Category Archives: Read Aloud Thursday

Read Aloud Thursday–February 2015


Welcome to the February edition of Read Aloud Thursday!  We’ve had a couple of weeks of unpredictable winter weather, which one would think would lend itself to lots of reading aloud.  However, along with the unpredictability of the weather has come the unpredictability of the schedule, so some days are better than others for reading aloud.  Still, we press on, and we’ve enjoyed quite a few good books this month.  I’ve already reviewed both of our read-aloud chapter books of month:

Both of these were winners and were enjoyed by both girls and their mama, and the DLM was also mostly happily along for the ride.  (I may or may not gush about Amos Fortune in my review.  ;-) I loved this one in particular.)

Our current read-aloud is Ben and Me by Robert Lawson.  This quick read (which Louise has already read independently) is a lot of fun!  We’ll also be adding Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes to the read-aloud stack in the next day or two.  (The clincher for me in reading this one now is the fact that it’s a selection for March’s Newbery Through the Decades Challenge, so it’s a two-fer. :-) )  I’m not sure what we’ll tackle when we finish Ben and Me.  I’m feeling the urge to read something a little more challenging.  I’m just not sure what.  I know I don’t want another piece of historical fiction, at least not one set during the time of the American Revolution.  I’ve considered tackling The Hobbit as our bedtime read, but I’m a little bit intimidated by reading it aloud.  I read it for the first time myself a few years ago and loved it,  but somehow I almost don’t feel up to the task of reading it aloud.  (Now that I’ve gone back and re-read my own review, though, I think it might be just the thing.)

One of the perks of bad weather--more snuggle time with dad!

One of the perks of bad weather–more snuggle time with dad!

Last month I shared some of the ready-for-chapters books that the DLM has enjoyed.  This month he met Elephant and Piggie for the first time, and boy, did he fall hard for them!  I’ll admit that neither my girls nor I really “got” Mo Willems’ humor in these books (perhaps because I read them wrong), but it has definitely caught on with the DLM.  
These three books are the three Elephant and Piggies that we have home from the library right now, and they’re all huge hits.  Since he has enjoyed these so much, I also brought home That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems, and he loved it just as much.  He definitely “gets” the humor.

He lies in bed and “reads” them to himself while I read to the girls.  The sparse text and cartoonish illustrations are just the thing for him right now.  Winners, all!

I’ve felt for a while that the DLM is really ready for his own consistent chapter book read alouds, but after reading My Father’s Dragon to him last year, I let it slide.  On a whim this month I picked up A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond and have been reading him at least part of a chapter most nights.  I honestly am not sure it was the best choice for him (the British-isms and references make it a tough go sometimes), but he usually asks for it, even if he doesn’t want a whole chapter.  We’re up to chapter five (and the chapters aren’t short, either), so I think we’ll probably finish it.

That’s where we currently stand with read-alouds.  Reading aloud to my children is one of my greatest pleasures and delights, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity!

What have you read aloud this month, or what do you plan to read aloud next month?  Please share in the comments below or link up your own post!

Please like & share:

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

I’ve found one of my favorite books of the year!  Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates is a juvenile biography and winner of the 1951 Newbery Medal.  It is the story of Ath-Mun, African prince captured by slave traders in 1725 as a fifteen year old boy in his homeland.  Through many long years of servitude as a slave, his sense of dignity is never diminished, only enhanced by his own God-given sense of worth.  Renamed Amos Fortune, he eventually buys his own freedom and, through time, the freedom of four other slaves.  He becomes a tanner, and a good one at that, and at the end of his life of ninety-one years is a well-respected member of his community.

There is SO much goodness in this juvenile biography!  I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this one as a history read-aloud at the beginning of the month.  Of course, this book offers ample opportunity to discuss the worth inherent in all human beings, regardless of skin color, religion, or ethnicity.  The theme of freedom, however, is one that I hadn’t reallly thought about, but it’s the one that runs through every bit of this story.  Amos Fortune gets what freedom really is.  One of my favorite parts of the story is toward the end when Amos and his wife purchase a girl from a poor black family through a public auction known as a vendue.  This whole concept–of indigent people being auctioned off to the lowest bidder, who would then be paid his price by the town to care for the needy person for a year–was new to me.  (Louise very astutely drew the comparison between this and foster care, and yes, I had to agree with her that it’s probably the nearest thing we have today to the concept.)  Amos and Violet take in Polly, but Polly is really quite dependent on them.  She is unable to learn at school, and even the simplest tasks are challenging for her.  She is also in poor health.  Amos’ goal, however, is for Polly to die free:

 Celyndia [Violet’s daughter] started to sob softly.  Amos put back his head and Violet saw him shape with his lips the familiar words.  “Thank you, Lord.”

