Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer Reading 2016

We’re back in our little cabin in Maine and frequenting our small town library.  The two room (one upstairs, one downstairs) building has a wonderful collection of children’s books thanks to our very enthusiastic and experienced librarian, “Miss Janet.”  She’s known us for years, has the same sensibilities, and a terrific ability to “expand our horizons” with interesting novels, picture books, and biographies.  We look forward to summer reading each year - in between all the exhausting outdoor activities!

Before I get to our latest reading list, you can look at older posts HERE and see our former seasonal favorites - some are good enough to be mentioned again below.  ANYTHING from JourneyForth books comes highly recommended, and some of you are lucky enough to find them in your town or church libraries.  If not, they are a worthwhile investment - some appealing particularly to reluctant readers and boys - such as the Arby Jenkins Series (9-12 year olds) and the Braken Trilogy.  My favorite thing about these books is not only the Christian component, but also that I don’t have to pre-read the selection to know it’s worthwhile and wholesome for my little ones.  This year’s favorites were: The Braken Trilogy, Regina Silsby’s Secret War, The Silent, Jericho Ride, The River of Judah and Avery’s Battlefield.  No children should miss the Arby Jenkins series - it’s lots of fun and will make your children laugh out loud!

Secondly, I highly recommend any of the Christian Hero Series’ books from YWAM.  For girls start with Lottie Moon and boys would love David Livingston or Hudson Taylor.  Everyone loves CT Studd - and all are fabulous.  I’ve read each and everyone - sometimes more than once - and still cry in parts when I read them aloud to my children.  My favorite?  Betty Greene - the first woman pilot to fly over the Andes and of course, my hero, as a former military pilot.

This year, I have a few recommendations with warnings, but still worth reading in my opinion due to their subject’s careful handling as children’s books and excellent storyline.  We’ve also enjoyed reading picture books with higher interest themes that made us all smile and sometimes wonder at the ingenuity of their heroes.  Enjoy perusing the list, and I hope you find some unknown treasures for your own summer reading. 

Picture books read to read aloud:

Tucky Jo and Little Heart:  Heartwarming story of a young man on the Philippines Islands during WWII and his friendship with a young girl and his help to her village.  Interesting story twist highlighting the plight of our veterans today.  

Balloons Over Broadway:  The story of the innovative artist and puppeteer behind the Macy’s Parade.

Giants in the Land (Appelbaum): The story of New England “Mast Trees” used for English fighting vessels during colonial times.  An interesting tale of the ingenuity and hard work of the settlers in getting them to the ocean and their specialized “mast ships.”

Mesmerized (Rockcliff): Fun book featuring Ben Franklin solving a scientific mystery during his time in France and illustrating the Scientific Method and Placebo Effect.

Thank You, Sarah - The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving:  Story of a woman who spent years trying (and finally succeeding) to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Who Said Women Can’t be Doctors?  Cute book about the first woman doctor in America.

A Boy Called Dickens:  Fun biography of Charles Dickens.  An older daughter of mine and Dickens fan loved this picture book. 

One Plastic Bag:  Interesting book about one Gambian woman’s clever entrepreneurship and efforts to clean up her community. Great artwork!

Young Readers:

The Year of Miss Agnes:  Repeat - don’t miss this story of a teacher to a remote Alaskan village.

Who was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (biography series): I enjoy the interesting facts and positive treatment given in these children’s books about notable historical personalities.  Can’t wait to read more!

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear:  A repeat - but don’t miss this one.  Cute story of a family’s “black sheep” that finds his own way.

Li Lun, Lad of Courage:  One of my favorites.  Courage is found in unlikely places.

Tiger Boy: Interesting story that takes place in a remote Island culture and includes lots of little known facts.  Not particularly believable, but still a good story about the value of education and animal conservation.

Anthony Wayne:  A Signature Book (can be hard to find) about “Mad Anthony Wayne” - a neglected historical figure.  My girls loved it!

Robert E. Lee and the Road to Honor:  Another good historical biography.

