I think it’s time to update this post from 2009 with some new additions. Enjoy these short novels with your children! April 2016
Are you looking for a read-aloud that won’t take months to read to your child? In this post I recommend what I call “little charmers,” gentle stories told in 120 pages or less. These are not raucous or irreverent adventure stories; rather, they are the kinds of books grandparents will enjoy reading to their grandchildren. In fact, a couple of the selections may be older than some of our CHS grandparents! The plots are linear and the characters are allowed to develop and grow, in spite of the shortness of the books. Rich vocabulary combined with simple illustrations make these great read-alouds for bedtime.
The Buried Bones Mystery (Vol. 1 of the Clubhouse Mysteries) by Sharon M. Draper, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson). Here is a great introduction to chapter book mysteries, written by a five-time Coretta Scott King award winner. Ziggy and his friends Rico, Rashawn, and Jerome dig a hole in Ziggy’s yard to bury their secret treasures. When the boys try to hide their treasures, however, they uncover a box of bones and are swept up in a mystery — who could have buried that box of bones behind their clubhouse?
Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young. What should be a quick errand for a loving, responsible father — running out to get some milk for his children’s breakfast cereal — turns into a series of outrageous events that he describes to the children upon his return. CHS First grade teacher Mrs. Crain also enjoys this rollicking tall tale.
Lulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith. This nifty cautionary tale begins when Lulu, a spoiled child accustomed to getting her way, has a tantrum because her parents will not allow her to have a Brontosaurus as a pet. Lulu undertakes a search for one anyway, not knowing that the Brontosaurus she finds wants her for a pet, as well!
The Storm (Vol. 1 of the Lighthouse Family series), by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Preston McDaniels. Pandora the cat and Sebold the dog both live in isolation, she in a lighthouse, he on his boat at sea. A storm brings the two together, and eventually they learn that families can come in many different configurations. This is one of my new favorites!
The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Peter Sis. This Newberry Medal winner is full of adventure and mistaken identity as spoiled Prince Brat and his whipping boy Jemmy, who appear to have nothing in common, are abducted and learn to empathize and appreciate each other.
Catwings, by Ursula LeGuin, illustrated by S. D. Schindler. Four young cats born with wings leave their dangerous alley in the city in search of a safe place to live. They encounter dangers in the countryside, as well, but finally meet two children with kind hands. This little book is the first volume in the Catwings series.
My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Ruth C. Gannett. Mother and daughter combined talents to create this first volume of a delightful trilogy. A young boy determines to rescue a poor baby dragon who is being used by a group of lazy wild animals to ferry them across the river on Wild Island. Many children enjoy looking at the frontispiece map throughout the story.
Cricket Winter, by Felice Holman, illustrated by Robyn Thomas. A little boy exchanges Morse code messages with the cricket that lives in his house and together they trap the rat that has been plaguing the boy’s father and the cricket’s friends.
The Bat-Poet, by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. A bat who can’t sleep days makes up poems about the woodland creatures he now perceives for the first time. This slender volume may inspire young poets to write poems based on their own observations.
Abel’s Island, by William Steig. Castaway on an uninhabited island, Abel, a very civilized mouse, finds his resourcefulness and endurance tested to the limit as he struggles to survive and return to his home.
Jenny and the Cat Club, by Esther Holden Averill. First published in 1944, this book introduces readers to Jenny Linsky, a black cat who lives in New York City, and her adventures with the neighborhood cats who belong to the Cat Club.
Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlin. When their father invites a mail-order bride to come to live with them in their prairie home, Caleb and Anna are captivated by her and hope that she will stay. Winner of the Newberry Medal.
The Key Collection, by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Yangshook Choi. A ten-year-old boy in the Midwest misses his Chinese grandmother, who always lived next door until her health caused her to move. Currently out of print, this book is available from used book dealers and the CHS library.
The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, by Phillip Pullman, illustrated by S. Saelig Gallagher. In a country far to the east, Chulak and his talking white elephant Hamlet help Lila seek the Royal Sulphur from the sacred volcano so that she can become a master maker of fireworks like her father. The author of the complex and challenging “His Dark Materials” trilogy wrote this short gem of a quest story for young listeners.
Jack Plank Tells Tales, by Natalie Babbitt. When a pirate ship falls on hard times, Jack Plank is let go because he is not very good at plundering. He moves into a boarding house and begins to look for work. Unfortunately, Jack is not well suited to be a farmer, baker, fortune-teller, fisherman, barber, goldsmith, actor, or musician, each for a different reason. Jack’s efforts to find his calling, and his explanations to the other boarders, make for a very engaging read-aloud. (At 128 pages, this book exceeds my original 120-page limit, but it’s too good to miss!)