Archive for Reading

What to Do with Summer Vacation, Part 7: Audiobooks

At our house, summer is prime audiobook time.  We love reading silently and aloud, but one of our favorite things to do is to just sit down, turn on an audiobook, and color or do puzzles.  We buy a lot of Dover historical coloring books for school, and when we sorted through our school bins at the end of the year, I pulled out all of the half-completed coloring books and put them in a stack (along with our beloved Prismacolors) for easy, breezy summer coloring sessions.  I’m a big believer in not forcing writing too early, and I’m a big fan of developing those writing muscles through coloring and drawing.  No pre-writing worksheets here–just quality colored pencils, lots of scratch paper and coloring books, and audiobooks!

Here are some of our current favorites.  (See here for my suggestions–and Anna’s–from a few years ago.)  Don’t forget to check your library’s overdrive or Hoopla Digital to stream many of these for free!

Swallows and Amazons is our family’s favorite series.  At this point, it’s up there with Narnia in how it is shaping our family culture.  Set in the Lake District in England in the 1930s, it follows the adventures of two groups of siblings whose parents have allowed them to mess around in sailboats during their summer holidays.  Further along in the 12 book series, we meet new characters, and they have other adventures (building an igloo over the winter holidays, mining for gold, saving birds along a river, accidentally going to sea), but the common thread is their delightful imagination.  I can’t tell you how much I love the parents in these books (some of my favorites in all of literature), too.

We read/listened to The Cricket in Times Square for a summer book club with friends last week, and this sweet story of talking animals who help a struggling newsstand hits all the same notes of our beloved Charlotte’s Web.  My ten year old finds it hilarious, and my four year old came home from book club and took my phone up to my room and proceeded to listen through the book one and a half more times in one sitting.  The girls want to listen to it every night.  I think we’re approaching obsession level.

Okay, this is the book cover for The Railway Children, which you should all own, but you don’t need to buy the audiobook–get it from free at loyalbooks, where it’s read for free (thanks to the librivox project) by Karen Savage.  I prefer the loyalbooks interface to librivox itself, but you can search for it both places.  This volunteer reader does justice to one of my all-time favorite children’s books.  When their father is unjustly imprisoned for a crime, three children in Edwardian England have to move with their mother to the countryside, where they make friends and have adventures in and around the nearby railway station.  Delightful sibling dynamics, fun side characters, and a wonderfully happy ending.

E. Nesbit was not a part of my childhood, but she’s quickly becoming one of our family’s favorite authors.  Five Children and It is more fantasy than The Railway Children, with a sand fairy who grants wishes to a family of children, one per day.  Of course the wishes never turn out as the children intend, and all sorts of crazy adventures follow!  Because there’s a good mix of brothers and sisters, this one captures the attention of my son and my daughters.  (Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival explains how to get this particular recording-and many other classics-for cheap from Audible.  Or find it for free at your library!)

My girls just love, love, love All-of-a-Kind Family (and its sequels), read by Suzanne Toren.  Following the adventures of a Jewish family of five girls in turn-of-the-century New York City, this series is both sweet, funny, engaging, and a great look into a different culture than ours.  I know for a fact that you can stream it on Hoopla.

All four of my kids adored The Wizard of Oz when we read it together this spring.  And they find Anne Hathaway’s audio version hilarious.  She does great voices and really brings the story to life.  I’m still searching for an equally engaging reader for the next few books in the series.

And I might have done this before, but I want to put in a big plug for KayRay Reads to You.  She is lady who loves to read aloud, and she has recorded sooo many great books (for free!) on librivox (public domain books) and her own website (newer books–note, she doesn’t always edit out the coughs and things, which we don’t mind since it makes them feel real to us).  You can subscribe to her podcast in itunes or just visit her site to download your favorites.  My son is perpetually listening through her Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy and has recently gotten into the Dark is Rising series, and my girls love Betsy-Tacy (and sequels) as much as I do, thanks to KayRay.  She has a great Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and…well, I’ll stop myself.  Go visit her site.  It’s a treasure trove of great children’s literature.


Does your family use audiobooks?  What are your favorites?



