Read-Alouds to Inspire Us All

An eclectic group of new read-aloud gems to try in 2012.

 Wonderstruck : A Novel in words and Pictures.  Brian Selznick.  Scholastic, 2011.
Another masterpiece from Selznick!  One story in words about a boy who is searching for his father in New York City, the other in pictures, 50 years earlier, of a girl who is also searching for something and runs away to New York City.  When the two stories come together and entwine is pure storytelling magic.  Award worthy.
Read-aloud 4th-8th grade

Pie.  Sarah Weeks.  Scholastic Press, 2011.
Set in a 1950’s small Pennsylvania town, this mystery revolves around Aunt Polly and her award winning pies.  Her pie shop is most unusual because she gives her pies away, though her family thinks she should sell them.  She left careful recipes for the filling, but kept the crust recipe a secret. Her young niece, Alice, spends a great deal of time with her Aunt and when she dies unexpectedly, Alice inherits her cantankerous cat, Lardo, whom Aunt Polly left the crust recipe to.  When Lardo comes up missing, the chase is on and it is up to Alice to solve the mystery.  Recipes included, but not for the crust!
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade

Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants.  Tony Johnston.  Harcourt, 2011.
Definitely a whopper, but with a thread of truth.  Pun intended!  This story of how Strauss invented blue jeans for gold miners who wore barrels or vanilla (their birthday suits) when their pants wore out and created the city of San Francisco,  is a delight to read-aloud.  Dang!  The author’s note at the end supplies the facts about Levi Strauss.
Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-5th grade

Lost and Found.  Shaun Tan.  Arthur A. Levine, 2011.
In each of these three stories, something is lost and something is found.  The stories are wise, strange and at times, unsettling–in a good way.  Themes include alienation, imagination, freedom, imperialism, hope. Wise and thoughtful. The paintings are extraordinary.  Long Picture Book.
Read-aloud 5th grade and up



Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend : A Civil Rights Story.  Calvin Alexander Ramsey & Bettye Stroud.  Candlewick, 2011.
A powerful true story from the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.  While waiting for his mother, Alex learns the story of Belle from an old woman.  Dr. King had visited Gee’s Bend and inspired the residents to exercise their right to vote.  The local authorities closed the ferry, so the town’s mules help transport people to vote.  The townsfolk had to overcome other obstacles to get the mules to Atlanta to pull Dr. King’s casket.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade


Hound Dog True.  Linda Urban.  Harcourt, 2011.
Mattie is a painfully shy fifth grader starting the school year in a new school for the 5th time.
This time, she and her mother are living with Uncle Potluck who is the school custodian.
Mattie wants to be his apprentice so that she can help him during recess and lunch times, to avoid interacting with kids.  Things don’t go quite as she had hoped, but she does make an unlikely friend.  Beautifully written with well developed characters.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade

Okay for Now.  Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion, 2011.
When Doug’s family moves from Long Island to upstate New York in the late 1960s, he has a lot to overcome: a brother who is always in trouble, an abusive father, no friends,
a brother disable from the Vietnam War, and the inability to read.  Over the summer he becomes obsessed with Audubon’s birds and with the mentoring of a town librarian, becomes a gifted artist.  He also develops a close relationship with a girl named Lil and gets help from a caring teacher.  Very well written with characters we care about.  Lots of Newbery Award buzz on this one.
Read-aloud 6th-8th grade

The Secret River.  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  Atheneum, 2011.
Calpurnia’s father says hard times are ahead because he has no fish to sell.  With advice from a soothsayer, Calpurnia and her dog embark on a perilous journey to a secret river in a Florida forest where she catches enough fish to feed her family and hungry neighbors.  Gorgeously illustrated by the Dillons of Caldecott fame.  Long Picture Book.
Read- aloud 3rd-5th grade

A Storm Called Katrina.  Myron Uhlberg.  Peachtree, 2011.
Louis and his family must evacuate when their New Orleans home is submerged in the aftermath of the hurricane.  They struggle to stay together and find shelter in the Superdome.  The understated text and poignant paintings evoke the emotions and hope of those displaced by this natural disaster.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-5th grade

The Wikkeling.  Steven Arntson.  RP Kids, 2011.
In the not-to-distant future, the folks in the city of Addition overprotects its children with bed-cams, triple-harnessed seat belts, and forbidden use of tools, matches, etc.  House cats are considered wild and dangerous.  Computers rule,  constant standardized testing determines your future at a young age.  Henrietta discovers a secret attic above her bedroom where time stands still and she can see her neighborhood of the past.  She and her two new friends are among the few who can see the creepy, mysterious creature, Wikkeling, who can give you severe headaches with the touch of its finger.  They work together to solve the mystery of what it is and what it wants.
Read-aloud 5th-8th grade

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