Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Summer Reading Challenge (and Book Lists!)

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If you're an old friend, I'm so glad you're back!
If you've ever read this blog before, you know how much I love
recommending good books, and you know I only recommend things
I feel very strongly about -- in a good way!  I only provide links to 
products and books that I heartily endorse.  This post is no different.
If you click on a link and purchase something from Amazon, I get a
*small* commission at no extra cost to you, 
so that I can keep my kids reading more good stuff
through the the summer and all year.
THANK YOU, from all my family and me :)

*   *   *   *   *   *

There are very few things that could drag me up out of a major blogging slump... but if anything can do it, it's the chance to talk about kids' books :) :) :) 

We always try to do lots of extra read-alouds in the summertime --- I fondly remember a few summer's ago when I read The Jungle Book and an abridged Moby Dick outside in the yard while the kids drank copious amounts of lemonade while they lounged and listened.  Last summer's big excitement was introducing the boys to Tolkien, listening to The Hobbit in the afternoons while the little kids rested.  I think it was last summer too, that we all laughed and laughed at Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (I always read that one at lunch time.)  

Again, I have a list of read-alouds ready for this summer (I already started Heidi with the girls <3 ) and a list of audio books we'll get from the library or Audible.

But I knew that this summer I also wanted to get my three oldest kids doing even more silent reading than we usually do.  Between the library, Amazon, and our own book shelves, I pulled together a stack of books for each child from which each can choose his or her "Challenge material."  I'm a bit of a literary control freak, so I keep a pretty tight rein on what they read.  I picked about 8 books for each kid, and they can pick from that stack.  

The "Challenge" is really just a reward plan.  For every book they finish they get to pick their own personal box of whatever cereal they want from Aldi.  This is painful for me (because sugar) but they're feeling motivated!  And at the end of the summer, if they've read four or five (?) books, they get a one-on-one date with Mom or Dad.  Mini golf or bowling, maybe?  (I know they'll pick Dad, but I just put my name in there for equal opportunity purposes.)   

So here are the stacks I pulled together ---

For Aaron --

The Shadow of His Wings   a graphic novel of the life of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, by Max Temesou

Old Yeller , Fred Gipson

The Chestertons and the Golden Key, Nancy Carpentier Brown (I chose this because he's read and loved Brown's Fr. Brown readers.  I highly recommend those also!)

St Benedict: Hero of the Hills, Mary Fabyan Windeatt

St. Paul the Apostle: the Story of the Apostle to the Gentiles, Mary Fabyan Windeatt

McCracken and the Lost Island, Mark Adderly (hooray for more Catholic adventure tales!)

Travels With Gannon and Wyatt: Hawaii, Patty Wheeler (the most recent in the series, Aaron has read the others)

Shepherds to the Rescue, Maria Grace Detano, FSP (Gospel Time Trekkers series. This is the first book, so we're checking it out.  I don't know much about the series.)

For Dominic -- (Wow.  This was a tricky list to put together, but I love my Dominic and I loved this challenge!  Dominic has always been a struggling reader, though he has been working with an Orton-Gillingham tutor since Nov and has improved a ton!  But moms with kids who read far above or far below their grade level know how hard it is to find books that your child is able to read, with content to match his maturity level. I had to stretch a bit above his reading level and a bit behind to find a stack of books that I think will grab Dominic's attention and that he'll be able to work through this summer.)

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, Alice Dalgliesh (This is such a fun book, and it's only $2.49 on Amazon right now.  You should check it out!)  

Logan Pryce Makes a Mess (Tales from Maple Ridge), Grace Gilmore 

Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail, Kate Messner (Seriously?!?  A time traveling golden retriever!!  It's historical fiction with man's best friend.  It's got to be good!)  

The Secret Soldier: The Story of Deborah Sampson, Ann McGovern 

The Sword in the Tree, Clyde Robert Bulla

My Father's Dragon, Ruth Stiles Gannett

26 Fairmount Avenue, Tomie DePaola  (we have the whole series, so hopefully this will be the first of many (all!) that he'll read)

Race the Wild: Rain Forest Relay, Kristin Earhart (another first book of a fun series)

For Ruth --

Nate the Great, Marjorie Weinman Sharmat 

The Adventures of Sophie Mouse: a New Friend, Poppy Green 

Amelia Bedelia, Peggy Parish (Ruth got a box set of these for her Birthday, so I'm guessing/hoping she'll read a few of them :) )

Any books from my favorites series for early readers - Mouse and Mole (Wong Herbert Yee), Dodsworth (Tim Egan), Billy and Blaze (C.W. Anderson.  Not entirely sure she's ready for these yet, but we'll try), Frog and Toad (Arnold Lobel), Zelda and Ivy (Laura McGee Kvasnosk), Iris and Walter (Elissa Haden Guest)

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Summer Reading Challenge is a roaring success.  I'll try to keep you posted.  And maybe I'll even be back here in a few days to give you the low-down on our read-alouds, audio books, and more :)  

Join the conversation -- I loooove getting book recommendations for kids so comment with your best ones.  What are your kids reading these days??  

You Might Also Like --

(the picture books we cannot live without!)

Also check our four favorite author/illustrators:


  1. So far your book recommendations have been spot on for us and I'm so excited you found more for us to try!! Thank you so much for sharing. Have you guys tried The Kingdom of Wrenly for emerging readers? Or maybe you're the one who told me about it?

    1. So glad to hear it, Anne!

      My son started the first Wrenly book and it didn't grab him. I think he set it down once the fairies appeared?? If my daughter ends up reading it and liking it, that's ok with me, but I think the series is more "fantasy lit" than I realized, so I probably won't get any more. Have you read them? What are your thoughts?

    2. No. I didn't read them which is usually a big no-no for me. I confess I think I was just so excited that he was interesting in reading something I was willing to risk the content! But we do read a fair bit of fantasy as a family too, so maybe they're okay for us. I guess I should read one or two. It certainly wouldn't take too long!

  2. Just wondering: how old and what "reading level" is your Dominic? I've never heard of any of the books you picked for him, but I'm wondering if my Isaac would enjoy them. (He's a little "behind" his age level)

    1. Hmm. It's tricky to say. He is 9 1/2 and just finished "fourth grade." His reading level is probably more like third grade. He has improved so much working with his tutor in a program specifically for dyslexic kiddos. You're welcome to look at our books any time you want, or if you have questions about any of the titles in particular, let me know :)

    2. I should add that although he's reading 3rd grade level books, he's not fluent and it takes a looooong time ;)

  3. You are brilliant! I mentioned this to g and j, and Jake is already reading! I think it's the promise of sweet cereal. 😉 I also ordered two of the books from Aaron's list for G that she begged me to get.

    1. Yes! We never have wacky cereal here so the idea of picking a box of cereal that's more like a dessert (and not having to share it!) is very motivating! Let me know what you think of the books! Have a great summer, Shannon :)

  4. Oh my goodness, this list is bad for my wallet.

    1. Ha! I always spend money and say it's coming out of the "book budget" but we don't really have a book budget ;) ;)

  5. I loved your book list. I ordered 4 of them for my sons from the Dominic List. I think some of the books Davion will like and some Jonathan will like. They look interesting!

  6. Have you heard of these yet? I'm going to get one for my son's birthday, I think, and see what they're like.

    1. Yes!! We have all of them :) I've paged through them but my oldest has actually read them. They're cute!

  7. Just clicked over to your picture book list and I think I need to add all of those to my Amazon book list. We're not anywhere near this list yet (Maria does like Amelia Bedelia but she doesn't get it yet!) You said you are a literary. Intros freak- do you read these first or do you have some go-to recommendation sources? I'm finding that I'm extremely picky about what books we have around too...

    1. Hi Katie :) I'm not sure which list/books you're asking about - picture books or the chapter books for older kids, so I'll try to answer both. Picture books I read before hand. I spend a lot of time on Amazon previewing the insides of books and then ordering books that look interesting from the library. I don't usually browse the library shelves b/c lack of time (there really is a lot of worthless stuff there, unfortunately :( ) When I find an author or illustrator I really like, I get borrow more books. If we develop favorite, I usually buy it so that it's always on hand. For me to love (and buy) a book it has to be well-written, uses great vocabulary, is clever or witty, has great artwork, etc... We avoid nearly all books based on TV shows, or spin-offs of popular books, characters, Disney, etc... These books are practically written and illustrated by computers and I intensely dislike them ;)

      As for the big kids' chapter books, I don't read every single page of every single one. Some I do read completely, but most I skim. I also rely on Amazon reviews as well as the reviews of other bloggers and members of facebook groups, etc... Series are often "safe" because if I've read the first one or two I feel like I can judge the rest. A couple times I've actually had my oldest preview a book I may be considering for one of the younger ones - he'll read it and I'll ask him if there were any negative aspects in it - nasty or disobedient kids, words we don't use around the home, etc... If I start a read-aloud with the kids and think it's a bad book, I'll explain why to the kids and I'll stop reading it. I won't waste my time :) The kids know I can't stand it when authors are trying to make a book easy for kids to read and they always use the word "said" as opposed to a million other more descriptive adjectives. If we read the word "said" too much in a story, they'll start saying, "he should have used 'gasped' or 'whispered' or 'questioned,' etc..." I love that! Kids deserve better words!!

      Hope that helps :)

  8. Soo hear you on the blogging slump, has been over a month for me, the longest time ever in eleven years!!
    And avidly reading and looking at all you book recs, nothing like a book post from you to make me smile :-) Great to hear from you again :-)

  9. Yay, I've missed your blog! And now we have a few new book ideas to explore. :-)

  10. Right now my oldest son is reading a book he found at his great grandfather's house all about the history of heavy equipment. My middle son has been devouring a book or two a day; including The Puppy Place, School of Good and Evil, The Unwanteds, Fablehaven, etc. My youngest son is reading through the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with me reading every other page. Together we're listening to Missing on Superstition Mountain and reading the Cahills Versus Vespers.


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