I’m not saying these are THE BEST read-alouds, just some of our favorites.
1. Adams, Richard. Watership Down. Violence and mythology and rabbits. This novel of rabbit communities is long, but worth persevering through.
2. Aiken, Joan. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Deliciously Victorian, and dangerous, and odd, this one is a sort of October-ish book.
3. Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women or Eight Cousins. I prefer Eight Cousins, but of course, Little Women is a classic. Little Women is #47 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
4. Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three and all the sequels. Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper, Eilonwy the annoyingly intelligent and plain-spoken princess, Gurgi, and Fflewddur Fflam, the truth-stretching harpist are favorite character in our fictional pantheon. #18 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
5. Balliett, Blue. The Wright 3. All of these detective adventures centred on famous works of art are favorites of my youngest two girls. They have listened to Chasing Vermeer, The Calder Game, and The Wright 3 many times in audiobook form.
6. Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan. I like James Barrie’s imaginative story very much, and think the movies Peter Pan (Walt Disney), Hook by Steven Spielberg with Robin williams as grown up Peter), and Finding Neverland (more for adults) are all good follow-up viewing for after you read the book aloud. #86 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
7. Benary-Isbert, Margot. The Ark. Not many people are familiar with this story set in Germany just after World War II. It’s about children surviving the aftermath of war, about animals and animal-lovers, and about family. A good read-aloud for older children.
8. Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks:A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. My children and I love the Penderwick family. In fact, when I started reading this one aloud to some of the younger children, my then-15 year old was entrapped in the story, and picked it up to finish it on her own. #29 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list. Z-baby and I discuss The Penderwicks.
9. Bond, Michael. A Bear Called Paddington. Paddington has been a favorite around here since Eldest Daughter (age 26) was a preschooler.
10. Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Little Princess. From riches to rags and back again, the story of the orphaned Sara Crewe is delightful and richly Victorian. #56 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
11. Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland. I think Alice is a love-it or ate-it proposition. I love all the word play and sly wit. #31 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
12. Cleary, Beverly. Ramona the Pest. We’ve had to read all of the Ramona books to my youngest, Z-baby,and she’s listened to them on CD. Several times. #24 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
13. DeAngeli, Marguerite. The Door in the Wall. A crippled boy learns to be a strong, courageous man during the Middle Ages. We’ll probably be reading this book this year since Betsy-Bee is studying that time period.
14. DeJong, Meindert. The Wheel on the School. A group of children work together to bring the storks back to Shora in Holland.
15. DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux. A mouse who loves a princess and save her from the rats. Z-baby recommends this one. #51 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
16. Enright, Elizabeth. The Saturdays. If you like The Penderwicks, you should enjoy Enright’s stories about the Melendy famly, or vice-versa. #75 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
17. Estes, Eleanor. The Hundred Dresses. Short, poignant story of a group of girls who find out too late that people who are different and perhaps misunderstood should still be treated with care and gentleness.
18. Forbes, Esther. Johnny Tremain. Good accompaniment to a study of American history.
19. Gilbreth, Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. Cheaper by the Dozen. Z-baby says this story about a family with an even dozen children is funny and good to read aloud.
20. Gipson, Fred. Old Yeller. One of those dog stories where the dog, of course, dies, but it’s still a good read aloud for frontier studies or Texas history.
21. Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows. Read aloud slowly and carefully and savour the descriptions and the setting and the antics of Mole, Rat, Badger, and especially Toad and his motorcar. Brian Sibley on the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Wind in the Willows (2008).
22. Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. Milo is bored until he goes through the tollbooth into a world of word play and numerical delights. #21 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
23. Karr, Kathleen. The Great Turkey Walk. In 1860, big, brawny Simon Green, who’s just completed third grade (for the fourth time), sets out to herd a huge flock of bronze turkeys all the way from his home in eastern Missouri to the boomtown of Denver, where they’ll fetch a big price.
/>24. Kipling, Rudyard. Just So Stories. These stories are good to listen to because Kipling used words in a very poetic, vocabulary-enriching way, even in his prose. The book includes stories such as How the Leopard Got His Spots and How the Camel Got His Hump and others.
25. Konigsburg, E.L. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Z-baby likes it because the children are independent, resourceful, and funny and they visit a real museum in New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. #7 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list. Z-baby and I discuss the Mixed-Up Files.
