Our week in books, week four

IMG_0121

Transparency: every book link you see below is linked to my Amazon Associates account. Thank you for the support!

Here’s what we’ve been reading this past two weeks; a little light because of finally getting into our summer rhythm.

Me:

  • The Collapse of Parenting: I am positively evangelical about this book, as evidenced by my Instagram feed. A lot of Sax’s work here is built upon the work in another book I love and re-read with regularity, Gordon Neufeld’s Hold On to Your Kids. I joked with my husband that Sax makes all of my curmudgeonly dreams come true, but honestly, it is so confidence-building for me as a parent to see the research behind my intuitive beliefs. Highly, highly recommend.
  • The Summer Book: my husband and I chose this for our read-aloud after thinking we were going to read something else. It just seemed like the right time and place for it. We were not disappointed. A friend of mine described this as deep feeling without sentiment; I agree. Also, it’s funny in a dry way that I love.
  • Siblings Without Rivalry: with summer, acres of free time, and less rhythm in our days come more struggles with relating to one another. I am on a re-read of this classic, and have gotten so much out of it every time. The examples given are a little (amusingly) dated, but the information is solid and useful. Again, recommend.
  • This Wheel’s on Fire: I picked this one up on an Instagram recommendation and I just love it. I’m a huge fan of The Band and Levon has a beautiful storytelling voice.
  • School Education: I don’t love pigeonholing myself into methodology labels, and so much of what I have seen of Charlotte Mason online has looked like spreadsheets and archaic terminology, I have been a little wary. I decided to give her original writings a chance and have been overwhelmed with delight. Someone mentioned to me that she thought Charlotte Mason was my soul-sister, and I agree! Making copious notes.

The girls mostly share/swap/read each others’ books (and the older girls definitely still read all the picture books), so I split their reads into chapter books and picture books. These are the free reading choices that have gotten the most love this week. The girls are currently aged 11 (Maya), 9 (Cassidy), 7 (Willa), and 5 (Molly). The younger two do not read on their own yet.

Chapter Books:

  • The Forager’s Harvest: this is a re-read for the umpteenth time for Maya. I would put it in her list of top five favorite books. What she tells everyone about it is that his style is charmingly conversational, and she especially loves that he uses female pronouns throughout the book (“it’s like he’s really talking to me!”). Maya is our resident foraging expert, mostly due to this book and the accompanying DVD.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: both of the older girls had to check out their own copy from the library, it was far too thrilling to share.
  • The Three Musketeers: following the thrilling adventure theme, Cassidy is cozying up to this one. I am not usually a fan of abridged/adapted versions, but I don’t know if a nine year old is really ready for a full translation of Dumas. She is a great lover of adventure and swashbuckling in general, and I know that she will come back to this one in time. In the meantime, this adaptation is not overly modern, and captures the original feel.
  • The White Stag: I have seen this one on a lot of booklists, and handed it to Maya as a suggestion. She gobbled it up in one sitting and declared it excellent.
  • The Treasure Cave: the girls have always loved Tiptoes Lightly. Not high literature here, but they are engaging, with soothing storylines. My husband is reading this one to the younger girls at bedtime.

Picture Books:

  • Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare!: all the girls adore Shakespeare (we first began learning Shakespeare with this book, I highly recommend it) and this is a lively addition to our library of understanding. Marcia Williams books are always a hit with all ages in this house. Pages crammed full of interesting information as well as cheeky asides. Her illustrations are reminiscent of the Ahlbergs’ work.
  • Time of Wonder: summer is the perfect time to get this book out, a lovely one for younger and older children as well. Prose poetry at its best. These words are so beautiful.
  • One Riddle, One Answer: if only all math books could be as engaging and beautifully illustrated as this one! A familiar folk-tale template with really interesting math literacy woven throughout.
  • Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Butterflies and Moths: Crinkleroot books are all so great. Engaging field-guide/natural science books with solid information about common species we see most often. We have been seeing so many swallowtail and common blue butterflies recently, this has been a well-loved resource!
  • Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin solved a mystery that baffled all of France: when we found this book at the library, there was actually a bit of a fight over who got to look at it first. I had no idea a book about the historical origins of the scientific method and the placebo effect could be so intriguing, but I was swept up in it, too! This would be a great addition to a study of Ben Franklin, or as part of a study of science.
  • The Sea King’s Daughter: A Russian Legend: the illustrations alone are swoon-worthy, but I always love it when I find adaptations of Russian folktales.

