I think reading aloud is one of the principal daily pleasures of having children—why else would we all start reading to newborns who can’t help staring off at a light bulb or the distraction of their own fist? WE love it and it’s our reward for the hours spent doing the boring things infants might slightly prefer. And then the joy—the unbridled ecstasy!—when they get their first “book jokes”, when you laugh together at the family going on the bear hunt, or together, you blow out “Grandfather Twilight’s candle.” I have three boys so The Little Princess doesn’t make our top five family favorites, though ours are all books both boys and girls will love…
Though my kids are slightly older now, we have so many family jokes from this series that have lasted for years: From the assaultive pancake-flipping “Lion’s Club” to bowler-wearing Poppleton’s weekly trips to the library. To this day, my youngest never sees a flock of Canadian geese overhead without calling up “Would you like a cookie?”
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Blue Sky Press | Oct. 1, 1997 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0590847834
This one was read technically to my youngest, but how wonderful to have my 13-year-old come out of his room, carrying a pillow to sit on and hear the last quarter of it better (not just through the wall.) If you’re reading this and your kids are a little mystified as to what all the fuss is about this book (as mine were at first,) keep going to the end. Trust me.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Yearling Newbery | Dec. 28, 2010 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0375850868
By Adam Rex
This was an audio book my oldest son (with autism) loved so much we had to buy a copy after returning our first one to the library. His favorite part is the voice of the J. Lo., the Boov, which makes him laugh so hard he’s for forever rewinding to hear what he just missed. I love that it’s a story about an ordinary girl befriending an alien who looks and talks differently but has a heart of gold. A little like my son on both counts.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Hyperion | May 5, 2009 | 978-0786849017
By Eve Bunting and Ted Rand
This is my all-time favorite Christmas picture book. Gorgeous illustrations of a wonderfully simple family tradition: going out into the woods on Christmas eve and decorating a tree with homemade, edible ornaments so the animals can wake up and have a Christmas too. I once had our family try to recreate this tradition and we got in a memorably horrible fight along the way. I don’t remember the particulars but it ended with everyone accusing everyone else of wrecking the popcorn/cranberry garland we’d spent all day stringing. It turns out reading the book is more joyful than re-enacting it, but that might just have been us.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | Oct. 31, 1994 (Reprint) | 978-0152001216
By Russell Erickson
Oh Frog and Toad fans, look for this wonderful classic about Warton, the toad, who is captured by an Owl, brought home and told he’ll be eaten next Tuesday for Owl’s birthday dinner! Poor Warton’s got a week to convince his unfriendly captor to change his mind. Given to us by my children’s grandmother who read it and laughed with her third graders every year that she taught, this deserves a new legion of fans. There’s also a series of Warton and Morton adventures.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Houghton Mifflin | Sept. 11, 2000 | 978-0618062126
About the Author
Cammie McGovern is the author of the adult novels Neighborhood Watch, Eye Contact and The Art of Seeing. She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and received the Nelson Algren Award in short fiction. She is one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs after-school classes and programs for children with special needs. Say What You Will is her first book for young adults.
John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern’s insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.
Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.
When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected. (Ages 14 and up)
Add this book to your collection: Say What You Will, by Cammie McGovern