In previous blogs, I identified books I thought would appeal to girls and books I thought would appeal to boys. I read those books aloud to our four children (two boys and two girls), and they all enjoyed them. My wife was along for the ride, and she’ll back me up. Perhaps your wife and children will enjoy them as much as we did, too.
The Chronicles of Prydain
Lloyd Alexander wrote 5 books (well, actually 5 1/2) in the Prydain series. It follows the life of Taran of Caer Dallben, Assistant Pig-keeper to the oracular pig, Hen Wen. It begins with The Book of Three, and continues with The Black Cauldron (made into an insipid Disney movie not nearly as well done as the book), The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King. Two of these books were Newbery winners, and all five of them should have been. Peopled with a wide array of enchanters, heroes, villains, and those who aren’t certain what they are, this series is based on Welsh legends and is perfect for reading aloud. At times hilarious, at times gripping, and both sorrowful and uplifting in the end, this is perhaps one of the best series for children I (and my family) have ever read.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Jean Lee Latham won the 1956 Newbery Medal. Back then, the Newbery Medal meant something. In the 21st Century, schools inflict “relevant” Newbery books rife with social injustice and modern situations. The children in these books stay children, but are always somehow wiser than the adults around them. Ms. Lantham’s biography of Nathaniel Bowditch follows him through his childhood to late adulthood. My children were riveted, and if they were learning moral lessons (and they were) they never noticed. Nathaniel Bowditch was a mathematical and linguistic genius all but forgotten today except for this superbly written and eminently readable book.
The Tripods Trilogy
The three books in John Christoper’s “Tripods Trilogy”, The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire follow Will Parker and his friends, Beanpole and Henry, in a world that has been completely subdued by alien invaders. Written long before the flurry of Independence Day and Star Trek alien invasions, this series is well-written, inventive, and actually paints the alien invaders with a degree of humanity completely lacking in more adult fare.
Robert Newton Peck’s fictionalized reminiscences of his boyhood are nothing short of hilarious, though, to be honest, some are better than others. Our favorites were Soup, Soup’s Goat, Soup’s Uncle, Soup on Fire, and Soup for President. Watch out for Janice Riker!
I Want to Go Home
I suggested Gordon Korman’s “MacDonald Hall” series in my earlier blog of books for boys. But why stop there? He’s written many uproarious books for children that are ideal for reading aloud. In fact, this is one of the two books that our family insisted had to return for an encore. I Want to Go Home is set in Camp Algonkian, and Rudy Miller wants nothing more than to go home. With his reluctant accomplice and bunk-mate, Mike Webster, he attempts to flee back to civilization — several times — but is always nabbed before he can escape. And yet, somewhere in the woods, a beaver is doing what beaver’s do best, and camp will never be the same.
Losing Joe’s Place
All of Gordan Korman’s books are full of three-dimensional, interesting, and sometimes eccentric characters, but this one must top them all. Jason and his two best friends manage to talk their parents into letting them sublet his brother, Joe’s, apartment in the big city of Toronto for the summer. Joe only gives Jason one rule: he doesn’t care what the boys do while living in his apartment. They can throw parties. They can leave dishes piled in the sink. They can eat cake in their beds. But they are NOT supposed to lose the lease on his apartment.
As one of the characters says, “They had bad luck!”
But if you read these books aloud, you won’t! (Make sure you make all the different voices.)