Other:

  • The Forest Feast for Kids: the older girls love to browse cookbooks, and this one is especially beautiful. They have gained a lot of inspiration, both culinary and stylistic, from looking at this book.

Commuting Listening:

  • Winter Holiday: haven’t finished this one quite yet; it has been funny to be in midsummer outside and Arctic conditions in the van. Crank up the a/c, mom.
Advertisements

Our week in books, week three

IMG_4765.JPG

Transparency: every book link you see below is linked to my Amazon Associates account. Thank you for the support!

Here’s what we’ve been reading this week. Kind of a light one, as we have been wrapping up school for the summer!

Me:

  • The Experience of God: I picked this one up on Lila’s recommendation and have not been disappointed. I stopped fairly soon in because I want to save it for my husband to read to me. He used to read to me every night, but somehow we lost steam during Bel Canto, neither one of us really wanted to finish it, we both felt so meh about it and that somehow extended into the read-aloud habit. So the habit has languished. This book from contributing editor of First Things is, I think, just the thing to resurrect it. So much to sink our mental teeth into here.
  • Switch: How to change things when change is hard: I am currently trying to change some bad habits (my summer project for reals) and so obviously I needed to read a book about changing habits first. This book posits that we are of two minds: the rational and the emotional. The rational mind wants to make the change, the emotional mind still feels the same way it always has. The trick is getting the emotional mind to support the rational one. Here’s hoping.
  • Original Mind: I picked this one up last year but got distracted by some other books. This happens more frequently than I would like to admit. I saw it lying about and was suddenly seized by a need to read it properly. The subtitle of this book is “uncovering your natural brilliance,” which must be something the publishers slapped on there to make it sound like a self-help book, but this isn’t a self-help book. In fact, this is a book that is very much in line with the books I list on my homeschool resources page: a book about how people learn and see the world. I may end up including this one on the list. In an alternate reality I am a brain/learning researcher. In my mind.

Still reading:

  • The Folded Clock: Okay, are you tired of hearing me talk about this book? As I started reading it, I thought, I want to write like this woman. Then, I think I could write like this! Then, I definitely can not ever write this well. Then, I ordered a journal. Then, I started sending texts of photos of pages from this book to people. Mere quoting was not enough. Last night I stayed up until 2am reading it. Now I have just a few pages left and I had to put it down, as I am getting worried that it will eventually be over. I hate to be the person who has read everything in the Amazon recommends list (frequently bought together: The Folded Clock, H is for Hawk, My Brilliant Friend!) but there it is, and I genuinely loved all three of those books and felt bereft when they were over, so thanks for making me feel predictable and middle aged, Amazon.

The girls mostly share/swap/read each others’ books (and the older girls definitely still read all the picture books), so I split their reads into chapter books and picture books. These are the free reading choices that have gotten the most love this week. The girls are currently aged 11 (Maya), 9 (Cassidy), 7 (Willa), and 5 (Molly). The younger two do not read on their own yet.

Chapter books:

  • Cast Off: Honestly, I know nothing about this book. My husband found it amongst the new books at the library, brought it home because: girl stowaway on ship in 1663. Maya read it in one night, then passed it on to Cassidy. I kind of love it without knowing much about it simply because the author is an etymological geek.
  • Redwall: I think they are actually reading both Redwall and Triss right now. The older girls have read every book in Brian Jacques’ series several times. They’ve inspired countless games, full-fledged characters, stories, maps…truly beloved. Side note: the audio versions are awesome. Also: these books will make you hungry.

