My eldest daughter, Silje is obsessed with reading. We keep trying to figure out where she got that from…
She has loved books since she was a chubby little toddler, and her love isn’t satisfied even now as a lovely young lady. One of the most asked questions I get on the blog is: what books would Silje recommend?
I feel the need to preface, that Silje is more of an advanced reader than my other kids. Also, from the time she was little, we have been working hard developing this love into an obsession, much like her dad is obsessed with the perfect cup of coffee. We wanted her palette to be so discerning that she would spit out anything that was cheap or not written well. To do this, we took out any “twaddle” from our house, and she kept gravitating towards it even at the library that we had to cut off any “candy books” for awhile while she was really developing those reading taste buds.
Candy books are those cheap little books with popular cartoon characters, that are entertaining, and not morally bad, but does not require much from you as a reader. It is pure entertainment. It does not require you to think. Entertainment is not bad, and I believe that there is even a place for it, but it’s not the meat and potatoes that help you grow as a reader. I have used candy books to beg and plead my other kids to just give it a try because I’m worried they’re lacking literature-based nourishment, but I have found it’s hard to introduce “vegetable” books once “candy books” have been discovered.
My degree was in English Literature, so I’m familiar with many books, but I still could not homeschool without some reliable book lists. If you want to know how I pick out various books from the library, etc, I recommend: Read for the Heart, as well as Educating the Whole Hearted Child (which is far more than a book list, but has some great novels to read while studying various ages in history. It’s basically the book list the parents of the ‘Read for the Heart’ author used while they were educating her.) Also, I don’t own it (yet) but I really like the Honey for a Child’s Heart book list. It’s very well done.
So when you see this list below, know that I have kids who struggle in each subject. Silje has subjects that are a struggle, but reading isn’t one of them. All my kids don’t excel in reading, but I am using various techniques to develop their palette anyway. She was my easy one for this subject. Maybe it’s bad to say, but I’m very proud of her developed tastes, and I laugh when she will discard a book “because it lacks depth.” I’ve turned her into a book snob, and could not be prouder.
So I’ve asked Silje to come up with her “Top 10 Book List” to share with other moms. This has been agonizing for her. It’s like picking a favorite child. You will notice a strong animal theme with her. She wants to stress they are not in any particular order.
The Black Stallion. Our copy is so worn it’s falling apart. I think she’s lost count of how many times this one has been read.
A Girl of the Limberlost. This one took her 3 days. She locked herself up in her room and was hard to distract until it was done. It really sparked a love for the outdoors in her, which has been an issue with her as she’d rather be indoors all the time. It brought on several nature studies, and nature drawings in her schoolwork, that she asked to do. An unexpected blessing in this book is Silje softened towards me a lot as I was dealing with chronic pain after the car accident. The protagonist, Elnora, deals with a mother who is not dealing with the death of her husband in any graceful manner, and Elnora is constantly filled with compassion and patience. Honestly, it’s just as much about Elnora’s mother as it is Elnora, as she undergoes a huge transformation as well. This book has brought me to tears too. I have read many sections of this book out loud to Knut and his jaw just drops and he says, “People just don’t write like that anymore.”
Dog Stories. She had a tough time debating between all of James Harriot’s works. I was certain she would pick Treasury for Children as it’s a family favorite, but she said that her current favorite is this one. So it made the pile.
Island of the Blue Dolphins. She calls this “Hatchet for girls.” It’s a coming of age, story of survival. It was one of my favorites when I was her age too.
Black Beauty. Again, this has been her favorite for several years now, standard book list book, and one she has read repeatedly.
Follow My Leader. This was part of our curriculum package from Sonlight, our first year of homeschooling. This one would be on David’s top 10 list as well. It’s the story about a boy who gets injured accidentally by one of his friends and ends up permanently blind. His life completely changes in an instant and he struggles to see his future, and he struggles to forgive. He is assigned a seeing eye dog, who he calls “Leader” and through the trust and relationship with this dog, Jimmy not only learns how to hope, but learns to forgive. This book is also falling apart it’s been so loved by so many kids in our house.
The Jungle Book. This is actually a collection of short stories by Kipling. They are hilarious and endearing, not to mention beautifully written. There are layers of depth to these stories, where children just innocently love them, but as an adult, there are so many themes that can be discussed as Silje gets older. This particular version I’m linking to has illustrations by Robert Ingpen and they are just stunning. I think my kids love this book equally for the words and illustrations.
Where the Red Fern Grows. (Also not pictured because it’s used so much we couldn’t quite locate it for the picture.) This is another one David cannot get enough of these days, though he reads it as an audio book during his iPod time. It has long been a favorite of Silje’s. Again, it was one of my favorites as a kid too. Everyone should read this book.
Blue Birds. This one surprised me that it made it to her list because it’s so different than her other books. It’s written completely in verse, and is about a friendship 2 girls have in early colonial Caribbean times. Silje got to go to a live-chat with this author through our Read-Aloud Revival membership, and this live-chat was so well done, I think it still impacts her. The author talked with each of the kids, and really talked about her writing process, and how much time she spent just doing historical research before even starting the story. Silje got a peak into the writing process, and how much thought, blood, sweat, and tears authors put into their work. She has recommended this book to her friends so much, and has told them to just try it, even though the whole novel is written in poetry. This book has been a huge key to sparking a love for poetry in Silje, and has changed her perspective from it being something that’s “really hard” to something that is playful and insightful in unexpected ways.
The Green Ember. (It’s not pictured because it’s read so often it wasn’t in it’s spot on the shelf.) The bonus of this one, which is really at the “classic” level, but it is a modern publication. It’s a newer book with an old soul. The epic journey of these rabbits with swords would appeal to boys and girls alike. Silje literally did not put this book down once it was picked up. It makes her heart pound, and it might be her most recommended books when chatting with her friends. It’s also worth noting that this author is scheduled to do a live-chat in the Read-Aloud Revival membership this October. Silje has literally been looking forward to this for months.