Awesome Novels You’ll Love Reading Aloud with Kids

Click here to get a PDF of this list + 3 more great book recommendations + my 3 favourite picture books!

A list of great novels to read aloud with kids - http://kimwerker.com/blogFor the last couple of years, I’ve been reading novels with my currently (almost) six-year-old at bedtime. We still love picture books, but the vast majority of the time we spend reading together is accompanied by novels. New, old, fantastical, everyday – we read it all.

Soon he’ll be reading on his own, but we’ll continue to read novels together at bedtime. I’m sure of it. For now, I wanted to start a list of the books we’ve most loved together. The ones that mesmerized him and me both. The ones that were so delicious to read aloud I’ve wanted to shout from my front porch that everyone should join in immediately. (And also some that seem determined to be listed despite a lack of adoration on my or my kid’s part. Because not all books become beloved, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun or important to read.)

(I’m using Amazon affiliate links here; I’ll be paid some change if you decide to make a purchase after clicking.)

Roald Dahl is perhaps the reigning master (so I declare) of writing books that are meant to be read aloud. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one that’s accessible even to the youngest children, and it affords a fabulous opportunity to discuss what it means to be poor, and kind, and selfish, and greedy.


The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, by Charles de Lint is a bit more sophisticated and subtle than some of the other novels on this list, and I think a fair amount of the story went over my son’s head. That said, he thoroughly enjoyed it. There are heavy themes of death and resurrection, and I found the book to be absolutely stunning.


No list would be complete without Harry Potter, and I highly recommend the illustrated versions. The Philosopher’s Stone was released in the fall of 2015 and The Chamber of Secrets a year later. I hope they keep to a yearly release schedule, so my kid’s maturity level can keep pace as the stories get more intense.

This is a short one, and a sweet one. The Pirate Pig was our introduction to Cornelia Funke’s writing, and though I thought it was merely okay, the kid loved it and insisted we read it again immediately. Three times over.

Though the story centres on travel through space and time – a concept wholly over the heads of most primary-grade children, let alone preschoolers – Fortunately the Milk, by Neil Gaiman is so delightful, and so amenable to reading silly voices, that even if half the story is lost to confusion it’s still super fun to read aloud.


There are several books in the Princess in Black series about a frilly princess who hides a monster-fighting alter ego. These are short books relative to most others on this list, but they’re terrific. My son loves them.


The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes, is about Billy’s time in second grade. It’s a lovely family portrait that I as a parent could relate to as much as my son could as a kid. It’s a quiet book about normal life, and it’s great for sparking conversation about the everyday ups and downs of school and friends and work and family.

I loved From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a kid growing up in New York City, and started thinking about it when I took the kid to Manhattan for a few days last spring – and to his first major art museum (the MOMA, not the Met). We told our neighbour about our trip after we returned home, and he thought the same thing. The next day he came over with a copy of this book, and the kid loved it.

The six-book Imaginary Veterinary series by Suzanne Selfors is truly outstanding, and I don’t know why it’s not a more prominently popular series. The protagonists become great friends, and the books are full of humour, fantasy, and great problem solving. Especially recommended for kids who aren’t ready to be scared.

This one is a true delight to read aloud, and provides a solid invitation to discuss guns. Not that we all want to discuss guns with our kids, but when I discovered the role the farmers’ shotgun plays in this story, I decided it was time to discuss the power of those weapons. Also, we laughed a lot through this story.


This one is an exception, because The Hobbit is actually a total slog to read aloud. The book could have a third of its text cut out without affecting the story at all. But it’s saved by the parts with the Gollum, which are truly inspired to read aloud. And if you’re familiar with the story you can skip parts as you read.

Ok, no this is the best Roald Dahl book the read aloud. The fantastical vocabulary of the Big Friendly Giant is the best, and this was the first novel to elicit uncontrollable giggling from the kid. I suspect that when he gets older, he may consider this one of the first books he truly loved.

How to Sell a Book

Found in a bookstore: THE way to sell a book. http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

I had a few minutes to pop into a bookstore yesterday, just for fun. I always read as many staff-recommendation cards as I can when I’m in a bookstore – do you?

This one grabbed my eye, and I did indeed flip to page 50. Which made me laugh out loud. Thus convinced that Lydia Davis and I belong together, I bought a copy of the book.

I’m so glad I stopped into that shop! I do, indeed, think that Lydia Davis and I belong together, yet I’m confident I’d not have picked up her work had it not been for this card.

The Books I Read in 2015

An annotated list of the books I read in 2015, including the novels I read with my 5-yr-old.

