to the Sea is a stellar addition to the group.  In addition to being a counting book, with one more animal added to each page, this book also teaches a bit about geography!  On each two page spread, there’s a U.S. map highlighting the river on which the pertinent animals live.  When you get to the end of the book, you also learn that there are animals hidden throughout the story, one per page.  This means you get to read it all over again, this time studying Jill Dubin‘s lovely cut-paper collage illustrations more closely.  The backmatter in this one is more than adequate and includes information about the rivers and the animals, book extension suggestions, drawing hints from the illustrator, and a musical score for the song.  Highly Recommended.  (Dawn Publications, 2013)

As for chapter books, we’ve spent the entire month reading Summer of the Monkeys, but we finally finished it on Monday of this week.   What a fun story!  Yesterday we got started on the next Melendy book,  Then There Were Five.  Today I hope to also start reading Secret of the Andes, and according to our Sonlight schedule, we’re supposed to start reading Lawn Boy, too.  (It’s short!  Hallelujah!)  That’s a lot of reading aloud.  We’ll see how it goes.  :-)

I want to share a few links before I end this month’s RAT post.  First, did you know Jim Trelease has a website?  I didn’t!  It looks like it will be a good resource for read-alouds.  I read his Read Aloud Handbook years ago, before I had any children, and I think it definitely had a long-lasting impact on how I view reading aloud.

Second, if you’re looking for something good to read aloud next, why not consider reading George McDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin along with the Reading to Know Bookclub?  It’s the September pick.  I was all geared up to read it until my girls informed me that we already have read it.   :-)

What’s in your read-aloud basket this month?

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls seemed like a good read-aloud to end up our summer break.   This was a new-to-me novel, despite having loved and read (and re-read) Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows as a kid.   The only thing I knew about this story was what I remember a library patron–a homeschooling mom, if my memory serves me correctly–telling me about it twenty years ago when I worked as a public library aide.  This was an easy book for me to read aloud–the backwoods Oklahoman cadences and dialect of Jay Berry and his family might’ve sounded a wee bit too southern, but I didn’t stumble over his words much.  :-)

Every one of us, even down to our four year old DLM, was captivated by the story of Jay Berry and his quest to catch a passel of monkeys that have escaped from a circus train.  We loved his relationship with his grandpa and his devotion to his tightly knit family, including his crippled twin sister, Daisy.  I loved the fact that at fourteen, Jay Berry is still pretty wide-eyed and innocent, certainly not the jaded teen we’ve come to expect in the novel of today.  This story is full to bursting with humor; almost every interaction Jay Berry has with this troupe of monkeys and their ring-leader, a chimpanzee named Jimbo, is hilarious, at least to the reader.  (Jay Berry doesn’t find them too funny since he’s counting on catching the monkeys for the reward money which will enable him to buy his much-longed for .22 rifle and pony.) He and Grandpa work hard and come up with all sorts of schemes to trap these monkeys, but they’re no match for the wily Jimbo.   Mother Nature helps Jay Berry out and he does end up with his prize money, but the story doesn’t end there.   Rawls wraps up this tale with a very heartwarming and satisfying conclusion.

Yes, we enjoyed this one a lot, though it’s not without its flaws.  The resolution of the monkey story seems like the natural end of the tale, so the real ending seems almost like an appendix to the monkey tale.   Fans of Where the Red Fern Grows already know how beautifully Rawls captures the relationship between a boy and his dog(s), and in this tale, Jay Berry’s relationship with his hound dog Rowdy almost upstages the main story.  (I shared my favorite part in the whole book for this week’s Wednesdays with Words post.  Check it out if you want to get a taste of Rawls’ style.)  This isn’t really a bad thing at all, though it does weaken the plot a bit, in my opinion.  There’s also some superstitious mumbo-jumbo about an Old Man of the Mountains who may or may not be Jesus or God and who protects all the little creatures of the mountains.  (I just took it as an opportunity to have a little discussion with my children about what the Bible teaches about this and other similar issues. )  These few weaknesses definitely didn’t detract from the enjoyment my children got from this story at all.  In fact, after reading this author profile of Wilson Rawls on Jim Trelease’s site, I’m more inclined to overlook the weaknesses and give this one a huge Highly Recommended.  (Doubleday, 1976)

Wednesdays with Words: Summer of the Monkeys

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We just finished Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls on Monday night.  What a fun and heartwarming story! (Come back later today for my review of it.)  This morning I thought I’d share my favorite scene from the book.  In this scene, Jay Berry, his Grandpa, and his beloved hound Rowdy have gone into the nearest town to visit the library.  Jay Berry and Grandpa really don’t know proper library etiquette, so after being shushed by the librarian, they finally get the book they’re looking for.  That’s when things get really exciting in the library!

