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Magical or funny books for read-aloud without any scary bits?

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My five-year-old is loving me reading Enid Blyton's The Wishing Chair to her and I was wondering if there's anything else like it? (Other than more Blyton!)

We're still reading 99% picture books but it's nice to mix it up with something a bit longer every now and again. So I'm after books for the very young but not books they'd read to themselves.

Thing is, she's supersensitive to anything sad, scary or even mildly tense. We couldn't read I STINK by Kate McCullan more than once because it was 'too scary, mummy!' PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON (the book, with the hopeful ending) made her bawl her eyes out. And when we went to see Madagascar at a drive-in movie theatre she went and sat in the car facing the wrong way the entire time because it was too scary.

So you get the picture. I'm looking for near-boring level of unscariness here. I've noticed that in Blyton's books, although the kids actually go through quite terrifying experiences (nearly falling out of a chair that's flying high above the ground, for example, or facing a witch), they have such wooden responses that it doesn't affect her! It's all, "Gosh, that was rather dreadful, wasn't it, Molly?" or "Golly, I shan't go to that magical place again. It was horrid!"

Anyway, bla bla bla... does anyone have some recommendations for me? I'd like funny or magical as I think she'd enjoy both.
#1 - April 18, 2013, 05:47 PM

Charlotte's Web was my first read-aloud chapter book with each of my kids. (I read it with my youngest at 3.5 and she adored it.) Mouse & the Motorcycle was a hit with my boys, and we're reading Little House in the Big Woods right now. My kids are very sensitive to fear from books/movies (we had to get rid of the Gruffalo because my 5yo was afraid to even have it tucked away in the house) too, so I'm excited to see what others suggest. ::-)
#2 - April 18, 2013, 06:07 PM

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You might want to look at the Whatever After series, the first one is Whatever After: Fairest of Them All by Sarah Mlynowski. The books are a new take on the traditional fairy tales (I did review this one in my blog).  A 10 year old girl and her younger brother find a magical mirror in their new basement and land up in the story of Snow White.  They stop her from eating the poison apple, but then have to find a way to get her to meet the prince so they will get married. They can't go back through their mirror until they set the story right.  I actually thought it was funny.  It was a bit younger than I usually look for, but I laughed at parts of it.  Scariest part was probably when they had to get into the castle to free the prince.  Not a picture book, but a good read aloud book that you can laugh at what the brother and sister do.
#3 - April 18, 2013, 06:09 PM
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Even with Charlotte dying?! Not sure if I dare attempt that, even though it's here in the house. It's one of my all-time favourites.

Little House is an excellent idea! Perfect. And you've just made me think of Anne of Green Gables too. We've got that in audio book format but it'd be nice to read it to her myself.

Going to check out Mouse & the Motorcycle now...

Liz, that series sounds great. Going to check that out now too.
#4 - April 18, 2013, 06:13 PM

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I remember my mom reading a series of magic/witch books by Ruth Chew. The witch rides a vacuum named James. I don't remember them being very scary, although it's been a long time since I read them, and every kid is different when it comes to scary. I want to say that they're going back into print.

A hysterical book that's a fun read-aloud is Frank Cottrell Boyce's COSMIC, which is about a 12YO boy who looks like an adult, much to his chagrin--until he figures out the fun he can have with it. He gets a classmate to pretend she's his daughter, and together they score a ride on a super secret space flight out of an undisclosed theme park in China. There's some tension when they run into problems in space, but I don't remember it being *scary*. It's not like you're likely to have that problem in real life, after all... Again, YMMV depending on your child. I read it to my daughters (then 7 and 11) and they enjoyed it. I mean, it's a full MG novel, not a picture book, but fun to break it up over many nights.

Oh, and yes to Little House and Anne of Green Gables! And maybe the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. They're mostly funny antics of Ramona and her sister.
#5 - April 18, 2013, 06:20 PM

I think my kids handle sadness in books better than fear. My littlest didn't really pick up on it (she loved the talking animals, though), and my boys did well. My middle spent four months after we finished it stubbornly refusing to respond to anything other than "Charlotte."

