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.
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Don't forget to look for themed picture book lists in the BOOK LIST INDEX!
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 is 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.
A Dragon Used to Live Here by Annette LeBlanc Cate. This is a great book for kids who love fairy tales, knights and dragons and for grown-ups who enjoy witty writing and metafictional banter. One day, while at archery practice, Thomas and Emily wander into a castle basement, where they meet a cranky scribe named Meg. Meg is supervising the production of party invitations and quickly puts the two noble siblings to work. While Thomas and Emily write, Meg regales them with maybe-true stories of their mother and her encounters with dragons and other creatures. Lots of clever fun.
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.
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 friend 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.
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.
The Sheep, the Rooster and the Duck by Matt Phelan. Young children will love this quirky historical fantasy that includes anthropomorphized animals alongside recognizable figures like Benjamin Franklin and Marie Antoinette. The action is set in 1783 after the launching of the first hot air balloon and the three animals who flew in the balloon continue their careers as spies. The story is great fun, with lots of adventure and humor. Some of the action is conveyed through Phelan's trademark graphite cartoon panels and the novel is short enough to please everyone.
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 Appleblossom 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.
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.
Wedgie and Gizmo (series) by Suzanne Selfors. I had great fun drawing upon my silly voices superpower when reading this hilarious book aloud to my son! The narrative voice alternates between Gizmo, the self-proclaimed evil genius guinea pig, and Wedgie the rather dim-witted corgi who become part of the same household when their families merge. Selfors absolutely nails the personalities of the two creatures and your children will be rolling on the floor in tears of laughter. You'll never be able to say the phrase, "furry potato," with a straight face again. Bonus, this is a series, and when they come across a funny book series, kids keep reading! I also recommend the audiobook!
Family Read Alouds age 7 and up
The Real Thief by William Steig is an 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.
The Legend of the Dream Giants by Dustin Hansen. This dream of a book has the lyrical appeal of a folktale and the timeless draw of a coming of age story. Berg the boy giant is lonely in a world where humans fear him and believe him to be the legendary giant, Ünhold. He wants nothing more than to find friendship, be part of a community and feel safe. In one city, he meets Anya, a girl who is surprisingly unafraid of him, bringing Berg feelings of joy. The town enlists Berg to guard the city walls at night, but Berg's trust may be misplaced and he must figure out who is offering true friendship. Interwoven with Berg's story are illustrations which bring to life his dreams of bears, wolves and fallen stars. This story tugs at the heartstrings; readers and listeners will want to discuss Berg's eye-opening path to self-acceptance. Remarkable.
Oskar and the Things by Andrus Kivirähk, illustrated by Anne Pikkov; translated from Estonian by Adam Cullen. I adored this book, and while it may be hard to find at libraries and bookstores in the US, it is absolutely worth hunting down a copy. When his parents go out of town, Oskar stays with his grandmother in the countryside. When he realizes he has forgotten to bring his phone with him he thinks there will be nothing to keep him entertained. However, when he picks up a wooden block and pretends it is a phone, he discovers that he can have conversations with inanimate objects like teacups and shovels. The objects begin to ask Oskar for help solving their problems. This book is full of joy and imagination. Your whole family will love it.
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, another excelled read aloud choice!) 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!
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.
The Seven Tales of Trinket by Shelley Moore Thomas. I have been waiting for the perfect list to share this book with you! It is your next favorite read aloud. After the death of her mother and with the company of Thomas the Pig Boy, eleven year old Trinket sets out to find her father, a wandering bard. Trinket has her own gift for storytelling and on her journey she encounters strange and wonderful personalities, some are creatures drawn from Celtic mythology and folklore, like the selkie, banshee and the pooka. Absolutely splendid! (Note: Some of the characters may seem scary to sensitive kids.)
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.
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.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (1995). Curtis' book is a tender and very funny portrait of a loving African-American family living in Flint, Michigan. Young Kenny’s parents decide to drive the family down to Birmingham where older brother Byron will spend the summer with grandma in an attempt to correct his delinquent behavior. Most of the action takes place before the family gets to Birmingham and despite the serious undercurrents of the story, there are many moments of this book which are laugh-out-loud funny. Highly recommended and very enjoyable.
Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld. 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 Called 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.
The Remarkable Rescue at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos. Generation of bunnies have handed down stories and teachings about survival and now it's time for Butternut and her nine siblings to live by those life lessons. Butternut befriends Piper, an robin with a penchant for alliteration, and starts to question her family's stories. The two meet an injured fawn, a pushy blue jay and set out to cooperate on a rescue. I love the details about the natural world and the charming personalities of the anthropomorphized animals
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 and the Starcatchers by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson. My son's 5th grade teacher started reading this aloud to the class and we finished it up at home after school let out. It is a prequel to Peter Pan, although the world building is not meant to be exactly aligned with Barrie's original. Orphaned boys, pirates, treasure, an isolated island and a ship called Never Land set the scene for how Peter became Pan. There is some intense action and so I recommend it as a read aloud for older kids, at least ages 10 and up.
The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams by Daniel Nayeri. What a story! When you want something extraordinary to read aloud to your 12-year-old turn to Nayeri's marvelous tale. The heart-pounding opening means no one will be able to stop reading the story of young Monkey and his journey with Samir, the "Seller of Dreams," or what we might call, a "con artist." The pair travel along the Silk Road, encountering fascinating characters and extricating themselves from scrapes, sometimes of their own making. Splendid! This is also a book teens and adults will enjoy listening to!
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.
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller. Lily, her brother, and mother move in with her Korean grandmother. Halmoni (her grandmother) used to tell her bedtime stories based on Korean folklore and now Lily is seeing a magical tiger like the one her grandmother told her about. Halmoni tells Lily that the tiger wants something that she once stole, stories as stars which she put in jars. Halmoni is in poor health and Lily contemplates making a bargain with the tiger so her grandmother can heal. Marvelous and magical.
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.
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.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. While listening to this, my son was alternating between gasping and laughing. Salvador Vidón is the new kid, but is also an unusual kid because he is able to open portals into alternate universes with his mind. He meets Gabi Reál who is a bit suspicious of his explanation about the mysterious things that happen when he is around. This is a really fun book, with lots of fast-paced action and crazy humor. Highly recommended!