5M4B disclosure

As I type this, it’s late in the evening of December 14th, and my husband and I just said to each other, “We really should start Christmas shopping.” This is par for the course for us. What about you? Do you comfortably do some shopping in the week before Christmas, or do you start in July and finish by November? Regardless of when you begin shopping, books are always great gifts for the people in your life. I personally think all families should have their own copies of the classics, and most do, but often they are old tattered copies from the parents’ childhoods (true confession: our family tends to be like this). Oxford is continuing to republish children’s classics in fun, bright new editions, and this is a lovely way to add to your own family’s library or to buy a present for a child in your life.

I’m presenting 4 recently reintroduced books, ones that I’m sure you read and enjoyed as a child, but that could stand a reread, especially if you’re reading aloud with a young friend. Writing this review has put me in the mood to read them all again, curled up on a couch and pretending I’m 11 again. Be right back. In the meantime, I highly recommend them all–either for Christmas presents, or really just for you, all over again.

black beautyBlack Beauty

This book is SO. SAD. I  am not going to tell you what happens just in case you’ve forgotten,  but Black Beauty goes through some Very Rough Times. Don’t worry though–all is okay at the end. This book introduces ideas of social justice and kindness to animals, through a well-told tale that takes one into the world of horses in the late 19th century. Many little girls go through a horse phase, and I was no exception, and I remember loving this book. This version has a glossary, which helpfully explains some words no longer in use, and a section of facts on the author. Did you know that Black Beauty was distributed by animal rights activists and helped change people’s attitudes towards horses? There are also recommendations for other books, all presented through fun quizzes and interactive games.

wind willowsThe Wind in the Willows

First of all, don’t you love this new cover? I realize that we don’t judge the book by it, blah blah blah, but I must admit that covers attract or repel me. That said, this is such a fun book no matter its outward appearance. I think I’m going to have to reread it. I remember how very sensual a book this is, how it makes you love the outdoors in all seasons and weather. I loved sensible Mole and Ratty, the wise and kind Badger, and the crazy Toad and his madcap adventures, who never learns from his mistakes. I remember giggling helplessly at Toad’s antics. What about you? This edition includes some thoughtful questions to deepen the reading experience, as well as short reviews of other classics.

tom sawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Who didn’t love these stories as a child? Who didn’t scheme ways to be this resourceful and cheeky? I personally wracked my brains to try to come up with my own version of the fence-painting scene, and I longed to escape down a river on a raft. (I once took an inner tube down a creek, but I had a most uneventful childhood overall) This is a great adventure story, full of fun and mischief and humour, but again touching on the real issues of the time, which also reflect our own. This is another book with a gorgeous cover, with the lettering formed of tree branches that line the river, and this edition includes a short interview with the illustrator. I love this, as I think it gives kids ideas for the future–I could illustrate books I enjoy! And of course there’s also recommendations for other books, fun quizzes, a glossary (called “Weird and Wonderful Words”), and reading questions.

secret gardenThe Secret Garden

I loved this book so much when I was a child, and I still love it now, even though it’s been several years since I last read it. (My daughter is now 17 but we read it together when she was younger.) The story of grumpy, unlovable Mary Lennox and how she is transformed into a happy, healthy child who helps her cousin through love and friendship, good food, and outdoor play is one that resonates through to a very different time period, our own. And who doesn’t thrill at the hidden, secret garden, and Mary’s discovery of first a door, then a key, then of growing things and how to help them thrive. This edition includes a quiz, recommendations for other books, an explanation of all those weird Yorkshire words (wish the version I’d had as a kid had had that!), and more. It’s a lovely book.

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Big Little Lies, a 5-Star Read

There are a few international women’s fiction writers who have exploded as of late here in the U.S. JoJo Moyes is the prime example, Lisa Jewell is a new favorite of mine and is successfully gaining traction, and now there’s no doubt that Australian Liane Moriarty is in that club as well, perhaps the queen with all the attention this book has gotten this year. Earlier this year, I listened to the newly-published-on-audio Three Wishes. I liked it, and could see that she had that ability to balance plot, told with humor and suspense, with that “something more” bit of social commentary designed to make you think about the issues of our day while also grappling with the idea of right and wrong. Big Little
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The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless

I remember reading the original story about Chris McCandless in the 90s and being haunted by it, by this young man who had gone into the wild and never returned. I knew young men like that, who loved spending time in the wilderness of Alaska and the Pacific NW, intense people who rejected materialism and stayed up late to discuss ideas and literature and how following your dreams was the only way to be true to yourself. Later I read Into the Wild and even watched the movie. Naturally, I was fascinated when Chris’ younger sister, Carine, published a memoir. I wasn’t the only one fascinated by Chris’ story. It got a lot of publicity, and many weighed in with their own opinions. While some
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All the Bright Places

