Monday, April 4, 2011

Some of my favorite read-alouds for young boys (and girls, too)

This post is inspired by Fanny's comment (on this post) of her desire to find more books to read to her young son. Here are some fun books, all written for the 8 to 11 year old range, all older classics, that work beautifully and are especially appealling for reading aloud to young boys (and girls, who will love them too.)

The Great Brain
by John D. Fitzgerald
illustrated by Mercer Mayer

A funny romp of a book, told through the eyes of the youngest brother John D. (or J.D. as his family called him), about life in a family of all boys around the later part of the 1800's. The adventures, schemes, mayhem and mischief, usually concocted by his brother Tom (the Great Brain), that the boys are involved in will leave you laughing and blessing the patience of mothers everywhere. These books are also good to give reluctant readers, because they are so engaging, and well-written, and they keep moving.
These books (some of them) have been re-published, which is wonderful, as it's always a shame when good stories become unavailable to readers. And there are more in the series (that you might only find at your library, 'though I think Amazon has a few of the series):
  • More Adventures of the Great Brain
  • Me and My Little Brain
  • The Great Brain at the Academy
  • The Great Brain Reforms
  • The Return of the Great Brain
  • The Great Brain Does It Again
  • The Great Brain Is Back

by George Seldon
(First published in 1973)

Set in New York City, this is a heartwarming and hilarious story by the author of The Cricket in Times Square (another good read-aloud) about what happens when you employ a genie to help you solve your problems. When Tim's father dies, Tim goes to live with Aunt Lucy in her Sutton Place apartment, bringing along his mutt, Sam. Then Sam falls in love with Aunt Lucy, following her all around the apartment, lying his head on her lap or foot whenever she sits down. Aunt Lucy doesn't love Sam back, and quickly gets so annoyed that she tells Tim the dog has to go. Desperate to keep his beloved pet, Tim seeks the help of Madame Sosostris, an old friend of the family and also a Medium. The solution they stumble across takes Tim to the National Museum to release the trapped Slave of the Carpet. When the genie turns Sam the dog into Sam, the man, hilarity and disaster ensue. It is a funny, charming, gripping story that will leave you smiling at the end.
As a read-aloud, this book works for kids as young as five or six, if they're used to narratives. (The first part of it is a little slow as the story is being set up.) For the child who will read it alone, they might need to be a little older, say 8 or 9 - unless, of course, you've already read it aloud and they want to relive the magic themselves.
Unfortunately, this book is out of print. You can still purchase copies second-hand, and definitely try your library, as they usually have older classics like this.

Ben & Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin By His Good Mouse Amos
Written and Illustrated by Robert Lawson
(First published in 1939)

Amos the mouse feels the need to set the record straight on how Benjamin Franklin got the ideas for all of his marvelous inventions.
A witty, humorous and interesting look at a great figure in history.
ALSO try Lawson's other historical fiction book along similar lines: Mr. Revere and I.

The Enormous Egg
by Oliver Butterworth
illustrated by Louise Darling
(First published in 1957)

Nate Twitchell is shocked to discover that his hen has laid a very un-hen-sized egg. It's so enormous, she can't sit on it. When it hatches, he and the whole town, indeed the whole country, get the surprise of a lifetime when out pops a triceratops. Find out what happens as this enormous baby starts eating and eating...
A fun story, set in the 1950's, that my little girls loved when I read it aloud to them a couple years ago.


  1. I love The Enormous Egg...I actually read it as a kid!!! Ben and Me and The Great Brain are great choices. I'll have to look for the Genie because I love the Cricket series by Selden!!! Great post!!!

  2. The Great Brain Books are awesome! I was just telling my brother he should read them :) I'll have to look into the other books.

  3. Kathy - The Genie of Sutton Place is so worth the read. Fun book.

    Rae - Aren't they funny?! Maybe you could read him a chapter or two, so he can see what he's missing, poor boy. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I loved the Great Brain books growing up, especially because they are set in the state where I live. We are always hoping they republish the rest of the series so we can get copies. As kids we always compared my older sister to the Great Brain, because she was always trying to sell us stuff!

  5. I haven't read any of these, although they are familiar titles. I think my girls would like them. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Thanks for participating in Book Talk Tuesday this week! It's great to throw some classics into the mix- new isn't always best!

  7. booksdogsandfrogs - One of the things I love about those books is how relatable the characters are. (I think there's usually a Great Brain type in every family.) Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    Amy - Let me know when you do and what you think. I'd hate to steer you wrong. But one reason I chose these is because they are all well written, and I think the characters are kids that real kids can relate to, and laugh at (and with) as they get in and out of their respective dilemmas.

    Kelly - It's a great thing you've started, and I'm happy that you let me participate. It has been fun reading all the contributions.

  8. I remember The Enormous Egg! That book was a staple in my reading repertoire as a kid. What a throwback!

  9. Hi Megan,

    Great list of read-alouds! Found your site through The Lemme Library!

    Love your blog!

    May I also say that I'd love to subscribe to it by email, but I don't see the option.

    There is a new widget on blogger that makes it easy peasy to put it on your site (I use Blogger too) - if you want to enable it.

    All the best!

    Read Aloud Dad

  10. Yay! Thanks SO much for these suggestions. I've got Ben and Me (haven't read it yet) and we've read the The Cricket in Times Square, but the rest of this list is new to me. And my son loves stories set in the past (and/or published in the past!) so these are sure to be successes with him. Thanks again!

  11. Amy (Bookzilla) - I like to think I'm helping a new generation find some old friends. ;)

    Read Aloud Dad - I added the email option for you. Thanks for suggesting that, and for visiting and commenting!

    Fanny - You're so welcome! And thanks for the post inspiration. I hope he likes them.

  12. Megan- thanks for your comment about the travel systems! Very useful knowledge. And I definitely do plan on either buying or making my own wrap. I've heard great things about them. And your blog is awesome. :)

  13. Ben and Me is so much fun! A classic! Another good read-aloud is Mr. Popper's Penguins.

  14. I will add G. of S. P. to my list--thanks!

  15. Thanks so much for telling me about these reviews. That Selden book sounds great. And I remember thinking about putting The Enormous Egg on my 1950s list, but I think I just forgot about it.

  16. I actually think I saw this post a few months ago because I remember the George Seldon book. I'm surprised I didn't comment on it then. But I agree with everyone that this is a great list of read-alouds!