Posted in Family Traditions, Home Life, Homeschooling, Reading | 1 Comment

Real Housewives of E2S: 12:43 pm

This is what I’m doing today instead of reading A Cricket in Times Square aloud to my kids for our Friday book club. They’re listening to it via audiobook, and I’m trying desperately to catch up on my reading list. Yep, you read that right.  I’m not reading aloud to my kids today because I’m reading to myself.  This is today’s goal. I’ll be sitting in a doctor’s office all afternoon, so I’m bringing all four along.

Totally not overambitious when I tell you I’m halfway through three of them, right?  Top one for the blog, second for my own enjoyment/another E2S reunion discussion, next one is pre-reading for my 10 year old, last one is rereading because I already preread and okayed this series a couple years ago, but I need to refresh my mind in order to discuss it with him.  Our oldest two are at the stage where they don’t want to read any of the 150 books in our home that we’ve pre-read and approved.  They want to go to the library and get new ones!  I use a bunch of resources and book reviews to weed out lousy ones in the first place, but it’s important to me to be able to discuss the book together, particularly the ones that cover heavier subject matter (like WWII or just war theory, just to touch on today’s two kid books).  I love children’s/middle great lit, I really do, and I love sitting around with stacks of books to read and half a dozen started, but I am sooooo far behind, and even with 2-3 books a day, I think it will be impossible to catch up before we head out of town in five weeks.  Real housewives of E2S have too many books to read and too little time!

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Summer Reading, 2016 Edition


What are you reading this summer? I have been reveling in our break from homeschooling, and I’m pretty ambitious this year.  In between the bouts of hard-core parenting, I’ve been letting the kids run around outside with the neighbors, eating popsicles, while I lose myself in books, just making sure to invite people over for dinner every weekend so we have to force ourselves to clean up the chaos at least once a week.  I sat outside in a deck chair with a mystery novel all afternoon the other day while about 10 kids dug in the sandbox.  Lots of quick historical fiction/detective novels on my nook for research purposes (I’ll tell you more about that later), but here is my “serious reading stack” on my nightstand.  At least half of these will be making that 5000 mile road trip with me this summer…

  • The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim’s Inn, and The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge  Have you discovered Elizabeth Goudge?  She’s one of my favorites, and this year, my mom and I agreed to read the Eliot Family Trilogy together again.  We love Elizabeth Goudge for her beautiful prose and her insight into the inner lives of everyday people.  You can see the effects of grace on a person’s life (and all the lives they touch).  Her books are slow, but I savor them.  I often reread and recommend The Dean’s Watch and The Scent of Water, both of which have beautiful portrayals of self-sacrificing love.  Since I haven’t read about the Eliots since being married myself, I’m interested to see what I think of Goudge’s take on love/marriage/commitment/family/loyalty with the Eliot family this time around.
  • Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child by Anthony Esolen  After our scintillating E2S Group Read of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, this was an auto-buy for me.  And I’m looking forward to discussing it with Anna, Bethany, and Christina when our families have a little reunion in a few weeks!
  • Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton  I’ve had this book recommended to me by multiple people, and last week, I saw it on a friend’s shelf and commented on it.  She foisted it on me and insisted that I read it because it had so radically affected her mindset.  All too often, we think that we can just throw money at a problem and pat ourselves on the back for doing our part in mercy ministry.  The reality is always more complicated than that, of course.
  • Um, I am embarrassed to admit this, but in our move, I lost my personal Bible for several months.  It had gotten shoved into a box that I then shoved into a kitchen cabinet and forgot about, so I spent all spring stealing my kids’ Bible or using my phone to do my devotions and CBS homework.  I do still think that the YouVersion Bible App is pretty decent (particularly if you want accountability to do a read-through-the-Bible type reading plan like I do), but I have enjoyed actually holding my own Bible again since rediscovering it!
  • Union With Christ by Rankin Wilbourne  Rankin is our pastor, and we are so blessed to sit under his teaching and now to get to read his first book!  I can listen to one of his sermons 3 or 4 times and learn more each time, so this one was another auto-buy for me.  Rankin has such a heart for our spiritual growth and for helping believers enjoy and know God, and I feel like this whole topic is something that often eludes me in my personal spiritual walk.
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson  I think I’ve mentioned that this is the best work of fiction I’ve read since graduating from college with a degree in English Literature.  And I’m rereading it this summer along with my girlfriends to discuss at our aforementioned reunion!  I was afraid that it wouldn’t hold up to my memories the second time around, but I’m marking it up, weeping, and savoring it just as much.
  • Jane Austen’s Minor Works (particularly “Lady Susan”)  Did you see Love and Friendship?  I did, twice.  If you haven’t seen it yet and are even remotely a Jane Austen fan, Kate Beckinsdale is amazing as Austen’s most devious protagonist, and the costumes are glorious.  I purposefully did not reread “Lady Susan” before watching the movie based upon it because I didn’t want to be nitpicking every little change.  But as soon as we got home from the movies, I grabbed this off the shelf for a reread and am treating myself to a couple letters a night.  Teenage Austen is of course not as refined as mature, published Austen, but she is wickedly funny and so, so insightful about human nature.  C.S. Lewis said he pretty much always had an Austen novel going on his nightstand, and I think that’s a wise and appropriate thing to do.=)
  • Home by Marilynne Robinson  Okay, you may remember that this was on last year’s list.  I’ve heard it’s more of a downer than Lila and Gilead, and after I broke my foot last summer, I really just wanted cheerful/escapist stuff.  I pre-read a lot of children’s fantasy for my son and reread a bunch of Georgette Heyer to cheer myself up.  But my mom read Home this spring and brought me her copy all the way from Missouri so I’d be sure to read it and discuss it with her.  (She was tired of calling me up to read me a beautiful line and having me not able to reciprocate.  My mom is the coolest.)  Since I’m revisiting the world of Gilead, Iowa for the reunion, anyway, I’m going to buckle down and tackle Home for real this summer.
  • The League and the Lantern by Brian Wells  Okay, this one was given to us by one of my husband’s colleagues.  Apparently the author is trying to do a Christian take on the whole middle-school fantasy/adventure phenomenon (a la Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, et al).  Since our 9 year old is all about this genre right now, I’m interested to see how this holds up to N.D. Wilson (whose 100 Cupboards and Ashtown Burials series are well-written but too scary for my son just yet) or Andrew Peterson (whose Wingfeather Saga is so compelling–and the writing really does get better with each book).

Any more recommendations for me?  We’re hitting the road in just over two weeks, so things I can download to my nook are preferable.  I still have 7 weeks before we have to start up school again, so I’m going to relish my vacation by reading as much as possible!


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Hidden Art Friday

blueberry pickingpot pie and blueberry crisp

Earlier this week, when I should have been folding laundry and packing, I edited pictures from our annual blueberry picking trip, instead.  Because just surfing the web = unproductive laziness, but editing pictures for an E2S blog post = productivity.  My friend Sarah and I picked the perfect day to visit the blueberry farm–an overcast morning, with enough June gloom to keep things cool.  My kids picked about three pounds, we ate quite a few, and I used the rest in a blueberry crisp to go with a clear-out-the-fridge turkey pot pie.  I’ve made both so frequently that I totally made up the proportions of fillings and crusts as I went along, with the result that my pot pie crust was too thick and crumbly (note the gravy coming up and over it…sigh) and our crisp was a bit on the tart side.  Another half cup of sugar would not have gone amiss.  But vanilla ice cream has a way of fixing any fruit dessert mishaps.

I meant to do a post on summer reading programs again this year, but I ran out of time.  I’ll just mention that Barnes and Noble has a great one where 1-6 graders read 8 books, fill out a little journal entry on each, and get a free book when they bring their completed journal into any store!  T has his sights on Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, a book I discovered and enjoyed last summer.

And No Time For Flashcards has fun summer reading printable calendars, if you’re looking for some inspiration.

Remember, if you want to get our reading recommendations while we’re on vacation, like us on facebook, where we’ll be sharing some of our favorite posts from the archives all summer long!

Posted in Hidden Art Fridays, Reading | Leave a comment
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