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)
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A culture of books
Reading guides for parents
by Mary Jackson
The Read-Aloud Handbook
Some of the renewed commitment to reading aloud to children traces back to this book, which has sold millions of copies and inspired numerous parents, educators, and school reform advocates since its first Penguin edition in 1982. The book is part compelling research, with cautions and practical how-tos, and part Trelease’s “Treasury of Read-Alouds,” with titles arranged under nine categories. This seventh edition, published in 2013, remains a helpful resource for new parents and up-and-coming educators. It was also Trelease’s last: He retired but tapped Cyndi Giorgis to edit future editions. She will release an eighth edition of the handbook this fall.
The Read-Aloud Family
Mackenzie wrote this book for busy parents tempted to skip read-aloud time. While underscoring the importance of reading aloud to children, Mackenzie recounts her own journey as a new mother to homeschooling six children and launching the popular podcast Read-Aloud Revival. This book includes some of Mackenzie’s favorite titles for different ages, though not a comprehensive list, and has helpful tips on keeping various ages occupied during read-aloud time. Personal anecdotes and podcast listeners’ testimonials add flavor to the book, and Mackenzie proves a fresh and relatable voice for parents yearning to connect with their children through books.
Honey for a Child’s Heart
Hunt emphasizes that parents are responsible for introducing their children to good books. First published in 1969, this book is now in its fourth edition and is considered a classic by many educators and parents. Part 1 contains timeless essays on building a family culture of books, with practical tips on how to choose wisely from different genres and incorporate Bible reading. Part 2 provides a rich collection of reading lists organized by age and genre. While the included titles all predate 2002, the book provides a solid starting point for new parents, and Hunt’s enduring wisdom continues to aid even seasoned parents.
Books Children Love
For parents who need less convincing about the value of reading, Wilson provides a robust volume of titles that will take years to exhaust. Drawing from Charlotte Mason, a turn-of-the-20th-century British educator who preferred “living books” to textbooks, Wilson’s reading list is divided into over two dozen categories with age recommendations. Since Books Children Love was last updated in 2002, some titles may prove difficult to find. But it is a trusted resource for books on a range of topics, from art and architecture to humor and mathematics, that can cultivate a love for “all [God] has made and done and given … for He called it very good.”
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Four poetry picture books
by Susan Olasky
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems
Paul B. Janeczko, ed.
The poems in this book offer children the chance to stretch their thinking. April Halprin Wayland’s “How to Pay Attention” consists of only four words: “Close this book. Look.” The illustration shows a picture of this book on a chair and a girl standing in an open doorway. “Best Friends” teaches how to turn a piece of grass into a whistle. Serious poems describe how to say thank you in sign language or read braille. Silly ones offer advice on what to do if you’re tired of your hair. The minimalist illustrations let the words do the talking. (Ages 6-9)
I See the Moon: Rhymes for Bedtime
Rosalind Beardshaw, illus.
This anthology includes many familiar bedtime poems like “Star Light, Star Bright” and “Wee Willie Winkie.” Others may be less familiar: I did not know “Bedtime” by Thomas Hood. All of them share a calming rhythm. What sets the collection apart are Beardshaw’s whimsical, mixed-media illustrations, which incorporate silver and gold inks that shine when held in the right light. That means the stars twinkle, the trim on the pirate’s hat glows, flowers glitter, and the moon shines. The illustrations and poems are on the sweet and cozy end of the picture book spectrum. (Ages 2-5)
Clackety Track: Poems about Trains
In rhythmic verse, Brown introduces children to the wonder of trains: freight trains, bullet trains, zoo trains, underground trains. She includes poems about tracks and plows and other big machines. Sometimes the words form part of the illustrations: In “Shoulder Ballast Cleaner” the simple words follow the conveyor belt and spit out the side. The poem “Sleeper Train” concludes the book: “Hush. Here comes a train. Chuggety, hufflety snuggle down deep, Clackety, trackety counting of sheep, Clinkety, rockety, sleepity sleep. Hush. Here comes a train.” Illustrated in the style of midcentury travel posters. (Ages 5-8)
Predator and Prey
Buhrman-Deever wrote many of the poems in this book for two voices: the predator and prey. She offers fascinating details about the natural world in a format that invites collaborative readings. In “Spies,” male and female túngara frogs call back and forth to each other. Also listening to this mating chorus are bats, who use the calls to locate dinner. Sometimes she uses one poem to tell the story of a predator and another poem to tell the prey’s side. Boxes at the bottom give more detail about the strange relationships between various animals. Watercolor and gouache illustrations complement the text. (Ages 6-9)