There are so many wonderful read-alouds that are perfect for spring. If you’re noticing flowers budding and birds chirping and you need a read-aloud to match the new life you see shooting up all around you, try adding one of these to your stack. What else would you add to this list?
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
No book captures the atmosphere of springtime quite like The Secret Garden! This classic first published in 1912 tells the story of young Mary Lennox, a spoiled child who is whisked off to England when her parents are killed in a cholera outbreak. Alone in the world apart from a wealthy uncle she has never met, Mary travels across the moor to his forbidding estate, Misselthwaite Manor. By day she explores the extensive gardens, uncovering the key that unlocks an abandoned rose garden. And by night she discovers an unlikely companion when she is awakened by an eerie moaning down the corridor. In the garden and in the company of her newfound friends, Mary experiences a life-giving magic that transforms her from a selfish brat to a thoughtful, caring girl.
Would you like to enjoy The Secret Garden with friends? Check out How to Start a Homeschool Book Club: The Secret Garden.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
“The mole had been working very hard all the morning spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters, then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of white-wash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontentment and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, and said, ‘Bother!’ and ‘O blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring-cleaning!'”
Who of us doesn’t relate to that spirit of divine discontentment and longing that comes with the spring? When Mole abandons his spring-cleaning and bursts out into the sunshine, he sets off on a series of thrilling adventures with his friends Ratty, Badger, and Mr. Toad. The impulsive Mr. Toad has no shortage of schemes in mind from a stolen motor car to a daring prison escape. I’m envisioning spreading a picnic blanket under (what else?) a willow and enjoying this timeless story on some bright spring morning. I hope you join me!
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
“The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime. Fern’s sneakers were sopping by the time she caught up with her father. “Please don’t kill it!” she sobbed. “It’s unfair.” Mr. Arable stopped walking. “Fern,” he said gently, “you will have to learn to control yourself.” “Control myself?” yelled Fern. “This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself.”
I daresay no childhood is complete without listening to Charlotte’s Web read aloud, and I know at least one homeschool mama who agrees with me (Laura Booz mentioned in our conversation on the Homeschool Compass Podcast, that she reads this one aloud to her children every single year!). This story of unlikely friendships and sacrificial love will tug at your heartstrings. There’s a reason this one has been beloved by children (and adults) for generations!
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
“Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders. One day when he was out walking, he came to an open place in the middle of the forest, and in the middle of this place was a large oak-tree, and from the top of the tree, there came a loud buzzing-noise. Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws and began to think.”
I don’t know that the Winnie-the-Pooh stories take place specifically in spring, but something about them feels appropriate to the season. Maybe it’s the amount of time Christopher Robin and his animal companions spend tromping about in the woods. Maybe it’s the fact that the book starts with clash between Pooh Bear and a hive full of bees. For whatever reason, I think you’ll find spring is a perfectly lovely season to spend some time with Pooh and his friends.
The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter
“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail, and Peter. They lived with their mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree. “Now, my dears,” said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, “you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden. Your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor. Now run along and don’t get into mischief. I am going out.” Then old Mrs. Rabbit took a basket and her umbrella, and went through the wood to the baker’s. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns. Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail who were good little bunnies went down the lane to gather blackberries. But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden and squeezed under the gate!”
Technically this isn’t a chapter book, but rather a series of 23 stand-alone stories starting with The Tale of Peter Rabbit and continuing on with the stories of Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and other animal friends. I think you’ll be hard-pressed, though, to read just one. I love this volume which has all Beatrix Potter’s tales arranged in chronological order with the original whimsical woodland illustrations. I’ve yet to meet a young child who doesn’t love these stories!
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
“Ellen Creighton and her nine-year-old son, Jethro, were planting potatoes in the half-acre just south of their cabin that morning in mid-April 1861; they were out in the field as soon as breakfast was over, and southern Illinois at that hour was pink with sunrise and swelling redbud and clusters of bloom over the warm apple orchard across the road. Jethro walked on the warm clods of plowed earth and felt them crumble beneath his feet as he helped his mother carry the tub of potato cuttings they had prepared the night before. . . The world seemed a good place to him that morning, and he felt ready to stride down the length of the field with a firm step and a joke on his lips.”
