Thursday, January 3, 2008

Books to Read Aloud to Your Children - January 2008

Note: for the introductory information about why, how and where to read to your kids, see my first post. Remember the most important thing:
Read what you like! If you and your child don't like the book, set it aside and read something else!
Seasonal picture books:
  • Anno's Counting Book, by Mitsumasa Anno - probably best for kids 3-5, this is a wordless picture book that starts out with a scene of a snowy, empty field and the number "0". The next pages show the field with one house, one person, one tree, and as you turn the pages the things in the pictures illustrate the numbers from zero through twelve, and the months/seasons of the year.
  • The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats - a simple, sweet story showing a little boy who lives in an apartment building going out to play on a snowy day, and trying to keep a snowball. Probably for younger pre-schoolers.
  • The Mitten, and The Hat, by Jan Brett - two whimsical, wintery stories with a folktale feeling and delightful, detailed illustrations
  • Katie and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton - an old favorite of little boys who are interested in big machines, one of the main "characters" in this book is the snow plow who helps clear the streets of the city after a big snow.
  • Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin & illustrated by Azarian - the true story of the man who studied snowflakes, with beautiful woodcut illustrations
  • Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Frost & illustrated by Jeffers - This is just the text of the famous Robert Frost poem, with gorgeous wintery illustrations. Short enough for very young listeners, beautiful enough for up to adults!
  • The Tomten, or The Tomten and the Fox, by Lindgren, illustrated by Wiberg - These are two simple, comforting stories based on Norwegian folklore, about the little "tomten" who watches over the farm at night; the pictures are beautiful, and very wintery.
  • Dear Rebecca, Winter Is Here, by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Krupinski - lots of information about what animals do in the winter, and the idea of the winter solstice
  • Wild Horse Winter, by Tetsuya Honda - true account of a herd of wild horses surviving a terrible winter in Japan, with watercolor illustrations
  • A Ride on the Red Mare's Back, by LeGuin, illustrated by Downing - Although this is a picture book, the story is longer than most picture books, so it is more for the kindergarten through second grade listener. The little girl who is the main character in this fairy-tale type story rescues her little brother from trolls.
  • ...and one chapter book: The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder - From the "Little House" series, but you don't have to have read the other ones to enjoy this one about pioneer difficulties surviving prairie blizzards. Good for elementary listeners, at least up to sixth grade.
About civil rights:
  • The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles, illustrated by Ford - about the first black child to attend a previously all-white school, first-grader Ruby Bridges, this picture book is suitable for early elementary children.
  • Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , by Doreen Rappaport - an illustrated biography of Martin Luther King, Jr, for ages five and up.
  • Words by Heart, by Ouida Sebestyen - historical fiction, set in the early 1900's, about a black girl growing up in an all-white town in the Southwest; for upper elementary or above, this book does portray an incident of racial violence, but is ultimately about humanity and forgiveness.
  • Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis - historical fiction set in pre-Civil War America - Elijah has grown up free, as the first black child born in a community of escaped slaves just across the border into Canada, but he makes a dangerous journey into "the States" to try to help a friend. This book has humor, suspense, and real-life horror - for upper elementary to middle school.
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis - historical fiction in the 1960's, this book starts out funny as the family leaves their home in Michigan for a visit to Alabama, where we get a child's-eye view of the way blacks were treated in the South - for upper elementary to middle school.

From the fairy-tale tradition:
Somehow winter nights seem like a good time for reading fairy tales. As well as the Disney versions, there are beautifully-illustrated picture-book versions of nearly all the old favorites, plus lots of lesser-known stories and some modern stories written in the style of fairy tales. For older children, ready for longer books that will take multiple sessions to finish, there are some wonderful "novelizations" of old fairy tales.
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley - this novelization of "Beauty and the Beast" is more for listeners eight or nine and up, although I have known younger children who enjoyed it, too.
  • The Goose Girl or Princess Academy by Shannon Hale - The first of these is based on the fairy tale, and the second is an original story. Both are good read-alouds for ages nine and up.
  • The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbit - this one has a boy for a main character. It is an original story, but with an old-fashioned fairy-tale feel to it. It is a lighter story, with touches of humor, for listeners about seven and up.
For reading aloud to teens:
  • The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander, illustrated with photos from the actual expedition - if you think winter is cold, this incredible, true story about survival against impossible odds in Antarctica will boggle your mind! The same basic story has been told by several authors - you could also try Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Lansing (for older readers), or Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance (for elementary age) by Armstrong.
  • The Time of the Dark, by Barbara Hambly - fantasy, about a punk motorcycle-riding airbrush artist and a nerdy female graduate student who get taken from California across "the Void" into another world, where magic is possible, winter seems to be taking over, and horrible flying monsters roam the night. It is the first in a series.
Look for books in your local library! Buy your favorites through your local bookstore, or search for in- or out-of-print books at .

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