This year was an … interesting … year for reading aloud. We read a lot, but it wasn’t as deliberate as usual. I was just grabbing things as they struck me, or reading things as children asked. There was no real rhyme, reason, or plan. Sometimes, this serendipitous approach is absolutely magical, as if God reached down and blessed us extra through completely unexpected titles. But this year I felt a little blah by the end … which is funny because I was trying to give it some oomph for my oldest’s senior year.
I am, however, undaunted. It wasn’t that we didn’t read any good books, it’s just that most of the great ones were clustered in the first half of the year, and some things ended up missing because I forgot about them. I still have the second half of senior year to hit some greats. In all, 2019 was fine but 2020 should be better.
I have continued with three read alouds at a time this year. The first is for me to read when I have all my children together. The second is for all my children and my husband. We usually only do that on the weekends and his Fridays off. The third is one I read to my youngest when the other three are at youth group. (Actually, the first half of the year it was my younger two, but as the year went on, Daughter Q. became old enough to join the youth group as well.) This has worked well and made it possible for me to continue reading aloud without leaving someone invested in a book behind.
Alas, I thought we had finished 27 titles, which would be a tie with for a record year, but I miscounted and it’s only 25. Oh well. That’s still a few more than our average. On to the list!
:: Two from the Little Britches Series ::
Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody
Probably the most well known in the series, this is where it all starts. It’s such a good book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it aloud when my oldest was little. I realized that my younger two had no clue about the early books in the series, so it was time for round two. I’m so glad we did this!
If you’re going to read it, though, be prepared for the heartbreak. I can’t read it aloud without crying, much to my children’s amusement.
Man of the Family by Ralph Moody
These books have a real Little House on the Prairie feel, but touched by more entrepreneurship. My youngest definitely has the entrepreneurial spirit, so these books were particularly inspiring for him. It can be frustrating for some kids, though, that so much of what happens in the books is forbidden to children these days. How sad it is that in the name of safety we deny them so many wonderful experiences! Thankfully, books give them access in their imaginations.
Finishing the LOTR Series
The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien
We still had this book to finish up in January 2019, which is how it made the list. This was my third or fourth time reading the series aloud and I love them more each time I do it.
If you haven’t read Tolkien … you just should.
Super History Book!
1493: From Columbus’s Voyage to Globalization for Young People by Charles C. Mann
Read alouds don’t have to be fiction. And when you read nonfiction aloud, you don’t have to turn it into a school lesson. Sometimes, reading nonfiction aloud in the right way — meaning in a pleasant, no-pressure sort of way — can woo the dubious and cranky among your listeners.
This book was added to one of the AO years, but I use an older version, so I put it into my read aloud stack. It worked well!
Finishing up The Chronicles of Narnia
We were only about halfway through CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia last year, so we finished up at about the pace of one per month. It’s always hard to decide whether to read aloud new-to-us books, or reread old favorites. I’m always trying to find the balance. So far, I have never regretted rereading Lewis or Tolkien.
Discovering Jonathan Auxier
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
This the first of a two-book series (Sophie Quire below being the second). It’s … not my favorite. I don’t know what it is exactly — I didn’t really take to Peter, his adventures, or his eyes. But the thing is, in order to really understand Sophie Quire you have to read Peter Nimble … and Sophie Quire is fabulous.
My children liked Peter more than I did, but they agreed this is their least favorite Auxier title.
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier
Oh, how I fell in love with this book! I said much about it already, so I won’t repeat myself. We read four Auxier titles (as you can see) and this one was my favorite. Auxier has obviously thought a lot about the power of story … and it shows.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
One of my children requested “a scary book.” This book turned out to be more creepy than outright scary, but we relished it nonetheless. Just as in Sophie Quire, Auxier revealed his deep understanding of story, in The Night Gardener he proved he understood human passions and sin. It was an incredible read. It definitely serves as a metaphor for temptation and fallout from giving in.
I wrote quite a bit about it here, if you’d like to hear more.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier
Like all this books, this was beautiful and unique. With Auxier, you don’t feel like you’re reading the same old plot line — he has a truly original mind. I love his writing. This story had me in tears a couple times; it was very moving. Definitely worth your time.
The (Almost) Complete Mysterious Benedict Society
I say “almost” because another one came out recently. One of my sons received it for Christmas, but we haven’t read it aloud yet.
Trenton Lee Stewart writes about genius children solving crimes and saving the world. He’s far from classic literature, but he’s great fun. My one complaint is that, except for The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (which is a prequel to the series and my favorite one — the writing is much better and it has more ideas to take away — I guess I’d call it richer than the others), he takes forever on what feels like an introduction. It feels like an eternity until the action really gets going, or you even know what the plot is about. The patience pays off, though, and my kids love these books.
Sometimes, Chesterton is Bizarre
The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton
This one was … weird. Good, but weird. I chose it because I thought my husband and teens would enjoy it. While they did, I’m not sure any of us fully understood it. This was one of those selections where it would have gone much better if I’d read it on my own first before attempting to read it aloud.
It’s worth reading. Chesterton is always quotable, you know.
Everyone Needs a Fairy Tale Now and Then!
Straw into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt
Well written and fun, this was an absolute delight for all of us. I love fairy tales, but I’m always on my guard with retellings. This is an epic retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and it is wonderful.
The Rwendigo Tales
I bought this series for myself for my birthday. I had heard of it and badly wanted to read it to my children. I’m glad I did. It was quite good. It needed a better editor — I found a number of typos and formatting errors along the way — but overall the tales were well-written. Because the setting was African, it gave my children a few things to think about they hadn’t considered before, which was part of my intent in choosing them.
Our First Austen!
Emma by Jane Austen
Oh, I’ve waited my whole life for my children to all be ready for Austen. Admittedly, it was stretching it for my youngest, but I’d still call it a dream come true. When I heard one of my daughters tell someone “If you don’t like Emma, there is something wrong with you!” I felt like my work here is done, you know?
I’m glad we read it — we’ll probably read another Austen this spring. But I’m also glad I waited until they were mostly old enough to appreciate it.
We Read a Few Christmas Works
The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann
We wanted to love this book, but it gets a meh from all of us. We’d only seen the ballet; never read it. It was just okay. In many places, it was strange, disconnected, and hard to follow. Perhaps the problem was the translator; I’m not sure. If you happen to have a version of the (real) Nutcracker that you adore, I’d be interested. I bought this one because I liked the cover. Admittedly, this is not the best way to seek out translated works!
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Still my second favorite Christmas book! This was a re-read aloud and soooo good. I love that it’s funny in a way that causes us to laugh out loud even when we’ve heard it before.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I think this was our tenth time reading this aloud! If I recall correctly, we started this every Christmas break when my oldest was in second grade … and now he’s in twelfth. I see something new to appreciate with each reading, and it’s become a delightful annual tradition.
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