Twenty-eight books for children and adults to read aloud

Lisa Lane is on the Monitor's book staff. Many books we enjoyed as children are now no longer available; or, we find that a childhood favorite reread today sounds pedantic or awkward, and neither a child nor an adult would enjoy hearing it again.

A good children's book is one both children and adults enjoy. It is well written, the characters are well developed, and the story moves quickly.

Here is a list of books that both children and adults will enjoy sharing. Many of them are old, but there are also quite a few that are more recent.

Before reading any book to a child, read it first to yourself. This rehearsal will allow you to judge whether the children you plan to read it to will enjoy it.

All of the books listed here are in print, and many are available in paperback. If you can't obtain one at your local bookstore, try your library. A librarian should be able to help you find a copy of any of the books on this list.

The list is divided by suggested listening level, not reading levels. Many times, however, a child will enjoy a book that is beyond his or her suggested age.


In Bedtime for Frances (Harper & Row, $1.95), by Russell Hoban, Frances the badger does not want to go to bed. She tries every trick she knows - she's thirsty, she has to go to the bathroom - before she finally goes to sleep. Children will enjoy this lighthearted story about bedtime.

This classic edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, illustrated by Brian Wilsmith, includes many poems about the everyday life of a child. ''The Swing,'' and ''My Shadow,'' for example, are poems children can easily memorize.

Do You Want to Be My Friend? (Harper & Row, $8.95), by Eric Carle, is a touching story about a mouse who goes around asking different animals to be his friend. One animal is illustrated on each left-hand page, with only the tail of the next on the right-hand page. Toddlers can try to guess what the next animal is.

A collection of 32 of the best-loved fairy tales, The Fairy Tale Treasury (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, $9.99), selected by Virginia Haviland, includes favorites such as ''Henny Penny,'' ''The Story of the Three Pigs,'' and ''The Old Woman and Her Pig.'' Brightly colored illustrations by Raymond Briggs add extra vitality to the stories.

Margaret Wise Brown's classic bedtime book, Goodnight Moon (Harper & Row, $5. 95), is perfect for babies, because while the bunny is saying goodnight to everything in his room, you and your child can point to each object. A fun book for bedtime, especially if the moon is out.

Construction sites always fascinate young children. In Virgina Lee Burton's book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (Houghton Mifflin, $2.95), Mike Mulligan and his steam-powered earth-mover will be enjoyed by boys and girls alike.

Long considered a classic, Millions of Cats (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, $2. 50), by Wanda Gag, is a tale about a man who brings home ''millions, and billions, and trillions of cats.'' It will entertain children for hours.

The Mother Goose Treasury (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, $13.95), by Raymond Briggs, is a large collection of over 400 rhymes with brilliantly colored illustrations. Young children will enjoy the illustrations and drawings, and with the large number of rhymes there will always be some you haven't read.

Rosie the hen, oblivious of the fox who's following her, goes for a walk around the farm in Rosie's Walk (Macmillan, $2.25), by Pat Hutchins. The fox is just a few steps behind Rosie, but somehow he never manages to catch her.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Frederick Warne, $3.50) is probably the best known of all of Beatrix Potter's stories. This book, as well as her many others, are fun read-alouds for young children.

Tiki Tiki Tembo (Scholastic Inc., $2.50) is a fun, tongue-twisting book about a Chinese boy named Tiki tiki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo. Children and adults will enjoy trying to learn Tiki Tiki Tembo's full names.

Grades K-3

From the moment he wakes up in the morning, when he discovers he has gum in his hair, until he goes to bed at night, Alexander has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Children will enjoy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Atheneum, $2.95), by Judith Viorst, a comical recital of the tragedies that befall Alexander.

In All-of-a-Kind Family (Dell, $1.50), author Sydney Taylor chronicles the lives of five sisters, ranging in age from 4 to 12, living on Manhattan's Lower East Side in the early 1900s. The homey warmth and gentle humor of the girls' family is depicted in episodes that revolve around situations all children experience - such as losing a library book, or not wanting to eat lunch.

With humor, vivid characterization, and wisdom, E. B. White tells the story of a little girl named Fern who is horrified when she learns that her father plans to kill the newborn runt pig, in Charlotte's Web (Harper & Row, $1.95). Fern persuades her father to spare the pig, whom she names Wilbur, and raises him on a baby bottle. But it is Charlotte, the spider in the barn that belongs to Fern's uncle, who conceives and executes the plan that saves Wilbur from being butchered in the fall.

Just before Sarah and her father leave on their journey to a new homesite, her mother says to her, ''Keep up your courage, Sarah Noble.'' In The Courage of Sarah Noble (Scribner, $2.95), it is in the dense, dark forest, where there are strange new sounds and sights, that Sarah must keep up her courage. But when her father leaves her to bring back the rest of the family, and she has to stay with the Indian family of Tall John, Sarah needs all the courage she can muster.

Ramona the Pest (William Morrow, $7.75), by Beverly Cleary, and its sequels, are humorous, warm books about Ramona Quimby's encounters with grown-ups. Ramona doesn't really like grown-ups and is often disappointed with adults and what they do and say. First grade is not at all what she expected, and Ramona isn't too impressed with her teacher. Kenneth Grahame's skill at evoking the beauty of the outdoors and the charm of small animals casts a powerful spell over reader and listener in The Wind in the Willows (Scribner, $8.95). Mole, Ratty, Badger, and Toad are fun-loving creatures who enjoy their lives to the fullest, but when Toad Hall is threatened, they join together to protect their home.

Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, and Roo are well-loved characters for many children. The whimsical tales of Winnie-the-Pooh (Dell, $1.25), set in 100-acre woods, are amusing, lighthearted, and funny, and the bravery of Christopher Robin, the distress Eeyore feels because he doesn't have a tail, and Kanga's exasperation with Roo for forever jumping out of her pouch will amuse adults and children alike.

Grades 3-5

The details of the life and customs of the Hungarian countryside are lovingly depicted in The Good Master (Viking Press, $5.95), a delightful book by Kate Seredy. Jancsi is excited about the visit of his city-cousin Kate. But neither he nor his parents are ready for the real Kate. Strong-willed and energetic, Kate turns the rhythmic pace of her country-cousin's life upside down.

In The House of Wings (Viking Press, 8.95), by Betsy Byars, 10-year-old Sammy has been left with his grandfather, whom he's never met, while his parents go to Detroit in search of work. Angry with his parents and angry at this strange older man, Sammy decides to run away. While being chased through the unfamiliar countryside by his grandfather, Sammy and his grandfather come upon a wounded crane. Through the anxiety they both share about the wounded crane, Sammy gradually forgets his rage toward his grandfather.

Michael's great-aunt Dew has a box containing 100 pennies - one for every year of her life in The Hundred Penny Box (Viking Press, $6.95), written by Sharon Bell Mathis. Michael loves to count the pennies and listen to his aunt tell tales of what happened during the earlier years of her life. But Michael's mother doesn't like the box; she wants to burn it because it's shabby and in the way. Understanding how precious the box is to Aunt Dew, Michael vows to save it.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Macmillan, $1.95), by C. S. Lewis, begins on a dreary, rainy day when Lucy, the youngest of four children, shuts herself inside a large wardrobe while playing a game of hide-and-seek. Lucy discovers that the wardrobe doesn't have a back, and she soon finds herself in Narnia, an unhappy land where it's always winter, but it's never Christmas. When Lucy is ''found'' by her older brothers and sister, she persuades them of the existence of Narnia, and they return to that strange, frozen land to help restore the true ruler of the country to his throne.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Dial, $8.95), by Mildred D. Taylor, is set during the Great Depression. It is based on stories told to a young black girl by her father about his own childhood. Nine-year-old Cassie learns that nightriders, lynchings, bigotry, and humiliating insults are made bearable by the courage of her parents. The courage of Cassie's parents, and even of Cassie herself, is touching and inspiring.

When Mary Lennox is suddenly orphaned, she is sent from India to live with her uncle in a huge, old manor house on the Yorkshire moors. Mary is thin, pale, and sour-looking, and a completely disagreeable, bad-tempered child. Mary meets Colin, her cousin, who is just as miserable and nasty as she, and Dickon, a young Yorkshire boy who thrives on the moors and their wildlife. In The Secret Garden (Dell, $1.95), by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the three children uncover a walled-in garden, and in the process of bringing this neglected garden back to life the children are also transformed.

Grades 5-8

In Across Five Aprils (Follett Publishing Company, $4.95), by Irene Hunt, Jethro, the youngest child in his family, believes that the Civil War means loud brass music and heroics. But when the war does come, it brings with it the cruel realities of fighting and the tragic loss of human life. Irene Hunt's skillful use of authentic detail conveys the scene and characters so vividly that reader and listener will be deeply touched by the impact of the Civil War on Jethro.

Thirteen-year-old Tom Dolan, whose mother has lived in poverty all her life, is determined to make life easier for her in Bert Breen's Barn (Little, Brown & Co., $8.95), by Walter D. Edmonds. Tom quits school and begins to earn money (25 cents a day) working at the local mill. With the help and advice of several adults, Tom's dream of buying Widow Breen's old barn and moving it to his own property is realized. This story, set in upstate New York at the turn of the century, moves slowly and quietly, but the suspense and action build toward the end of the book as Tom and his mother uncover a long-hidden life savings.

In June 1941, the secure world of 10-year-old Esther Rudomin was destroyed when Russian soldiers arrested Esther, her parents, and grandparents for being ''enemies of the people.'' Endless Steppe: A Girl in Exile (Harper & Row, $10.95 ), by Esther Hautzig, is the story of Esther and her family, who are sent to a frontier village on the Siberian steppe where, despite extreme hardship and deprivation, they work in a gypsum mine and on a farm. Despite the suffering, young Esther learns to hold her head up high and take pleasure in small things - visits to the village bazaar, a rare American movie, and even the beauty of the rugged steppes. At the end of the war, Esther and her family are returned to Poland, only to learn that, ironically, their exile has saved their lives - the rest of the family had perished in Nazi concentration camps.

Claudia Kincaid is fed up with the monotony of her stright-A suburban life. In From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Dell, $1.50), she decides to run away, and she selects the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as her destination. Jamie, her younger brother who's rich enough to help pay for the expedition, is chosen as her companion, and the two set off for the art museum. Claudia and Jamie sleep in a 16th-century canopy bed, bathe and replenish their funds in the museum fountain, and successfully hide from the museum guards. But it is a small statue on display, supposedly the work of Michelangelo, that really captures their imagination.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.