3 Read Alouds for Home or School

Friends are always asking me what they should read next with their children . I loved these three middle grade novels for their unique worlds and dynamic characters. Appropriate grade levels and independent reading levels are included.

The Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George 

The Heartwood HotelMona the mouse gets separated from her family in a terrible storm. She wanders through the woods and stumbles upon The Heartwood Hotel. On a stormy night she finds shelter, and the most magnificent home. There are perches for the birds, burrows for the badgers, and a home for little Mona.  The kind owner gives her a job and a place to stay. Life at the Heartwood is not always easy. Her co worker Tilly is nothing but a pest, and Mona misses her family terribly. However, she finds community and belonging. This book is enchanting, and delightful. The world building is charming, and any animal loving child will eat these books up.

Read Aloud to K-4th Grades. 3rd Grade Independent Reading Level.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Heartwood Hotel, Book 1 A True Home

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

the wild robotRoz the robot washes up on an isolated Island.  When her button is pushed, and she is turned on, she explores and meets all the wild inhabitants of the Island. She soon discovers a little gosling in need of care. Roz begins a journey of learning to mother the gosling and trying to fit in with all the other animals.  Not every animal is trusting of outsiders, and Roz faces many challenges. This book is engaging and sweet. The themes of acceptance and friendship are a wonderful springboard to conversation with children. Read Aloud to 2-5th graders.  5th Grade Independent Reading Level.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Wild Robot

Winter House by Ben Guterson 

Winter HouseElizabeth comes home from school to find her mean aunt and uncle have left for the holidays. She is being sent to the mysterious Winter House hotel. This is the best twist of fate Elisabeth has had in years. Winterhouse is an unusual and enchanting old hotel at the foot of a mountain. Elisabeth meets the all the quirky guests and the peculiar owner, Norbridge Falls. Soon she has met a friend her age, and life has never been better. With fluffy treats baked fresh each day, skiing, ice skating, and the most extensive library anyone has ever seen, Winter house is truly paradise. Until some strange events begin to unfold, and Elisabeth finds herself in the middle of an old family mystery. This book was fantastic, you will wish you could book a room in Winter house, it is reminiscent of the world of Harry Potter. I loved it, and I know children will too. Perfect for 3rd-6th grades. 6th grade independent reading level.

To purchase this book on Amazon, click here:  Winterhouse

 

 

Best Books of 2017

My Favorite Books of 2017

eleanor Oliphant is completely fineBest Overall Character: Emily Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– Emily is the most real, quirky, and charming character I have read in a long time. She has been through very difficult circumstances, and we meet her just as she is beginning to step out of a safe, but isolated life. I was moved, laughed, cringed, and cheered for her the whole way through.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel

the other einsteinBest Historical Fiction: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict– Did you know Albert Einstein’s wife was also a genius mathematician and physicist? This is a riveting and heartbreaking story of their love affair. It was fascinating.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Other Einstein: A Novel

 

wishtreeBest Middle Grade Novel: Wishtree by Catherine Applegate– Told from the perspective of a tree, the history, heartache, and hope of a little town is revealed by one little tree. Beautiful, imaginative, and wonderful.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Wishtree

 

when dimple met rishiBest Sophisticated Brain Candy: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon– When Dimple heads to Standford for a summer program, she has no idea her traditional Indian parents have betrothed her to another student in the program. Calamity ensues, and it is funny, sweet, and light. Sometimes you just need a light read, this is it, but well written.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: When Dimple Met Rishi

 

a long walk to waterBest Non-Fiction: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park– A simply stunning novel about the lost boys of Sudan. Everyone should read this book, and teachers or parents of 4th graders and up should add it to their read aloud list.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

like water for chocolate

Best Re-Read: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel- This was a book club pick, I had read it in college, and loved reading it again. It is passionate, tragic, and beautiful.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

 

born a crime

Best Celebrity Novel: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah– Ever since the success of Tina Fey’s book, it gave license for nearly every celebrity to write a book. Most are not my favorite.  However, I learned a lot from Noah’s book. You will learn a little about slave history, apartheid, and hear Noah’s powerful life story.  A solid read, but not too challenging.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

2018 To Be Read List: (So Far) 

Peace Like a River by Lief Enger

Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary by Martha Brokenbrough

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

Book Club Choice -Read with us!

