Five Indispensable Read Alouds for Boys

I’m not sure what I did to prompt the chromosome gods to unleash a class with twice as many boys than girls upon me. But it must have been epic!

These boisterous boys are fun! But what they really seem to prefer is action. (Who knew? It’s a major breakthrough in gender studies!)

Sarcasm aside, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m telling you what I’m observing in action. And don’t come at me with that, “But, you’re reinforcing gender stereotypes!” My last post should have made it amply clear that I’m not trying to box boys in. This is what I see. Not what pop-psychologists are telling me to see.

In honor of this group I’ve compiled the aforementioned:

Five Indispensable Read Alouds for Boys

Shark vs Train crop

It’s the classic struggle: The Dark Lord vs… well actually it’s two boys having a ridiculously funny toy battle… just as good!

This is Not My Hat

Jon Klassen might be the most groundbreaking picture book author in the mainstream. This is Not My Hat is about crime and punishment (and it’s much more concise than Dostoyevsky’s rendering).

Oh No!

“But there’s a GIRL on the cover!” Honestly, they don’t care: giant monsters, urban battlefields… these kids play Halo and Black Ops at home. Oh No! is speaking their language. It’s not about what their teacher likes. It’s about hooking them into literature.

That is NOT a Good Idea!

That is NOT a Good Idea looks like a predictable fair tale(ish) story. Nope! It’s riveting suspense and the perfect twist at the end.

Battle Bunny

Not only did the boys love Battle Bunny; it’s brilliant commentary on why boys disconnect from school literacy.



The Grinch has Nothing on Shameless Consumerism

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

If you have only seen the Jim Carrey movie, I’m sorry. The book is infinitely better (as is often the case).

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the definitive Christmas classic of its era; and Dr. Suess’s message – that Christmas is more than presents – still seems relevant.  If fact, it might be more relevant now: when so many people spend the holiday season plunging into an ocean of debt.

I have to admit that the book’s classic status strikes me as peculiar: given the general cultural consensus of unbridled consumerism. We seem to know that we could be finding meaning outside of big box stores. But the allure of the latest over-hyped products must be easier to swallow than the alternative.

I was thinking of writing a spin-off picture book, How Shameless Consumerism Stole Christmas. But until some publisher risks their reputation on my whim, the Grinch will be there to remind a willingly distracted culture that there’s more to the season than piling up stuff.

Never Underestimate Little Old Ladies… at Halloween

Little Old Lady

Feminism meets Halloween? Not exactly, but in this classic story the little old lady truly isn’t scared of anything.  In spite of being stalked through the woods, she refuses to be bullied by any number of Halloween spooks and works the situation to her advantage in the end.

Strong female lead characters weren’t exactly the order of the day in the 80s; so this one stands out. Predictable text and repeated words (yes this was a product of the Whole Language heyday) definitely target this book toward the preschool/Kindergarten crowd. But even my first graders got a laugh out of it.

Alpha Goes Retro

A Long Piece of String

An alphabet book without letters! That was William Wondriska’s innovative idea in 1963.

Just how does that work? Well, it’s a series of images tied together with a really long piece of string.

It’s fun to watch students try and find the pattern in this book. Once mine did, I was met by great big smiles and shouts of, “I get it!!!” Congratulations WIlliam Wondriska! It still works today.

Old School Samplin’

A Great Day for UP

It’s a great day for UP!  And in this lesser known Dr. Seuss classic, the narrator tells everyone in sight to get UP.

I have very clear memories of my father reading (and consistently laughing at the ending of) this book. Maybe it’s just the joy of remembering him reading to me, and his rare laughter, that makes me enjoy this simple story.  But if it’s read with gobs of energy, I love it!

The Jackie Robinson of Picture Books

The Snowy Day

Long before it was trendy to write about African Americans, Ezra Jack Keats wrote an entire stack of such books.  The Snowy Day really was the the Jackie Robinson of picture books: shattering the racial barrier in the mainstream market.

I’ve read this beautiful poetic tale to my children so many times that I have it memorized.

Flossie be Chillin’

Flossie & the Fox

It’s extremely difficult to write so called “non-standard” dialects.  But let’s say you are a master writer of a dialect.  It’s still up to your readers to “hear” the voice you are recreating.  It’s a hard row to hoe.  Nevertheless Patricia McKissack penned a classic.  (Yes, being published in 1986 relegates you to “classic” status.)

Flossie is impressively believable; and the banter between the unflinching Flossie and the smug fox she encounters on the way through the forest makes this a brilliant read aloud.

Flossie be chillin’.  (I’m just sayin’.)