First off, I’m a huge fan of Roald Dahl, so that should tell you right there the kinds of books we like. I can’t even guess how many times I read Fantastic Mr. Fox out loud to my boys…though his Revolting Rhymes is one of my favorites. Revolting Rhymes, is Dahl’s twisted version of all the famous nursery rhymes: Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks (who I believe gets eaten in this version), Little Red Riding Hood, etc. We also read all the Harry Potter out loud, though my oldest, who was 10 at the time, started reading them on his own so he could get through the story faster.
Another series we enjoyed was the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. The first book in the series is called The Book of Three. These stories follow the adventures of Taran the assistant pig keeper and his companions, a bard – of sorts, and a princess – of sorts, as they travel through Prydain to save the land from evil. Entertaining characters and fun story. We’ve enjoyed a number of his other books, which all seem to involve a boy coming of age and finding a couple of odd ball friends on the way.
We’ve read quite a few books by Nancy Farmer, the first being The Sea of Trolls, the first in a trilogy about an 11 year old boy, Jack, who becomes apprenticed to a bard/wizard. Just as he’s beginning his training, Vikings kidnap him and his sister, Lucy and from there the story dives into Norse mythology with frost giants and trolls. We were sad when we came to the end of the third book.
Another great book by Nancy Farmer, The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, is a very unique story that takes place in Africa in the future, where African culture is the dominant culture. The Ear (who has exceptional hearing), the Eye (exceptional vision) and the Arm (extremely long limbs), are three detectives, who are hired to find some extremely sheltered kids who managed to escape their home and immediately get into trouble. We all really enjoyed this book and the story is so absolutely different than the Sea of Trolls I have trouble believing they are by the same author. The Ear, the Eye and the Arm is an excellent read a loud, not only for the great story and characters, but the setting – future Africa – is amazing.
We’ve also read Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion and the Lord of Opium, which again takes place in the future, but this time in the border area between the US and Mexico which is now its own country and run by a drug lord. I didn’t like this series as much as her other books, but my 12 year old says its one of his favorites.
Rover by Australian author, Jackie French, actually has many titles. In Australia it goes by They Came on Viking Ships, and in the UK its sold under the title, Slave Girl, while in the USA its called Rover. This is a great story which follows a young girl from Scandinavia who is taken by Vikings after they raid her village and becomes the slave of a Viking warrior, the sister of Leif Erikson. They travel on to Iceland and Greenland and the story takes a lot of its material and details from the Viking Sagas. I think its definitely one of the better historical fiction books that we have read.
Tom Appleby, Convict Boy is another book by Jackie French. This one is about a boy who loses his family in London, gets caught stealing food and ends up being shipped to Australia on one of the first convict ships. Again, some great historical detail and an interesting way to learn about the settling of Australia. I remember being somewhat unsatisfied by the ending, it just kind of ends, so I don’t rate it as high as Rover, but still a good read.