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Read Aloud Thursday

As usual, our library basket this week contains a hodge-podge of books.  When I’m browsing for books at the library, I usually try to find a mixture of books that I think will appeal to both my girls. Still, my decisions are ultimately based on what looks good to me; after all, if I’m reading it aloud, I tend to do a much better job if it is a book I actually like.  My girls, if left to their own devices, would fill our basket with Dora and Bob, Franklin and Blue each week.  It amazes me that they are so drawn to these characters because they only watch the shows occasionally, and even then they are re-runs on video.  But I digress.  Here are some of the good books in our library basket this week:
Oddhopper Opera:  A Bug’s Garden of Verses, written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus, is my favorite of the week.  Every page is a feast for the eyes, not only in terms of the illustrations, but also in terms of the text.  Some of the lines of the poems in this book are often a part of the illustrations.  While they are not quite concrete or shape poems, the fact that they are not always linear adds an element of enjoyment and fun.  There is even ongoing commentary from ants that traipse across several of the pages (“Boink!  ‘Here we are–where’s the food?  Is it far?’/Boink!  ‘Oh, my head!  Can’t we shake hands instead?’  Boink!’).  Chock full of rollicking buggy poetry, this book would be great for almost any age, from preschoolers to senior citizens!

Max’s Words, written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Boris Kulikov, comes in a close second this week in my book.  Max is a little boy whose older brothers collect things:  Benjamin collects stamps and Karl collects coins.  Max wants to collect something, too, and when his brothers won’t share even one tiny thing from their collections with him, he decides to collect words.  He cuts words out of newspapers and magazines, and pretty soon his collection begins to take on a life of its own.  This book is probably more appropriate for children who can read, but my pre-readers didn’t complain about it.  Any logophile will love it!
This Is the House That Was Tidy and Neat by Teri Sloat is Lulu’s pick of the week.  It is a fun book in the tradition of “The House That Jack Built.”  Illustrated by R.W. Alley, this book is very visually detailed.  It will only take a few times through for the listener to be able to recite the poem simply by looking at the illustrations.  As a bonus, this book really capitalizes on the idea that mom is a very integral part of family life.   As a mother who sometimes gets a little discouraged, I like this part perhaps the best of all.

Louise has taken great delight in One Monkey Too Many by Jackie French Koller.  Each activity presented in this story is one that is just right for a certain number of monkeys, so when “one monkey too many” shows up, delightfully hilarious chaos ensues.  This story is told in rhyme.  The illustrations, by Lynn Munsinger, are whimsical and very expressive.  This is a great preschool read aloud.

Reading One Small Place by the Sea enables its readers to take a trip to the seashore without leaving their comfy reading nooks.  This book, written by Barbara Brenner and illustrated by Tom Leonard, details the cycle through which a tide pool goes during its existence.  The illustrations are detailed and colorful.  This is a great introduction to marine life and the idea of cycles in nature.

I had picked up and put back The Prairie Train by Antoine O Flatharta at least once before during a picture book hunting-and-gathering expedition, but this time, due to my girls’ ever growing  love affair with all things prairie, I couldn’t resist.  This story was sort of a surprise to me; what I thought was a simple historical fiction story turned out to be a fantasy of sorts.  This book deals with the immigrant experience, but with a twist.  The beautiful illustrations by Eric Rohmann contribute to the dream-like quality (I use this phrase both literally and figuratively) of the story.

What have you been reading this week?  Leave me a comment or link and I’ll be sure to follow up!  I’m always on the hunt for more great read-alouds.


Read Aloud Thursday

Boy, I’m just full of new ideas lately, aren’t I?  It’s because I don’t have anything else to do (cue maniacal laughter). 

I’ve been thinking for a while that I would love to keep up with the good read alouds we do each week, but I’ve never gotten around to posting most of them.  My girls and I visit the library weekly, and it never fails that each week we make a few serendipitous choices that are read and re-read until they are exchanged for another title the next week.  I know that there are lots of other reading mommies (and daddies, too) who might like to share their own weekly read alouds, so I decided to create this fun little weekly blog carnival.  I’ve never done anything like this, and I really have no idea if I have a readership (!) that will support it, but I decided to give it a go anyway.   

Here’s how it will work:

On Thursdays, I will host Read Aloud Thursday.  Link to your blog page where you have written about the book(s) that you have read aloud that week.  The books can be picture books, nonfiction, chapter books, or whatever you read aloud to your children.  While my children are preschool age, you may certainly include read alouds that you enjoy with your family, no matter the age of your children (or lack thereof, ‘though the focus here is on children’s literature). 

Since we’re a scant two weeks away from Christmas, last week I tried to pick out as many random Christmas books as I could find.  While this is not necessarily the preferred method for finding the highest of quality literature, it usually works well enough for us.  I did hit up on a few great Christmas titles this week that I’d like to add here:

This is a gorgeous illustrated version of the classic Christmas carol “We Three Kings.” The book is illustrated by Gennady Spirin. The illustrations look like the ornate artwork that one might see in a beautiful cathedral. My girls were amused by the Magi’s choices of transportation: a majestic steed, an elaborately bedecked elephant, and a regal camel. “We Three Kings” has always been one of my favorite carols, but I would challenge anyone to read this book without singing the song!



Coming Through the Blizzard by Eileen Spinelli (illustrated by Jenny Tylden-Wright) is a fun story about  a Christmas Eve church service that is almost ruined because of a blizzard.  The question posed by the minister who waits at the church is “Who would come to the Christmas Eve service?”  This is a story with lots of repetition, so it is perfect for toddler and preschoolers.  Spinelli is a master at choosing just the right word to paint a picture for the reader.  Witness this:

Moth came.

Silvery, silent,

blown from a pipe in the organ

on a burst of song,

a wordless Hallelujah.

Moth came. 

 This story is page after page of such poetry.  Beautiful!


The Donkey’s Christmas Song by Nancy Tafuri is the sweet, sweet story of the little donkey who, timid because of his loud bray, brings joy and warmth to the Baby Jesus.  With only a few short sentences per page, simple illustrations, and lots of animal sounds, this is the perfect Christmas story for toddlers. 


Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson (illustrated by Jane Chapman) follows a delightfully predictable pattern for those familiar with the other Bear books.  Written in rhyme, this is the story of Bear who uncharacteristically stays awake for Christmas Eve, but he is so busy with his preparations that he misses a very important visitor:  Santa!


Of course, we didn’t only read Christmas stories this week.  Here are a few other noteworthy read-alouds:


The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt (illustrated by Yaroslava) is, of course, another retelling of a Ukranian folk tale made famous in the world of children’s book lovers by Jan Brett.  While I would certainly never want to detract from Jan Brett’s gorgeous version of this story, we enjoyed this more simple version.  The illustrations in this story are warm and the tone of this version is very reminiscent, since the narrator is recounting a story told him by his grandfather.  


Cook-a-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (illustrated by Janet Stevens) is a “spinoff” of the classic Little Red Hen story.  Big Brown Rooster, great-grandson of the famous Little Red Hen, makes a strawberry shortcake with some unlikely helpers:  Pig, Iguana, and Turtle.  With humorous illustrations and comedic suspense, this makes a great read-aloud for preschoolers or gradeschoolers.  Older children might enjoy reading the sidebars which include information and illustrations about baking. 


Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra (illustrated by Will Hillenbrand) is the entertaining story of a monkey who lives on an island in the middle of the Sillabobble Sea.  The monkey, whose only source of food is a lemon tree, spies a banana tree on an island across the sea. The clever monkey tricks the crocodiles who live in the Sillabobble Sea into helping her get her bananas.  This rhyming story is pure fun for the preschool set.


Basket Moon by Mary Lyn Ray (illustrated by Barbara Cooney) is the interesting story of a little boy who lives with his Ma and Pa in the backwoods of  Columbia County, New York, in what is presumably the 1800s.  His father makes baskets for a living, going into the town of Hudson to sell his wares only when there is a Basket Moon (i.e. full moon).  The little boy longs for the day when his father will take him to town, too, but when that day comes, he learns that venturing into society brings with it some pain and disappointment.  His parents and community help him cope with his disappointment by giving him the gift of a calling:  to be basketmaker, too.  I suppose you could say this is a bildungsroman, picture book style.  According to the author’s note at the end of this book, this story is based on an actual community of basketmakers who lived in that same region of New York.  This would be a great story to use as a part of a history or social studies lesson.  I was surprised that my girls, ages four (“and a half,” Lulu would quickly add) and two, enjoyed this, but out of all the books we read, this one was the most requested.  Maybe it’s their penchant for pioneer stories.

Join me, please, in sharing your read aloud picks for the week!