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149: Read-Aloud Book Recommendations for Parents and Teachers

In this Unabridged Podcast episode, we're discussing books for all levels that we believe would work really well for read aloud choices. We were thrilled to be joined by Holly Hicks, a third-grade teacher and Unabridged Ambassador who has experience choosing and sharing read-aloud picks with her third-grade students. We also share our own experiences with read-aloud picks both at home and in the classroom.

Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Kate Clayborn’s Love Lettering

Jen - Marissa Meyer’s Instant Karma (from NetGalley, out 11/3)

Sara - Sarah Morgan’s One More for Christmas

Holly - Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key and Alex North's The Shadows

Our Read-Aloud Recommendations

Picture Books

Ashley - Ashley Franklin’s Not Quite Snow White, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

Holly - Adam Rubin’s Secret Pizza Party, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Jen - B. J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures

Sara - Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Middle-Grade Books

Kate DeCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie

Barbara O’Connor’s Wish

Hena Khan’s Amina’s Voice

K. A. Holt’s House Arrest

YA Lit

Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X

Mentioned in Episode

Jane Harper's The Dry

Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Came Home, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Drew Daywalt’s The Crayons' Christmas, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down

Give Me One - Favorite Thing about Being a Pet Owner

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)

Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Bookish Check-in

Sara said, "So if you are following me on Instagram, you know that I have been having a bit of a holiday book kick in October. It is what it is. And so I am actually reading Sarah Morgan's new book One More for Christmas. This came to me via NetGalley by way of Harlequin. And I am really enjoying it. Sarah Morgan typically releases a Christmas book every year. And they are typically centered around relationships between women, lots of times sisters, and this one is that. It is a story about two sisters who have been estranged from their mother for five years, and about them mending that relationship and having Christmas together. So I'm pretty early in the book and I am really loving it. They're getting ready to head to Scotland, which I love—a book that is set in Scotland, in the Scottish Highlands—and so I am really enjoying it. I think it's going to be great. And I I'm just feeling like I need the Christmas and holiday cheer right now. So that's what I'm reading."

book cover of Ruth Ware's The Turn of the Key

Holly said, "I'm kind of in between. I just finished The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware the other day. I'm all about the spooky season in October. And that was really good. That was only the second book I had read from her. I had read In a Dark, Dark Wood before that. And that book had like three different turns I did not see coming, which is always nice when a book can surprise me. The Turn of the Key takes place in Scotland too, in the highlands, which was not a cozy vibe. It was a spooky vibe. But it was really good. It did a good job of marrying like old school almost gothic horror vibes in the house because it was a Victorian house that it is set in and then also psychological thriller vibes because you know—Is it really a ghost? Or is it something else going on? And so I really liked that.

book cover of Alex North's The Shadows

"And then I just started The Shadows by Alex North, literally only 30 pages in, but I'm already absorbed and I can tell that he is going to make the setting almost like a character. It's kind of like Jane Harper did with The Dry. And I really enjoyed that. Because it's like getting a bonus character and I'm excited to be scared by that as well."

Jen said, "So I am about a quarter of the way into Marissa Meyer's Instant Karma, which I have from NetGalley that is coming out on November 3. And I first of all, I'm a huge fan of Meyer. She is an auto-buy author for me. And she wrote The Lunar Chronicles and The Renegades books and has a standalone called Heartless, and I just think she has such a great touch. She's one of those rare authors who can balance character and plot, so I really like her books in general. This is her first rom-com and while it does have a little bit of fantasy to it, it is primarily a rom-com. It is about a main character named Prudence who is a high school sophomore. When the book opens, she is in her science class. She is getting ready to do a presentation, and her partner is not there. And her partner is this really charming guy named Quint who everybody likes. She likes him, but he is deeply irresponsible from her perspective. And so she is perpetually frustrated with Quint. And she's up giving a presentation, and he shows up in the middle. I could feel her frustration, I have been there. And so she is really having a difficult time with that relationship.

