I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

What We're Reading in October 2021

Holding a book

Libby has been a kind companion to me this past month. Even during a rather busy season, I've been able to slam through a handful of titles that I've been wanting to vet for the tween/teen book club I host for my son and his friends. Listening to these middle grades on the free library audiobook app has allowed me to save my focused reading time for print books of my own choosing.

I wish I could say that all that pre-screening came in handy and that I now have a small stack of middle-grade books for the club members to choose from at the next month's meeting. But alas, none of the titles were even remotely appropriate for group discussion. So, I guess I'll be hanging with my friend Libby for a few more weeks, vetting another stack of books.

I'm not the only one who's been turning pages this month, though. Here's a list of what we've all been reading around here.

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What We're Reading in October 2021 #homeschool #readaloud

Read aloud- everybody

Sarah, Plain and Tall- When I announced at dinner a few nights ago that we'd begin reading (or more accurately, re-reading) my most favorite children's book of all time, my kids all knew exactly what book I was referring to. They glanced at each other around the table and said in musical unison, "Sarah, Plain and Tall." So, we'll read it...again. And love it...again. We'll watch the movie version...again. And maybe, just maybe, they'll let me re-read the other four in the series...again. (fingers crossed)

To me, this book is like the literary version of Mr. Rogers. It is gentle, soft, and slow in all the right ways, allowing me to step into the lives of each of the characters with empathy. 

Jamie- that's me!

Expect Something Beautiful- I had the opportunity to preview this book a few weeks before it hit the shelves. Admittedly, I am not the target market for this title. Nonetheless, it is beautifully and sincerely written and will be put towards the top of my list to gift women who have struggled to conceive, have had a difficult pregnancy, or have developed unrealistic expectations about motherhood.  

Behind the Beautiful Forevers- I don't often use the word "hate" to describe my feelings about a book, but in this case, it accurately sums up my thoughts of this title. Truth be told, I wanted to abandon it by chapter two, but since it was this month's pick in the adult book club I'm a part of, I soldiered on to the very end. 

The author attempted to recount the true stories of a "slum" village of Mumbai and the struggles the impoverished face in the aftermath of government corruption. But, her writing style was so distasteful and blunt. To make matters worse, she included so many characters, plot points, and wonky time jumps that I struggled to find the main message of the book. 

The one positive takeaway from the narrative was that it introduced me to a part of the world and a culture that was previously unfamiliar to me. 

Soar- This is one of three books I was considering for my son's tween/teen book club. Although it's quite clean and has a wonderfully redemptive message. I have decided not to include it in the line-up after all.

The main premise of the book is that Jeremiah, a baseball-obsessed middle schooler, moves to a new town that's home to an unbeatable high school baseball team. A few days after Jeremiah's arrival, the team's star player dies unexpectedly. Turns out, he (along with the rest of the team) had been receiving performance-enhancing drugs from the coach.

In full disclosure, the overdose is a very small part of the story. 75% of the book is about how Jeremiah rallies a rag-tag bunch of middle schoolers to start playing baseball again and goes on to lead them to victory, proving to the town that baseball can be fun again. But, the two chapters that do include the PEDs, make the book a bit problematic for large-group discussion. I think it is definitely a book that a teen can read, especially alongside a parent. But, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to have those types of conversations with other people's kids.

The War that Saved My Life- This is another title I was vetting but have decided not to use for the book club.

After mentioning on social media that I was listening to it on Libby, I received several messages from folks declaring their love for the author's talent for writing an accurate portrayal of a child who has experienced trauma. And while I completely agree--she writes childhood trauma hauntingly precise--I don't think that this kind of bibliotherapy is appropriate for the average tween who has NOT experienced those same types of horrific things. In my opinion, books can nurture empathy without inundating a child in the worst of humanity. (If you are wanting a similar story about neglected children during the air raids of WWII, I'd highly recommend A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus. It expertly holds the tension of the depravity of the situation and a child's emotional capacity to handle heavy things.)

I also received several messages concerning the relationship between Susan (the woman who takes in the two abused siblings when they are sent away to the country) and Becky (Susan's housemate that died before the war began). While the story did not explicitly mention anything other than the fact that Susan and Becky lived together prior to the children moving in and that Susan's father, a pastor, doesn't speak to her anymore, there were definite undertones that would indicate that the two women were more than just roommates. So, I did some fact-checking and learned this from the author's website, "Susan, the primary adult character in the book, is gay." Apparently, her sexual orientation is mentioned in more detail in the sequel, The War I Finally Won.

Super Boy- 10th grade

God's at War- In this book, bestselling author of Not of Fan, Kyle Idldeman tackles the idols of the heart and asks the following thought-provoking questions: 

What do you sacrifice for?
What makes you mad?
What do you worry about?
Whose applause do you long for?
I specifically did not have my son read the student edition of this title because I feel like most student versions of Christian non-fiction books are watered down or make misguided assumptions about a teenager's spiritual maturity or lack thereof. 

Blonde Warrior- 8th grade

A Fish in a Tree- I'm not usually a fan of contemporary middle-grade fiction. But this book is a delightful exception. 

Ally's been labeled many things: trouble maker, dumb, and weird to name a few. She's too embarrassed to admit that she can't read and so she develops many unhealthy coping skills to get by in school. After spending years hiding behind excuses, she meets Mr. Daniels, a substitute teacher who uncovers what's really going on. Ally is dyslexic. With his help, she not only learns to read but also learns what it means to be a true friend. 

Greased Lightning- 7th grade

Edge of Extinction: The Ark Plan- In this dystopian middle grade, the dinosaurs have made a comeback, forcing all of humanity underground. But when Sky Mundy's father mysteriously vanishes without a trace, she goes topside to find him and uncovers a way to possibly save the world.

The Dude- 4th grade

Dan Morgan: Rifleman- My son is really enjoying this vintage narrative nonfiction that details the heroism of a marksman who rallied a volunteer militia to help the patriot army during the siege of Boston during the American Revolution.

That's what we've been reading this month. What about you? Whatcha reading?