Category Archives: 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:

 

Read Aloud Thursday–June 2014

read-aloud21

Another month has come and gone, and we’ve managed to do a respectable amount of reading aloud.  Our summer still feels unstructured (which is what summer should be, I suppose. . . ), but I still try to have a designated time each day for our read-alouds.   Most of those designated times revolve around food–usually either snacks or lunch.  I haven’t really read much of note in the way of picture books, mostly because the library we’ve been frequenting this summer is the largest in our area but the one that gets the fewest new books.  (Lulu’s volunteering there once a week this summer, and I am saving my sanity by ONLY doing one library reading program this summer and ONLY checking out books from one library at a time!)  That isn’t to say we aren’t reading picture books; we are, though not as many as I’d like.  It’s just that most of them are ones I’ve reviewed already over the past six years or so of blogging OR they’re ones that I don’t care for too much myself.  (Max and Ruby, anyone? ;-)  )  Also, the DLM is really enamored of books and CDs right now, which is a good thing, too.

So, what have we read?  We finished The High King, which was a very satisfying end to the Chronicles of Prydain.  Lulu has already picked up this series to re-read on her own, and that’s almost always the mark of a very successful read-aloud experience.  I loved this series as much as the girls did.  This Redeemed Reader post gives a nice one-stop-shop synopsis and evaluation of the series.

We left the world of high fantasy and landed firmly on terra firma with the second of The Melendy Quartet, The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright.  Oh, how we love the Melendys!  If you haven’t met them, you most definitely should!

The DLM (age 4) and I, along with the girls often listening in, are almost through with the second book in the My Father’s Dragon trilogy, Elmer and the Dragon.  While this isn’t the most exciting of read-alouds for the adult reader, it is a perfect beginning read-aloud for preschoolers because of the simple plot and short chapters.  Of all the My Father’s Dragon books, this one is my favorite because of King Can XI whose predecessors all died of curiosity.  :-)

Reading to Know - Book Club

We are one chapter in to The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, July’s pick for the Reading to Know Book Club.  I’m the hostess for July, so I thought it best for us to read it first thing since July is shaping up to be a busy month.  One chapter in and so far so good!
chronicles-of-narniaAfter we finish up with DalmatiansI plan to pick back up with Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.  It has been a couple of years since we last participated.  According to my records, it looks like The Horse and His Boy is next up for us.

After that, who knows?  Lulu in particular is clamoring for the next of the Ralph Moody books.  We’ll be nearing the beginning of a new school year, too, by the time we finish these, so I’m sure there will be that to consider, as well.

What have you enjoyed together as a family this month?  Please, do share!



The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright

We finished The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright on this morning at snack time.   This was the perfect follow-up to The High King, the consummate fantasy.  I find that after I read a book of a certain genre, I almost always need something totally different to “clear the air,” so to speak.   The High King is extremely exciting, and almost every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. The Four-Story Mistake, on the other hand, isn’t exciting, really; instead, its strength is in its characterization and description of ordinary events in a family’s life.  Each chapter stands on its own, which I particularly appreciate.  (The downside to this is that each chapter is pretty long, so be prepared to read for a while at a time!)  This is the second book in The Melendy Quartet, a follow up to The Saturdays.  In this story, the Melendys move out to the country to a new-to-them house appropriately called The Four-Story  Mistake.  (It was built years before by a large and wealthy family and was supposed to be four stories.  When they returned from their Grand Tour, lo and behold, their home was only three stories tall!)   The book is all about their adventures in and about the town of Carthage.  They learn to ride bicycles (and Randy crashes headlong into a bus!)  Rush spends one stormy night in his treehouse.  Mona is chosen to be an actress in a radio drama.  The family is given an alligator!  Randy finds a diamond in the brook! Really, it’s a cozy and genial family story of the highest order.  We all love it and can’t wait to read the next installment.  Elizabeth Enright is a master, and I can’t help but laugh or sigh as I read her descriptions:

Randy swooped expertly around the driveway circle, brought her bike to a slow and graceful stop and dismounted.  As she gathered up her presents from the wire carrier, the [war] bond crackled against her chest.  Yes, finding the diamond had been a miracle.  But Randy couldn’t help feeling there were many miracles in her life.  Wasn’t it a miracle to live in the country in spring?  And to have a wonderful family that she was crazy about, and a house with a secret room and a cupola, and to be eleven and a half years old, and very good at riding a bicycle?  (175)

(I shared another lovely quote–possibly my favorite from the book–in this post.)

