Our Readers’ Favorite Books
This list is under construction; send the Webmaster your own suggestions!
Zekmet the Stone Carver: A Tale of Ancient Egypt, by Mary Stolz; picture book, takes place in ancient Egypt.
One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi, an Indian story with beautiful illustrations and math lesson too! (Read in conjunction with studying the Indus Valley)Stone Age Farmers Beside the Sea: Scotland’s Prehistoric Village of Skarae Brae by Caroline & Arthur Arnold (nice text with beautiful color photographs of the ruins of Skara Brae).
The Great Wall of China by Leonard Everett Fisher. Chinese style black and white illustrations, with labels in Chinese characters, fill the pages of this picture book story of the building of the great wall of China.
Fiona Macdonald has a number of nice history books for children, including The World in the Time of Alexander the Great. Elaine Landau has an ancient history series (The Assyrians, The Babylonians, The Sumerians). Nicely done. A little for more complex: the World History series by Don Nardo. I’ve only looked at the volume on the Assyrian Empire, but the author has a number of others as well, which I assume are equally well done. Personally, I would use the Landau ones with the grammar stage student & the Nardo with the logic stage student.
The Librarian who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky. I wish there were more of these … a picture book biography of the ancient Greek Eratosthenes … a real treasure!
Barnes and Noble publishes a timeline called “The Wall Chart of World History“. It is a 12″X17″ book that pulls out to over 12 feet. The top third starts with the Biblical geneaology from Adam to the Babylonian Captivity with separate lines for each major person so that you can see such things as the fact that Shem was still alive when Issac married Rebeka. The bottom two thirds covers the major civilizations of the world. It lists the rulers for each and when one civilization conquers another or one breaks off the timelines for the two join or split. It is also packed full of additional side notes about important buildings, technological developements etc., plus a list of major European battles and peace treaties, dates of independence for the European colonies, and great events of the twentieth century. My kids and I love to get this out and stretch it across the living room floor and just browse through it. The only disadvantage is that the writing is so small.
Myths and Legends
Gilgamesh the King by Ludmilla Zeman (also Revenge of Ishtar and The Last Quest of Gilgamesh). Picture book renditions of the Epic of Gilgamesh, very nicely done. The first one was my kids’ favorite (it is the only one with a really happy ending). The illustrations are lovely; they are based on Sumerian art. Reading these books gave my kids a real feel for this period of history (my 2 1/2 yr old still talks about Gilgamesh & Mesopotamia).
1001 Arabian Nights retold by Geraldine McCaughrean A really nice version with tasteful, attractive illustrations. My girls really loved these stories. This is worth owning and having to reread. This is a completely new version of the Arabian Nights – many of the stories have never appeared before in a collection for children. They include fables, romances, narrative jokes, and fairy tales, and are linked to one another by the King and Queen’s own love story. It is written in a style that is clear, gripping and poetic – one which conveys the flavour of the original and preserves the context of a magic, genie ridden, cruel desert world.
Romulus and Remus by Anne Rockwell a “ready to Read” book with very nice illustrations and a simple, sweet retelling of the founding of Rome.
Persephone and the Pomegranate by Waldherr. A very nice retelling of a topically challenging tale, this version has Persephone having a voice in the final decision.
Aesop’s Fables illustrated by Heidi Holder, beautiful full page illustrations facing each fable — has 9 fables. Aesop for Children, illustrated by Milo Winter, has many more fables than the Holder version. The pictures are nice (this is a reprint of a 1919 version), and the typeface is large enough for a child to read comfortably. Aesop and Company by Barbara Bader – I don’t care so much for the black line illustrations in this version – they are okay, but not as appealing as the other versions I’m using, but it does have “life of Aesop” at the end & an interesting introduction about the fables.
Crane Wife retold by odds bodkins — a nice retelling of a classic Japanese folktale, with attractive illustrations
I have found a nice series of large format picture books for children ages 5 – 10 on the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epoch which you note has little material devoted specifically to children. Three books, written and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman, unfold the Gilgamesh story over about 24 pages each. The illustrations are beautiful, extremely evocative of Mesopotamia and include views of the Ishtar Gate. The story keeps closely to the original and includes its fierce monsters and fights. Written in 1992-1994, the books are surprisingly still available on Amazon ($7.95 paper, $13.95 hardcover). The first installment is entitled Gilgamesh the King. The second title is The Revenge of Ishtar. The third is The Last Quest of Gilgamesh.
Just David by Eleanor H. Porter (1916) and Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1955). There are not enough words to adequately describe this enchanting book, Just David. With yellow edges on every page that are barely hanging onto the spine, our evening story time came alive with Eleanor Porter’s precious story of an innocent young boy. Reading to my then 1st grader as well as then 3rd grader, we went from tears to joy each night. Amidst many questions that needed answering due to heavy vocabulary at times, we took our time as we learned about each character that David’s sweet spirit touched. As the last page was read, my daughter had her face in the pillow weeping and my son had a smile of pure peace as this author so beautifully pieced together a beautiful story quilt. Do follow Just David with Little Lord Fauntleroy and learn about another charming young boy whose attitude and perspective on life’s situations, certainly enlightened my children to ‘how we respond to circumstances’ and ‘our attitudes.’ My children and I had great fun comparing David and Ceddie of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Ceddie sees everyone as his dear friend and equal regardless of status. Such a valuable lesson for us all. At several times during the reading, I stopped and asked the children what would they do or how would they feel if that happened to them. These two wonderful literary works are at the top of our ‘Read Aloud Favorites’ (and I did find both of these book on ebay for under ten dollars each).