The Kite Fighters:  Another good book from Linda Sue Park.  Story of two Korean boys who love to build and fly kites and befriend the young emperor.  Loved her book, A Single Shard, referenced in my older summer reading post.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose:  Picture book with mature theme about the communist revolution in the Soviet Union.  Great book to introduce life under communism and pertinent for our times.  Good read aloud.

Stronger Readers:

Dolls of Hope:  A heartwarming historical novel about the 1926 Friendship Doll exchange, in which teacher-missionary Sidney Gulick organized American children to send thousands of dolls to Japan in hopes of avoiding a future war.  Young Japanese girl learns to forgive those who are unkind.

Red Scarf Girl:  Don’t skip this book - a must read for all children before they graduate.  The true story of a young ardent communist girl as she lives through Mao’s Cultural Revolution.  Again - pertinent to our times as communism/socialism makes a resurgence.  Particularly poignant is the author’s word at the end;  “How did it happen?”

A Long Way from Chicago*:  Hilarious story of two children who go to spend the summer with their eccentric and “crusty” old grandmother in a small town.  Not glowing in its treatment of Church goers, but redeeming in its view of the grandmother’s good treatment of even the worst of neighbors as she metes out justice.  Would make a good read aloud as some children may not get the subtle humor. **Grandma is a little rowdy, cynical about Church.

A Year Down Yonder: sequel to A Long Way from Chicago.

The Signers:  Interesting stories about the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Fun book to peruse - no need to read the entire thing.

Shadow Spinner:  Story that takes place in Arabia alongside the famous Shahrazad of Arabian Nights fame.  A crippled girl, with a story of her own, helps the Sultan’s wife come up with a new story as she is about to run out.  The theme is abandonment and forgiveness, and the book gives a look into the troubled lives of young women in historical Islamic culture.

The Turning:  ALMOST anything by Gloria Whelan is great, Angel on the Square, The Impossible Journey, Listening for Lions, and Homeless Bird (Don’t recommend the book in Columbia as it’s too graphic) The Turning is another winner about a ballet dancer who considers defecting from the Soviet Union to France.

Rules of the Road**: Humorous - but touching story for teens about the value of quality in business, and the virtue of hard work across all age groups.**Teen girl deals with alcoholic father and learns forgiveness.

Wednesday Wars:  We actually listened to this on audible while doing puzzles.  Hilarious tale of a teen boy’s school days, his opportunity to play a part in a Shakespeare play, and all the awkward events that ensue.  Serious at moments as the Vietnam War touches the lives of students and teachers alike.

The Road From Home:  Excellent true story of an Armenian Girl’s survival during the Armenian Massacre of the early 1900’s.  The treatment is mild for younger readers, but still a middle to teen book due to the difficult material.  Nearly her entire family perishes.

Bruchko:  The story of an 18 year old new Christian who travels to the Amazon region to reach a dangerous people group with the gospel.  Amazing true story!

The Navy Justice Series and other books by Don Brown are excellent military thrillers.  Start with Thunder in the Morning Calm: the story of a North Korean prisoner rescue.  Not for younger children.

Alas Babylon: Before “preppers” were popular, this survival story in the aftermath of atomic detonations in America made its debut.  We listened to this on a drive to across country.

Silas Marner:  Touching story of a young man falsely accused and his eventual redemption in the guise of an abandoned little girl.

God’s Smuggler:  Christian classic.  Brother Andrew’s early ministry delivering Bibles behind the Iron Curtain.

Heavenly Man:  The story of a Chinese pastor in an underground Church - his evangelism, persecution, and deliverance. 

Safely Home:  One of the best examples of a Christ figure (after Uncle Tom’s Cabin) in literature.  Starts slowly and shallowly - but proceeds superbly and convictingly from then on.

David Copperfield:  Thrilling and funny - giving you everything you want by the end.  Some of the best human stereotypes in literature - you’ll recognize them all.  Not sure why it’s so maligned among some readers

I hope this gives you ideas for your own summer reading.  Please look at our favorites from last summer as well for more fun stories.  I'd love to hear what you're reading as well - please feel free to comment here or on the fb post.  We love finding new favorites.