84 Charing cross roadAll the British Authors I follow on Twitter have been singing the praises of this short novel, told in letters.  It was published back 1970, it is a book of correspondence between a free lance writer in New York, and a book seller in London. I love epistolary books, and so far this is charming.  What are your book clubs reading lately?

To Purchase this book from Amazon, click here:

84, Charing Cross Road

 

Spy Stories for Smart Kids

I love the smart girl movement, but I couldn’t leave boys out of this post.  These brilliant books appeal to middle grade readers of either gender. Strong, incredible women write strong books, and I am luck enough to have met both of these authors.

Amanda Hosch is a Seattle writer, and her book just launched here at the University Bookstore yesterday.

Amanda's Launch Party 39

Amanda surrounded by her cheerleaders, and women I feel lucky enough to call friends.

Amanda's Launch Party 14

Amanda looking incredibly intelligent as she reads an excerpt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mabel Opel Pear and the Rules for Spying by Amanda Hosch 

MOP and the rules for spyingMabel Pear lives in a small town under Mt. Ranier, where cell service is spotty, the locals are quirky, and things get very complicated. Mabel’s parents are spies. Her aunt runs the local diner, a spoon museum, and cares for Mabel while they are on missions. Mabel is training to be a spy of her own. When her parents cannot be reached, and a new local detective is acting suspicious, Mabel’s spy skills get tested.
This book is fantastic. It appeals to boys and girls, has a rich setting, a smart and lovable main character, everything you want in a perfect middle grade novel. Purchase it for your child or classroom, or read it as an adult. I loved it.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Mabel Opal Pear and the Rules for Spying

The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan

Detectives-Assistant-Cover-largeCornelia is 11 years old, feisty, without a soul in the world to care for her. Her only living relative is a long lost Aunt Kate in Chicago. Cornelia finds herself dropped on the doorstep of a suspicious, bristly woman.  She does not want a child, especially an unkempt, wild, willful girl like Cornelia.  Her aunt is Kate Warne, a secret detective. Cornelia is full of spunk, but she is also fearless and street smart. She proves to be somewhat useful in solving Kate’s detective cases. Aunt Kate keeps her around, yet the threat of dropping her off with an orphanage is always present. Kate Warne was actually the first woman detective in Chicago. This story combines the factual history with a sweet, adventurous, and wild tale.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Detective’s Assistant

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Kate won the Golden Kite Award, a big deal. However, when I met her at the Writer’s conference in LA, she was hilarious and down to earth, she’s’ showing off my little business cards while she holds her award. We laughed hard, and she was inspiring to everyone who listened to her tale of publication perseverance.

 

2 Memoirs of Change Makers

Memoir is a hard genre for me to embrace, but these books were powerful eye openers. Both of these men stopped the cycle of poverty and abuse, through their choices and owning their stories. Never victimizing their misfortune, but simply stating the truth of tough circumstances. Their lives are somewhat parallel, despite cultural differences, I recommend reading both, they are fascinating to compare and contrast.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

you dont have to say you love meSherman Alexie’s book helped me recognize and rectify the stereotypes I had formed about Indians and life on a reservation. Sherman grew up in Spokane on a reservation.  I had never understood all layers of pain, loss, and abuse that built the foundation for many Indians in America. I cried reading his childhood memories of white teachers abusing him and his classmates daily during school. The atrocities are horrific, the potential for evil against our fellow human beings is overwhelming.  As I read I kept rejoicing in knowing this story so I can choose the light, instead of the dark.  Sherman grew up in a half-finished barely insulated home. He endured winter months without light or heat, waiting for Sherman’s mother to sew a quilt, sell it, and pay the utility bills.

Sherman Alexie endured such immense pain in his youth, some inflicted by his mother, some by the reservation community. Sherman retells  his mother’s history as best he can, she was a consistent liar, so he has pieced her years together through siblings and relatives stories mixed with his mothers.  He chronicles the abuse she survived, his memories of her, and his journey to forgive her. He captures the essence of loving and being loved by deeply flawed people. Pain mixed with tender adoration, mixed with rage, mixed with mourning. If you read only a few books this year, put this on your list. It is necessary to understand the evils others have endured to fight for the good in this world. Read it with your book club, it is moving, hard, tender, and wonderful, and gut wrenching. Worth every moment spent reading.

