What’s the easiest way to spend time with your family when you have had a long day, the kids might be a little whiny and you can’t get outside to blow off steam?
You knew I was going to say that didn’t you?
This list of fantastic books are what I consider essential read aloud books that you won’t find on the popular “best read aloud book” lists out there. You’re on kid number 5 (or 2) and you’re really wanting to move past reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins again.
I’d like to point out that last week when I shared my list of must-read chapter books, I included books that also fall into the best read aloud books for kids category! I simply didn’t want to duplicate those books here, but please use both lists to find a book that is just right for your family.
Every time I have to include age ranges for books, I hem and haw about how to do it. Please understand that these ages are general guidelines. If a book is recommended for ages 4 and up, that does not mean it will not be throughly enjoyed by a 9 year old! Likewise, not every 4 year old is ready to sit through a chapter book. Publisher’s recommended ages are usually based on independent reading ages, and kids’ listening comprehension is higher than their reading comprehension skills. With that said, enjoy my list of not-your-usual top read aloud chapter books! (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Don’t forget to look for themed picture book lists in the BOOK LIST INDEX!
Book lists in this series:
- 51 picture books every child should read (also great read alouds!)
- 51 chapter books every child should read (also terrific read aloud books!)
Family Read Alouds Ages 4-6 and up
If your oldest child is under 6 years old I recommend you choose a book from my list of 50 chapter books for preschoolers, but if you have kids older than 4 but another child who is 4-6 then these may be books everyone can enjoy.
Teddy and Co. by Cynthia Voight, illustrated by Paola Zakimi. An absolutely adorable story about a group of toys who love to explore the world. I loved how Teddy was a bear always lost in his philosophical thoughts, and Umpah the elephant was a grand baker. When several new toys join the group, Mr. B the rabbit with a frilly collar, and a doll who wants to be a queen, it takes a bit of getting used to. This is one of those books that I actually think works better as a read aloud than an independent read and it struck me as a sort of modern Winnie-the-Pooh.
Missy Piggle Wiggle by Ann M. Martin with Annie Parnell, illustrated by Ben Hatke. This is one of our most recent read alouds. The original Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books are on almost every other read aloud list (including my funny chapter book list, among others) and you may be reticent to try this newest spin off. But it’s a very funny and worthy successor. Missy is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle niece with magical cures for every child.
The Not-Just-Anybody Family by Betsy Byars. Junior Blossom tries to fly and ends up in the hospital sharing a room with a strange kid, the family patriarch is in jail for spilling soda cans all over the road and two of the other Blossom siblings concoct a plan to rescue him. Meanwhile the mom is on the rodeo circuit! A super quirky family (an understatement) figures out funny and entertaining ways to cope with the unusual circumstances that come their way.
No Flying in the House by Betty Brock. Rediscover this classic book about Annabelle, a girl who is looked after by a small white dog named Gloria. Annabelle soon discovers she is part fairy and must decide if that is really what she wants. My son and I loved this old-fashioned fun.
Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard. My son’s teachers read this to the class and my 6 year old loved it so much he wanted me to read it at home. So of course I did! This charming story follows the adventures of a bat with a taste for junk food, a kind dog and a wise hermit crab as they try to save their friend Stumpy the Squirrel and her new babies.
Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. A novel written in verse may not be high on your read aloud agenda, but I encourage you to try this one. Three plot points: a boy who needs a dog, a dog who needs an owner and a neighbor who needs a friends come together in an extremely satisfying story. For me, the cadence of the free verse made this book easier to read aloud than prose. The story is heartfelt and engaging while still providing kids (and parents!) the opportunity to contemplate and discuss ideas like the importance of community and companionship.
McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Quentin Blake. These humorous tales can be read as stand alone stories so they are perfect for kids who may not have the attention span for longer novels, or who don’t like the idea of pausing the action at the end of a chapter. These quite hilarious tales feature McBroom and his 11 children, bamboozles, tricksters and lots of wit and wisdom.
The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth, illustrated by Louis Darling. A classic tale from the 1950s in which a chicken’s egg hatches to reveal a baby triceratops. Nate Twitchell names his new pet Uncle Beazley. Caring for Uncle Beazley is not without its ups and down. The dino can’t help but get into trouble until one day its time to take him to the National Museum in Washington, D.C. If you have a child who you think is ready to listen to chapter book and he or she loves dinosaurs, try this charming, funny book on for size.
Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Jim Madsen. This early chapter book is a collection of funny stories about a contemporary Seminole-Cherokee boy who wants to get his grandfather a pair of moccasins.
The Adventures of Nanny Piggins (series) by R. A. Spratt, US version illustrated by Dan Santat is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. This popular Australian import is a series about three siblings whose father is so frugal he hires a pig to take care of them. Nanny Piggins is no Mary Poppins, however. The enthusiastic circus pig thinks school is overrated, chocolate is a food group and takes the kids on “marvelous adventures.” This is a great book for kids (and adults) who enjoy Roald Dahl, and over-the-top, subversive humor and plain, good fun. If you prefer moral didacticism, move on.
8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos (series) by Vivian Vande Velde, illustrated by Steve Björkman is perhaps the book that elicited the most laughter in our house ever. The story begins when a dog chases a squirrel into a nearby elementary school. The squirrel runs from classroom to classroom leaving chaos in its wake. Each chapter is narrated in the first person by the various class pets that inhabit the classrooms. The pets range from hamsters to snakes to fish to birds and getting their different perspectives on the ruckus is extremely entertaining to say the least.
The Story of Diva and Flea is a delightfully charming new early chapter book by Mo Willems and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi. In Paris, the adventurous Flea convinces the intimidated Diva to take a trip around the city to explore the wonder of life outside on the streets. Then Diva assures Flea that inside an apartment isn’t so scary and the two friends embrace how much greater their world is now, for knowing each other.
Karlson on the Roof by Astrid Lindgren. Karlson is a funny little man with a propellor attached to his back and who lives in a house on a rooftop in Stockholm. When he flies through Eric’s window, the two become fast friends. Together they get into a bit of mischievous trouble — but all in good fun, of course.
Mean Margaret by Tor Seidler, illustrate by Jon Agee. We love Seidler’s books and this one qualifies as the funniest so far that we’ve read. A belligerent toddler gets lost in the forest and is adopted by a woodchuck couple. The are forced out of their den and live together in a cave with a bat and a few other furry fellows. Along the way, Margaret learns a thing or two about how to treat others.
Lady Lollipop by Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Jill Barton. A spoiled princess chooses a pig for her eighth birthday present. During the pig’s training the princess, herself gets a bit of a makeover. Also try the sequel, Clever Lollipop. These may be good for your young 3 year old.
Freddy the Detective (series) by Walter R. Brooks, illustrated by Kurt Wiese is a wonderful and funny classic book from 1932. I wish Freddy the Pig got more attention that he does because my sons loved this book. After reading Sherlock Holmes, Freddy decides to try his hand at barnyard sleuthing. After a bit of success (some of it hilariously accidental), some of the other animals realize that the jail is actually more cushy than the outdoors.
Wolf Story by William McCleery, illustrated by Warren Chappell. Five year old Michael wants his dad to tell him a story about a wolf, and a hen named Rainbow, but as five year olds will do, he keeps interrupting to instruct his dad on the story details. A humorous short novel which is great for reading aloud to younger kids.
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (series) by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. If you’ve read the famous Mercy Watson books, pick up the Deckawoo Drive books! So far, Leroy, Francine, and Baby Lincoln, supporting characters in Mercy Watson, get their own stories. Leroy gets his dreamed of horse; Francine, the award winning animal control specialist, comes face to face with the first animal who might actually elude her; and Baby Lincoln finally parts from her overbearing sister. Laugh out loud funny.
Toys Go Out (series) by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Über-talented author Emily Jenkins has a particular knack for transferring the emotions, anxieties and joys of childhood experiences and discoveries onto anthropomorphized toys. There is a lot of humor in the book, too, as the toys engage in gentle absurdities, such as when Lumphy intentionally dips himself in peanut butter so he can visit his friend the Washer in the basement, or when Plastic tries to discover just exactly what she is.
Appleblossom the Possum by Holly Goldberg Sloan, illustrated by Gary A. Rosen. A clever and charming tale of young possum siblings making their way in the world. The story turned out to be surprisingly funny, too! Mama Possum teaches her children about how performance is an integral part of life as a possum and they all practice their acting skills, which come in handy on many occasions. When Apple Blossom falls down a chimney and is adopted by a girl with a longing for an attentive pet, her brothers enlist the help of their wayward dad and dance-floor loving mom to rescue her. I adored all the theater references and loved how much my boys laughed throughout the story.
Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Pick up this book of short Jewish folktales that will be enjoyed by families of all religions. Chelm is a village of fools and the seven Elders are the most foolish of all. There are seven stories in all, each with a little lesson to be gleaned, but read them for the light-hearted humor and a few giggles.
Dominic by William Steig. I can’t sing the praises of this book enough. It has easily become one of our best read aloud chapter books of 2015 . My 6 year old adored it. It was such a good read aloud that we finished it in one day! (We are very dedicated readers.) I am embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even realize Steig wrote chapter books. Dominic is a dog who sets out for adventure. Along the way he meets the Doomsday Gang, a band of ne’er-do-wells who are spreading havoc among the local population. Dominic easily foils the greedy gang and earns everyone’s awe and respect. His kindness towards towards others earns him a reward, which he spreads around to the less fortunate as he continues on his journey. Dominic has such a positive attitude towards life, you and your kids can’t help but smile throughout the book.
Alvin Ho. (series) by Leonore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. I love Alvin Ho and cannot resist encouraging you (yet again) to pick up one of these books for your child. Alvin suffers from anxiety over many things and this leads him to become mute at school. Nevertheless, his family life, antics and tales of how he navigates “scary things” never fail to charm.
The Doll People (series) by Ann M. Martin, illustrated by Lauren Godwin. Even my 11 year old son loved listening to this on audiobook. Annabelle doll finds a diary belonging long lost Aunt Sarah and decides to investigate. Meanwhile, her 100 year old doll family learn to live with the new, modern FunCraft doll family.
Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones. This was a favorite of mine when I was a girl. With a few found objects Twig transforms her corner of Chicago into an imaginary, fairytale world. A little Elf, who comes out of a book shrinks her down to size so she can join the fairies… for a while. So sweet and charming it’s hard not to love this book. Lest you think it is only a read aloud book for girls, let me inform you that my son begged me to keep reading every time I tried to put it down.
Family Read Alouds age 7 and up
The Real Thief by William Steig is a intriguing and though-provoking story about truth and false accusations. It is a short book so you might be tempted to read it to younger kids, but the story of Gawain, a loyal guard of the royal treasury falsely accused of stealing will best be appreciated by a more sophisticated audience.
Hamster Princess (series) by Ursula Vernon. When Harriet Hamsterbone finds out she is destined to prick her finger and fall into a deep sleep at age 12, she decides she is invincible until then and goes on a series of adventures with her trusty quail friend, Mumfrey. Super giggle-worthy.
The Way to Stay in Destiny by Augusta Scattergood. Theo lives in a boarding house with his strict Vietnam vet uncle who doesn’t appreciate his musical talent. But Theo is a curious kid, and makes friends with the proprietor of the dancing school, who lets him play the piano and tries to solve a local mystery involving a famous baseball player.
The Toothpaste Millionaire. The practical side of math is highlighted when sixth-graders Rufus and Kate decide to invent a superior toothpaste, sell it and make their fortunes. First published 40 years ago, Jean Merrill’s book (she also wrote The Pushcart War) is still a highly entertaining celebration of the imaginative spirit. After reading this book, don’t be surprised to see your kid start up a new entrepreneurial endeavor using his or her math skills!l
The Cat Who Came in off the Roof by Annie M.G. Schmidt, translated by David Colmer. First published in the Netherlands in 1970, this is a charming story of a shy reporter who befriends a cat-turned-human who helps him advance his journalistic career.
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney, illustrated by Matt Phalen. In the 1920s rural midwest, Eben is obsessed with visiting the seven wonders of the world and doesn’t believe his father who tells him there are wonderful things to be seen right in Sassafras Springs. But then Pa challenges Eben to find seven local wonders and offers up the prize of a trip to the mountains if he can do so.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. Three children set out on a journey through a magical land to find the shy and secretive Whangdoodle. If your child loves books about mythical places like Oz or Wonderland or even Hogwarts, this book will be a welcome read aloud.
Operation Bunny: Book One (Wings & Co.) by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts. The Dashwoods adopted Emily when she was abandoned in a hatbox, but when they have triplets of their own, they begin to treat Emily as the servant. Her life takes a decided turn after meeting her neighbor and a giant talking cat named Fidget. Unfortunately the neighbor, Miss String meets a sad end and it is up to Emily, the new Keeper of the Keys, and several new fairy friends to solve the mystery and track down an mischievous witch. There is a murder early on in the book, so that might affect your decision to read this book aloud.
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke, translated by Anthea Bell. I meant to put this on my list of strong princess chapter books but forgot. I need to get a better system because I often realize that I forget to share some of our favorite books with you. Igraine comes from a family of magicians, but she would much rather be a knight! In fact, she is so bad at magic, she accidentally turns her family into pigs on her birthday. Unfortunately, it coincides with the arrival of Osmund the Greedy who wants to capture the castle and steal the family’s magic books. Igraine must find the ingredients for a reversal spell and hold off Osmund at the same time.
The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepúlveda, translated by Margaret Sayers, illustrated by Chris Sheban. I read this book to both my boys (ages 7 and 11) at dinner and the story charmed us. A injured bird wants to save her progeny so she lands on a balcony and extracts a promise from Zorba, the resident cat, to look after her egg. The cat, unsure how to care for the egg consults the several of his neighborhood cat friends to help him. The menagerie of colorful characters take their research and duties seriously and together they keep the egg safe, raise the tiny hatchling and somehow manage to teach it how to fly. Wonderful.
Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants is inspired by Norse Mythology. (Is there anything more perfect for a winter read than that?) In ancient Norway a boy named Odd is in the middle of a spell of bad luck. In the forest, he meets a bear, a fox and an eagle who tell him a strange story that sends him on a journey to save the city of the gods from the Frost Giants. Sound winter-y enough for you? I thought so. It’s really quite delightful and will make a fun read aloud while sipping a mug of hot cocoa. I’m told it’s a great choice for fans of Percy Jackson, though I have yet to read that bestselling series. Illustrated by Chris Riddell.
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. 11 year old Turtle moves in with her extended family in this lovely gem of a book set in 1930s Florida Keys. Turtle’s time running around the neighborhood, meeting new people and having pirate adventures with her boy cousins make for a charming and funny story with old-fashioned overtones. The companion book, Full of Beans, is also very funny.
Bud, Not Buddy. Christopher Paul Curtis has fast become one of my favorite middle grade authors. I’ve expressed my devotion to his book, The Watsons go to Birmingham several times and it’s time to recommend another Curtis novel. 10 year old Buddy runs away from a series of unpleasant foster homes and sets out to find his father, whom he believes to be a jazz musician. Set in the depression, Curtis’ writing is filled with humor as well as serious truths. Ultimately, it’s an optimistic book, full of laughs and one cannot help but fall in love with Buddy.
Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot (series) was one of our best read aloud novels of 2015. When I read this to my 6 year old we could not stop laughing! I quite enjoyed creating silly voices for all of Sarah Courtauld’s ridiculous and charming characters. Hard-working, practical Eliza and her dreamy, prince poster-collecting sister Gertrude are total opposites. When Gertrude goes off one day to find a prince and instead gets captured, her sister heads out to rescue her.
Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston is hard to resist reading out loud with crazy, crazy voices! Weston’s novels are written in lively, creative verse. The fast-paced, clever, rhyming story follows Katrina Katrell, who runs away from her evil guardian, and alights on an adventure with a strange creature called a Zorgle from Zorgamazoo. A complicated mystery, with bizarre and hilarious characters follow. Winner of the 2009 E.B White Read Aloud Award. I read this to my then-5 year old and 9 year old.
The Rescuers by Margery Sharp, illustrated by Garth Williams. Seen the movie? No? Yes? Well, read the book. The book was out of print for many years, but was re-issued a few years ago. Adventure, tiny animals, a Norwegian poet in danger, what more could you need?
The Water Horse. I read a lot of Dick King-Smith’s books when I first started reading chapter books to the kids. (Some of them are on my list of 50 chapter books to read to preschoolers.) Set in 1930’s Scotland a girl finds a strange egg on the beach and takes it home. She keeps it in her bathtub, where it hatches into a kelpie. The family raises it but when it gets too big they must release it into the loch
Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald. This 1952 book from the author of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the perfect recipe for an old-fashioned read aloud: two orphaned sisters, an unctuous boarding school mistress who feeds them hard oatmeal, a wealthy bachelor uncle, a Christmas setting and a feel-good ending in which the bad fail and the good triumph.
The Boy Named Christmas by Matt Haig, illustrated by Chris Mould. My son adored this book, very funny and charming with just the right amount of Dahl-esque humor. When Nikolas’ father doesn’t return from a journey at the expected time, Nikolas leaves his neglectful aunt and goes off in search of him. Along the way he meets a village of elves and his future is forever changed.
When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad. In early 20th century Denmark, an orphan girl meets her grandmother for the first time when she goes to live with her after the death of her mother. Inge Maria is a free spirit and even though trouble seems to follow her wherever she goes (hilarious trouble, to be sure) the townspeople and her grandmother can’t help but fall utterly in love with her. I thought Nannestad masterfully handled Inge Maria’s grief over her mother’s death, her joyous attitude towards new experiences, and her headstrong imagination. If you are a fan of Anne of Green Gables, you will love this book.
The Runaway Princess (series) by Kate Coombs. Princess Margaret does not want to be married off. Her parents have set up a contest in which they will bestow her hand to the hero who defeats a dragon, witch and band of bandits. “Meg” will have nothing to do with this so she escapes her tower and sets off to warn the impending victims, who are actually harmless. Be sure to pick up the sequel, The Runaway Dragon.
Thor’s Wedding Day: By Thialfi, the goat boy, as told to and translated by Bruce Coville by Bruce Coville, illustrated by Matthew Cogswell. I was not expecting to enjoy this book, but I liked it just as much as my 7 year old. A very funny take adaptation of a classic tale from Norse mythology.
Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr, illustrated by Marjorie Ann Watts and Jill Bennett. This NYRB edition collects all the Polly stories into one hilarious volume. We loved reading about all the ways clever Polly outwitted the wolf in his attempt to eat her.
Blue Mountain by Martine Leavitt. This is the story of Tuk, a bighorn sheep who has a vision of a blue mountain. When the valley where his tribe feeds in winter grows bare and domesticated sheep bring disease, Tuk decides to lead his fellow bighorn to the blue mountain. Some are doubtful of Tuk’s promise of success and stay behind, but the small group of travelers set out and traverse a path beset with predators and dangers. Tuk manages to outwit bears and wolves and lead his followers in his hero’s quest. When they arrive at the blue mountain, Tuk turns back to fetch the rest of the herd. With its poetical text and interesting characters, Blue Mountain is a great read aloud book.
How Tía Lola Came to (Visit) Stay demonstrates that it is possible for divorced families to be happy and loving, too. 10 year old Miguel, his sister Juanita and his mom have just moved from NYC to Vermont. His aunt Lola comes to visit from the Dominican Republic. Tía Lola’s dynamic and outgoing personality helps Miguel navigate his feelings about the divorce, his new status as the only Latino in his school class as well as adding humor, joy and adventure to his daily life. This is a series, so be sure to read the further adventures.
Firstborn by Tor Seidler, illustrated by Chris Sheban. I could easily put all of Seidler’s books on this list! Maggie the Magpie narrates the story of how she leaves her familiar home and meets a group of wolves. Maggie is impressed with the wolves and decides to cast her lot with them. Her description of the wolves’ behavior is fascinating, as well as her admiration for one the the firstborn wolves, Lamar, who exhibits non-wolf like interests. This is a truly wonderful book for kids who are interested in the natural world, but the story also abounds in examples of the harsh realities of the natural world. So if you don’t want to read about eating prey, premature death or the thrill of the hunt, this is not the book for you.
Al Capone Does My Shirts (series) by Gennifer Choldenko is just plain good fun. The year is 1935 and 12 year old Moose and his family move to Alcatraz after his father gets a job there. Moose’s older sister is autistic and their mother attempts to get her into a special school while Moose gets wrapped up with crazy money-making schemes dreamed up by the warden’s daughter. This is fast-paced, realistic fiction that has big heart and big humor.
Read Alouds ages 9 and up
The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long. I think mysteries make fantastic read aloud books as they keep kids on the edge of their seats. And when the mysteries are full of colorful characters, dastardly villians, intrepid maybe-maybe-not princesses and pickpocketing squirrels so much the better. Maggie, an orphan with a crooked leg, is horrified when her adopted guardian decides to marry her off to a wretched older man with terrible breath and so she decides to pursue a vision she saw in a magic mirror. Several journeys are woven together in the tale, with everyone converging at the end. Fortunately there is a fun map so that readers can follow each party as the travel towards their destination.
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. For ages 10 and up. There is some dark subject matter in this book but it is an incredibly suspenseful and action-packed read aloud for older kids. (On par with some of the darker imagery in the Harry Potter books). Christoper, an orphaned apprentice in 17th century London must solve a complex puzzle surrounding the murders of apothecaries. Despite the seriousness of the plot, the well-drawn characters provide some humor.
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. 10 year old Peter is a blind thief. One day he obtains a mysterious box filled with three sets of eyes. When he puts in the first pair, he is transported to a mysterious location and the adventure begins! Auxier is a superb storyteller and his ability to create a fully realized fantastical world is unmatched.
The Vengekeep Prophecies (trilogy) by Brian Farrey. Jaxter Grimjinx is the eldest son in a family of thieves. When a trick goes bad and magical misfortunate starts to rain down on the city, Jaxter sets off to find the ingredients to counteract the spell. This is a great book full of interesting characters, magical moments and lots of suspense.
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. In Holland, Lina and her friends wonder why there are no longer any storks in their village. They work together to build a nest for the birds on the school, and in doing so discover their individual and collective strengths. I remember loving it as a kid, for some reason I was expecting my kids to find it boring. Quite the contrary! Even my then-6 year old couldn’t wait to hear more.
Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur. In a land at war, the government is recruiting children to serve in the army. Mathilde does not want to go, but she takes the test anyway because her friend Megs wants to join as a way to help her family. But Mathilde’s unique intelligence gives her away and she is enlisted and finds herself solving puzzles in a far away mansion occupied by other special children. This book will give parents a thoughtful way to start a conversation about war from the viewpoint of a child.
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff flips “Rumplestiltskin” on its head. Instead of being the villain, Rump, as he is known has always felt like half a person because he doesn’t even know his full name! He and his grandma scrape by on the meager rations provided by the miller in exchange for the gold he finds in the mine. One day Rump discovers that he can spin straw into gold, but it turns out not to be the blessing that he thought it might be. He goes on a journey to find out who he is and how he can get control over his magic. Read the companion books, Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood and Jack, the True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
The Box of Delights by John Masefield, illustrated by Jane Masefield. This British classic is not well known on this side of the pond, which is a shame as it is one of the essential read aloud books for the holidays. I first shared the book on my classics from the 1940s book list and found it to be… well, a delight. Kay Harkin meets a strange man on a train. The man gives him a mysterious, magical box which has the ability to shrink people, allow them to time travel and even make them fly. Kay and his friends must protect the box from the villains who also want to do away with Christmas. Some people have complained about abridged versions floating around out there, but this NYCB version is not abridged. A delightful adventure.
The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi. One night Mateo witnesses two talking skunks steal his old trike. Mateo is determined to get to the bottom of things. Mateo, his sister and his new best friend team up to solve the mystery. Very funny (as you would expect with a book about talking skunks).
Fort by Cynthia DeFelice. Free-range friends, Wyatt and Augie, decide to build a fort in the woods one summer. Encouraged by family members who give them food, building supplies and more, they fashion a shelter that any kid would envy. A pair of bullies target Gerald, a mentally disabled boy, so Wyatt and Augie launch “Operation Doom.” This book has a lot of laughs, a great deal of compassion, and an extremely satisfying ending.
More lists with read aloud books children (and their parents) will love:
- 100 funny chapter books
- Spring read alouds
- Fall read alouds
- Our best read alouds of 2015
- Books for kids who love Roald Dahl
- Gentle Chapter Books to Read Aloud
Or, just check out all our chapter book recommendations.