Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer is for Bookworms- 7 QuickTakes

1. It being summer, good books are on the minds of all superior people everywhere. Why turn on the television and watch the latest rerun when a book is at hand? It's too hot to knit; read a book. You can't swim all day; give your lunch a chance to digest before you get back into the water and read a book. My parents did a stellar job of keeping us children busy in the summers. We did have some special activities like a theater day camp and sometimes swimming lessons, but we mostly played outside and read books. 

2. Simcha Fisher has been writing about books this week. Her blog post "Books that get Childhood" is spot-on and the comments have given me so many ideas for the children and myself. I appreciate that she doesn't only recommend those perfect Catholic books found in Catholic Heritage Curriculum- even though I appreciate their books. Some of Simcha's recommendations have imperfect characters and non-Catholic settings, but there is a truth in each that is efficacious for our children.  Just don't recommend the Berenstain Bears to her. She has her limits.
3. I still remember the feeling when my little sister and I found a copy of Betsy and the Great World.  We had read the earlier 'Betsy and Tacy' books, but this book was missing from our library. It is hard nowadays to give our children the freedom to explore the library (in our area, the computers have public, unfiltered internet access and it is a kind of homeless shelter because it is a public place), but I feel safe with my children in the children's section. There is no internet access, and adults with no accompanying children are not permitted to 'hang out' or use the children's section's bathrooms. There is the rest of the library for them to read, study, surf the 'net, and sleep. 

4. My oldest daughters will be 13 and 12 this summer. Demographically, they should be right at the age to be in the 'teen scene' section of the library. But this mama says "No." I'm considering letting them read some Austen- which would put them in classics, not YA. I don't want them reading Hunger Games or Harry Potter (after book 3) until high school (which is coming soon enough- so maybe until at least the 10th grade...). They won't read Twilight or other YA books of the same ilk (protagonist who is trendy, sullen, no talent or interest besides a boyfriend) while they are under my roof. The teen section of the library is mostly filled with such books along with movies and magazines that I don't want my girls seeing.

5. So we hang out all together in the children's section. The girls can wander the childrens' section while I sit with the little ones for the weekly story and song time (bubble machine at the end!). Then, the big girls read books to the littles while I go upstairs to find books for myself and any books for them that might be in the teen or adult sections. Did you know that Please Don't Drink the Holy Water is in the non-fiction section under humor? I have to go into the 'adult' video section to get old musicals, classic 'Catholic' and Shirley temple films, but I would rather the girls not see the latest R-rated films' covers. I can't protect them from everything, but I also don't have to send them into the lions' den.

6. Moms of many little ones, it is possible at many libraries to reserve your books on-line and the books will be waiting for you at the front desk! Give those summer volunteers some work and be easy on yourself!

7. It is also possible to 'check out' library books with your e-reader, and I've been enjoying my beloved childhood 'Twins' books for free on my Kindle. I still prefer paper, but if an e-reader is tolerable for +Ray Bradbury, I will sometimes use one.


  1. My local library will not hold a book for you unless it's already checked out. I physically have to go pull a book from a shelf. This is extremely annoying because I can't go with my family to the library anymore. My toddler flips out of the computerized card catalog.

    1. grr...but maybe you can put the kids (2 right?) in a double stroller and break them in to decent behavior at the library- library time was my favorite activity with my first two

  2. I so agree with you on HP! My kids usually started to read them around age 10. What we do is one book/year, so they will be around 16 or 17 when they finish. I'm the only one who read the Hunger Games, but I found it to be a lot less interesting or valuable than Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies.

    And Twilight... with a protagonist, who constantly needs to be rescued... Whatever. Not for my girls! Even if one of them is named Bella.

    1. yes- we are middle of the road with HP- half my friends wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole, the other half lets their kids read them whenever they can read the words- so maybe at 8 or 9. We don't really fit in anywhere!

    2. I read #1 at age 6... But then again, I don't think beyond 3 had been published yet. Honestly, I think she should've stopped after 3 or taken 4 in a different direction.

  3. Oh, yes! Yes! YES!!! There is NOTHING like Betsy-Tacy!!! I only discovered these books as an adult. "Betsy and the Great World" is SUCH a favorite of mine. The other book, which I love in particular is Emily of Deep Valley, a companion to the main series.

    I grew up on Laura Ingalls, but wish so much I'd also known Betsy then.

    Someone gave my daughter a book written for teens, and thank heaven, I started reading it aloud to the kids - because it is absolutely raunchy. It is LOW. It is just a mystery, but has such a disgusting, vulgar tone. Is that intended to be "true to life"? Intended to get marginal kids to think "Hey, reading is great?" I don't know, but I work had "translating" this book as we go along....then, it is headed for the trash. I think it is oddly like "PG13" movies - they are usually more offensive than R movies.... Likewise I'd let my kids roam the adult section before I'd let them in the Teen section.

    You can't go wrong with Austen! My heavens! Or, Elizabeth Gaskell, a favorite. Books by E. Nesbitt - like The Wouldbegoods, (a book I love SO much!) are delightful reading for adults and kids. In fact, what I did with my kids was read anything from the 19th century, and/or classics.

    I've never read HP; I suppose I ought to, but fantasy is not my thing, really.

    1. you know- I don't think I have read Emily of Deep Valley(!) I may as well BUY the series!

    2. If you're looking for good mysteries, read the Hardy Boys! Ah, the good old days :)

  4. Thanks for the library tips, I have three little ones and forgot about the library as an activity. Unfortunately the toddler story time is at the worst time for this family: 11:30-12:15! That's prime lunch and nap time. Ah well.

    1. depending on the library and your relationships with other mamas- you might suggest moving it to 11- I bet a lot of families would like to be home in time for lunch

  5. I LOVE the new layout (here I'm betraying how I've been terribly lax in reading anyone's posts for a little while . . . sorry) it's very pretty!

    I completely agree that a good amount of YA fic is garbage. May I suggest Tamora Pierce? She writes fantasy fic - and I don't know how you feel about that. It involves the use of magic & a pantheon of fictional gods & goddesses, but it's all in a different not-earth place, so I think it would be ok. At least, I read her books as a tween & teen and it never provided any challenge or obstacle to my faith because I knew it was a fictional place filled with fictional things.

    Anyway, the reason I love her work is because she writes these fantastic, strong, independent female characters who are good, smart, loyal, and capable. Romance - if it happens - is always a side story & never the main focus. Her Protector of the Small series is one of my faves, and probably the most appropriate for girls your daughters' age.

  6. Thanks Kate!

    and thanks for the author suggestion- I will definitely check her out (I guess literally!)

  7. I read the first two Twilight books (don't tell my friends). Eh. They could've been a lot worse. But they could also have been a whole lot better.

    I still say the classics are best (and by that I mean my classics, not the ones that are formally called classics): Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Hardy Boys, Once and Future King, etc.

    "Pride and Prejudice" wasn't all that bad. One of the few books I had to read for school that I might have read on my own. I still prefer Lewis/Tolkien/White though.

    Although I've gotten into Chesterton lately. "Manalive" is quite possibly one of the best books Ive ever read.

    1. hey Bandit- read (or watch the first 2 movies ONLY) he Anne of green gables series if you want to 'get' women (at least a sort you might what to marry)

      I've never read Manalive- putting in my library queue.

  8. Your girls have to read the "All-of-a-Kind Family" series-- Avila loves it. I'm looking forward to Simcha's suggestions. Thanks for the link!! -Faith

    1. okay Faith- we JUST (literally) talked about this book with a dinner guest....about how it helped this ex-Protestant girl have some knowledge of Jewish life

  9. Oh ! The Betsy Tacy books - I loved those and picked up a copy of the first book a few years ago so I can remember to read it to my girls. Also loved "All of a Kind Family" and "Cheaper by the Dozen"

  10. LOVE the Betsy-Tacy books! We are huge Betsy-Tacy fans at our house and even made a pilgrimage last month to Minnesota to see some sights from the book. I posted about it, and all the fun we had. You MUST read Emily of Deep Valley; it is my favorite of Maud Hart Lovelace. p.s. I happened to find you through pfhr on "Like Mother, Like Daughter" Nice to discover a "kindred spirit! "

    All of a Kind Family is wonderful and it's also a series, though I've only read the first my dd teen and pre-teen have read all the others and enjoyed.

  11. I'd suggest the Orphan Train Adventures by Joan Lowery Nixon. While I don't remember any specifically Christian elements (there may have been but it's been 10+ years since I've read them) they were good stories about family and "relatively" accurate historical novels. When I read them they were in the children's novels section but definitely still interesting for young teens.

    Betsy-Tacy and Anne of Green Gables are hard to miss with also.

    Even now (at 25) I enjoy reading the Boxcar Children once in a while and there are dozens of those stories.

    The American Girl Books were another favorite when I was a kid. I've only read the older ones (Felicity, Kirsten, Josephina, Addy, Samantha, and Molly) but as long as the others are the same they are probably just as good. I loved those for the stories and the historical facts at the end which tie the story to the real history of the time. The girls are all 9-10 so they're easier for younger girls to relate to but the stories are engaging enough for tweens.

    In a few years (only because it briefly - and accurately/respectfully - discusses Catholic views on sexuality) your girls will probably LOVE A Philadelphia Catholic in King James's [sic] Court. This is one that I go back to over and over again. Telling the story of a Catholic family that moves in with their fundamentalist, nondenominational relatives it is an excellent apologetics novel.

    Also when they are older, Catholic author Regina Doman has a series of fairy tales rewritten in modern times.

    My brother (age 12 but he read them a few years ago) and I both really enjoyed the Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale. They are time-travel, fantasy novels for children/young adults. The first begins with a very minor romance (two main characters kiss once) but then moves immediately into action/adventure.

    The Little House on the Prairie books are all fantastic and work well for all ages.

    Ella Enchanted is a fun, fantasy story with lots to talk about and the movie is clean as well.

    Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards - similar to the Secret Garden (which could be on here in it's own right) - an orphan girl turns an abandoned cottage near the orphanage into her secret hide out. She is a less than perfect character as she sometimes "borrows" things from the orphanage or lies about where she is going but she learns a lesson about why that wasn't the right thing to do.

    The What Katy Did series is similar to Betsy-Tacy.

    Caddie Woodlawn is based on the real life story of author Carol Ryrie Brink's grandmother who as a young girl would rather make friends with Indians and hunt with her brother rather than cook or sew.

    A Wrinkle in Time By Madeline L'Engle is a good fantasy/time-travel series.

    Little Women and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott are another historical option.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - all actions have consequences and sometimes they are very funny.

    I still love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty McDonald. She finds the most creative ways to "fix" children's problems (interrupting, refusing to take a bath, not eating dinner, leaving toys all over the room) and it's hard to read the books without bursting into laughter.

    Another way to find books is I especially like the list feature which you can use to find similar books. Of course, many of the books are inappropriate for children (or adults depending) but there are hundreds of excellent suggestions.

    Sorry for the novel-length comment but I love books (can you tell... haha) and children/young adult novels are some of my favorites.


thanks for commenting! (comments on old posts are moderated)