I think I like this sort of book best of all–the kind that isn’t really about anything in particular, but all kinds of interesting things happen, and life is affirmed over and over again.  Here are some other books and series similar in style, message, or tone to The Melendy Quartet:

What most of these books have in common is that they’re about a family of children that are mostly left to their own devices and have all sorts of scrapes and adventures and experience childhood to its fullest.  Can you think of any to add to the list?  I’m all ears!

We love, love, love, love the Melendys and give them a Highly Recommended (Henry Holt, 1942).

The High King by Lloyd Alexander

And so ends our time with the Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his valiant companions in their quest to save Prydain from Arawn Death Lord and his evil cronies.  What a fabulously fantastical time we had!  This is a classic fantasy series at its best, and I am so glad we took the first half of 2014 to discover it.   The High King takes Taran on a journey to recover the sword Dyrnwyn.  This requires an assembling of all the hosts of Prydain, as is only fitting in the last book in a series.   In this book, Taran grows into manhood and accepts his rightful destiny, one that we saw coming several books ago (of course!)   Taran’s observation here encapsulates the message of the series:

“Long ago I yearned to be a hero without knowing, in truth, what a hero was.  Now, perhaps, I understand it a little better.  A grower of turnips or a shaper of clay, a Commot farmer or a king–every man is a hero if he strives more for others than for himself alone.”

The Chronicles of Prydain is just the sort of literature that I want my children to be inspired by–full of noble adventure that depicts what it means to act with honor.  We give the series a Highly, Highly Recommended.  

My thoughts on the other books in the series:

Read Aloud Thursday–May 2014

read-aloud21 Confession:  picture books have all but fallen off my radar here at the House of Hope.  I still read occasionally to the DLM and Benny (when he’ll let me), yes, and we have quite a collection of picture books here at home to pull from.  Still, though, it’s something I want to be more intentional about this summer.   As I’m beginning this post, Benny is napping and the other children are having quiet rest time.  The DLM is listening to picture books on CD, which is something I intended to start with him most of the school year.  I brought these home from the library a couple of weeks ago now, but only today have I managed to educate the DLM on how these things work.  (He’s listened to plenty of audiobooks with the girls, but very few times has he had the opportunity listen and follow along in the book.  So far, so good!)  So today I am sharing a picture book that I read to go along with the girls’ history studies.  Many of the picture books listed in the SotW activity guide are good ones, but I think this one deserves special attention.

William’s House by Ginger Howard is one of those narrative informational picture books that captivates its listener and teaches the listener something quite painlessly, even enjoyably.  It’s the story of William and his family, newcomers to the New England wilderness in 1637.  William sets out to build a house “like the house he grew up in, his father’s house, in England.”  He makes it with a thatch roof, clapboards, wooden pegs, and a window made from scraped animal horn.  William is quite satisfied with his home, with its corner fireplace and cornhusk-mattress beds.  However, over time the New England environment and weather force William to make changes to his home:  a root cellar must be dug, a clearing must be made due to the wind, cedar shingles replace the thatch, etc.  When William’s cousin Samuel and his family arrive from England months later, Samuel remarks on how unusual the house looks.  William introduces it as his “new” house.  I love the gentle way this story introduces the impact environment has on one’s way of life.  Larry Day’s illustrations communicate emotion and do much to enhance the story.  Highly Recommended.  (Millbrook, 2001)

We don’t read many picture books nowadays (sigh), but we have done a lot of reading since last month’s RAT.  Here are the books we’ve read and I’ve reviewed:

I’ve tried to do a better job of checking out audiobooks and keeping up with the chapter books the girls listen to.  I know this month they’ve listened to a couple of American Girl collections, Julie and Felicity, over and over (and over and over) again.  We also listened to part of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.   One big discovery for me this month was OneClickdigital, a service one of our libraries offers.  This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for audiobook enjoyment!  :-)

I don’t want to end this post without mentioning again the Read Aloud Revival podcasts that Sarah from Amongst Lovely Things is producing each week (?).  It probably is just so much preaching to the choir as far as we are all concerned, but sometimes it helps to have your instincts and practices validated, right?

Please leave a link to your Read Aloud Thursday blog post(s) below, or share what you’re reading in the comments.

Happy Read Aloud Thursday!