great read aloud picks

10 Historical Fiction Picks Guaranteed to Enlighten and Entertain

Historical fiction helps us view the events of history in new and meaningful ways. The best novels teach us about our past while entertaining us in the present. With that in mind, today’s list contains ten historical fiction novels (for a variety of ages) that will inform and entertain your young reader. Specifically, the books on this list taught me about events in history I knew almost nothing about. Each one is a gem, well-written and worth the read.

Quick Picks: What I’ve Been Reading

You know the feeling when you finish a good book and you want to tell someone about it?  Well, I've got that feeling. This list of books doesn’t fit on any of the upcoming book lists I have planned. I wanted to share them anyway.

If your kids are participating in the Young Book Love Bingo Reading Challenge, the books on this list will help them fill in the square “a book about someone who doesn’t look like you.” (The characters include people from Pakistan and India along with Americans with different shades of skin.) If your kids aren’t participating in the Reading Challenge and want to, you can find out more (and print off a free Bingo board) here.

Below are four books I read over the past month that I am excited to recommend. I hope your young reader will connect with them too.

Author Focus: Jennifer L. Holm

I have noticed the covers of Jennifer L. Holm’s numerous books on the shelves of our school and public libraries for years. Last month, I picked one up for the first time. Followed by another, and another until I’d read a good chunk of them. I am now a fan.

If you are looking for quality middle grade books for almost any kind of reader, Jennifer L. Holm might be just the author you are looking for. A few of the categories her books fall into include: historical fiction, science-themed stories, novels starring girls, books starring boys, a pinch of fantasy, humor, and a host of graphic novels that she co-wrote with her brother Matthew Holm.

Plus, her stories are really good!

Many of her novels are based on or inspired by stories of Jennifer’s own family. I learned bits of history that I never knew before, discovered characters I loved, laughed, cried and was thoroughly entertained by the stories that fill up her books.

The following books are excellent middle grade reads (including 3 Newbery Honor books) and I am excited to recommend them to you.

Home of the Brave

You know a book is special when find yourself continually stopping to record the words you have just read so you can sit with them a little longer and read them again some day. While most kids won’t have that urge, I believe this is a book they will love and remember.

Written as a novel in verse, Home of the Brave is easy to start and easy to finish. Following along with Kek as he journeys to America for the first time is truly a great adventure. Whether it is running a washing machine or going to the grocery store, Kek’s wonder at all he encounters will give you a fresh perspective and remind you how lucky we are.

Five Picture Books to Grab on Your Next Library Run

At the end of January, the Caldecott winners were announced. The Caldecott is an annual award given to the “most distinguished American picture book for children.” I’m always curious about the winners.

If you ever feel at a loss for what books to grab at the library, a Caldecott or Newbery award winner is usually a good place to start. This doesn’t always work (the books we like don’t always line up with the books the “experts” choose), but if you are looking for picture books to read with your kids, this year’s winner and honorees are good ones. Although Hello Lighthouse was the official winner for 2019, for kicks I decided to list this year’s picks with my favorites at the top.

Books that Quietly Change Culture

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic in children’s literature. Written in 1962, it was well-received from the get-go and even won the Caldecott Medal that year. Who can’t relate to the wonder of a fresh blanket of snow? The Snowy Day was also one of the first picture books to feature an African American child as the main character. Written in the midst of the Civil Rights movement this book quietly made a very important statement.

I read an article that ran on NPR on January 28, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of The Snowy Day) that shared one of the ways this book made an impact:

Savvy

Who wouldn’t want to receive a special power, or savvy, on their 13th birthday? Whether it is the power to cause a hurricane or the ability to be practically perfect at everything, the possibilities are endless.

I loved the premise of this book. It is creative and fun and when I started I was looking forward to the adventure. I wasn’t, however, expecting the depth and thoughtfulness that came with it. This is a special book with a whole lot of food for thought wrapped inside a creative story making it an excellent book to read.

Sweep

One part fantasy, one part historical fiction and three parts wonderful, Jonathan Auxier’s most recent release is a must-read. This story is filled with friendship, wonder, sadness and injustice; it has all the feels. Thankfully, it ends with large doses of hope and redemption. It’s the kind of book that brings the best kind of sigh at the end of the last page.

Nan, the main character, is smart and wise beyond her years. Since her Sweep left her, five years ago, she has a hard time letting anyone else in. When she finally meets Charlie, a gift from the Sweep, their friendship is sweet and fierce. They are characters that you can’t help but fall in love with and Charlie is the most endearing monster you will ever meet. They make a great team. The story moves along at a good clip, highlighting the plight of children sweeps, the wonder of new discoveries, and the joy of friendship.

A Book List of Mysteries for All Ages

Mysteries are the perfect type of book to read on a cold and blustery fall or winter night. If your child loves the thrill of following clues along with the danger and suspense that literary detectives always encounter. I’ve got a list for you.

So get a fire going in the fireplace, grab a cozy blanket and a mug of hot chocolate, and dive into one of the following books.

Mysterious, Classic, Scary and Sweet - a Fall booklist perfect for cold nights and cozy blankets

Fall is the perfect time for reading. The shorter days and colder nights drive us inside and create the ideal opportunity to snuggle up with a cozy blanket and a good book.

Yep, Autumn and reading go together like peanut butter and jelly, a classic combination.

There are certain genres of books that feel especially appropriate this time of year. Cold and gray outsides, make the insides extra cozy and the thought of diving into a thick book or classic work more inviting. Shorter days and longer evenings can be motivating to start a longer series of books. A spooky story or compelling mystery can be just the thing to set the mood for a late night read in bed while the wind howls outside the window.