The Mouse & the Motorcycle (and Ralph S. Mouse -- can't remember which one is first) are some of Beverly Cleary's books. I haven't read them in a few years, but I don't remember my boys being afraid when we read them. (Although I think there is a cat involved...)

Have you read the Mercy Watson books or Bink and Gollie? We've read some of Kate DiCamillo's other wonderful books (Magician's Elephant, Desperaux, Edward Tulane), but they are a little darker.

And, YES to Ramona! And Clementine!
#6 - April 18, 2013, 06:22 PM
« Last Edit: April 18, 2013, 06:25 PM by RaeE »

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I think Charlotte's Web might be too sad for her (and I totally understand - I used to cry for poor Puff, too, whenever I heard the song), but Trumpet of the Swan is also by E.B. White and my kids thought it was great. I don't remember any sad parts, and they loved the silly dad swan and the idea of a trumpeter swan who wrote on a chalkboard.

And Cleary books, of course, are wonderful. Henry Huggins is one of my favorites.
#7 - April 18, 2013, 06:44 PM

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I was kind of 'saving' Mercy Watson and Bink and Gollie for when she's old enough to read to herself! Also I suspect that we wouldn't manage do to the 'chapter per night' thing as each chapter is so short.

I think I may have gotten everything back to front, though. I should probably be reading her chapter books with lots of illustrations – that's the next step from picture books isn't it? But somehow I like the mix of reading her and her sister two board books, a couple of picture books and then one chapter of more text-based book like The Wishing Chair.

Beverly Cleary is a great idea. And Clementine too.

JFriday, the song is desperately sad. The new book has slightly adjusted the ending – the last spread shows a little girl looking around the opening of the cave, showing that Puff will have a new friend. But that didn't stop her crying! Going to look for Trumpet of the Swan now too!
#8 - April 18, 2013, 06:47 PM

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Hmm. The Dragons of Blueland (beginning with My Father's Dragon) series, maybe? Though the little dragon has been enslaved, I don't remember it being too sad/scary.
#9 - April 18, 2013, 07:14 PM
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What about Wind In The Willows? I don't remember it being too scary or sad, though Toad does get into a bunch of trouble. My mom read it to me and my older brother when I was too young to read it by myself.
#10 - April 18, 2013, 08:46 PM
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Actually, I think that reading middle grade books aloud instead of chapter books is fine--the chapter books are more for the emerging reader to read themselves. I would have suggested Junie B. Jones, but they are more for a new reader to read on their own--or to Mom! (Very funny, though. And I'm not in first grade anymore, even!)
#11 - April 18, 2013, 08:48 PM

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My first thought was of Ruth Chew books, as mentioned above.  They are magical and exciting (but mild!) 
Edward Eager books and E. Nesbit books are fantastic.

My daughter loved the Whatever After books mentioned above.
#12 - April 18, 2013, 09:28 PM

How about Pippi Longstocking? I don't remember anything remotely scary, but if I'm wrong, Pippi's responses to all things are funny and relentlessly cheerful.
#13 - April 19, 2013, 03:35 AM

I read some of the Raould Dahl books to my third graders, but I don't know what you would classify as scary. He's a little "out there" but my students LOVED when I read those aloud. "The Magic Finger," "The Twits," "Matilda," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," 

My daughter LOVED Pippi Longstocking.
#14 - April 19, 2013, 06:57 AM
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Of course, I could I have forgotten Pippi, and the Dahl books too. Duh. I've even got them on my bookshelves. Because I've got too many books for shelfspace I have had to double up the books... clearly I need to reorganise them so I can see what's there!

Interesting that most of these are relatively old books (except for the Whatever After books). I wonder if children's books, like movies etc, have had to up the tension/action/scare factor to get attention/be published. I noticed that with Madagascar actually – the first one was mild, the second a little scarier, and the third much scarier. Hmmm.

Anyway, thanks all! Off to dust off some lovely books...
#15 - April 19, 2013, 07:19 AM

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Franzilla, my kids were supersensitive too, and because they were completely TV-less for several years, we could never watch anything that was mildly stressful. Bambi brought them to tears. I don't think we started watching movies with them until they were about six years old ... and Curious George (marketed for 2 yr olds was their favorite).