The year is up! And I’m happy to report that I finally got back into my reading groove in 2015 – due in no small part to my kid’s love of reading novels together. I’m going to guess that half of the 33 books I read this year were with him (not counting picture books). Let’s find out (he just turned five, FYI). Here are the books I read in 2015, in chronological order:

  1. Castle, by J. Robert Lennon
  2. Switched, by Amanda Hocking
  3. Torn, by Amanda Hocking
  4. Ascend, by Amanda Hocking (I think it was Kobo’s annual Boxing Week sale that lead me to buy this trilogy – also, I was interested in reading some self-published fiction. The books were okay. I don’t remember much about them at this point, but I read them all, which means they didn’t suck. [Check out the Kobo sale – it’s a great way to discover new authors and books, at a huge discount. Come to think of it, I also bought Castle during the sale last year.])
  5. The Inner Circle, by Brad Meltzer (meh)
  6. The Fifth Assassin, by Brad Meltzer (I tried, and I finished it, but I’m just not a fan)
  7. Wool (Omnibus), by Hugh Howey (I’d heard the hype, ignored it, then gave it a shot and freaking loved it)
  8. Shift, by Hugh Howey (very, very long, but worth the slog, because it pays off in the third book)
  9. Dust, by Hugh Howey (a great conclusion to an outstanding trilogy)
  10. Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl
  11. The Firebird, by Susanna Kearsley (if you’re a romance skeptic like I am, I highly recommend it; the writing is outstanding and the characters are fabulous)
  12. The Sasquatch Escape, by Suzanne Selfors (if you get my weekly newsletter, you’ll perhaps recall that I raved about this series – if you have a middle-grade reader in your family, or if you enjoy reading novels aloud with your kids, I can’t recommend this whole six-book Imaginary Veterinary series highly enough)
  13. The Lonely Lake Monster, by Suzanne Selfors
  14. The Rain Dragon Rescue, by Suzanne Selfors
  15. The Order of the Unicorn, by Suzanne Selfors
  16. The Highway, by C.J. Box (I picked this up at Yellowstone National Park during our road trip, when the author was doing a signing in the totally epic Old Faithful Inn; super souvenir; mediocre book)
  17. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (superduper fun; ham-fisted)
  18. The Griffin’s Riddle, by Suzanne Selfors
  19. Smells Like Dog, by Suzanne Selfors (this series is more sophisticated than the Imaginary Veterinary series, and though we made it through this book, the kid didn’t get as much from it, and we stopped halfway through the sequel; we’ll pick it all back up when he’s older)
  20. The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (not nearly as good as the first in this crime series, written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym; in fact, this book was kind of tedious, and I nailed the whodunit barely a quarter of the way into the book, which was a big disappointment)
  21. The Martian, by Andy Weir (one of my reading highlights of the year; total page-turner and well written to boot; the characters are outstanding; the movie – if for no other reason than its gutting of an outstanding female character, and frankly there’s more reason than that – hardly does the book justice)
  22. Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo (outstanding start to a through-and-through fabulous YA fantasy trilogy)
  23. Frozen: The Junior Novelization, by Walt Disney Company (yup, we read this, and it totally didn’t suck, so)
  24. Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo
  25. The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, by Shannon Hale
  26. Ruin and Rising, by Leigh Bardugo
  27. Dinosaurs Before Dark, by Mary Pope Osborne (I thought the kid would really love the Magic Treehouse books, but he doesn’t; curious)
  28. The Fairy Swarm, by Suzanne Selfors
  29. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, by Charles de Lint (probably for kids older than mine, but he seemed to enjoy it; it’s a great book that’s different in tone and pacing than anything we’d read together before or since)
  30. Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith (unlike The Silkworm, this book was a delight to read; loads of character development, and gruesome crimes and criminals)
  31. Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary (a classic, for good reason)
  32. The Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale (we read this one before its sequel [see #24], but I can’t remember when, and anyway we recently reread it so here it is toward the end of the list)
  33. My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Hm. Seems I didn’t start tracking the novels the kid and I read until the middle of the year. I imagine my total is closer to forty books, then. As planned, the kid and I started reading the new, gorgeously illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on his birthday this past weekend. He’s loving it, and so am I. I’m also back to reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, which I put down ages ago because it’s so gorgeous I couldn’t bear to finish it, and I’m also reading Lair of Dreams, by Libba Bray, the second in a trilogy that’s not finished yet.

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Mmm. Watercolour Squares.

For #MakeMakingFun, I’ve been trying to explore the vast array of craft books I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s always so exciting to buy craft books or borrow them from the library. And then I let them sit. Alone. Unopened. It’s like the opposite of having fun with them.

It’s ridiculous and I’m determined to stop doing it.

