Monday, February 22, 2021

Joyous Read Alouds: The Books of Audrey and Don Wood

 There is a house
A Napping House
Where Everyone is Sleeping

Thus begins one of the great read aloud books of all times, The Napping House, by Audrey Wood, illustrated by her husband, Don Wood. Audrey Wood's parents worked as tent and mural painters for the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus, which wintered for years near Wood's home in Sarasota, FL. Audrey loved to listen to the stories the circus performers told. When she grew up, she wrote her own stories driven by the tales and cadences she heard from the circus people's stories. The playful use of language is evident everywhere in Wood's stories, which are perfectly matched by the raucous world depicted in Don Wood's illustrations. It is that playful language, plus those large and comic illustrations that make these books perfect read alouds. 

An absolutely delightful, cumulative tale of  nap time at Granny's house with a snoring Granny, a dreaming child, a dozing dog, a snoozing cat, a slumbering mouse, and one wakeful flea who upsets the quiet repose and causes a huge commotion. The language will have the children tapping their toes and snapping their fingers and the illustrations will induce squeals of laughter. Language Development 101.

This Caldecott Honor Book tells the comical tale of King Bidgood, who would not get out of the tub. He holds battles in the tub, has lunch in the tub, goes fishing in the tub, holds a dance in the tub and no one can stop the madness until the young page pulls the plug. More wonderful repetitive language and the illustrations of goings on in the bathtub are each worth a story in themselves.

This book is sure to resonate for any child who has used a bad word in polite company without really realizing what the word meant or the impact the word would have on the adults in the room. In other words, a book for every child. Elbert's cure is the same as we might have imagined, he gets his mouth washed out with soap, but Elbert finds a more creative way to tame the bad word,-by adding new words to his vocabulary. Delightful tale.

How do you hide a red ripe strawberry from a big hungry bear. Little Mouse tries many ways to hold onto the strawberry. He disguises it, locks it up, buries it, but ultimately determines there is only one way to protect the red, ripe strawberry. Lots of onomatopoeia and huge witty illustrations of the biggest strawberry you have ever seen, make this book a winner for the primary school set. 

Heckedy Peg finds Audrey Wood in Grimm Fairy Tale mode with the story of a mother who risks her life to save her seven children from the evil Heckedy Peg. Don Wood's illustrations evoke the old time fairy tale mode as well. Masterful storytelling.

So, there you have five from Audrey and Don Wood, each a can't miss read aloud for young children. Today would be a good day to read one aloud!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Reading Aloud with Mem Fox

 The Australian Open Tennis tournament is going on right now, and while I watch and root for Serena Williams to defy advancing age and the encroachment of the responsibilities of a full life to win another major title, my reading teacher mind turns my thoughts to the great Australian writer for children, Mem Fox. Mem Fox's books have been a part of my read aloud repertoire ever since I discovered Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge back in the mid-1980s. From there it was Hattie and the Fox and what I have come to call  her Marsupial Trilogy: Possum Magic, Koala Lou, and Wombat Devine. Eventually, I got to hear Mem Fox speak at an International Reading Association Conference and discovered that not only was she a great author and a charming speaker, she was also a passionate advocate for reading aloud. You can read what she has to say on the subject in her book for parents Reading Magic - How Your Child  Can Learn to Read Before School - and other Read-Aloud Miracles.

Here are some of my favorite Mem Fox Read-Alouds.

My personal favorite Mem Fox book, deals charmingly with the very real issue of losing your memory as you grow older. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a bright and adventurous little boy who befriends  a woman who lives in the nursing home next door, Miss Nancy Allison Delacourt Cooper, because she has four names just as he does. When Wilfrid discovers that Miss Nancy has lost her memories, he sets out to help her find them. Julie Vivas' vibrant pastel illustrations bring the story to life joyfully.

Hattie just knows she sees something in the bushes, but she can't get any of her friends in the barnyard to listen. Full of humor and excitement and the torn paper collage illustrations by Patricia Mullins add to the fun.

"Koala Lou, where are you?" cries mom. Koala Lou is off training for the Bush Olympics, which he has entered in the hopes of attracting his mother's attention. Spoiler alert: He does - for all the right reasons.

Wombat's greatest desire is to have apart in the Nativity play during his school's Christmas pageant. The auditions for the show are very nerve wracking for our wombat hero. Will there be a part for him?

The most popular children's book ever in Australia, this is the story of Hush, who has been made invisible through the magic of Grandma Poss. When he wants to see himself again, he and Grandma must travel across Australia to find the magic food that will make him visible. Julie Vivas is back weaving her whimsical magic with the illustrations.

Mem Fox is a magical story teller who has worked with a number of talented illustrators. Her books make great choices for reading aloud whether in the classroom or through Zoom, or especially for a warm and winning bedtime story.


Monday, February 8, 2021

Read Aloud Winners: The Trickster Tales of Gerald McDermott

 Everyday is a good day for a read aloud, of course, but some books make better read alouds than others. Among my favorites are the trickster tales as winningly told and exquisitely illustrated by Gerald McDermott. McDermott was not only a world class artist, his illustrations just literally jump off the page at you, but also an expert in folklore. Trickster tales come to us from many different cultures and McDermott mined these rich resources for these entertaining stories.

Perhaps the most familiar of McDermott's books, this Caldecott Honor Book established McDermott's distinctive style.  Anansi is a  troublemaker whose six sons try to save him from all the problems he causes. A West African Folktale.

In this tale from the American Southwest, the animals of the desert teach the troublesome Coyote a lesson.
In this tale from India, a hungry, clever Monkey must find a way to get the tasty mangoes from the island in the river with Crocodile's help, without becoming Crocodile's lunch.
In this Native American tale from the Pacific Northwest, Raven wants to bring light into the world, but first he must find out where Sky Chief keeps it.
In this tale from the Amazon, Jabuti the Tortoise is a fine musician and an irritating trickster. Vulture plots a trick of his own to play on Jabuti on the way to a concert in heaven.
My personal favorite of these trickster tales. Zomo the Rabbit retells the West African tale of a tricky rabbit who is very clever, but  not very wise. Will the Sky God help him find wisdom?

Reading several of these titles would make for a great read aloud unit on trickster tales in folklore. What are you reading aloud to your students/children today?