Ah, winter reading. Best by the fireside, but also good in any cozy corner with tea, cocoa, or a pile of cookies. For your winter reading basket, here are a few suggestions.
You’ve seen the film, but have you read the book?
The 101 Dalmatians might be in a dusty 1990’s VHS case in your family room, but you’ll find a new appreciation for the story from Dodie Smith’s original novel. The dogs' journey from Suffolk to London, was edge-of-my-seat tense in some sections, despite my confidence that they would arrive safely at home. There is a sweet scene in which the puppies take a short refuge in a church building (omitted in the film). It's a reverent passage; the peace of the place impacts the dogs significantly. An enjoyable read-aloud for the whole family.
If your only exposure to Little Women was a film version or (worse) the Great Illustrated Classics edition, I can safely suggest that you’ll be swept away by the delightful original. You know the story: four sisters and the winding trail of their growing-up years, each on a different path toward womanhood. Recommended reading for women of all ages.
There’s Jim Carrey, the Muppets, Mickey Mouse, George C. Scott, and probably at least 100 more film renditions of Charles Dickens’ famous Christmas novella. Choose your favorite for annual Christmas movie night, but consider reading the original A Christmas Carol as well. Excellent reading for December evenings.
This illustrated adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale retells one of Shakespeare’s most unique dramas. While it’s not specifically “wintry,” it’s a good tale for wintertime with many of Shakespeare’s favorite tropes: mistaken identity, royalty, travelers from foreign lands, and romance. If you’re a new initiate to Shakespeare, enjoy this as a starting point. If you like it, read the original next! (Content note: The story includes an allusion to adultery and questionable paternity. The accusations, however, are unfounded.)
The Ladybug Girl collection has been making frequent appearances in our library pile. Each story follows Lulu, aka Ladybug Girl, through an ordinary childhood experience (getting lost, being afraid, feeling discouraged) with rich illustrations and perceptive narration. Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow shows Lulu finding her snow day less than magical, but eventually seeing things from a new perspective. The stories also include Lulu’s brother and parents, which sets a comforting frame for Lulu’s adventures.
If you’re looking for new Christmas tunes, consider Rain for Roots, a Christian songwriting group who specializes in Scripture-based songs for kids. Don’t think Psalty or VeggieTales though. These are beautiful songs you’ll be glad to have “stuck” in your head. Their advent album, Waiting Songs, is a combination of Christmas hymns, scripture set to song, and advent-story ballads. Warm and calming.
Add some poetry to your reading this winter, even if it’s not Winter Poems, a collection selected by Barbara Rogasky. I chose this one for the illustrator, Trina Schart Hyman, one of my favorites for children’s book illustrations.
For the New Year
Elisabeth Elliot, missionary widow and servant of God for decades encourages and exhorts in her sweet collection of essays, Keep a Quiet Heart. If your heart is noisy as the turn of the New Year approaches, consider putting this one at the top of your stack for early morning or late-night reading. Or buy in bulk and stash a copy in everyone’s Christmas stocking.
Devotionals come and devotionals go. Sometimes it’s hard to find one worth sticking with for a full twelve months. The promises of God, however, don’t expire or become outdated. Spurgeon’s The Promises of God may be just what your family needs in 2022.
Interested in more Christmas-specific titles? Check out last year’s Christmas edition of Endpapers.
Home educating parents usually like books. Sometimes the right to choose all of our children’s reading material is one of the reasons we choose to educate from home. In the study of America’s history, the options are more than plentiful; they are overwhelming. Here are a few our home has enjoyed over the past two months.
The American Story Series by Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro has proved informative and engaging. We loved Struggle for a Continent, which covered the French and Indian Wars, a slice of America’s history that was largely unknown to me. With detailed illustrations and maps, along with considerable text on each page, the book was perfectly suited for reading aloud: plenty to keep the young listener’s attention on the page while the adult reads the text. The series includes books on the colonial period, the constitution, immigration, and more.
The Declaration of Independence, illustrated by Sam Fink put flesh on the bones of the Declaration. Using the complete text of our nation’s famous document, the author breaks it into short phrases, one per page, with a stylized illustration to help make sense of the old language. This was a great way to explore the document with an elementary-aged student, but would be equally helpful for middle schoolers or even high schoolers who benefit from visual aids.
My American GeoJourney and the Dover United States Coloring Book have both been helpful in our weekly study of America’s states. Without being too detailed, they offer good reinforcement of the content we learn about the states. Fun and low-key resources for elementary students.
David McCullough and Nathaniel Philbrick are titans of contemporary history nonfiction for adult readers. If you – or your high school children – are interested in learning more about our nation’s history, these two books may be the ticket. Mayflower by Philbrick tells the story of the Pilgrims, from their beginnings in England and Holland, to the decades following the famous first Thanksgiving and the deterioration of good relationships with the Native Americans. A fascinating read. Similarly, The Pioneers by McCullough tells the story of a few trailblazing Americans who pierced into the continent at a time when doing so was fraught with risk.
As Christian home educators, we would be remiss were our studies at home to forget our spiritual history. Long Story Short is an easy to follow Bible reading guide through the Old Testament. (The author has a companion book, Old Story New, which studies the New Testament.) Using short daily readings, Long Story Short works through the sometimes-tedious Old Testament stories at a good clip. Alongside this storytelling approach to Biblical instruction, a book like The New City Catechism provides children with the foundations of basic theology. So far we’ve memorized answers to questions like “What is God?” and “How can we glorify God?”
Do pigs belong in houses? Can pigs eat toast and nap on couches and go to drive-in movies? In the world of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson and Deckawoo Drive tales, the answer is “yes!” Using the disarming and butter-loving pig named Mercy, this series of books for young readers amuses and inspires. Does this spread of children's books look like your normal fare? Even if it doesn't, I suggest a sampling. Having fallen in love with this whole collection, I decided to devote a special end-of-summer edition of Endpapers to Mercy Watson. Read on to find out why!
(If your readers at home are too old for Mercy, add these to your gift lists for the younger readers in your life.)
Start with the original Mercy Watson series, in which Mercy manages to rile up Eugenia Lincoln, the pig-averse neighbor, and somehow involve community helpers (like local firemen Lorenzo and Ned, Officer Tomilello, or animal control officer Francine Poulet) in every story. Get to know side characters, like the Lincoln sisters and the young siblings Frank and Stella, as well as Mercy’s own Mr. and Mrs. Watson. The stories use repeated words (potentially annoying, but actually quite delightful – and great for emerging readers) and surprising plot twists to keep attention of kids and parent readers too. The picture book, A Piglet Named Mercy, provides an adorable backstory and the spinoff series Tales from Deckawoo Drive brings the depths of real life to accessible knee-deep waters.
How many Tales from Deckawoo Drive have hit, with bulls-eye accuracy, the tender parts of my own heart? At least half of them. These books, which leave Mercy in the wings and develop the stories of her supporting cast, put their sweet heroes up against their own worst fears and foibles, sweetly guiding them toward growth and maturity. Can crotchety old Eugenia make room in her heart for music? Can the wide-eyed dreamer Leroy take real responsibility for the dreams that are coming true? What will Franklin do with the unsettling uncertainty of an unmarked key? You may find that the Deckawoo Drive neighbors have more to teach you than you might expect.
Summer is nearly half-over! Can you feel it? As you walk that middle ground between summer restfulness and the gear-up for the school year, consider this list as your bridge. A few selections are summery and perfect for soaking in the alarm-clock-free days. Others are meant to stack up with the crisp new curriculum arriving at your doorstep these days.
For young readers
Brave Enough for Two by Jonathan Voss. I admit to preferring old books, and it’s not often I find a new children’s picture book that wows me. This book from 2018, though, became an instant favorite. My kids wanted to know if there were more (and yes, there is one more in the series). It’s a charming and tender story of friendship. And the illustrations (which I’m painfully picky about) are gorgeous. An easy one to re-read again and again.
Billy and Blaze series by C. W. Anderson. Emerging readers rejoice! The options on the shelves for new readers can be bland, questionable, or downright appalling. This series is one of the tried and true classics. Boys and girls alike will love joining Billy as he adventures with his horse Blaze. From the emerging reader in our home, the heartiest recommendation goes to Blaze and Thunderbolt.
For slightly older readers
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. An absolute delight. I don’t remember ever reading a book in my adult life that so made me wish to be a child again. The most perfect book to read during summer break: filled with adventure and integrity and simplicity and the rich joy of youthful imagination. I cannot wait to read more in the series.
Mio, My Son by Astrid Lindgren. A classic modern-day fairy tale. Be transported to Farawayland with Mio who learns that his life has been more than what it seemed. Adventure, suspense, beauty, and the comforting rhythms of repetition so common to fairy tales. Astrid Lindgren has been a top favorite new discovery for our family.
Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower. My church loaned copies of this book to all Sunday School teachers and while it was a good resource for classroom teaching, I also found it wonderfully insightful for the day to day work of Christian parenting as well. I skimmed this one quickly, but I hope to make time for a slower trip through it again.
A Timbered Choir by Wendell Berry. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like poetry, and those who don’t like poetry yet. Wendell Berry is among the cream of America’s modern-day writers with a long list of novels, essays, and poetry collections to his name. I picked up this poetry collection recently and was reminded of the refreshment a good poem can bring. It’s not for speed-reading. It’s for sampling and savoring by those willing to engage in reflection: maybe just two poems a day. May I encourage you to consider giving it a try, even if you’re one of “those who don’t like poetry yet?” And if you’re too nervous to try it, consider one of Berry’s novels instead.
For your homeschooling library
The Constitution of the United States. This year’s history content will focus on early American history. For a homeschooling family, primary sources such as the Constitution will be handy to have around! We picked up this copy at Barnes and Noble and were happy with the variety of other primary source documents included. Consider finding a hard copy of some of America’s earliest writings to keep in the school room this year. You’ll be glad not to have to google them!
It’s summer. Most homeschool families love the chance to coast for a few months, catching up on curriculum or enjoying leisure reading and field trips. As you stock your pool bag or your suitcase or your school room table for the summer, consider adding a few of these books.
For home educating parents
Know and Tell by Karen Glass
I’m slowly learning more about the Charlotte Mason technique of narration and this book has been wonderfully eye-opening. I’m finding out how well narration meshes with all the techniques I’ve always assumed were good, but hadn’t learned as official teaching methods. I plan to incorporate this into my home education in my own home, and also integrate some of the concepts into the classes I teach at ALC. I highly recommend this book for all ALC moms!
For your faith
The Secret of Communion with God by Matthew Henry
These old-fashioned Christians might be wordy sometimes, but they are packed with wisdom. I am loving a re-read of this rich Christian classic. My advice: read the whole thing at a quick pace, then go back and drink it slowly. This is a spiritual treasure.
Fiction for the whole family
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
A classic novel for the adventure-loving. It’s a bit dated, so there are some slow sections and a few instances of cultural awkwardness that surely wouldn’t be published today, but it kept me on the edge of my seat. Many chapters end with cliffhangers and on my first read (just this spring!), I didn’t know how it would end. We fell in love with Mr. Fogg along the way. My seven year old loved this as a read-aloud, but I don’t think I’d suggest it for independent reading until upper middle school.
Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling
This extra-long picture book follows a toy-sized carved wooden boat from Canada’s Lake Nipigon, through all five great lakes, and to the Atlantic Ocean. The illustrations are lovely and the story is told in a series of 27 page-long “chapters,” each of which tells another of Paddle’s adventures. It’s engaging, while being secretively educational. Fun as a read-aloud for elementary students, but equally fun as independent reading for middle schoolers. Coordinate with a geography unit!
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Did I recommend this one before? It’s possible. George MacDonald was among C. S. Lewis’s favorite authors, so this famous children’s fantasy story is worthy of a re-recommendation! If your family has loved the Narnia books, add this one to your list. There’s at least one sequel too, if you like it.
Nonfiction for students
Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz
I haven’t actually read this one, but some of you have! As a play on the famous Jules Verne classic, the title intrigued me. It also bridges the gap well between our study of the Renaissance this year and our study of early America this coming year, covering the years in which Europeans finally rounded the globe. I plan to read it this summer and hopefully get a running start before the Europeans burst onto the scene in the New World in our history studies this coming year.
Come Look with Me series
These art books would make a great addition to a homeschool art curriculum. Famous artwork is shown, along with notes about the artist and/or the piece, and then questions are provided to help the child engage with the artwork. The questions could be answered as a written assignment or the art could be imitated by the student… the opportunities for interdisciplinary studies are endless!
The Bayeux Tapestry by Norman Denny If your kids took any interest in the Norman Conquest of 1066, this might be a great visual for them. It’s an old book, but the Berks County and Chester County library systems each have a copy. It shows the Tapestry (which is essentially a medieval comic strip) frame by frame with explanations of what’s happening. It is wordy, but you can read as much or as little as you want. Great if your child showed an interest in this portion of history and would like to see a “primary source.” Recommended for any age level, including high schoolers! I found it informative!
