In Grandma’s Attic

A Book Worth Reading: In Grandma's Attic from the Homeschool Share Blog

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and though sometimes a cover can draw me to a book, there have also been times I’m glad I’ve taken that advice to heart and started reading anyway.  One of those times was with In Grandma’s Attic, the first book in the Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson.  I first picked up an old copy of the book at a used book sale, and it sat in my bookshelf for at least a couple of years before I decided to pull it to read during our morning basket time.  Once we started it, my kids did not want to stop–in fact, I ended up ordering the Grandma’s Attic Treasury (the first four stories in the series–republished with newer covers) as well as the later books, which have not been republished and are more difficult to find.

In Grandma’s Attic is a collection of stories (each one a chapter) that the author’s grandmother, Mabel, tells her about her childhood in Michigan in the 1800s.  The stories often revolve around some sort of mischief Mabel and her friend, Sarah Jane, have gotten themselves into and are always entertaining.  I was surprised at how much both of my children–an 11 year old boy and a 6 year old girl–were drawn in and interested!  The stories do have a Christian message and Mabel’s parents often refer to scripture, but it doesn’t come across as overly preachy; it just comes across as good parenting instead of a story written to fit a moral lesson.

The second and third books in the series follow the same format, but beginning with the fourth book, young Arleta’s part (the “tell me a story, Grandma” part) is left out, and Mabel tells her own story.  At this point we have read the first six books of the series and are about to start the seventh book, where Mabel is teaching and preparing to get married.  My kids and I are totally invested in these characters, so we’re going to finish the whole series!

The short chapters in the Grandma’s Attic books make them great read alouds, even for young children, and kids will love to hear about what Mabel and her family and friends did for fun so long ago.  The characters are engaging and at the end of each chapter you’ll be wanting to read just one more!

Owls in the Family

A Book Worth Reading: Owls in the Family

Do you have one of those adventurous children who always loves to try new things?  Or perhaps an animal lover who wants to rescue every creature he sees?  Then Farley Mowat’s Owls in the Family needs to be in your family reading basket!  (Or perhaps not, as you may not want to have owls in your family!)

Owls in the Family begins with two young boys, Bruce and Billy, hunting for an owl’s nest on the Saskatchewan prairie.  Their plan is to get some baby owls that they can raise as pets, but mama owl foils their attempts.  After a storm, though, they go back to check the nest and find it has been destroyed.  A single owlet has survived, though, and they and take him home to care for him, deciding to call him Wol. A couple of weeks later, Billy comes upon some boys tormenting a small owl and trades his pocket knife to the bullies in exchange for the tiny animal.  This owl, named Weeps, also comes to live with Billy’s family.

The owls become part of the family–along with the rest of Billy’s menagerie–and develop their own personalities.  There are so many funny stories in the book, like the disastrous pet parade and the visiting minister who is shocked to find an owl on his shoulder.  Owls in the Family has lots of sweet stories that will make readers laugh, and at the end, will make them a little sad as Billy has to find them a new home.

Owls in the Family is a short chapter book (just under 100 pages), so it makes a good choice for a younger reader to tackle independently or for a short read aloud for the whole family.  Either way, you will enjoy this sweet and funny story–and probably learn about owls, too!

Mary Walker Wears the Pants

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A Book Worth Reading Mary Walker Wears the Pants
March is Women’s History Month, so this month’s A Book Worth Reading selection is Mary Walker Wears the Pants by Cheryl Harness.

Mary Walker was not like most women of her time. Raised by her parents to think for herself, Mary wore pants, campaigned for equal rights, and in 1855, she became one of the first female physicians. Mary was also against slavery, so when the Civil War broke out in 1861, she went to Washington to see how she could help. She wanted to join the army as a surgeon, but that wasn’t allowed, so Dr. Walker worked as an unpaid volunteer at the hospital doing every kind of job from changing bandages to raising money. Eventually, she decided to go to the battlefield anyway, and worked her hardest to give the wounded soldiers the best care she could. In 1863, her persistence paid off, and she was finally officially named an assistant surgeon for the US Army, a first for both the army and women! No matter what side the soldiers were fighting for, Mary was willing to help them, and it has been speculated that she may have been a spy. In 1864, Mary was held as a prisoner of war and eventually exchanged for a Confederate officer. After the war, Dr. Mary Walker was given the Medal of Honor for her service to her country during the war.

Mary Walker’s story is a great example for readers of all ages of someone who followed their convictions, even when it was difficult. Many people laughed at her and she was even arrested, but she fought for her beliefs. At great risk to herself, she was willing to tend to all of the soldiers on the battlefield, even when her help wasn’t appreciated or condoned by those in charge. Mary Walker Wears the Pants will help your kids realize that some of the things we consider completely normal–wearing pants or going to a female doctor, for instance–are things that others had to work hard to make happen. Cheryl Harness has made Dr. Walker’s story easy to enjoy and appreciate and follows it up with an Author’s Note that tells about the rest of her life. If you’re looking for a good story about a strong woman, check out Mary Walker Wears the Pants!

