As every parent knows, some books just seem a bit meh but others demand to be READ ALOUD in a BIG VOICE. Here are some rousing books that will bring out the ham actor in every mom and dad.
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
Sometimes, the old ones really are the best. While this story is now best known for the (admittedly fabulous) movie, nothing compares with the original novel. Pretty much every ingredient that kids want in a story is here – magical landscapes, talking animals, scary villains, an irrepressible hero and even a cute dog. Plus, the original color illustrations are terrific. Best of all, there’s so much going on – frantic chases, shrieking witches, sparky conversations etc. – that it’s a joy to read aloud.
2. My Father’s Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett)
This classic tale – a favorite of young readers since the 1940s – tells the story of Elmer, and his mission to rescue a stranded baby dragon from the not-entirely-safe-sounding ‘Wild Island’. Once on the island, Elmer ingeniously and comically disarms a parade of dangerous beasts, using only the knick-knacks (such as lollipops and rubber bands) from his knapsack. The black-and-white illustrations are charming, and the whole book still seems as fresh and original as the day it was published.
3. The Chocolate Touch (Patrick Skene Catling)
A delicious twist on the King Midas fable. John absolutely loves chocolate, so when everything he touches starts turning to the stuff he’s delighted. But guess what? Life’s not that simple. And when he absent-mindedly kisses his mom things really start to unravel… You might expect a parable on ‘being careful what you wish for’ (which is exactly what this is) to get a bit preachy and moralistic, but the story just races along and never stops being laugh-out-loud funny.
4. James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)
No list of read aloud books could fail to include the Master of Children’s Stories. From the very start (when it’s revealed James’ parents were ‘tragically eaten by a rhinoceros’), every young reader knows they’re in for a twisted treat. What follows is classic Dahl – horrible aunts, magic crystals, exotic creatures and a big, dangerous adventure. It’s blistering fun from beginning to end, and (whisper it gently) just as much fun for the parents as kids.
5. The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (Daniel Pinkwater)
When young Arthur is sent out to collect the family’s Thanksgiving bird, he instead returns home with a 266-pound live chicken on a leash. Meet Henrietta, who is twice as tall as Arthur! This whole tale – it’s a Seventies classic – is completely absurd from start to finish. But it’s also a heartwarming story, struck through with fabulously expressive black and white drawings, that makes some good points about how families and pets should get along.
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