Autumn 2017 – Our Favorite Books for Children & Young Adults

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This may seem like a massive list for just a few months of the year! We do enjoy our books, that’s for sure. However, remember there are eight people (well, my 3 year old didn’t say much) weighing in on their favorites for RIGHT now. They don’t necessarily have anything to do with autumn, just what each person is enjoying personally, some from our learning and others just for extra fun during this season. I tried to take photos of all the suggestions from my family for this list, but that didn’t work out (alas, real life), but I did some. I also added an age range, but honestly, we all love most of these. Hope you enjoy this list!

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay – Hilarious adventures of three friends who have a magical pudding that never runs out! Two nasty puddin’ thieves are after their treat. Wonderful rhymes and songs! (All ages! Australian Classic.)

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton – This is the first in a series and my 5 year old and I are very much enjoying this! Our copy has full page, lovely, colorful illustrations. This is the story of three children that find a magic tree that takes them to faraway, crazy, lands. They meet a host of fun friends, and some creatures they wish they HADN’T met! (10 and under)

 

 

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – a favorite reread here all around. (All ages!)

The Twenty- One Balloons by William Pène du Bois – the incredible story of a retired Professor who decides to take a balloon trip, ending up crashing on an island full of surprises. (All ages!)

American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg – this is well-loved favorite, especially the part about Paul Bunyan. (10 and younger)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer – We are really just in the beginning of this book, but my 12 year old and I are really enjoying it. It is sobering, yet heart-warming. We have really interesting discussion after reading. I’m editing just a wee touch as I read this out loud, but over all a engrossing story of a young man growing up in Malawi. (12 and older)

The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith – (*whispering* I find this series little simple and redundant.) My children, however, especially my boys, find the idea of warrior rabbits, fantastic! This is a prequel, I believe, to The Green Ember.  A certain boy is even getting a t-shirt from this series for Christmas. (10 and under)

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Knee-Knock Rise by Natalie Babbitt – My 8 year old and I are reading this together and so far it is a mysterious, interesting story about a boy Egan who travels to visit relatives. Everyone in the village lives in terror a menacing noise up the mountain, is Egan curious and brave enough to find out what’s up there? (10 and under)

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace – this is the fourth in this series and I’m looking foward to reading this with my 8 year old daughter. We’ve been slowly savoring these. Adventures of two friends and their families in a Midwestern town. She picked this before we’d even read it, because she really loves these! I’m going to hold off on the last four in the series as those are when Betsy and Tacy are older. We’ll pick up on those later. (10 and under)

The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – This was a sad, yet mystical story about a little girl and her parents during the Great Depression. A neighbor shares the story of a secret river full of fish, sending Calpurnia on an adventure to help her family and friends. We have the version with Leonard Weisgard’s illustrations and I think that adds a lot to this. (10 and under)

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The Book of Golden Deeds by Charlotte M. Yonge – A collection of stories of bravery and true courage. You won’t find any sports “heroes” in this book! Highly moving and challenging. My daughter and I have wonderful discussions on this title. Older language, just FYI. (12 and up)

The Story of John J. Audubon by Joan Howard – This is an interesting biography or historical fiction? (I can never tell), about Audubon. My daughter and I are really enjoying talking about it. ( 8 and up)

The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney – Interesting science behind clouds told in engaging way with folk lore, stories, and myths behind clouds. Good for discussions with older students, some adult- type topics in it, just FYI. (12 and up)

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Half Magic by Edward Eager – Three children find a magic pebble that gives you HALF of what you wish for…so be careful! This leads to hilarious situations! The children love this book. (All ages!)

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss – This is our summer read aloud that we didn’t finish and we are still very much enjoying it. Fantastic examples of what hard work and ingenuity can do. Great examples of a loving family environment. I think some of the situations in the story are a bit TOO convenient, but I didn’t mention that to the children, and they love the exotic animals, interesting houses, and adventures the Robinson family are having! Older language, just FYI. (All ages!)

Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards – yes, by THAT Julie Andrews. This started off slow for us, and some children were very frustrated and emotions ran high about certain parts of this book, that they actually wanted to quit! However, I pressed on with this one, because I had peeked ahead, and now they can’t get enough of it. Hopefully, they will enjoy the ending. (All ages!)

Honorable mention, not pictured:

The Dry Divide by Ralph Moody – this is the 7th book in the Ralph Moody Series which my husband has been reading in the evenings to the children. We love this rough and tumble true story of Ralph’s life.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – my oldest wanted me to include this series. We both enjoy fantasy and she read this series this autumn after it was recommended to her.

We read many picture books and my youngest has favorite board books, but I can’t get my head wrapped around our favorites in those areas right at the moment. I’ll let you know if any jump out at me.

Happy Reading! Please share if you have any favorites from these genres in the past few months!

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Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #4

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{continuing my gratitude list}

31. fresh sheets on my bed

32. owl hooting outside my window in the wee morning hours

33. stuffed animal birthday celebration

34. planning Christmas surprises

35. writing group at library, so inspiring

36. surprising the children with donuts and trip to a little local dam (we’ve been reading about them!)

37. sunlight hitting the table full of nature treasures JUST right

38. hot coffee

39. Go Fish and Uno games

40. twinkle lights around the house

~

 

October Reads

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Lesser Ury (German, 1861-1931), Parisian Interior, 1881 {Google}

The weather is turning into a perfect blend of cold, misty, grayness. Perfect for reading, that is. Curling up with the hot coffee, quilts, and taking a deep sniff of those old books off of ones shelves is just about perfection here on earth, don’t you agree? I wanted to clear up something that came up on last month’s post. These posts list the books I’ve FINISHED that month. Maybe my title is a bit misleading, but many of these books I may have been reading for months, but I finished them up in the month I list them. I also had a request for listing the children/YA books we read here. I think I will try to do that quarterly. So be looking for an autumn children’s/YA book round up soon. Maybe later today if I can squeeze it in!

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper (*****) – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Those fictional journeys often speak into our reality. She is mainly speaking of this in regards to writing, fantasy, imagination, and especially the openness and wonder in children. I loved many of the ideas that I pulled from this reinforce Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on how young children need broad exposure to rich ideas from imaginative worlds, nature, myths, and legends. Although she is talking mainly from her perspective, there is so much in these essays that can span many experiences and situations. I really, really enjoyed this.

The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing  Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time by Sally Clarkson (*****) – As always, encouraging, idealistic, and something to aim towards. Clarkson’s books always make me so thankful for my life as a wife and mother. I know that some find Mrs. Clarkson a bit too idealistic, but I read once a quote somewhere on the topic of writing, “Don’t look at a wonderful writer and think that you will never be able to write like them, instead look at them and think I want to write like that.” I’m probably misquoting that and I don’t know who originally said it, but I take it as aim high, live your life to the fullest. Clarkson is that catalyst for me as a mother and friend, especially. I love her thoughts on hospitality and all the recipes in this book look simple, doable comfort food. I love her Scriptures and encouragement for my faith. She calls us high, yet shows us grace for weary times. I love her compassion towards times when things are chaotic and hard. I felt this strongly especially in this title and I loved her thoughts on young adult/adult children as I’m just entering that season. Overall, another favorite from Sally. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes.

Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe (***) – Basic, yet beautiful ideas about how to use journals as an important part of learning. This book is really nice if you need some fresh inspiration for nature, science, or common place journals.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt (****) – First of all, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. Really enjoyed this!

Anna Akhmatova (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets) by Anna Akmatova (****) – The notes at the end of this collection saved me a bit as I confess extreme ignorance about Russian history. I loved Akhmatova’s use of words, though. Sigh. Even though I didn’t always completely follow what subject she was touching on, I still loved her raw depth of emotion and the cadence. Some of her originality was probably lost in translation, but overall I just loved these.

The Silver Hand by Stephen R. Lawhead (*****) – This is the second in the Song of Albion series that my oldest and I started last month. Wow. This one was even better than the first. The two time-traveling Oxford post graduate students are now fully apart of the Celtic world of Albion, which is thrown into civil unrest at the murder of their king, Meldryn Mawr. Lewis or Llew, as he is now known by, finds himself in an important position, with insane odds stacked against him, that could affect the future of Albion.  I loved Tegid, the Bard character’s perspective, which this story is told mainly through. This is definitely for older young adults as it is very violent.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This was a comforting reread, and I loved it even more than the first time I read it. Three children are visiting their mysterious Uncle Merry Lyon, in a dusty old house on the Cornish coast. After finding an hidden entrance to an attic full of junk, a old map is discovered, and that’s the beginning of a dangerous, creepy, mission to find a missing grail. King Arthur, England, and scary evil henchman. Yes, thank you very much, Susan Cooper. Middle school on up!

Songs from the Slums by Toyohiko Kagawa (***) – Heart-wrenching poems from a Japanese minister who chose to live and work among the extreme poor of Japan’s slums.

Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World by Richard J. Foster (****) – 3.5 I believe the author is from a Quaker background and I found his outlook interesting.  I loved the first 3/4ths of this book, so much to think on and pray about. The emphasis really being getting our eyes off of ourselves and onto the Lord. The last fourth of the book was interesting, a kind of “Christian socialism” promoted. Some of it was good and it had elements of truth, but a bit formulaic and the author seemed a bit more “preachy”. Overall, an interesting read, full of food for thought.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and John (I honestly read John again at the same time I was in Ezekiel, as it is such a heavy book)

Care to share what you read this month?

~

 

 

Daily Diary {Unit of Time}

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The Night School, Geritt Dou, 1660 {Google}

Chicken soup with veggies simmering on the stove, walnut chocolate chip brownies baking, and the chatter of voices drawing pictures.  Stirring the soup, I think through the day. The beginning was one of a brilliant, cold blue, sky with a orange-hued golden crust, the bottom resting on the black bottomless shadows of the horizon. Sipping a bit of soup, I gaze at the now. Popcorn scattered around, half dried laundry waiting, my Monday. Evening now upon us, soon children will be wrestled into their beds, the giggles, messes, and moments tucked away for tonight. Listening to Bing Crosby, youtube videos on how to dance “The Charleston” (don’t ask how we got on that!), discussions over Matthew, chapter 6 come to mind. First big snow showers (no accumulation to the chagrin of the children), chickens who are on strike due to the cold, and black, forlorn, frozen skeletons of dear cosmos waving an icy hand at me.  The smell of wood smoke as Noah stokes the furnace in the basement, the needle nose pliers out to fix the knob on the dryer, and knocking at the door, an organic certification lady to talk business with my husband. Leftover baked potatoes, steamy hot, sprinkle of cheese, pat of butter, salt and peppered. A bit of leftover chili with toasted sandwiches. Apple cores everywhere, a big load of seconds from a local orchard spilling, rolling, tumbling out over our porch, apple heaven, apple pie, and soon-to-be applesauce if I can get to it. Two book packages in the post, thumbing through them, hot coffee steaming, warming, caressing my face, words floating up from the pages. New to me writing podcast, delightful kindred moments as I chop veggies for the never-ending feasting, gratefulness for the bountiful life simmering just under the surface. Benjamin-Boy with his deep, chocolaty eyes twinkling at me, his lovely red sweater now out of blue tub, arms outstretched, crying for me, “Hold me, Mom!” Paintings radiating with light, stories on Johnny Appleseed, autumn poetry, and snuggles with Sam, reading his special him-and-me only book. Oh, there were the arguments too. Mini-trials of regular ‘ole life, if you will. The lack of eggs (don’t ask, refer to chicken strike above), doing what we ought when we don’t want to because it’s right (oh, boy, do I understand that one!), the crumbs, the massive laundry load, hurt feelings, tears, the smashed apple I just stepped in with my bare toes, and the general wild exuberance that frays the stoutest of nerves. Gladys Taber writes this and I thank her for it, this perspective, a glorious thing.

“What has my day been worth, this unit of time given to me? Possibly I said a comforting word where it was needed, or offered practical help to someone in trouble. Nothing world-shaking, to be sure. I cannot influence the world. I can only live every day as well as I can, keeping my home, cherishing my neighbors, helping in the community in a small way. But perhaps I have grown a little in understanding, patience, and loving-kindness. And perhaps I shall do better tomorrow, another precious unit of time.”

Stillmeadow Sampler

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Brace, Compel, and Do Right

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Do not let the children pass a day without distinct efforts, intellectual, moral, volitional; let them brace themselves to understand; let them compel themselves to do and to bear; and let them do right at the sacrifice of ease and pleasure: and this for many higher reasons, but, in the first and lowest place, that the mere physical organ of mind and will may grow vigorous with work.

Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, p. 22

{Emphasis is mine. This quote is highly convicting and pointed. I need to take Miss Mason’s advice in my own life and also consider it in my children’s lives. I’m rereading Volume 1 with friends and it is so good!}

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“Life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie.” – Puddleglum

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{Google}

Puddleglum is one of my many favorite characters from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. He is just such a funny, creepy mixture of doom and gloom, Eeyore-like qualities, yet with a steadiness that helps the other characters in a myriad of ways. He appears in The Silver Chair, joining Jill and Eustace on their quest to free Prince Rilian of Narnia from the witch.

I think he cracks me up so much in that I’m sort of the polar opposite of him. I like to see the positives in any situation, in fact, I have to see the positives, or I’ll go crazy. I’m not sure if this is part of my personality or if it’s just a product of my life, or just the season I’m living in. I think in some respects, it’s a habit to be cultivated. I don’t think it’s always necessarily a conscious habit, but at times I do focus on looking at a situation, no matter how bad, and picking out the beauty or the good to be found in it. And really, that is the essence of a habit, you first must choose to do something, and eventually you are doing it without even thinking, because it is so ingrained into you. This is something I must do in order to keep perspective, to stay healthy mentally and emotionally. It does not make me better than anyone, it’s a life-giving practice that I know I must prioritize. Focusing on my problems, worrying, and striving rarely fixes them and makes for so much angst in my life and those around me. Ignoring problems doesn’t help either. However, if I can just sift through the dirt and find just one gleaming pebble, it makes walking through hard things bearable.

Is there such a thing as being too idealistic? Or too optimistic? Possibly. Probably. I mean, one has to get the ‘ole head out of the clouds and get some things done in order to just live normal life. However, I’m not sure being idealistic and optimistic isn’t a good thing. Just look all around you…things are dark, scary, depressing. Are we lying to ourselves when we focus on things that are good, true, and lovely? No, I believe we are battling the darkness. When I write here or talk with my friends about light, beauty, tea, gorgeous trees, and clouds, I’m not saying my life is perfect. I usually have my share right at that very moment of relational heartache, dirt, laundry, bills, and craziness. I am just choosing to look at the crack of light seeping in under my door. I have to hold onto that Light and follow it with all my might.

How ’bout you? What do you think?

~

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits By Thanksgivng} #3

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{continuing my gratitude list}

21. Yesterday

22. Today

23. Sunlight flickering through field corn

24. Sumac’s brilliant red color

25. Friends to talk about home educating with

26. Commonplace journal for quotes to look back on

27. Sam and Ella chopping ham and potatoes for crockpot

28. 45 minute drive we have to get to bigger towns – time to think, pray, decompress

29. Prayer

30. Holidays coming to see family

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Daily Diary {Autumnal Thoughts}

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There is a rich depth to autumn. A culmination of the years work, a closure, a going out with style. I’ve been wading through our full learning days to the core of beauty that this time of the year brings. It takes a conscious effort and choice to slow down and choose to take time to really see. To really soak my soul deep in the little things that are happening. Noticing the old-fashioned Amish corn-shocks, the swirl of fallen leaves behind you on the road, the birds flying southward overhead, wood smoke lingering in the air, the brilliance of the blue sky, and of course, the amazing, deep jewel colors of the tree splendor engulfing us.

The mood is mostly one of delight, a coming in, last of the zinnias and cosmos being picked for bouquets, the last moments of soaking up warm sun rays, the bringing out of fluffy quilts, the sipping of hot drinks. There is a somber tinge to this time too, a realization that death, and cold icy grip are at hand. The coming November especially starts to leech out the color, the green, the life landscape slowly becoming gray, brown, and stark, sharp black. Locally here, two friends have died from cancer, and that has me thinking of this whole seasonal shift, life outlook, and cycle of seasons.

