As we move into February with more gray, cold days, it seems like winter will never end. What's a family to do?
Our native coastal families and tribes used this time of year to share stories. Potlatches included good food and the giving of blankets. Start your own family's winter tradition by reading a great new book out loud together. Set the scene with piles of blankets and warm comfort food and cozy up to savor a good book together. Take turns reading a sentence or paragraph or chapter each. Or let younger readers tell what they think might happen next.
Here are some new favorites, with all of the elements of a terrific read-aloud story: great characters, hilarious exchanges, and satisfying endings.
The Cinderella Smith books, by local author Stephanie Barden, are tremendously fun to read out loud. Cinderella, so named because she is always losing her shoes, is funny and loveable and always trying to sort out a mess. The words fly off the page, and the dialogue is written in such a fun way. The clever ways that Cinderella resolves real issues, like mean girls and bullying, make for great conversations afterward. Best for ages 4-10.
Newbery Award winner Richard Peck has another great story with The Mouse with the Question Mark Tale. Fans of Stuart Little or The Tale of Despereaux will quickly fall in love with this lovable orphan mouse who lives in Buckingham Palace. He has no name until he goes to the Royal Mews Mouse Academy, where he is called "Mouse Minor." Before he knows it, he is running for his life for having broken two rules. He is also trying to find out who he is and where he came from. He talks with Queen Victoria, who is interested in him but has no answers. On and on he goes, one adventure after another. This is certain to be a favorite read-aloud book, and – thank heavens – there is a happy and surprising ending. Best for ages 5-10.
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is a sweet, brilliant book by favorite read-aloud author Kate DiCamillo (Tales of Despereaux). There are 230 pages of reading pleasure for the entire family. Filled with unexpected surprises, this book is about the power of positive thought and imagination. It's a great book to read with someone you love. Best for ages 5-10.
For younger audiences, the short chapters in the Dodsworth books by Tim Egan are wonderful. Emerging readers can take turns reading a page or two. These have colorful illustrations of amazing cities like Rome, London, New York and Tokyo. Dodsworth, a more laid-back traveler, can't help but find adventure with his hilarious and crazy companion, Duck. In the latest edition, Dodsworth in Tokyo, Duck even manages to fall into the koi pond at the Imperial Palace. Best for ages 4-6.
The tales of Mr. and Mrs. Green, by local author and illustrator Keith Baker, are a hoot to read out loud. They are short chapter books that are packed with number and word play and picture clues. In Cookies: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure, there's all kinds of funny confusion about a "bad" batch of cookies. These wacky books are to be read over and over. Best for ages 4-6.
Finally, local favorite Laura McGee Kvasnosky has a lovely early reading series called Zelda and Ivy. Her illustrations of triangle-shaped fox sisters add to the familiar tension of trying to get along with siblings. In Zelda and Ivy: Keeping Secrets, little sister Ivy may outsmart prankster Zelda. Set up in short chapters, these high-drama tales are heartwarming and just plain fun. Best for ages 4-6.
Thanks to the staff at Mockingbird Books in the Green Lake neighborhood for the book recommendations.