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• excerpts from The Treasury of Read-Alouds •
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Handbook

The Treasury of Read-Alouds

SHORT NOVELS page 3 of 3

These books represent a brief portion of the hundreds
cited in The-Read-Aloud Handbook.

THE SOS FILE

by Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, & Laurie Myers      Gr. 1-3      72 pages      Holt, 2004

Placing a folder at the front of the classroom, the teacher gives his students a chance for extra credit: all they have to do is write an essay or story about a traumatic moment—the time they had to call 911 or were so frightened they could barely speak or walk. Each of his eleven students accept the challenge, writing tales that are entirely believable for primary-grade students. Some raise the hairs on the neck (like the pair who meet a black bear on their hike), some make you laugh (like the student with the ungoverned appetite who ate the candy bars instead of selling them for fundraising), and several are quite poignant (like the student attempting to find the traveling salesman who discovered her in a dumpster when she was one day old). Each tale runs an average of three pages and collectively are excellent examples of short narrative.

Stone Fox

by John R. Gardiner      Gr. 1–7      96pages      Crowell, 1980

Here is a story that, like its ten-year-old orphan hero, never stands still. Since it has sold more than one million copies in twenty-five years with little or no corporate advertising, there must be great word-of-mouth out there for this book about the love of a child for his grandfather, and the loyalty of a dog for his young master. Based on a Rocky Mountain legend, the story recounts the valiant efforts of young Willy to save his grandfather’s farm by attempting to win the purse in a local bobsled race.

The Stories Julian Tells (series)

by Ann Cameron      K–3      72 pages      Pantheon, 1981

The author takes six short stories involving Julian and his brother and weaves them into a fabric that glows with the mischief, magic, and imagination of childhood. Though centered on commonplace subjects like desserts, gardens, loose teeth, and new neighbors, these stories of family life are written in an uncommon way that will both amuse and touch young listeners. Sequels: Julian’s Glorious Summer; Julian Secret Agent; More Stories Julian Tells; and The Stories Huey Tells.

The Stray

by Dick King-Smith    Gr. 1–4    139 pages    Dell, 2002

One day, on a nearly deserted beach, an old woman (Henny Hickathrift) who had walked away from an old age home and hopped a train to the seaside, took her cane and wrote in the sand: “I am a stray old woman.” That inscription soon leads five red-headed siblings to the old woman. It’s Henny’s seventy-fifth birthday and the children insist she come home with them to celebrate in style. The afternoon visit stretches into a week, then a month, and finally becomes permanent as the family grows to love her. In the style the author has made his trademark in books like Babe: The Gallant Pig, this is a warm celebration of family and aging. Also by the author: The Invisible Dog; A Mouse Called Wolf; Pigs Might Fly; The School Mouse; and The Water Horse (s).

Two Times the Fun

by Beverly Cleary      PreK-K      92 pages      Harper, 2005

Beverly Cleary raised a set of twins, so she knows the breed well. Couple that with her witty insight to the workings of family life and you’ve got everything that makes this collection of four stories work so well. Jimmy and Janet are four-year-olds with two distinct approaches to things like dog biscuits, new boots, holes in the ground, and personal possessions. Originally separate picture books, these four tales work perfectly in the short novel category for preschoolers.

Water Horse coverThe Water Horse

by Dick King-Smith      K-2      120 pages      Dell Yearling, 2001

When eight-year-old Kirstie and her five-year-old brother Angus discover a purse-size object washed up on the Scottish coast after a storm, they thinks it's some kind of egg and needs to be saved in the bathtub. Their guess is more than correct. With the head and neck that look somewhat like a horse's, the body of a turtle, and the tail of a crocodile, the creature is about the size of a newborn kitten. But it won't stay that size for long. What they have inadvertently hatched is the future Loch Ness monster.

Dick King-Smith, author of the popular Babe: the Gallant Pig, gives us not a monster story here but an affectionate look at what might have been if there really was a Loch Ness monster and if it had been raised by two affectionate children, a cooperative mom, a seafaring father, and a once grumpy but now knowledgeable grandfather. Each short chapter deals with the increasing challenges faced by the family as the creature grows larger, requires increasing amounts of food, and needs to learn that not all people are its friends. But how to train a "monster"? Also by the author: Stray; and Babe the Gallant Pig.

The 2007 Walden Media movie does not stay very faithful to the book's plot but it does catch the feel of the original story before taking it to new places—which doesn't make it either a bad thing or a bad movie. It's just a different story. The movie is based upon about five percent of the book — which means the book is preserved from being spoiled by the movie.

Picture Books:  p.1   p.2   p.3
Short Novels :  p.1   p.2   p.3
  Novels:  p.1   p.2   p.3   p.4 Anthologies:  p.1 Fairy & Folk Tales :  p.1  Poetry:  p.1


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