So last week, I cracked the spine of a book I bought ages ago called Water Paper Paint, by Heather Smith Jones.

And I did the first and second projects in it. I thought I loved circles, but didn’t love making them in the first project. But the second project? The second project was making squares. Watercolour squares all connected in a colourful grid all cozy and wonderful. I think I’ll be painting lots more squares in the near future. Mmm. Squares.

watercolor squares, from Water Paper Paint

 

Want to join in on the adventure of having more fun making stuff? Get a #MakeMakingFun prompt every Friday in my newsletter!

 

Knitter Anna Hrachovec Is a Genius

book cover of Adventures in Mochimochiland, by Anna Hrachovec

The older I get, the more I value my relationship with my high-school best friend. As might have been predicted back in our days of shoving notes through each other’s locker vents, I ended up moving as far away from our hometown as I could, and she ended up moving across the street from her childhood home. When we were teenagers, our differences kept our friendship interesting, if not occasionally fraught with adolescent angst. As we get older, it’s our similarities that make me smile that much brighter.

But still, when M texted me last month with a photo of her new Birkenstocks, which are the same kind as mine but in a brighter colour, I marvelled at how we never had the same taste in fashion before this decade. I’m more comfortable about what I wear now, I suppose, and she’s more adventurous.

So imagine my delight when, a couple of years ago, after I posted a photo from the knitting book Huge & Huggable Mochimochi, M begged me to knit her then-two-year-old daughter a capybara. My high-school friend would have thought a big knitted rodent was weird. My adult friend loved it as much as I do. And so obviously I knitted it, and I loved knitting it, and I think I’ll end up knitting another at some point.

knitted capybara

From the brain of the same woman who designs knitting patterns for ginormous rodents and tiny gnomes and unicorns comes Adventures in Mochimochiland. Which is a storybook. About teeny-tiny knitted creatures and donuts and things. With patterns at the end so you can make those teeny tiny things. It has nothing to do with my best friend. Nor does it have anything to do with giant knitted rodents. I just felt like telling that story.

Adventures in Mochimochiland is unlike any knitting book I’ve ever seen, by a woman who has made other brilliant knitting books that are like none I’ve ever seen, and my love for it is complete and unqualified.

That is all.

PS I’m starting to use some affiliate links here and there on the blog. It’s an experiment.

 

My 2014 in Reading

The reading of 2014

Writing Make It Mighty Ugly really screwed up my reading habit. For nearly two years, I just wasn’t able to focus on reading, and my appetite for fiction took a nosedive. Finally, around the middle of 2014, I snapped back to it and started to feel like my usual reading-self again (added bonus: I’ve apparently become a reader of non-fiction, too).

I didn’t quite meet my modest goal of reading twenty books over the course of the year, but since I didn’t get back to myself till the summertime, I’m not at all feeling like I failed. Also, I did spend considerably more time making stuff than I ever had before, so that’s a new factor in my reading life (not at all an unwelcome one).

Here’s what I read in 2014:

