Category Archives: Books


When I was a child we lived far from any of our extended family members, so summers were usually spent driving to either Virginia or Minnesota (sometimes both in one summer) from our home in southeast Michigan. The trips were long and (use your imagination here, young readers) took place with NO cell phones, iPods, dvd players, or other hand-held games. Eventually we acquired Sony Walkmans and earphones and could pass the time with our favorite cassettes (and music we taped from the radio).

To pass the time, my amazing mother would read aloud to us. For Hours! She held us captive with silly stories and dramatic tales. Our most often-read and favorite books were by a Canadian author named Gordon Korman. When Tim and I got married, Tim drove all around my hometown looking for copies of old Korman books so we could have our own collection.

David LOVES a good book.

David LOVES a good book.

And so a tradition has continued. We have read and re-read these books for years. Korman wrote and published his first book in JUNIOR HIGH!!! These fun young adult books are clever, well-written and full of memorable characters.

On this rainy day, Tim picked up Son of Interflux, and started to read. Such a great story. And a joy to me that Tim has continued this tradition from my family and passed on these hilarious tales to our children.

Snuggle, reading time!

Snuggle, reading time!

I can’t speak for ALL of Gordan Kormans books, but these are some of our all time favorites:

Can one student and his disgruntled classmates thwart a giant corporation's attempt to build a new complex on school land?

Can one student and his disgruntled classmates thwart a giant corporation’s attempt to build a new complex?

Running AWAY from camp has never been so funny.

Running away from camp has never been so funny.

A hilarious story about friendship, poetry and an attempt to reverse one's bad luck.

A hilarious story about friendship, poetry and an attempt to reverse one’s bad luck.

“Whatever you do, DON’T lose my apartment.” 3 friends crazy adventures in the big city.

A drummer, a

A drummer, a “flute-guy”, one celebrity and two theives make for a hysterically funny story.

A loveable con artist?  Attack jelly, Cow Experts?  So funny!

A loveable con artist? Attack jelly, Cow Experts? So funny!

One of my all time favorites!  The story of a high school that finds some spirit!

One of my all time favorites! The story of a high school that finds some spirit!


This post contains affiliate links to, which means that if you purchase a book through a link on this post, I will receive a small commission (4% of the purchase price) from Amazon.

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The Reading Challenge Begins … Again

In the weeks before David’s birthday, I began thinking of all the good books I read when I was a young teenager.

“Books are important,” I told Kathy. “They can cast a vision for what it means to be a man. I want David to read some of those good books.”

You know the kind of books I mean. The books that teach the important things — books about loyalty and honor and courage and self-sacrifice. Books with larger-than-life heroes who set the standard for manhood.

David is a big fan of the Artemis Fowl series.

David is a big fan of the Artemis Fowl series.

So I did a quick pass through my library and wrote to a few of my friends and family members, asking for lists of books that they would recommend. Soon, I had a whole shelf’s worth. Except I didn’t have a shelf.

“Hey, Kathy, I need a shelf. How ’bout this one?” I pointed to a promising shelf in our living room at eye level for David. Immediately, I knew something was wrong, by the look on Kathy’s face.

Homeschooling Moms get a little territorial about bookshelves. Whenever we need a blank wall for a photo, we have to go outside or to someone else’s house, because we have bookshelves in every place that could possibly fit one. A quick survey of the house tells me that we have thirty (30) bookshelf units in our home, most with at least 5 shelves. But do you think Kathy will relinquish one in a prime location? Not likely. Eventually, she grudgingly made the top shelf of one of the units available.

Our new shelf o' good, manly books.

Our new shelf o’ good, manly books.

I talked it over with David, and he and I agreed that we would start a Reading Challenge. We would both abstain from playing computer games for a certain period of time — maybe a few weeks, or a month, in which we would focus on reading some of the good books on that shelf.

My newly-teenaged son wanted to start the challenge when he got back from the Middle School retreat (and after he had a full week to enjoy his new Lego Marvel Heroes game). Of course, Sarah wanted to participate too, and is actually the only one who has already finished a book (and written the requisite book report). She is a bit of an over-achiever.