How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig This was a real treat. I read the first two chapters aloud with my seven year old and through the guided memorization tactics presented in the book, we both got 10 lines of Shakespeare memorized in one Saturday morning. (And yes, we still remember it.) If you or your child took any interest in our Shakespeare units – at any grade level – you will find this book a treasure.
Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin I’m easily won over by books filled with suggestions of other books. This book does just that. The first few chapters emphasize the importance (and the practical how-to’s) of connecting your child to the globe. I found it inspiring. The bulk of the book sorts reading suggestions by continent and recommended grade level. Consider buying a used copy (easily found online for $10 or less) to reference as you work through your history/geography curriculum.
Natural History: The Ultimate Visual Guide to Everything on Earth published by Smithsonian This fat, photo-filled resource been a great asset in our school room! From browsing examples of the various types of vertebrates to finding out if Redwall’s fox Selah or badger Constance would be larger in real life, we’ve pulled this tome off the shelf countless times already. Don’t be content to borrow this one from the library. You’ll be glad to have it in your permanent collection.
Down Down Down by Steve Jenkins If you’re looking for supplementary materials to go with your science curriculum, this is a great one for your section on sea creatures. Animals are sorted by how deep in the ocean they live. Illustrations are some sort of paper cut-out reminiscent of Eric Carle, but with much greater detail and liveliness. Very enjoyable. (Follow it up with the “Ocean Deep” episode from Planet Earth.)
Finding Winnie by Lindsey Mattick With illustrations by Sophie Blackall (one of our favorites), this book started out with points in its favor already. The story, based on the true background of the bear that inspired Winnie the Pooh, is a sweet one for kids who love Pooh, but it’s perhaps even sweeter for grownups who have seen that “sometimes you have to let one story end so the next one can begin.” (cue the tears)
Love Is by Diane Adams Another tear-jerker for moms and dads, this rhyming book tells the tender story of a child’s care for a lost wild duckling. Its brevity is its greatest power. Simple but beautiful illustrations capture each sweet phase of the story.
Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler A Depression-era family (mom and eight kids; dad has died) sets up a home in a shack in the woods. Will they make ends meet? Will their empty life be filled? Based on a true story, this picture book is gorgeous and tells the sweet story of finding contentment in the smallest
The last thing you need is another Gift Guide or holiday bucket list. So here’s a short list of just a few favorite Christmas books. Each family finds their own favorites and maybe you are just dusting yours off from their hibernation in the attic all year. If you’re itching for a new one, though, one of these might be just right.
An Advent Option
Advent books set the pace for the pre-Christmas season and I’ve used a few different ones. If you’re familiar with Ann Voskamp’s style, and like it, you’ll probably enjoy The Greatest Gift. I love her insights into Christmas and the gospel and I found this book most rewarding in some of my darker advent seasons. If you don’t like this option, I do encourage you to pick up an advent book for yourself! Advent activities with the children or as a family build the anticipation together, but a personal quiet time advent study is rewarding in a different way.
A favorite for Tolkien fans
Tolkien fans, rejoice. This collection of letters were written by Tolkien when his own children were small. Each year they received a letter from “Father Christmas” filled with delightful stories of the goings-on at the North Pole. This is no Middle-Earth (sorry: no lembas bread or rings of power coming in your Christmas stocking) but the imaginative story-telling of Tolkien can brighten your December in a fresh way with this sweet collection of Letters from Father Christmas.
A charming family story from Scandinavia
We stumbled upon this gem last year. Christmas in Noisy Village is a sweet little tale about three adjacent farms in Sweden and the children who live there. The drawings are gorgeous and the story is heart-warming. If you fall in love with this like I did, snag a library copy of Springtime in Noisy Village when the weather warms up.
A wordless retelling of the whole Christmas season
Peter Spier is famous for his wordless (or nearly wordless) picture books filled with detailed images. This Christmas picture book is a treasure for children and parents alike. The mounting excitement as Christmas approaches is captured just as poignantly as the exhaustion of cleanup when the holiday season comes to a close. Make time to sit slowly with this one.
A book to singing along with
My kids and I love this edition of The Twelve Days of Christmas by Hilary Knight. Watch as Benjamin brings Bedelia her collection of gifts each day. Get glimpses inside her house as she turns pears into pear jam, makes ice cream with the milk from the maids a-milking, and sends out invitations via the turtle doves. Plus, watch a side-story unfold on each page as you watch the mischievous raccoon. Beautifully illustrated, this book may become a fast favorite.
A hefty novel for high schoolers or adults
The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead is a looooong novel that was recommended to me years ago. I finally got around to it this summer and very much enjoyed it! It’s a little gory in parts (ancient Celtic battles), and there is some Druidic-style mysticism but it’s a great story that uses Truth to spin a fictional tale. Lovers of fantasy novels will most likely enjoy this first book in a trilogy. The author also has a series of books called The Pendragon Cycle which focuses on the life and times of King Arthur: possibly a great choice for our history time period this year.
A defense for moms and dads to prioritize reading
Lit! by Tony Reinke may give you a reason to put a few books of your own choosing on your next library request list. I was most helped by this book’s suggestion to write specific reading purposes. When I pick up a book, I should know why I’m choosing it. Is it to help my faith journey? To advance my own education? To connect with others? To enjoy a beautiful story? There are plenty of good reasons to read; Tony Reinke will give you a few and help you discern the most important reasons you pick up books. Reinke also explores why reading should matter to Christians, why the Word of God (and Christ the Word) should prompt us to value the slow work of reading a real book, rather than the rush work of skimming fleeting content on our phones or computers. I was greatly humbled and inspired by this book.
A favorite autumnal picture book
Fall Leaves by Loretta Holland plays on nouns and verbs with brief sentences, and longer descriptions if you choose to read them, on each page that introduce autumn. The illustrations are gorgeous photos of paper cut-outs. Highly recommend (and I promise I’ll return my library copy soon so you can check it out!).
A history-linked chapter book for elementary and middle school
A Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli was a very fun read-aloud for Henry (age 6) and me this fall. If you are looking for a somewhat short castle-time-period novel, look no further! While telling the story of a boy whose life has veered of its planned course as a result of the Plague, A Door in the Wall reminds us that life is full of obstacles (walls) in which are hidden unexpected ways to something new (doors).
A sampling of middle-grade fiction
This month I sampled a few popular YA novels with the goal of tasting what our culture is producing for young minds. I had mixed feelings, as you’ll see.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan tells the story of a wealthy Mexican teenager whose circumstances force her to escape across the border into California. I didn’t care for the “Rising” part of the story, in which Esperanza actually senses a mythical “floating” sensation. But the “rising” she experiences – getting over her pride, learning that the world will change and that growth is good – is a healthy lesson for the target age range.
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown was a disappointment. The story (about a robot who is accidently left alone on an island of wild animals) had the potential to address the difference between human life and manmade “life,” but that distinction was sidestepped. Instead, the story gave the robot a heroic role (even a wise and sacrificial role) that assumed her personhood. Sure, fiction can always assign human traits to non-human characters, but I just didn’t love this story’s approach.
Divergent by Veronica Roth describes a world in which people are sorted by their vices – or by their virtues, depending on how you look at it. I cannot recommend this book for a variety of reasons, but if your teen has read it, I encourage you to discuss the central theme of separating society into Factions based on character. Would such a world be a better place? Or worse?
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt is a sweet ode to life. If you could stop aging right now, would you? What about when you were 17? Or when you’re 60? Is life better if it’s longer, or is part of life’s beauty the fact that it ends? These are good questions and this book addresses them tenderly. (I have not seen the movie so I have no opinion there.)
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck follows a Chicago teenager as she is transplanted to live with her small-town Grandma during the latter years of the Depression. The story reminds us that people are not all they appear to be, that softness can be hidden under a tough exterior. It’s episodic, a series of vignettes linked together, rather than a story circling around a central plot line. But I realized that what I disliked about the book was the lack of any strong male characters. It’s a subtle girl-power book and while it’s important to teach our girls to be strong, it’s most beneficial to set that strength in the context of men who are also strong.
Yes, the days of “summer break” are ticking away. But I hope that your reading hours will only be revving up as the school year gets into gear. If you need a few last-minute fun reads before school reading sets in, consider the options in this issue of Endpapers.
The Pine Barrens by John McPhee. If you’ve driven to a beach in New Jersey this summer, you’ve most likely driven through the Pine Barrens. This book is a treasure chest of interesting knowledge about the piney center of the Garden State. You’ll notice all sorts of familiar names next time you drive on Route 70 or Route 72 through New Jersey.
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. We don’t know how God populated the whole earth. The idea that Peruvians migrated to Polynesia was a brand-new theory in the 1930’s, and the expedition of the Kon-Tiki, a raft piloted by Norwegian explorers, set out to prove its plausibility. It’s a Pacific Ocean adventure story. Fascinating.
