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.
Home schooling families likely have sagging shelves filled with books. Or at least a few neat bookcases lined with necessary titles. But a room full of books doesn’t ensure a house full of readers. Maybe it’s the rest of life’s distractions, or just not knowing where to start, but “getting into” reading can be a challenge. With the absence of our libraries right now, we’re at an even greater disadvantage. As summer opens up ahead of us, with perhaps more time on our hands than usual, what are your reading goals?
As No. 1 in my (probably irregularly-spaced) newsletter, I’d like to highlight a few books for your families to consider over the summer. If you can get your hands on them, these are a few gems.
Summer favorites for young readers:
Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey. Though he’s more famous for Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey also won a Caldecott for this lesser-known picture book. It’s a slow-moving story of summer life on the islands of Maine. It also has the unusual distinction of being written in second-person. Take a few days to read this one slowly.
Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall. Bring the tissue box, not for your child, but for you. This one gets me teary-eyed every single time, even though I know what’s coming. Lighthouse life, family life, hellos and goodbyes.
Kermit the Hermit by Bill Peet. My six year old picked this as a favorite summer-themed book. It’s about a selfish crab and what kindness does to a crunchy old heart. It also rhymes.
Imaginative picks for growing readers:
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. I just started the Wingfeather Saga this spring after seeing how many of my middle schoolers were reading it. It’s written to appeal to middle schoolers (i.e. the humor might not be to my style), but I was impressed with the storytelling. I also hope it will be a stepping stone for readers toward the more advanced fantasy of Lewis and Tolkien.
Dinotopia by James Gurney. Don’t let your skilled readers turn up their noses at this because it’s a picture book. Dinotopia is a richly developed mythical fantasy that happens to be accompanied by stunning paintings on every page. I adore this book. (Note: Evolution is assumed in this story, so this is a good one to read with your kids for a chance to talk about how God as creator can apply to a fictional story that plants dinosaurs in the nineteenth century.)
Nonfiction for parents:
Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo. If you vacation at the beach, skip this one. If you’re landlocked (and you don’t mind a real-life horror tale), this is a tremendously interesting story about the real shark attacks that inspired Jaws.
Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson. If you’re a reader, you’ll gobble up all of Sarah’s defenses of why reading (all genres!) matters, and you’ll drool over her extensive book lists. If you’re not much of a reader yet, she will convince you to pick up a book – almost any book – and dive into the worlds tucked between the pages.
Seven Women by Eric Metaxas. A short treatment of seven women of faith from diverse backgrounds and time periods. I appreciated the brevity: a much smaller commitment than a full-fledged biography on one person. Be inspired and maybe even choose one woman to read more deeply about.
Novels for high schoolers and adults:
The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis. Don’t be put off if you’re not into Star Trek. The fact that two of the three books in this series take place on other planets is secondary to the unmatched storytelling and truthtelling of Lewis. Fantasy, yes. But deeply rooted in sound theology too.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. I can’t tell you much without ruining it. It’s sweet and painful and thrilling and beautiful. It’s one of the best modern-day novels I know. Just go ahead and buy a copy.