This is a little bit off topic from my norm here, but an old English major can only go so long without writing about books. Isn’t there a saying~ “You can graduate the English major from school but you can’t take the schooling out of the English major”….or something along those lines. My boys have been reading their own books, often in bed but also on lazy afternoons and rainy Saturdays for years now, but I have continued to also read them bedtime stories which means finding a book they both want to hear. This isn’t actually too hard since they are less than two years apart and share many interests but still takes some hunting. Plus we also listen to books in the car, sometimes the same one as we are reading aloud but usually not, so we have been exposed to quite a lot of children’s literature. My oldest the other day asked me what had been my favorite book so far in our reading aloud category and it got me thinking of all the amazing stories out there that really have been a pleasure to share with my little guys, so I thought I’d compile a list here of some of those favorites to share with anyone looking for ideas for their own family or classrooms.
These aren’t in any particular order other than what my memory coughs up, and I’m going to add links to amazon just for convenience sake. We got most of these from our local library ourselves.:
1. Nurk by Ursula Vernon This book is about a shrew (!) who goes on an adventure. The suspense, relationships, and vocabulary are all pitch perfect. He grows in believable ways through understandable adversities that aren’t kid-ified. Vernon also wrote the Dragonbreath series which I didn’t read but it was the first series that really captured my youngest’s fancy and made him into a real reader on his own time. Ages 5-9
2. Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr It seriously takes an exceptional book to keep my sons’ interests if the main character is a girl. They loved this book where this young girl is on an island all by herself and shows a degree of intelligence and self-reliance that is not often seen in this age of helicopter parenting. There is also a bit of animal communication which is always appealing to at least my own kids, and the author keeps the child-like perspective in mind the whole time without ever being condescending, silly, or forced. Well done. Best guess~ 6-9 year olds.
3. Stuart Little by E.B. White How did I get through childhood without reading this one? My kids tell me all the time that they aren’t “in” to classics but both loved this one. It’s a classic for a reason. And ageless.
4. Circle of Doom by Tim Kennemore Despite the dark sounding title, this is a laugh-out-loud book, especially if you have a big family, are from a big family, or have a connection to a big family. The hilarity revolves around the family dynamics of the three siblings who each think they are outwitting the others. The parents make pretty funny appearances as well. Kennemore has done a fabulous job taking archetypal family members that anyone can recognize and making them seriously funny. 7-13~ really easy read but there are a couple of bad words (like the ‘d’ word) so when reading aloud I just changed them. I feel like I should clarify, when I say “easy read” that doesn’t account for the fact that a lot of the hilarity is nuanced and I actually laughed more than my kids did because of that aspect, so maybe the age recommendation should actually be 7-39.
5. The Silverwing Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel We actually listened to the first book of this in our car (on CD) and now my boys are reading the second book themselves. This is told from the point of view of a silverwing bat and the drama that he and his friends and family go through is epic, exciting, sometimes gruesome and other times beautiful. There are also lessons in religious fanaticism layered in and several mythologies made up entirely by Oppel. He is an extremely creative author and this trilogy is an award winner. We’ve read two other books by him, The Boundless and Airborn, which my sons liked though I think they are better read by a slightly older reader (12+) due to the romantic relationships and the fact that Oppel makes his bad guys excruciatingly evil. He does this in Silverwing too, but somehow the evil bats are not quite as hard to take as the evil people. Ages 8-12.
6. Of course the crème de la crème is Harry Potter. We have read these aloud, listened to them in the car, my oldest has read and reread the books 2-4 times each and my youngest has read them at least once. Oh yes, and watched the movies. J.K. Rowling is brilliant. Enough said. Ageless.
Some other books worth mentioning:
My youngest adored My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I didn’t read it so can’t say why, but it is an award winner with a lot of great reviews.
He also loved Horton’s Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans, but again, I didn’t read it so cannot say why it was so captivating.
He is also a fan of the Dragons of Wayward Crescent series by Chris D’Lacey. These are unique in that there are smaller chapter books for the starter readers, and also bigger books for the more advanced. I did read one or two of these aloud and found them charmingly suspenseful, and perfectly suited to a child’s imagination. Ages 6-12, depending on the book.
Both my boys (and therefore I have too) have listened to all of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jacksons and Heroes stories in the car on CD. They have passed the time on many long car trips but I have to say my sons have enjoyed them more than I have. Even they will point out similarities to Harry Potter story lines though, not that he copied but if you are writing after Rowling, you might want to make an effort to keep it as different as possible when you have two boys and a girl going on missions and the main character is a reluctant hero who had no idea of his special-ness up until book one.
For lighter reads, both my boys like the Aldo Zelnick series by Karla Oceanak. These seem to have a similar reading experience as Wimpy Kid with a more likeable main character. Ages 7-12
I will probably keep adding to this list but I will stop for now. OK, just two more~ we just started the Molly Moon series by Georgia Byng and it alternates between funny and suspenseful in an ever delightful way. And if my sons were writing this post they would include Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits by Michael D. Beil. This alternates between two narrators, a boy and a cat. As I said, my boys would recommend it, not sure it’s in my top 10, well yes I am sure and it isn’t. But it’s all about keeping the kids interested in reading, right?