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Chapter Book Read Alouds

Page history last edited by MrsK Books 5 years, 4 months ago

Looking for a Back-to-School Chapter Book Read-Aloud? Don’t Miss These!

By Daryl Grabarek

Taken from School Library Journal on 8/11/15

Librarians can count on certain perennial requests, and chief among them is the call for read-aloud suggestions. We surveyed our readers about the chapter books they’ve been recommending lately. Here are their responses and thoughts on what makes a good read aloud at the beginning of the school year. 


I put Emily Jenkins’s Toys Go Out (2006) into the hands of kindergarten and first grade teachers who are looking for chapter book read-alouds. Jenkins imbues her characters (stuffed animals and a ball) with enormous personality, and their trials and triumphs ring true to this audience, who are thrilled to hear more of their adventures in Toy Dance Party (2008). And now there’s newly released picture book Toys Meet Snow (2015; all Random, all illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky)—Daryl Grabarek, SLJ and PS 89/IS 289, New York, NY
The Year of Billy Miller By second grade they are ready for Kevin Henkes, The Year of Billy Miller (Greenwillow, 2013). Billy is a seven-year-old worrier; he worries about the bump on his head he received from a fall, whether second-grade will be everything it’s promised to be, and so much more. Elementary children will relate to Billy’s internal dialogue, and his anxieties, and the book’s message is one that will resonate with all  all listeners.—Daryl Grabarek, SLJ and PS 89/IS 289, New York, NY
The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester For grades 2–4, I recommend Barbara O’Connor’s The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester (Square Fish, 2011). The story, which is set in rural Georgia, features quirky characters and snappy dialogue. The question of what makes a good friend could lead to rich discussions.—Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, ME

Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw (Feiwel & Friends, Sept. 2015; Gr 3–5)

I pay special attention to stories that cultivate kindness and community, as well as courage and tenacity.

Conversations about these novels will center on friendship, family, and community.—Mary Ann Scheuer, Berkeley Unified School District, CA


Adventures with Waffles (Candlewick, 2015; Gr 3–5) by Maria Parr has my vote. The book offers the wonderful combination of honestly drawn characters; humorous, laugh-out-loud adventures; and truly heartfelt moments of emotion.—Kary Henry, Deerfield Public Library, IL

fpo A good read-aloud chapter book must have believable—and relatable—characters as well as an interesting (but not overly complicated) plot. Every year I read Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Candlewick, 2006; Gr 3–5), illustrated by Bagram Ibatouline, to my fourth grade students as a reminder of the transformative power of story. Although I have read the book many times, I still get choked up at the end. My audience’s call for “just one more chapter” is music to my ears.Wayne Cherry, Jr., First Baptist Academy in Houston, TX
fpo “Holy unanticipated occurrences!” Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses (Candlewick, 2013; Gr 3–6), illustrated by K. G. Campbell, is both quirky and deeply moving, and Flora’s passion for words and old-timey sayings makes the book fun to read aloud.—Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada
fpo Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost (Penguin, 2014; Gr 3–6) is a great back-to-school read aloud with sympathetic protagonist. Fifth grader Albie is having a tough time—continued learning issues necessitate a new school. He must leave his one good friend; the only attention he gets from his father is harsh; and there’s a bully in his new class. Enter Calista, his new, hip babysitter. Donuts, “Captain Underpants,” and reality TV…need I say more? Well, there is more—a wealth of family, school, and even ethical issues that are sure to prompt lively discussion.— Barbara Auerbach, P.S. 217, Brooklyn, NY
fpo Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins, 2012; Gr 3–6), illustrated by Patricia Castelao. The writing is fluid and elegant—almost free verse in its lyricism—and the first-person narration make listeners feel as if Ivan were whispering his secrets to them. From memorable characters to thought-provoking themes, Ivan has it all.—Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada
fpo Perfect for grades 3-6, Phil Bildner’s A Whole New Ballgame (Farrar, 2015), illustrated by Tim Probert, is a feel-good story about friendship, basketball, and the surprising things that happen when an inventive teacher shakes up the fifth-grade curriculum. Readers will instantly warm to the likable and refreshingly diverse cast of characters. The realistic dialog makes this a pleasure to read aloud. (Listeners will be in stitches at the gross-out humor of a class presentation on the “most disgusting” things.) This book’s message of teamwork makes for an encouraging start to the new school year.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
fpo I look for stories with descriptive language, suspense, and a conflict that will make listeners think when selecting chapter book read-alouds. Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Random, 2013; Gr 4–5) makes an excellent choice, offering a perfect blend of mystery, adventure, puzzles, and literary references. —Cathy Potter, Falmouth Elementary School, ME

