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Books for the whole family

Holiday gatherings offer excellent opportunities to read together as a family. These middle-grade books make engaging read-alouds to share while you drowse by the fire.

In Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk, a father goes out for milk for his children’s cereal. After being abducted by aliens, escaping from pirates, traveling in a hot-air balloon with a stegosaurus, and saving the universe, Dad arrives safely home (with the milk!) and tells his tale to his disbelieving children. This shaggy dog story, with appropriately zany illustrations by Skottie Young, demands to be read aloud: who could resist zoom, tworp, and thang, to say nothing of “a noise like a hundred elephantine snot balloons all deflating at once”? (HarperCollins/Harper, 6–9 years)

Author Stephanie Greene and illustrator Stephanie Roth Sisson’s Princess Posey series continues with Princess Posey and the Christmas Magic. First grader Posey worries that Santa won’t come to her house this year: she has failed to tell her mom the whole truth about an incident involving her baby brother and the Christmas tree. A full confession (as always, made easier by donning her empowering pink tutu) eases Posey’s guilt. A warm family story told in ten brief chapters, with a likable, kindhearted protagonist. (Putnam, 6–9 years)

When all the ice sculptures intended for the town’s annual Ice Carnival are stolen, eleven-year-old Alex Parakeet and his fellow kid sleuths follow clues to solve the case. Meanwhile, Alex’s best friend Yasmeen is threatened by Alex’s friendship with newcomer Eve — and Alex realizes that “the mystery of girls” is one he can’t as easily solve. The fifth entry in Martha Freeman’s Chickadee Court Mystery series, Who Stole New Year’s Eve? is solid and satisfying, set against a background of holiday celebrations and enhanced with much humor and intrigue. (Holiday, 8–11 years)

In Eva Ibbotson’s The Abominables, young Lady Agatha disappears during a Himalayan expedition — kidnapped by a grieving widower yeti. Agatha decides to stay and provide his children with a “civilized English upbringing.” When their idyllic life is imperiled, the now-elderly Agatha sends her hirsute charges to her family estate in England. They liberate a zoo, help Alpine rescue dogs, and stop a bullfight along the way. This romp balances whimsical humor with understated opinions about outsider and animal rights. Fiona Robinson’s cozy but surreal line illustrations suit the tone admirably. (Abrams/Amulet, 8–11 years)

From November 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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