Violet turned to him with a question in her eyes.

Amos answered it.  “I wanted her to die free.  I knew she didn’t have long when I bid on her, but she’s had almost a year of freedom.”

“She wasn’t ever a slave,” Violet reminded him.  “She was born free.”

He shook his head.  “She wasn’t free when she was so poor.” (160)

Amos is a man of deep faith and understanding:

Hate could do that to a man, Amos thought, consume him and leave him smoldering.  But he was a free man, and free at great cost, and he would not put himself in bondage again.  So Amos got up from the boulder and walked home and his friend Moses walked with him, the Moses who had followed a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night and kept himself free from the bickerings of his people so he could be their leader.  (173)

Like most books written decades ago, I’m sure this book has been the target of criticism and controversy. (For a little more about this, see this review.)  However, I did not really look at this book from the perspective of race at all, but rather the spiritual idea of freedom.  That’s why I loved it so much.  It was really neat to me and my girls, too, to know that Amos Fortune was a real person.  Maybe one day we’ll make it to New Hampshire to see his home and gravesite.  Highly Recommended.  (1950)

Please like & share:

The Orphan and the Mouse by Martha Freeman

Yes!  Another mouse book.  This one, The Orphan and the Mouse by Martha Freeman, came highly recommended by Sherry, and in fact, she recommended it to me in the comments of her year-end post.  I requested it from the library and plunged in with my girls (and the DLM, though he usually goes to sleep before we finish reading for the night).  What a delight!  This book is definitely not a dumbed-down kids’ book; while it’s not a hard book, it has its fair share of  vocabulary-expanders.  (As an example, may I offer the word comestible?    It’s not a word I use on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and yet it’s one the mice in this story do use every time they talk about food.)

Written from alternating viewpoints, this is the story of a few of the residents of Cherry Street Children’s Home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Caro, the main character, is a little girl orphaned by a house fire which claimed the life of her mother.  Caro is a sensible and kind-hearted child, and she gains some inkling of an idea that there’s more to Cherry Street than meets the orphans’ eyes when she rescues Mary Mouse from the home’s cat.  The mice civilization at Cherry Street is quite complex, and while they’re busy spying on the humans, keeping an eye out for the “predator,” “auditing” the orphans’ school lessons, and stealing artwork (postage stamps from the director’s desk), other even more dastardly things are afoot among the human population of Cherry Street.  The director of the home is using the home as a cover for her involvement in lucrative underworld dealings;  of course, it’s up to Caro and her mouse friend to stop her.

The characters in this book are as sophisticated as Stuart Little, and in fact, Stuart Little is the role model for the mice of Cherry Street.  They’re quite humane little creatures, even if they don’t exactly understand the ways of humans themselves.  My extra-sensitive girl found much to be troubled by in this story:  kidnapping, orphans, children who are not cared for, etc.  However, we persevered, and I’m glad we did.  Although the plot of the story isn’t terribly complex, some of the issues presented in this post-World War II story are complex.   However, it has a very satisfying ending that ties up all loose ends–both those mysterious and those emotional.  With lots of excitement and extremely short chapters, this makes an ideal read-aloud.  Highly Recommended.  (Holiday House, 2014)

Other mouse stories reviewed at Hope Is the Word:

Please like & share:

Maple and Willow Together by Lori Nichols

I love the picture book Willow, so I was pleased as punch to see a sequel in the new books bin at the library a few weeks months ago.  Maple and Willow Together picks up a few years where Willow leaves off, with Maple and her little sister Willow spending their days together.  They love being together–that is, until Maple turns Big Sisterish, Willow annoys, and they both seek their revenge  Their punishment requires their separation, but they get bored, and well, you know how the rest goes.  This is a sweet, sweet story of sibling love and it has the most irresistably adorable illustrations I’ve seen in a while.  (See a few on Lori Nichols’ website.)  This picture book succinctly captures the simple joys and innocence of childhood.  Highly, highly (HIGHLY) Recommended.  (Penguin, 2014)

Please like & share:

The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery

The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery was one of our three read-alouds for the month of January, which just happened to coincide with the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge at Reading to Know.  ;-)  I chose this as a read-aloud because I wanted to read it myself (I can’t remember if I ever actually finished it in years past) and because I’ve wanted to introduce my girls to L.M. Montgomery, but I’m holding out on Anne.  (Discovering Anne was a formative experience for me, and I want to afford my girls the same opportunity, if possible.  I’m a great believer in The Right Book at The Right Time.)  It turns out that The Story Girl was the perfect introduction.  With thirty-one (!) mostly short chapters, it made a perfect bedtime read-aloud.  (I really can’t overstate how much short chapters, even if the brevity of them ups the chapter count, means to me at this point in my parenting life!)  The fact that the story itself is often humorous was a bonus for us–who wants to go to sleep after reading a heavy story?  Of course, Montgomery’s stories aren’t without pathos, but even the more somber happenings and stories that the Story Girl tells are usually tempered by the maturity of the adult narrator by the chapter’s end.  Although we haven’t discussed much about the book, I know my girls enjoyed it based on how many times we all laughed aloud during our reading.  That’s always a sign of a great read aloud.

