Hey Kid Lit friends!
One of the most frequent questions I receive from fellow parents is, “How do you get your kids to read so much?” My kids are voracious readers; they read while eating breakfast, they read on the subway, and they read while walking on New York City streets (with me occasionally having to confiscate their books when they neglect to put them down when crossing the street).
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Judy Moody is the perfect protagonist for today’s early chapter book readers. The curious, exuberant third-grader is smart but not a great speller; she loves science but is also artistic; she is caring but cranky; and she’s honest. She is as multifaceted and complicated as the children who read about her. The award-winning series by Megan McDonald and Peter H. Reynolds was first published in 2000, there are now 34 million books about Judy and her little brother, Stink, in print worldwide, in twenty-eight languages. With an exciting series relaunch in 2018, a whole new generation of readers can discover this plucky heroine.
I attribute my daughters’ love of reading to all the hours my husband and I have spent reading aloud to them. My first memory of reading to my kids was way back when I was pregnant. I read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats to my older daughter starting when I was six months pregnant. And when she was born, we read to her immediately, before she had strong enough neck muscles to hold her head up.
Two years later, my second daughter was born, and as the years went by my husband and I continued to read to them. Not just at bedtime, but all of the time. And now that they are eight and ten years old, I still read to them even though they have been independent readers for years. Yesterday on the subway we read a picture book, Islandborn by Junot Diaz and illustrated by Leo Espinosa, and at night we are reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt (a book that makes me cry A LOT). My ten-year-old said, “Mama, you really, REALLY like this book. I can tell because you cry at the sad parts and at the happy parts.”
There is an art to reading out loud; I heard once that reading out loud is like a performance. Here some of the tips I have collected over the years from teaching, reading to my kids, and learning from read-aloud experts:
Listen to audiobooks. There are so many wonderful audiobook narrators, and I have learned so much about reading aloud by listening to audiobooks! Here are some audiobooks with stunning performances:
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, narrated by Mark Bramhall, David deVries, MacLeod Andrews, and Rebecca Soler
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, narrated by Kivlighan de Montebello, Brittany Pressley, Graham Halstead, Michael Crouch, Jason Culp
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, narrated by Robin Miles
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan, narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross, Kevin R. Free, Jessica Almasy, Almarie Guerra, Jill Frutkin, Cherise Boothe, Rachel Botched
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper; narrated by Heather Alicia Simms
Check out this episode by Corrina Allen on the Books Between podcast. Corrina, a fifth grade teacher and a huge book advocate, talks through how she reads out loud to her kids and students. She gives a great example of how she differentiates between the characters, using a passage from The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.
Check out the Read Aloud Revival website! Read aloud advocate and educator Sarah Mackenzie has tons of great resources on her website, including a bestselling book called The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections With Your Kids, a podcast, a blog, and much more. She shares book lists, book recommendations, and advice on reading aloud. I love all of her resources!
Practice, practice, practice! I think a big part about being good at reading aloud as an adult is to leave any pride at the door and just get into the moment. I mean, come on. Look at the Obamas, the masters of the read aloud! Listen to how they read Where the Wild Things Are here!U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama act out scenes from the children’s book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ as they preside over the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington March 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (link)
All of these books release this Tuesday unless otherwise noted. The book descriptions are from Goodreads, but I’ll add a if I particularly loved a title.
Picture Book New Releases
Moon by Alison Oliver (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Like many children, Moon leads a busy life. School, homework, music lessons, sports, and the next day it begins again. She wonders if things could be different. Then, one night, she meets a wolf. The wolf takes Moon deep into the dark, fantastical forest and there she learns to howl, how to hide, how to be still, and how to be wild. And in that, she learns what it’s like to be free.
Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Abigail Halpin (Abrams)
As a curious little girl awaits the arrival of her baby sister, she asks Mama many questions: “Will she have freckles?” “Will I have to share my blanket?” She helps Mama and Dad prepare to meet her little sister, singing her songs and knitting her a new blanket. But the most important part of getting ready is taking care of Mama. When Mama can’t see her toes, she counts to make sure there’s still ten. When Mama’s tired, she draws her a picture and gives her hugs. An honest and gentle exploration of the excitement and anxiety kids feel when welcoming a new family member.
The Golden Thread: A Song for Pete Seeger by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Nikki McClure (HarperCollins)
Pete Seeger once sang that if he had a golden thread, he would use it to weave people from all over the world to one another. That golden thread, for Pete, was music. Born into a family of traveling musicians, Pete picked up his first instrument at age seven. From then on, music was his life, whether he was playing banjo for soldiers during World War II, rallying civil rights activists and war protesters with songs such as “We Shall Overcome,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” and “If I Had a Hammer,” or leading environmental efforts to clean up the Hudson River.
