10 Can’t Miss Children’s Books that I Didn’t Read Until I Was an Adult

This week, I was reading an article called 10 Childhood Classics I didn’t Read Until I Was an Adult.  As I looked at her list, filled with so many great books, I was inspired to make my own list, to tell you the ten best books I’ve read aloud to my children that I missed out on as a child.

The Birchbark House--This book wasn’t written until 1999, when I was 20 years old, so I couldn’t read this one as a child.  However, this is quite probably one of the best children’s books I have ever read, so I have to give this one a mention.  Imagine the Little House on the Prairie novels, only these are written from a Native American point of view.  This book, and its sequels are beautifully written, and as an adult, this is one of my favorite series for children.

My Father’s Dragon–I had never encountered this book until I was looking for a book to interest my seven year old boy about five years ago.  I had never even heard of its existence. This is a sweet, completely nonsensical story of a boy who runs away from home to rescue a trapped dragon.  It, and the two sequels are wonderful, engaging reads for children.  The magical appeal of the book to children is charming for a parent to watch.

George Washington and Benjamin Franklin–I had never read a D’Aulaire history book as a child.  The illustrations are beautiful, and we find the prose of the books themselves very engaging.  Although I singled out these two books, I have found every book I have read by them to be equally beautiful and engaging.

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children–I had never heard of James Herriot until I started homeschooling and this was recommended as a wonderful book for children.  Yet these stories for children were published at picture books during my childhood years.  They are everything that is warm and magical without being Disney and anthropomorphized animals. They spurred a love for me in James Herriot’s work that has led to me reading three of his books over the course of the past few months.

Homer Price–I had never heard of this delightful book until we were in an elementary aged book club where the book of the month was Homer Price was the book of the month.  This book is a collection of short stories about a boy who often finds himself in the center of adventure.  I recently introduced this book to my younger son, and found that he loved the gentle Mayberry like feel of these stories just as much as my older two children had loved it.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory–I had seen the 1970 movie, but I had never read the book until I read it aloud to my children. This book is wonderful.  It was when we were reading this book that my children decided that they really did like books. This book is darkly funny, and much closer in mood to the Johnny Depp version of the movie than the original movie. We watched the movie again just last week, and I was reminded of so much of what I liked about the book.

Strawberry Girl–I had never heard of this book until my children and I read it for book club. The main character is a young girl who lives on a Florida farm, has good for nothing neighbors and helps her family to harvest strawberries.  This book is warm, wonderful and gentle for young elementary students.  It’s also a great slice of life of the farmers of the south in the years following the Civil War.

The Courage of Sarah Noble–“Keep up your courage, Sarah Noble.”  Sarah is alone, taking care of her father and dealing with Indian neighbors that she finds scary.  She finds out that true courage is not a lack of fear, but being brave, even when she is experiencing fear.  Another book by this author that I first read as an adult and loved is The Bears on Hemlock Mountain. Both of these books are short, but they impart important lessons about bravery and fear for children.

The Story of the Treasure Seekers–I love this book so much!  There are six Bastable children, and their father’s business has failed. They come up with several plots to restore the family fortune, and mostly their efforts lead to fun and trouble–not to wealth.  This is another of my very favorite children’s books.

All-of-a-Kind Family–This is the tale of a Jewish family in New York around the turn of the century.  They have so much fun together and they go through so many adventures.  What their family lacks in money, they have in abundance in love. This is also a great introduction to the Jewish calendar if that’s something you want your children to pick up on.

So, there you have it.  Ten children’s books that you can’t miss, even if you need to experience them as an adult.  Which ones would be on your list?

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Samson and the Pirate Monks

One of the reasons why I enjoy using a reading challenge to help guide my selections in reading is because it helps me to stretch out of my comfort zone and read more broadly. I can’t find myself boxed into any one thing, not if I truly want to complete the reading challenge.

One of the more difficult books to find on the list I’m using this year is the “book targeted at the opposite gender,” and this book comes fairly early in the list of challenges for the year.  Now, men don’t have any trouble with this one.  There are a plethora of books written for moms, for wives, and for Christian women on a diverse number of topics.  However, men who write Christian living books tend to write for a broader audience of both genders.  So, there aren’t as many “man specific” books out there.  I turned to my Kindle cloud to see if there was something that was geared toward men that I might have picked up as a freebie or a super-cheap download.

I struck pay dirt by finding Samson and the Pirate Monks on my list of Kindle books I own.  I had downloaded it last summer when it was 99 cents, thinking that it might be my book for this challenge last year. (Last year, I ended up reading David Murray’s Reset, which is a great book for both men and the women who love them.)

Anyway, onto to Samson and the Pirate Monks. In this book, author Nate Larkin, relates a racy tale of addiction, cover-ups, faking it in church and through life and finding that your life falls apart.  It’s his life story. His frequent starts and stops and his frequent struggles with sin and feeling that he was not “good enough” to be a Christian.  His feeling that all those in church or that have been saved have surpassed their temptations into serious sin was only reinforced by the culture of secrecy that surrounds many problems that church members have. We all know we’re sinners, saved by grace, but we all struggle to admit our problems or that God didn’t immediately cure us of our problems when we were saved.

Then, Larkin shares his way out of his addictions by surrender to God and by allowing God to change his life through a 12-step program.  The use of the 12-step program made him long for authentic Christian brotherhood.  He was beginning to develop relationships in his church where he was mentoring other men who were struggling with addictions or were in danger of falling into them, and he wanted to come together with them in an authentic way.  So, he created his own Christianized version of a 12-step program.  The remainder of the book lays out what he created and gives examples of how it has worked in his group and testimonials from men in other “Sampson societies.”

This book is really two books in one, and I could easily give it two different ratings.  The half to two-thirds part of the book, where he details his own story and God’s grace in his life as he learns that he can’t break his addiction on his own is touching, heart-rending and completely relatable.  In fact, I raced through that section.  I couldn’t put it down because I could relate to the struggle of attempting to save myself from sin (and from bad habits like drinking soda) and from failing time and time again under my own power. Our sins are different, but I could relate to Nate Larkin and I was completely tracking with him on many things.

The last third of the book, however, fails a little for me. It describes the “Samson Society” that Larkin created and how it came to be.  It shares about how Samson Societies have been started in many other places and gives testimonials from other men.  I struggled to understand what was so wrong with the other twelve-step programs that we need a man specific church group. For a while I attended a church that also did a knock-off Christian twelve-step group called Celebrate Recovery, so I guess the market for those kind of “church” groups is higher than I would suspect.  The fault for not getting it is completely on me and my lack of understanding of why we have to take every group and “clone” it for the church.

Also, Samson Societies, as described by Larkin, are not centralized and are very different from place to place.  They can have different rules and different formats so long as they adhere to a central code.  So, as he describes the different bylaws, he kind of meanders and keeps reminding you that other Samson groups may do things differently.  I found that a little frustrating, and felt like perhaps this would have been a stronger and more powerful book if he hadn’t of spent so much of the end of it discussing and pushing Samson societies.

Godly Wisdom

A few months ago, I read a quote that I keep turning to again and again, so this morning, I thought it would be a great thing to share for a Monday.  This quote is from Ruth Adams’ book Legacy, and it says:

We set our children on a trajectory for wisdom or folly from their earliest moments…Proverbs has so much to say about embracing wisdom rather than folly, and children so often live up to the expectations we have of them…Seek Godly wisdom and be purposeful in passing on a legacy of righteousness to the next generation.

This is something that I find that I’ve adapted to a prayer as I ask the Lord to:

  • Let my children to wisdom over folly
  • Let me to have high expectations of them
  • Let them to feel that they are capable of living a godly life
  • Let me to see godly wisdom in raising my children
  • Let me to be purposeful in my parenting
  • Allow me to pass on a legacy of righteousness to my children.

These prayers are changing me from the inside, and I hope they will change my whole family.

 

Sunday Sharing

Welcome to this week’s Sunday Sharing!  This is the space where I share my favorite blog posts, videos, podcasts and resources for the week.

First up this week is The Secret to the Abundant Life.  I needed this reminder about what is important.

Next I have, Your Smartphone is Making You Stupid, Antisocial, and Unhealthy. So Why Can’t You Put It Down?.  I really struggle with my phone and putting it down, so this is a stern lecture for me about my own addiction and making sure I don’t pass it down to my children.  By the way, this article included a mention of the Will Farrell #DeviceFreeDinner videos, which are hilarious and yet painful to watch!! Tim Challies details his own struggle in controlling his device (so that it doesn’t control him) in A Day A Week, A Week a Year.

Speaking of harm that comes from devices and your interactions with them, this article Tether Yourself has good advice for both teens and their parents.  Another article I encountered this week that had scary statistics about technology and great advice for parents was The Scary Truth About What’s Hurting Our Kids.

I followed LeAnn’s Things I Learned About Public School series on Facebook and was surprised by the negativity shown towards her observations by both homeschoolers and those send their children to public school.  The observations she has are very neutral, with some very good things and some very bad things, but in the whole, they make me glad that we do homeschool.

