Tag: james herriot (page 1 of 1)

4 Short Read-Alouds

Sometimes, you need a short read-aloud, one you can pick up and read here and there—at the park, say, or on a trip. You can’t commit months of your family’s life to reading it, and you need to be able to put it down for a few days or even a few weeks. Or you just need a book you can finish quickly. What I’m saying is: there’s a time for reading all seven Narnia books aloud, and there’s a time for reading a collection of Father Brown stories.

For us, this is lunchtime on the weekends, when I like to read to my daughters something different—something short that we can pick up and put down during the week without losing our place. And so we’ve found a few short read-alouds worth sharing, gems that are fun to return to when we can return to them but that don’t shame us if we miss a few days here and there. Without further ado:

4 Short Read-Alouds | Little Book, Big Story

A Father Brown Reader, adapted by Nancy Carpentier Brown

The Father Brown Reader, by Nancy Carpentier Brown | Little Book, Big Story

These adaptations of some of G.K. Chesterton’s best-known Father Brown stories are beautifully written and a delight to read aloud. My daughters loved the mystery of each one, as well as the clever illustrations, and they belly-laughed in all the right places.

Junction Tales, by Glenn McCarty

Set in the world of Tumbleweed Thompson, these historical fiction tales will make you laugh and—well, mostly laugh. Really hard. Beloved characters from The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson surface here and there throughout the stories, and while each story is different, they’re all an awful lot of fun. (McCarty’s Dead-Eye Dan and the Cimarron Kid is also a great, short read-aloud.)

Beside the Pond, by James Witmer

James Witmer’s sweet stories of backyard life have long been a favorite around our lunch table. Beside the Pond follows his A Year in the Big Old Garden and centers on Ferdinand the smallest bullfrog in the world, who watches the happenings in and around his pond. These are delightful, lightly illustrated stories that will have kids looking under leaves and into puddles for new friends like Ferdinand.

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children

James Herriot's Treasury for Children | Little Book, Big Story

Speaking of enchanting animals stories, this one is just about perfect. An anthology of Herriot’s tales of veterinary practice adapted for young readers and illustrated with gorgeous watercolors, this book tells a handful of stories about Herriot’s life as a country vet in the 1930s. Whatever the age of your readers, there’s something in this book for everyone to love. (Read the full review.)

Treasury for Children

When my eldest daughter was a toddler, she discovered James Herriot’s Moses the Kitten. She dropped that book in my lap again and again, and we read it until the book spine felt limber and the pages soft. It is a long book—not ideal for a hasty pre-nap read—but I loved the descriptive passages, we both loved the warmth and coziness of the story, and my daughter loved the paintings of the kittens.

We eventually expanded our library to include Herriot’s Treasury for Children, in print and on audio. And in the decade that followed, we read and reread that book, as three other daughters joined our crew and each in turn fell for Herriot’s stories.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children | Little Book, Big Story

These days, my older daughters have graduated to Herriot’s Cat Stories and Dog Stories; I’ve graduated to his memoirs. And as I read them I began to understand why his stories are so appealing: James Herriot loved his work as a vet in the English countryside; he loved the place he lived and the people he encountered there, with all their flaws and quirks. He loved the animals he cared for. Herriot’s stories invite us into a time and place we could never have occupied otherwise: a veterinary surgery in the 1930s, when draft horses were giving way to tractors, old medicines were making way for the new, and the brief peace after the First World War was giving way to the devastation of World War II.

Herriot’s stories aren’t fraught with drama. He wrote about everyday happenings: the small conflicts between a country vet and his colleagues; the tension between a vet and his clients (be they animal or owner); the victories and losses of veterinary practice; the mishaps in which Herriot often played the loveable fool. But through his delightful descriptions and attentive writing, Herriot made the ordinary episodes of his life enjoyable—even magical. In his memoirs, he reaches through those stories toward some difficult topics and finds compassionate ways to discuss issues like suicide or loss.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children | Little Book, Big Story

But in his Treasury for Children, he shares a handful of stories written for younger readers, delightfully illustrated by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett. These stories exert a magnetic pull in our house: I may open the book at the request of my five- or seven-year-old daughter, but it isn’t long before my ten- and thirteen-year-old drift in to hear the story of Oscar, cat-about-town, or of Gyp and his solitary woof. Even my husband turns the water pressure down on the sink so he can listen while he finishes the dinner dishes.

James Herriot told stories no one else could tell—stories of his work, his family, and his village. And in doing so, he reminded us that the stories most of us live through will be ordinary ones, about our own work, our families, our towns. The joy and gratitude with which he told his stories quietly reminds us, big and small readers alike, that our lives are full of stories worth telling, masterfully crafted by the best Storyteller. I, for one, am grateful Herriot took the time to sit down and tell his.

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales
James Herriot; Ruth Brown, Peter Barrett (1992)