Chapter Books for Boys

Below is my on-going list of good books and series for boys age 8-10/11. in no particular order, and obviously they can be good for girls too!)

Homer price– Robert McCloskey. A feel good novel about a boy and his small town adventures. Anything by McCloskey is a win, picture books included!

On the wings of heroes- Richard Peck is better know for his books “A Long Way from Chicago” but in this book, he writes about a boy coming to terms with the coming of World War 2.

The Vision Series (Ignatius Press) These fictionalized books tell the stories of some of the best-loved and less-well know saints that are packed with adventure to inspire children to a live of heroism for Christ.

Henry Huggins – Beverly Cleary was a master at her craft- children’s books about regular life. Boys may find Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy more relatable than the Ramona series, but all her works are a good choice.

Charlie and the chocolate factory– Roald Dahl. Most are familiar wit this book form the hit movie from the 70s, but the book is worth a read!

Charlies and the Glass Elevator- The sequel to Charlie #1. Dahl wrote many children’s books, but not all are automatically the best choice- depends on your values and sensitivity level of your child (ie, Witches)

Danny Dunn series- This series was written in the 50’s and tells of the adventures of a budding scientist- so this will be a hit for those interested in inventions and science (although it’s clearly “science fiction” as it tells the tales of some not-so-actually scientific attempts. The third one, Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine, may be of more interest to those kids’ avoiding their school work 🙂 The entire series includes 15 books.

Frindle Andrew Clements (and his other school books.) These are not high literature, but they keep kids attention and help them develop the skill of reading with tales they can relate to- school adventures (and misadventures).

Phantom Tollbooth

Happy Hollisters– Jerry West. This series follows a lovable and admirable family as the siblings set out to solve mysteries around their home and town. They are probably a step up from the Boxcar Children mysteries.

BoxCar Children seriesGertrude Chanlder Warner I think my family owned nearly this entire set when I was growing up. We loved the relationships between the siblings and the fun mysteries they solved in each story.

Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries Donald J. Sobol. Another winning series for kids who love mysteries!

Owls in the FamilyA story about a boy who finds and raises two owls in Canada- and all that misadventures that come along with pets and families!

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle– Betty MacDonald. These novels tell the story of Mrs. PIggle Wiggle- the resident child-fixer of the community. For behaviors such as laziness and whining too much, parents seek Mrs. PIggle Wiggle for some extremely clever and silly solutions to their children’s bad behavior!

The Railway ChildrenE. Nesbit was an English writer who published over 60 children’s novels. This is probably her most well-known, followed by Five Children and It. The Railway Children is a novel of the adventures of a family whose lives are turned upside down when their father is taken away, and they are forced to move to the countryside.

The Story of the Treasure Seekers (E. Nesbit) is a small series about a set of siblings trying to restore their families fortunes, and may be fun for a reader who has already read her other work. The works were published in late 1800’s, however, so they do read a bit differently than the modern novels kids may be accustomed to.

The Winged Watchman- (and all Hilda Van Stockum books.) These books may be better for older boys (11+) but I’m listing it to get it attention. This and many others follow the tales of children facing the onslaught of World War 2, but she always has more gentle works such as the Cottage at Bantry Bay. The Michell Family (in Five for victory) is a heartwarming large family, perfect for a read aloud with slightly older children.

The Last of the really Great Whangdooldes Julie Andrews Edwards. Yes, the famous Julie Andrews writes wonderful children’s books! “Mandy” was my favorite as a child, but this may be more adventures for the animal loving boys in your life.

The Water Horse – Dick King Smith. Smith wrote many novels for children, including Babe: the Gallant Pig (which was made into the hit movie). This books are fast reads and have been a hit with my kids.

Imagination Station Series

Ginger Pye

E. Nesbit

The Janitors

31 Club Series

The Great Brain

Matt Christopher – Sports Classics

Race the Wild

Adventures form Somwhere

A to Z Mysteries Series

TinTin Comics

Paddington Bear Series

My Side of the Mountain

Hank the CowDog

Father Brown Reader (Chesterton’s novels adapted to children’s books by Nancy Carpenter Brown)

The Knight’s Tales by Gerald Morris

The Little Series (The Borrower’s)

CW Bulla’s books – the sword in the tree, the secret Valley, the pony express

The Redwall series

The hardy boys

the chronicles of narnia

Laddie

The Plant that ate dirty socks

The Dark lord of derkholm

Peterkins

the Chocolate touch

Good Old Archibald

Nate the Great

Blue Balliett

Rasmys and the Vagabond

Basil of Baker Street (master)

The somewhat true adventures of sammy shine

The Incredible Journey

The Growly Boys

Twenty one Balloons

The Mad scientist club

The Mistmantle Chronicles

Alvin Fernald – (a boy inventor Series)

Ivan the one and only

summer of the monkeys

mr lemonchello’s library (and the series)

black beauty

Chitty Chitty bang bang

The Green Ember

100 Cupboards N.D. Wilson

The Underland Chronicles

Farmer Boy

The CandyShop War

Wilderking Series

Indian in the Cupboard

Redwall (series, but can be read alone)

“I Survived” series

Rushing

I remember walking to school with my mom; she walked so fast! I had to do a double step to keep up with her! And somewhere along the line of life, I kept this pace of walking too fast, and rushing everyone around me.

In a recent podcast by Kim John Payne, he describes his experience of rushing around in a classroom with young children, and how the children also tended to be slightly anxious, extra boisterous and excitable. The seasoned teacher, whom he was shadowing, slowly took a washcloth to wipe the lunch tables, and moved around the room slowly and with purpose.

The effect, he says, was almost magical. The children become less vivacious, slowed down and become more peaceful (as much as a kindergartener can be!) When the adult is not “rushy-rushy” the children feel that the adult is in control, there is a order to their schedule, and there is time for them.

Anyone who has been around children for even a small amount of time know they do not hurry. Leaving the house? Trying shoes? Brushing teeth? They can take an agonizing amount of time. But when we, the parent, can be calm and collected in these moments, we can show them the proper way of needed to go somewhere or collecting a task, but without being “rushy” or frantic.

I always laugh the the name of the childhood injury “nursemaid’s elbow” because it’s just so apt- we yank the children to get them to follow our orders. But, it only causes harm to the child, and to ourselves and our own schedule!

Book Series for Little Girls

I remember the nights when my younger daughter would lament that she could not yet read. While her elder sister could stay up a bit later, book in hand, she would color, play with her stuffed animals, but audibly announced her frustration that she could not yet read.

We reassured her it would happen- and happen quickly it did! Now my older girls still love our read-aloud times, but they devour books, usually faster than I can collect them at the library.

Childhood is such a sweet time for books, and there are so many lovely titles for young girls. Here are our favorites Series:

The Children of Noisy Village

Ramonta Series

American Girl Series

Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Magicians Nephew (all the Narnia are good, but start with these)

The Princess in Black

Up and down the River – The Fairchild Family

Betsy Tacy

All of a Kind Family

Nick and Sam Series

Little House on the Prairie

Grandma’s Attic

Biking the Camp Loop

bike riding

The hill was just the right level of difficulty for my 10 year old self. Steep enough to be a thrilling coast down, but not so terrifying to worry about skinned-knees. My sisters and I would ride down this hill again and again over the next few days.

Pop up Camper

Our favorite campsite was just a less than an hour from home, so the anticipation of arrival was short. Once we drove around the camp loop (sometimes twice if we missed our number), my dad would slowly back in the pop-up trailer, and we knew we had arrived.My parents would get right to work popping up the camper, and we sometimes stuck around long enough to unpack the coolers, lawn chairs, and other camping gear. But, once those bikes were removed from the top of the van, we were gone.

If we were lucky, the parks and rec would have just black-top paved the camp loop, so it was smooth sailing (also great for when we became proficient roller-bladers as teens.)

Continue reading “Biking the Camp Loop”

$5 and a Watermelon Slice

The nights would be sticky and humid, and the cicadas chirping away. The sun was still high in the sky after dinner, and my dad and i would begin our weekly trek to grandma’s. On these nights, I got out of dishes-and-sweeping duty.

For many summers until I graduated high school, I would join my dad in caring for his mom’s yard. It wasn’t too large, and she had a riding lawn-mower, so looking back, maybe my dad liked the company, or maybe (probably) he was trying to instill a work ethic in his daughter.