book cover of Marissa Meyer's Instant Karma

"So, it's a little bit later, it's that evening, and she is in a bar. And she is on her way from doing karaoke and slips. And when she gets back up, after hitting her head, she suddenly has the ability to wish karma upon people. So if she sees somebody doing something bad or irresponsible, and she just thinks about it, something equally bad will happen to them. So, if somebody was putting gum under a table, then they will get ketchup on her shirt, things like that. And she is thrilled because she likes to be the regulator and to make sure that everybody is responsible. So yeah, so it just goes from there. And I'm really charmed by it. I think she is a difficult character in some ways, because she is very focused on this obsession with responsibility, which of course, I as a reader can see is going in a bad direction, even though I can identify. And it's also just really fun because, do you remember the show, My Name Is Earl? I love that show deeply. And so it reminds me of that, like I'm getting those vibes a little bit. Yeah, it's fun to think about what would happen if you knew karma was happening, and you could watch it, you could control it. So anyway, that is so far, great. Like I said, I'm only a quarter of the way through, but I think I'm going to enjoy it. And that one is coming out November 3."

book cover of Kate Clayborn's Love Lettering

Ashley said, "I have found myself gravitating toward reading just things that seem cheerful. And I'm definitely reading more romance than normal. And this one was floating around on my Kindle. So I started it the other day, instead of finishing the thing I should be reading on the Kindle. I have that problem a lot lately. So, this is Love Lettering, and it is by Kate Clayborn. And I knew that Jen loved it and had said that it was just really great and a lot of fun. I saw it on my Kindle. I guess I got it on a deal—that's all of my Kindle books–and it's great. It's the story of Meg who is a professional letterer. She does lettering and in the beginning of this story she has an encounter with a person that she had created some artwork for his marriage a year prior, and they have this awkward encounter. It's clear that she felt that his relationship was not going to work out and the marriage wasn't going to work out, and so right at the beginning, he's coming to find out how she knew. So the story just goes from there. . . .

"I love the way that her mind works as the narrator. It's really fun to see the way she sees the world and the signs in it and the way she envisions words and when things are happening, it reminds me some of The Astonishing Color of After where the main character is an artist and everything. Every description relates back to that idea of her seeing the world through color. I see that for Meg with the words and I think it's just really fascinating. I love her perspective. And it's been a really sweet story so far. So again, that's Kate Clayborn's Love Lettering."

Read-Aloud Recommendations

Picture Books

book cover of B. J. Novak's The book with No Pictures

Jen recommended B.J. Novak's The Book with No Pictures. "It is just this book with really creative fonts and text. And it makes the person reading it say really, really silly things and make weird noises, and it just has this really dry sarcastic sense of humor. It's not really about anything other than Hey, let's make fun of the grown up reading this book, which makes my kids very happy."

Holly recommended Adam Rubin's Secret Pizza Party: "The premise is really silly. It's this raccoon who's obsessed with pizza. Like all he wants to see wants to eat is pizza. And in the story, the narrator is speaking to the raccoon and kind of going through all these silly scenarios and telling him what's going to happen or how he's going to get this pizza... I laughed so hard that I cried...It's just so funny. And so I'll read that to every class. I make sure every year to read that to them and it's just laughs every time."

book cover of Drew Daywalt's The Day the Crayons Quit

Sara recommended Drew Daywalt's The Day the Crayons Quit. She stated, "So, one that my daughter and son both loved equally is Drew Daywalt's The Day the Crayons Quit. And it is illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, who is a very famous Illustrator. This book is so I think it is phenomenal. Duncan is a little boy who wants to use his crayons to draw a picture. However, he opens his crayon box and the crayons have quit and left him letters behind. The whole story is going through each crayon color and the the letter that the crayon wrote to Duncan about why it has decided to quit. It is clever. It is hilarious."

book cover of Ashley Franklin's Not Quite Snow White

Ashley recommended Ashley Franklin's Not Quite Snow White. She commented, "A recent one for us that I really have loved that the girls also really enjoyed is called Not Quite Snow White, and it's by Ashley Franklin and it's illustrated by Ebony Glen. They love it because the main character is really fun and enthusiastic. I think they really enjoyed that and also she loves acting and she wants to be Snow White...I think what I really love about it is Tameka is the main character and she sings and she dances and she acts and she loves it and when she sees the audition coming up for the school play for Snow White, she auditions and she, you know is so excited to audition. But then after the first day of auditions afterwards, she hears other kids saying that she's too--they describe her in all these different ways that are really negative. So they say that she's too chubby, they say that she's too brown and that she can't be Snow White because of that.The readers experience somebody who is so enthusiastic about something and then has to see these kids saying these hurtful things, and then it's just crushing. And so you watch that happen. I love it too, because she talks through all of it with her family. And so there's just really great modeling of like how to manage those things."