I was convicted by The Easiest Sin to Justify.  I spent a lot of years telling myself that my temper was okay because it was justified by what the people around me were doing.  I didn’t realize how much damage I was doing to those I loved and my relationship with them.

It is difficult to see, as a homeschooler, why the world is so suspicious of homeschoolers.  However, whenever some horrific case of child abuse happens, government regulators start calling for more oversight of homeschooling.  Is that warranted?  Homeschooling and Abuse is a sane response to these calls.

We don’t do allowances, and I worry that I’m not doing a great job teaching my children about money.  I enjoyed reading This Mom Charges Her 5-Year-Old Rent–and the Internet is Freaking Out. I thought it was a really creative and out-of-the-box way to teach about money, but I know not everyone agrees with me.

Kelly at Generation Cedar touches on an important topic in article Raising Our Children to See God in the Moments.  We need to make sure that our children see God in their every day life, and not just in Bible time and church on Sundays.

Sometimes I’m fearful and controlling.  I don’t mean to be, but I am.  I loved reading Trusting God With Our Little & Big Ones…From the Beginning because it reminded me of the peace that comes with surrendering our control to God. I’ve had times in my life where I have been reminded that he is God and I am not, and even though those times are stressful, they are also peaceful.

That’s all for this week.  Here’s hoping that you’ve had a great and restful weekend!!

This Present Darkness

I had seen This Present Darkness at several of the used book sales that my local library had hosted. I had heard about its reputation as a bestselling Christian fiction many times.  My husband credits it as one of the best books that he read in his teens, so with a 33 cent library book sale price tag, I ended up adding This Present Darkness to my collection.

The book sat on my shelves, unloved and neglected for about six months, and then I started working through a reading challenge, and one of the first books on the reading challenge was to read a book “recommended by your best friend.”  My husband qualifies as one of my best friends, so I picked up the book and began to read.  I shot a picture of the cover of the book and shared it on social media, only to have at least five of my friends tell me that it was one of the best books that they had ever read.  With those kind of recommendations, I got started.

Ashton is a small town.  A typical small town with a small college, a little newspaper and a few little churches.  I would imagine it quite similar to the small town that I live in.  However, at a carnival, a reporter gets arrested on a made up charge in order to have some film confiscated and destroyed.  This act piques the curiosity of the editor of the paper so much that he begins getting involved in asking the kind of questions that might have him railroaded out of town or worse.

Hank Busche is the pastor of a small church.  He preaches the word with vigor and lives it out in his life.  His congregants don’t seem to appreciate it, and his hold on his church is precarious.  However, he can’t stop praying for them, and soon his faith begins to inspire a revival of prayer among the remnant of the town. This revival begins to grow, and Busche soon realizes that there are evil demonic forces in the town the the must be ready to battle against.

In the background, there are demons with plots to take over the town and an angelic host trying to quietly battle these demons.  As they do, the lines between good and evil, demonic and angelic become drawn and the battle will soon commence over whether or not this town will fall to the satanic forces.

I don’t really know where to start with this review.  There are a lot of things I really enjoyed about the book, and there are still other things that I didn’t enjoy and thought poorly of as I read.  I think my younger self would have really enjoyed and got into this book.  There was a time when I was really interested in angels and demons, and I find that, as I get older, it’s not as big a focus of my life.  I believe they are there, and I believe that they work powerfully, but I don’t know that their workings are truly meant to be a consideration of my life beyond the reminder of who and what the real enemy is.

My battle is a spiritual battle, but so much of my life is tied into battling the enemy inside of me that I have that struggle as my forefront at this stage in my life.  Realizing just how sinful I am has meant to me that my own flesh is my true battle assignment.  As a younger person, I would have enjoyed this book more as a spiritual battle because my own sin didn’t loom so large in my life, and I would often feel as if I was being attacked by Satanic forces.  I still do occasionally, but I find that far more often I see people’s struggle with their own flesh and sin and my own struggle with it as the hugest factor of conflict in my life.  Ultimately, that is an attack of the devil, but it’s not quite the type of attack pictured in this book.  Even the angels acknowledge this part of the spiritual battle as they ponder whether or not one of the main characters will be destroyed by his own temptation to sin.  They say, “No. Not destroyed. Knocked down, perhaps. Decimated, perhaps. But it’s all because of the dross in his own soul, which the Spirit of God has yet to convict him of. We can do nothing but wait and let all things take their course.”

I enjoyed places where Peretti specifically named demons and their powers. That seemed very much like an excellent allegorical use for naming sins and the way that those “demons” surround us. I’m not convinced that every thing is a demon, so literally, I wouldn’t be interested in it, but as an allegory, I would.  However, I’m pretty sure that Peretti does not mean for this naming to be allegorical, so I think we’re at cross-purposes here.

I enjoyed the storyline quite well.  I wasn’t crazy about Peretti’s writing or writing style.  It wasn’t really me, and sometimes I struggled to stay in the book because of that.  I also see that the book was written during the height of the new age movement, and as someone who, as a teen, was attracted to elements of that movement, I’m not really buying the shadowy “universal consciousness” as a bad guy.  It just doesn’t seem realistic with my understanding of the new age movement.  I also think this dates the book a little bit as the current trend is less towards spirituality in general and more towards hedonism and atheism as a rejection of spiritual things.

One of the things that I did love was that, in the end, to accomplish God’s plan, both of the protagonists had to experience a fall.  Sometimes we are attempting to do God’s will for us, and it seems to make life worse, and one of God’s main messages to me over the past little bit has been that the difficulties of life and the struggles that I have are not necessarily an indicator that I am not in his will.  Even when I have done what God has told me to do and what God has led me to, there are times when God has ordained a dark patch and a rough spot for me.  I needed to see both Busche and Hogan go through the darkness. That’s the lesson God has impressed upon me lately, and I feel like the dark places are sometimes the best places to see God working.

However, after that, I had expectations for how God alone was going to be pull them out. So, I hated in the end, feeling like much of the victory was because one of the demons was jealous of the other one and caused dissension.  I wanted to see God’s glory.  I wanted it to be clear rout where the demons were destroyed utterly by his power.  I felt kind of cheated out of a good ending.  Not to mention that there was so much back-and-forth between the demon/angel world and the physical people world in the last fifty pages of the book that is was kind of confusing.  I found myself going back and rereading portions to get a better understanding of what was happening.

I don’t mean to sound so negative as I write about this book either.  I hate to say that I’m not a fan of a book that has changed so many lives and that so many people I am friends with think so highly of.  However, I’m just not a fan.  There are really good portions to the storyline too, but in the end, this book just doesn’t live up to my expectations of such a huge seller and something that so many have found to be life-changing. Maybe if I had read it in another stage of my life, I would have found it to be just as wonderful as all the hype, but my opinion is that this book is just not really for me.

Persuasion

I have been a fan of Modern Mrs. Darcy for a while.  I enjoy reading her blog posts, and I also occasionally listen to her podcast.  As I read and listen, one of the books I most often hear her recommend to others is a classic by Jane Austen.  It didn’t take me long to realize that Persuasion was also a novel that I have never read.

I always hate it when there’s a classic mentioned a lot that I haven’t read.  Don’t you?

So, when I started reading through this year’s reading challenge, one of the first books on the list was to read “a book more than 100 years old.” I knew that I was going to make Persuasion the book I read for this book of the challenge.

In persuasion, we have a focus on the lives of various members of the Elliot family.  There’s Walter, and his daughters Elizabeth, Anne and Mary.  Throughout the book they deal with various suitors and relations as well as with each other, and these interactions are documented by Austen in the most delightful way.

The actual protagonist of the book is Anne Elliot. At the age of nineteen, she had a romance with a navy man, and found herself persuaded to give that relationship up.  Now, eight years later, he’s back in her life, but seems to be courting another.  Is Anne still in love with Frederick?  How does he feel about her? Will he marry another?  Will she be swept off her feet by the charms of another man?

These are the questions that the reader is propelled to as they read this novel.  I must say that I turned the pages eagerly, hoping for a happy ending, but fearing that there wouldn’t be one.

The characters are well drawn.  The family drama is cozy and domestic, but entertaining.   I enjoyed all the side family drama, and the relationships between sisters, cousins and friends. Throughout much of the first half of the book, the family drama compelled me to read more than the actual romantic part.

Although I still think I prefer Emma to PersuasionI have to admit that they are pretty close in my estimation. However, I find that I could truly relate to Persuasion at this place in my life in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to relate just a few years ago.

I love the description of Walter Elliot as completely foolish throughout the novel.  They are struggling with money and find it necessary to make cutbacks, but they find that they, “were neither of them able to devise any means of lessening their expenses without compromising their dignity, or relinquishing their comforts in a way not to be borne.” I might sometimes be that foolish in my thinking as well, and I can totally relate to Walter and Elizabeth attempting to make those financial cuts in a way that didn’t actually seem noticeable to truly affect their lifestyle.  I’m a little guilty of that as well.

I also find that I can understand how Anne allows herself to be persuaded by those who she considers her elders and mentors against her own better judgement.  I was in my thirties before I truly stopped making my decisions based on whether or not the “elders” in my life approved.  It was when I started homeschooling, and received so much less support than I had anticipated, that I realized that I had to start making decisions just to keep my mentors happy.  I still sometimes struggle though, so I totally get the place that Anne is coming from.  I have to know that something is completely right to break away from the leadership in my life.

Also, I’m finally old enough that I have been through enough pain in my life to be able to look back on some of my pain as bittersweet.  2012 almost killed me as I learned that following the Lord’s leading was painful and isolating.  I thought I’d learned that lesson well, but then came 2017, and I’m glad we’ve turned the page into a new year.  It’s like all hell broke loose in several areas of my life. Still, I remember both years, even the pain in them with so much love and happiness.  I was reminded of this when I read the words, “when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it.” Even the pain eventually becomes bittersweet as God works all things to good.

Finally, I loved a quote in Persuasion that went, “Her spirits wanted the solitude and silence which only numbers could give.”  Even as an introvert, I find that some days we must get out of the house and do things just so I don’t have to be alone with my thoughts. Can I get an agreement from getting away from that internal nagging voice?

At any rate, those are some of my favorite takeaways from the book, and I’ve tried not to give spoilers, so I also think this one is (mostly) spoiler free.  It was an excellent and entertaining read, and I enjoyed adding just a little romance to a cold and snowy January.

Three James Herriot Classics

I have a child who loves animals.  All animals.  Earlier this year a James Herriot omnibook came available for Kindle on a fairly cheap deal.  I snagged it, thinking that Bennett might really enjoy the books at some point.  Then, I read James Herriot’s Treasury for Children to the children as part of our school day this fall, and I found that I was as charmed as the children were.

So, when I started looking at the categories from this year’s #VTReadingChallenge, I saw that book number four was a “book by an author who is no longer alive.”  I immediately thought of the James Herriot treasury, and I picked it up to read for myself.  I will quickly review all three books here, so that you can see what is included in the kindle bundle.

All Creatures Great and Small

In All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot is a young veterinarian.  He’s just out of school, and he is taking his first job in a small town in Yorkshire as an assistant to veterinarian Siegfried Farnon.  Herriot quickly learns that like as a veterinarian is not the way that he pictured it in college, and we begin to see him grow and mature as a veterinarian as well as seeing him fall in love with both the countryside and with his future wife.

I found myself completely enchanted by the book.  I loved the depiction of the different farmers.  Loved the repeat of certain special animals and their owners into Herriot’s life. However, best of all was the interaction between Farnon, Herriot, and Farnon’s carefree little brother Tristan.  Just seeing the big brother and the rebellious little brother would make me smile as I would read about their interactions.

I also would smirk when Farnon would give Herriot advice.  Why?  Because every single time Herriot would follow Farnon’s advice, Farnon would criticize Herriot and give completely conflicting advice.  Farnon is just such a wonderful character to read about, and I enjoyed him so much in this book.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

This book continues James Herriot’s adventures in his early year of veterinary work.  He is a young newlywed, and his enjoying the married life.  He continues to work and see a multitude of animals, and we get to hear new stories of animals and of their amazing owners throughout the book.

The timeline of this book slips around.  Although he is married to Helen in the book, readers will occasionally find him going backwards to tell a story from their courtship or his younger, single days, and I found that a little frustrating in the first half of the book because I like my stories to travel in a straight line, but the stories themselves are so warm and wonderful that I finally learned to just step back and embrace them.

Faron is still in these stories, and he’s just as hilarious as in the first book.  We also see the addition of Granville Bennett, a small pets veterinarian who always seems to get Herriot drunk and into more trouble than Harriot really means to get into.  I look forward to his appearances with delight!!

In the shadow of the book, looming throughout the book is the probability that both Herriot and Farnon will go off to war.  This becomes a reality at the end of the book as Herriot leaves for London.  I look forward to the next book in hopes of seeing how this adventures in the RAF turn out.

All Things Wise and Wonderful

In this book, James is in the Royal Air Force during World War II.  He shares stories of his time in the Air Force, of the birth of his son, of his discharge and being ready to come back home, along with reminiscences of his life before the war as a veterinary surgeon.

The stories don’t progress in a straight line because many of them are stories that the goings on the air force remind him of.  However, this doesn’t bother me in the way it did in the second book because I enjoyed seeing him compare his military life to his life as a vet. I enjoyed seeing the similarities between the two lives.  It was really a pleasant read, and perhaps my favorite of the three books in this omnibus.

I’m a little surprised by how much I enjoyed all these books because I’m not an animal lover.  However, this is one of the most charming sets of books I’ve read in a long time.