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.


Read Aloud Thursday: Owls in the Family

I had forgotten about this very funny book that John and I read a few years ago until our recent study of owls for kindergarten reminded me. Farley Mowat is apparently a well-known and somewhat controversial naturalist and Canadian conservationist. I say “apparently” because I hadn’t heard of him before reading this book. This slim autobiographical account of his Depression era childhood on the Canadian prairie was first published in 1961. It tells the tale of Billy, a young boy who decides he wants to add an owl to his collection of pets (including gophers, mice, dogs, and birds). Eventually, two owls, Wol and Weeps, become part of his menagerie and the book details the various adventures Billy, his friends and the owls have. Mowat’s voice is funny and convincing as an eleven year old boy.

With both boys, I have begun reading chapter books to them at about 3 years old. At first, we don’t always read a whole chapter. It takes a special kind of book to bridge this time between reading only picture books and reading more complex chapter books. I like books that have reasonably short chapters but that aren’t Magic Treehouse (I actually like Magic Treehouse a lot, just not for reading aloud.) For David, it will ideally be about animals or be funny, bonus points if it’s both. Owls in the Family is just about perfect for our purposes.

There isn’t a super long list of these kinds of books but here are some I’ve enjoyed with my boys at this stage of chapter books.

My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea by Wendy Orr
Soup by Robert Newton Peck
The Fairmont Avenue books by Tomie dePaola
Babe by Dick King-Smith
The Story of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting
the Humphrey the hamster series by Betty Birney
any of the Ramona or Henry Huggins books by Beverly Cleary
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (this is more complex, but it’s such a perfect book it’s been the first chapter book I’ve read to both boys)

What books have you enjoyed as first chapter books? I’d love to find some new ones for us to try.

Even though I’m late this week, be sure to stop by Hope is the Word for more Read Aloud Thursday.