It’s October. Don’t worry: no Halloween theme here. But I am suggesting a few reads for the bold among you, so please read descriptions before ordering any books.
After doing a deep(ish) dive on the Brooklyn Bridge in our homeschool room this month, I have a few books to suggest on architecture. The next selections are offered with hearty approval, a few for small readers and one for parents. The final set of books in this issue are valuable and appropriate, but only in the right reading context. The two selections geared toward kids are great, but should have parental oversight, and the other book selection is for the well-prepared high-school or adult reader.
I hope your reading hours are cozy this month!
For the Architecturally Curious
Who Built That? Bridges by Didier Cornille is a visually sparse but engaging collection of sketches that show how bridges through the eras have been constructed. Fascinating and accessible for young readers who love seeing how thing work. Also fun – it’s oriented to be opened bottom to top instead of right to left.
Draw 50: Buildings and Other Structures is one in a collection by Lee J. Ames. Our family has loved many in this series, and this one is certainly more advanced. For artists interested in buildings, though, it’s an exciting set of structures to practice drawing.
Brooklyn Bridge by Lynn Curlee is a perfect balance between a picture book and a research reference. More thorough than Secret Engineer or Twenty-One Elephants, other picture books about the Brooklyn Bridge that we read, but nowhere near the scale of McCullough’s 600+ page The Great Bridge, this hearty storybook with pictures taught our family a lot about the history and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in just a few sittings.
Recommended Without Reservation
I’ve heard about the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem for years, but finally checked it out this past month. If you’re a hold-out like me, I recommend starting with The Secret Staircase. Drawings that will keep you staring pair with a sweet and non-threatening mystery tale. This book is like a cozy blanket and a mug of tea.
The Boy Who Loved Maps by Kari Allen is a rare gem: a brand-new book that’s perfectly pure without agenda or nods to cultural trends. It’s nothing but a sweet story of friendship between two children, laced together with the imagery of maps, something most kids love. I was impressed to find this pure little story. Check it out from your library so that your librarian knows how much we appreciate this sort of literature!
You’ve probably heard of Sally Clarkson. Most homeschooling moms have. The Life-Giving Home was my first dive into her repertoire. She’s a wealth of ideas and information and I was encouraged by reading this book. I admit that I find the sum total of her home-education lifestyle to be a bit pie-in-the-sky, but I loved reading through this book and marking the ideas I want to try out or come back to later. This is worth any homeschool mom’s time.
Recommendations… but with caveats
Fiery Night by Sally M. Walker is vivid. The Great Chicago Fire is evoked powerfully through the book’s skillful illustrations by Kayla Harren. A mini story of a boy and his pet goat (a story that is actually true!) frames the massive catastrophe in a smaller scale for young readers and listeners. It’s an impressive book and one that would pair well with a short fire safety unit. (National Fire Prevention Week is coming up on October 9th.) I suggest looking through this before sharing with sensitive eyes.
From up on Poppy Hill is a movie produced by Studio Ghibli. We watched it, but not with our children, and found it wonderfully endearing. It’s a coming of age story, and does include light romance (not sexualized in any way) so it isn’t quite suited for smaller kids, despite its animation. It’s not just a love story though. It’s about family and grief and responsibility and determination to fight for what’s right. If you think you don’t like anime, this might be the film to change your mind. Try it out as a date night movie for mom and dad first.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro grabbed me on page one and didn’t let me go until I closed the back cover. The setting is futuristic, the imagined end result of a STEM-obsessed culture. Though most of the characters are humans, it’s the artificial intelligence Klara (who functions as narrator) who possesses the most faith, sacrificial love, and understanding. Ishiguro seems to be calling us to hold tightly to faith, love, and hope ourselves before computerized solutions to life's problems snuff them out. Suggested for adults and mature high schoolers.
A note on last issue’s recommendation
In August, I recommended the Little Britches series to you. I have a confession to make: when I sent that issue, I had not yet read the title book in that series. I had read – and greatly enjoyed – Mary Emma and Company and The Home Ranch, but only after publishing Issue XII did I start reading Little Britches with my children… and realized how much verbal editing it needed as a read-aloud. The rough cowboy language is mild, but not negligible. It crops up every few chapters. I trimmed out the offending words as I read to my own children, but I was glad I had not handed it off to my eight-year-old to read alone. Oh, and the ending isn’t exactly happy. We had some teary eyes here when it was over.
The series is standard fare for any homeschooling reading list and I still feel confident offering it, but I would have given some warnings if I’d pre-read it. If you’ve read it, or are reading it, you might love this podcast series which has several episodes on Little Britches.