The Treasury of Read-Alouds
by Jim Trelease © 2013
NOVELS (full) page 2 of 4
books represent a brief portion of the hundreds
in The-Read-Aloud Handbook.
Close to Famous
Twelve-year-old Foster McFee is lovable and determined, just like her mother. Which give you the feeling right from the get-go that things are going to work for the two of them. But not before there are some rough spots. First they have to start life over again in a new town, Culpepper, West Virginia, where they’re hiding out from Foster’s mother’s abusive boyfriend—an Elvis impersonator. Culpepper is struggling with the letdown from the promises that the new penitentiary would bring all kinds of jobs for the local folks. So the town is devoid of hope, which is frustrating to Foster who envisions herself as a TV chef. How do you build a career on a hopeless town? The same goes for her new friend Macon who has his eye set on becoming a film documentarian. And then things begin to fall into place as Foster starts a cupcake business through the local cafe. And true to form, the abusive boyfriend resurfaces, as do an assortment of bad guys, good guys, and as warm a collection of neighbors since Kate DiCamillo’s Winn Dixie. If you don’t bring in cupcakes while you’re reading this book, you’re missing a big opportunity. Also by the author: Hope Was Here; and Rules of the Road.
Twelve-year-old Jake has labored for a couple of years with a mostly losing baseball team but this year promises to be different. First, the team is loaded with experienced players, and second, Jake will be taking over at the coveted shortstop position. To make it even better, they’ve got a new kid named Adam who is the best player Jake and his teammates have ever seen. As expected, the team begins to win. The unexpected part is that Adam also plays shortstop, and pitches. Jake is suddenly playing in the shadow of a superstar, something he’s never had to deal with before. To complicate matters, Adam is just as nice as he is athletic. Other novels by the author: Throwing Heat; Hardcore Comeback; Soccer Team Upset; T. J.’s Secret Pitch; and Touchdown Trouble. Also by the author: No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .400 Season. Related baseball novels: Thank You, Jackie Robinson by Barbara Cohen; and Finding Buck McHenry by Alfred Slote..
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (series)
Harry is the
best thing to happen to children’s books since the
invention of the paperback! While the series’ plot is surely original,
it follows in the path of C. S. Lewis’s dual “Narnia” world,
George Lucas’s "Star Wars" struggles with the “dark
Dorothy’s search for the Wizard of Oz. It is also blessed with
an abundance of Roald Dahl’s cheeky childhood humor.
Harry is the
orphan child of two famous wizards who died mysteriously
as he was very young. Rescued at age eleven from abusive
relatives, he is sent to Hogwarts School (sorcery’s equivalent
of an elite boarding school), where he experiences high
adventure as he and his friends (boy and girl) struggle
with classes in potions, charms, and broom-flying, all the while battling
a furtive faculty member working for the dark side.
This is not an easy
read-aloud and the reader-aloud should be aware the first
two chapters of the first book are a bit complicated
as they set the scene for Harry’s
dual world. Definitely for experienced listeners. Actor
Jim Dale has done a masterful job of recording (unabridged)
all of the Potter books for Listening Library/Random House and an excellent
NPR interview with him can be heard online
Other books to date in the seven-volume series (in
order): Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets;
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Harry Potter
and the Goblet of Fire; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; and Harry
Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Younger fans of Harry will also
enjoy: Deltora Quest by
Emily Rodda; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis; Brian
Jacques' Redwall series,
beginning with Martin the Warrior ; older fans
may be ready for The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.
lone survivor of a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness,
this thirteen-year-old boy carries three things away
from the crash: a fierce spirit, the hatchet his mother
gave him as a gift, and the secret knowledge that his
mother was unfaithful to his father. All play an integral
part in this Newbery Honor survival story for experienced
listeners. Sequels: The
Return; and Brian's
Hunt. Having received abut 400 letters a
week with Hatchet-related queries, Paulsen's answered
them in one book: Guts!, the true-life events that inspired
For the 20th anniversary of the book, Paulsen's publisher
issued a special edition containing fascinating background
notes by the author on both the subject matter and
how he wrote it. To my knowledge, this is a first
in children's literature.
survival books: The
Cay and Ice
Drift, both by Theodore Taylor; The Island (series)
by Gordon Korman; Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo;
A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements; and Winter
Camp by Kirkpatrick Hill. Before there was Paulsen,
there was William O. Steele who wrote outstanding
outdoor historical novels, four of which have recently
been reprinted (with handsome new covers): Buffalo
Knife; Flaming Arrows; Perilous Road; and Winter
Danger. Other books by Paulsen include: The Foxman (a
precursor to his later Harris and Me); Mr.
The Rifle; Soldier’s
Heart; The Tent; and a survival-at-sea novel, The
Voyage of the Frog .
Paulsen also has written a memoir for children
of his relationships with dogs, My Life in Dog Years. A Paulsen
profile is also available at www.trelease-on-reading.com/paulsen.html.
Too often, when a
children’s book captures a large number of prizes
from adult committees (this book won the 1999 Newbery
Medal, National Book Award, and The Horn Book Award),
it turns out to be inaccessible to most children. Not
so here! Holes is an adventure tale, a mystery, fantasy,
and quest book. An important ingredient is Sachar’s wit.
Set in a juvenile detention station on the Texas desert,
it traces the sad life of fourteen-year-old Stanley Yelnats,
who has just been sentenced (mistakenly) for stealing
a pair of sneakers. Not only has the friendless, hopeless
Stanley been haunted all his life by a dark cloud of
events, so has his family. Indeed, there is a family
legend that his grandfather’s
long-ago selfishness in Latvia has rusted every golden
opportunity for the family since then. Forced by the
abusive camp police to dig holes all day long in the
baking desert, he experiences an epiphany, makes his
first friend, and gradually discovers courage he never
knew he had. In so doing, he slowly and painfully unwinds
the century-old family curse. The movie based on the
book was exceptionally well received by critics and families,
perhaps because the author himself wrote the screenplay.
Book sequel: Small Steps.
Sachar’s acceptance speech for the Newbery
(July-August 1999 issue, The Horn Book) offers an excellent
view of how the book was created, and is reprinted in
The Horn Book with a personal profile of the author by
his wife and daughter. Also by the author: Sideways
Stories From Wayside School. Related book: Maniac
Magee by Jerry Spinelli.
The Indian in the Cupboard (series)
exciting, and poignant fantasy tale of a nine-year-old
English boy who accidentally brings to life his three-inch plastic American
Indian. Once the shock of the trick wears off, the boy begins to realize
the immense responsibility involved in feeding, protecting, and hiding
a three-inch human being from another time (1870s) and culture. Anyone
concerned about the political correctness of the series
will feel relieved by reading the review by Native American author Michael
Dorris in The New York Times Book Review (May 16, 1993). Sequels: Return
of the Indian; The Secret of the Indian; The Mystery
of the Cupboard; and The Key to the Indian.