As for my own feelings about the book–well, what can I say?  I look more critically upon Montgomery’s works the more I read and re-read them.  That’s not to say I didn’t like this one; on the contrary, I’d have to say that this one rises to somewhere near the top of the heap for me.  I love the relationship between all the children in the story–both how realistically it’s portrayed (with all their quarreling and rivalries) and how warm it is.  Reading Montgomery always makes me wish I could go back and have a PEI childhood, or at the very least that I could give a PEI childhood to my own children.   I found the classism that’s so evident in Felicity’s (as well as the others’) attitude toward Peter Craig both interesting and one of the most obvious examples of foreshadowing I’ve read in a while.    ;-)  I’m once again flummoxed (and simultaneously amused) by Montgomery’s attitude toward religion in this story.  I positively laughed aloud myself at Peter’s quandary over whether to be Methodist or Presbyterian (and I’m neither!)  Those who think Montgomery’s tales are “nice little Christian stories” should beware!  ;-)  I do think Montgomery has as much insight into human nature as any person trained in counseling or psychiatry.  It all makes for very entertaining reading, that’s for sure.  Even her descriptions, as over-the-top as they are, were welcome to me, and my girls didn’t complain about them, either.  I don’t know that this would always be the case, but somehow this book just set right with us this January.  We’re going to stop with this one book for now, but I look forward to getting back to Montgomery and The Golden Road next January, if not before.

One thing that particularly interested me about this story this time was the shifting perspective from which it’s told.  Most of the time Beverley King narrates the story as if he’s right there as a boy, but occasionally we get this “pulled back” perspective from Beverely remisicing about his time in Carlisle that makes the story seem particularly poignant to this very sentimental forty year old woman.  Here’s one such example from chapter twenty-two in which they introduce their dream books that struck me particularly:

As I turn the pages and glance over the naive records, each one beginning, “Last night I dreamed,” the past comes very, vividly back to me.  I see that bowery orchard, shining in memory with a soft glow of beauty–“the light that never was on land or sea,”–where we sat on those September evenings and wrote down our dreams, when the cares of the day were over and there was nothing to interfere with the pleasing thores of composition.  Peter–Dan–Felix–Cecily–Felicity–Sara Ray–the Story Girl–they are all around me once more, in the sweet-scented, fading grasses, each with open dream book and pencil in hand, now writing busily, now staring fixedly into space in search of some elusive word or phrase which might best describe the indescribable.  I hear their laughing voices, I see their bright, unclouded eyes.  In this little, old book, filled with cramped, boyish writing, there is a spell of white magic that sets the years at naught.  Beverley King is a boy once more, writing down his dreams in the old King orchard on the homestead hill, blown over by musky winds.

I’m so very happy to have finally introduced my girls to L.M. Montgomery and look foward to many years of sharing her with all of my children!  (1910)

I simply cannot end this post without expressing my horror at the cover of the book that I’ve linked to Amazon above.  That, my friends, is a travesty of the first order.  I’m sharing the cover of the book that I own (and have owned for lo, these last twenty-five years) to give you a much more accurate representation of the spirit of The Story Girl.


L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeI read this book (in part) for the sixth annual L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge at Reading to Know.  Yes, this is my sixth year to participate!  Carrie and I bonded over all things L.M.M., and the rest is bloggy history.  :-)  Thus, I’ve collected a nice little list of reviews and other posts thanks to the challenge here at Hope Is the Word, which I’m sharing with you now, just in case you haven’t had your fill of Montgomery:

Emily of New Moon review

Emily Climbs review

Jane of Lantern Hill review

The Blue Castle review

Pat of Silver Bush review

Mistress Pat review

Magic for Marigold review

Kilmeny of the Orchard review

A Tangled Web review

L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, adapted by M.C. Helldorfer review (also thoughts on what makes a good adaptation)

PEI Reminscences, a post in which I share pictures and memories of mine and Steady Eddie’s honeymoon on the Island*****My favorite post!  :-)

L.M. Montgomery Meanderings, a post in which I reminisce about how I became such a fan

Please like & share: