Saturday 10 September 2016

A Summer in Children's Books

Over the last few months, I have been reading a selection of children's books so that I can recommend books to the children in the book club.

This is a quick outline of my summer reading. Stars from 1 to 5 and are the rating that I will use if I ever get round to posting these on Goodreads. The books are aimed at children from 8-12 unless stated otherwise.

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss. * True story of Jewish sisters who were hidden by a Dutch family in the Second World War. Fascinating story but completely spoiled by a large amount of swearing.

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong.*** A tiny school in the Netherlands tries to attract storks back to their village.

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner **** Emil has his money stolen. Can he and other children find the thief? This would also be suitable for slightly younger children and despite its subject matter is only very minimally scary. It is being used in our younger children's book club with children from five.

Moonfleet-J. Meade Falkner **** This book is scary and is better for older children. I first read it at 13 which which probably the ideal age for this book. I have reviewed this book in a separate post.

 Five Little Peppers and how they grew-Margaret Sidney ** A Polyanna like book about a poor Victorian family whose circumstances improved. Not scary but a bit insipid.

From the mixed up files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler-E.L. Konigsburg*** Two children run away from home and hide in a museum. There is a mystery around a new exhibit which the children decide to solve. Positives of this book: much of the book is around one of the main characters, Claudia, coming to understand herself. Negatives: the children put themselves into dangerous situations (going to a stranger's home) and get off scott free. Incidentally, one of the things that began to frustrate me over this summer of reading children's books was the number of times that I had to suspend belief when children got into dangerous situation and got off without any harm.

Still more stories from Grandma's attic-Arieta Richardson***** These stories don't require the suspension of belief as they are from real life and funny. Written from a Christian point of view and one of these contained a beautiful and respectful story about hospitality to an elderly neighbour suffering from dementia.

War in the Wasteland by Douglas Bond.**** This is a book for teenagers and I have reviewed it. Link in the title.

Number the Stars-Lois Lowry**** Historical fiction from the real story of how the Danish Jews escaped from Denmark in the Second World War. There is one phrase which can be interpreted as either taking the Lord's name in vain or an emergency prayer. It is worth skipping this if reading aloud or discussing if children read this. The rest of the story is well told and memorable.

Duncan's War by Douglas Bond **** First in a trilogy about a Scottish family in Covenanting times. More suitable for the older end of the age range as there is some fighting. 

The year of Miss Agnes-Kirkpatrick Hill** I had heard great things about this book but found it disappointing. An inspiring teacher comes to a deprived community and everyone is encouraged to seek learning. Sorrow fills the village as her year in post comes to an end. Sad that the change seems so dependent on one person.

A Country Child by Alison Uttley* A year in the life of a child living deep in the country in, presumably, the early years of the twentieth century. An interesting read but I can't recommend it. It is full of a syncretistic mix of Christianity and paganism.

Rebecca Stubbs: Vicar's Daughter-Hannah Buckland**** Better for teenaged readers. Historical fiction about a Victorian vicar's daughter who is left alone after the death of her parents. My review is here.

The Chocolate Money Mystery-Alexander McCall Smith*** A children's detective story by an author more well known for his adult books. A quick read and suitable for the younger end of the range. 

The Family with two Front Doors-Anna Ciddor***** One of the best books that I have read this summer. The true story of an Orthodox Jewish family in Poland between the wars. The time sequence is the time preparing for and up to the arranged marriage of the eldest daughter. The amount of food detail reminds me of Farmer Boy. There is plenty of detail about the closed community but also overtones of increasing anti-Semitism outside the ghetto. Certainly, a book that I hope to read with my own children.

Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr***** Highly recommended biography of a French Huguenot. Review here.

Elin's Air-Emily Standford Review coming very soon. You will have to wait for this!

Guns of Thunder-Douglas Bond****The first of a trilogy about a Scottish immigrant family in the US. This covered a period in history of which I know little, preRevolutionary America, so I found this particularly interesting. Some fighting and probably best suited to the older end of the age range.

The King's Book-Louise Vernon** Fictional story around the time of the translation of the Authorised Version. Deals with issues of religious toleration but really isn't Vernon's best. Her book about Tyndale is much better.

Swallows and Amazons-Arthur Ransome*** I enjoyed this book more as an adult than as a child. Personally, I think that I found this difficult before as so much of the sailing vocabulary was beyond me. I must say that this series has never been particularly popular with my children. Worth trying though particularly if you have avid readers as there is a whole series.

Pirates of Pompeii and Assassins of Rome by Caroline Lawrence *** A series of mysteries set in Ancient Rome and its surrounding area. Very popular with the children and are full of background information about the Romans. They do require the suspension of belief as the children seem to escape from incredible danger on a regular basis.

Escape from Rome by Caroline Lawrence**** The first in a new series from Caroline Lawrence. Some children flee to Britannia in search of their uncle. Will they survive in the dangerous Britannia? This has the same issues of improbability as the other series but the character development is better which makes the story more compelling. The next in the series is due out in October and is on pre-order!

The book on the window sill and other stories-Damaris*** Stories of how people, often children came to know and love the Lord. Some of the stories are beautiful but they are all rather old. Some of the characters to whom the author refers as well known figures are unknown today. 

Feel free to ask questions about these books if you want more informaton. Which books would you recommend?

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  1. Really helpful post, Sarah, thank you. Several new books for me to follow up there.

  2. Thrilled to see how much you value my book 'The Family With Two Front Doors'. I would love to know how you came across it.
    Warm wishes, Anna

    1. Thank you for your comment. I can't remember how I came across your book but know it was via the Internet. It might have been a read aloud forum on Facebook. I am very pleased that I did find out though.