All of this together becomes a kaleidoscope of color, moments, bleakness, thoughts, and most of all gratitude. This swirling mass, twirling, spinning, diving, a tapestry of life. Of which I can never be thankful enough for. It is a gift. A gift that becomes a question. A question that becomes a purposefulness. A purposefulness that brings one to setting aside the iPhone, the to-do list, getting down on a knee and squeezing those little ones, dropping a card in the mail, having people over. Painting a butterfly with your 5 year old instead of writing, reading a bit of The Magic Pudding with your 10 year old even when you are exhausted, laughing with him over the antics of Sam, Bill, and Bunyip Bluegum, not to mention the Pudding. It’s learning to listen, oh how I need to listen, both ears open wide, heart grasping at deep meanings that matter to my loved ones. Listen to my dear Amos, to my young-adults-in-the-making even when it’s 10:37 pm and tooth-picks are holding up my eyelids.  The endless cooking, dishes, laundry, even questions become a golden thread in this autumnal stitching, a beauty unsurpassed as it all is given out of a heart of thankfulness.

Rich, deep Autumn. Thank you for reminding me again of so much beauty, even in the midst of a dying away. A dying away of nature, a continual dying away of self, a laying aside of what easily besets. Till we meet again, I bid you adieu.

~

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #2

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{continuing my gratitude list}

11. Dental insurance

12. Taco Nights

13. Little girl accident in the middle of the night – this time I appreciated her sweetness instead of being frustrated about lost sleep

14. .99 cent cheerful geraniums for the window

15. It’s Friday!

16. Discussions about Longfellow’s poetry

17. Listening to Rachmaninoff with the children

18. Ben’s brown eyes

19. Ella’s painting

20. Rainy days for tea and banana bread

~

Patchwork

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I jump in feet first. Sort of like Mary and Bert into those chalk pictures. It’s deliciously colored, looks soft, smells of clean earth and sky. I’m falling, down, down, down. Just as I thought. It’s an old patchwork quilt, stitched lovingly by hand. A mother, a sister, a daughter like myself carefully hoarded and saved precious pieces of fabric. Bits of cloth for this masterpiece, useful and beautiful. In the lamplight, or maybe with hot wax dripping off a taper, she cuts slowly, choosing the pattern, tongue out in concentration, piecing the intricate memories together. Her husband’s flannel shirt, a flour sack, bit of an old rag, piece of her baby girl’s first dress, bit of blue the color of the sky, green like the meadow. I slowly circle her work, fascinated and enthralled. The patience, attention, and fortitude to her craft astonishes me. Me in my 21st century three second glances at a web page, drive thru coffees, and buy it now, one click shopping. I sit cross-legged at the edge of the table. She looms above me, the colors of her art, life, work, swirling, stunning me. I hear a hum from her lips, a sigh of satisfaction as she places another small piece in the perfect place. Scissors down. Resting, sipping coffee, gazing a moment out the cabin door. A breeze flows in because it’s open a bit. She returns purposefully to her work. A graveness steals over her as she carefully handles some white muslin. What does it mean to her? A lost mother, a child? I feel my eyes well up. I stand up, brushing free of a stray thread, and take a last glance at this woman’s history laid out on the table in front of us. One life represented. So brief, yet complicated, messy brevity. A span caught in a single item can never truly reveal all. But it can try. I jump up and I’m out, out and now how do I live my own quilt rightly? I don’t know. But I will try.

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Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving}

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  1. Cosmos still blooming
  2. Big, fat, white, squat pumpkins Noah grew for me
  3. .25 cent linens from yard sale
  4. Laundry on line
  5. Annie’s homemade caramel corn
  6. Amy Carmichael’s Toward Jerusalem book of poetry
  7. Technology to keep in touch with my sister in Haiti
  8. Little boy hands hugging my neck
  9. Prayer line directly to God
  10. Lovely honor of home educating, hard, but SO worth it!

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