When I was little my mother would read aloud to me and my siblings every day. She picked a lot of fun books which I think is one of the reasons all of us developed a love of reading. I remember when she first read us a book by Daniel Pinkwater called Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. It is a unique story that is funny and somewhat suspenseful. His books are different because they are what I would term mellow science fiction. The characters are rooted in reality but little magical things happen that you almost wouldn’t notice if they happened in real life, except that Pinkwater points them out to you. By the time the really weird stuff starts happening you’re already hooked.
I read an interview with author/ illustrator Daniel Pinkwater in which he describes how he writes, and I’d like to share it with you. It is from fatso.com:
“I once got stranded on some rocks alongside the Hudson River. On the Jersey side of the Hudson River, there are these 450 foot cliffs, and I was hiking. I saw a sign that said ‘Danger! Do not proceed any further.’ But the sign looked old. I decided it was some old danger, so I proceeded further, and I found myself encountering a rock slide that I had to traverse. It looked quite easy, but as I got into it, I realized that the shore curved away and it got into a really complicated bit of mountaineering where there were boulders as big as houses that I had to haul my fat body over… As I finally came off this tortuous rock slide, I was in an area of trees and greensward. It was like a Disney movie; all the little animals came right up to me. I had spent all the aggression that was in me and the animals – chipmunks and squirrels and birds and things, said, ‘Here’s a chance to look at a human close up. He’s not going to hurt us.’ They were all gathered around my feet. I felt like Snow White or something. Each step I took, they’d move over and hop along with me. It was eerie. I contend that you can do this as a writer. And it’s safer. Which is why I don’t outline. The pleasure for me is to be all the way out there.”
I like this description of his work, because these kinds of bizarre science-fiction-like things happen to his characters as well, but you can almost believe that it’s real.
I’ve listed below some of my favorites, but we have many more of his books at OWL. I believe these appeal to all ages and are great for family read-alouds. Unless otherwise noted, these books are all for independent readers about age 9+.
Browse the list below, and see if the titles don’t warm you up a little inside. Enjoy!
Blue Moose A tale quite fitting for the winter season. A man who lives in very cold country befriends a moose who helps him run his restaurant.
Fat Men from Space William’s tooth starts receiving radio signals that suspiciously seem to be coming from outer space.
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency Arthur befriends a very large chicken who causes a panic in Hoboken.
Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars Nerdy Leonard meets a new friend who teaches him about mind control.
Lizard Music Victor is left alone at home for two weeks and discovers a secret community of lizards from space.
Jolly Roger: A Dog of Hoboken A sailor gives Jolly Roger to “The Kid” and they go have fun in Hoboken.
Aunt Lulu A librarian in Alaska takes books to the gold miners every week on a sled with her team of huskies. (independent readers ages 4+)
Borgel Melvin takes a roadtrip with his strange relative in a 1937 Dorbzeldge sedan that turns into a time machine.
At the Hotel Larry, Young Larry, Ice Cream Larry Pinkwater has written several picture books about Larry, a big polar bear who saved a man’s life in Bayonne. The man repaid him by letting him live in his big hotel. (independent readers ages 4+)
Jesse Lee Harmon is the bookkeeper & library assistant at OWL and practices Klugarsh Mind Control.