I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Favorite Read Alouds from 2021

Books and plants

At the close of every calendar year, usually on some cold December afternoon, I pull out my running list of "Books We've Read Together" and invite my kids to have a lengthy and impassioned discussion about which books from the past twelve months we liked the most. 

We take an official vote to determine our top five to ten titles. Since we are a living book-style homeschool, we read dozens and dozens of books each year for our content subjects like Bible, science, and history. But, I don't include any of those titles in our vote. Our poll is limited to read alouds--books I read to them every afternoon for fun, for family connection, for literary adventure. 

Not surprisingly, my kids rate books much differently than I do. Some of the titles they collectively place on the top of our "favorites" list don't garner nearly as much praise from me. (Case in point: #4 on this year's list probably wouldn't have even made it into the top 10 if the choice had been entirely up to me. But I suppose that's the nature of a democratic vote, my opinion holds the same weight as my nine-year-olds. Since he doesn't always know how much editing-on-the-fly I have to do when reading certain books aloud, his opinion is a bit skewed from the get-go. But, I digress...)

Here is a look at our top 8 favorite read alouds from 2021. (Not my favorites, mind you. Our favorites.)

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Favorite Read Alouds from 2021 #rar #readaloud  #kidlit #bookstagram

8. Adventures with Waffles

by Maria Parr

Originally written in Norwegian, this is a coming-of-age story about Trille, a young boy from a small island cove off the coast of Norway. When his best friend Lena moves to the mainland and his beloved Great Aunt passes away, Trille begins to flounder. He's not sure he can handle so much change. 

Although this was a very sweet book, in hindsight, I feel like the plot was a bit too simplistic for my older boys. Fortunately, they all still really enjoyed it. As a read-aloud, I think it's best suited for 5-10-year-olds. 

7. Ben and Me

by Robert Larson

History would have us believe that it was Ben Franklin who discovered the electrical power of lightning and who invented such celebrated treasures as bifocals and the glass armonica. But what if Franklin only took the credit for all those discoveries? What if instead, they were the brainchild of his innovative pet mouse? 

This living book is the first-person reflection of Amos the mouse who claims to be the genius behind some of America's most timeless inventions. (This was a re-read for us.)

6.  A Place to Hang the Moon

by Kate Albus

When their grandmother passes away, orphaned siblings William, Edmund, and Anna are shipped off to the English countryside along with hundreds of other children who are escaping the air raids that threaten all of London. The trio has high hopes that their temporary guardians will want to keep them not just until the war ends, but permanently.

Some books, while good to read alone, don't make good read alouds. This one is great for both, especially if you can conjure up a good British accent!

5. Sarah, Plain and Tall

by Patricia MacLachlan

When Papa sends away for a mail-order bride to help raise them, Anna and Caleb have no idea what to expect. They are just hoping for someone who can sing. Self-proclaimed spinster Sarah Wheaton travels all the way from the shores of Maine to the prairie of Kansas to become their mother. 

This is my most favorite middle-grade fiction of all time. Every couple of years, I re-read it to my kids for an excuse to re-read to myself. My youngest son enjoyed it so much this time around that he plowed right through the next two books in the five-book series. 

4. Just a Dog

by Michael Gerard Bauer

Mr. Mosley is not just any dog. To his young owner Corey, Mr. M. is everything. He's in every family photo, the butt of every family joke, the glue that holds his crumbling family together. But what will happen to his family when Corey's faithful pet is no longer around?

The premise of this book is quite unique. It is a first-person narrative account of a young boy's life. Because he's only a child, though, Corey doesn't always completely understand what is going on in his own home. He sees everything through childish eyes, leaving you, the reader, to read between the lines of his parent's money trouble or marital conflict. 

I wanted to like this book, but in the end, I thought some of the themes were unnecessarily heavy for the target audience. That said, the author's writing is very covert. Most young kids would probably not pick up on all the underlying struggles in the family's dynamics. 

Please note: There is some language and one or two mentions of alcohol in this book which I edited out on the fly. 

3. Johnny Tremain

by Esther Forbes

When silversmith apprentice Johnny Tremain burns his hand in an accident, he can no longer work for his master and is forced to find a new trade. He takes a job at The Boston Observer and ends up playing a pivotal role in the fight for independence.

2. Henry Reed's Babysitting Service

by Keith Robertson

This action-packed sequel of Henry Reed Inc. tells of the babysitting calamities of 14-year-old Henry and his good friend Midge who spend the summer in the small town of Grover's Corners.

Please note: This book was written at a different time and includes one scene where Henry spanks one of his babysitting charges as well as a paragraph with a rather disparaging remark about Native Americans. Neither should discourage you from reading the book aloud and having good discussions with your kids about both sections. 

1. Rifles for Watie

by Harold Keith

When sixteen-year-old Jeff Bussey finds himself on both sides of the fighting lines of the Civil War, his naive bravado is tested and he comes face to face with the real cost of war.

Please note: This book includes war scenes that may not be suitable for young readers.

This year's list of favorites was a mixed-bag. Despite the fact that the vote didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped it would, I'm grateful for the meaningful conversations we enjoyed as we narrowed down our choices. 

We just finished our first read-aloud of the new year and enjoyed it so much that I've no doubt we'll be giving it a coveted spot on our 2022 list in twelve months. But first, I'd love to know what books made it to the top of your favorites this past year!

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