Unsung Read Alouds
I love reading out loud to my boys. Actually, I love reading aloud to any children that will listen. I tend to find books that are a little off the beaten path and they become my favorites to read. I’m sure you all will agree that there is nothing better than snuggling up with your freshly bathed, still wet-haired, sweet-smelling children and sharing a good story. Here are a few of my favorite books to read to my boys that you may or may not know about.
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub
(written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood)
“Help! Help! Cried the Page when the sun came up!
King Bidgoods in the bathtub, and he won’t come out!
Oh, who knows what to do?”
Okay, let’s just start off saying this book is a little wacky, but the rythmic prose and the incredible illustrations (a Caldecott winner) make it one of our family’s favorite read alouds. King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub is the story of a king who refuses to get out of the tub and his poor page asks for help from everyone- the queen, the duke and even the court- to get him out, but all the king says is, “Today we dine/fish/dance in the tub!” Finally, at the end of the story, the over-worked page figures out just what to do to get the king out of the tub. I won’t tell you what he does, but will leave you with a hint, “Glub. Glub. Glub.”
The Day the Babies Crawled Away
(written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann)
“Remember the day
The babies crawled away?
We moms and dads were eating pies,
The babies saw some butterflies–
And what do you know?
The babies crawled away!”
This story takes place at a local fair where the moms and dads are busy with a pie-eating contest, the older children are in line for the rides and the babies are chasing butterflies into the trees. The grown-ups do not notice the babies crawling away, but one small child wearing a fire hat takes notice and follows them into the woods where he (or she!) cares for them and gets them back to the fair and their parents safely.
We all know Peggy Rathmann from her popular, best-selling book, Goodnight Gorilla. This book, however, is one of her “unsung” and, in my opinion, best books. Rathmann uses a light, rhythmic text to tell the story that stays with you even after the book has been put back on the shelf. The illustrations are silouhettes against a colorful sky leaving a great deal of what happens in the story to the child’s imagination. As a bonus, readers can find the caterpillar that accompanies the child into the woods on every page.
The gentle and soothing ending, where the child tells his mother about the day’s adventures makes this a perfect bedtime story as well.
Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm
(written by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Mark Buehner)
“Harvey Potter was a very strange fellow indeed. He was a farmer, but he didn’t farm like my daddy did. He farmed a genuine, U.S. Government Inspected Balloon Farm. No one knew exactly how he did it. Some folks say that it wasn’t real– that it was magic. But I know what I saw, and those were real actual balloons growing out of the plain ole ground.”
This book was always a huge hit with my students and the first time I read it to my son, I could tell it would be a favorite of his as well. Jerdine Nolen tells the story of a girl who befriends a local balloon farmer named Harvey Potter. A cranky neighbor and fellow farmer, calls the “Government” on Potter suspecting that he is up to no good. The “Government” inspects the farm, finds nothing unusual and gives Harvey Potter “the right to grow balloons” although “he never asked them for it.” The whole town is happy and the cranky neighbor packs up and moves away. Soon after the Government leaves, the girl hides in one of Potter’s trees to learn his secret for growing balloons. Years later, the girl has harvested her “thirty-second crop of balloons” using her own “methods” and leaves the reader with this hope– “maybe I’ll show you someday.”
Sweet Dream Pie
(written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Michael Teague)
“Next, Ma fashioned two great pie crusts. Then the Brindles began to toss every sweet thing they could find into an enormous mixing bowl…Pa shoved the pie into the oven and slammed the door. Quickly he turned the oven dial past “bake,” “broil,” and “roast,” to a setting that simply said, ‘special.'”
Honestly, there is probably not a sweeter (and I mean sweet as in taste) book around. Audrey Wood tells the story of Ma and Pa Brindle who mix up a batch of “sweet dream pie”. The pie is full of all sorts of goodies– candy corn, marshmallows, jelly beans and more and has to be baked in a special pie pan on a setting simply called, “special.” As the pie bakes, the whole neighborhood heats up so much so that no one can do anything at all. Finally, when the pie is cool enough to eat, Ma rings a bell and calls out “Its time for Sweet Dream Pie” and the whole neighborhood finds an excuse to stop by for a piece. Everyone that is except for Amy McPherson “who could eat not pie because it made her sneeze.” As the pie was passed out, Ma warned, “Don’t eat too much! Only one piece or you’ll be sorry.” But of course, no one listened and they helped themselves to “sweet thirds and fourths.” When the pie was gone, everyone headed home with full bellies and drowsy heads. And that, is “when the dreaming began…”
While reading this book all your senses are awakened. You can feel the heat drifting through the neighborhood while the pie is baking and you can feel the cool breeze move through as the Brindles blow on it to cool it off. You can feel the characters full bellies as well as their drowsy heads. And, if you try really hard, you can almost tasted the sweet dream pie yourself.
The Big Orange Splot
(by Daniel Manus Pinkwater)
“My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.”
Mr. Plumbean lives on a “neat street,” a street where all the houses looke the same. Then one day, a bird carrying a bucket of bright, orange paint drops the can right on Mr. Plumbean’s house (“no one knows why”). The neighbors beg Plumbean to paint his house right away so the street will be “neat” once again. But Plumbean decides he likes the big, orange spot, decides to keep it and proceeds to paint it his way. His house becomes “like a rainbow,” “like a jungle” and “like an explosion.” The neighbors were furious and begged him to paint it like it was before. He refuses and one by one his neighbors stop by to chat with him over a glass of lemonade and when they leave, they too go home and paint their homes to look like their dreams.
What a simple story and wonderful way to teach children that being different is okay.
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