I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes certain picture books a pleasure to read aloud. Not to that one book-loving child (who will probably listen to anything), but to a much tougher audience—like, say, the preschoolers who show up at a library or bookstore reading, who may range in age from 18 months to 6 years old. What keeps them engaged and interested?
Believe me, I want to know. Because even a spare, 32-page picture book can start to feel like War and Peace when members of your audience start crying, wandering off, or otherwise indicating that you and your book are about as captivating as a baked potato.
So, over the coming months, I’ll be looking for excellent read-alouds, especially for the youngest listeners. And I’m pleased to kick off this mission with Elizabeth Dale’s Nothing Can Frighten a Bear, illustrated by Paula Metcalf (Nosy Crow, 2018).
What makes this book a great read-aloud? Let me list the ways.
An engaging story. This is standard, right? A few books may make it on bells and whistles alone, but for the most part listeners stay attentive because they care about what happens in the story. In this case, Baby Bear is awakened by a mysterious loud noise. He’s certain it’s a monster, so the whole family goes into the forest to prove to him there’s nothing scary outside.
Suspense. While searching for monsters, three members of the bear family disappear. Where did they go? Great use of page turns contribute to the drama.
Humor. The audience knows what happened to the missing family members, but Daddy Bear does not. It’s always funny when a character is clueless, but the reader is in on the joke.
Satisfying ending. The story wraps up with a good “Ha!” ending that solves the mystery of the original scary noise.
Lively rhyme. The musical, metrically-consistent verse is a pleasure to read and listen to.
Repetition: The phrase “And anyway, nothing can frighten a bear!” is repeated often enough for kids to catch on and join in, adding an audience-participation element (love those!).
Illustrations. Not just adorable (which they are), but easy for kids in an audience to follow. The big eyes are very expressive and add to the humor.
By the way, I was also really impressed with the feel of this book— the quality of the paper, the sturdy cover, the large size (12” x 10”). I didn’t know much about Nosy Crow (a small, independent London-based publisher that partners with Candlewick in the US), so checked out their website, which says: “Making well-designed physical books is important to us, and we think carefully about covers, paper type and paper weight so that our books are attractive to look at and pleasing to hold.” Yep, so it seems.
They also write about sourcing paper ethically and responsibly, about the importance of work-life balance, and about being happy and having fun in your work. All great stuff, no?
And on that happy note, I’ll sign off till the next time.
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Looks and sounds like a great book to read to my 7 year old granddaughter. She hasn’t really ‘caught the reading bug’ yet, because of her developmental delays. She is the toughest audience ever! I always try to find books that will keep her engaged and make her fall in love with reading.
I’m going to her school to read Dr. Seuss books to her class on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, March 2. It’ll be interesting to see how many kids already love books and reading! Wish me luck!!
Hi, Sharon–good for you for working to instill a love of books. It does take effort, especially when there are reading challenges and/or developmental delays. I hope your granddaughter likes this one. Good luck! And good luck with the classroom reading too!
Oh, I like this post! Good read alouds are worth their weight in gold, especially for those audiences with the most discriminating taste in books – kids! Thanks for sharing with us!
I agree, Angie. Hope you like it!
Hooray for a great read-aloud book! They are magical!
I agree, Cathy! 🙂
Looks like such a fun book. It’s got all the ingredients to be a winner! Congrats!
It sounds like you are definitely a fan of this book! It sounds like i eill be too. Great review! I look forward to reading it.
Yep, definitely a fan, Lori. Hope you like it too!
This book sounds like a real winner. I can’t wait to read it. I love the list of ‘ingredients’ to a good read-aloud book, too. Thanks!
I think you’ll enjoy it, Linda!
Great read aloud books are often hard to find. Can’t wait to read this one!
They really are, Judy. I went through stacks of books I’d picked up at the library before settling on this one. Hope you like it too!
Thanks for introducing me to this book AND Nosy Crow.
Thanks, Kathy. I was really impressed with both!
Sounds like so much fun. I’m always on the lookout for good readalouds. Thanks for sharing.
Check it out, Claire. I think you’ll enjoy it! 🙂
I’ve already referred the title to a storytime presenter! I can’t wait to read it, too–it’s on order!
Wonderful! So happy to hear that, Susan.
Thanks for deconstructing the read-aloud. I will be following closely!
Glad to hear that, Laura! The best ones are real gems.
I’m really looking forward to this book. And your detailed analysis of what makes this book a good read-alould is very helpful for trying to find ways to make our own books good read-alouds. Thank you.
Thanks, David. I hope you enjoy it!
Thanks, Linda! Great post, lots to think about and consider when writing.
Thanks, Rachel. And,hey, it’s our one-year Webinaraversary (rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?). 🙂
I’m really looking forward to your read-aloud picks, Linda. This one sure looks and sounds like a winner!!
Thank you Linda! This has definitely motivated me to check out Nothing Can Frighten A Bear. A great read aloud is always a treasure.
Ooh. I feel like I just attended a great pb workshop. 🙂
Looking forward to studying this one as soon as my library fills my hold. Using your points as a guide, of course.?
Thanks for the note about a book company that is dedicated to well-designed physical books. And of course, so much more!