Fox and Chick: The Party by Sergio Ruzzier (Chronicle)
Fox and Chick don’t always agree. But Fox and Chick are always friends. With sly humor and companionable warmth, Sergio Ruzzier deftly captures the adventures of these two seemingly opposite friends. The luminous watercolor images showcased in comic-book panel form will entice emerging readers, while the spare text and airiness of the images make this early chapter book accessible to a picture book audience as well.
Magnolia’s Magnificent Map by Lauren Bradshaw, illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan (Cameron Kids)
Deep in the shade of a walnut grove stands a tall tree house. A delightful group of friends gathers here. They call themselves the Walnut Animal Society. Their mission is to create and to always remain curious. The Walnut Animal Society is busy preparing for a very special event. The Society Soirée comes just once a month, when the night is clear and the stars are bright. Tonight it is Magnolia the Bunny’s turn to share. Everyone is excited. Everyone but Magnolia, that is. It has taken her months of exploring and sketching and picture-snapping to create her latest map—a map of the walnut grove. There’s just one problem. Her map isn’t finished. Magnolia’s map is missing a spot. Will she finish it in time?
Middle Grade New Releases
Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison (Amulet Books)
In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told half in prose and half in verse, Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong. Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes, the person you need to take care of is yourself.
Road Trip with Max and His Mom by Linda Urban, illustrated by Kathy Kath (HMH Books for Young Readers)
Third-grader Max is heading off on a road trip with Mom. With miles to travel, cousins to meet, and a tall roller coaster to ride (maybe), it will be an adventure! But Max always spends weekends with Dad; will Dad be okay if he’s left behind? And will Max be brave enough for all the new explorations ahead of him?
The Girl With More Than One Heart by Laura Geringer Bass (Abrams)
When Briana’s father dies, she imagines she has a new heart growing inside her. It speaks to her in her Dad’s voice. Some of its commands are mysterious.
Find Her! it says. Be Your Own!
How can Briana “be her own” when her grieving mother needs her to take care of her demanding little brother all the time? When all her grandpa can do is tell stories instead of being the “rock” she needs? When her not-so-normal home life leaves no time to pursue her dream of writing for the school literary magazine? When the first blush of a new romance threatens to be nipped in the bud?
A Friendly Town That’s Almost Always By The Ocean by Kir Fox & M. Shelley Coats (Disney-Hyperion)
Welcome to Topsea, the strangest place you’ll ever visit. In this town, the coves are bottomless and the pier has no end in sight. There’s a high tide and a low tide… and a vanishing tide. Dogs are a myth, but mermaids are totally real. And seaweed is the main ingredient in every meal-watch out, it might just start chewing you back! New kid Davy definitely thinks Topsea is strange. His mom keeps saying they’ll get used to life in their new town-it’s just the way things are on the coast! But after his first day at Topsea School, Davy finds himself wondering: Why is his locker all the way at the bottom of the school swimming pool? Why can’t anyone remember his name? (It’s Davy!) And why does everyone act like all of this is normal?!
In the news…
Q&A with Jewell Parker Rhodes (via Publisher’s Weekly)
The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma by Junot Diaz (via The New Yorker) *please be advised that there is adult content in this article*
This week I’m reading Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. This is what Ursula K. LeGuin said about the book: “There’s more imagination on a page of Nnedi Okorafor’s work than in whole volumes of ordinary fantasy epics.” I’m sold!
My kids and I have been reading through poetry, and I adore Caroline Kennedy’s collection, Poems to Learn by Heart. We are taking Kennedy’s exhortation seriously; I asked my kids if they wanted to memorize some poems, and they did. They started with memorizing one, and they kept going.
As I mentioned before, I read Islandborn by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, and we loved it. I adore the way the book talks about memory, home, and community.
Book Riot has another great giveaway for newsletter subscribers: enter to win 15 of the year’s best mysteries so far!
FYI – If you’re looking for another middle grade audiobook recommendation, Robin Miles narrated the middle grade book I wrote, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. Robin Miles is a truly masterful narrator, and I feel like I learned more about my characters when listening to her read it.
Until next week!
We are getting seriously cloudy weather in New York City, and recently we got a sunny morning so Nala and I camped out by the window and read Out of Left Field, a feminist middle grade baseball story set during the Cold War, by Ellen Kluges. Five out of five stars!
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