Monday, July 21, 2014

Ten Great Chapter Book Read-Alouds

There's something magical that happens when a book is read aloud. I think back to those titles that were read to me as a child - Hatchet, Ramona Quimby age 8, The Borrowers, Freckle Juice, The Indian in the Cupboard, Charlotte's Web.  During these readings the characters seemed to jump out of the pages and, best of all, I was sharing the experience with others. And now years later these titles still hold a special place with me.

I love reading aloud to my children every night, and now that they have grown (ages 9 and 12) and we have moved from picture books to chapter books, the experience is only enhanced. I see their imagination grow as I read, I see the inquisitive nature in their eyes, and we get the opportunity to discuss very important details aloud within the context of a story.  Here is a short list of titles we have recently read that we would highly recommend to others.

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Summary: August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Why I love it: While telling Auggie's story a variety of perspectives are introduced. Not only do readers get to hear how Auggie is feeling, but his sister explains life from her vantage point, as do his friends and even the sister's new boyfriend. This is a great book to read with children as it reinforces that differences on the outside do not necessarily equate to differences on the inside. It gives children an idea of what the other person is feeling, imploring empathy.

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Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

Summary: Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he’s been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold.
His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she’s right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse.
There’s only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.
Why I love it: This is the story Rumpelstiltskin as you have never heard it before. It is funny but address serious issues of betrayal and bullying and making the right choice. A great imagitive tale.

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Holes by Louis Sachar

Summary: Accused of a crime he did not commit, Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to Camp Green Lake for rehabilitation. Almost immediately Stanley realizes digging a large hole each day is not just punishment. The Warden is looking for something special.

While digging Stanley thinks about his family's history. Through these flashbacks, two additional stories are told. These plots weave together to form a complex and wonderful novel. Will all the plots fit together? Will the Warden find what she is looking for?

Why I love it: Stanley is a character to root for and it is always more fun to root for someone in the company of others. The mystery is also more fun to solve as a team. Read it and then watch the movie as both are great!

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Summary: Nine year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution or the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country.
All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.
Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

Why I love it: A poignant tale but one so powerful. This book shares the story of WWII from the view point of an innocent Nazi child. This title provides the opportunity to discuss the horrible injustices done to the Jews during World War II, as well as the importance of religious freedom.

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Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Summary: For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world.  Enchanting?  Absolutely! Exciting? You bet.  Safe?  Well, actually, quite the opposite . . .
Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven.  Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies.  However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives.  To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.

Why I love it: This is a fantastic fantasy series sure to appeal to Harry Potter fans. It is unpredictable and wonderfully imaginative. The reader is quickly drawn into the world of Fablehaven.

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 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Summary: The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar. Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends, and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship-and forgiveness-can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.

Why I love it: This is just a sweet story about a tween girl finding herself in the midst of family dishevel. It just feels authentic and is one that my children will remember long into the future.

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 The BFG by Roald Dahl
Summary: "Well, first of all," said the BFG, "human beans is not really believing in giants, is they? Human beans is not thinking we exist." Sophie discovers that giants not only exist, but that there are a great many of them who like to guzzle and swallomp nice little chiddlers. But not the Big Friendly Giant. He and Sophie cook up an ingenious plot to free the world of troggle-humping — forever.
The BFG — Big Friendly Giant — is no ordinary bone-crushing giant: he is far too nice. How he and his tiny friend, Sophie, conspire to put an end to the loathsome activities of the other Giants is marvelously told by a writer and an artist who "are uncanny in their understanding of what children like to read and see".

Why I love it: I adore the Big Friendly Giant. He is just a good guy. Read the summary aloud and you'll discover on your own why this one is so fun to read aloud. It will be sure to win you laughs galore!

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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Summary: Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behavior through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

Why I love it: An imaginative classic with a great message. Everyone should read this one at least once. So why not share it with your children?

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Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Summary: How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?        
At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift—the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse—once and for all.

Why I love it: A strong female protagonist stops at nothing to overcome obstacles leading to her happiness. Plus this is such a fun tale and the book is so much better than the movie.

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Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Summary: This is quite possibly the most exciting adventure ever to be written about milk since Tolstoy's epic novel War and Milk. Also it has aliens, pirates, dinosaurs and wumpires in it (but not the handsome, misunderstood kind), also a never-adequately-explained-bowl-of-piranhas, not to mention a Volcano God.

Why I love it: Seriously one clever book. You never know where the next page will take you, making reading aloud oh-so-fun!!

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