MAZE by Christopher Manson. It’s subtitled “the World’s Most Challenging Puzzle,” and I’ve got to admit that I haven’t figured it out yet. Wander through the castle (Choose Your Own Adventure style) and try to reach the final room. Beware of loops and dead ends!
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller. You’ll never look at sheep the same way again. Or the much-loved Twenty-Third Psalm. A real-life shepherd, Keller (no relation to the Tim Keller of NYC’s Redeemer Church) unpacks each phrase in Psalm 23, showing in vivid detail how sheep-like we really are and how shepherd-like is God’s care for us. Buy a copy and read this once a year. It’s a precious little commentary.
2000 Leagues Under the Sea as told by Jim Weiss. You’ve probably heard of Jim Weiss, especially if you’ve listened to any of Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of World books on audio cd. His voice is splendid and his retellings of classics are genius. I have mixed feelings about giving young children shortened or watered-down versions of classics (which I’m happy to discuss if you’re interested!), but in the case of Weiss’s audio books, I waive my concerns. My six-year-old loves these classic abridgements (this selection in particular) and I like that as a blossoming reader, he can follow along with the hard copy of Jim Weiss’s version while listening to the cd.
An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long. Stunning illustrations with minimal but informative text: this is learning that’s so lovely it doesn’t feel like school. I also love A Seed is Sleepy, but was slightly less impressed with A Rock is Lively.
Emma. the new film directed by Autumn de Wilde. Pete and I loved this movie so much, we watched it again two nights later with our kids. I confess to being rather blasé about Jane Austen novels, but this film adaptation was gorgeous, stunningly-acted, and very funny. It’s rated PG, so do be aware of one brief rear nude shot of a man dressing.
If I Built a School by Chris van Dusen. In days like these, when schools are reinventing education and how to accomplish it, it seems fitting to start from scratch. You’ll probably like Jack’s idea for a school (although little does he know that homeschooling is actually the best). We love Chris van Dusen and are also big fans of If I Built a Car and If I Built a House.
Summer’s a great time to indulge in the type of books you might not be able to squeeze in during the busy school year. I’m highlighting a few books in this issue that do more than tell a story. I’ll call these participation books. For the most part, these are books for younger kids, but no middle or high schooler is too old to draw, play, and search.
For curious kids:
Puzzle Island by Paul Adshead. I’ve had this book since I was in fourth grade myself and I still find it fun. It’s a book you play along with, discovering pieces of various puzzles along the way, then cycling back and realizing additional clues were right under your nose all along. Upper elementary school is the perfect age bracket for enjoying this hands-on book.
A First Sudoku Book by Dover Publications. This is a great Sudoku book for children interested in math puzzles and patient enough to figure them out. It starts with 4x4 squares before advancing to the typical 9x9. It’s perfect for mathematically-minded kids.
For kids of all ages:
Draw 50 series by Lee J. Ames. We’ve gotten a few of these from the library and have been very impressed. The step by step approach is non-threatening and the wordless instructions simplify drawing. As a very obvious non-artistic person, even my own drawing has vastly improved by our family drawing nights. I heartily recommend a book like this and the involvement of the whole family in taking up drawing.
For Star Wars fans:
Where’s the Wookie? A Look and Find Book. This book is a treat for Star Wars fans. Each page is jam-packed with characters and action, and while your task is to find Chewie on each page, you’re also bound to find lots of other familiar faces. I’ve seen lots of Seek and Find books for kids that are painfully easy. This one is an appropriate challenge. (Note: There are two other books in this series that are also fun, but neither one is as good as the original.)
Honorable Mention (a non-book!):
Atlantis Escape by SmartGames. This hands-on 3D one-player game has captivated the Mountz family. For each challenge, you are assigned a location on the board for your starting tower, then two or more additional pieces which you must use to “escape” from the island city. Following certain rules, your game pieces can only fit one way per challenge to correctly free you from the maze. We highly recommend this game, and we look forward to adding more games from this company to our collection!
The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. Classical home educators likely know Dorothy Sayers for her nonfiction, perhaps her essay The Lost Tools of Learning. I’m ashamed to admit that until a year or so ago, I didn’t know of Sayers at all, much less the fact that she was a prolific author of fiction and nonfiction alike. I have since fallen in love with her Peter Wimsey detective novels. Not sure if you like mysteries? I didn’t think I did either. You can try to identify the villain, or just enjoy the ride and be surprised at the end. Either way, Sayers’ writing is masterful and well worth your reading hours.