Best Read-Alouds of 2013

My daughters, Big Sis (8) and Little Sis (6) love to read together.  Big Sis is on to her own books, and Little Sis is learning, but no matter what, we cherish our read-aloud time.  For the past two years, I've been a once-a-week reader in Big Sis's classrooms at school, by request of her teachers, and I love getting to read to a classroom full of kids, getting hugs and Christmas cards and "Hi, Mrs. B!"s in the hallway.  For the last three years as a bookstore employee, I was the storytime lady, and it's definitely the part of my job I miss most.

Yesterday, I posted about a book that will definitely be one of our favorite read-aloud experiences of 2014.  I thought I would share our 15 favorite read-aloud experiences of 2013!  Some of the books were brand new, some older, some much older, but each one was special to us in some way.  The list is chronological (for the most part), and rather heavy on fall and winter reading (snuggle time).

1.  Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson [Nobrow, 2012].  We read this at the very beginning of 2013.  In fact, we read it New Year's Day!  This one is special because I finally read a comic/graphic novel to the girls and loved it.  I have no problem with the genre, other than the fact I have trouble focusing on the page.  Perhaps it was the humor, the cool little heroine, or the Scandinavian influence that made me love Hilda.  The girls loved her, too.  In fact, we now own the first Hilda book, Hildafolk,and are awaiting the arrival of another Hilda book!  [Blogged about here.] 

 2.  The first four Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee.  Pictured is Clementine, Friend of the Week [Disney Hyperion, 2010].  Oh, what is it about exuberant, "naughty" little girl heroines in books that we love?  Ramona Quimby, Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Clementine...  We zipped through the first four Clementine books at the end of January last year, and they made an impression!  Clementine is so lovable, with such an interesting way of seeing things. We love her relationship with her principal and teacher, her messy family, her friend and sometime-enemy Margaret.  I should pick up the most recent books this year.  We could use another foray in Clementine's world.  [Blogged here.]

3.  Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer.  [Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012]  This one makes the list because of two classroom read-alouds.  I relish the chance to read an Olivia book to a bunch of kids, and when Big Sis's first grade teacher told me last February that she had read Olivia to the class, and that the kids were asking for more, I was thrilled to oblige!  I love this particular book, too.  It is one of my favorites in the series, in fact.  The second classroom read-aloud is one I cannot tell you about firsthand, because I wasn't there!  Big Sis's second grade teacher asked for student volunteers to read to the class this fall.  Big Sis practiced this book at home - you should have heard her repeating "corporate malfeasance" to herself - then read it to the class herself.  She told me it was kind of scary, but she got through it, and she didn't even stumble!  I was very proud of her.  She reads to her sister all the time, but it's another thing to project your voice to your teacher and 19 kids!  [I first blogged about this book in 2012.]

 4.  Amelia and Eleanor Go For A Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick.  [Scholastic Press, 1999]  // Flying Ace: The Story of Amelia Earhart by Angela Bull.  [Dorling Kindersley, 2000]  I'm cheating a bit, perhaps, by combining these.  2013 was the year my five-year-old discovered Amelia Earhart.  We had read Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride before, but something about it fascinated Little Sis this year.  She wants to be an artist-ballerina-pilot when she grows up, and tells us that her hero is Amelia Earhart.  This summer, in honor of Amelia Earhart's birthday and to whet her appetite for visiting the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in August, we read this wonderful, Level 4 DK reader.  She loved the pictures of the real Amelia: as a baby, as a child, a teenager, a pilot.  Seeing her face when her eyes beheld Amelia's red Lockheed Vega 5B at the museum, after seeing it in the pages of a book, was precious!  [Blogged here and here.]

5.  The Magic Half by Annie Barrows. [Bloomsbury USA, 2009]  One night, while Little Sis was in dance class, Big Sis and I each grabbed our own book and stretched out in the hall to wait.  I don't remember what book I brought with me, but Big Sis had The Magic Half.  She asked me to help with a word, and suddenly, it was clear we were going to have to read it together.  It was too intriguing!  This one was special because it belonged to only Big Sis and me, reminding me of when she was tiny and I would read "big kid books" to her to go to sleep.  Now she is a big kid reader herself, although not too old for her evening read-aloud!  And this time, we could take turns reading. [First blogged about here.]

