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Children's Books

The test of time

Books from the past for middle grade and tween readers

The Year of Miss Agnes

Kirkpatrick Hill

Fred and her deaf sister Boko live in an Alaskan village shortly after World War II. Every year a new teacher comes to teach the children, but she never lasts long under the difficult conditions. Then one day Miss Agnes arrives—and she stays. The inspiring book recounts their school year with Miss Agnes, who understands the unique needs of Alaskan village life and uses kindness to positively affect the whole community. Hill interweaves into the story interesting descriptions of daily life in an Alaskan village, including how traditional skills and methods became incorporated into modern life. (2000; ages 8-12)

The Cricket in Times Square

George Selden

In this classic children’s book, Mario Bellini discovers a lost cricket while working in his parents’ newspaper stand. The cricket, Chester, quickly makes friends with the humans and other animals who occupy the Times Square subway station. But Chester is no ordinary cricket: He can play music through chirping. His skill brings fortune to the poor Bellini family and beauty to the lives of the New Yorkers who hear him. The country cricket also learns about the fickleness of fame and discovers what truly matters in life. A whimsical tale of friendship, beauty, and the universal appeal of music. (1960; ages 6-10)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

E.L. Konigsburg

The premise behind Konigsburg’s story is a child’s fantasy: Twelve-year-old Claudia and her 9-year-old brother Jamie run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cautious Claudia longs for something to make her life different and interesting, while Jamie likes complicated plans. As the book chronicles their childlike schemes, thoughts, and misadventures, it wields keen insight into human nature. It also explores the deeper relationship that develops between a brother and sister when they work as a team, as well as the way art can reach through time to capture our hearts. (1967; ages 10 & up)

The Little White Horse

Elizabeth Goudge

When orphan Maria Merryweather travels to the English countryside to live with a relative she has never met, she is expecting discomfort and drudgery. But her new home turns out to be an enchanted mini kingdom in which she is the heiress. All is not well in the kingdom, though, and Maria and her new friends must exercise courage and love to chase away the darkness and heal old wounds. A beautiful and wise book with all the elements that make a good children’s story—friendly animals, old stories, good food, and adventure. (1946; ages 12 & up)

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Children's Books

’Tis the season

Family devotionals for advent 

The 25 Days of Christmas

James Merritt

Merritt’s The 25 Days of Christmas is A Family Devotional to Help You Celebrate Jesus. This beautiful, cloth-wrapped edition gives families a guide for treasuring the season by redirecting them away from the holiday commercialization and to the miraculous details of Jesus’ birth. The devotional opens with the first mention of the Christmas story in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) and ends on the 25th day with reflections on the cross. Each daily reading concludes with an activity to help families ponder and apply the lesson as they anticipate the arrival of Christmas. A worthy addition to the Advent library. (Ages 8 & up)

A Jesus Christmas

Barbara Reaoch

Reaoch’s devotional offers a way for families to Explore God’s Amazing Plan for Christmas. She writes, “Christmas tells us that Jesus is God’s ‘YES’ to all of his promises. When God came out of heaven, in Jesus, he proved that all of his promises are true.” As the book leads families from the Old Testament into the New, the daily readings explore a Scripture passage, explain what it means, engage children in discussion, and conclude by entering into prayer. Families with children of diverse ages will appreciate the options for age-appropriate questions and journaling space at the end of each devotion. (Ages 5-12)

The Way to the Manger

Jeff & Abbey Land

In The Way to the Manger the Lands encourage parents not to squelch their children’s Christmas excitement but instead enhance it through observing the Advent season together. They center each week of devotions around the key ideas of hope, love, joy, and peace. Intermingled among the readings are discussion prompts, questions to dig deeper into Scripture, and space to record Christmas memories. At the end of the first, second, and third weeks, the authors offer suggestions for activities families can do together, including service projects, snack time, and holiday outings. Vibrant mixed media illustrations will appeal to children. (Ages 4-10)

Jotham’s Journey

Arnold Ytreeide

In Jotham’s Journey Ytreeide uses narrative as a tool to help families more deeply explore Advent themes. The plot follows shepherd boy Jotham as he embarks on a harrowing journey to find his family. Along the way he encounters key characters in the Christmas story and learns the importance of obedience. Ytreeide incorporates Scripture and a short devotional at the conclusion of each day’s reading that connects Jotham’s unfolding story to Biblical themes. Note to parents: Some portions of the story depict violence that may be too intense for young or sensitive children. (Ages 10 & up)

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Children's Books

Please and thank you

Four books on manners

Social Skills Activities for Kids 

Natasha Daniels

For some kids, making friends comes easily. Other kids excel at listening or discerning how people are feeling. In seven chapters, Daniels covers a variety of social skills and settings, providing prompts, exercises, and 50 activities to help children build confidence and learn how to handle the intricacies of relating to others. As children gain these social skill “superpowers,” they also learn character traits like deference, compassion, discernment, and kindness. Daniels writes with lighthearted humor and includes lots of fill-in-the-blanks that invite children to become active participants and add their own flavor to the discussion. (Ages 6-12)

Grown-Ups Never Do That 

Davide Cali & Benjamin Chaud

Even though parents ought to teach their children manners, any kid knows parents break the rules, too. This picture book presents a comical look at what is all too true: Grown-ups make mistakes, complain, lose their temper, burp, interrupt, waste time—the list goes on. Parents and children will laugh together as colorful illustrations contradict the book’s 23 dubious and irony-laden claims, ending with, “Adults are always good. So you really should be just like them.” Beyond the humor, the book may foster disrespect, but it could provide an opportunity for parents to talk about the ways they and other adults fall short and why young and old need the gospel. (Ages 5-8)

Connoisseur Kids

Jennifer L. Scott

Scott, author of the Madame Chic books, wants to help kids become “experts in the art of living.” This book covers a wide range of topics including etiquette, manners, tidiness, hygiene, and health. With charming illustrations throughout, each chapter includes brief explanations and admonishments. Activities, rhymes, DIY crafts, and games help kids practice what they learn. Tidbits like dinnertime conversation starters, homemade wrapping paper ideas, and recipes for snacks, stain remover, slime, and house spray add fun and flavor kids will appreciate. Scott also emphasizes selflessness, reminding children, “Thinking of others and how you can help them doesn’t come as naturally.” (Ages 6-12)

365 Manners Kids Should Know

Sheryl Eberly

This book gives parents a comprehensive guide to manners, covering everything from telephone talk, gender-specific etiquette, introductions, and internet safety. The short lessons are intended for daily reading with simple follow-through activities. Originally published in 2001, the updated version includes sections on technology and digital communication penned by Eberly’s daughter, Caroline Eberly. Parents might want to alter or elaborate on topics like inappropriate touch, dating, and social media usage. The book is already outdated without discussion of popular apps like Instagram and Snapchat, but it refreshingly upholds traditional practices such as young men holding the door for others. (Ages 8-15)

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