Gennifer Choldenko’s Chasing Secrets (Random, 2015; Gr 4–6)

I pay special attention to stories that cultivate kindness and community, as well as courage and tenacity.

Conversations about these novels will center on friendship, family, and community.—Mary Ann Scheuer, Berkeley Unified School District, CA

fpo Mitali Perkins’s Tiger Boy (Charlesbridge, 2015; Gr 4–6) is an engrossing tale about a young Bengali boy who undertakes incredible risks to save a tiger cub. Neel is studying for a coveted scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in Kolkata when a female tiger cub goes missing from the local reserve near his island village. The boy and his sister, Rupa, set out to find the animal and return her to her home before she is captured by nefarious poachers. Vivid action and suspense, conveyed in simple, clear language, make this a captivating choice.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA
fpo R. J. Palacio’s Wonder (Knopf, 2012; Gr 4-6) for its emotional wallop.—Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada
Gone Crazy in Alabama

Rita Williams-Garcia’s Gone Crazy in Alabama (HarperCollins, 2015; Gr 4–7)

I pay special attention to stories that cultivate kindness and community, as well as courage and tenacity.

Conversations about these novels will center on friendship, family, and community.—Mary Ann Scheuer, Berkeley Unified School District, CA

Kenneth Oppel’s The Boundless (S & S, 2014; Gr 5-7), illustrated by Jim Tierney, for its rollicking, non-stop adventure. —Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada  
fpo Rodman Philbrick’s Newbery Honor book, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (Blue Sky Press, 2009) is recommended for grades five to eight, but as a read-aloud kids as young as fourth grade would be entertained by Philbrick’s colorful storytelling. Homer is an engaging Huck Finn–esque narrator, admitting on page one that “telling the truth don’t come easy to me.” The boy is searching for his brother, a Union soldier, who he eventually reunites with at the Battle of Gettysburg. Most chapters end with tantalizing cliffhangers, so expect kids to clamor for “one more.” Consider recommending it as part of a unit on the Civil War.— Marybeth Kozkowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY
For grades five through eight, Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars (2009) is a good choice. Holling is a seventh grader living with his family on Long Island in 1967-68. The Vietnam War, discrimination, family expectations, a teacher who may—or may not—hate him, William Shakespeare, bad luck, and rats—this Newbery Honor title delivers.— Barbara Auerbach, P.S. 217, Brooklyn, NY
Gary D Schmidt’s Okay for Now (2013, both HMH; Gr 5-8) is a companion to the Wednesday Wars, but can be read independently. It features Doug Swieteck, an eighth grader who moves to the Catskills Mountains after his alcoholic father loses his job. Despite myriad family problems, Doug writes about his life in a lighthearted, amusing way. Though he makes a lot of bad choices early on, the young artist ultimately finds himself inspired by the town library’s copy of an original John James Audubon book.— Barbara Auerbach, P.S. 217, Brooklyn, NY
Tear down the walls between school and real life with How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (Holt, 2014; Gr 8 Up). Tariq is black, his shooter is white, and multiple narrators tell what they saw or what they think happened that led to the teen’s murder. Ask your students to take some visual notes as you introduce a broad cast of characters that includes family members, friends, and witnesses. Provide turn-and-talk prompts to analyze how race and culture create sometimes wildly varying presuppositions and points of view.—Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School Teacher Librarian, Seattle Public Schools, WA

Your Common Core Connection


Lexile Reading and AR Levels


Reading Aloud is All About...


The Best of 2014


The Best of 2013


Penguin Early Word Book Reviews


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