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by Jim Trelease
• excerpts from The Treasury of Read-Alouds •
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The Treasury of Read-Alouds

SHORT NOVELS page 1 of 3

These books represent a brief portion of the hundreds
cited in the print edition of The-Read-Aloud Handbook.


Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days

by Stephen Manes    Gr. 2—5    76 pages    Yearling, 1996

If any subversive person is interested in sneaking in a little laughter among the many serious books these days about orphans, vampires, and post-apocalyptic children, this is for them. A young boy, tired of being the brunt of everyone’s taunts, begins a do-it-yourself course in becoming perfect—with hilarious and unpredictable results. Conclusion: Nobody’s perfect, even the popular kids.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

by Barbara Robinson      Gr. 2–6      80 pages      Harper, 1972

What happens when the worst-behaved family of kids in town comes to Sunday school and muscles into all the parts for the Christmas pageant? The results are zany and heartwarming; a most unusual Christmas story. Sequels: The Best School Year Ever and The Best Halloween Ever. There is also an excellent CD recording of the three novels, narrated by Broadway's Elaine Stritch: "The Best Barbara Robinson CD Audio Collection Ever."

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House series)

by Mary Pope Osborne      K–2      76 pages      Random House, 1992

In this first book of the popular time-travel series (with three- to four-page chapters), young Annie and Jack discover a treehouse that transports them back in time to the age of dinosaurs. The journey is filled with fantasy adventure while exploring scientific, cultural, or historic places and events.


by Andrew Clements      Gr. 3–6      105 pages      Simon & Schuster, 1996

This book will have you laughing out loud by paragraph five and wanting to adopt the main character (a fifth-grade boy) by the end of the first chapter, nodding in affirmation of its wisdom throughout, and wiping the tears away at its end. The story is what education, family, and relationships are supposed to be about, never mind what a good book can do for the reading appetite. And—it’s fall-down funny. Oh, yes, it’s about the dictionary, too. It was overlooked for the Newbery Award but it keeps winning kids’ votes in the state awards. No author rivals Clements in capturing the soul of the American classroom. Also by the author: The Jacket; The Janitor’s Boy; The Landry News; The Last Holiday Concert ; Lunch Money; The Report Card; and A Week in the Woods.

Jim's Favorite Kindergarten Novels
(in order of difficulty)
  • Two Times the Fun
    by Beverly Cleary
  • Look Out, Jeremy Bean!
    by Alice Schertle
  • Junie B. Jones and the Stupid
    Smelly Bus
    by Barbara Park
  • The Chalk Box Kid
    by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Dinosaurs Before Dark
    by Mary Pope Osborne
  • My Father's Dragon
    by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • Mostly Monty
    by Johanna Hurwitz
  • The Stories Julian Tells
    by Ann Cameron
  • Chocolate Fever
    by Robert Kimmel Smith
  • James and the Giant Peach
    by Roald Dahl
  • The Water Horse
    by Dick King-Smith

Gooney Bird Greene (series)

by Lois Lowry     Gr. K—2      88 pages      Houghton, 2002 and e-book

Gooney Bird Greene is the antithesis of Junie B. Jones in civil behavior but a carbon copy in uniqueness and irrepressibility. Second-grader Gooney Bird is smart, mature, kind, and in charge at all times — or at least she wants to be, which sometimes presents a challenge for the teacher. But on the first day in her new school it‘s clear she is mysterious and interesting. Her clothes are unusual. Her hairstyles are unusual. Even her lunches are unusual. On her second day at school, she was wearing a pink ballet tutu over green stretch pants, and she had three small red grapes, an avocado, and an oatmeal cookie for lunch. Just as Gooney wins over her classmates and teacher, she’ll win over her readers. Sequels: Gooney Bird and the Home Room Mother; Gooney the Fabulous; Gooney Bird Is So Absurd; and Gooney Bird on the Map. The Newbery-winning Lowry has long been one of our most gifted writers for children and this series proves again her great versatility.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (series)

by Barbara Park      K–1      70 pages      Random House, 1992

Don’t be put off by the title of this book, part of a wonderfully funny series (more than 30 books to date). Junie B. is Ramona, Little Lulu, and Lucy all rolled into one determined kindergartner. No one in children’s publishing approaches Barbara Park when it comes to children’s humor, and her 40 million sales with the Junie series is prove positive. Park’s other books, like Mick Harte Was Here and Skinnybones, are aimed at older students and demonstrate why she’s consistently a state award–winner with children. For an exploration of the controversies surrounding the Junie B. series, see Censoring Junie B. For those looking for the nest step up from Junie B. but with a softer edge, check out Lois Lowry's Gooney Bird Greene.

Picture Books:  p.1   p.2   p.3
Short Novels :  p.1   p.2   p.3
  Novels:  p.1   p.2   p.3   p.4 Anthologies:  p.1 Fairy & Folk Tales :  p.1  Poetry:  p.1

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