Middle-Grade Books

book cover of Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie

Holly's middle-grade choices were Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn Dixie and Barbara O'Conner's Wish. She said, "My first one is Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, I think is how you say her last name, which is an oldie but a goodie. I remember getting that when I was in like fifth grade. And reading it in one sitting. This book is about a little girl named India Opal. And she goes by Opal. She has recently moved to a new town in Florida. It's a small town, her dad, she calls him The Preacher, which is very interesting, when she refers to him. She calls him The Preacher, and he is a preacher, and that's why they moved there. She does not have a mother, her mother left when she was very young, and we find out early in the story that she was an alcoholic. This is one that I like to read because something I have discovered in you know, the past five years is that the nuclear family unit is not the norm."

Holly continued with this description of Wish: "It is about a little girl named Charlemagne. She goes by Charlie and she has a dad in prison. Her mother is mentally unstable and has been deemed unfit to care for her and her sister just because of neglect, and so her older sister gets to stay in Raleigh (it takes place in North Carolina) with friends because it is her senior year. But Charlie is sent to live with her Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus in the mountains of North Carolina. She calls it a hillbilly town. The book is called Wish because she will find a little ways to make wishes throughout the day, like she'll cut a corner off of a piece of pie or pizza. And she'll save that until the end. And she'll make a wish when she eats that piece. And her wishes are always that she wants her family back together. And so she goes to live with her aunt uncle and they find a stray dog and name it Wishbone and it kind of becomes her constant companion"

book cover of Hena Khan's Amina's Voice

Ashley's pick was Hena Khan's Amina's Voice. Ashley had this to say about the book: "Amina is in middle school, she's just starting middle school and she is a Pakistani American. And so she is in an area where there are not many immigrants. She feels different even in things like the pronunciation of her name and things like that. She's very aware of how she is different from some of the other students. She has a best friend, Sujan, whose family is from Korea and the two of them have been friends for a very long time. And they have, it's just a really sweet friendship. So one of the things I love about the story is the relationship between them and how you see these female friendships that are just really great. But as they get into middle school, you see Amina working through the ways that things are changing and their changing social dynamics. And so I think that that part is really resonates for kids. I think it'd be a great one to read right now. Because kids' social dynamics are changing, and we're at home or not nearly, you know, not with our normal friend groups, that all of that impacts the way that we feel about ourselves. So I like the way that Amina is working through that in the story."

book cover of K. A. Holt's House Arrest

Jen's recommendation was K.A. Holt's House Arrest. Jen said this about House Arrest: "This book is about a boy named Timothy, whose baby brother Levi has a really serious medical condition. Timothy's mom is raising them on her own. When Timothy and Levi's dad found out about the seriousness of Levi's condition, he left and so their mom is struggling to raise them. Levi has a trach which brings with it a lot of complications. There is a lot of medicine that is very expensive that he has to to take, and Timothy is keenly aware of the fact that their mom is struggling, and so he wants to help out. So, he steals someone's wallet. The book is really about the aftermath of that event...when he was caught. He was sentenced to basically a year of probation. He has to keep a journal, and he has to meet with his probation officer, and he has to meet with a counselor. The book is his journal of this year of reflection and growth, and he has the normal middle schooler's reaction to being told that he has to do this. He's really frustrated, he knows he did a bad thing. But he feels like since it was for a good reason, he shouldn't be punished. He doesn't really love either the probation officer or the counselor or writing in a journal at the beginning. But he's also a good kid who really has a good heart. And so you see, the way he starts to open up as the book goes on."

YA Lit

book cover of Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X

Sara's YA pick was Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X. She said, "This is the story of Xiomara. She is a high school student, and she is kind of coming into her own as a slam poet. She has a pretty fraught relationship with her mother. Her dad is in her home but he's kind of like a non factor. What I really like about the story, especially for you know for this age group is there are a lot of different representations in character. Like there is her best friend, who is very devout Catholic. She stick to the rules. She wants everybody to kind of tow the line, and she tows the line. Xiomara is discovering herself. She is she's testing the boundaries of her relationship with her mom, with her faith. And, you know, I feel like there is there, there are characters in this book that can really speak to a lot of things that teenagers face, especially with, you know, fraught relationships with parents. And then there is also a love interest, which is, is really sweet, but it's not perfect. And I just think it is a great representation of the life of a teenager."

Give Me One . . . Favorite Thing About Having a Pet

We ended by each sharing a favorite thing about having a pet—check out the episode for why we selected the ones we did.


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