My girls and I just wrapped up our last official read-aloud of the school year (though by no means are we wrapping up our reading aloud)! This year we’ve been studying world geography via Build Your Library, and this book was on our list as we studied Europe. I was initially daunted by the length of the book as a read-aloud, but I did want to experience it with my girls, so I charged ahead. I am so very glad I did!
Watership Down is a very complex story about. . . rabbits. You knew that, right? That sums up everything I knew about the story before we read it, but believe me: there’s so much more to this tale. This novel would make a springboard for discussion about personality and leadership styles, archetypal images, sociological observations, rabbit behavior, and so much more. It’s the story of Fiver and Hazel (and a host of other rabbits) as they go through the arduous process of breaking away from their original warren and establishing their own. Through Fiver (the visionary) and Hazel (the practical leader), we get to experience the difficulties of leading such a movement. We might even imagine what it would be like to establish a nation through this, or at least recognize some of what we’ve studied through history as we read it. If I’m being obtuse about it, it’s because first, it’s quite a story to summarize; and second, I feel like I need to study it a bit more myself to offer much commentary. In discussing it with my girls, both girls were able to see shades of the totalitarian regimes of World War II and the Cold War in it, so I think that’s something. This would make an interesting read alongside some of the dystopian novels of the past and present. I’d like to revisit it again after I study it a bit more. It’s quite an exciting story on top of all that. Highly Recommended. (Avon, 1972)
Dear friends, this post has been languishing in my drafts folder for far too long. It seems that I have fallen out of the habit of blogging, and everything else (but mostdefinitelytoomuchsocialmediatime) has expanded to fill the spot it used to have in my life. I’m going to try to ease my way back into posting more frequently without stressing myself out. We’ll see how that goes!
The DLM and I spent a couple of weeks in April on a delightfully imaginative romp with Henry and the Chalk Dragon in a book by that title by Jennifer Trafton. I was eager to read this book, having read Trafton’s The Rise and Fall of Mount Majesticaloud to my girls years ago. All of the things I said in that review about Trafton’s writing are true in this book, too: it positively sings with simile and metaphor, alliteration and assonance. That isn’t to say, though, that it’s a highbrow literary story that flies over the average six year old’s head; no, in fact, I predict the DLM will count this as one of his favorite books of the year!
In this story, Henry, who’s an artist, experiences the unthinkable when his chalk dragon comes to life and escapes from the back of his bedroom door where Henry had drawn it. Henry then has a real knight’s quest before him: rescue his sometimes-best friend, Oscar, from the dragon before the dragon eats Oscar. This quest takes Henry into the halls of his elementary school where the dragon wreaks all sorts of havoc.
Oh, my–what a joy it was to read this book aloud! Trafton has the remarkable ability to create countless figures of speech without employing a single cliche. I positively giggled at times when I read something unexpected, like this:
The dragon attacked, swinging its horn and hopping from side to side on its one leg like a bull on a pogo stick. Henry braced himself behind his shield. His feet were as quick as Q-tips in a tornado. His sword was as swift and swishy as a hummingbird caught in a washing machine (156).
Other times I pause and nodded reflectively at the complete appropriateness of the comparison:
Henry was telling the truth. Dragons aren’t scary–well, they are, but they’re a good kind of scary. They’re the kind of scary you want to be scared of. People are the bad kind of scary, he thought. Dragons can only eat you, but people can laugh at you, and that is like being chewed to death by a smile (18).
There’s quite a bit of snarky, school-related humor that I think most people could appreciate, too. My favorite exchange involves the Bored Members (Henry’s words) and their startling declaration:
“I can assure you,” chirped the principal, “La Muncha Elementary School is the safest school in the county. It’s an emergency-free zone. Absolutely unbreakable windows! Doors so thick a herd of elephants couldn’t barge through! Fireproof carpets! Sprinklers in every room! Perfectly polished doorknobs! There is nothing we would not do to protect the well-being, comfort, health, and happiness of the beloved pupils entrusted to our care.”
“But Principal Bunk–” said the Bored Man.
“We’re sorry to say–” said the Bored Woman.
