Read Aloud of the Day!

May 2020

An essential element in reading aloud is what you choose to read. Not everyone is familiar with children's literature, either classic or contemporary. These are read aloud titles which eliminates some books that are difficult to read aloud or, because of the subject matter, are best read silently to oneself.

For more book recommendations, check out Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook, 8th Edition, of which I revised and updated and including a Giant Treasury of Great Read-Aloud Books with a multitude of new selections. 

They All Saw a Cat

BY BRENDAN WENZEL               May 8

Grades Preschool-3

Chronicle Books      2016      44 pages

On Fridays, I thought it would be fun to revisit some favorite read alouds. This week I have selected They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. At first glance, this Caldecott Honor recipient seems like a decidedly simple book about a child and various animals who all saw a cat. The repetitive refrains of “The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .” and “They all saw a cat” encourage children to engage in the reading aloud of the book while the illustrations offer various viewpoints of how the cat is seen. For example, a child, dog, and mice see the cat by how they interact with it. The worm sees the cat through the vibrations it makes while it walks. Near the end, the cat is made up of all the different ways it has been seen until finally the cat sees its own reflection in the water “and imagine what it saw?” The illustrations immediately capture kids’ attention and invite them back to revisit the book again and again. What more could you hope for in a read aloud? I had the pleasure of monitoring a panel where Brendan spoke and he is as engaging as his art. I have included a photo of the book he signed for me. If you don’t know this book, seek it out. If you do, time to revisit it.

Connect the Dots


Grades 4-7

Scholastic      2020      240 pages

I became a fan of author Keith Calabrese with his first middle grade novel, A Drop of Hope. His newest book uses some of the same storytelling devices to weave together well-developed characters and an engaging plot. Sixth graders, Oliver and Frankie embark on a new school year with some trepidation. There’s the bully who steals lunches, a rather weird new girl (Matilda), and a bizarre school alumnus. In addition, a cardamom shortage occurs, a mysterious stranger comes to town, and a lot of random incidents seem to happen that might just be connected. Imagine the odds! That’s exactly what Oliver, Frankie, and Matilda seek to discover when these “coincidences” don’t add up. Connect the Dots poses a mystery of sorts and moves along at a pace that retains listeners’ attention while offering something to think and talk about. In addition, there are interesting and likeable characters along with humorous and realistic dialogue. This book was published on May 5, so when you have an opportunity to share it with kids, I would love to know what they think.



Grades Pre-school-1              May 6

Scholastic Books           2020        40 pages

Kids enjoy visual storytelling and Ducks! by Deborah Underwood is humorous and of course, eye-catching and engaging. Duck is fascinated by a butterfly and wanders away from the pond and the rest of the flock. Where did they go? Duck needs to go in search of them and in the process discovers all sorts of sights and sounds—but alas, “No Ducks”. The repetitive phrasing of “Ducks?” and “No Ducks” will have young children joining in on the fun. Illustrations by T. L. McBeth utilize expansive white space to draw attention to the Duck and all that is encountered. Don’t forget to peek under the dust jacket for an added illustration as well as a map of where Duck searched for his fellow feathered friends

A Letter to My Teacher


Grades K-3                May 5 

Schwartz & Wade         2017           40 pages 

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day! Even though schools are closed, teachers have not stopped teaching and caring about their students. This lovely read aloud is written by a student (and later we discover, now a teacher herself) as a thank you note to her teacher. As a second grader, the child preferred to be running or jumping as opposed to learning and listening. However, the observant teacher realizes that the girl isn’t trying to cause problems, but rather is struggling with reading. Kids know, especially these days, how important their teacher is and sometimes it’s good to remind teachers that they are valued and appreciated.

#ReadAloudHandbook    #ReadToYourKids

With a Little Help from My Friends


Grades K-3                    May 4

Simon & Schuster               2019              40 pages


“I get by with a little help from my friends . . . “ is certainly true right now. This celebrated Beatles song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney takes on a different perspective with evocative illustrations by Henry Cole. Two girls are the very best of friends. Then one day, one of them has to move away leaving a void in both of their lives. But they remain connected through a variety of means until they can be together again. Share the book and the music and enjoy being together.

