These days, the books my three oldest children like to read are heading toward the depth and genres I’m interested in myself. Here are some good ones they’ve read recently.
J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D.
One of the delightful things about having a teen in the house is book swapping. In fact, I can outsource some of my reading. I bought this book for myself, but Aarick got his hands on it first, and we discussed what he read. (I call him Mr. Environmentalist as a term of endearment; he rolls his eyes at me and I consider us equal.) He loved this book. He said that the environmental books he’s read tend toward one side of the argument or the other – either Pff, it’s not that bad and besides, heaven! or WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE AND SOON. To find a book that mixed eternal hope for the world with responsible handling of its resources was a treat.
Daniel James Brown
Nonfiction story, 2014
Another winner for Aarick. The subtitle is Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It’s a good adventure story, but deep and well-researched, with nerve-racking politics in pre-and-postwar Germany, a dark horse victory, and a satisfying finish.
C. S. Lewis
The magical beginning to The Chronicles of Narnia, this story recounts the creation of Narnia and sets up the redemption of the next book. My daughter is newly permitted to read the series on her own, and she loved it. Mommy, I THINK the Lion is going to turn out to be Aslan. This is one of my favorite books in the series – a touch scary, a touch sad, and incredibly joyful.
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Historical Fiction, 2016
Very few young adult books really capture me these days; it takes something special to draw me in. This random find at our library made me very happy. So I’m reading it, and passing it on to my children. Historical fiction based on the evacuation of children from London in WWII, it’s so much more than another war story. It explores belonging and home and what it means to let go of a painfully misshapen identity. I love the kindness of Sarah Smith. She is the sort of mother I would like to be.
Mild violence and danger, and allusions to lesbianism; preview first.
“Have you ever read The Old Man and the Sea?” I asked my son. “No,” he said, and then several pages in, “The descriptions are amazing!” I love the generational relationship in this story, how the old man and the boy each need the other.
Bertrand R. Brinley
This series is always a favorite at our house. I haven’t read the books myself, but Ryan grew up on them and my boys and girl love the humor, creativity, and ridiculousness. I believe they consider Henry, Freddie, and Dinky to be personal friends.
Here’s a darker and more advanced read, and a great conversation starter for a young teen. After reading the book, Aarick researched the story of its writing and confirmed his own hunch: that Mr. Twain was slightly surprised himself by how the book turned out. What starts as an adventure story turns dangerous and cynical, reflecting questions the author was wrestling with at the time.
How does change happen in a society? Should the church and the state work together? What happens when old and new ways mix? Is technological advancement our friend or foe, or both?
The BFG is one of my favorite fictional people ever (also he was born the same year I was). His private twist on the English language is fantastic. “I is telling you five or six times, and the third will be the last.”
Kelly says, “I like the interesting things the BFG does with Sophie,” and her favorite scene is when they blow the dream to the Queen.
Historical Fiction, 1953
Both my boys read this one, and found it sad but revealing. Many studies have been done about the adaptation of white children into Native American tribes, and how they were fully assimilated and never the same again; in fact, reluctant many times to return “home.” This fictional story tells of a child caught between his two worlds.
My daughter is in love with the idea of horses. I don’t know if she is in love with the real animal or not, but she adores the idea.
She read an abridged version of Black Beauty, but I’d like to unleash her on the original. (It’s easier than buying a horse.)
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And no, just in case you are wondering, my children do not read a straight diet of classics and Newbery Medals. There are plenty of junk books mixed in, cheap detective series and a great many volumes on car makes and models. Grin. What books of this age level would you recommend?