Dana-tested, Stabenow-approved, all guaranteed good reads as well as good read-alouders. I’ve been known to read at least parts of them out loud when I’m alone in the room myself.
For the toddlers, try Peggy Rathmann’s Good Night, Gorilla. At the end of the day the zookeeper goes home, and he doesn’t go home alone. The illustrations are delightful, I’m smiling now just thinking about the mouse with the banana on a string. See also Where Are You Going, Manyoni?, Mama, Do You Love Me?, and I Want My Hat Back.
I also love D.B. Johnson’s Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, wherein Henry David Thoreau morphs into a bear (there are five books in the Henry series now). Also the The Jolly Postman, or Other People’s Letters by Janet & Allan Ahlberg, the tale of a postman on his bicycle delivering the mail to the occupants of an enchanted forest, but this is mail you get to take out of its envelopes (and check out the postmarks and the stamps) like you’d just taken it out of your own mailbox.
For middle schoolers, Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen will make them laugh (just make sure they don’t try any of that at home), Tony Johnston’s Any Small Goodness will make them cry, and E.L. Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday will make them want to have tea on Saturday afternoons.
Everyone knows the story of Katniss Everdeen now, but new readers are growing up as we speak. Read the books with them–you’ll be astonished by how much more they give you than the films do of this tale of a post-apocalyptic America where there is very little bread and only one–and fatal–circus. See also The Smell of Other People’s Houses and Property of the State.
And for those of you poor deprived readers who have never come across this book before, I am delighted, nay, ecstatic to announce the return to print of The Lion’s Paw by Robb White, including the original illustrations by Ralph Ray. It’s about damn time. In World War II Florida, Penny and Nick run away from the orphanage and hide out on the sloop Hard-a-Lee, owned by sixteen-year old Ben, whose father is missing in the South Pacific. Uncle Pete is going to sell the Hard-a-Lee, but instead Ben, Penny and Nick light out for the territory, and that’s just the beginning of their adventures.