6.  Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. [Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.]    It was April, and I was looking for books to feature for National Poetry Month.  Here was a darkly funny take on Mother Goose, illustrated by Sophie Blackall!  I thought we would enjoy it, but this book had us rolling!  Not the best bedtime reading, as it got everybody wound up with laughter that night, but definitely one to remember!  [Blogged here.]

7.  Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell by G.M. Berrow. [Little Brown, 2013]  Yeah, this is the one I didn't really want to buy at the Scholastic Book Fair, but I relented and bought it anyway, then I read it out loud to the daughters over the course of a few nights and realized it wasn't so bad.  In fact, it was pretty good.  In fact, Hey girls, let's go watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic now.  [Blogged here.]

8.  Ivy and Bean Make the Rules [2012] and Ivy and Bean Take the Case [2013] by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  [Chronicle Books]  We love Ivy and Bean!  We love Ivy and Bean so much that this summer, Little Sis decided her daddy needed to love Ivy and Bean, too!  She convinced him to read Ivy and Bean Make the Rules to her.  (The three of us first read it last year.)  It was awesome listening to Mr. B read about Ivy and Bean's creative alternative day camp, especially when he kept cracking up!  I mentioned this post to him, and how I loved listening to him read this book.  He shrugged and said, "Those are two very funny girls."  (He lives with two very funny girls, you know.)  Ivy and Bean Take the Case must be on the list, too, because any new Ivy and Bean book is a happy read-aloud experience.  [Lots of Ivy & Bean love.]

9.  Vampirina [2012] and Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover [2013] by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. [Disney Hyperion]  // Zombelina by Kristyn Crow, illustrated by Molly Idle. [Walker Children's, 2013]  Because this was the year Little Sis decided she was going to be a zombie ballerina for Halloween, long before we found Zombelina at the bookstore.  I read this one to the second-graders, too, after Big Sis told them about the book and her sister's costume.  The first Vampirina Ballerina book was a re-read from last year, but the new one was even better!  [Blogged here and here.]

10.  Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorg. [Schwartz and Wade, 2013]  If there was an honest-to-goodness family favorite picture book this year, Sophie's Squash would be it.  The darling story of a girl who names a butternut squash Bernice and makes it her playmate, we read this one multiple times at home, as well as once to Big Sis's class at school.  Little Sis took possession of a squash in my grocery bag one night, drew a face on it, and named it Phoebe.  Alas, Phoebe became a risotto, but as compensation, I made sure a copy of Sophie's Squash was wrapped under the tree, with Little Sis's name on it.  [Blogged here.]

11.  The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill.  [Books of Wonder edition, HarperCollins, 1995]  I'm sure my regular readers have been wondering, Where's the Oz book?  Surely Danzel picked an Oz book. (I am rather Oz-crazy.)  Instead of cheating and saying, "All the Oz books we read last year!," I will be honest and pick my beloved Patchwork Girl of Oz.  Both girls agree with me, the seventh Oz book (first published in 1913) is the most fun, so far.  Scraps, the Glass Cat, and the Woozy are great characters, and Neill's illustrations are gorgeous in this one.  Note:  We finally started Tik-Tok of Oz last night!  [Blogged here.]

12.  Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Bruckus.  [Random House, 1994]  When Barbara Park died in November, both of my daughters were very sad, especially Big Sis.  Big Sis began first grade by barreling through the school library's collection of Junie B. Jones books, in addition to the ones we owned and the ones she found at the public library.  She would then tell all the plots to Little Sis, who would then convince her best friend, Chloe, to play Junie B. Jones with her on play dates.  In second grade, Big Sis moved on to Magic Tree House, Judy Moody, and Fudge, while her sister still longed to hear about Junie B.  I read a book to her once in a while, but after Barbara Park passed away, I had Big Sis pick her favorite Junie B. book that we owned off the shelf, and we settled in to read in her memory.  And Big Sis was right - this one is really funny!  [Blogged here.]