“The Bored has decided that there will no longer be a need for doorknobs.”
“Yes, doorknobs have been cut out of the budget.”
Principal Bunk stopped walking and swallowed so hard that Henry could see the swallow slide all the way down his necktie. “Doorknobs?”
“Studies have shown that doorknobs will not help students do any better on tests. Therefore, all doorknobs must be turned in to the Bored by next week.” (83)
Anyone who has ever tried to standardize education will appreciate this. 😉 Also, anyone who loves a good book replete with literary allusions (La Munch Elementary, anyone?) will in all likelihood adore this one. We give a rousing Highly Recommended to Henry and the Chalk Dragon and can’t wait to read whatever Jennifer Trafton comes up with next! (Rabbit Room Press, 2017)
**Special thanks to Rabbit Room Press for sending this one my way for review! As always, the thoughts are my own. However, I will say that receiving an unsolicited email regarding this book from Pete Peterson pretty much made my week! 🙂
I’m here! I’m here! 🙂 This week has been all about SAT testing and soccer, so I haven’t had much of a chance to get on the computer. But I’m here now! 🙂 Blogging has had to take a backseat to LIFE lately, but keeping up with what I read aloud to my children is very important to me, so I’m not giving up my Read Aloud Roundups. Plus, I want to hear what you’re reading!
First up is a picture book that we positively love! Life on Mars by Jon Agee is a hoot! The premise of this book is simple: a boy astronaut is exploring Mars with the mission of finding life there. Despite the naysayers, he believes there IS life on Mars. He looks and looks and finally finds a lone flower. However, as the cover art shows, there IS more life than that on Mars–it’s literally right under his nose and he just never sees it. Everyone who read this book in our home found it hilarious! The end is so satisfying. Agee’s text is simple and straightforward, as is his art, but it’s in the intersection of the two that the humor and surprise comes in. Even the youngest of listeners get it. Highly, Highly Recommended. (Dial, 2017)
If Mo Willems is the author, it’s pretty much a given that we’ll love it. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is pure read-aloud gold at our house. We enjoyed it yesterday as we sipped cream slushes at Sonic (seventy-nine cents!) between an orthodontic appointment and dental appointments. (The irony of that is not lost on me.) If you and your listeners like subtle, even snarky, humor, read this one. It takes the traditional Goldilocks story and turns it on its ear–sort of a fractured fairytale with a side of, yes, snark. This is yet another picture book that makes reading aloud very enjoyable for the parent. The DLM even enjoyed the endpapers. 🙂 Highly, Highly Recommended. (Balzer + Bray, 2012)
The DLM and I (with Benny along for the ride) also tackled a new Esther Averill story. This time we took a trip around the world with Jenny and her brothers in Jenny Goes to Sea. This one is just as much fun as all the other Jenny books we’ve read, with the added bonus of exotic settings. Of course, since this book was first published in 1957, some of the ports-of-call have changed names. That didn’t seem to bother my boys at all. 😉 The boys enjoyed taking out our big world map and plotting Jenny’s course around the world. Little by little, we’re making our way through all the Esther Averill books, and we’ve yet to read one that disappointed us. Other titles I’ve reviewed are Jenny and the Cat Club, The Hotel Cat, and The School for Cats.
The boys and I have also read and LOVED Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton this month. A full review is coming soon.
This month has brought about a new thing for me and the DLM: he has been reading a longish book to me, and all on his own. We’re about halfway through The Boxcar Children, and I have to say that I’m enjoying it. It is so gratifying for a young reader to finally leap the hurdle to complete fluency. I’m including that title here because I don’t want to forget it. <3
The girls and I have been reading the same books all month, and we’re pretty close to being through with one of them. Watership Down has been our world geography read-aloud, and some of us have enjoyed it and some have endured it. 😉 Due to the aforementioned busy-ness, we’ve been having a hard time finding time at night to continue our Year of Anne, though we are finally in Rainbow Valley, which is one of my favorite of the series. We will finish it! We also listened to (and read along with) A Midsummer Night’s Dream in March (I failed to note it in my Read Aloud Roundup post) and are currently in the middle of Two Gentlemen of Verona for our Shakespeare studies.