Youth Historical Fiction
A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond. This book won a Newberry Honor Award. Basic synopsis: The book is set in Wales. Peter finds an ancient harp tuning key that belonged to the Welsh bard, Taliesen (not fictional). Peter starts seeing scenes from Taliesen’s life and then his family starts getting pulled in too. There are several poems throughout the book that have been credited to Taliesen. This is an excellent book, probably a 4th grade and up reader, a 2nd grade and up read-aloud.
Sword of Egypt by Bert Williams. This book is out of print, but worth getting on an interlibrary loan if it’s not at your local library. It is set during the reign of Ramses III. The father of the main character, Aahmes, is killed as a traitor in the first chapter. The rest of the book is about how Aahmes seeks to clear his father’s name. You learn a lot about the different levels of Egyptian society and their legal system. I couldn’t put the book down, probably a 4th grade and up reader, a 1st grade and up read-aloud.
Peter Murray has some spectacular books on insects with full page photographs.
Feeding our Feathered Friends by Dean Spaulding, and lovely bird photos are interspersed amongst the various descriptions of bird feeder projects (Level 1, 2, and 3) using odds and ends.
The Wolves by Brian Heinz. The paintings in this book are lovely! I usually prefer photographs in kids’ nature books, but this is well worth an exception. “With powerful storytelling and evocative language, author Brian Heinz offers an unusual look at a clan of wolves struggling to survive in the frozen North. This, combined with paintings as stunningly beautiful as the natural world they depict, makes for a book that young animal lovers will surely treasure.”
The Interfact Reference Earth and Interfact Reference Space books, both from Two-Can Publishing, are a good basis for second-grade science. I enjoy these two books because of the bright illustrations, the concise information that is included, and especially because the double-page layout lends itself to study and narration.
Egypt in Color — a marvelous art book, but I believe it is really expensive (we have ours out from the library).
Religion and Biblical History
Adam and His Kin: The Lost History of Their Lives and Times, by Ruth Beechick. I used this book as a read aloud preliminary before beginning the study of “documented history.” It weaves a wonderful story.
Families at the Crossroads: Beyond Traditional and Modern Options, by Rodney Clapp. Returning afresh to the biblical story, Rodney Clapp articulates a challenge to both sides of the critical debate on the future of the family. He states that the nuclear family which some evangelicals hold as sacred to God’s plan is really an invention of the 18th century and that we need examine a wider and more biblical definition of family. A fresh and challenging book.
No God but God/Breaking with the Idols of Our Age, by Os Guinness. This book is a trumpet call for repentance and revival in the church. This group of essays addresses the idols of our age, and the idols that have become more important than the cause of Christ in the church — politics, professionalism, education, etc.
Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris. We have it and love it!
Classic Poetry: An Illustrated Collection by Michael Rosen, pictures by Paul Howard (Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998). A dear fellow homeschooler and former English teacher recently recommended this book and so far, I love it! Mr. osen has chosen well known works by some of the most famous poets. Poems are helpfully illustrated to highlight their subject matter and aid the student in their study of each poem. The book is divided into sections highlighting each poet and includes a brief biography. In the back of the book you’ll find notes on each poem. Something this homeschool teacher finds very helpful!
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman (Harpercollins Juvenile Books, 1988). This Newberry winner is designed for two children to read and work on together; they can work on rhythm and timing as well as the memorization.
Committed to Memory, 100 Best Poems to Memorize, ed. by John Hollander (River Head Books, 1996).
This handy little book should be on everybody’s homeschool shelf. It has all the standards known and loved by English majors everywhere, as well as many comical fun pieces that were new to me. My new personal favorite (as a result of finding it here for the first time) is Thomas Gray’s “Ode on the death of a favorite cat, drowned in a tub of goldfishes”
The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?
Stories for Fun
James Herriott’s Treasury for Children, illustrated by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett (St. Martin’s Press). Lovely illustrations accompany Mr. Herriott’s well known and beloved animal stories. A beautifully done book for every member of the family.
We have recently been introduced to the Red Wall Series by Brian Jacques. I have a ten year old boy who is just devouring the books. Jacques orginally wrote the books for blind children, therefore the descriptions are just captivating. The stories revolve around an Abbey run by peace loving mice who many times have to fight evil to keep their world at peace. The evil can sometimes be a bit graphic but good does triumph. There are also several character lessons that can be learned from the mice as well. Just thought I’d pass this one on — by the way there are 10 in the series(at least) and there is a good web-site if you’d like to read more about them – Redwall.org.
The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger (Henry Holt, 2000). The tale of a young boy’s dreams where he learns about number patterns and how interesting mathematics can be. This book is lots of fun as a read aloud. The title has just recently been published in a softcover format.Jennifer’s suggestion:
2X2 = Boo! A Set of Spooky Multiplication Stories, by Lauren Leedy, goes through multiplication tables (0-5); Fraction Action through fractions. My four year old loved them.
The Man Who Counted by Malba Tahan. It contains a series of short fictional anecdotes about a mathematician in ancient Baghdad, each of which illustrates a different mathematical principle. Some will be familiar to readers; others are more exotic, but nevertheless accessible even to children. A great chance to expose your children to the wonders of math, especially if they are also fascinated by the Arabian Nights stories.
Go back to Getting Started