Best for older kids (around 6th grade and up), Across Five Aprils follows Jethro as he grows from a boy into a man over the course of the Civil War. One by one he watches his brothers, his cousin, and his teacher leave home to fight. When his brother, Bill, decides to enlist on the Confederate side, Jethro’s family must endure the hatred of their fellow townspeople along with the brutality of the war. Filled with details that will bring this period of history to life, this is a powerful and heartbreaking story of heroism and redemption.
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
“As he trudged on, the boy’s mind was full of the wonder of what he had seen. Not many people in the world have seen the nest of a Trumpeter Swan. Sam had found one on the lonely pond on this day in spring. He had seen the two great white birds with their long white necks and black bills. Nothing he had ever seen before in all his life had made him feel quite the way he felt, on that wild little pond, in the presence of those two enormous swans.”
Another beloved classic by E. B. White, this book tells the story of eleven-year-old nature lover Sam Beaver and his swan friend, Louis, who was born without the ability to trumpet. When Louis’s father steals a trumpet to help his son communicate, Louis sets off on a quest to earn money to pay for the stolen trumpet and woo a mate. His adventures take him across the country from the Montana wilderness to a summer camp on the Great Lakes to the Boston Public Garden and back again. This playful tale includes humor, beautiful nature writing, endearing characters, and a satisfying ending – the perfect read-aloud for all ages.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Latham
“Nat lay very still in the dark, trying to stay awake until his big brother, Hab, went to sleep. Nat wasn’t quite sure, but he thought a good-luck spell worked better if you kept it a secret. He stared out the window and watched the April breeze chase clouds across the stars. His eyelids sagged. That wouldn’t do! He must stay awake to work his spell. His family needed good luck. Why did they have so much bad luck? Was it because Father had lost his ship? Or was it because of the war? Ever since Nat could remember, the war had been going on. How long had it been? He counted back on his fingers to 1775. Four years since the war started.”
Nathaniel Bowditch grew up in the bustling port city of Salem, Massachusetts where tall-masted ships from foreign ports crowded the wharves. Too small for the seafaring life, Nat studied the ocean’s ways until he could chart a course in any weather, then penned The American Practical Navigator, stunning the sailing community with his nautical expertise. A fascinating read for your older child (probably age 10 and up).
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
“It was difficult, later, to think of a time when Betsy and Tacy had not been friends. . . But on this March afternoon, a month before Betsy’s fifth birthday, they did not know each other. They had not even seen each other, unless Betsy had glimpsed Tacy, without knowing her for Tacy, among the children of assorted sizes moving into the house across the street. Betsy had been kept in because of bad weather, and all day she had sat with her nose pasted to the pane. It was exciting beyond words to have a family with children moving into that house.”
There are lots of children on Hill Street, but no little girls Betsy’s age. When a new family moves into the house across the street, Betsy hopes they will have a little girl she can play with. Sure enough, they do – a little girl named Tacy. And from the moment they meet at Betsy’s fifth birthday party, Betsy and Tacy become such good friends that everyone starts to think of them as one person: Betsy-Tacy. Betsy and Tacy have lots of fun together. They make a playhouse from a piano box, have a sand store, and dress up and go calling. Ever since their first publication in the 1940s, this series has been treasured by young readers.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
“When I left my office on that beautiful spring day, I had no idea what was in store for me. To begin with, everything was too perfect for anything unusual to happen. It was one of those days when a man feels good, feels like speaking to his neighbor, is glad to live in a country like ours, and proud of his government. You know what I mean, one of those rare days when everything is right and nothing is wrong. I was walking along whistling when I heard the dogfight. . . As the sound of the fight grew nearer, I could tell there were quite a few dogs mixed up in it. All the dogs were fighting one . . . Up out of that snarling, growling, slashing mass reared an old redbone hound. For a second I saw him. I caught my breath. I couldn’t believe what I had seen. . . Although the old hound had no way of knowing it, he had stirred memories, and what priceless treasures they were. Memories of my boyhood days, an old K. C. Baking Powder can, and two little red hounds.”
You’ll need the tissues for this one, but I still think it’s worth the read (this is another that might be best for older kids, around 10 and up). It perfectly captures the joy a child can find in the company of a pet, following Old Dan, Little Ann, and Billy as they range the hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country. Billy dreams of training them to be the finest hunting dogs in the valley, but when tragedy strikes, Billy must learn for himself that hope can come from despair.
Do you associate books with certain seasons? What children’s chapter books feel most like spring to you? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.
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