Saturday, November 29, 2014

What We’ve Been Reading [part 1]

Luke's Book Stack


Luke has been the most consistent reader in our house the past couple months. He’s the child most likely to get his work done and most likely to read what I suggest.


:: The Chronicles of Prydain is one of the most frequently recommended series on book lists that I’ve perused (along with The Chronicles of Narnia), particularly on classical school book lists. Luke declared this series his favorite reading of the past few months. [Levi has enjoyed many Lloyd Alexander books such as Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth.]

:: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is another oft-recommended book on the lists I’ve been using, so I passed this one on to Luke.

:: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. I think a Mt. Hope reader suggested this one some time back. All three boys read and enjoyed it, so I purchased Jonathan Auxier’s most recent book, The Night Gardener. Luke gives it nine out of ten. Here is a short video of the author sharing his own favorite children’s fiction:


:: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. Luke gives this book ten out of ten.

:: The Dark Is Rising Sequence: Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; Silver on the Tree is another series frequently recommended (in particular, by Susan Wise Bauer), so I’ve borrowed them all from the library and Luke is just getting started.

Historical Fiction

:: Number the Stars was on Levi’s reading list for Challenge A, and after reading it myself I decided that Luke would really enjoy it, which he did. The story is set in Denmark during World War II but isn’t quite as heartbreaking as other books from that time period, which makes it a great introduction for younger kids.

:: I Am David was a logical next choice. A twelve year old boy escapes a prison camp in Eastern Europe and travels to Denmark. This is one of my absolute favorites from my childhood. Luke declared that he wished it were longer because he enjoyed it so much! We may have to watch the movie version in the next week or two.


We are studying modern history this year (1600 to present). I’ve read aloud chapter after chapter after chapter (seventeen, to be exact) of The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 3: Early Modern Times, and we’re still in the 1600s. It was a happening time in history! I try to weave in (though not perfectly) literature from the time period we are studying. Beginning in about the 1600s, the literature selections we have to choose from widen considerably.

:: The boys had been complaining that the retellings of Gulliver’s Travels that we own all only tell the first two of the four stories. And, by golly, we can’t have that. So I purchased (and they all read) the Classic Starts version of Gulliver's Travels, which contains all four stories (abridged). I completely forgot about the masterpiece Jonathan Swift's Gulliver retold by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell, so that’s on its way from Amazon as well. Is it wrong to own more than three retellings of Gulliver’s Travels?

:: I tried to get Luke to read the original Robinson Crusoe by Defoe, but he wasn’t quite up to it. We also have a few different retellings of that one, so he picked up a new-to-us vintage copy and enjoyed it.

:: Luke wasn’t quite ready for Don Quixote retold by Martin Jenkins (another masterpiece, hilariously illustrated but quite long), so I had him read Don Quixote and Sancho Panza retold by Margaret Hodges.

:: The Family Pilgrim's Progress by Jean Watson. This meaty picture book is a great introduction to the classic.


Luke has read many history-related picture books and chapter books recently (especially from around the time of the Pilgrims), but the following are a few of our favorites.

:: The King's Day: Louis XIV of France (wonderful illustrations, fascinating life)

:: Hana in the Time of the Tulips (historical fiction, beautiful Rembrandt-style illustrations)

:: Peter the Great (Diane Stanley’s biographies are excellent)

:: Don't Know Much About the Kings and Queens of England (We’ve referenced this one over and over again. Short one to four page entries for each king or queen with highly entertaining illustrations.)

:: Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry (author of Misty of Chincoteague) tells the story of the American artist Benjamin West. The Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West is a lovely picture book option.

History Picture Books

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April said...

I bought three books from this post, and that's not to mention the one I bought last week from the Christmas post! From one bibliophile to another, keep the lists coming. :)

Faith Takes Flight said...

I enjoy your book suggestions! My son who is 11 is an avid reader and I was scanning the books you listed in this post for some new favorites for him to enjoy. I checked out "The Book of Three" from the library and upon seeing the cover he was nervous it might be too scary for him. I appreciate his apprehension as he knows himself and although he loves adventure stories at times he can be sensitive about scary themes. Can you give me some insight into this book and give me a heads up (perhaps from your son if you have not read it)? Is it a scary book? There are so many great books out there that I have no problem shelving one for a time if needed but I don't want to do that if it is an unnecessary concern. Thanks so much!

Heidi said...

Heather~ I think it's definitely a step up from Narnia as far as scary content. It's fantasy and a battle between good and evil. There are some scary creatures including the horned guy on the front cover and "cauldron-born" creatures that are like zombies, and there are several tense moments and battles. My boys aren't at all sensitive about scary themes. If they were, I might have held off a bit. You're right--so much good stuff out there. No reason to rush it. I checked one of the book lists I use, and it is listed for 6th grade reading. On the 1000 Good Books list, it is listed for grades 4-6.

I don't know if that's helpful!

Faith Takes Flight said...

Thank you Heidi, that does help. I think I'll hold off for now. I want to help him find good books and also respect any concern he might feel over a title. We did discover The Treasure Chest series though your recommendation and he has loved those, thank you!