Saturday, February 27, 2016

Series ~ Fiction ~ Mystery

Now for the last genre of series books I will cover...but not the last list.  After browsing my shelves for fiction series, I realized that it would be a ridiculously long list.  So I've decided to sub-divide it into categories.  The first I will tackle will be mysteries.  These  books are probably the most sought after in my library.  Everyone loves a good "whodunit."  Here are some your children (or you) might enjoy.

We will start with the most obvious.  The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have thrilled young readers for decades with their mystery escapades.  I've been told that newer versions have been revised with less desirable character qualities so you might want to search out older editions

I still have the exact volume of Trixie Belden that my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Elkins, gave me as an award for perfect attendance in  1972.  This book set me on a path of reading voraciously.  Many in my library have rediscovered Trixie and her friends as they have adventures and solve mysteries.

A few years ago, a new family came into my library.  Young 9 year old Cara asked if I had a series of books called The Happy Hollisters.  Her father had devoured them as a boy and he wanted to share them with his children.  She was thrilled to find I had several and she and many others have enjoyed them again and again.

Another popular series for children is The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.  Four orphans siblings living in a boxcar, solve fun mysteries.  It's important to note that there are dozens of Boxcar Children titles but only the first 19 were written by Warner.

The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope is another wholesome vintage series featuring child mystery solvers.  This link takes you to 15 titles for Kindle for only 99 cents.

Cherry Ames by Helen Wells is yet another older mystery series.  Follow along with Nurse Ames on her mysterious adventures.

Encyclopedia Brown is a boy detective who has been thrilling young readers for many years.  These are great for reluctant-reader boys.

Nate the Great is a favorite boy detective series for beginning readers.  When my oldest son, now 25, was learning to read, he devoured these fun titles.

What would a list of mysteries be without the legendary Sherlock Holmes and his loyal companion, Dr. Watson?

Dorothy Sayers is best known in the homeschooling world as friend to C.S. Lewis and Tolkien as well as her thoughts on the classical Trivium.  However she is also famous for her excellent mystery writing.  Lord Peter Wimsey is featured in both novels and short stories.

It seems some of the greatest minds contributed the most intriguing mystery stories.  G.K Chesterton's endearing Father Brown mysteries are filled with both wit and literary power.

If you love history and mystery, you shouldn't miss the Brother Cadfael  titles by Ellis Peters.  Set in medieval England and Wales, this exciting series is addicting.  There are many titles in this series and should be read in order.

There are so many mystery series, I'm sure I've missed some favorites.  Please share in the comments any you have enjoyed.  Choose a good mystery and match your wits with some of the best crime solvers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Green Ember and Black Star...for 99 Cents!

The Green Ember is only 99 cents on Kindle today and Black Star of Kingston is FREE!  Enliven your imagination with these two excellent titles.                             

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Quiet Growing Time

A quiet growing time is a phrase usually associated with Charlotte Mason's description of the life of a young child.  But I found that it beautifully detailed my time last week on our rare vacation.  We spent a glorious week at the beach and during that time, I indulged myself in time to grow.

During our week, I spent time by the sea soaking up the sun.  (I was desperate, DESPERATE for the sun since we've had four winter storms in three weeks.)  In between long walks and games of paddle ball, I read my version of a "chick flick" title, Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson.  I had started it months ago and just never clicked with it.  I enjoyed it, though, as a leisurely read.  This is the first in a series.

I have always picked up a word search puzzle book before every beach trip.  They are easy to do on the beach, especially in the midst of constant interruptions by boys.  I noted that I searched out any puzzle dealing with books, one on fairy tales, one on Rudyard Kipling, and the third, a list of "banned books", many of which are on my shelves!

I tucked in Anthony Esolen's relatively new title, Life Under Compulsion:  Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child.  I was challenged by his other book and this one will be no exception.  The Washington Times says, "Esolen's skewering of contemporary culture with all of its political correctness and shallow moral gestures is devastating."

Always make time for book shopping on any trip!  We chose a cooler day to scour the thrift shops, finding many treasures including a lovely dustjacketd copy of Wind in the Willows illustrated by Tasha Tudor for $3!  Three large bags of books are awaiting my attention to be processed and added to my shelves for children to enjoy including  Richard Halliburton, Marchette Chute, C.S. Forester, James Herriot, Winston Churchill, F. N. Monjo and many others.

One title I found for a dollar was a volume I remember seeing featured in a CIRCE podcast.  How Dante Can Save Your Life by Rod Dreher is something I would probably not have picked up on my own but I was thankful I recognized it.  I hid myself away with my knitting to listen to the podcast.  Now I'm wanting to tackle The Divine Comedy.

All this quiet growing made me realize how I've let day to day cares deprive me of my own humanity.  Busyness interferes with my own personal schole'.  Oh sure, I get lots of growth in learning with my children.  We read great books, have great conversations and share many adventures.  But rarely anymore do I engage in something just for myself.  I had the desire while away to attempt to meet with a few moms in a Mother Culture group of sorts.  I'm not sure what it would look like but it would be a way to hold one another accountable.  I'll have to think about that...

How have you grown lately?  Please share.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


And yet, old friend,
books do not age as you and I do.
They will speak still
when we are gone,
to generations we will never see.

The Hiding Place

Thursday, February 11, 2016

In Gratitude

Often when things are going well and past struggles are forgotten, we tend to forget those who were instrumental in lighting a fire and encouraging us along the way.  I've told this story before but wanted to have a dedicated place to record it.

In 2001, I was a homeschool mom of an 11 year old boy.  When this boy was in kindergarten, I discovered a curriculum called Five in a Row which introduced us to learning with real, living books.  In my excitement I began collecting books and accumulated a couple of thousand in a few short years.  So in 2001, my family attended a living books event at the "back side of nowhere" in Tennessee.  That event changed my life.

One of the guests at this event was a homeschool mom, history curriculum writer, and private library owner.  Her name was Michelle Miller.  I knew Michelle would be there because I had just bought her wonderful history curriculum, TruthQuest History, which was hot off the press.  Michelle emailed me and asked if she could bring the guides to save me shipping!  At the event (which is also where I met Jan Bloom for the first time!!!) Michelle and I were talking books.  When she discovered that I had a passion to collect books, she sweetly asked if I would be interested in opening a library of my own.

Poor Michelle, I emailed her so many times with questions.  She patiently answered my questions, encouraged me, offered advice, prayed for me.   I continued to collect thousands more books with my new goal.  I was no longer collecting for one boy but for every child who might walk through my doors.  Boxes of books piled up around me faster than I could deal with.  In 2003 another son was born and we moved later that year.  I began to wonder if my dream would ever become a reality.  Finally in 2008, with lots of hands-on help of some friends (thank you, Cottrills!) who were once members of Michelle's library and two very special exchange students (merci, Clem et Francois!) who helped me to literally turn my house upside down, my library opened.  I am now serving 35 families in my community.

 Michelle continues to offer encouragement and wisdom to those of us who are on this path of sharing our collections with our communities.  Her knowledge and humility are a blessing.  I praise God that He gave her this vision so many years ago and that she has extended that vision to many of us.  I've never had the privilege to meet Michelle in person again, but I'm forever thankful for her guidance and willingness to be a vessel for the King.  Thank you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Series ~ History

One of the greatest contributions to children's literature in the 20th century has been numerous history series.  Biographies, memoirs, historical fiction, original sources, all serve to make history come alive for students of all ages.  Could it be that the lack of knowledge and interest in history during our post-modern times stems from the lack of reading gripping tales of heroes and heroines of history?  In order to remedy that, add some of these treasures to your family's reading list.  This lengthy list demonstrates that past generations understood the importance of knowing from whence we came.

Landmark history titles - This series is the gold standard for children's history series.  Over 200 titles are in this series, written by some of the best authors of children's literature.  They focus on people and events that have shaped history.  A history professor acquaintance of ours said that if a child read all the Landmark books, he would have an excellent history education.  A few of the titles have been reprinted in paperback.  More information and titles can be found at Valerie's helpful site.  Written for grades 3-8

Signature biographies - Signature biographies are similar in length to the Landmark books.  Also written by wonderful authors of the time, they focus on lives of people throughout history.  Each title begins with The Story of...

Piper biographies - Another excellent biography series for middle grades focusing mainly on American historical figures.

Garrard Discovery Biographies - This is my favorite biography series for younger readers.  Very well written. I've learned so much for them myself.  There is also a World Explorers series and an American Indian series.

We Were There series - This series is a favorite in my library.  The stories are told through the eyes of fictional children but the stories themselves are accurate.  Each title has both an author and a historical consultant for accuracy.  Very exciting!  I see that some titles have been reprinted.

North Star series - Yet another series written with the purpose of engaging middle readers.  Sterling North edited this series of around 40 titles covering mainly American history.

Frontiers of America - This is a favorite series of my boys from a few years ago.  Excellent for younger students, they relate exciting times in our country's history.  The title, Log Fort Adventures, is especially endearing to me.  My youngest son, adopted from China at the age of 6, was learning English, and narration was coming very slowly.  This book was so very exciting to him that he gave a very lengthy, detailed and animated narration for the first time!

Childhood of Famous Americans - This popular series of American biographies for young students is still very much in demand after many decades.  Children enjoy reading about the upbringing of their favorite historical heroes and heroines.  This series has been printed in many different bindings including the current red, white and blue paperback covers.

Winston Adventures - We've really enjoyed the titles we've read from this series.  What I appreciate is that these books focus on lesser known events of history in an exciting, narrative way.  Written for middle grades.

Step-Up Books - I listed this series in the science post as well, but there are many history titles to be enjoyed.  These are excellent for younger readers with large type and nice illustrations.  Note that some of these have been reprinted as "Landmark books".  They are NOT in the Landmark series, but are reprints of Step-Up Books.  Many of these can be found reasonably priced in the nice old hardcovers.  I would invest in these rather than the newer, cheaply bound, paperbacks.

American Adventures - This wonderful older series, published mainly in the 50's, is not to be confused with the newer series of the same name.  These books are full of adventures for younger to middle readers.  Some titles in the is series are pricey and hard to find so snatch them up if you come upon one.

Colonial Americans - This series, by Leonard Everett Fisher, focuses on the trades of the colonies such as printers, tanners, weavers, and more.

Cornerstones of Freedom - This series fills a particular niche in my library.  While these slim titles are not always as engaging as many of the other series listed here, they do fill a need for an overview of a particular event or person without spending a great deal of time.  The series includes lesser known events as well.  In recent years, other titles have been added and printed in paperback.  I don't know the slant of these new titles so read with discernment.

How They Lived -  This series for younger to middle readers focuses on the lives of the men and women who made our land great.

"I Can Read" History - This is a wonderful series for beginning readers.  Young children love to be included in the family history studies with books they can read themselves.  This series fits the bill perfectly.

Land of the Free series - This unique series focuses on the contributions of various ethnic groups in America.  They are well-researched and engaging.   I don't own many of these titles but wanted to bring them to your attention if you come across them.

Messner biographies - This is a massive series for older readers and is valuable, not only because the writing is excellent by some of the best authors of the time, but because it contains biographies of figures not found anywhere else.

Sower series - This series focuses on the Christian beliefs and influences of famous people.

Trailblazer Books - This popular newer series for middle readers focuses on Christian heroes and missionaries.

If You Lived...series - This series for younger students focuses on how life was during various times of American history.  Children can see what their lives might have been like if they had been born in another time.

A Picturesque Tale of Progress by Olive Beaupre' Miller is an outstanding set of 9 volumes relating the flow of history.  Originally published in 1929, it has been released in various forms and number of volumes.  In my opinion, the most stunning set is the one I've linked here, which is the one I own and treasure.  You may recognize the name of Mrs. Miller as the editor of the beloved My Book House set (each of my boys has a set of these fine books.)  Mrs. Miller was grieved by the fact that she was never taught to love history as a child because of the "dry collection of dates, a jumbled memory of many apparently meaningless wars, and a fragmentary, disconnected knowledge of a very few periods in history."  She set about writing this set "to bring history to life for children, to present to them a fascinating historical panorama, to let them travel up the path of time with the men and women who had made history."