Picture books:

  • The Magic Porridge Pot: We are great Galdone fans here, but this is a perennial favorite. “Enough, Little Pot, enough!” “No more, Little Pot, no more!” Giggles ensue.
  • The Little Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge: This reminds me so much of the beautiful Boats on the River. Originally published in 1942, it has the look and cadence of books by Marjorie Flack, or Margaret Wise Brown. It would be a lovely addition to the library of a little boat lover.
  • Frog and Toad all Year: I love Frog and Toad. The girls love Frog and Toad. They are just lovable. I’ve been pulling Frog and Toad back out recently because I think Willa is on the verge of reading, and these are nicely set up for early readers. No particular concession made besides having type that is large and has wide spaces between the lines, allowing eyes to move over the words more easily. In this same vein, I’ve recently pulled out our Little Bear books as well.
  • Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker: There are some books that turn fairy tales on their heads in a sarcastic, frankly disrespectful way. And then there are some that play with fairy tales in a fun, lighthearted way, and the Ahlbergs are masters of this. The illustrations, here, are just delightful, with lots for children to look at and a few little wink/nods for grownups, too.
  • The Quiet Noisy Book: Margaret Wise Brown was a genius, in my eyes. I consider each of her books to be a little treasure, a prose poem. I can’t even talk about Little Fur Family. I will, one day, probably cry over no longer being able to read that one aloud. I will probably one day start reading it to the cat. Though let’s be honest, I can recite it.
  • The Indispensable Calvin & Hobbes: Ah yes, the days have come for the reading of Calvin & Hobbes. Does this not scream summer to you?

Book that doesn’t fit in the above categories:

  • Cabinet of Curiosities: I just randomly ran into this on the shelves at the library. SCORE. There is information here about creating, even making your own cabinet, about the classification system, lots of great information about different things you might find and put in your cabinet. I can see this being a great option to spur a whole nature study program. It’s directed at middle-graders, FYI.

Commuting listening:

  • Winter Holiday: We skipped Peter Duck, which is okay, but probably our least favorite of the series. Ransome takes a flight of fancy with Peter Duck and all of what we love about the Swallows and Amazons books (resourceful, independent children doing things that could, if not actually, then in one’s imagination, be accessible to any child) flies out the window. Thankfully he picks the stream back up with Winter Holiday.
  • The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: I was against this book from the start, for no real reason. I mean, really, no reason at all. And I still find the series a little galling, as she keeps leaving Important Clues all over the place and there is no resolution to be found anywhere. I mean, wrap it up, woman. There are little sidetrails and random characters and not everything seems to be necessary or to add up. However, now that I have given you reasons not to like it, I will tell you that we have actually learned a lot from this series about poetry, Shakespeare, idioms, all sorts of things. This series made them beg to memorize William Blake’s Tyger and has been the source of so much great play with language. The protagonist is charming, and the weird howling language of the children grows on you. I promise. We are eagerly awaiting the release of the next book (we have listened to the entire series that is currently available). Of note: Katherine Kellgren took some getting used to for me (she is Very Enthusiastic and does All The Voices, I believe this is referred to as being a dynamic reader) but I’ve grown to just love her. And she does make the Incorrigibles quite endearing! I don’t know if I would have liked this book without her reading. She has won awards for her narration, so I think most people love her straight out of the gate.

Our week in books, week two

IMG_4614.JPG

Transparency: every book link you see below is linked to my Amazon Associates account. Thank you for the support!

Here’s what we’ve been reading this week:

Me:

  • The Intelligent Gardener: As I have admitted, though I live in constant admiration of and in thanks to all of my farmer friends, the only garden I have is in my own mind. However, in my mind garden, I implement everything Steve Solomon says, because he is very convincing. Weirdly, I love all the chemical soil analysis stuff. I have the best mind garden ever.
  • Art of Simple Food II: I was so happy to accidentally stumble across this when I was buying Art of Simple Food for a wedding gift for some young friends of ours. This is the exact perfect time of year to have this book in hand, and makes me wish that my mind garden was food-producing (thank you God for CSAs).
  • Bare Bones Broth Cookbook: I love and am a huge advocate for healing and nourishing broths, and this cookbook is the best I have ever seen on the subject. All types are covered here, as well as some great variations of soups that can be made with them. I am so trying the pho recipe.
  • How Children Learn: A re-read, and an oldie, but a goodie. Holt says in the foreword: “All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words–Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple–or more difficult. Difficult, because to trust children we must trust ourselves–and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” You speak my language, Mr. Holt. Also the language of the best of all natives, if you catch my drift.

