I have been writing about good books to read aloud to groups of children and teens for quite awhile now. It all started when I was invited to write an article about good humorous stories to read aloud to children for Book Links magazine. While putting the article together, I flashed back on my days as a children’s librarian when I used to read passages of books to kids when they came for school tours. For the article, I added the feature “10 Minute Selections” for each book I recommended. This is a way to share stand-alone passages with young people when there’s not enough time to read the entire book. If the kids want to read the rest of the book themselves, good. If they don’t, I still feel we shared some quality literature time together. Keep in mind, the “10 Minute Selection” could be anywhere between five and fifteen minutes long to read aloud.
Two books later (Reid’s Read-Alouds and Reid’s Read-Alouds 2) plus dozens of Book Links articles (now featured under the column name “Reid-Aloud Alert”), I decided I’d like to share even more strong read-alouds through this blog on a fairly regular basis. Here’s round one.
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. HarperCollins, 2011. 312 pp. (Gr. 4-6): Hazel is somewhat of an outsider at her school. It’s not only because she has the darkest skin (she was adopted from India) but also because her imagination sets her apart from her classmates. Her best friend is her next-door neighbor Jack. When a magical mirror shatters, a sliver falls into Jack’s eye and he becomes very distant to Hazel. When Jack disappears, Hazel follows him into a magical land full of danger – to rescue him. The promo for the book mentions the author was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Snow Queen.” The tone of the story has as much to do with the Narnia series. One aspect of author Ursu’s wrting style that sets this fantasy apart from the hundreds currently flooding the market is her very subtle nods to many popular fantasy stories. The Narnia books, the Harry Potter series, A Wrinkle in Time, and Coraline are just a few that young readers/listeners will lift up their heads with delight when they catch on to the shout-outs. Ursu is also a big Minnesota Twins fan (my team, too) and no doubt made baseball star Joe Mauer honored to be included in the story.
10 Minute Selection: This selection takes about 15 minutes to read. Start reading near the end of chapter 3, “Spaces,” with the line, “When Hazel woke up the next morning, she found the scratchy feeling had not gone away.” Moments after Jack and Hazel have a small argument, Jack falls down clutching his eye. Finish the chapter and read all of chapter 4, “Pieces.” When Hazel is accused of causing Jack’s injury, she throws a pencil case at Tyler, runs out of her classroom, and hides in a toilet stall in the girls’ locker room. Later that day, Jack decides to spend time with Tyler and Bobby instead of Hazel. Next, read the short chapter 5, “The Mirror.” We learn the mirror fragments were caused by a demon named Mal. The selection ends with a witch observing the whole accident. “‘Oh,’ said the witch, placing a long finger on her cheek. “This should be interesting.”