Category Archives: Read Aloud Thursday

Read Aloud Thursday–March 2015

read-aloud211If you’ve been keeping up with the saga here at the House of Hope, you’ll already know that I spent a week, more or less, sick, and then a week, more or less, recuperating.  This, my friends, was as formidable a hindrance to reading aloud as we’ve faced yet.  That means that today I have nothing in the way of chapter books to report.  We are very close to finishing our lunchtime history read-turned-bedtime book, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes.  I hope to share my thoughts on it in the next few days, at least before the month’s Newbery Through the Decades post goes up on March 31.  We got almost half way through The Hobbit before I succumbed to The Sickness, and since then we’ve been reading Johnny Tremain at night in hopes of finishing it sooner rather than later.  We will definitely get back to The Hobbit; it was a great enjoyment to us all, with the exception of one girl who occasionally goes to sleep before we finish the L-O-N-G chapters when I push through and try to read one in one sitting.

As for what we pick up next, well, obviously The Hobbit is first on the list.  I’m also considering Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham for our history read-aloud, mostly because I’ve read such glowing reviews of it but have never actually read it myself.  It is also a Newbery winner from the 1950s, so it will fit nicely with the Newbery Through the Decades challenge for next month.  :-)

What I do want to mention today is a fun picture book that the DLM has really enjoyed.  I purchased this one at Goodwill when Steady Eddie and I trekked up to Nashville just before Christmas.  I just gave it to the DLM, though, this month because I’m organized like that.  :-)

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann is a mostly wordless picture book, a genre which I used to not appreciate at all.  I’ve come to appreciate these books more as I’ve read hundreds thousands of picture books over the past decade.  The DLM seems to enjoy them more than the girls every did, so there is that, too.  Like Rathmann’s Office Buckle and Gloria, this book requires a certain level of sophisticated observation that the DLM is dancing right along the edge of.  (I say that because I read Officer Buckle and Gloria aloud to his preschool class at co-op, and most of the kids in that class didn’t really get it.)  In both books something is going on unbeknownst to the human main character; an animal is outsmarting him.  It makes for high hilarity if the listening kid gets it; if not, it makes for puzzled boredom.  Of the two, Good Night, Gorilla is the easier one to “get.”  The DLM gives it a Highly Recommended.  (Putnam, 1995)

Things haven’t exactly been exciting around here, but I am hopeful that things are looking up. Stay tuned. :-)

By way of offering you something, might I suggest that you check out my list of book review links to the chapter books I’ve read aloud?  At fifty-five books, it’s nowhere near complete, and neither is it well organized, but I like to think it’s a great resource anyway.

What have you been reading aloud this month? Please, share links to your blog posts in the comments, or feel free just to comment with what you’ve been reading. I’d love to hear about it!


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Ben and Me by Robert Lawson

Ben and Me:  An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos by Robert Lawson was our bedtime read-aloud for the latter part of February.  This short little book is a delightful addition to any U.S. History study, or for anyone who just enjoys books about anthropomorphized animals, fictionalized accounts of historic figures, or both.  :-)   Amos is the very intelligent mouse who lives in Ben Franklin’s fur cap and helps him solve many of his problems, which range from the scientific to the political to the diplomatic.  The chapters are short in this book, which is always a plus as for as I am concerned for bedtime reads.   (I tend to read with the room very dimly lit, which I wouldn’t recommend for this title as Lawson’s illustrations are copious, interesting, and humorous.  This is more of a read-together-on-the-sofa kind of book.)  Of particular enjoyment is the illustration which accompanies this description:

I had seen many elaborate hair arrangements at the Court, but this far exceeded anything I had ever beheld.  The powdered curls, rising to a height of four feet above her head, were arranged to represent the waves of the Ocean.  Surmounting these was a full-rigged ship with an American flag at the masthead.  Long red, white and blue ribbons, inscribed LIBERTY AND JUSTICE, flew from the bowsprit.  Just below the ship was a colored wax medallion of Ben, upheld by pink cupids and decorated with some silly sentiment.  (93)

Louise had already read this one, but she enjoyed it just as much as Lulu.  I’m not sure I’d chose it again as a read-aloud just because of the illustrations, but otherwise I”m very glad we read it and give it a Highly Recommended.  (Little, Brown, 1939)

I went searching on Youtube to see if there were any adaptations of this story, and lo and behold, there is, and a Disney one at that.   None other that Bill Peet wrote this particular adaptation, which is fairly faithful to part of the original story.  My kids really enjoyed watching it.  Fun!

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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!

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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)

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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:

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