13.  Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of the Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet. [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011]  Something I have learned this year:  children love nonfiction.  I always tried to mix nonfiction in with fiction, but I can't remember ever reading so much aloud to children as I did this year.  At home, we had our Amelia Earhart reads, our Women's History Month books, a few science books here and there.  This fall, I read two nonfiction books aloud to Big Sis's second grade class, and those two books stand out as favorites.  The first was Little Sis's beloved copy of Bones by Steve Jenkins.  I expected the kids to like that one (eww, bones!), but the second book took me by surprise.  I wanted something different to read the week before Thanksgiving break, and the girls had enjoyed Balloons Over Broadway.  I wasn't sure how well it would do in our particular classroom.  In the end, I loaded a tablet full of picture files of Macy's balloons, from the '20s through recent years, and trekked to the school.  The answers to my first question did not bode well for me.  "Who likes to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning?"  Big Sis raised her hand.  No one else did.  In fact, few of the kids had even heard of the parade.  Uh-oh, I thought.  So I explained a bit about the parade, and showed the kids the pictures on the tablet, then delved into the book.  Never underestimate the will of a child to learn.  Whether or not they were familiar with the parade, the story truly interested them.  They had so many questions and exclamations, and when we were through, I showed them the pictures one more time.  "That cat was in the book!"  [Blogged here.]

14.  Auntie Claus [HMH Books, 1999]; Auntie Claus and the Key to Christmas [HMH Books, 2002]; Auntie Claus, Home for the Holidays [Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2009]  When I asked the girls about their favorite read-alouds of 2013, Big Sis immediately blurted out, "Auntie Claus!  The Auntie Claus books!"  Indeed, these were fun books to read out loud!  Actually, I doubt I read them so much as performed them.  Few books lend themselves to such overacting!  Fun, fun, fun!  [Blogged here.]

15.  Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey by Emily Winfield Martin.  [Random House, 2013]  Okay, the pictures are the real reason to read this book.  My sleepy artist was doodling as we read this at bedtime, and I wasn't sure she was paying attention.  Then she handed me her notebook.  "There," Little Sis said.  "I can draw that."  She had drawn a picture of the moon wearing pajamas.  We read the book again a couple nights later.  [Mentioned here.]

You're in the middle of a Best of 2013 blog hop!  Hop on over to Where the Watermelons Grow to see Cathy's list of Favorite Things from 2013!

And for those of you who are new to Silver Shoes and Rabbit Holes, thank you so much for stopping by!

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  1. We've never read any books on your list! This means we have all of these to look forward to in 2014. Thanks for the link love, and for sharing your favorites with us.

    -Cathy @ Where the Watermelons Grow

    1. Oh, good! We're a little reading-nutty around here. ;o) It was fun to participate and "meet" some new-to-me bloggers. :)

  2. fabulous post!!! what great books you all read! julia has been asking if there are any more Hildafolk books......

    1. We still need to read Hilda and the Bird Parade! And it turns out that Hildafolk was re-released in September as Hilda and the Troll. I didn't know that.

  3. love the reading vs performing distinction, as well. some books really lend themselves to performing!! or should i say, "ACTING!!" :)

    1. With your finger up in the air, like Jon Lovitz would do! Exactly! The sillier the better.

  4. Thanks for sharing this list! I really want Auntie Claus! And I need to work on my performance!

  5. Love this post! We got Dream Animals for Christmas too- I 've wanted to do a post about it for some days now- and we have Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, which we love- naturally. Everything else on your list looks fascinating -I've had my eye on The Magic Half for some time and I do need to catch up on the Oz stories...
    I wish I wasn't so tired every night so I could read more! :)

    1. Isn't it beautiful? So peaceful. The Magic Half is great. We loved it. I have a bunch of books checked out from the library, but I'm starting play rehearsals next week. We only have a month of rehearsals before we open, so I'm afraid I'll spend all my reading time memorizing lines...


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