A homeschooling innovation brings opportunity and danger
Culture Children's Books
The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic
This is a rollicking tale about what happens when people unwittingly build their country on top of a sleeping giant. When mischievous Persimmony discovers the truth about her home, she sets out to save it with the help of Theodore the Potter and Worvil the Worrier. Along the way, she meets a funny cast of characters and learns to open her eyes to the astonishing wonder of the world while choosing gratitude each day. Trafton’s story is full of energy and fun, exploring themes of kindness, forgiveness, and humility. Equal measures heart and silliness, it’s an ideal adventure for middle-grade readers. (Ages 9-13)
Jack Baker is away at boarding school when he befriends an odd boy-savant named Early who believes the numbers of pi tell a story. The tale draws Jack into an adventure that transcends their imaginations and bursts into the real world when Early becomes convinced his brother, lost in World War II, is still alive. As the two set out to find him, the plot explores ideas of grief, forgiveness, and belonging. Vanderpool hints that Early has autism, and his story is about the beauty of seeing the world differently and recognizing meaning where others see only randomness. (Ages 10 & up)
The Song from Somewhere Else
A girl named Frank thinks her biggest problem of the summer will be dealing with neighborhood bullies. The problem changes when the school outcast, Nick, protects her from the bullies and they become unlikely friends. But when she starts hearing mysterious music from somewhere else, she has a much bigger problem to solve: how to save their reality. As Frank learns that the world and people are often not what they seem, she must discover how to overcome fear, build friendships, and become trustworthy. Note: Mild swearing and an unsympathetic view of Frank’s parents mar this exciting and at times intense story. (Ages 12 & up)
This book takes the form of a classic fairy tale: A girl journeys from her own world into a magical one to save her brother while learning life lessons along the way. Twelve-year-old Liza wakes up one morning to discover that the Spindlers have stolen her younger brother’s soul. She finds a doorway in her basement that leads to the world of Below. With the help of a ridiculous rat named Mirabella she meets strange creatures and passes the Spindler queen’s three tests in order to find and rescue her brother. Through her adventure, she learns to see the beauty and value in her normal life. (Ages 12 & up)
Often described as a 1940s Jane Austen novel, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians) has gained a cultish following since its original publication in 1948. Cassandra and her eccentric family live in a run-down English castle while her father stews over the novel he can’t seem to write. Absurd high jinks ensue when the family tries to marry off Cassandra’s older sister to the rich American who has come to town.
The well-written book pairs lush descriptions with romantic melodrama of the distinctly teenage variety. It is best suited for older teens due to some inappropriate relationships and suspicions of infidelity, although Smith handles it far more discreetly than most modern young adult novels. Additionally, Cassandra’s juvenile dismissal of religion leaves something to be desired as she gives the down-to-earth and lovable vicar rather short shrift. —R.A.