what we're reading :: april 2014

I thought it would be fun (and informative) to write a summary now and then of the things that we are reading. 

Right now we are spanning the ages of toddler through mid-elementary. Here are some of the things that are floating our boat, so to speak. 

Tessa {age 2}

At this phase of the game, Tessa is happy to be read to but not interested in scoping books out for herself (picture reading, if you will.)

Her favorite books in the last month:

A Big Guy Took My Ball (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems- if you have a preschooler, try Mo Willems. We are hooked. When asked her favorite books, she listed I Broke My Trunk, Elephants Can't Dance, Pigs Make Me Sneeze, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. 

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney

On audio books, she really likes The Cat and the Hat and other Dr. Seuss Favorites

Ella {age 4}

Ella (who is just a few weeks shy of five) is not reading independently, though she can work through a few BOB books on her own. She does enjoy picture reading and will sit with a pile of books and scan pictures. But her favorite thing is to be read to.

Her favorite books in the last month:

Elephant and Piggie Books- her favorite being Let's Go For a Drive.

Gifts to Make for Your Favorite Grownup by Kathy Ross. Ella really likes to repurpose things around the house and make projects, so this book is RIGHT up her alley. So far she's made the animal cracker necklace and the rainbow light catcher. 

The Fairy Books Series by Daisy Meadows- these chapter books follow two friends as they try to protect fairies everywhere from the wicked schemes of Jack Frost and his goblins. Yes, that is the plot of every single book. And it never gets old (to Ella, anyway). Her favorite one is this one. 

Sofia the First and the Enchanted Feast by Catherine Hapka. I'm not a big fan of trade books, but this one has both my girls' attention. Special guest appearance by Snow White (?).

Also in the running: Good Night Moon and Fancy Nancy.

Isaac {age 6}

Isaac is reading on his own but it's a slow go and not something he endeavors beyond his reading time with me. And all that is OK. I've never been a big fan of pushing reading too hard; just keeping at it and creating opportunity. Though he doesn't love to read, he does love stories.

His current favorites are:

How to Raise and Keep a Dragon by John Topsell- This book holds his attention for hours. 

The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne- a brother and sister go on adventures and fulfill quests as they travel through time in their magic treehouse. Isaac's favorites are Blizzard of the Blue Moon and Summer of the Sea Serpent. 

LEGO Ninjago: Character Encyclopedia- a highly celebrated library find. 

In audio books, the boys have been listening to Judy Blume's Fudge series- Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, and Fudge-a-Mania. These stories are about Peter and his crazy brother, Fudge, and the hilarious adventures that life brings their way. My boys giggle hysterically, quote it constantly ("Bonjour, Stupid!"), and talk about the characters as if they are real friends. 

Drew {age 9}

Drew is a reader, having conquered Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events books last fall. He prefers fantasy, mystery, or sci-fi.

Her's some of his recent reads:

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson- If you've been around this blog for any length of time, you know that we are Brandon Sanderson fans. As an author, he is extremely diverse
having published adult fantasy, YA, and middle grade. This  is a middle grade book and the first in a series. Drew plowed through it pretty fast. 

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis and Hickman- a classic fantasy, Drew picked this up because it was on our shelves. It was over his head and I'm not sure he really understood the scope of the story, but he finished it and was proud of the accomplishment.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull- he's in the works of this one, the story of kids whose grandfather is protector of Fablehaven, a gated forest that is home to ancient fantasy creatures. 

Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1) by John A. Flanagan- this is the book he reads when he can't find the book he is actually reading at the time. (Yes, he loses books. I wonder where he gets that trait from...ahem.)

He has also loved the Fudge series audio books, as well as Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator on audio. 

Family reading

Moment of confession: we ditched Mr. Popper's Penguins. It was becoming a source of strife in our home, the complaining that would begin when I tucked that book under my arm and little people sensed that a chapter was coming. I think there were several things that went wrong with this one:

1- I didn't move fast enough. If you want kids to love a chapter book, especially when the language is difficult, it really helps to be steady and read it every day. I was too scattered and they lost that initial investment in the story.

2- My kids adore the Jim Carey version of this book- so when the book went on and on and there was no penguin named Nimrod, no group dances, no penguins sliding around the NY condo...bummer all around. 

So, we have moved on and started a new book and we are INTO it! 

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart- we talk about it, quote it, ask questions about what will happen next, which are all signs that everybody is enjoying this. We read it at bedtime so the younger ones are tired enough to stare into space and listen, while the boys and parents are really engaged. It's a really clever, well-crafted read.

What the grown-ups are reading

Garrett and I started reading books together as a road trip thing, and the habit stuck. So we are usually working through a book together. This spring I picked up the Mistborn trilogy, a series he has read before but wanted to read again. So now we are in book two, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. It's smart, interesting fantasy with an interesting magic system and a charming group of characters. 

The last two months I've been on a middle grade kick, partially because I'm trying to write middle grade and partially to explore this new level that my kids are coming upon. Here's some of the ones that I've discovered:

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson- can I just say that Katherine Patterson is a genius? This book about a young girl who begins life at yet another foster home is a social commentary, an accurate view into the system, and a moving story of friendship and love. Just read it. (It's also going to be a movie!)

Ida B...and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan. I read this book and had this feeling like I'd met the main character before. Finally it occurred to me that Ida B is like a modern, Iowa-raised Anne Shirley. A lovely, lovely book about imagination, friendship, and what to do when a well-loved life begins to unravel. 

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry- This book is very Roald Dahl-esque- the adults are mostly idiots, the language feels British, and terrible things happen to people. I enjoyed it for the change in tone but I'm not sure I'd read it to my kids until they are a bit bigger. 

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann- a middle grade fantasy about a society where kids are labelled at thirteen. The "unwanteds" are shipped away, only to be pleasantly surprised by the fantastical life that awaits them. 

I've also been reading some Christian fiction, thanks to a new Kindle and cheapskate personality that makes me think that free books are the best thing ever. I read the Ribbons of Steel by Pella and Peterson (books 1 and 2). It's historical fiction that is centered around the building of the railroad. It had some portions that were really thick with history, felt a little like it had switched to a text book. And there was one story line I was completely bored with so I skipped those chapters. But the main character was compelling (why I read the second book.)

Have you noticed in Christian romance that there's a pattern of needing the main character (always a female, by the way) to be exceptional? A girl in the Civil War who is going to college. A girl in the Wild West who is a trained French pastry maker. A girl in Gold Rush San Francisco who is a newspaper reporter. I've read a lot of first chapters (you can request a sample of any book and get the first 15 pages for free) and it feels really repetitive...and not all that exceptional. Just a thought. 

And I already told you about The Poisonwood Bible, the book you'll hate and love and crave and fear all at once. 

I'm in the middle of a few more books, which I hope to wrap up in May and tell you about soon. 

What are you and your people reading? Any suggestions?

Happy reading, folks!


Kristy A said...

I am with you on the Christian Fiction genre. In general, I feel that creative writing and original storytelling is lacking. That being said, I recently found an author that challenged my view on CF. Her name is Lisa Sampson and I read her book "Runaway Saint." Overall it is much better than your average CF and I thought that it was an original story. I would read more of her books given the opportunity.

In other book news, I just finished "The Glass Castle: A Memoir" by Jeanette Walls that had me left me horrified and filled with hope all at once. It is about her life growing up with alcoholic and mentally unstable parents in a poverty stricken existence. So good and yet hard to read. Warning there is a ton of language, but it seemed organic to the story and obviously it was her real life experience so I didn't mind it too much.

I love how accessible you make reading to your kids. I have tried to implement your strategies with the kids that I nanny. I especially liked the one where you had the kids paint pictures from a book-the littles that I watch loved it! Anyway, thanks for sharing!

Happy reading to you friend,
Kristy Gearhart

Becky said...

Kristy- thanks for the book recommendations! I will check those out. And it made me smile to read your screen name as "Kristy A". ;) Good to hear from you!

Erica said...

My girls (ages 3 and 4) have both spent hours and hours on this book, and it has still stayed interesting two years later. I love the creative storylines for the characters. I bet even your older ones would enjoy it. http://www.amazon.com/In-Town-All-Year-Round/dp/081186474X Bonus points for the fact that the town illustrated is very very European (German, to be specific).

Becky said...

I will have to check that one out, Erica. Thanks!

Katie T. said...

Becky, totally agree about The Poisonwood Bible. When I finished it, I really regretted having read it alone as I felt like I needed a support group to process it with!