I also failed to mention in last month’s post that we listened to a dramatization of Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. I had been wanting to add some audiobook listening into our days, but I couldn’t think of something that we could all enjoy together. I knew that no one is too old to enjoy the poignancy and humor of A.A. Milne (and it had been–GASP!–eight years since I read it aloud to the girls), and I was right! The short chapters made the perfect lunchtime listen. Warning: Mama can’t read this one aloud OR listen to it without crying.
Last, I want to mention that we have enjoyed a book that I’ve had around for a long time and only in the past couple of months made an effort to share with my children. (This means that curriculum and book hoarding isn’t necessarily a bad thing!) The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas offers short-but-engaging mathematical scenarios followed by a problem to solve or a mathematical principle to apply. It’s all written from the perspective of a mathematician’s cat, so that makes it somewhat accessible to younger listeners, though the concepts can be quite complex. We’re a few stories away from the end but it has been enough of a hit that I’ll consider going on to the next book in the series. (Wide World Publishing, 1997)
That’s a little snapshot of how we’ve spent most of our read-aloud time in April. How about your family? I’d love to hear all about it!
Well, it has been quite a March at the House of Hope, with sickness after sickness after sickness punctuated with some travel for Steady Eddie and. . .and. . .and. . .
You get the picture.
We have been reading; I just haven’t been blogging. Here’s what we’ve been up to: It has been a while (five years? Oh, my!) since I raved about Sherri Duskey Rinker’s Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, but it’s one that I loved enough to purchase for our home library. I don’t do that often with picture books, so that’s pretty high praise. It goes without saying, then, that I was delighted when I saw on the new books shelf at the library a new book from the dynamic duo of Rinker and Lichtenheld, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site. This book has enough cute factor to please mama and enough “let’s get dirty while we build things” factor to satisfy even my six-year-old and his discriminating taste. In the first book, the construction site is going to bed; in this book, the site is waking up. Written mostly in rhyming couplets, the story unfolds with a new day with a new plan that is “too much for just a five-truck crew.” A blast from Cement Mixer’s horn calls ten big trucks to the rescue, including Skid Steer, Backhoe, Flatbed, Front-End Loader, Dump Truck, and (our favorite) Pumper. Lichtenheld’s illustrations are bright, colorful, and sweetly whimsical. I think I’ll be adding this one to our collection for Benny’s fourth birthday (which is coming up soon!)
My girls and I finally, finally, finally finished reading Anne of Ingleside just a few nights ago. This is the sixth book in the series and the sixth book in our Year of Anne (which has turned into more than a year). Confession: this book lagged for me a bit in the middle, but this is probably more the protracted nature of our time spent in the book than the book itself. Like all the Anne books, it had been over two decades since I read this one. I’ll admit that I dreading the ending of this book-I remembered Anne’s state over the perceived decline of her marriage and really wasn’t interested in hashing it out again. However, this time I found I could relate to Anne a little more. (Imagine that!) The biggest thing that struck me, though, was her response to Christine Stewart’s condescension of the “narrowness” of Anne’s life:
“Fancy you being contented there,” smiled Christine. (“That terrible mouthful of teeth!”) “Do you really never feel that you want a broader life? You used to be quite ambitious, if I am remembering aright. Didn’t you write some rather clever little things when you were at Redmond? A bit fantastic and whimsical, of course, but still. . . ”
“I wrote them for the people who still believe in fairyland. There is a surprising lot of them, you know, and they like to get news from that country.”
“And you’ve quite given it up?”
“Not altogether. . . but I’m writing living epistles now,” said Anne, thinking of Jem and Co.
I love that, and it came at a perfect time for me to remember that that’s what I’m doing, too. This redeemed the story from its dalliance into middle aged angst for me. I’m looking forward to the last two books; they’re two of my favorites.
So what have you been enjoying this month? I’d love to hear all about it!
