When I choose our read alouds, I usually choose them based on a couple of things. Are they classic children's books that I'd like my kids to hear while they're still kids? And by "classic" I mean are they something that's been around for a while, that gets read over and over again and even referenced in other work? Think Black Beauty, Eagle of the Ninth, Charlotte's Web, The Jungle Book, The Phantom Tollbooth, Robinson Crusoe. Alternately, are they just plain old great reads? We've read some books that made me wonder how they ever got published. Also, are they age-appropriate, and not terribly dense or way too mature for my lot? Will my ten year old be as riveted as my 2 six year olds? Or will my six year olds, and I mean FDPG here, be terrified by scary content? And finally, will I enjoy reading them aloud? (this isn't so goofy as you might think - I find slangy language very tedious to read on a continual basis)
This year I made more of an effort, seeing as how we'd started doing a group read rather than individual bed-time ones (which Richard still does), to find good reads for the kids, and managed, through many a book list, Yahoo! group, and word of mouth, to compile a list that should take us through to late spring, my voice willing.
Our latest read aloud is one of the brilliant Dick King-Smith's books: The Water Horse. Even if you aren't familiar with his name, you've probably heard of his stuff. He wrote the book Babe - remember the talking pig (no, not that talking pig, the other one)? His work is usually filed in the Primary Reader section of the library, which means that unless you've got young kids you might not have seen them around much. But in our house we love his work. When Max was young he listened to audio CDs of DKM's work by the hour. And when I saw that one of his books had been made into a movie, I knew we had to read the book, and read it before we saw the movie. There were two reasons for this, really. One: I'm one of Those People who like their kids to read the book before seeing the movie; and two: FDPG was seriously balking after seeing the QuickTime preview and I knew I'd never get her into that theatre unless she read the book first and could see that it wasn't scary.
I should probably add here that the film looks vastly different from the book. I guess this is to be expected. It seems that all film adaptations have their own voice, whether for good or bad. I can see already that there are some differences I'm not going to enjoy so much, but for the most part it looks fun. The book, though, is a classic. We loved it. It took us three days to read, we loved it so much. It turned from a morning read-aloud to a lunch-time-too read-aloud, to a what-the-heck-so-it's-right-before-dinner read-aloud, and before we knew it, we'd finished it. It has a wonderful twist at the end that had my kids captivated and insistent that we visit Scotland almost immediately. Now we're either off to the land of Half Magic, or diving deep into schoolyard politics, with Frindle. Wish us luck.