Sunday, October 21, 2018

Books to Read Aloud

I've recently finished two really good books with the kids - one with each of them. It is hard to find good read aloud bedtime stories. My kids don't like things that are too scary as bedtime stories. They say it makes it hard to settle and go to sleep. I can see their point: my book club is reading Slade House, by David Mitchell, this month and I doubt I'll finish it because I've discovered I can't read it right before bed or I'll have weird, creepy dreams. It is a beautifully written book, but it has a way of worming its way into my subconscious that just doesn't work for bedtime reading.

Anyway, I'm always on the lookout for good bedtime books for the kids, and these two are good enough I want to share!

The kids and I went to see Greg Van Eekhout, the author of The Voyage of the Dogs, give a reading  at our local bookstore. It is set in a future in which humans and dogs can understand each other, and there are dog astronauts - barkonauts. The story is about what happens when a crew of barkonauts awakens from stasis to find the human crew on their ship gone. I was really intrigued by the premise of the book, so I was glad when Petunia decided we should read it together at bedtime. The author told us at the reading that all the dogs survive, so Petunia didn't mind the tense bits. (And knowing this in no way detracts from the book, so if you have a kid who would worry about that, too, go ahead and tell them.) The characters are wonderfully drawn. The dogs are dogs, not humans in dogs form, if you know what I mean. And I loved their problem-solving. This is such a fun book - I recommend it highly, even if you don't have a kid to read it to.

Finding bedtime stories for Pumpkin is getting harder and harder. She reads Harry Potter and other high-tension books to herself, but wants gentler stories for bedtime. The Anne of Green Gables books were perfect, although she asked to stop Rilla of Ingleside because the build up to WWI was too much for her. On a whim, I picked up a book my in-laws gave me years ago, that has been sitting on my "to read" pile. The 10 p.m. Question, by Kate Di Goldi, is a wonderful story of a 12 year old boy finding his way in the world. His family is a little odd, and what exactly is going on with his family is part of what you discover while you read. Frankie, the main character, has a lot of anxiety, and I really liked how the author made that just one of the things about a really interesting and likeable boy. I think this is a fine story for an 11 year old, and maybe even a little younger, but be aware that there are some adult themes. Nothing really detailed, but I did have to tell Pumpkin what a prostitute is or one small section of the story wouldn't have made as much sense. But I think I could have just breezed past that part and it wouldn't have mattered: It isn't central to the story.

In writing about these two books, it occurs to me that one of the reasons I liked them so much is they both have really great endings. The authors both do a great job of bringing their stories to a close while also leaving enough of an opening for you to think about what might come next for the characters. I really like it when a book does that!

Do you have any good bedtime story suggestions? Put them in the comments!

12 comments:

  1. I understand the difficulty in finding good read alouds. I'm went through my blog (fillyourbookshelf.wordpress.com) for all the read alouds I've recorded and to give you suggestions of the really low-key books we've read. Have you tried the Half Magic books (we only read the first one, but it was definitely low stress), Cheaper by the Dozen, or A Long Way from Chicago? There's really no conflict in any of these stories and I enjoyed reading them to my kids as much as they enjoyed listening.

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    1. Edward Eager (Half Magic, 7 Day Magic) does make a great read-aloud. Unlike E. Nesbitt (which I think of as the British version, and which he was inspired by), you know everything is going to turn out ok. My mom read us Cheaper by the Dozen! I suspect it is part of why both my sister and I went into fields that have a strong component of efficiency. (The sequel, Belles on their Toes does have conflict-- Strong Woman fighting against the patriarchy and triumphing conflict.)

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  2. Maybe Pumpkin would like From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I don't think the name's a winner, but it's a really good book! For that matter, The View from Saturday by the same author (E.L. Konigsberg) is a good one, too!

    Rattling off other ideas ... The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, American Girl books, Dealing with Dragons, The Wheel on the School, Gail Carson Levine's Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep (which is part of her "fractured fairy tales" series) ... oh gosh, I'm sure there are more, but they're escaping me now! Hope you find some that are perfectly suited for her.

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  3. Anonymous6:55 AM

    The suggestions above are great! What popped into my mind were Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake books and "The Four-Story Mistake". (The sequel, "Then There were Five" does have some scarier elements.)Another thought would be "The Golden Name Day" series by Jennie Lindquist, though they might be hard to find.

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  4. I'm using my Goodreads account to keep track of chapter books that we have read to Baguette at bedtime. Here's the current list, if this helps: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/19403102-tragic-sandwich?shelf=read#

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    1. Socal dendrite8:20 PM

      How old is Baguette? There are some on here that we've read to my eldest (5.5; The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Mr Popper's Penguins) and some that I've been considering but wondered if we should wait (James and the Giant Peach, The Borrowers). Thanks!

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  5. Socal dendrite8:17 PM

    What a great post! Mine are still a bit young for most of these but I shall have to bookmark this page and come back to it.

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  6. How do you get your kids to listen to read-aloud stories? Mine jusr say, “no thanks, Mom.”

    And, to be fair, once I could read, I hated, hated, hated being read to. The story went sooo slowly and, for me, much of the pleasure of reading is being able to see the words and control how I experience them (skip passages or re-read them, look ahead or back)

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    1. I have no secrets to reveal! Reading aloud has always been part of our bedtime routine, and they've just never asked us to stop. I'm sure our days of reading to Pumpkin are numbered.

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  7. I am glad to read this glorious post.

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  8. Our 3 kids (10, 8, and 4) like the Penderwicks series by J. Birdsall.

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  9. Thanks for all the great suggestions, everyone!

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