  1. The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan. Greg got into this epic, classic, fifteen-volume fantasy series (called The Wheel of Time) during our holiday at the end of 2013. He raved about it so much, I started it, too. (He read nothing but this series in 2014! He’s on, like, book twelve or something now.)
  2. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce. A family friend literally pressed this book into my hand at the library one day. It’s a lovely novel that manages to be both light and deep.
  3. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, Rob Thomas. Of course I read the first Veronica Mars novel. Obviously. (The plot was great, and very Rob Thomas. And Veronica’s voice sounded perfectly – and eerily – like Kristen Bell’s. But the writer he partnered with lacked some nuance. Still, perfectly enjoyable, and I look forward to the next VM book, which I believe will come out later this month.)
  4. The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan. Second in the Wheel of Time series.
  5. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green. I’d put off reading this because kids with cancer, but I’m so glad I finally caved. I cried, sure, but the book is as good as the hype says it is. (And the movie didn’t suck.)
  6. The Various Haunts of Men, Susan Hill. Greg’s aunt recommended the Simon Serrailler series of crime novels to me, and I always take her recommendations. This first book was wonderful, with an outstanding twist. I loved it so much I’ve put off reading the second, but I think it’s time.
  7. Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness. I didn’t love the first book in this trilogy (A Discovery of Witches), but for some reason decided I wanted to continue with it (probably due to lots of hype about the final book coming out). I liked this second even less than the first. But I’ll probably read the last one, for no good reason I can think of.
  8. Slightly Married, Mary Balogh. I was looking for romance novels that don’t suck, and this writer came highly recommended. The book was good, but the seemingly ubiquitous formula of romance novels doesn’t compel me to read more. Do you love any romance novels that don’t follow the will-they-won’t-they/forbidden-love/Pride-and-Prejudice trajectory? I’d love to read some; please share!
  9. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkman. This book. This is the one that rocked my world. I’ve recommended it to pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to about books, self-help, business, or life (so, pretty much everyone, period). As I was coming to accept that I’d written a self-help book, myself (it hadn’t been my intent, so the understanding of that fact came to me slowly, over time), this book allowed me to think through why I can’t stand reading self-help books. I always find them irrelevant to me in a way that used to make me feel broken beyond repair, but that now makes me realize I just kind of have a different worldview than, it would seem, most people writers write self-help books for. Positive thinking, for example, gives me hives. I just find it a lie. It’s just a lie. Because sometimes shit happens and sometimes life hurts, and that’s all well and good. Reading this book – which is not actually a self-help book but rather a journalistic exploration of what the author calls the cult of positive thinking and the antidote to it, which he calls the negative path to happiness – allowed me to place Mighty Ugly into a much wider context, beyond my own personal quirks. Of course I think ugliness is the key to creative happiness. Duh. Read this book. Do it now.
  10. What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist who Tried to Kill Your Wife?: A Memoir, David Harris-Gershon. I struggle, as a North American Jew, with some of the very propagandistic rhetoric many Jewish organizations and people I know and love share about Israeli-Palestinian relations, because I think that Palestinians are, you know, human beings who deserve basic human rights just like all human beings. (I also struggle, as a lefty artsy person, with propagandistic anti-Israel rhetoric that comes from some of my lefty-artsy friends. Propaganda: it pretty much doesn’t contribute meaningful conversation no matter who creates it). I read this book at the recommendation of a new friend, and I recommend it to anyone interested in gaining perspective on a difficult issue rather than defaulting to a deliberately one-sided view. Harris-Gershon’s experience (his wife was nearly killed in a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem; eventually, he was only able to heal, himself, after trying to reconcile with the terrorist who executed the bombing) is eye-opening, and inspiring.
  11. Claudine, Barbara Palmer. In my continuing quest to enjoy romance novels, I took the publisher up on an offer to send this book to people who had never read erotica. I found the book to be uninteresting and unmemorable.
  12. Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater. Hm. I didn’t read much YA fiction this year, eh? This book, the first in a trilogy, was good. But not so good that I decided to continue with the series.
  13. Fiona’s Flame, Rachael Herron. Apparently, romance (also non-fiction) was the theme of my reading year. I’ve read all of Rachael’s knitting romance books (full disclosure: she’s a friend, and I interviewed her for Make It Mighty Ugly), and this one is by far my favourite. She just nailed it (see what I did there?). Yeah, sure, these books totally follow the formula. But instead of being boring, they’re just downright delightful. It’s possible I’m picky about romance novels because I’m spoiled by hers.
  14. The Last Policeman, Ben H. Winters. I think I read about The Last Policeman trilogy on a blog somewhere, and whatever it was I read led me to order the whole trilogy immediately. I wasn’t disappointed. The setting alone (it’s pre-apocalyptic!) – more, the author’s treatment of it – is worth the price of admission.
  15. A Spear of Summer Grass, Deanna Raybourn. This book is why I love Twitter. One day, Deanna tweeted that she enjoyed my book. I thanked her, and looked up what she does. Lo and behold, she’s a romance novelist. And I happened to need a next book to read. So I asked her which of hers I should start with, and A Spear of Summer Grass was one of the ones she recommended. I really enjoyed this book. Yup, it’s the formula. But the characters in this book are rich and interesting, and I utterly enjoyed getting to know them.
  16. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler. This book was my return to reading books that are talked about. It’s outstanding, and you should read it, too. Especially if you have any background or interest in research psychology. I’ve been dying to talk to someone who’s read this book, because you can’t actually talk about it without giving away a plot twist. So if you’ve read it – fascinating, amiright?
  17. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel. Another very buzzed-about book, and worth every bit of hype. It was short-listed for the National Book Award, I think, and it wouldn’t have been wrong for it to have won. (Canadian book people: I haven’t seen this novel discussed as Can-lit, and I can’t figure out why. Half of it is set in Toronto and the author’s Canadian. Is it that she doesn’t live in Canada? Is it that the book was both a critical and commercial success across the border? I don’t get it.)

Did you read any great books in 2014? What are you looking forward to reading in 2015? (I’ve set myself a more ambitious goal for the year – to read thirty books, and I’m going to try to build some non-fiction reading time into my workday, too. You can follow along as I go, over on Goodreads.)