Read Aloud Thursday

If it’s the last Thursday of the month then it’s time for Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Check it out. This week Amy has a lot of great early readers and picture books to share.

Part of our “read-aloud” culture is audiobooks. We almost always have a current audiobook going in the car. In the past few years we’ve enjoyed listening to several series in full. The current series we are totally absorbed by is Maryrose Wood’s  The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place6609748We’ve  loved the first four in the series and finally got the fifth installation from the holds list at the library.

The plot is fairly typical of a middle grade mystery/adventure. The Victorian setting is unusual but the basic plot-line of mysterious orphans in some kind of vague danger will be familiar to readers of other juvenile stories. Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females goes to work as a governess at Ashton Place. Her three young charges are unusual: they were raised by wolves. As the books progress the mystery of just how the Incorrigibles ended up in the forest intertwines with other mysteries: What is the howling coming from the attic, Why is Lord Ashton so obsessed with his Almanac, How did Penelope end up at the Swanburne Academy as a young girl and most importantly, Exactly what is in the hair tonic that the Swanburne headmistress insists that Miss Lumley use?

However, although the plot is somewhat unexceptional, there is much about this series that is truly exceptional. The characters are quirky but never snarky. There are frequent asides about topics as varied as synonyms and ferns and the dodo. Like the best Victorian literature, the reader is often addressed directly. There are running gags (like the fact that Miss Lumley or the children often imagine a modern invention like the phone or airplane but then are too busy to pursue actually inventing it.) The Incorrigibles themselves are model students if you are a teacher who wants students who are energetic, creative, and eager to learn. They may be distracted by squirrels but they are always ready for whatever lesson their beloved Miss Lumawoo has planned for them.

If you like slightly quirky books with a touch of mystery and a lot of sweetness underneath the off-beat humor, I highly recommend this series.


In which I eat some crow

Clementine, Friend of the Week: Clementine Series, Book 4

Recently I posted a review of Clementine by Sara Pennypacker that was less than glowing. I decided to give the popular heroine a second chance, partially because so many people seem to love these books and partially because I was looking for some audiobook possibilities. We pretty much always have an audiobook going in the car. John loves listening to stories. David, on the other hand, is only recently becoming amenable to stories. Typically as soon as we get in the car John asks for a story and David yells NO! and asks for music and they argue. I think part of this is that David likes to choose whatever John doesn’t like, it’s his way of asserting his own personality as the middle child. Or it’s just fun to annoy his brother. And part of it is that the stories that John enjoys are often ones that are hard for David to follow.

A few months ago we gave Ramona a try in the car and David loved it. So we worked our way through many of the Ramona books and the Henry Huggins books and moved on to Judy Blume and Fudge. It seemed like a good time to give Clementine another try.

This time, I really enjoyed the story. I think the main reason is that the narrator, Jessica Almasy, is fabulous. She makes Clementine seem more real and less annoyingly cutesy. A lot of the things that bugged me when reading the story in Clementine’s voice disappeared when listening to it in the voice Jessica gave Clementine. And most importantly, both boys liked it.

I still stand by my preference for Ramona but I think we will definitely check out more of the Clementine books, just in the audiobook version.