Lady Liberty: A Biography

A Book Worth Reading: Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport (book review from the Homeschool Share Blog)

Over one hundred years ago, a group of French men joined together and discussed a 100th birthday gift to America. The two countries had a history of friendship, even to the point of French soldiers joining in the fight for American independence. After a decade, the discussion led to concrete plans for the Statue of Liberty, and the story of how she came to be is told through the eyes of many of the different people involved in the process in Lady Liberty: A Biography.

Doreen Rappaport begins by sharing the story of her grandfather, a Latvian immigrant more than a century ago, who saw the Statue of Liberty as he first came to his new home. She then tells the story of how the statue came to be, from the first thoughts of a gift from France to America to the design and the construction and all the way to the unveiling of the completed statue in 1886. There are well-known people in the stories, like Gustave Eiffel and Emma Lazarus, as well as lesser known individuals who had a hand in bringing the dream of Lady Liberty to life. To complete the collection of perspectives, the author finished by including quotes from different immigrants about their first thoughts on seeing the Statue of Liberty. Also included in the back of the book are different dates and statistics related to the statue that your fact collectors will love!

Of course we’ve all seen pictures of the Statue of Liberty, but illustrator Matt Tavares manages to help us see this well known monument with fresh eyes. The statue is shown in various stages of construction and completion. I especially like the picture looking down into the statue as workers climb the scaffolding and hang from ropes to do their jobs. Tavares also shows many of the individuals in their everyday lives. With the last vignette there is a fold out picture of the completed statue that is beautiful and helps younger readers gain more perspective on the size.

We all know the facts about the Statue of Liberty, but Lady Liberty: A Biography brings those facts to life for readers!

Note: You can find a free printable lapbook for this title at Homeschool Share!

Lady Liberty: A Biography Lapbook Printables from Homeschool Share

Worst of Friends

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A Book Worth Reading: The Worst of Friends (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams)

Americans today are all too familiar and fed up with political fighting, but we sometimes forget that even the founding fathers had disagreements over how the government should work. Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud reveals the story of how two of our most famous presidents went from being friends to bitter enemies and back to friends again, showing us that disagreement over politics has always been a part of our country and reminding us that even though we may not agree, we can still be kind.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were complete opposites in many ways, from their personalities to their physical appearances, but they were good friends anyway. As the American colonists grew weary of King George’s unfair laws, the two worked together first to convince their fellow Americans that they should be free and independent and then to convince other countries to support the new nation. After so many years of working together toward a common goal, though, they found themselves with radically different ideas about how the new American government should be run. Instead of talking it out, the two friends fought it out. For more than twenty years–and both of their presidencies–the two men argued and neither one was willing to budge an inch, no matter how much their friends begged them.
Finally, as 1812 began, John Adams sent Thomas Jefferson a letter wishing him a happy new year. A month later, a letter arrived from Jefferson, and after that, the two friends corresponded frequently. The two men admitted their fault in the arguments to each other and resumed their friendship until the day they died–both on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after America declared its independence.

Suzanne Tripp Jurmain’s book is a great way to spark discussion with your children; it takes a philosophical disagreement between two historical figures and makes it relatable to kids in the 21st century. After all, almost everyone has had an argument with a friend before. What makes this situation different from all the political fighting we see today, though, is that these two men chose to set aside their differences for the sake of their friendship, which is a valuable lesson for kids to learn.  We do not have to agree on every point in order to extend kindness and grace to others, and our nation would be better off if we would all put this into practice.  During this election season, share Worst of Friends with your kids and they can learn about history and friendships!


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A Book Worth Reading: Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Serenity, New Mexico is an idyllic small town in the middle of the desert. There’s no crime, no poverty, no hunger; everyone has everything they need, and most of everything they want, too. One day, though, as Eli Friedman and his friend, Randy, decide to bike to the edge of town, Eli is overcome with pain and sickness and is suddenly rescued by a mysterious helicopter. Obviously this seems a little shocking and confusing, so Eli begins to investigate, and what he finds out changes everything he thinks about his life in Serenity. Because I don’t want to spoil the story for you, that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot, but trust me, it’s a great read!

Gordon Korman is a fantastic storyteller! Masterminds is actually told through several different narrators, both boy and girl, so this is a book that will appeal to all readers. There’s plenty of action and suspense, so this is one of those books you won’t want to put down until you’ve read it all–I think it took me a little over one day, which is fast for me lately! Even reluctant readers are going to be drawn into this one. Also, what the kids discover about themselves and Serenity will likely lead to some good discussions with your kids.

I’d like to tell you more about Masterminds, but it’s really one of those books you need to read for yourself to get the whole story. Though the story is about pre-teens, the plot is interesting enough that younger readers will enjoy reading or listening to it, too. The best part? This is the first in a new series by Korman, so there will be more to look forward to once you finish this one!