Summer Reads – Part 2

AB’s recent reads and what’s also on her booklist for the summer. 

AB’s Picks:

The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley – If you’ve read Beauty, McKinley’s gorgeous retelling of Beauty and the Beast, you and/or your kids will certainly this enjoy Newberry Medal Winner, The Hero and the Crown. Full of powerful lessons about identity, strength, and true love, this novel features Aerin, the young daughter of the King of Damar. However, because most of her people suspect that her long-dead mother was a witch, Aerin does not receive the kind of adulation that the rest of the King’s house enjoys. She is strong and brave, as a result, and she wants to prove herself worthy of her father’s love and gain the respect of her people. In this quest for acceptance, she masters use of a plant that protects her from dragon fire and becomes the dragon slayer that her kingdom so desperately needs.

The Lighthouse, by PD James -Number 13 in the James’s Adam Dalgliesh mystery series provides the detective fiction lover with an intelligent and realistic mystery to solve. England’s exclusive Combe Island caters to the wealthy and prestigious, who just want to be left alone. The rules of anonymity are strictly enforced, but this world of relative peace and quiet falls apart when one of the residents is found hanging from the top deck of the lighthouse. Dalgleish and his team are called in to solve this most sensitive of crimes, and the reader is treated to detailed back stories for each character that give nothing away too soon. Some mature content in places, but nothing excessive.

The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau –  Here’s another series perfect for the Young Adult dystopian fan (recommended for ages 8 and up). This coming-of-age fantasy follows the story of Lina and her sometimes-friend, Doon, who have grown up in Ember, which the narrator reveals was created two and a half centuries earlier in an effort to save the people of earth from catastrophic annihilation of their own making. The problem is that no one now remembers what the world used to be, and the underground city is dying. The generator that powers all the electricity is failing, and no one knows how to fix it. Lina and Doon are too curious and determined to wait around for something to be done, so they take matters into their own hands. This first in a series book explores the theme of honesty along with showing what amazing things can happen when one person asks the right questions.

Nothing Daunted, by Dorothy Wickenden –  Similar to the kind of story-telling found in Half-Broke Horses, which has become one of my favorites in recent years, Wickenden writes an engaging story based on letters she found that were written by her grandmother, detailing the wealthy young woman’s break from high society to chase adventure as a school teacher in wild Colorado during the first world war.

If you haven’t yet, check out Natalie’s picks for Summer 2018 here. 

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Pass it On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation, by Champ Thornton

Reviewed by AB

In the publishing world, producing a bestseller is difficult enough, and producing two bestsellers proves even more challenging. With the publication of Pass It On, Champ Thornton follows up his successful The Radical Book for Kids with what I believe is an equally impressive, though much different, work bound for the devotional bestseller list.



Pass It On is an in-depth, journal-style study of the book of Proverbs that excels in its ability to clearly define the structure and purposes of this much-beloved portion of Scripture. What makes this study of Proverbs different is its unique keepsake format. Thornton’s passion for sharing the truths of God’s Word with the next generation is clearly evident in this book, as well as his The Radical Book for Kids; and the deeper the reader gets into this study of Proverbs, the more that passion becomes contagious. With plenty of space for recording thoughts on what you’ve gleaned from God’s words of wisdom, you’ll be encouraged to share wisdom from your own life with a child, grandchild, or other young family member. Continue reading

Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle, by N.D. Wilson

outlaws of timeUpon first glance, Sam Miracle’s name appears to be a misnomer. After all, he is stuck in an orphanage in the middle of the desert, and his arms don’t work. Miracles aren’t exactly likely for this teenager. All he has going for him are his incredibly vivid dreams in which he time-travels to fight the evil El Buitre . . . and in which his arms function properly. Continue reading

The Road Less Traveled: AB goes to Hampton Plantation, home of Archibald Rutledge

20170324_125139 (1)As a creative writing teacher, I’m always looking for ways to expose my young writers to strong examples of good writing and to the personal stories of respected, published authors. Recently, I accompanied some students along with their parents to McClellanville, SC and Hampton Plantation – the ancestral home of Archibald Rutledge, South Carolina’s first poet laureate. Rutledge grew up in a wealthy family with deep ties to the land and history of the South Carolina lowcountry. His great-great grandfather, Daniel Horry, purchased the land in the early 18th century and later built the house on this sprawling rice and indigo plantation. Rutledge spent his pivotal years roaming the land, learning to hunt the local wildlife, and befriending the children of former slaves. After decades teaching in Pennsylvania, Rutledge, already an established writer, moved back home to oversee the restoration of his beloved home. To the Rutledge enthusiast, such works as Home by the River and Tales of Whitetails bring this special place to life, and I wanted my students to experience it in person. Continue reading

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Wingfeather Saga, vol. 1 – by Andrew Peterson

by AB

As a middle school English teacher, I am always looking for quality fantasy fiction for young readers. Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga first came to my attention when it was recommended to me by my 13-year-old nephew. Here’s a tip: if a teenage boy sings the praises of a fiction book, that’s a big deal and worth your attention.ap Continue reading

1×3 Review: Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler

1×3 Review: 1 book – 3 reviews. We picked this book out to be our first 1×3 review when we first launched. So in a sense, we’ve been eagerly awaiting this review. Back in the spring, Natalie shared an article with us about Anne Tyler and the Hogarth Shakespeare Project – a publishing group tasked with finding acclaimed novelists of today and enlisting them to retell the works of Shakespeare. Anne Tyler, a 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (for Breathing Lessons), takes on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in her own adaptation as Vinegar Girl. Continue reading

Top 5 Faves: School Edition

As one of our Special Features, we each want to share quick blurbs about our “Top 5 Fave”-orite books in a particular category. And for our September edition of this, we’re reeling in the nostalgia of our favorite books that we met “in the classroom.” These books come from all periods of our schooling lives and were either a part of a set curriculum or just something we found in the school library. We hope you recognize some and enjoy hearing about them all. We’d love to hear about some of your own favorites as well!



The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Doreen Hallford, read this book to my class, and I was captivated by the antics of J.D. and his middle brother Tom, aka “The Great Brain.” If you like humorist Patrick McManus, you’ll love Fitzgerald’s style. My husband, kids, and I were guffawing as JD tells of how his family gets the first “water closet” in their town and how JD turns it into a money-making venture.

Silas Marner by George Eliot
This 19th century novel written under a pseudonym was required reading my sophomore year of high school, but it quickly turned into one of my favorite books. A tale of injustice and ultimate redemption, Silas Marner tells the story of an outcast, wrongly accused, who finds himself rescued by the love he has for an abandoned baby that he raises as his own. Continue reading