26. L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time. Meg, and Calvin, and Charles Wallace rescue Father from IT. #2 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list. More about Madeleine L’Engle and her wonderful books.
27. Lamb, Charles and Mary. Tales from Shakespeare.
28. Lang, Andrew. The Violet Fairy Book. And all the other multi-colored fairy books.
29. Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. What can I say about the Narnia books that hasn’t already been said. Get all seven of them , read them aloud, listen to them, read them again. #5 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
30. Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking. I like the edition that came out a coupe of years ago with illustrations by Lauren Child for reading aloud because the pictures are delightful and because it’s large and easy to hold. #91 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
31. Lovelace, Maud Hart. Betsy-Tacy. Eldest Daughter was a huge fan of the books of Maud Hart Lovelace, and in fact they took her from childhood into her late teen years along with Betsy and her friends. #52 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
32. Macdonald, Betty. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. If only I had Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle living near-by in her upside-down house to solve all my parenting problems.
33. MacDonald, George. The Princess and the Goblin. Princess Irene and her stout friend Curdie, the miner’s son, must outwit the goblins who live inside the mountain. “I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” ~George Macdonald
34. Milne, A.A. Winnie-the Pooh. Every child should read or hear read this classic story of Christopher Robin and his Bear of Very Little Brain, Pooh. #26 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
35. Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables. Read aloud or listen to the Focus on the Family radio dramatized version. #8 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
36. Nesbit, Edith. Five Children and It. Predecessor to the stories by Edward Eager and other magical tales.
37. Norton, Mary. The Borrowers. Little people live inside the walls and nooks of an English house and only come out at night to “borrow” things that the people don’t use or need anymore. The story in the book(s) is much better than the movie version.
38. O’Dell, Scott. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Karana, a native American girl, is accidentally left alone on an island off the coast of California, and she must use all her wits and ingenuity to survive. #45 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
39. Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terebithia. Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke become friends and imagine together a land called Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen. #10 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
40. Pyle, Howard. Otto of the Silver Hand. Another tale of the Middle Ages about courage and dealing with suffering and cruelty.
41. Pyle, Howard. The Adventures of Robin Hood.
42. Pyle, Howard. The Story of King Arthur and His Knights.
43. Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows. Another good dog story. #34 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
44. Salten, Felix. Bambi. Bambi. A little fawn grows into a handsome stag. You can a Kindle edition of this translated classic for free.
45. Serrailer, Ian. The Silver Sword, or Escape from Warsaw.Best World War II story for children ever. Pair it with The Ark for a study of refugees during and after the war in Europe.
46. Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty. A horse story told from the point of view of a Victorian working horse.
47. Sidney, Margaret. Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. A bit cloyingly sweet for some adult readers, but children love the story of the five little Pepper children and their cheerfulness in the midst of poverty.
48. Speare, Elizabeth. The Bronze Bow. Adventure story that takes place during the time of Jesus’s incarnation. Daniel barJamin and his friends Joel and his twin sister Malthace must choose between rebellion and hatred for the Roman conquerors and the way of following this man Jesus, who preaches love and forgiveness.
49. Streatfeild, Noel. Ballet Shoes. Three sisters—Pauline, Petrova, and Posie— are orphans who must learn to dance to support themselves when their guardian disappears. #78 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
50. Sutcliff, Rosemary. Black Ships before Troy. The story of the Iliad (Trojan War) retold for children with beautiful illustrations by Alan Lee.
51. Tolkien, JRR. The Hobbit. Our read aloud experiences with The Habbit are chronicled here and here and here and here and here and here and here. #14 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
52. Travers, P.L. Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins, the book,isn’t the same as the movie, and you may or may not like both. I do, but in different ways.
53. Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Every boy, at east, should read or listen to Tom Sawyer.
54. White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web. #1 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
55. Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House in the Big Woods. #19 on Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels list.
Yikes, I left off some really good read aloud books, but I was limited to 55. So check out the Fuse #8 list (not technically a read-aloud list, but still a good place to look), and this list from Jim Trelease, this list of favorites at Hope Is the Word, and this list that I made a few years ago. Whatever, you do, though, read some books out loud as a family. It will change your life (as my next-door neighbor used to say about some discovery or activity about once a week.)