We are always looking for books to add to our To Be Read list. We look for books of all levels: picture books, beginner chapter books, middle-grade fiction, and books that busy moms can enjoy. Figuring I can’t possibly be the only one out there who is hunting for good reads for a variety of age levels, I put together a list each month of the books my family has been reading. Sometimes our thoughts on them will be gushy and glowy. Other times they’ll be lukewarm. Either way, we’ll let you know if we think they’re worth your time.
If what you read here is peppered with errors, know that it’s not fully my fault. I’m bleary-eyed and yawning incessantly because I stayed up far past my bedtime one too many nights this week. But that’s what happens when you find a really good book, right? You get a little lost in it.
With all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season starting up, I need to stake out some Me Time. It’s a true need. If I don’t, I might unravel completely. This week, that Me Time came in the form of getting lost in the pages of a really good family drama. But I’ll tell you more about that in a minute…
ON OUR BOOKSHELF | NOVEMBER 2017
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SAMANTHA, AGE 11 | MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION BOOK PICKS
I have been trying to get Samantha to check out the Percy Jackson series for a while now. Of course, when I recommend something it immediately becomes uncool. So, in typical tween fashion, she refused. The girl straight up crossed her arms and turned her nose up to it, even when her cousin and fellow fantasy geek told her he loved The Lightning Thief. Fast forward a few months and she comes off the bus, clutching The Lightning Thief in her arms and gushing about how incredible it is. Let’s just say she thinks her beloved English teacher is about a million times cooler than I could ever be.
Samantha has done almost nothing but read Percy Jackson books from that day on. She read five over Thanksgiving break alone! As of right now she has finished the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and is in the middle of The Heroes of Olympus series. The time she is spending on technological devices (aside from using one to read) has dropped dramatically. It’s amazing.
I’m sitting here—a little smug—wondering how to recommend another series to her without her knowing the recommendation came from me.
If you have any suggestions on new series or pulling a fast one on my tween, I’m all ears!
As for what I’m reading to her: we’re still going strong on The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley. If you’ve never read his books before, we highly recommend them. We also really loved the NERDS series.
ELLIE, AGE 6 | PICTURE BOOK AND BEGINNER CHAPTER BOOK PickS
This month, Ellie has moved from the classic Spot books to the equally classic Biscuit books. They’re slightly more challenging to read on her own, but still really cute. Plus, our library has a ton of them in the early readers’ section.
She has also really enjoyed reading JoJo and the Big Mess, which stars Fancy Nancy’s little sister. Being a little sister herself, I think she likes seeing the spotlight shined on the little guy for once. Plus, it was also fun for her to be able to read this to me on her own before I read her a few chapters from the Nancy Clancy series (we’re currently on book seven of eight and still loving it!). I’ll have to look into the other JoJo books (JoJo and the Magic Trick and JoJo and Daddy Bake a Cake) for her too.
In the “read to me” department, she’s really been into stories about women in history this month. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. Since learning about Rosa Parks in school last year, Ellie has been a little obsessed. Any book we see on Rosa is one she needs to hear. We were in Barnes and Noble the other day and stumbled upon an endcap filled with books about real women (we were both thrilled). We found our new favorite Rose Parks book there and discovered the Little People, Big Dreams series, which are designed to help kids discover amazing women who started out as kids with big dreams. We also read about Marie Curie on that trip and can’t wait to check out the others.
In a similar vein, she also loves the Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls series. These are great big books filled with one-page stories about extraordinary women from the past and present. Each bio also has a full-page picture (illustrated by women) of the story’s hero. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 just came out and I already ordered it for her for Christmas.
Lastly, Ellie has also loved reading Andrea Beaty’s books this month. We’ve read Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist, Scientist countless times this month. Always silly, these books are about quirky characters who are curious problem solvers and who persevere and save the day—even when the outside world seems to want to stifle them. I adore the message in these books and am happy to read them to her again and again.
JEN, aka MAMA BEAR | ADULT FICTION Book Picks
I spent most of this month snuggled in with Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It’s pretty thick (400+ pages), so I knew it would be a long ride. But it’s worth it. Eery and suspenseful, it’s perfect for fall nights.
Rebecca is the story of a young bride as she starts out her new life with the husband she hardly knows. Recently widowed, Maxim de Winter is stormy and quiet about his past. He doesn’t talk about his deceased wife, Rebecca, but there are reminders of her everywhere. As the second Mrs. de Winter (whose name we never learn, even though she is the narrator) begins to uncover the past, the mysteries get bigger and the specter of Rebecca looms larger and larger.
I absolutely love the fact that the title character is someone who we—like the narrator—never even meet, but whose presence is always felt. Books like this one make the writer in me absolutely giddy.
Once I finished, I decided to read something much more contemporary (Rebecca was published in 1938) and went with The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. It had been on my list for a while and I devoured it.
If you enjoy family dramas, this one will have you staying up way past bedtime. It’s the story of four adult siblings and their relationship—which is largely built around a shared inheritance they are waiting on that has shaped many of the choices they’ve made in their lives. The hiccup? The oldest brother, Leo, just got out of rehab after a reckless accident and the trust fund is at risk.
If you frequently dislike stories because you can’t find a character to root for, this might not be the best book for you. Most of the characters are deeply flawed. That said, their dysfunctional relationships and the little surprises and switches of perspective along the way kept me in deep. I loved it—except for the ending.
I’m not one hundred percent sure what I’m going to start next. I think I’ll to catch up on some sleep before I decide. 😉