Category Archives: breakfast books

Breakfast Books & Harry Potter

Once upon a time (March of 2009 to be exact), I started reading aloud to my children at the breakfast table. We’ve read some great books together – The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Tales of Winnie the Pooh, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and many more. We were just looking at our past Breakfast Book selections (click on the category drop down list on the right sidebar and select Breakfast Books to see all our posts) and soon we may re-read a few of the ones that J doesn’t remember. He is also interested in reading some of those on his own now which is exciting for his book-loving mother to hear.

Over the years the kids have aged out of my breakfast table because school starts earlier and earlier. When we started, all three kids were present and listening. For the past few years it’s just been me & the boy. (And I’m guessing I only have another year or two with him before he tells me to knock it off.) Since it’s just the two of us, I’ve been able to pick some books that his sisters have read but that he’s not quite ready to read on his own. And that’s what we’ve been doing since I last posted about Breakfast Books back in the fall of 2012. We’ve been reading the Harry Potter series.

It took us 16 months to get through all seven books. They have been some of my favorite mornings ever (and a few nights when J just couldn’t wait until morning to see what happened next). I have enjoyed re-reading these books just as much as I did the first time through. Having J go through this entire series consecutively has definitely strengthened his comprehension skills. And we both read some parts with tears in our eyes and lumps in our throats. It’s been a great 16 months.

In Breakfast Book post tradition, I asked J to grade the Harry Potter series. His answer: “A+ of course. For every book but my top three favorite books in order are: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (the 7th); Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire (4th); and Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince (6th).”

We’ve been watching the movie for each book the weekend after we finish reading it so this weekend we’ll be watching the final Harry Potter movie. We’re both looking forward to it. I truly think this is one of the few examples where the movies live up to the books. A movie can never contain the depth and detail of a book, but these movies really bring the series to life in a wonderful way.

I asked J if he wanted to read another series of books or a single book. He said he wants a series and preferably one that is “a little above my reading level.” Up next: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. (I CAN’T WAIT.)

What is the Breakfast Book idea? I believe there’s value in reading aloud to my kids at all ages. I used to read aloud to them at night. But as they get older their bedtimes get staggered, practices and homework start happening and sitting down together to read to all of them at once wasn’t happening. I decided to try reading a chapter to them all during breakfast and it has been a big success in many ways. Want to see all our book selections so far? Click on the Breakfast Book category on the right side of this page.

Breakfast Books: learning about the Revolutionary War

Oh – you all thought I stopped reading to my son at breakfast didn’t you? It’s been six months since my last post about breakfast books! We have been reading in the mornings but summer tends to throw a wrench in the schedule and our latest book pick was a bit of a comprehension challenge for my 7/8yo so we took it slow and sometimes took breaks to read pictures books instead.


We just finished Johnny Tremain

It’s a Newberry Award winning novel (did anyone else have to read all of those when they were in elementary school?) and we picked it because of my son’s ongoing fascination with the Revolutionary War.

It was a slow read at first. Lots of background on the characters when my son just wanted to get to some action already. To quote him, “the first half was kind of boring… it wasn’t actiony enough.” The setting is Boston just before the war. We got to meet famous characters like Paul Revere and John Hancock. We learned a bit about life at the time for a young boy who was apprenticed to a silversmith. And, as my son noted, there was far more talking of war than action.

Then the Boston Tea Party happened. J knew about this event from other books he’s read so this was probably the turning point for him. What’s funny is in the story the war was still a long way off (it doesn’t start until the very last part of the book). But at this point the story shifted from talk of merchants and families and focused on soldiers and spying. He was hooked.

The story ends right after the first battle of the war. It’s also a coming of age story so we leave Johnny ready to pick up a musket and join the fight himself. J was pretty satisfied with the ending and the overall story.

Grade: A “Because the Revolutionary War is such an exciting thing to read about and the last couple of chapters go by really fast. But the beginning was still really boring so I can’t give it an A+.”

This isn’t the easiest read for a child but if you have a reader who’s in the 9-11 timeframe and they are interested in this time period, it’s a good book. Particularly because the hero of the book is their age and that always makes history a bit more identifiable.

What’s next on the breakfast book list? I think it might be time to introduce J to the world of a certain young wizard with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. 🙂

What is the breakfast book idea? I believe it’s important to read aloud to my children at all ages. The easiest time for me to gather them all together was at breakfast so a few years ago, I started reading chapter books to them. Now they have staggered start times to their day so I’m left with a one child audience for my readings but it’s well worth the time to increase his vocabulary, improve his reading comprehension and expand his horizons. Plus, we both like it.

Breakfast Books: Of dragons and vikings and friends, oh my

So my son and I have worked our way through all eight How to Train Your Dragon books. From the very first, How to Train Your Dragon through How to Cheat A Dragon’s Curse and on into How to Break A Dragon’s Heart. We read every silly word from Toothless the dragon. We went on harrowing adventures with the unlikely hero, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third and his even less likely heroic friends Fishlegs and Camacazi. We learned Viking legends and laughed heartily at ridiculous names like Big-Boobied Bertha and Snotface Snotlout and Baggybum the Beerbelly. We discovered new words and beneath it all the timeless theme of friendship and loyalty and good vs evil.

It’s easy for books like this to fall into a formula. Oftentimes they start out with a bang and end with a whimper. I honestly think this series got bogged down a bit – books 3,4 and 5 dragged on – but the series finished in great fashion. (Though there might be another book coming out, I haven’t seen an announcement but I haven’t searched too hard either.)