Just as Grandpa opened the book to the index page, the silence of the library was shattered by the deep voice of Rowdy.  He had gotten tired of waiting for me and had come to the open door and bawled.  He was telling me that it was time I got myself out of there.

I had always known that my old hound had a beautiful voice, but I had never heard it ring like it did in that silent library.  The deep tones rolled out over the floor, slammed against the walls, bounced off the ceiling, and made books quiver on the shelves.  Boys and girls all over the place started screaming withe laughter.

Like a shot out of a gun, the little lady came from behind the counter and over to Rowdy.  She stopped right in front of him.  With her hands on her hips, she stood there looking at him. Rowdy thought he had found another friend and was acting like he was very proud of what he had done.  He just sat there, mopping the floor with his tail and panting happily. (chapter 11)

This really tickled us.  What a great story!


Read Aloud Thursday–July 2014

read-aloud21How’s the reading aloud going in your neck of the woods?  It’s slow but steady ’round these parts.  Amid a topsy-turvy summer schedule (or lack thereof) and a week-long trip to Dauphin Island, we’ve managed to finish two chapter books and read a number of picture books for the library summer reading program.  Lulu thinks she’s mostly outgrown picture books, but Louise still willingly hangs around for them.  (Lulu will listen in, but she would probably never ask for a picture book now.)  I mostly feel remorseful when I think about how much I read aloud to the girls when they were the DLM’s and even Benny’s age.  Sigh.  (Yes, I know that our family situation is different now.  I get that.  However, it doesn’t make me feel any better.)

So.  I’m turning over a new leaf in the read-aloud department as far as the boys are concerned.   I’m still figuring out what formal (ish) plans I’ll have for the DLM once we start back on our school schedule in a few weeks.  Whatever they are, they will include a good bit of reading aloud.  It’s what I do, and it’s what he needs.  :-)  Today I wanted to share a few things he’s been enjoying lately, aside from Curious George, Franklin, and any sort of superhero/Lego/whathaveyou book he can convince me to bring home from the library.

This Target find is a current favorite of the DLM’s.  I’m not usually a fan of books like this–lots of flaps and doors to peek behind, but little in the way of literary quality.  ;-)   However, if mothering (and reading to) a boy for four years has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that informational books about vehicles and tools are big stuff (even more here), and a little action on the page is fun.  Priddy books are some of the best.

I’ve made a conscious effort on at least one library trip to gather up several books by one author in order to be a little more thoughtful and methodical in my reading aloud to the DLM.  The author I chose was Karma Wilson because I happened to pick up one of her books and remember how much fun they are.   She’s a very prolific author, and one that preschoolers, grade schoolers, and even adults can enjoy.   So far as I can tell, all of her books contain two elements:  rhyme and humor.  It’s hard to go wrong with that combination.  These are the ones we’ve enjoyed the past couple of weeks and Highly Recommend:

(I actually wrote about one of Karma Wilson’s Bear books in my very first RAT post way back in 2008!)

DSC_0052If I feel guilty about the amount of quality time I spend reading to the DLM, you can double that for Benny.  This little guy has watched more television than all his siblings combined had watched at his age, and he has had infinitely fewer books read to him.  :-(  (It’s one of those things that I always thought I’d never allow to be as a parent, but I’m finding some things are more out of my control than I like to think they are.  ;-) )  My new reading leaf I’m turning over for him is to read through a stack of four or five well-loved board books on the days that we’re home for him to nap just before he goes to sleep.   I’m keeping them on my table beside the rocking chair, and I’ll switch them out every week or two.  Here are our current picks:

The girls and I (with the DLM tagging along and surprising me repeatedly with how much he takes in) have enjoyed two chapter books this month:  101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith and The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis.

Both of these were challenge books.  We read 101 Dalmatians for Carrie’s Classics Bookclub.  I am the hostess this month, so this was a pick from my Classics Club list.  You can read my thoughts about it in Carrie’s wrap-up post for this month’s bookclub.   We read The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.  It’s always a pleasure to be back in Narnia again.  :-)  Next up for us is Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls, author of Where the Red Fern Grows.  I’ve never read it but have heard it’s hilarious.  I’m keeping my tissue ready, though, just in case.  ;-)


If you made it this far, you deserve a gold star.  :-)

One more thing–have you been over to Sarah Clarkson’s new site, Storyformed, to poke around?   It’s still new, but I think it’s going to be a good read-aloud resource.

What have you been reading aloud this month?  Leave a comment or link up your blog post(s) below.

Happy Read Aloud Thursday!

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

Is it okay for me to admit that I wasn’t exactly excited about reading  The Horse and His Boy aloud to my children?  (Yes, I know this is breaking one of the cardinal rules of reading aloud–that the reader must be excited about what he or she is sharing.  A-hem.)  I picked it up anyway for the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge at Reading to Know, feeling positively compelled to pick back up with where we left off a couple of years ago since we didn’t read a single Narnian tale last year.   Part of my hesitance also had to do with the fact that I have a child who’s particularly sensitive to spiritual issues right now, and sometimes reading about false gods, even fantastical ones, can bother her.  I soldiered on, though, because I really want to make one pass through Narnia sooner rather than later and then start over again for my boys.  It turns out that the girl in question handled the situation well and even declared this Narnian tale her favorite, once again reminding me that I never really arrive as a parent.  ;-)

Despite all my angst over reading this book (and the fact that I didn’t recall it as a childhood favorite myself), we all enjoyed this story immensely.  My adult perception of this story is probably a bit keener than my girls’ perceptions–first in that I really, really get all the spiritual implications more now than I ever could’ve as a child, and second in that this story just seems so very short and limited in scope to me.  I remember The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as this great, sweeping adventure, and most of the other books have always seemed that way to me, too.   The Horse and His Boy, however, seemed almost short-storyish to me this time around.  This makes me wonder if I were to go back and start at the beginning yet again if I’d feel similarly about all the Narnian stories.  Hmmm.

My favorite thing about this story, which probably goes without saying, is Aslan’s appearance in it.  It really spoke to me this time around because we’ve had a pretty trying summer (because of things I’ve shared here on the blog and thing I haven’t shared).  It has been hard for me to rebuild any spiritual resilience or vitality.  To put it bluntly, I just feel defeated.  It was comforting to me to remember that Jesus is “between me and the edge all the time” whether I feel like it or not, and to realize that everything that looks like a detour in our lives can be used for His glory and our good.  (It also makes me thing I need to find a hermitage of my own to retire to gain strength for the journey ahead.  ;-) )

My girls loved the adventure of the tale.  Louise said that Aravis reminds her a lot of Eilonwy of the Prydain Chronicles, which I thought was a pretty perceptive observation.  She even said she pictures Aravis with red hair like Eilonwy.  :-)  They were absolutely captivated by the resolution of Shasta’s story, and I must confess, so was I.  (Forgetting how stories end, and indeed forgetting most of the details, is perhaps the only advantage of having a poor memory.)

Here are a few excerpts that I particularly love:

King Lune’s description of what makes a king:

“For this is what it means to be a king:  to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

The Hermit’s admonition to Aravis:

“Daughter,” said the Hermit, “I have now lived a hundred and nine winters in this world and have never yet met any such thing as Luck.  There is something about all this that I do not understand:  but if ever we need to know it, you may be sure that we shall.”

The effect of being with Aslan:

There was a short silence and then they all stirred and looked at one another as if they were waking from sleep.  Aslan was gone.  But there was a brightness in the air and on the grass, and a joy in their hearts, which assured them that he had been no dream. . . “

Aslan, on only being concerned with what falls within our area of responsibility:

“Child,” said the Lion, “I am telling you your story, not hers.  No-one is told any story but their own.”

What a great reminder in this day of social media through which we have more knowledge of others’ stories (or certain perspectives on their stories) than ever before.  I’m working to keep my eyes on my own work.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading ChallengeNow we’re two books away from reading all the Chronicles of Narnia together as read-alouds.  I like taking our slow way through them, so I think I’ll wait until next summer to move on.  Here are my previous Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge posts: