Read Aloud Thursday–the Maybelle books by Katie Speck

Today I’m not writing about classic literature, so dismiss that notion right now, okay? 🙂  I’m writing about a couple of fun and quirky short chapter books that Louise and I have really enjoyed reading together.  We’ve been doing shared/paired reading (or whatever it’s called in the world o’ reading education) in which I read a page and she reads a page, taking it time about (as my Granny would say).  The wonderful thing about these little stories is that the chapters are only three to five very short pages each, making the catching of a new reader’s breath very convenient. The book itself is very small in format–about 8″ x 5″, just perfect for six year old hands.  While these haven’t been our usual read-alouds, neither in subject matter nor in the way we’ve read them, I think they deserve a place on my list of short chapter books for the youngest listeners.

Maybelle is a cockroach, a creation of Katie Speck (thanks to her grandmother–read the story here).   Maybelle lives in the JUST SO home of the Peabodys, and she knows The Rules of being a bug:

When it’s light, stay out of sight; if you’re spied, better hide; never meet with human feet.

However, Maybelle has a hard time actually keeping the rules because of her involvement with her flea-friend Henry and her desire to taste the delicacies at the various dinner parties and teas the Peabodys host.  In Maybelle in the Soup, Maybelle ends up being spied at a dinner party, and as a result the Peabodys have their home exterminated. What are the resident insects to do but evacuate?  Their evacuation, of course, leads to another adventure, this one in the Grand Hotel.  In Maybelle Goes to Tea, Maybelle and Henry get into a scrape because of a pesky fly who doesn’t know The Rules.  Maurice the fly ends up knocking himself out when he collides with the window, and Maybelle and Henry feel obligated to save him.  That’s not easy, of course, especially because of the resident housecat, Ramona.  Paul Rátz de Tagyos‘ illustrations are cartoonish and cute and help me to almost forget that Maybelle is {shudder} a cockroach.

Do I love these stories?  Honestly, no.  While I wouldn’t consider them twaddle, I just don’t personally enjoy thinking about cockroaches and fleas.  However, again I do think they’re worthy of note as beginning chapter books.  They’re full of what I’d almost consider gross-out humor, but it stops short of being really gross and is just kind of. . .sweet, in a buggy sort of way.  There’s dialogue and action and lots of comic book-esque onomatopoeia:  ZIP! BONK!  Louise gets a kick out of stories and is always eager for one more chapter, and we can knock out one of these short chapter books in a couple of sittings.   These books have provided lots of enjoyment and motivation for my emerging reader, and for that I give them a two thumbs up.  (Henry Holt, 2007 & 2008)

Using our time wisely while Lulu has her piano lesson

What stories do you read to your children out of love for your children, not the stories?  🙂

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14 thoughts on “Read Aloud Thursday–the Maybelle books by Katie Speck”

  1. Thank you for all the recommendations, Amy — you know what is funny? I JUST finished Unbroken in January!! I’m trying to make my way through Fall of Giants — it is really good, but it’s 1,000 pages!

    Someone at our literature fair did a whole project on The Hiding Place. I think I NEED to read that one first! 🙂

  2. My middle son isn’t quite at this point yet, but I think he would love these when we get there. Thanks for the recommendation. I remember always wishing for more good books at that level with my first.

  3. Thanks for these recommendations. Hannah has a very odd lack of confidence about reading books out loud lately and I have been looking for really entertaining books that will be good practice. It’s frustrating because she is a good reader when she’s not paralyzed by fear of being imperfect (she used to read out loud out of chapter books and her Bible but has recently refused if she thinks she won’t be able to pronounce every word perfectly the first time). I’ve noticed that she’ll read when she’s very engaged in the subject because she forgets that someone might hear her make a mistake, so I put two of these books on hold at the library to try. Hopefully the story will interest her enough to overcome her perfectionism. I struggle with perfectionism in the sense of putting inordinate amounts of effort into things to make them perfect and being self-critical, but Hannah just refuses to do something at all if she fears it won’t be perfect. I’m at a bit of a loss since I sympathize with the problem but don’t quite know how to help her with her manifestation of it.

    Well that turned into a long digression when I started out to just say thank you!

  4. The Richard Scarry books have to fall into this category. They drive me nuts to read, especially the ones that are just little snippets of text all over and mostly pictures. But the kids love them so I just grit my teeth and try to enjoy it!

  5. I don’t know that I could bring myself to even touch a book with a character of a cockroach on it. That’s . . . pushing my limits. I almost consider you brave.


    I read Thomas the Tank engine stories out of love. The stories can be repetitious and annoying sometimes, as they lack significant plot. But Bookworm2 loves reading them so we do.

  6. My younger son had a time when he loved “The Runaway Bunny.” I hated that story! Also, my kids enjoy fantasy books and I they aren’t really my thing, but I read them (and sometimes enjoy them). Right now I’m gritting my teeth through the Princess and Curdie.

    Is Maybelle too girly for a boy? I am trying to encourage my ds to read more on his own.

    1. Beth,

      I don’t know if it’s too girly. I’ve thought about it, and the only reason I can think of that a boy might be turned off is that Maybelle IS a girl and the fact that she wears a pink bow in her hair is sometimes emphasized. Her main activity is getting out and getting to the food.

      Fantasy isn’t your thing, huh? I haven’t read Princess and Curdie, though I did really enjoy an audiobook of The Light Princess a few years ago. Maybe that’s the way to go with fantasy for you–audiobooks!

  7. We read a full range of books here from twaddle to classics…I know I read plenty of twaddle as a kid and I appreciate that I was allowed to do that (the only thing I remember my mom telling me I was not allowed to read were some books that were just too mature for me as an elementary age child). Eventually I got to reading and enjoying Shakespeare and Jane Austin even though I read Sweet Valley Twins and Babysitter’s Club as a 2nd grader. 🙂

    So, I think I read Miss M about 50 “Rainbow Magic Fairy” books before she was a good enough reader to read them herself, though they didn’t really drive me crazy until toward the end. Right now I am trying very hard to get “Mater’s Tall Tales” back to the library, but this week Mr. K took it out of the library bag when I wasn’t looking. He keeps telling me it is his book, NOT the library’s!!! I am torn between just holding firm and bringing it back, and just ordering him his own copy from Amazon because I know he will be so heartbroken when he doesn’t have it any more (even though I am SO sick of reading those stories!).

  8. You asked on my blog if I used Ambleside Online or just the reading lists. Yes, I used Ambleside for our curriculum, especially for history, literature, geography, natural history and free reads. When my oldest was using it I modified it quite a bit and didn’t use all the books, but with my two middle kids I following more closely to the book list, thus Hawthorne’s tales (which I skipped the first time).

    I am all for audiobooks and we use them quite a bit, but it seems that my kids have more of a relationship with a book read aloud to them than with an audiobook. Plus, it kinda forces me out of my reading box!

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