We read a lot in this house. A lot. I had originally planned to use the “Confessions of a Bibliophile” category of Thinking Kids to point you to singularly wonderful individual resources. I still plan to do that from time to time. However, I find myself paralyzed by the sheer volume of wonderful books. What to pick? So I was thinking that perhaps I’d post a weekly recap of some of our favorite books. I want to be careful not to expose our primary curriculum; Tapestry of Grace is incredible, and I want to be respectful. Mostly, these will be literature books, historical fiction and biographies I added to our unit studies, or extra resources. We also read quite a bit in the way of Church history, and we emphasize character training. I may post a book off ToG’s literature list once in a while, but I probably won’t tell you which one. Because we do unit studies, you may notice a theme each week in our reading. Then again, I may be having one of my wildly diverse weeks.
I don’t plan to give you a really in-depth review of any book. Just more of what I loved, what was worth watching out for, etc. I may post a book just to tell you to steer clear (and why). I also read a lot of children’s books personally, without reading them to my kids. I may throw a few of the truly excellent ones in here as well. Let me know what you think, and what’s important to you when looking for books. I’ll try to include some aspect of your concern. As a final note: We read the Bible a lot in our home. It’s very important to us. I won’t list the individual books of the Bible here, as I assume you have a Bible and are reading it.
I thought that to begin, I’d recap just a few of our favorite books in 2011. Without further ado, here they are:
God King, Joanne Williamson (Historical Fiction, Grades 4-9)
I loved this book. It was the story of a young son of Pharoah who himself became Pharoah, and later met King Hezekiah. It was exciting, and like being plunged into Ancient Egypt and then exposed to ancient Judah. The differences in worldview and faith were clear. One worldview (and its gods) enslaved, while the God of the Israelites provided freedom. I highly recommend this. Because my children were young for this, I read it aloud.
How the Bible Came to Us, Meryl Doney (Non-Fiction Picture Book, Grades 1-6)
This is a fabulous resource. It’s essentially a condensed history of the Bible (in English) with pictures! I think adults should read this, just to get a basic understanding of how the English language Bible came to be. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo (Fiction Novel, Middle Grade)
This book was just fun: an evil rat and an odd-ball mouse, a princess and a serving girl, a dungeon and a castle. What’s not to love? I loved Ms. DiCamillo’s voice, and we all laughed through the book.
The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi (Fiction, Middle Grade)
This was an interesting read. Written in 1883 in Italy, this highly moralistic fairy tale was certainly unlike anything written today. We laughed quite a bit ~ once we all got over the slightly preachy voice. You can actually download it for free (see the link above).
The Worst Wish, Lissa Halls Johnson (Historical Fiction ~ based on Bible stories, Grades 4-6, Kid Witness Tales Series by Focus on the Family)
Based on the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, this is a fantastic book for ages 8 and up that really immerses kids in the culture of Israel in the days of Jesus. The Kid Witness Tales series appears to be out of print, but if you can find it for a decent price (I found ours on eBay), I highly recommend the entire series.
Twelve Bright Trumpets, Margaret Leighton (Historical Fiction, Grades 4-6)
We loved this collection of twelve short stories covering events and people from the Middle Ages. It was fantastic!
Titanic: The Ship of Dreams: John Harper, Robert Plant (Fictionalized Biography, Ages 8-11)
This is the fascinating story of a preacher and his young daughter aboard the Titanic. John Harper evangelized to men and women as the ship sunk, bringing his last convert to Christ while treading in the icy water just before he drown. If you are in the U.S., there are multiple bookstores that sell Christian Focus books.
Morning Star of the Reformation, Andy Thomson (Fictionalized Biography/Historical Fiction, Grades 4-6)
This was an interesting biography on John Wycliffe. Most of the other characters were invented, but it gave a good feel for the culture and the issues that Wycliffe faced.
Lillian Trasher, Janet and Geoff Benge (Biography with dialogue, Grades 4-6)
I found the story of Ms. Trasher, a woman who raised an estimated 10Million children in Egypt during the early 1900’s, to be so inspiring. Her program of discipleship sent forth Christian young men and women into Egypt who continued to reach the country for Christ long after “Mama Lillian’s” death. I think my children were just as impressed by her devotion to Christ as I was.
Polycarp: The Crown of Fire, William Chad Newsom (Fictionalized Biography, Ages 8-11)
It is difficult to convey how much I loved this book. I plan to have my kids read it the next time we do Ancient Rome. I think that this is perhaps one of my favorite books ever. Mr. Newsom does a fantastic job of covering the feel of the early Church, the personalities involved, and the issues – along with the persecution – that the Church faced. A fantastic book for kids and adults alike. Again, in the U.S., Christian Focus books are available at a variety of online stores.
Well, there you have it: some of our favorite books from 2011. I’d love to hear what you read. What were your favorite books last year?