How to Steal a Dog and Wonderland and Wish

BY BARBARA O'CONNOR                       May 1

Grades 3-7

This first day of May is a perfect time to share a few favorite chapter book read alouds by Barbara O’Connor. Of course, they all happen to be about a kid and a dog. In How to Steal a Dog, Georgina Hayes thinks she has found a solution to assist her family’s financial dilemma. Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can go awry. Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has made the same secret wish every day since 4th grade. Will her Wish come true when she goes to live with a family she barely knows while making an unlikely friend with a neighbor boy? Wonderland shares the story of Mavis Jeeter who wants to live in one place long enough to have a real best friend. Mavis thinks that Rose Tully might fit the bill. A dog also features prominently in this tale of loss, kindness, and friendship. All three books tug at the heartstrings while delivering stories of hope, resilience, and the power of relationships.

Trio of "Rollicking Read-Alouds"!


On Friday, Nov. 15, I am presenting a session on Rollicking Read Alouds at the American Association of School Librarians in Louisville, KY. I will be joined by Laura Murray, Tracey Hecht, and Brendan Wenzel. Laura has a picture book series of "Gingerbread Man" books that provide rhyming, rollicking fun. Tracey's "Nocturnals" books are good for middle-grade readers and reading aloud because of the interesting characters and lots of dialogue that engages listeners. And of course, Brendan Wenzel's picture books are artistically stunning. Not sure if A Stone Sat Still would be considered a "rollicking read aloud" but it is definitely a must for reading aloud and discussing with kids.

Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson


Grades 1-4 

Abrams Books for Young Readers 2019    48 pages 


This week, my undergraduate children's literature class is exploring picture book biographies. I think some of the best biographies are published in this format. One author that does an amazing job in writing about the life of individuals is Jen Bryant. Whether the focus is on artists such as Georgia O'Keefe or Horace Pippin, word wizard Peter Mark Roget, or poet William Carlos Williams, each one is unique in how the information is presented. One week from today, Jen's newest book, Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson, will be available. I can't wait to read this newest gem by Jen.

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks


Grades 5 and up 

Atheneum, 2019    194 pages

Jason Reynolds is a masterful storyteller and Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks doesn’t disappoint. Ten short stories, featuring characters in middle school, are cleverly woven together in both humorous and poignant ways. But all of them are sure to engage kids. Each chapter averages around 15 pages (perfect for reading aloud) and tackles a topic not far removed from experiences kids encounter in middle grades. And these topics will definitely prompt discussion starting with the first chapter on boogers and others focusing on bullying, parental illness, and homophobia. I haven’t had an opportunity to share this with kids but would love to hear about their reactions if you have some to share.

I Wonder

Grades Preschool-2
Random House Books for Young Readers    2019    40 pages                      

Questions such as, "I wonder if sandwiches get made when you bite them?" or "Do windmills ever get tired?" or "I wonder if books read us, too?" will certainly prompt other questions and motivate kids to conduct their own inquiry into the world around them. K.A. Holt's whimsical questions are accompanied by Kenard Pak's captivating illustrations in this engaging wonder-ful picture book.

Hands Up!

Grades Preschool-3
Dial Books    2019    32 pages

I'm always on the lookout for books that lend themselves to interactive read alouds. Hands Up by Breanna J. McDaniel is perfect for preschool and kindergarten storytimes. Kids will quickly pick up on the repetitive phrase, “Hands Up” and will join in the fun.  Vibrant and colorful illustrations by Shane W. Evans make excellent use of lines to prompt raising hands up high.

Bear Came Along

Grades: Preschool-3
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers    2019    40 pages 

"Once there was a river that flowed night and day, but it didn't know it was a river until Bear Came Along". And soon more animals join bear and a grand adventure is had by all. Richard T. Morris's, Bear Came Along, contains a humorous storyline filled with expressive vocabulary such as curious, content, and excited. LeUyen Pham's illustrations are eye-catching and depict each character's emotions as they embark on an adventure that is literally filled with twists and turns. Be sure to remove the dust jacket, view the endpapers, and read the author and illustrator notes at the end.

Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963


Grades 4-8 

Scholastic, 2019 234 pages

At the recent International Literacy Association Conference in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of hearing Sharon Robinson speak about her new book Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963. This is a compelling book in which she talks about her thirteen-year-old self and the impact of one of the most important years of the Civil Rights Movement. That year saw the Children’s March in 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in which four young girls were killed. Photos of Sharon and her family (which of course includes baseball legend, Jackie Robinson) are included. Two picture books that could accompany the reading of this book include Let the Children March written by Monica Clark-Robinson and A Place to Land: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein with stunning illustrations by Jerry Pinkney.

If I Built a School


Grades K-3

Dial, 2019  32 pages

If I Built A School by Chris Van Dusen is perfect for reading aloud. Van Dusen uses rhyming couplets that flow easily and aren’t forced by including words just to create a rhyme. The illustrations have a unique and eye-catching retro look that is Van Dusen’s trademark style. Imaginations will soar with the thought of hover desks with bumpers, a robo-chef named Pete who mixes up tasty, and unique lunches, and a playground with a zip line and water for tubing. Teachers would love this school as well where a stylus can be used to write in the air, hologram guests both past and present can visit the classroom, and specialty buses can dive underwater and blast off the ground. This is the third in Van Dusen’s series which includes If I Built a Car (2005) and If I Built a House (2012). Kids will be motivated and excited to think about all the other things or places that could be built.


The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation


Grades K-3                                                  

Atheneum, 2017; e-book, audiobook  96 pages

This is book four in the popular Princess in Black series. Our heroine, Princess Magnolia, is exhausted. She has been battling monsters for the fourteenth time in one week. When the masked Goat Avenger suggests she take a vacation, the Princess decides to ride her bicycle to the seashore. When a sea monster begins terrorizing the beach, the Princess in Black knows she needs to spring into action. Dual storylines of Princess Magnolia and

the Goat Avenger keep the pace exciting. Illustrations by LeUyen Pham add to the fun. Other books in the series: The Princess in Black; The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party; The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde; The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate; The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare; and The Princess in Black Takes a Holiday.

Dean Hale, Shannon Hale, Marie LeJeune, Cyndi Giorgis at the International Literacy Association Conference in New Orleans, October, 2019

Marie LeJeune and Cyndi Giorgis preparing for their presentation with Dean and Shannon Hale at ILA by dressing as Princess in Black. 
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Smash!"

A Drop of Hope


Grades 3–8                                                                                                             

Scholastic, 2019; e-book  320 pages


A well. A wish. And a little drop of hope. These three things are expertly woven together in this engaging and thought-provoking read-aloud. The town of Cliffs Donnelly is facing tough times and a few miracles would help its residents. Sixth grader Ernest Wilmette is small in stature, but large with optimism. His classmates, Ryan Hardy and Lizzy MacComber, are not quite as positive in their outlook given their family and personal challenges.  And then there’s bully Tommy Bricks who is feared by all.

At the center of the story is Thompkins Well where, legend has it, a miracle took place generations ago when a significant wish was granted. When Ernest and Ryan discover a hidden tunnel that leads to the bottom of the well, they also unwittingly hear the wishes of people—some whose voices they recognize and others that are unfamiliar. Ernest decides they should find a way to make the wishes come true despite Ryan’s skepticism. Couple Ernest’s genuine wish-granting intent with his task of cleaning his late grandfather’s attic and somehow wishes do come true. Told through various characters’ perspectives, this novel is storytelling at its finest. 


Related books: Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly; The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo; and Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.




Grades Preschool-2 Little Brown, 2019 40 pages

Daddy takes pride in his perfect lawn. But then he spies a dandelion. Before he is able to get his clippers to remove it, his daughter, Sweetie, has claimed it and named it Charlotte. Every attempt to remove the weed is unsuccessful because Sweetie doesn’t stray far away from it. Finally, daddy has his chance when Sweetie leaves for swim lessons. As he makes his approach toward the dandelion, he spies a picture Sweetie has drawn of Charlotte and daddy. Unfortunately, his clippers drop and damage Charlotte. The illustrations on the next few pages are hilarious as daddy and his neighbros try to revive the damaged dandelion. If you are looking for a charming book about fathers and daughers, this one will do the trick. Related books: Dad By My Side by Soosh; and My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Katrina Germein.