Still reading:

  • The Moonstone: Still loving it. Especially with the current rain we have happening, this is my comfort reading happy place. Well, this, or A.S. Byatt.
  • The Folded Clock: Expectations were low, as I didn’t really know what to expect. Return has been high. It’s like being able to binge-read a really great blog.

Eagerly awaiting:

  • How to be a Tudor: When I learned that the passionate historian Ruth Goodman had written a book, I might have actually squealed a little bit out loud. Not to worry, my children totally understood, not least because they have watched Tales from the Green Valley about fifty times.
  • Lord Peter: Remember that time when I couldn’t figure out why I had never read Dorothy Sayers? Well, say hello to my library holds list.
  • Those who leave and those who stay: It’s as if they are DARING me not to like it with these covers. I am at the point now where I am beginning to believe it’s some sort of postmodern commentary. I stopped reading The Story of a New Name, not once, but twice (if you’ve read it, you know what I mean here). Then it was due back at the library, so I sat down and rushed through the end of it. It rushes itself towards the end, if you know what I mean. And then there is the kind of cliffhanger in the last sentence that makes you wonder why they even bothered. This type of manipulation is not to be tolerated! So now I am waiting for my hold to come up on this one and slowly becoming resentful over that last sentence.

The girls mostly share/swap/read each others’ books, so I’m going to split their reads into chapter books and picture books. These are the free reading choices that have gotten the most love this week. The girls are currently aged 11 (Maya), 9 (Cassidy), 7 (Willa), and 5 (Molly). The younger two do not read on their own yet.

Chapter books:

  • Beyond the Pawpaw Trees: Another of our NYRB collection, Rob is reading this one to the younger girls at bedtime. The older girls have both loved it in turn, the sort of fantasy book that has just the right amount of adventure and whimsy for a seven-ish year old. A review compares it to Alice in Wonderland, but that book still creeps me out, and this one is lovely and charming. I can’t even link to Alice in Wonderland in good conscience.
  • The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow: Maya (and now Cassidy) went through a major Clyde Robert Bulla phase, and Allen French is sort of the older version of those. I recommend both authors for children who love historical fiction. My children really, really love historical fiction. Case in point: though I am not listing them here, Cassidy read another two Dear America books this week. I think many consider this book to be Allen French’s best, but Maya is indiscriminate in her affections for his works.
  • Stories for Nine-Year Olds: I adore these compilations put together by Sara and Stephen Corrins. There is one for under-fives, five year olds, on up through this one. They make especially good read-alouds for children who aren’t reading yet themselves, because there aren’t really any pictures gumming up the works. Each book is a selection of stories, folk tales, and myths that have the perfect appeal for their age range. I loved them so much over the years that I bought them, which is what you should do, because they are crazy cheap on Amazon.
  • A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys: Because apparently if you’ve read one adaptation of greek mythology, you have not read them all, not even a little bit, and you should definitely go on to read as many as you can get your hands on, according to my children. Who all by themselves decided Riordan was distasteful, thank you God.
  • The Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles #1: It appears that Maya is having a semi-Viking themed moment here. She picked this up at the library and read a bit there, then asked if she could bring it home. She was quick to point out that the cover does not match the contents (oh she knows me so well). I had no clue what these were about, and all I have discovered so far is that they are semi-Viking-ish, that they were originally released in Australia, that they have been recommended for readers who like Lord of the Rings (guilty as charged in Maya’s case), and that she hasn’t stopped reading it since she picked it up.
  • Greek Myths: See above. Though I have to especially recommend this version, which I find comparable to this beautiful and engaging Odyssey.