The authors of CG have Whiteblack and Penguin see the World.
Adventures of Tin-Tin were a big hit.
Anything by Dick King Smith.
Catwings by Ursula LeGuin might be scary but it is such a sweet fantasy for younger children.
Louis Sachar's Sideways School stories are hilarious.
And I'd read more Enid Blyton!

Happy reading,
Vijaya
#16 - April 19, 2013, 07:20 AM
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Vijaya, Bambi traumatized an entire generation! :ahh
#17 - April 19, 2013, 02:46 PM

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Interesting... my five-year-old only watches TV via Netflix or on DVD. Things we've chosen together with her - so Peppa Pig, Dinosaur Train, the Backyardigans, that kind of thing. So maybe not watching action-packed TV makes kids more sensitive? Or maybe those kids are already more sensitive...

Anyway, I digress. Bambi. Now there's a weird one. I FREAKED when I saw it as a child. I tried watching it with my five-year-old, planning to fast-forward that part. I happened to be in the bathroom when it happened. She was fine! She didn't really understand where the mum had gone, however. She thought the mum had just kind of gone off, not that she'd died. Phew!

I was thinking about whether there have been any other picture books that are off-limits and I remembered getting her SOME DOGS DO by Jez Alborough, which a BBer recommended to me. That book made her cry because although the dog and his dad can both fly, 'he can't share his happy flying with his friends at school.' Honestly, her sensitivity makes me want to slap my forehead sometimes! How on earth will she cope with real life?!?!

Sideways School sounds brilliant! I'd never heard of it. Can't wait to read that one.
#18 - April 19, 2013, 04:11 PM

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When I substitute taught, I used to love to read to the kindergarten and first grade classes the Amelia Bedelia books.  They were funny and short and it was fun to see the younger ones figure out the double meanings of words. 

Just an idea for an advanced picture book.  They always cracked me up. :lol4
#19 - April 19, 2013, 04:18 PM
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Roald Dahl is a bit bloodthirsty, don't you think? I mean, the peach runs over James's evil aunts (who previously locked him in the cellar and committed all kinds of child abuse), and then the bugs and James all cheer that they're dead once they finally escape. I dunno, for a sensitive child, that might be too much...
#20 - April 20, 2013, 06:59 AM

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Roald Dahl is a bit bloodthirsty, don't you think? I mean, the peach runs over James's evil aunts (who previously locked him in the cellar and committed all kinds of child abuse), and then the bugs and James all cheer that they're dead once they finally escape. I dunno, for a sensitive child, that might be too much...

Ooooh. Yes. And Matilda is actually quite horrible, too. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might be good though... She can't get too unhappy when those horrid kids get what's coming to them!! Or then again...
#21 - April 20, 2013, 07:58 AM

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How about the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books?  They're both funny and magical, and I don't remember anything scary.
#22 - May 06, 2013, 06:58 PM

Did anyone say "Mrs. Noodlekugel" yet? My daughter loved it. Magical, but with that gentle tone you mentioned. Nothing scary.
#23 - May 06, 2013, 07:28 PM
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Did anyone say "Mrs. Noodlekugel" yet? My daughter loved it. Magical, but with that gentle tone you mentioned. Nothing scary.

No! But that's a great suggestion. I remember seeing the book advertised somewhere and thinking it looked great. Thanks!
#24 - May 07, 2013, 07:56 AM

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I recently ran into a fun little book called Half Magic by Edward Eager. It's about a family of kids that find a magic charm that gives them exactly half of anything they wish for. It's old-fashioned enough that it might be hard for a modern kid to connect to, but if your daughter did okay with Enid Blyton, she might have fun with it. 
#25 - May 07, 2013, 09:31 AM
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Melissa, funny you should mention that. I tried that with her but it didn't sail. I've read it and loved it, but I think the burning house at the beginning was too much for her! Maybe when she's older...

It's a great book, though, isn't it? Love the idea of half magic...
#26 - May 07, 2013, 04:55 PM

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