What a busy month of reading aloud we’ve had! We’ve settled into a nice routine of reading aloud most weekdays at lunchtime, and then again from a different chapter book at bedtime. The lunchtime book is usually related to history (mostly from Sonlight Core D) and the bedtime book is one I’ve picked. I’ll be honest in stating that the lunchtime read-alouds haven’t been favorites of mine. I’m realizing how much I value freedom of choice in what we do in our homeschool. I don’t always like our history read-alouds. Well, that’s not true. I do think each one of them would make a perfectly
fine okay book to read independently, but they’re not exactly ideal, at least to me, as read-alouds. The two books I have in mind as I compose this blog post are two of the ones we’ve finished since last month’s Read Aloud Thursday: Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen and Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare.
I’m no stranger to Gary Paulsen’s stories, having at least read Hatchet in the nebulous past of my pre-blogging days. Lawn Boy is nothing like Hatchet, at least plot-wise. It’s the story of a boy who starts a lawn care business and by the end of the summer ends up very rich as a result of one of his customer’s investments on his behalf. It’s a story about economics–each chapter has as its title an economic term. The novel isn’t without its excitement, too, because he also manages to attract the attention of some thugs as well as a protective professional boxer. What I found difficult about reading this story aloud, aside from the fact that I read this one only once a week (and hence would often forget myself what exactly was happening in the story) is that it is chock-full of dialogue. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, though I am noticing that stories that rely on dialogue and not much else tend to be more recent stories, and that’s probably one reason I’m not so crazy about them. My main problem with dialogue is that I don’t do voices, so I always think the storyline gets sort of muddled because of that. The Sign of the Beaver is a 1984 Newbery honor book, but again, it’s chock-full of dialogue. It’s not quite as dialogue dependent as Lawn Boy, but the kicker for it is that the Native American characters speak in that terrible, stilted, stereotypical way that we associated with bad Westerns. I’m usually not bothered much by stereotypes and being politically correct, but I found this one almost painful to read and actually found myself correcting the grammar of the Indians’ speeches. Also, in my opinion it’s not a very complex story, and I really appreciate a story with a little more nuance as a read-aloud. All of this actually surprises me because Elizabeth George Speare is a favorite author of mine from childhood–I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond and read it multiple times, and then when I read The Bronze Bow as a young adult, she rose even higher in my estimation. It is interesting to note that both of those title won Newbery Medals in 1958 and 1961 respectively, while The Sign of the Beaver came about twenty-five years later. That makes me wonder if it’s just the “dumbing down” effect that we’ve seen over time. At any rate, I mostly wished that I had just handed both of those books to my girls to read alone and had picked up something else. We’ve now moved on to The Witch of Blackbird Pond as our lunchtime read, so we’ll see if my good opinion of it remains untarnished. For our bedtime story, we’ve come back around to the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody after finishing the Melendy Quartet with its last book, Spiderweb for Two. We were sad to see it end but so happy to have spent so much time with the Melendys this year. Highly Recommended!
As for picture books, well, I always think to myself, “Oh, this is a good one to share for RAT,” but then I run out of time before the books are due (usually after being rechecked at least once) at the library. A couple of books stand out in my mind from the past month that have been favorites of the DLM. The first one is Lightship by Brian Floca. Although it isn’t quite as detailed as his 2014 Caldecott Medal-winning Locomotive, it’s still not exactly a book I would expect a four year old to love. The DLM does love books about vehicles of almost any kind, and this one has the thing the DLM loves the most: a list! He loves lists of information. In this case it’s a list of people who work on a lightship, and the DLM loved to point at the worker’s picture and say his title. Whatever the reason he loved it, he did–enough to make it a nightly read-aloud for a couple of weeks. The other winning title for the toddler and preschool crowd here at the House of Hope is the newest Kate and Jim McMullan title, I’m Brave! I’ve written before (& here) how much we’ve enjoyed their books over the years, so when I saw this one in the new books bin in the library, I almost gave an audible gasp of delight! I knew it would be a winner, and it
was is. I read it to the DLM’s class at co-op first before reading it to him. They’re a pretty hard crowd, and even they got caught up in it! It has not one but two pages of equipment listed to identify (oh, joy!), so it’s perfect for my detail and list-loving little fellow. We’ve read it at least a half dozen times since Saturday. It’s humorous and full of bravery, swagger, and onomatopoeia, so it’s just perfect for brash and blustery preschool crowd. I’m considering this one for a Christmas present for the DLM. Highly, Highly Recommended.
Other picture books I’ve reviewed since last month’s RAT are
- Tomie’s Little Book of Poems by Tomie DePaola
- Flight School by Lita Judge (Cybils nominee)
- A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker (Cybils nominee)
- The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert (Cybils nominee)
I apologize for the length of this post. This should’ve been more than one post, but as always, time escaped me and I had to just cobble it all together. Thank you for reading and participating in RAT! It’s truly a monthly high point for me!
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