Today’s list contains ideas and recommendations from all of these categories, making it a fairly diverse list. If you have a sensitive reader, some of these books might not be a good match. But, if your young reader enjoys the thrill of a scary story every once in awhile, I am excited to share some new discoveries.

Wherever your child falls on the spooky spectrum, I think today’s list has a little bit for everyone. Hopefully you will find the perfect book for your kids to dive into this Fall, to read on their own or to share together.

Louisiana's Way Home

If you have followed this blog for any period of time, you will know that Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite authors. Louisiana’s Way Home is her most recent release. When I saw a copy at my local library, I grabbed it without hesitation and started to read. I began to read even though I had an entire list of books waiting on me that I probably should have read first.

There is always a bit of trepidation when you start a new book from one of your favorite authors. You can’t help but put pressure on the new book to live up to your expectations. There is also a lot of excitement that comes with the possibility of another story to fall in love with.

This book lived up to my very high expectations. In fact, I immediately purchased my own copy after I finished my library’s so I could revisit the story, underline the words that I loved and share it with others.

Exploring Castles and Dealing with Dragons - a book list

A little over a month ago I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland. Throughout our visit we hiked trails, rode trains, toured castles and (of course) looked for Nessie all amidst beautiful and varied landscapes. At times, it felt like we were in another world, a world where fairies and dragons most definitely exist.

Now that we are home, I will grudgingly admit that these fantastical creatures (probably) don’t exist. But, I will always be thankful they ARE meant to live in our imaginations and come alive through the telling of fairy tales and the reading of good books. Scotland was a place where their existence felt possible and that is one of many reasons why I hope to return.

Until then, I am thankful for books filled with castles and dragons that give us the opportunity to get lost in a good story and visit far-off lands.

Today’s list, inspired in part by Scotand, contains books and series where castles come alive, dragons live and peasant girls try to become princesses.

Guest Post: Picture Books to Laugh at and Learn From

I regularly tell my elementary school students, “You are never too old to enjoy a good picture book!”  Picture books are such a treasure! I love to read them on my own, read them to my students and recommend them to everyone!  Here are some of my favorites.

The Lovely World of Picture Book Biographies

These days it is easy to find beautiful picture book biographies. I feel like I see new ones on the shelves of libraries and bookstores or featured in pictures in my Bookstagram feed all the time. They are plentiful and abundant. It is lovely.

A picture book that gives us a glimpse into the life of someone else and the challenges they overcame is a good thing. Add in illustrations and a story that is relatable for readers of all ages (and I do mean all ages) and you have a good, GOOD thing. Today I am going to highlight some of my favorite discoveries to date.

The best thing is I am constantly discovering more of these treasures through Bookstagram, the library and other sources. Rest assured, this will not be the last picture book biography session we share together.

In light of that, I am limiting this list to ten books that would make an excellent addition to any library, including yours.

Guest Post: 15 Books to Read Aloud to Your Kids

My kids are too old to read to.

Our schedule is too busy.

I can’t find books that interest ALL of my kids.

Sound familiar?

I have been reading aloud to my 6 kids for the past 11 years.  It is considered as essential and routine as their nightly showers.

It used to be we could read every night—before they got older and some evening activities crept in.

Now, we probably average 4-5 nights a week.

And yes, even my teens are on the couch listening- because you are never too old to be read aloud to- they love this time every night.

Guest Post: 9 Picture Books you Should Read with your Child this Summer

For our family, summer always means a wonderful slowing down from the frenetic pace of the school year.  We find ourselves so busy with sports schedules, dance recitals, and homework that our love of reading for fun seems to take a back seat. 

Maybe this is the case for your family as well?  So as longer days and warmer weather are on the horizon, you may find that trips to the library become a more regular destination.  And whether your children are 2 or 12 (or 16 for that matter), a good picture book can bring laughter, empathy, and rich timely discussion on a variety of topics.  But the best part of a picture book is that you can read them WITH your children.  Regardless of how old your tribe may be, I believe that no child is too old to listen to a story being read to them by someone who loves them.  So here is a list of my personal favorites-I guarantee you that they will bring joy as they are read!

Quick Picks - May Edition

Some of my current reads make it into lists that go straight to the blog, others will make it to future lists yet to be determined. And some best fit this list, a list of what I've been reading lately.

Below are three books (all very different from each other) I have enjoyed over the past month and wanted to share. 

What have you and your kids been reading lately? 

Guest Post: 10 Books Every Child Should Read Before Leaving Elementary School

My sister recently asked me if I had to pick 10 books every child should read before they leave elementary school, what would they be. While I have a few ideas, I immediately thought the ideal person to answer this question would be a school librarian. So I asked ours. The list he gave me is fantastic and I am excited to share it with you.

First Grade Girl Seeking Funny Books

Natalie is a friendly, fun-loving seven year old. Currently in first grade, she enjoys reading (especially with her mommy). However, she does not like being stuck in a reading group at school when it’s not her turn to read. Boring! 

Some of Natalie’s favorite things to do outside of reading is drawing, playing with friends and her siblings, and playing with dolls, especially Barbies. Speaking of which, Barbie books are some of her favorites but if you hand her a Clifford book, she will most likely respond with a "no thank you." 

Natalie’s mom asked me for a few personalized picks. To help me help her, I asked Natalie to share three of her favorite books and one she was not so crazy about. Here are her favorites: