Read-Aloud Novels for 5th-6th Grades

Reading aloud to a class is the equivalent of required reading, so it is important that the titles we choose represent the best of children’s books that kids may not discover on their own.  We don’t need to use read-aloud time for the Wimpy Kid books or Junie B. Jones.  Kids embrace those without much help from us.  Here are a few of my favs from 2009-2010.  I will be adding titles to this category often.  As always, your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome!

Turtle in Paradise.  Jennifer L. Holm.  Random House, 2010.
When her mother becomes a live-in housekeeper for a woman who doesn’t like kids, eleven year old Turtle has to move from New Jersey to Key West and live with relatives she has never met.  Her flaky mother neglected to tell her sister in Florida that she was sending Turtle. The story is filled with drama, adventure ( a hunt for pirate treasure and a hurricane) and a lot of humor (her boy cousins have a “diaper gang” which takes care of fussy babies”).  A strong sense of place and time are created in this story from 1935 based on the adventures of the author’s great-grandmother.  My favorite from 2010.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade

The Familiars. Adam Jay Epstein.  Harper, 2010.
Aldwyn, a starving alley cat, in his attempts to escape a bounty hunter, becomes the  impostor familiar of a boy-in-training wizard.  When the boy and two others are kidnapped, Aldwyn joins the other familiars set out to rescue their loyals. Even though it is a bit predictable, kids and teachers will enjoy the  humor and action.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse.  Marilyn Singer.  Dutton , 2010.
A brilliant collection of fairy tale style poems that can be read two ways-both up and down which gives a different perspective or meaning.  Vibrant artwork is a perfect compliment.  The last page encourages readers to write their own reverso poem.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade

Mockingbird: (Mok’ing-burd). Kathryn Erskine.  Philomel Books, 2010.
Ten year old Caitlin has experienced too much loss: her mother died of cancer when she was three and her brother was recently killed in a middle school shooting.
She has Asperger’s and struggles with making friend’s.  Her brother understood her best and helped her navigate her world.  Miss Brook, a kind and compassionate school counselor helps her come to terms with her loss and guides her in the first steps of making friends.  A heartbreaking but hopeful story told through Caitlin’s eyes.
You should definitely read this short novel first to decide if it is a good read-aloud choice for your class.  There are big issues to discuss.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade

Moon Over Manifest.  Clare Vanderpool.  Delacorte Press, 2010.
Newbery Winner
Twelve year old Abilene has spent most of her life riding the rails with her father.  In the summer of 1936, he leaves her in his hometown of Manifest, Kansas.  She learns about her father’s past through the storytelling of the town’s diviner, Miss Sadie.
While I enjoyed this story as an adult, I am wondering how much it will appeal to kids.
It is suggested for kids in 5th-8th grade.  Going back and forth between 1936 and 1918 will confuse many kids without background knowledge of WWI and the Great Depression, immigration, bootlegging.  This would be a great read-aloud if you are prepared to spend lots of time discussing these times in history and the many questions kids will have throughout.  The ending is beautifully touching.  Clearly, the Great Depression is a  trend in juvenile fiction.  I think some Turtle in Paradise and The Wonder of Charlie Ann are more accessible to kids.
Read-aloud 5th Grade and up

A Tale Dark & Grimm.  Adam Gidwitz.  Dutton, 2010.
A whole new twist on Grimm, the author weaves three obscure, dark and bloody tales
into the story of Hansel and Gretel.  The narrator talks to the  audience in a fashion similar to Lemony Snicket.  It is a book terrifying and funny at the same time.  The children are beheaded and reheaded early in the book. They are hunted, killed, brought back to life all in their quest to find “good parents” in their happily ever after.
I don’t usually go for such gruesome violence, but this is a compelling story that many children will love. For others, it will be too much.  Read it and decide for yourself!
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade

When You Reach Me.  Rebecca Stead.  Wendy Lamb Books, 2009.
Miranda, a 12 year old in 1978 New York, receives a series of anonymous and cryptic notes.  Is it a time travel story, a mystery?  Is Miranda’s letter going to the past, the future?  This book requires brain work and knowledge of  A Wrinkle in Time to be fully appreciated.  Last year’s Newbery Winner.

 

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  Grace Lin.  Little, Brown and Company, 2009.
Minli and her parents are extremely poor.  Her father tells her stories of the Old Man of the Moon, who holds everyone’s destiny.  To help her family, Minli sets out on an epic quest to find the Old Man of the Moon who can give her the secret to good fortune.  She encounters many helpmates along the way, including a talking goldfish, and a flightless dragon.  This story has everything: good and evil, magic, wisdom, danger, courage, hope,  joy.  A compelling Chinese folktale and a Newbery Honor book.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade

The Wonder of Charlie Anne.  Kimberly Newton Fusco.  Knopf, 2010.
This is one of my favorite books from 2010.  It takes place on a Massachusetts farm in the 1930’s.  Charlie Anne and her family face daily hardships with poverty and the loss of their mother.  Times become so hard that the father and oldest son must go north to try and earn money.  In comes the too stern cousin Mirabel who makes life even more difficult.  To cope, Charlie Anne communicates mentally with her mother and her beloved cows.  Things change when an African American child moves in across the road.  Everyone grows in this novel which gives a strong sense of place and time and the author has given us characters to really care about. Themes of loss, hardship, racism, friendship, education, finding strength to face your fears.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade

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