Monday, October 15, 2007

Larger-Than-Life Lara--Read Aloud

This week, our class finished LARGER-THAN-LIFE LARA by Dandi Daley Mackall as our second read aloud. I was a little bit worried. I had read aloud CASTLE IN THE ATTIC as our first read aloud and the kids were glued to every page. I knew LARGER THAN LIFE LARA was a great book, but I was worried that it was too serious after the fun fantasy that we had just finished.

Well, the experience was one of the best read alouds I have done. I am not sure what it was about the book, but reading it to kids was a whole different experience than reading it on my own.

If you have read the book, you know that there is a lot to talk about, a lot to think about, and a lot to be sad about. There is no happy ending. It is satisfying, but not happy. And I think the kids were surprised about that.

The author does an interesting thing throughout the book--connecting the story to the actual elements in a story. It made for a tricky read aloud and some of it was missed by lots of the kids but it was well worth it for the thinking that came from the book.

I have read aloud sad books before but they are usually about a pet dying or something. This sadness was a little bit different. I can't explain the feel in the room when we read the last two chapters. We had good, long talks about how good fiction makes you feel like the characters do and it sometimes helps you understand people in your real life better.

It was a great read. I have decided on something short and light for this week and am pondering a book for next week. I was thinking about EMMY AND THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING RAT but I'd love to find something with the kind of depth that this last one had--short with lots to talk and think about. This one was a depth that was perfect for 8-10 year olds.


  1. Anonymous8:07 PM

    I was so glad to read your post about Larger Than Life Lara. I love this book and had been wondering how it would go over in the classroom.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Anonymous10:01 PM

    Gosh. Once again ('cause I'm pretty sure I've said this before), your students are sooo lucky. But I don't know if I'm up for Larger than Life because even your POST made me cry...

  3. Anonymous11:05 PM

    Susan gave me a heads-up about your post on my Larger-Than-Life Lara. How very cool of you and your class to take so much time with the book. I'm delighted that it worked for you and that you took things deeper with your students in discussions. I agree--your students are so fortunate! You guys are welcome to email me at if you have a question for me. Thanks again--Dandi
    Dandi Daley Mackall
    P.S. For anyone who hasn't read LARA, it's honestly not so sad--and any tears are those good kind. Pretty LOL funny in many places, too.

  4. Franki,

    I don't know how you feel about the Joey Pigza books, but the latest one has a great deal worth discussing. Because a colleague just successfully read the first one to her class I decided to give the new one a try with mine. I feel it is a tad risky (as they are fourth graders and it is termed for fifth and up), but for my committee work it is really helpful to see how kids respond to it. It was fascinating to read the first few pages yesterday --- they gasped and laughed constantly.

    Let me know if you do read it as I'm eager to get as much feedback as possible (and also if you read aloud any other 2007 books).


  5. It is an amazing book, isn't it? Dandi Mackall was my teacher at the last BYU Writing for Young Readers conference. When she read us parts of Larger than Life Lara, it had a similar effect on us. It's one of those books that makes you discuss, laugh and cry.

  6. There's nothing like the collective energy of a classroom of kids held in the grasp of a great book. It's a thing of beauty.


  7. Or, Andrea, a classroom of kids held in the GASP of a great read aloud, as the case may be!


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