When six-year-old Sarah helps an old witch on Halloween, she is given a secret, magical reward. The witch turns her costume fairy wand into a real, wish-granting wand. Unaware of her magic power, Sarah makes wish after wish, creating chaos through her neighborhood. Will the witch be able to fix her mistake before Halloween is ruined for everyone?
Witch’s Wishes is a perfect family read for the Halloween season. It has witches, flying brooms, and magic, but nothing too scary for even the youngest listeners. I read this to my four, six, and ten-year-old kids and everyone found something to enjoy.
Recommended for ages—4-11 years old
Waiting for the Magic was a tender, read aloud hit in our house. My 4 and 5-year-old boys loved the talking pets that only some family members could hear. My 9-year-old envied the fact that the family adopted all four dogs and one cat available from the animal shelter. My husband and I enjoyed the loving resolution between a struggling husband and wife. The kids mostly missed the tension of the father moving out temporarily, but they caught the idea of pets bringing hope and healing to a family. Maybe this book struck a chord with us because we’ve recently experienced the magical healing and overcoming of disappointment that a new pet can bring.
Things aren’t right in William’s family. His father has left and his mother says his father is ‘flawed.’ Four-year-old Elinor doesn’t understand what is wrong, but she is the first to realize the magic their five new pets bring. Four loveable dogs and one very patient cat help William, Elinor, and their parents recognize the magic and power of love. This is a sweet story for all ages and a good one to read as a family.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Smart Dog by Vivian Vande Velde. I grabbed it on a whim, because we needed another read aloud book for my 4 and 5 year old boys. As it turned out, they were hooked along with me, my husband, and my 9-year-old daughter. My boys have a problem with intense conflict, so a lot of the books they like are a little slow. However, this book was gentle enough for them and interesting enough for me. They missed some of the interpersonal conflict between 5th graders, but it didn’t take away from the story.
On her way to school, Amy Prochenko is approached by a dog on the run, but not just any dog. Sherlock is a lab experiment who escaped from the university lab when he overheard the head scientist talking about dissecting his brain. Amy has many adventures and finds herself making new friends as she strives to keep Sherlock safe. A funny and light story about an incredible dog and a fast thinking girl. This one is great for all ages.
When a bookish dragon settles on the hill near his home, Kenny is anxious to investigate. He is made a little nervous by Grahame’s size at first meeting, but soon the two are best friends. However, the citizens of the nearby town aren’t so anxious to make friends with a dragon. The problem grows when Kenny realizes George, another of his close friends, has been ordered to exterminate Grahame. Soon it will take all of Kenny’s brains and strength of character to save his newest friend from the prejudice of the villagers.
This sweet story of friendship and loyalty is great for a variety of ages. Tony DiTerlizzi is an excellent illustrator as well as author and his pictures add to the marvelous story. I read this out loud with my 3, 5, and 9 year olds and they all enjoyed this story. This isn’t an easy reader, but with the frequent pictures it is a good transition from easy chapter books to some more complex reading.
The Holidays can be a great time for reading. I know life gets extremely busy, but that makes down time even more necessary. Also, there is often time to fill and a need for entertainment at parties and get-togethers. Instead of relying on movies or video games, try the old-fashioned tradition of reading out loud. Books can be very engaging if you have material for the right age groups and if you put a little personality into your reading. There are several holiday classics as well as non-holiday books to read together. I’ve included a list of some of my favorites. You can click on the titles to find a more extensive review.
Holiday Stories for All Ages
- The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote
- Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen (picture book)
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
- The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin (a warning to those with tender hearts, this story has a bittersweet ending and might bring tears)
- The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech (this isn’t a holiday story, but has a good holiday message)
Holiday Stories for Children 10 and up
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
Non-Holiday Books with Broad Family Appeal (these we read with my 3, 5 and 9-year-olds)
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
- The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy by William Boniface
- Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
- Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke
- Zorgamazoo by Paul Weston
- The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer
Mother / Daughter Reading
- The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
- Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo
- Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
- The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker
- Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
Books for Tweens and Teens (10-18)
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
- Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
- The Wish List by Eoin Colfer
- The Bridge to Never Land by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
- Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
If you have read the previous Peter and the Starcatchers series (highly recommended before jumping into this one), The Bridge to Never Land is a little bit of a departure. Sarah and Aidan Cooper live in our modern world, but their lives change when they find a hidden stash of starstuff. They quickly learn that books they read as fiction are real and so are the dangerous villains. With a short trip to Never Land and plenty of adventure in the real world, the Coopers’ experience show what happens when magic shows its face in our time. This is a fun read for all teenagers and would be a good family read aloud.
Halmark’s made for TV movie has made the story of the Herdmans well known, but the book is even more priceless and touching than the movie. When the town’s most rowdy and dysfunctional family takes all the lead roles in the church Christmas Pageant, it appears as if the show will be a disaster. However, as the Herdmans learn ABOUT Jesus, they teach everyone about the true Spirit of Christmas. This is a wonderful, humorous, and touching story, perfect for reading as a family during the month of December.
I don’t usually review picture books, but this is a classic Thanksgiving story perfect for many different ages. Molly and her family are immigrants in America in the early 1900s. Because of her accent and interesting clothes, Molly is teased by other students in school. For a Thanksgiving project, she is told to make a pilgrim clothespin doll. After hearing an explanation of Pilgrims, Molly’s mother makes the doll to look like her. This is a sweet story about all kinds of pilgrims in America.
This is a nostalgic look at Thanksgiving in 1932 told from the viewpoint of 9-year-old Buddy. Growing up in a small Alabama town, Buddy’s best friends are his dog Queenie and his 60-year-old cousin, Miss Sook. His friendship with Miss Sook is put to the test when she insists on inviting the school bully, Odd Henderson, to Thanksgiving dinner. Through this experience, Buddy learns the importance of suspending judgment and extending forgiveness. This short story is perfect for reading out loud together after a good feast.
When Meg Finn meets an unexpected, early death, she ends up trapped in limbo. Her scale between heaven and hell is exactly even. To fix this problem, she is sent back to earth to help old Lowrie McCall fulfill his wish list before he dies. With this service, she hopes to tip her balance toward heaven, but she receives another reward—the friendship of a cantankerous and wonderful old man. Colfer’s humor makes this story both delightful and touching.