We would jump into his truck, loaded with our push mower, my machine for the night, and drive the several blocks to her home.

I usually mowed the front, which had fewer trees to maneuver around, and was smaller. But, it faced the road, so the lines needed to be neat and straight. While dad worked on the backyard, I would walk up and down, drinking in the smells of freshly-cut grass.

I never minded this chore; it was nice to be outside in the evenings, my dad was good company, and my grandma paid me $5– a lot of cash for to a 12 year old– even to a teen for a hours’ worth of work. After finishing the yard and packing up the mower again, we’d head in to visit with Grandma.

I loved her home. It smelled of her perfume, food, and butterscotch candy. Although diabetic, she had a crystal candy jar that was routinely emptied by her 40-some grandkids. She kept homemade chocolate chip cookies in the lazy susan cabinet. And she almost never failed to have watermelon sliced for us after we mowed.

Looking back, I see now how wonderful it was, these visits with just my dad, his mom and me. Other times at her house, there would be a mixture of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. But these quiet summer nights were just us. We would chat about the yard, the neighbors, the local goings-on in town, and occasionally stayed long enough for a round of cards. Often, her phone would ring and I would get the privilege of answering it (this thrilled and scared me at the same time.) It was usually an uncle, and we’d chat briefly before handing it on to Grandma.

“Well, I guess we’d better go,” my dad would say. The sun was dropping in the west, the bugs were increasing their nightly song, and there was a good chance my dad still had some odd-jobs around our house to complete before bedtime. We’d wave goodbye, my $5 bill in hand, and a comfortable feeling of belonging and being needed.

Grandma passed away during my freshman year of college, so the mowing sessions ended then. But when the weather is just so, and the sun about to set, I think frequently of those lovely summer evenings I passed with her and my dad.I’m grateful for the love, work, and watermelon bestowed on me during those care-free summer nights.

The Simplicity Parenting Style

Not much about 2020 and 2021 feels “simple.” Not much about parenting feels simple! But I recently I stumbled upon the aptly named “simplicity parenting” style, and I’ve been trying to implement the ideas into our family life.

This method should be called “common sense parenting.” The counselor and educator, Kim John Payne, works with families to reduce the noise, clutter and general chaos that is overtaking our homes and lives. He strives to equip parents with the tools that allow children to connect, thrive, and live anxious-free and simple childhoods.

Imagine your life… with a sense of ease as you begin to limit distractions and say no to too much, too fast, too soon. Today’s busier, faster, supersized society is waging an undeclared war . . . on childhood. 

Kim John Payne of simplicity parenting

As a general rule, my husband and I love being home, and we don’t over-commit our kids in all the activities. We try to keep after school hours and the weekends fairly free from too many outings. — However, life is still life and our days are sometimes busy and stressed. And we have recognized that our kids feel the crunch and stress as well.

Payne suggests four areas or “realms” that, if simplified, can start to dial back the craziness of life:

Environment: De-cluttering too much stuff at home.

Rhythm: Increasing predictability by introducing rhythmic moments for connection and calm.

Scheduling: Soothing violent schedules brings moments for Being into all the Doing.

Unplugging: Reducing the influence of adult concerns, media and consumerism on children and families to increase resilience, social and emotional intelligence.

The gold of this method really lies in his podcast. Every one is pure gold. Find them on whatever app you use to listen to podcasts! You won’t regret it.

Books Children Can Relate To

Life is a journey, and not always (usually?) an easy one. Looking back at my childhood, it’s simple to say it was carefree and challenge-free. But that isn’t true. Navigating school, homelife, chores, increasing responsibly, frustrating younger (or older) siblings, the list goes on.

Here are a handful of my favorite kids books that they can relate to, and begin to see that they aren’t the only ones in the world who think a certain way, or feel frustrated by this or that.

Frog and Toad: These tales are filled with the drama of everday life. Losing buttons, failing to fly a kite, needing time alone to refresh, and having ice cream melt all over your head. Every story is relatable.

Ramona the Pest. This one works no matter where your child falls in the sibling order. Older siblings will realize their younger kid sister isn’t the most annoying one in the world. The Ramonas of the world will see that maybe their tendency to ride their tricycle around the checkers board actually is annoying.

Thunder Cake: Patricia Polocco deserves her own post, but for now this one helps kids conquer their fear of storms, while including the ever-comforting warmth of Grandma.

The Hundred Dresses. Oh, this sweet story is about a young polish girl who doesn’t quite fit in with her class. It is told from the viewpoint of her classmates who bully her and comes to regret their behavior. A Brilliant story beautifully told.

Charlotte’s Web: This children’s classic shows the timeless lessons of friendship, sacrifice, growing up and the love between friends.

The Story of Ferdinand: “He likes to just sit there and be quiet and smell the flowers.” This one is for your budding introvert.

A Lot More to come! Stay Tuned!

Light

Photo by David Tomaseti on Unsplash

Anything that gives light must burn.

As I was returning a stroller-full of books to my library this week, I began chatting with a stranger about the work of parenthood. He had commented on my double stroller- a contraption he hadn’t seen before- or perhaps not noticed before.

He had spent the last 10 months caring for his newborn granddaughter, and he missed her. She was now in daycare, and his days were a little more empty. Yet he was now tuned into the work of childcare, now taking notice of the brilliance of double strollers.

We chatted a bit about the high-level of care and activity children require and I mentioned how my mom often says “there is a reason people have children in their 20’s, and not their 50s!”

He responded in the most sincere and serious voice:

“We parents and grandparents are the fertilizer for the next generation. Anything that gives light must burn.”

Anything that gives light must burn.

I had expected him to agree with my small talk with a hearty agreement about how much work small children are, but instead his comment went right to my heart.

Life is sacrifice. We must burn ourselves up, give of ourselves, to share our light with our children, family, friends and community.

It was a stunning and beautiful reminder from a stranger that I needed to hear.

I ate your crackers all.

My toddler is not quite three years old, so I suppose many would say he’s in the thoroughs of the terrible twos. But are they so terrible? Some days, I would say yes.

But as we are closing in on his upcoming third birthday, I’m more often like to say:

Terrific twos. This age brings so much excitement and fun to life. I love seeing a two-year old’s discovery of how water can dump out of a bucket, the thrill of running through the grass with a butterfly net, or the endearing way he believes he can “catch the bird!” And then he’s heartbroken when the bird flies away, yet again

The way he can tear apart his sister’s neatly arranged bed, jewelry box, and treasured toys in a matter of seconds. When accused of the crime, he admits to it with great joy, not understanding the aggravation he is causing the eldest child.

The way he is quick to help me in the kitchen, mashing potatoes for dinner, squishing his hands in the bread dough, and pouring the sugar for dad’s afternoon tea.

This age brings the ability to pretend and play. Witnessing his imagination with just his backhoe loader, fire engine, and “thomas guy” (a thomas the tank engine driver) is such a delight.

The sweet innocent way he tells the truth, no matter what. The minute dad gives him a sweet or vitamin gummy bear- he’s off to tell his sisters about his bounty. When he takes their snack we hear “SweetPea, I ate your crackers all.”

When I leave him home with dad to run an errand or fetch the girls from school, he laments with tear-filled eyes, “Mama, I lost you! Don’t lose me again!”

As of late, he won’t give me kisses or hugs every time I ask (as they do when they are between one and two years, another magical age.) but instead I hear “Mama, lets fight!” He wants to tumble, toss pillows, throw balls and general rough-house with whoever is willing and able.

Perhaps the greatest joys of motherhood is the gift of watching your young child grow, develop and mature. As we turn the corner of the “terrible twos,” I can’t wait to see what the “thrilling threes” have in store for us.

Growing up, Expectations, and Mercy

As parents, we are striving to teach our kids right from wrong, virtue from vice, how to pursue the good, even when it is time-consuming, less comfortable, and downright hard. But how do we do this? And what sort of exceptions should we have for them?

If we expect our kids to clean up after themselves, wake up and go to bed on time, limit screen time, not be lazy around the house – we also need to follow these same rules. But most of the time we don’t.

A family friend recently passed away, and I was able to read her blog that she maintained before her death. She remarked that her son asked her for one last bit of advice for family life, and she told him: To help your children grow up, you must grow up. Simple, but profound words.

Continue reading “Growing up, Expectations, and Mercy”