Picture books:

  • Rapunzel: I am always on the lookout for fairy tales that are beautifully illustrated and not ruined by revison. I feel like I should add a disclaimer here and note that the girls all heard these tales first out of our big, fat, picture-free Grimm’s, or from other similar compilations like the Fairy books, and I do still believe that is the best way to introduce them. However, there are some lovely, sensitive, truly beautiful fairy tale picture books out there. This is one.
  • Sindbad: This is the book pictured in the interior shot above. I know you want to read it now, how could you not? Imagine what it would be like if Barbara Cooney had a fever, and then illustrated an Arabian pirate book. Winning.
  • Snow White: Story taken straight from Grimm, but the illustrations are extraordinary, and the dwarves look like real-life little people, which makes me strangely happy.
  • The Princess and the Lord of Night: The copy on this does not sound promising, but rather priggish and stuff it in your face moralizing. Let me assure you, it is neither of those things. I was surprised to find it wasn’t an old folk tale after all.
  • Atlas of Adventures: I am guessing when you buy things through your own Amazon associates link, they don’t give you credit for it. I thought maybe we really did need it, after all. I am very convincing. Turns out I’m right.

Commuting listening:

  • Swallowdale: Well, we finished Princess and Curdie (I could have listened forever, we all loved it so much), and we are back to a re-listen of Swallowdale, book two of Swallows and Amazons and pretty much the best pre-summer camp listen ever. S&A books go with summer like peanut butter goes with chocolate. Is there a way to squeeze Alison Larkin and Arthur Ransome in that belongs-together simile? Because that is also true.

Our week in books, week one

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
That cover!

Transparency: every link you see below is linked to my Amazon Associates account. Thank you for the support!

Here’s what we’ve been reading this week:

Me:

  • An Everlasting Meal: a re-read of an old very inspiring favorite. She is a big advocate of using every last bit of food, and her philosophy and techniques have gifted me time and time again.
  • The Story of a New Name: Just finishing up the second book in the Neapolitan series. Like the first book, I am finding it compelling but at the same time uncomfortable to read. There is truth here, and reliving those feelings of my early twenties is not always my favorite thing. The fact that she can evoke that amazes me. I’m looking forward to the next book. The covers put me off this series for EVER, as I am notorious for book judgery. Ooops.
  • The Moonstone: I picked this up (in paperback for a song, though now I want that clothbound version I linked to) at Powell’s on the strength of this review and have not been disappointed. Fun fact: I have read every Agatha Christie book ever written, and own a lovely clothbound Dashiell Hammett. I love Father Brown. So after I read that review I was left wondering why oh why I hadn’t heard of Wilkie Collins before? Other authors I haven’t read but cannot understand why: Dorothy Sayers, PD James. So many books, so little time. Also, thanks a lot for this list, Guardian. A great many I have read, but a great many I have not. I have a love/hate relationship with lists of this kind.
  • Hold On to Your Kids: also a re-read. I recently had a conversation with my husband and realized that what I was talking about was covered in this book: the unsung importance of aligning your children to yourselves as parents and to your family as a whole.
  • The Folded Clock: I just started this one, a diary from a 40-something writer. The form alone is enough to keep me going. I’ll update next week on how I’m liking it! Plus, that cover is so beautiful, how could I not check it out?

The girls mostly share/swap/read each others’ books, so I’m going to split their reads into older (ages 9-11) and younger (ages 5-7). These are the free reading choices that have gotten the most love this week.

Older girls’ books:

  • The 50 States: If you already know and love Maps (aka the book that always gets asked about in my Instagram photos), you will love this one. All the girls pore over this one. Totally worth the purchase price, not just for educational value, but for sheer power of holding their interest repeatedly. Now I think we really need Atlas of Adventures!
  • Treasure Island: A re-read for Maya, because who doesn’t love a little swashbuckling? We have the lovely clothbound version in that link, and it has served us well over many, many readings. I think our recent re-listen of our beloved Swallows and Amazons (book here, on Audible read by the inimitable Alison Larkin here) may have prompted this, because apparently we do not have a copy of Robinson Crusoe kicking around. Note to self: must remedy. Sidenote: We also have this audio collection, which includes Treasure Island among some other really great titles! If you have Audible you can get the whole thing for one credit, an amazing deal.
  • Protector of the Small: First Test: Maya is reading this one. I love this series but whoa, those new covers are something else. Please don’t judge the books by their covers. It’s sort of medieval fantasy meets girl power, but nicer than that sounds. The library covers are great, I’m sad that the new ones are so annoying.
  • The Magic Pudding: Cassidy is reading this one, though we have read it aloud in the past. We have the copy in that link, because we are collectors of NYRB Children’s Collection books. I think it’s probably best as a read-aloud first, and one does have to have a sense of humor to pull it off! It is quite funny! Also, an Australian accent does not go amiss here. My brother lives in Australia and so the girls really connect with all things Australian, including this silly book.
  • My Secret War: Cass is a huge fan of this series of books, the Dear America Series, by Mary Pope Osborne (how does she write all those books?). Honestly, I find them well-written and appealing to exactly the right age set. I was so anti-Magic Tree House in the beginning, but kind of grew to love them. They aren’t great literature, but they are a fun way to learn a little bit about history and culture, and I feel the same about this series. I can let Cassidy loose in the series section at the library on these books and never worry. I’ve read all the Christie, she’s read all the Osborne. It’s a thing.
  • Thing Explainer: This is SUCH a fun book! We have all learned something from this one. Appealing to all ages, from the five year old right up to the parents. Highly recommended.
  • The Right Word: A picture book biography of Roget, of Roget’s Thesaurus. I loved the hints it gives about his endless curiosity and list-making. An excellent biography and celebration of the passion of learning. It’s in the older girls’ list, but could easily be in the younger girls’. We have all enjoyed it.

Younger girls’ books:

  • The Story of Noodles: Ying Chang Compestine is a family favorite, but this one and The Story of Chopsticks are at the top of the love list. The charming antics of the Kang brothers and the invention of noodles and chopsticks never fail to delight.
  • Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Go To Market: Flicka, Ricka, Dicka 4ever. This is a fun one to read right now as things are getting up and going in local farmers’ markets.
  • Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls: This was the closest Tintin to hand at the time of writing this post but I could just as well write ALL THE TINTIN BOOKS EVER. The seven year old (not quite reading yet) spends a lot of time with her head in these books. The older girls like them too but it’s Willa who is really taken with them right now. I never read Tintin as a child, but my husband loved them and brought some home early this year, officially beginning the craze at our house. As some have pointed out, there are (clear) issues of race and culture going on here, but don’t let that scare you off. It (hopefully) will not be your kids’ only exposure to any of the cultures/races represented here, remember that.
  • Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory: I am reminded of Lucy in the chocolate factory. Except with a monkey. Enough said.
  • Max & Ruby’s Bedtime Book: Molly is going through a major Max & Ruby phase. Something about the contrast between the proper Ruby and the often dirty, mostly unintentionally mischievous Max really tickles her funny bone. I was thinking it must really be what it feels like to be the youngest. As an eldest child I feel the pressure to be the Ruby. You know what I’m talking about.
  • The Bat Poet: This is currently the younger girls’ bedtime read-aloud (my husband reads to them every night). Rob was impressed that they’re all learning so much about poetry. Considering the younger girls’ love of William Blake and Shakespeare, I had hoped they would be well-suited to this little book. As a sidenote, Jarrell’s beautiful Animal Family is one of my very favorite books. Lyrical!
  • The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature: Loads of pictures/rhyming words in Berenstain Bears style, covering a variety of science/nature topics. They love it.

Commuting listening:

  • The Princess and Curdie: In case you haven’t figured it out, we have a well-used and well-loved Audible account. When in the minivan for more than five minutes, which is almost always, we listen to audiobooks. We just finished a re-listen of Swallows and Amazons (see above) and are now listening to this, the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin. I love, just love George MacDonald, beauty and magic and goodness and truth all rolled up into gorgeous prose. Listening to Ian Whitcomb narrate George MacDonald is even better. His pacing and phrasing are impeccable. I’ll be sad when this one is over.