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Read Aloud Thursday

This week our library basket contained some interesting and very quirky books.  Among them was One Potato, Two Potato, written by Cynthia DeFelice and illustrated by Andrea U’Ren.  This is the story of Mr. and Mrs. O’Grady, who are poor both physically and materially.  The discovery of a magic pot, however, changes all of that.  The pot can multiply anything placed within it, and the O’Gradys take advantage of this with humorous results.  The illustrations in this book struck me as a little odd at first, but after I read the book the first time, I grew fond of their quirkiness.  This book ends with a delightful play on words.

Another book we enjoyed this week was The Real Story of Stone Soup, written by Ying Chang Compestine and illustrated by Stephane Forisch.  This is, of course, a retelling of the Stone Soup legend, this time from southeast China. In this story, the Chang brothers work as fishermen for a lazy man they respectfully call Uncle.  The Chang brothers, of course, trick Uncle into doing most of the work in making the stone soup.  There are subtleties in this story (for example, Uncle’s laziness) that make it a good story for reading between the lines and interpreting illustrations.

Our favorites of the week, however, are two history books written in the form of poetry.  Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails, written by Verla Kay and illustrated by S. D. Schindler and Homespun Sarah, written by Verla Kay and illustrated by Ted Rand, are wonderful introductions to the westward movement and colonial life, respectively.  In Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails, we follow Father, Mother, and Baby John as they trek along the California Trail from Independence, Missouri, to the Sacramento Valley.  The obstacles and triumphs of the pioneers wagon train are described in rhyming couplets and in warm and expressive illustrations.  It is especially fun to “watch” as Baby John grows into a toddler on the journey.  Homespun Sarah, on the other hand, details the daily life of  a girl in colonial Pennsylvania.  Sarah does many chores including fetching water, filling the wood box with branches, tending the garden, cooking, doing laundry, making candles, gathering berries, spinning wool, and finally, making her own dress since she has outgrown the one she wore throughout the whole story.  Again, rhyming couplets and warm illustrations make this book engaging for little ones, all the while giving a good sense of life in the 1700s.  My four year old daughter requested to have this book read as a bedtime story even as I had it in a stack to review here on my blog.  Of course, my girls do have a predilection for pioneer stories, but because of its fun rhymes and interesting subject matter, I think this book would make a great read aloud for almost any audience.

What have you and yours been enjoying together as read alouds?  Leave me a comment or a link to your blog where you tell about it!

Next week’s Read Aloud Thursday will be a special A.A. Milne edition.  If you have read Milne’s Pooh stories or his poetry (or even some of his lesser-known adult books and articles), please be sure to come back next Thursday and link your blog or leave a comment!

Book Review–My Father’s Dragon

Title:  My Father’s Dragon

Author:  Ruth Stiles Gannett

Illustrator:  Ruth Chrisman Gannett

Publisher:  Random House

Pages:  87

ISBN:  0394890485

I think this book might replace Charlotte’s Web as my favorite read-aloud to date!  Now I am in no way suggesting that this book could possibly take the place of E.B. White’s masterpiece in the canon of children’s literature; however, for my wee girlies, this 1949 Newbery Honor book is simple enough and has enough illustrations to keep them engaged.  Add to those characteristics the fact that it also has short chapters, and we definitely have a winner!  Personally, I found the book delightful.  I can’t imagine how I missed it.  Perhaps I was put off by the title; I am not a fan of fantasy.  This book, though, is really just a very imaginative animal story.  The narrator’s father, Elmer Elevator (who wouldn’t love a book with a protagonist named Elmer Elevator?!?), learns from a cat that there is a baby dragon imprisoned on Wild Island.  Appropriately enough, there are only wild animals on Wild Island, but Elmer Elevator, who longs for his own airplane but will settle for a baby dragon, is not to be deterred.  He packs just the right miscellaneous items in his knapsack that, coupled with his quick thinking and imagination, enable him to foil the animals’ attempts to capture and/or eat him.  I think he might be the first incarnation of MacGyver.  I am eager to make a trip to the library tomorrow and look for the sequels:  Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland