Tag: reviews

Raising Readers

I love to read. Okay, that’s a bit of an understatement. I’m an insatiable reader, prone to stuffing myself full of snatched tidbits of literary indulgence — often mere seconds of page time before one of my boys demands my full attention with an act of unimaginable poor judgement. I read before bed every night. During the day when I can. In the morning and in the evening when I brush my teeth (because my beloved SonicCare toothbrush is programmed for a two minute cycle and I can squeeze in at least a couple pages while I polish my teeth). It’s true, I love to hike and walk and bike and even run (a more recent pleasure); I love to be outside and garden and cook and play with my boys, but if I’m being totally selfish (and honest) I’d be hard pressed to find something I love to do as much as read.

I’m a book glutton. And it’s a good thing books are my weakness because if I consumed food like I consume words I’d likely need a small crane to lift me out of bed.

I don’t know if being addicted to books makes me an expert on the topic, but this summer I was asked to speak at a family camp and I chose to talk about reading. More specifically, about raising readers.

My kids are 7, 5, and 1, so it’s a stretch to imagine that I can speak with any authority on the topic of raising readers. My boys are a long way from being good and properly raised. I feel like I’m still coaxing them out of the ground. But it is a topic near and dear to my heart, and something that I longed to discuss with a group of wise and interesting people (many of whom have walked the road of rearing children before me). So in an hour and a half session, I outlined what I called my “Unformulaic Formula for Raising Readers,” and then opened up the floor for discussion. What a discussion it was!

I won’t bore you with all the particulars, but I will share the five pillars of my unformulaic formula. And then (because I promised my seminar attendees that I would do so) I’m going to list the best of the best — the books that changed our lives and made us fall in love with reading. This incredible list was compiled by an amazing group of people ranging in age from their teens to their eighties. (A big shout-out to my Warm Beach friends!!!) Wow, was it ever fun to hear them recount their childhood favorites. I hope it blesses you. And I hope you take a moment to leave a comment answering the question I posed to them: What was YOUR favorite childhood book???

How to Raise a Reader:

  1. Make time to read. (With your child, beside your child, by yourself. A recent study showed that boys who see their fathers read are far more likely to read themselves. Get them young — when they still think everything you do is cool.)
  2. Create a bookish environment. (Make sure books, magazines, and even comics are easily accessible all over your home. You’d be surprised how willing kids are to pick up a book when it tempts them from the coffee table.)
  3. Indulge your child’s interests. (You want your kid to read classics. He wants to read Calvin and Hobbes. Is it worth the battle? Probably not. And if you’re willing to let him read a book of his choosing, he just might be more compliant when you want to introduce one of yours. Mutual respect goes a long way.)
  4. Balance your life. (Books often take a back seat to more pressing diversions in our high pressure, fast-paced world. Life is busy, and creating space in our schedules for quiet time is a choice that many people aren’t willing to make. But I’m convinced that a richer, fuller life is the result of a little balance.)
  5. Encourage creativity. (Reading a book is a life experience, not a couch experience. Read a book as a family and make it come to life. Go on a field trip, prepare a special meal, dream about what happens after the last page… The possibilities are endless. And when you engage a book beyond the printed pages, you’re fulfilling the purpose of that simple offering — books are meant to be engaged, discussed, thought about, wrestled with. Books help us understand each other and ourselves.)

The Best of the Best (or: Books we LOVED as kids…)

The Wheel on the School (Meindert Dejong)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg)

The Wright 3 (Blue Baillett)

Roxaboxen (Barbara Cooney)

Miss Rumphius (Barbara Cooney)

Anything by Roald Dahl

The Wednesday Wars (Gary Schmidt)

Among the Hidden (Margaret Peterson Haddix)

The Big Snow (Berta Hader)

Owen (Kevin Henkes)

The Great Brain (John D. Fitzgerald)

39 Clues Books by Rick Riordin

Anything by Bill Peet

Little Britches (Ralph Moody)

The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper

Caddie Woodlawn (Carol Ryrie Brink)

The Borrowers (Mary Norton)

The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner)

Anything by E.B. White

Anything by James Herriot

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)

… The list is incomplete! What was your favorite childhood book???


Summer Reading

Happy Tuesday, all y’all!

I’m posting about books today, but I have to quick throw this PSA into the mix… Just so you know, I’m a perfectionist and a lover of routine. I am also a very busy woman who adores spending time with her kids. Therefore, I’ve decided to make myself a nice, manageable schedule: I’m going to blog twice a week (on Tuesdays and Fridays) and stop beating myself up for not blogging more. I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Besides, I don’t have that much to say… 😉

Whew. Now that that’s out of the way, onto business.

