When the boys were in early elementary school, by far the most fun way to volunteer at school was to be a mystery reader. The teacher and parent made super-secret plans, far in advance, for the parent to show up midday, books in hand, to read to the class. The kids loved it (especially the mystery reader’s kids). And I’m a total ham, so I loved it too. Of course, when reading to 25 plus kids at once, you need to pick the right books. By which I mean, they have to read very well aloud, they have to have pictures that work even from a good ways away, they can’t be too long, and they HAVE to be funny. A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee was one of my mystery reader books (I’ve made a tag linking to most of the others below, there was one more that will be my next entry) because it easily checked all the boxes. Mr. Magee, and his little dog Dee, go camping in their (adorable!) teardrop camper trailer and havoc quickly ensues. This is one of Chris Van Dusen’s best books, which is extremely high praise (you’ll notice his If I Built a Car was also a mystery reader selection). The other Magee books (Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee and Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee) are also great fun.
Author: Chris Van Dusen Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen
Posted onFebruary 2, 2016|Comments Off on Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
I was about to read this sweet story tonight when my oldest asked to read it to us (a first!). He did so with incredible fluidity and expressiveness and I’m so very, very surprised and delighted.
Although we haven’t read it very often, both of my boys really enjoy this book, which winds down a busy day of work and play by saying goodnight to big trucks one by one. My youngest noted of the picture above that the crane truck has a teddy bear to cuddle, a star for if he wakes up in the night, and that he looks very happy. Me too.
Author: Sherri Duskey
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
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Scaredy Squirrel insists that
everyone wash their hands
with antibacterial soap before
reading this book.
Scaredy Squirrel, true to his name, is afraid of just about everything. He has an emergency kit on hand at all times, plans for emergencies, and never leaves his nut tree until one fateful day… Well, I don’t want to spoil the fun (and there is lots of fun to be had).
Like One Kitten for Kim, this is a great book to read with early readers and non-readers, due to the humor and repeated rebuses (pictures that take the place of words). Be ready to read it repeatedly.
The narrator of this bittersweet story (a special favorite of my youngest) really, really wants a pet, but her mother keeps saying no.
I asked her every day for a month, until she finally said,
“You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need
to be walked or bathed or fed.”
I made her promise.
Then (with the help of the school librarian) she finds a pet that actually fits the criteria: a sloth. When he arrives, she finds the reality of “Sparky” doesn’t conform at all with what she thought having a pet would be like.
While kids seem to focus on humorous aspects of the situation, adults will notice there is a lot going on here about what happens when expectations don’t match up with reality. Come for the laughter; stay for the loss, grief, and love (or is it the other way around?).
This book used to be very popular and (rather amazingly) survived the boys’ toddler years without significant damage. There are some cute bouncy rhymes, but the big attraction were the sturdy interactive features: textures, scratch-and-sniff skunk, pull tabs, flaps, and lots of fur.
Author: Matthew Van Fleet
Illustrator: Matthew Van Fleet
Where and what can a home be? Some of Ms. Ellis’ answers are conventional (for example, a nest), others are pure fantasy (see the picture above). Her drawings are deceptively-simple and peaceful–perfect for before bed. But what gives the boys the most pleasure is that every double-page spread in this book contains a dove. Sometimes the dove is easy to spot. Sometimes it is very well hidden. The boys always love finding it.
A little dragon is very excited about his favorite bedtime story. So excited that whenever his sleepy mama finishes it he has the same request: “Again!” When she finally falls asleep, things get surprisingly… heated.
The boys love yelling along with the little dragon (to the point where my husband came racing in recently wondering what was wrong). Channeling the dragon mother’s renditions of the ever-evolving (and shrinking) bedtime story is lots of fun, and there is a physical (die-cut) surprise at the end of the book that never fails to amuse us all.
This book purports to be written by a pigeon. And it is about architecture. (Let us accept from the beginning that it is deeply odd.) It is also jam packed with real information; while my oldest has read most (all?) of it, I have not read very much of it aloud. Instead, I’ve focused on the names of the buildings (human and pigeon) and the eye-catching pictures, which had the unexpected result of my youngest (already a huge pigeon fan) becoming sure he spoke fluent pigeon. About six months ago, he frequently approached pigeons asking them excitedly if the were going to see the Great Worm (also known as the Great Wall of China) and was very disappointed when they flew away without responding.
Author: Speck Lee Tailfeather (aided by Stella “Pigeon Whisperer” Gurney)
Illustrator: Natsko Seki
Posted onAugust 20, 2015|Comments Off on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is another book that needs no introduction and is utterly wonderful. Though there are many hints of the darkness to come (gulp), the tone is largely playful and the story and setting are as imaginative as ever. And it is here that Ms. Rowling, through Dumbledore, quietly states a message that goes to the heart of the series: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
About a year and a half ago, after we enjoyed reading the first book in this series together, I read half of this second book to my oldest before he lost interest. Now a number of his friends are reading the series and he decided to give it another try. He raced through the rest of the book (mostly by himself) in a matter of days and then hopped straight into the third and fourth books in the series (more on them to follow).
Author: J.K. Rowling
Illustrator: Mary Grandpre
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