David spent today abstaining from computer games, and trying to finish a book that Joshua gave him for his birthday. I had a few meetings this evening, and (when I finally returned from working out at the gym) I settled into my computer chair. Out of habit, I toggled to one of my favorite computer games, and was playing it serenely when my youngest son walked up behind me.

Sins of a Solar Empire -- hardly an auspicious title for one of my favorite games.

Sins of a Solar Empire — hardly an auspicious title for one of my favorite games.

“You’re playing a computer game!” he accused, aghast. “What about our Reading Challenge?”

“Oooh, you forgot about the challenge,” Kathy and Sarah joined in, gleefully.

I'm hoping David remembers the 'love mercy' part on his shirt.

I’m hoping David remembers the ‘love mercy’ part on his shirt.

As a father, I usually try to set a good example to my children, by rigorously keeping my word and being as honest and faithful as I can. It is so easy to compromise one’s integrity in our culture, I feel that I need to hold the line as faithfully as I can, to show my children that it is still possible. I hope that I can one day say, like Paul did to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

This was not one of those days.

“How ’bout we start the Reading Challenge tomorrow,” I suggested, rather timidly. “It was an honest mistake, I’m sure you understand. The game was already running on my computer, and I just forgot … ”

One thing about parenting, it keeps you humble. I guess tomorrow we’ll start the Reading Challenge … again.

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School Starts

I would post a snapshot of my kitchen table if it weren’t so pathetic. It does not look like the organized, tidy office space of an efficient home educator. There are receipts from the first week of January in a stack next to the laptop. We have yet to close out December’s budget – there are too many loose ends floating around to be sure of our exact number and both Tim and are dreading the work of figuring it all out. I’m sure we didn’t overspend after all our hard work and determination to stick to the budget.

Wow, I almost said that with a straight face.

Can you say “DENIAL!”

.that's a LOT of snow

A picture of our street, three days before Christmas.

There’s a Vikings hat in the center of the table next to a birthday card. My birthday is in July so I’m not sure how that card found its way among all the Christmas letters. Just another sterling example of the pat rack motto we live by. A deck of cards is shoved to one side, the last remnant of our New Year’s parties. My new Nutrimill is at the head of the table, waiting patiently for me to mill some wheat.

Did I mention I was blessed with a new grain mill for Christmas??? Oh, yes!! Doing the happy dance here. I’m still in shock over the HUGE gift.

Can I ignore the start of school and just grind wheat and make bread all day? My friends and neighbors, hoping for a loaf of bread, would all shout a resounding ‘yes!’

At the other end of the table is my new, fantastic cookbook from my aunt. It’s the all-new edition of The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated.

Let's Bake!

I am completely in love with this cookbook. Can I say that about a cookbook? Is that getting too personal? I’ve spent hours pouring over the pages, reading, planning and making notations. I’ve already tried the hearty beef stew and mashed potatoes. Tomorrow I hope to make the pot roast dinner. All the BEST recipes with detail and precision that can’t be beat. You can imagine Tim’s delight as I cart this 1000 page book off to read before bed. It takes up practically half the bed.

do we have to go back to school?

We had enough snow for Christmas to satisfy all our snow bunnies.

The kitchen is mostly clean with a dirty dish here or there, a box of crackers and some party plates.

Where is the schedule for tomorrow’s school day?
The ingredients for our big breakfast, celebrating the first day back at school?
Fresh assignments for all the children?

Nope, no, nada.

All that you would see, beyond the mild chaos of a lived in house, is a squinting, tired mother who has stayed up too late the last three days ringing in the New Year.

Between the parties and the general fun, I’m exhausted.

david hits the snow flying

The slide served as a little sledding hill, right in our own backyard.

I need a mini vacation to rest up from the holidays. Sadly, even the snow that fell this evening doesn’t bring any respite. Homeschoolers don’t really get snow days.

I had better get to bed. That alarm is going to ring VERY early for this night owl crowd.

Happy New Year – shall we jump into 2009 with poised pencils and cheerful attitudes?

It’s gonna be a stretch but I’m always up for an adventure.


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Elizabeth Gail Mysteries

Rachel (age 12 and 1/2) is flying through the Elizabeth Gail books by Hilda Stahl. And by flying, I mean reading two books a day. I stumbled across this Christian juvenile collection at a homeschool used curriculum sale in May. The books looked interesting so I bought the entire lot – 19 books in all. How could I resist? A big fat stack of books for Rachel – just my type of present.

19 books in all

At first Rachel was reluctant to begin the series. Frankly, they seemed a little too thin, not meaty enough for her. Thankfully there’s nothing like the combination of a prodding mother and a long summer afternoon to encourage one to dive into a waiting book.

I’ll do my best to snag Rachel for a real review of the books this week. She can give us her opinion and recommendations.

What are you pre-teen daughters reading this summer? Are you participating in the summer reading programs at your local library? Rachel told me she recently passed the 10 hour reading mark and is ready to collect her first prize.

Ah, the joy of raising a family of readers!

Project 366 – Day 188

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WFMW – Devotional Books for Boys

wfmwLet’s chat about some great devotional books our family has enjoyed. I LOVE character study books. I have seen my children grow in their faith and understanding of how the scriptures apply to their lives on a real and meaningful basis through the books and stories we have read over the years.

This is one of my favorite topics and I am passionate about intentionally providing excellent devotional books for the children. I wrote about some of our choices for the younger ages in an earlier WFMW post. This evening I went through my shelves and realized I have several books that are especially appealing to boys. That said, I must note that with five children (two of whom are girls) it is imperative that our reading is accessible to both the male and female listeners. These books have been enjoyed by the girls and boys alike in our family.

Now I share them with you.

daniel displays our selections

Devotional Books for Boys

The Power of One by Ron Luce. The edition I have is a gift book. Amazon links to a new one that is being published in July.

This is a powerful book full of personal stories of teens who face real instances of peer pressure. Very inspiring. I am definitely going to look for additional books by Ron Luce. Luce is the President and Founder of Teen Mania Ministries, a Christian youth organization that reaches millions of young people worldwide.

Tiger and Tom (and other stories for boys) by J. E. White. I found this little treasure at a curriculum sale one year. The stories were originally gathered from church papers in the 1870′s and many of them powerfully illustrate the consequences of sinful life choices.

What do I do now, Lord by Chris Jones. This book was in a big box of library cast offs. Always looking to connect with my active boys, I immediately grabbed this when I saw the sub title: Devotions for Boys. Each of the individual stories feature a young boy facing real-life problems — fears, friends, bullies, getting along with parents – and end with a scripture and prayer. I read this to Joshua (age 14) years ago and recently picked it up to read to Daniel (age 11). It’s perfect for the pre-teen (or younger) boy.

read this one

Her Mother’s Bible & Hedge Fence The Golden Text Series by Isabella Alden. This is another collection that was written in the 1800′s. In each story a young boy reads a portion of scripture that has been highlighted by his grandmother. God teaches him what the verse means and how it should be applied to his life. It was moving to see how his understanding of scripture grew through out the book. A classic.

another favorite

Building of the Rock five book devotional series. Joel Beeke and Diana Kleyn have taken a selection of real life incidents and fictional narratives and developed them into a series of devotional books for children aged 7-12. We devoured all five of these books and were eager for more. The stories include a mixture of historical adventure, childhood experiences, remarkable instances of conversion and dramatic, rescues from danger. There is a question and scripture reference at the end of each story.

How God Used a Thunderstorm
How God Stopped the Pirates
How God Used a Snowdrift
How God Used a Drought and an Umbrella
How God Sent a Dog to Save a Family

one in the five part series

There you have it, just a few of our favorites. If you have a devotional book that your family loves, please leave a comment. Amazon is just a few clicks away and I am always eager to build our faith/life lessons library.

Stop by Rocks in My Dryer for other Works for Me Wednesday posts.

Project 366 – Day 141

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