I didn’t really want to read this book, but I was curious. Two teens meet on the ledge of a bell tower and change each other’s lives. It’s being compared to The Fault in Our Stars (as is any emotionally resonant new YA fiction these days), which has been criticized for romanticizing cancer. I don’t agree with that assessment of that title, but I did worry that this novel would somehow romanticize suicidal feelings. But I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did. If I didn’t want to read All the Bright Places, I definitely didn’t want to be enchanted by the sad story, but I was. Violet is a girl dealing with the tragedy of losing her sister in a
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Men, Women & Children {Books on Screen}

The first thing I noticed when I saw the trailer for the movie Men, Women & Children earlier in the fall was the casting of Ansel Elgort in one of the main roles. My teenage son noticed the same thing, and as we had only recently re-watched The Fault in Our Stars on DVD, we were both intrigued. The trailer made me think that the film might be another movie to view with my son, especially as it focused, at least in part, on relationships among teenagers. What I didn’t realize at that point was that the film was an adaptation of Chad Kultgen’s 2011 book of the same name- Men, Women & Children. While I didn’t get to see the film when it had a limited
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Dogs Rule, Nonchalantly

Do you have any dog lovers in your family? Maybe art lovers? I was interested in checking out this book, because we are all dog lovers in our family and because my teen daughter is an art enthusiast, I knew that we’d enjoy Dogs Rule Nonchalantly. The tone of the book is definitely one that those who think of dogs more as friends or family members than messy fur balls (okay, I feel that way about mine sometimes, while still seeing her as the above). One of the lines described a former dog of mine pretty well “of course they need lots of exercise, and some can use a little therapy too.” And this line reminded me of my current dog: We also learned that
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David Baldacci on his switch from adult legal thrillers to fantasy for kids #ReadBaldacci

I’d be willing to wager that most of you are familiar with David Baldacci’s work as a best-selling fiction author. Even if you haven’t read one of his legal thrillers, it’s likely that someone in your family has, or you’ve at least seen his books featured in airport bookstores, grocery stores or on the bestseller list. I was thrilled to be able to participate in a group conference call interview with him last week. This year he published two books The Finisher for older middle grade readers and young adults, and The Escape, a John Puller novel. I was curious about the switch, not only in genre but in the target age group. Baldacci spoke passionately about this new direction: I’ve always felt that a
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For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health

You know that image of the blundering, uncomfortable parent trying to have “the talk” with his or her teenager? There are countless reinforcements of that stereotype in our society, especially in pop culture, but I’ve always believed it didn’t have to be that way. From a young age, I opted to use correct terminology when talking with my kids about their body parts. I would joke that we don’t tell our babies that they smell with their “sniffers,” but instead call it a nose, so why would I feel the need to come up with a cutesy name for my son’s penis or my daughter’s vulva? I’ve tried to retain that openness and candor with my kids as they’ve grown, and with my oldest now
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Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

The apostle Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians commands Christians to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17).What does this mean and how is it even possible? After all, the medieval monks had 7 fixed times of daily prayer, and that was eventually proven to be physically insupportable even for men who had devoted their lives to prayer and didn’t have to be at an office or dealing with the demands of a family who produce an insane amount of laundry. (info taken from p 241; laundry example is from my own life) I have a lot of Muslim friends and sometimes they’ll ask me how many times a day I pray, usually after pointing with pride to their 5 times of prescribed prayer.
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Encouraging Reading with Magazine Baskets {On Reading}

My oldest child has been a book lover from early on. As an infant, he would look up as I showed him board book after board book held above us as we lay on the living room floor. Even with his active nature, as a preschooler, he would sit on my lap for picture book read alouds. Now that he’s a teen, he’s still a big reader, but if left to his own devices, I’m fairly certain that he’d read nothing but Marvel comics. If I pick up novels from the teen section at the library, he’ll read them. If I stack newly released YA books on his desk, he’ll grab them eventually. But what I’ve come to really appreciate is the power of a
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Guys Read: True Stories

Spiders, shipwreck, elephants, dental care, singing the blues: you’ll be wiser about all of these topics when you read Guys Read: True Stories, the newest collection edited by Jon Scieszka. This is a collection of nonfiction works, which my 5th grade son happily devoured. As a part of his curriculum, they have explore different kinds of reading which includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. This was the first book I suggested, and the short small bites of informative writing whetted his appetite for me. He’s been surprised to find that he enjoys biographies “as long as the writing is good.” The collection has “good writing” from Scieszka, Nathan Hale, Candace Fleming, Nathan Hale, Thanhha Lai, Sy Montgomery and more. And just like the writers aren’t all
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Jesus Daily devotional challenges believers to connect #JesusDailyBook #Giveaway

I do have some devotional apps on my phone and tablet, but honestly, my phone is still a distraction for me, and for that reason I prefer hard copy books and Bible studies. Jesus Daily: 365 Interactive Devotions is a devotional based on the most interactive Facebook page in history. Each day has a devotional and some sort of challenge — of a post to social media, or something to journal or something to do to live our your faith. It’s pretty basic, so it would be a good devotional for someone who hasn’t done a lot of in depth Bible study, or for a quick start to your morning with a daily interactive challenge. It might even be good to buy one for yourself
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