Newbery Challenge Update and Favorite Children’s Books

Maybe you are wondering how we are rolling with our Newbery Book Reading Challenge. We are going strong! We all read Holes, and now can’t stop repeating phrases and referring to it in everyday life. I also enjoyed The View from Saturday, The Midwife’s Apprentice, and Adam of the Road. (I seem to have a thing for literature in a medieval setting. I could read the Crispin series over and over again, too.) Other recent family favorites on the Newbery list include: When You Reach Me, Miracles on Maple Hill, Rifles for Watie, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. (My daughter gave me an enthusiastic summary of that last one as we drove into town, and I felt like I had just watched the movie! She loved it.)

Some Favorite Children’s Books

I have been negligent about blog writing and also for the Storyworth stories I am supposed to be creating. This week’s Storyworth question was: “What is one of your favorite children’s books?” Alas, I cannot choose just one, so here’s a full list of them. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Be sure to comment with your favorites, too!

Pickle Chiffon Pie

by Jolly Roger Bradfield. It’s the story of three very different princes seeking to win the favor of the king and the hand of the princess. They go off into the forest to see who can bring back the most wonderful thing and marry the princess. The book made pickle chiffon pie look like the most delicious thing in the world. My sister Sara gave me a fresh copy of it when I was forty-something!

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

by William Steig. I discovered this when I was taking a Children’s Literature class in college. I loved the author’s humor, the delightful illustrations and the engaging story.

The Sheep of the Lal Bagh

by David Mark / illustrated by Lionel Kalish. Sara gave me a copy of this one too – and I had almost forgotten about this dear book! I think the original was given to me by my childhood friend, Beth McCarty. This story, based in India, is about a beloved sheep that used to mow the grass in beautiful patterns, until the town decided to get a new lawn mower.

The Beatrix Potter Treasury

I never especially liked Beatrix Potter books when I was young. Fast forward to the year after we got married, had no children of our own yet, and we were housesitting & babysitting the children of some friends. One of the little boys had just received the Beatrix Potter Treasury and wanted it read to him over and over. So, I did – and I found myself enamored with the perfect illustrations, quirky animal personalities and superbly funny stories.

Stone Soup

Retold by Marcia Brown. This timeless tale is about three hungry soldiers who approach a town and are turned away at every door. They teach the stingy townspeople how to make stone soup, so they will never be hungry again, and they leave as heroes.

Tikki Tikki Tembo

Retold by Arlene Mosel. I can still remember: “Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.” It’s the made-up legend of why Chinese people have short names.

Caps for Sale

By Esphyr Slobodkina. A true classic that’s as memorable as the monkeys are mischievous.

The Story of Ferdinand

By Munro Leaf. All sweet Ferdinand wanted to do was sit in the shade of the trees and smell the flowers. But a bee sting changed his life.

The Five Chinese Brothers

By Claire Bishop. This is kind of a horrific story for children, involving death, torture, and suffocation, but it does have a happy ending after all. Clever and suspenseful.

Curious George Takes a Job

By H.A. Rey. I especially like the part where George paints the lady’s room to look like a jungle.

The Jesus Storybook Bible

By Sally Lloyd-Jones. We discovered this a few years ago in audio and print versions. It includes excerpts of Bible accounts, revised for children. Keep a box of tissues handy while reading; these stories of faith are poignant and beautifully told.

Now…what are some of your favorites?

2022 Newbery Book Reading Challenge

As a homeschooling mom, I threw out a reading challenge this week – to celebrate the 100th year of the Newbery Book Award:

Let’s read 50 Newbery Award Winners this year!

This is mostly because I want a reason to read children’s books – new ones and old favorites. (See below for a printable reading record.)

While I was working up a lather of enthusiasm about the books I am already reading and how everyone should too and how fun it will all be, Johnny interrupted by asking: “How does a book get to be a Newbery Award Winner?” 

Good Question. 

There are guidelines for Newbery Award winners, but his question led into another question for all of us:

“What – in your opinion – makes a good book?”

(Jumpstarting my rusty math brain to help students with their algebra is generally not a fun part of a good homeschool day but discussing books we’ve read and what makes a good book is the fun stuff.)

Here is a list we made about what makes a good book. We realized that there is no wrong answer and different people may have different opinions. Please share your own ideas in the comments!

A good book:

  1. Transports me to a place or situation. I feel like I am there.
  2. Creates believable characters who I can understand in some way.
  3. Even if it’s a fantasy book, there is something that I can relate to.
  4. Teaches timeless truths about people and life.
  5. Contains some type of realness – like historical facts or events. (That one was from my historical-fiction-loving child.)

Faith Over Fear

My first baby’s birth did not go as planned. In fact, it went as opposite as we ever could have imagined.

We had planned for a full-term, natural birth with a midwife attending. We hoped it would be the first of a number of children that God would give us.

Instead, I landed an emergency classical c-section attended by a gaggle of doctors, and gave birth to a 2-pound preterm baby who was struggling to breathe.  Just before the birth, someone came in to prepare me for the fact that he could be blind and have many other health issues. 

Dead Dreams

 After the c-section several doctors sternly told me:

  • “You can never have a natural birth. Your scar would most likely rupture, endangering your life and the baby’s.”
  • “And by the way…you should only have three c-sections at most. Any more could compromise your health and endanger the baby’s life.”

Tears. Dead dreams. Fears and sorrows. 

A cleaning lady entered my hospital room while I was recovering from the c-section and subsequent infection. She stopped sweeping, looked at me and said:

“I would never let them cut me open.”

More tears, coupled with doses of indignation plus hormones.

Strong Scars?

The doctors sent me home with a thick pack of official papers that described my scar and the classical c-section. These papers earnestly affirmed that I could never-ever-no-never have anything but a c-section. Home birth was definitely out of the question.

After three months of daily visits to the hospital, my preemie baby boy finally arrived home. While enjoying my new baby, I still was preoccupied with my perceived “damaged and scarred” state. I remember actually looking at and envying other pregnant moms while thinking, “SHE will probably have a natural birth, but I never will.” Then, a good friend suddenly encouraged me with the fact that:

“Scar tissue is actually stronger than the original tissue.”

Was that true? I wondered if other moms had safe, natural births after a c-section. I started reading and researching about the heresy possibility that the doctors might have been wrong?

Digging for Answers

There was no internet available to me in 1992, so I just went to the library and looked up birth stories. I also talked and wrote to people that had healthy VBACs. I found a lot of evidence that it would be possible for me to have a natural birth after all. But a doctor wouldn’t be able to help; it would have to be a home birth and it would have to be a midwife willing to take me on, BIG UGLY SCAR and all. 

In February of 1993, I became pregnant and after calling a long list of midwives, I finally found midwives Jan and Jeanne. They didn’t seem to mind about my scar, my history and all the doctor warnings. So I threw away all of those official papers and knew I had only one more thing to acquire before I was ready. 

One Missing Thing

I had godly cheerleader-type friends in my life who encouraged me. They reminded me that God can take care of me and my baby whether I am at home or at the hospital. My husband (who has limited respect for doctors) told me I’d be way better off having a home birth, with no doctors interfering with the natural birth process, trying to give me things I don’t need! :0

I assembled my home birth supplies and the only other thing I needed for my first home birth was… FAITH. I needed to trust my loving, sovereign, omnipotent, Heavenly Father. The passage I found most encouraging was this, which became my life verses:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

Hebrews 12:1-2

The only other thing I needed for my first home birth was… FAITH.

I needed to trust my loving, sovereign, omnipotent, Heavenly Father.

The Rest of the Story

God’s will for each of us is played out differently, but this is my story. It’s the story of a scar, dead dreams, and a harvest of faith bigger than I could have imagined. I don’t give myself credit for the faith, though. Any faith I have comes from Him, because even faith is a gift. 

After that first home birth, I had nine more home births. Most of these involved an attending midwife or two, and none involved pain meds (but if they were available I probably would have said yes!) The last home birth brought complications, but God was sovereign in that one too, and it had nothing to do with the scar as predicted.

Speaking of scars, if you too have a scar (physical or emotional or both), please consider my story. Our loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God can make a “scar story” build our faith and even work out better than the original plan. He can take dead dreams and breathe life into them. 

30 years later, here’s my husband and I with our “harvest of faith.” (The former preemie is in the Air Force now and is in the back row, far right!)

————-

New School Year

This year we will

Dive into our DNA

Dodge Vesuvian ash

Watch the Roman Empire Fall

See castles rise

Design paper plate skeletons

Conquer their, they’re and there

Discover the troublesome value of “X”

Meet El Cid, Chaucer & Charlemagne

Type tiny treatises

Provide public orations (in our dining room)

Before a restless audience (our siblings)

Find free field trips

Create archaic crafts

Travel through time

Circle the world

Build brain cells

Solve problems

Inhale books —

All at home

and

in

our

slippers.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

| Your Child’s Summer Reading: 3 Picks for Book Series |

As a parent, perhaps you feel like the last academic year has been a rollercoaster ride, and you want your child’s brain to stay sharp over summer. Maybe you are wisely thinking ahead to rainy day activities, or simply want to find more quality reading suggestions. 

Here are my top 3 picks for kids reading series. These are suitable for parent read-alouds, audiobook, or for independent readers aged 8 and up, depending on ability. (I have read these books and they are not just for kids!)

The Mysterious Benedict Society (5 Books in the Series) 

These action-packed volumes take a group of gifted (multi-ethnic) children through physical and mental challenges and the readers will enjoy the ride immensely. Friendship, danger, riddles, puzzles and mysteries await readers of all ages. These are tremendously well-crafted, intriguing stories and we loved the audio versions, read by the talented Del Roy.

Awards include: E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers, Massachussetts Children’s Book Award, Iowa Children’s Choice Award Nominee.

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (7 Books in the Series) 

This is an engaging series of seven books about a 13 year old kid lawyer. Theo faces typical and unusual challenges as he uses his gifts to help others, hunt down fugitives, defend himself when framed and dig through evidence to discover the truth. Written by bestselling author John Grisham and designed for young readers. Excellent audio version for all books in the series narrated by Richard Thomas. 

Here is one adult review to which I can relate:  

…”I purchased the Theodore Boone novel not realizing it was geared towards younger readers. I’m 47 years old and a professional in the communications industry. I found the novel refreshing and interesting…definitely recommend this series regardless of your age…” (Amazon.com review)

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (5 Books in the Series)

Kyle Keeley would rather play games than read, but he and his team end up getting the chance to spend a night in the new town library, which was recently designed by the eccentric game creator, Mr. Lemoncello. The exciting team challenge is to complete all of the puzzles and clues in order to escape from the technologically-savvy new library. These books have been called a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Night At the Museum, and are peppered with humor, quirky characters, and suspenseful fun. We loved the audio versions of these books, read by engaging narrator, Jesse Bernstein.

Happy Reading!

–Lisa

Photo by Unsplash