Books. Boy, did I read this summer. Fiction and non, magazines and novels and even poetry, oh my! It’s was a gloriously word-filled summer. And I would be utterly remiss if I didn’t share my top picks with you. Without further ado, the best of the best:

YA Fiction:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie

Someone gave me this book and I’m so glad he did! I loved it. Heartbreaking and funny and real, it challenged my perception of modern day racism and class inequality. A shocking, but ultimately hopeful read that left me in tears. Apparently The Absolutely True Diary has been a rather controversial book in some high school circles, but I think it deserves to be read and discussed.

Adult Fiction:


Rosamund Lupton

I adore this book because it surprised me. And it takes a lot to surprise me these days. Usually I can see the end coming from a mile away, but I didn’t catch on to Ms. Lupton’s trick until moments before she unveiled it. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but who cares if I wasn’t? Sister is a thrilling, emotional ride that broke my heart in two and left me stunned.


Half the Sky

Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

I’ve been a fan of Nicholas Kristof for a while now, but I only recently discovered this book — an absolute must-read that he co-authored with his talented wife. Half the Sky is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult books I have ever read, both because of the subject matter and because of the weight of my own conviction as I turned each page. Outlining the three major abuses of women (sex-trafficking and forced prostitution, gender based violence including honor killings and mass rape, and maternal mortality) Half the Sky is an urgent wake up call and a cry for justice. If you read nothing else this year, read this book.

A Book for the Whole Family:

Over Sea, Under Stone

Susan Cooper

My teacher read this to my fifth grade class and it was a magical memory. And sharing Over Sea, Under Stone with my sons this summer was a wonderful experience, too. Though the language is a bit old-fashioned (it was first published in 1965), my boys thrilled at Simon, Jane, and Barney’s journey as they raced to unlock the secret of a forgotten manuscript and hold back the rising tide of evil among them. This book is best read aloud — with accents, of course. Brush up your high British and dare to dabble in some cockney as well.

Your turn! What were some of your best reads this summer? I have an entire fall ahead of me and a very short reading list. Help a girl out!


Beneath the Night Tree Review

I can’t believe that my fourth book is about to hit bookstores! For some reason I’ve downplayed the release of Beneath the Night Tree, but the truth is, I’m very, very excited. I love this book. And I’m loving the response that it has gotten so far. Reviews are starting to trickle in, and I’m totally thrilled. I don’t think there is anything quite as exciting for an author as hearing a positive response to her very public offering. Wow. It’s amazing.

Anyway, I feel like sharing a review with you today. This one made my week. It originally appeared at Reader Views. Thank you, Tiffany Schlarman, for the lovely review.


Julia’s world is thrown off center when she opens her email to find a letter from the past.  Unprepared for its effect on her future, the short note “I have thought about you every day for the past five years,” the apology “I’m sorry” and the question “Do I have a child?” are crippling to Julia as she is finally content with the way her life has turned out.  Her heart torn by the email from her son’s father, Julia prepares to deal with Parker and his effect on their lives.  Regardless of the outcome Daniel is the spitting image of his father, making Parker undeniably part of their story for better or worse.  Julia’s unorthodox family is about to feel the effects of Parker on all their lives and it just might not be as bad as Julia fears.

Beneath the Night Tree is a heart-wrenching, yet triumphant novel that captures the essence of a mother’s love in the midst of her own fear and uncertainty.  Julia’s story is truly poignant, bringing about a novel that is sincere of live, love and personal transformation.  Julia, who has had a truly unorthodox life by many standards, is not all that different from many people in our world today.  As she battles her insecurities and fears, Julia turns to those whom she loves and respects, letting them enable her to discover what is right for her.  The novel is honest, brutal and sweet.  It had me captivated from beginning to end; leaving me with mixed yet satisfied emotions.

Nicole Baart is an amazing writer.  Her style is flawless, proven by the way she captivates her reader.  Beneath the Night Tree felt so real, I often forgot I was reading a book.  The author does a wonderful job of captivating the emotions and thoughts of each character, especially Julia as she deals with life-changing decisions and events.  The novel is categorized as Christian fiction but felt authentically human in nature.  It mentions prayer as Julia questions and pleas with God for guidance and understanding, however, it is done in a manner that makes the reader feel even a non-believer might do the same thing in the same situation.  I highly recommend Beneath the Night Tree to readers of all genres.  It is moving and unexpected.  I was very glad I read it and I look forward to reading more from Ms. Baart.

Your turn: Did you like the review? Would you like the chance to write your own? If you have your own blog and would like an influencer copy of Beneath the Night Tree, please leave a comment below or shoot me an email! I have several copies of my new release to give away, and I’d love to share with you. All you need to do is read and (hopefully) enjoy. Then you get to share your opinion wherever you see fit! (On your blog, at book sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Facebook, you name it.) Doesn’t everyone like to chip in their two cents? Also, I’d love to do an interview or guest post for your blog if you think it would enhance the experience. It’s up to you!