Friends, I am so excited to be back in the read aloud reporting saddle again! I have missed sharing our read aloud experiences, and I’ve missed reading yours. 🙂
My reading aloud is divided into two distinct camps these days: the boys and the girls. Oh, I try to make our read alouds overlap at times, but the boys are busy and the girls are over many of the books I read to the boys. Still, I would say that it is the DLM, age six, who benefits the most from the cross-over books. That’s a good thing because he’s definitely the one I feel gets the least amount of age-appropriate, concentrated read-aloud time with me. He is also the only one who would choose reading or being read to only about half the time and would be just as happy to do almost anything else. (Yes, this makes me sad, but I have come to accept that it’s okay. It’s who he is! He’s a busy fellow.)
This month we added some math to our circle time. I haven’t shared the details of January’s circle time yet, but our routine is to sing a hymn, read a Bible passage or chapter, and work on memory work. That’s the general framework, but this month I decided I wanted to read aloud, too, so I chose The History of Counting by Denise Schmandt-Besserat as our first shared math book. At forty-five pages, this is a an information-rich picture book. It deals with some pretty complicated concepts, like abstract versus concrete counting, systems other than base-ten, and more. Michael Hays’s illustrations are helpful and even necessary due to the nature of the information. This book contains a two-page glossary and a two-page index. I learned a lot by reading this book, and all of my school-aged children engaged with it. We read it at the rate of two pages a day, and because it is so information-dense, this was just about right. I’ve had this one on our math shelf for years, and I’m glad I finally pulled it off and read it aloud! (Scholastic, 1999)
Another nonfiction picture book that all of my children (and I!) enjoyed quite a lot is Giant Squid by Candace Fleming. I gush about it here. It’s a not-to-be missed title. Do y’all know Stephen Savage? Oh, my goodness! What a fun author/illustrator! We fell in love with his Supertruck a few years ago, so when I saw The Mixed-Up Truck at the library, I had to bring it home. Bold, graphic (digitally created) illustrations and no more than two sentences (in bold, sans serif font) per two-page spread make this a book that really appeals to little boys with short attention spans. 🙂 It’s the humor, though, that really hooks them. The helpful cement mixer wants to do his part, but instead of mixing up cement, he keeps mixing up the wrong white powder with water. The results are hilarious (and sometimes tasty)! Three year old Benny loves this one. I do, too! Highly Recommended. (Roaring Press, 2016)
One of my read-aloud dilemmas is how to read as much as I want to to both sets of my kids. My girls and I have a good read-aloud routine. It’s my boys who get shorted in the read-aloud department, which causes me no end of guilt. I have finally turned some of their reading aloud over to Steady Eddie. While I definitely miss sharing all the literature with them, I also know that it’s just as important for them to have a read-aloud relationship with their daddy. 🙂 Their first chapter book of the new year was The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill. I actually read most of it, too, so I was able to share a review of it. The DLM has never met a Esther Averill book he didn’t like.
The girls and I always have a couple of books going at once. We finished up Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool early in the month (I reviewed it the firs time I read it here). It was a fun book for us to read together, and the girls surprisingly also picked up a few math-related concepts (which have shown up in their official math lessons) from it since pi figures heavily into the story. The only disappointing thing about this read is that I purchased my copy from Thrift Books and ended up with an ARC instead of the final version. I wondered, especially at the end, if anything about the copy I was reading aloud had been changed in the final version. I couldn’t remember since it had been so long since I read it myself the first time.
The girls and I are still enjoying our Year of Anne, too, though it’s turning into more like Eighteen Months (or more!) of Anne.
Most days I feel like there could never be enough hours to share all the stories I want to share with my children. Some days I get to the end of the day and realize that I haven’t read aloud much to my boys at all. To combat that, I’ve decided this year to make an attempt to keep up with what I read aloud to them on Goodreads. I know I’ve already missed recording a few books, and my Goodreads account is something of a mess right now, but it is motivational for me to have some way to hold myself accountable. If you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to be your friend. 🙂
Well, this blog post is about as chatty as they come. Thank you for reading to the end of it! It feels so good to “talk shop” about reading aloud again! It is the cornerstone of what I do in my home, and I can’t help but love sharing it. I love hearing about your read aloud life, too, so link me up! 🙂