It took us six months of reading at the breakfast table before school to get through them all. And they are days I will always remember fondly. My son’s interests are starting to shift from fanciful tales about dragons and moving to books about sports. Just like I did with his sisters, I’ll follow his interests wherever they may be – as long as he’ll let me read about them out loud.

Overall grade for the series: B
It’s not a must-read series but it’s entertaining and silly. I think boys in particular would find them a fun way to jump into some longer books when they’re ready for that level.

Next up on the list: some books by Mike Lupica. He’s one of my favorite sportswriters (a good sportswriter has such an excellent vocabulary) but I’m not sure this book is really at J’s interest level. We’ll keep exploring… and reading.
Let me know if you have any recommendations.

Breakfast Book: How to Train Your Dragon

I’m down to one listener at the breakfast table these days and he’s the one that already is read to multiple times a day. Sigh… I miss having all of them around the table. Even when the oldest pretended to not listen, I liked having an opportunity for all of them to hear a story read aloud. Even though my audience has dwindled the goal is still a worthy one so on we go! (and sometimes when everything falls into place, I get to read stories out loud to all three kids at lunch on the weekends – sometimes they even request it!)

My reading companion J is 6yo (but his birthday is in 16 days so really he’s almost 7). At night we are reading Harry Potter or story books – depending on his mood. In the morning we are reading Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series.

I will give you our review of the first book here but may save the other books for a group review at the end. They are reasonably short reads – I think it took us two weeks to read the first (we read for about 15 minutes most mornings). They are also reasonably funny reads. Honestly, the thing that took me most by surprise in these books was their slightly sarcastic humor and usually J catches it too. The books make no secret that most Vikings aren’t the sharpest pencils in the box. But don’t worry, our hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third makes up for it.

The second thing that surprised us about this book is how it is completely different from the movie. We like the movie in this house and we also enjoyed the book – but they are almost entirely different tales. In the book, Hiccup has a tiny dragon (all the dragons are approximately the size of dogs but Hiccup’s is even smaller than normal). His dragon is far from obedient and causes all sorts of trouble but ultimately, turns out to be a pretty loyal companion – and that is apparently saying a lot about a dragon. The story has some silly parts, some exciting parts and just enough gross parts to keep a 6 (almost 7!) year old boy enthralled. We very much enjoyed the story. What does J have to say about it?

J’s comments: I give this book a B+. ‘A’ grades are only for the best books ever and this isn’t one of the best books ever but it’s really funny and I did really like the story. My favorite part is the big battle at the end with the Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus and how he explodes all over the place! That was really gross (he says with a huge smile on his face).

We’re already halfway through the next book in this series, How to Be A Pirate, and it is just as fun to read as the first. I think the reading level on these makes them great for a 2nd/3rd grade reader to read on their own – there are silly illustrations too. The ‘official’ reading level is ages 8-12 (maybe a little on the high end, then again I’m definitely over 12 and I am enjoying them). Fun series!

What is the Breakfast Book idea? I believe there’s value in reading aloud to my kids at all ages. I used to read aloud to them at night. But as they got older their bedtimes got staggered, practices and homework happened and sitting down together to read to all of them wasn’t happening. I decided to try reading a chapter to them all during breakfast and it has been a big success in many ways. Want to see all our book selections so far? Click on the Breakfast Book category on the right side of this page.

Breakfast Books: The Chronicles of Prydain

We have officially finished all five books of The Chronicles of Prydain.

We started reading them waaaay back in November so it took us nearly 9 months to read them all. That’s not because the books were boring. No, it’s because our mornings sometime turn hectic and honestly, once summer hits the morning reading tends to happen only once a week. I stopped reviewing each individual book after the 3rd so this review talks about both the 4th and 5th books.

The fourth book: Taran Wanderer
This one was the least favorite in this house. As an adult, I understood the need for this piece of the story. This book was truly the turning point for the main character. A lot of learning and maturing happens in this tale – all of which is necessary. However, the action is few and far between – which made for some boring chapters for my kids. Overall grade for this one: C

The fifth book: The High King
A more satisfying ending could not have been written. All our favorite characters came together for the penultimate battle of good vs evil. I am not ruining the story by telling you that good wins in some terrifically exciting scenes. Our favorite characters all played important parts. Little bits and pieces from the entire series came to light in new importance in this last book. It was well-paced and fun to read. I have to admit there were tears in our eyes as we read the last few pages along with a few shouted words of shock at some parts of the ending. By the time we closed the book, however, everyone was smiling. Overall grade: A

Final thoughts on this series.
There is no agreement on which of the books was our favorite. The first book did an excellent job hooking us into the story. Books two and three are battling it out for top honors among my listeners. I tend to lean towards book two but there is something to be said for a well-written ending so maybe I’d pick book five. (BTW – each of those books won awards and they are well deserved.) While each book has enough closure to stand alone, they are much better as a series. My kids are 6 and 10 and were very engaged in the story. The 10yo certainly could have read them on her own but I appreciate her going along with my plan and letting me read them aloud. I would highly recommend these books to any readers (young and old). If you enjoy tales along the lines of The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter – these stories should be right up your alley.

I’m a little sad to be saying goodbye to this series but we are already having fun with our newest selection: How To Train Your Dragon.

What is the Breakfast Book idea? I believe there’s value in reading aloud to my kids at all ages. I used to read aloud to them at night. But as they got older their bedtimes got staggered, practices and homework happened and sitting down together to read to all of them wasn’t happening. I decided to try reading a chapter to them all during breakfast and it has been a big success in many ways. Want to see all our book selections so far? Click on the Breakfast Book category on the right side of this page.