Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Poolside Collection

I spent quite a few hours this summer by the pool with book in hand. It was a summer replete with good books and I have some treasures to share.

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley. A story of a young boy raised in North Carolina by his widowed mother and his three upright and understanding bachelor uncles during the depression. The author paints his scenes with a beautiful simplicity.

The Blue Star by Tony Earley. The sequel to Jim the Boy. Jim is a senior in high school. He falls in love against the backdrop of WWII. Teenage pregnancy and racism are dealt with in a compelling and compassionate manner. Honestly, I think the reaction of the teenage father is my favorite scene in the book. The characters in both books are well developed and believable. This will be a book that I encourage my older children to read both for the story and to study the author’s writing style.

The Penderwicks and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall . When I first discovered the series, I checked the copyright two or three times because I could not believe it had been written in the last few years. The books have a timeless, classic appeal . The Penderwicks are four talented, personable sisters who share a house with their forgetful, brilliant father and one large Hound (That's his name). The Father spouts Latin phrases through out both books to the delight of my two Latin students. I began reading to myself but quickly discovered that these books were meant to be read aloud. The children fell in love with the Penderwicks. I think they saw something of their own creative selves in the sisters. The first book is good but the author finds her voice and creates a strong, exuberant story the second time around. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street is a jumping up and down on the sofa book.

Gentle’s Holler, Louisiana’s Song, and Jessie’s Mountain by Kerry Madden are about a large family struggling to make ends meet in the backwoods outside of Knoxville, TN in the sixties. The family faces a series of difficulties with courage and unwavering commitment to each other. I let out a pretty good shout toward the end of the third book when I came across a reference to the town of Soddy Daisy. It’s the town we left when we came to Smallville. The books end with hope but the series is not a rags to riches fairytale. It makes the story feel true to life.

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. This is the true story of Helmuth Hübener. At seventeen, he was the youngest non-Jewish German to be executed for being an enemy of the Third Reich. The author does an outstanding job of explaining the circumstances in Germany that made it possible for Hitler to rise to power. This book raises many questions and caused me to wonder how I might react in similar circumstances. The Boy Who Dared goes on the list of required reading for John and Lauren when we cover this period of history. I anticipate it will be the catalyst for great discussion.


ValleyGirl said...

Those all sound awesome ~ especially the Tony Earley books and the Penderwicks ones. Thanks for the reviews!!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Ya'll have been busy little readers this summer! I'm putting them all on my "recommended reading" list ... I think my kiddos would also enjoy the Penderwicks. Thanks!

Mama JJ said...

This is wonderful, Kate. I LOVE hearing your take on good reads. For what ages are the books? Do you think my two oldest are ready, or are these books still a bit beyond them?


Kate said...


Your oldest two would definitely enjoy the Penderwicks. Do read them aloud so you can savor them too.

The Blue Star and Jim the Boy are books they will appreciate in their early teens.

The same with Kerry Madden's books. Though if your kids are more into action adventure books like my oldest two are, they may never be interested. These books are some that my younger girls may enjoy in their preteen/teen years.

The Boy who Dared...again eleven or twelvish. Read it outloud for maximum discussion value.


Alana said...

I was just thinking about shooting you an email to see if you had any read aloud book suggestions. I haven't heard of any of these...awesome!

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

I always love reading reviews about children's books that others have found to be good reads. Thanks for taking the time to share these. I am keeping a list of books I want to buy during my next trip to Barnes and Noble and Half Price Books!


Madsdriscoll said...

Kate do you think that I could read those books?

You should read Man of the Family aloud. Actually Little Britches is the first book in the series but I'm sure you'll love them both. They are wonderful books. Love you.


The Small Scribbler said...


I think you would like the Penderwicks and the Kerry Madden Books (Gentle's Holler...) right now. You'd probably like the other ones better in a few years.

We have read Little Britches and the entire rest of the series. Once we started reading I had to buy all the rest of the books and read straight through. They are WONDERFUL! I'm so glad you are enjoying them.

Love, Kate