To Purchase this book, click here:You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

The Hillbilly Elegy 

hillbilly elegyI can see why Hillbilly Elegy struck such a chord with readers. As a West Coast resident for twenty years, it helped explain the hopelessness of towns left with no economy. J.D’s story could be told from any poor part of the United States. At the heart, it is the story of growing up with violence and trauma in your home and those residual effects. I have met children in Seattle who have stories like J.D.’s. However, his story is intensified by the culture of drugs and joblessness in his rural residence. This book reads like a story, at times you cannot believe his experiences, but also cannot stop reading. I thought a lot about the recovery process, the healing an abused brain and heart has go through. Reading J.D.’s story, it is inspiring to see his tenacity for creating healthy habits, and breaking away from patterns of destruction. His story ended with an impressive degree from Yale Law. However, after living through J.D’s story,  going to college, staying off drugs, and contributing to society is simply impressive. This book led to very thoughtful discussion, a thoughtful book for book clubs.

To Order on Amazon, click here: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

 

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

the alice networkCharlie boards a ship to Europe with her mother, pregnant, unwed, and a little angry. The Second World War has just ended, and nothing is right in Charlie’s life, or the world. Fed up with her mother, she sets out on her own as soon as she reaches England. Charlie’s cousin Rose, is missing in France.  She has one lead, a woman named Eve, and all the determination in the world.

Eve worked in a ring of women spies in World War One. Her job left her broken, bitter, and alone. Along comes Charlie, with questions Eve does not want to hear, much less answer. However, Eve must face the past eventually. Charlie and Eve form a very unlikely relationship and set out to find Rose.

The Alice Network flips back and forth between Eve and Charlie, and the First and Second World Wars. It is thrilling, distressing, and intriguing. There are many World War Two novels, however the timelines from each war weave together to deliver a fresh twist. The work of female spies is impressive, the author’s research at the end of the book is fascinating. An entertaining story from beginning to end.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Alice Network: A Novel

Outstanding September Read Alouds

Fresh takes on classic back to school books are my favorite. First day of school nerves are universal. Books that find creative ways to help children work through the anticipation, excitement, and fear the first day, and after they get settled into school. When children can look back and see they conquered a challenge, it builds confidence. Here are my new favorites for back to school.

Back to School with BigFoot- by Martha Brokenbrough

back to school with bigfootWhen you are big, hairy, and maybe a little scary, back to school comes with its own special challenges. Bigfoot takes on the challenges, and makes school the best it can be. This book is brilliantly clever and funny, but it can also lead to great discussion about their own challenges and strengths. The freshest version of a classic back to school theme.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Back to School with Bigfoot

I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard- by Jennifer K. Mann

Mrs. BensonRose wants a star on the blackboard, but her reading voice is too quiet, her desk is always messy, and she worries and worries about desk inspection. It turns out Rose has talents all her own, her worries are unfounded, and her teacher sees her for the shining star she is. In my classroom experience children struggle with anxiety. This book is an example to children that worries typically are just worries. I think this is a good conversation starter to help children cope with unnecessary worry.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard

Planet Kindergarten- by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

planet KindergartenDylan faces the typical back to school stresses and routines. However, he imagines his new school as a space station, and he is the astronaut on a mission. A fun book, ignites imagination, and appeals to any space lovers in your classroom.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:Planet Kindergarten

I Am Too Absolutely Small for School –by Lauren Child

I am too small for schoolLola presents her argument, she certainly cannot attend school this year. Charlie presents his counter arguments. This dialogue explains all the universal Preschool and Kindergarten experiences.  It is comforting, all the problems are real for children. It contains rich vocabulary, a perfect Preschool or Pre-K first day book.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:I Am Too Absolutely Small for School (Charlie and Lola)

The Teacher’s Pet -by Anica Mrose Rissi

the teachers petMr. Strictor’s class hatched tadpoles, and gets to keep just one for the class pet. The class pet gets out of control, but the students don’t know what to do. Their teacher loves the pet and won’t let it go. The children ban together to find the perfect solution.  I love how the class solves the problem.  A humorous, endearing book for primary grades.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:The Teacher’s Pet

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten- by Candice Ransom

amanda pandaIt is nice to find longer picture books, I think it is beneficial for children’s attention span. Amanda Panda is eager for her first day of school, but nothing goes quite like she expected. I noted that the main character was the unkind friend, I think this creates good discussion with children. In the end, she learned to be a good friend even when she didn’t feel like choosing to be kind. A great first month of school read aloud.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten