Homeschooling Update: New on the (Homeschool) Stack

I blog every month about the books I add to my reading stack, but I’ve never thought about sharing the new homeschooling-related titles I add. This month’s post includes about three month’s worth of new books.

National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments and Landmarks

I saw this one on my friend Sarah’s Instagram, and immediately wanted it. I love love love the National Parks and a fun title like this looked like one we would all enjoy.

Castle by David Macaulay

We’re in the middle of learning about the era of European castles in history, so I couldn’t resist when I found this title on a great deal.

Legends & Leagues South Storybook (& Workbook)

Wanted to try this as it looked like a fun approach to geography.

Cabin on Trouble Creek by Jean Van Leeuwen

This title appears on a lot of recommended fiction lists, so I grabbed it on sale.

Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Another sale title (so hard to resist titles when they’re super inexpensive!), because I love having additional easier readers on hand to give to my kids when I need something to keep them busy.

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

Another one where I couldn’t resist the screaming deal.

Science Encyclopedia

It’s beyond where my kids are right now, but I’m hoping they get some use out of it. They’ve loved the other Usborne science titles they’ve used.

The Way Things Work Now by David Macaulay

Couldn’t resist this on sale either, and I think they are going to LOVE it when I finally pull it off the shelf.

Bible Explorer’s Guide

Looks like the sort of book we all enjoy, and it’s SO HARD for me to resist Bible reference books that I think my kids will like.

Dear Deer: A Book of Homophones by Gene Barretta

Very cute, but I’d only say get it if you find an amazing deal like I did (love damaged book sales when the “damage” ends up being super minor).

Life Skills for Kids: Equipping Your Child for the Real World by Christine Field

I maybe should have listed this in my usual New on the Stack post, because it is for me. Except it is homeschooling-related so I’m keeping it here. I’m not sure how useful this will be, but I’m giving it a try.

No Stress Chess

No, it’s not a book, but it is for school. So far my son really likes this, and I’m enjoying it as well (I’ve never played chess before, so we’re both learning).

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May 2017 Recap

May was an amazing reading month – I read so much, and most of the books I finished were ones I really enjoyed.

I didn’t get a lot done in the way of blogging – I was hoping to get posts written ahead before we left on vacation, but it didn’t happen. Then I intentionally left my computer at home and conceded that the blog was going to be put on a brief hiatus. 😉

May 2017 in Stats

Books Read This Month: 24
Books Read This Year: 76

Things That Happened
  • Book club – My Antonia for my in-person book club and Hannah Coulter in the Facebook group.
  • We went on vacation to Florida! We went to Legoland, Disney, and Animal Kingdom. We also had days spent at the pool in between the amusement parks.
  • We wrapped up the “official” school year, although we’ll be doing some light things for the summer.
What’s Cooking

    Lots of quick-and-easy meals, as we’ve been busy with baseball & softball. I keep thinking I should make myself a belated birthday cake, but so far I haven’t bothered. We were in Florida for my actual birthday, which is why it hasn’t happened yet.

    But! The smartest thing I did was schedule a Home Chef box to arrive right after vacation. We got home late Monday afternoon, and Tuesday morning a meal box was at my door. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I want to do that every time we’re coming home from vacation, as it made re-entry so much easier.

What I’m Anticipating in June
  • H’s birthday! 🙂
  • Baseball and softball will end. G’s team will have a tournament, so I’m not sure of the exact ending date.
  • Taekwondo camp, and VBS.
  • Belt testing. G tries again for his 1st degree recommended black belt, and H goes for brown belt. I am *so* hoping she passes because that’ll move her up into the advanced classes. Why do I care? Because then she’ll be in the same class as G again, which makes my life easier. 🙂
  • Book club – Into Thin Air for my in-person book club and Uprooted in the Facebook group.
Books I Read in May

I shared the list of books I read in a post on Thursday, so I’ll share my favorites of the picture books we read in May:

  • The Gardener by Sarah Stewart

    Beautiful illustrations, and a sweet story

  • The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

    Really funny, and great illustrations

  • Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

    Made my girls laugh, especially the pictures of the grumpy bear.

  • The Firehouse Light by Janet Nolan

    H really liked this one, and asked for it several days in a row. Interesting story, and well-done at showing the passage of time. It’s a wordier book, and wouldn’t hold the attention of toddlers.

  • Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park

    Cute story.

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My Easter Basket Plans

Surprising absolutely no one, my kids are getting books. They’re also getting items for our trip to Florida in May that they’ll need anyway.

I thought briefly about getting them sticker books for the drive but realized that giving them now means they’d probably have them used up before we leave.

For G (age 7 1/2)

The Usborne Outdoor BookThe Usborne Outdoor Book. He is all about Cub Scouts lately, and headed into summer I think he’ll have a lot of fun with the ideas in this one.

I’m also getting him light-weight pjs, and flip-flops or crocs or some sort of shoe that will work well for the pool on our upcoming vacation. I’m also looking at a Cardinals t-shirt for him, because he doesn’t know it but he’s going to a baseball game in April. Not to see the Cardinals, but I know he’ll still want to represent his team. 🙂

For H (age 5 1/2)

Fingerprint Activities BackyardFingerprint Activities Book
She loves anything arts & crafts related, and I love when she can entertain herself. We both win with this one!

She’s getting new pjs as well, plus a new bathing suit as well as pool-friendly shoes. And a dress for Easter, because I can’t resist.

For M (age 2 1/2)

Little Bear Needs GlassesLittle Bear Needs Glasses
She LOVES All Better, and this is a related title. Reusable glasses! I’m sure she’ll love it.

She doesn’t need pjs, or a bathing suit (or a dress, really), but assuming the sale hasn’t ended before I can put my order in, I’ll be getting her a new dress for Easter too. I don’t want ALL of her clothes to always be hand-me-downs. She does need pool-friendly shoes though because her sister’s old ones broke.

All of their baskets will have some candy as well, but my intent is to not have too much of that. I feel somewhat sneaky using items we’d be buying anyway (like for vacation) as basket-filler, but I don’t think they’ll complain.

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When Ignorance is (Still Not) Bliss: The Enola Holmes Books

Last November I went through a mini-binge on the children’s mystery series by Nancy Springer featuring Enola Holmes, reading the first three of the (currently) six-book series,.


I’m not entirely sure why I read three of them, as they weren’t that good. The writing wasn’t great, the plotting was weak, and the characters were mostly unappealing, if not unbelievable.

I think I *wanted* to like the series so much that I kept trying, hoping they would pick up. It helped that they were super quick to read, so three books still wasn’t a large reading investment. Ok, so I also liked the covers and kept wanting the books to live up to them.

On the bright side, I wasn’t annoyed by liberties Springer apparently takes with the Holmes cannon. I don’t know the Holmes books well, so nothing jumped out at me, as it would have if I was well versed in it.

How do I know this? Recently I noticed someone I follow on Instagram commented about being super disappointed in the books because of how the author isn’t true to the original characters.

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Boscombe Valley Mystery {photo by #thegeekbug} 📚🎻🔬📚🎻🔬📚🎻🔬📚 ⚠️️WARNING SHERLOCKIANS ⚠️I had a unfortunate experience reading the Enola Holmes series, which l had impatiently anticipated but was disappointed to discover that the author, Nancy Springer, was not true to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writings. Listen, if you're going to build your story on someone else's foundation the least you could do is stay true to the characters. Don't mess with my Sherlock! A mistake worthy of Anderson himself. 😩~ The Geek Bug #livingbooksnook #booknerdissues . . . . ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Day 13 unfortunate #ampersandjan17 #sherlock #sherlockholmes #dontmesswithmysherlock #sherlockian #book #books #bookish #booknerd #joyfulandbookish #booknerdigans #bookstagram #booksofinstagram #instabook #fantasticbooksreviews

A photo posted by Heather Mac (@livingbooksnook) on

So while I did have some (ok, many) issues with the book, there are advantages to not being a major Sherlockian – I was oblivious to the issues Heather spotted. And that’s usually not the case for me – I tend to be the one getting annoyed at movies when they take liberties with historical facts (one of the reasons I don’t watch a lot of them).

And an extra disclaimer: I linked to the series in the first paragraph and via the picture, because I’m always curious about books and if I were reading this post I’d probably want to click through and see what the books were about. But I want to be clear that if you’re thinking that they’re juvenile mysteries, and so weaknesses in the writing and plot might be ok, I’d still say pick other titles.

There were references to prostitution and alcoholism in the first two books and some fairly gruesome stuff in the third. Definitely yuckier than I’d want in a juvenile title, and so I do not recommend them for younger readers. Or anyone really, but if you’re an adult I’m not worried about the content for you. Just your reading time. 😉

If you want a juvenile mystery that I do recommend, try Detectives in Togas. It kept my second grader’s interest (even the kindergartener listened to most of it) and solving it involved some details of Roman history, which were given to the reader as the story unfolded. Fun!

There’s also a second by the same author, Mystery of the Roman Ransom, although we haven’t read that one yet.

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Magical Reads with The Sisters Grimm & Pip Bartlett

I haven’t been participating in the discussion much about them, but I did read both of the chapter books for November and December’s Family Book Club.

the-sisters-grimm-fairy-tale-detectivesThe Sisters Grimm is the first book in The Fairy Tale Detectives series, where all the fairy tale characters we know from stories turn out to actually live in a town in New York. They’re trapped under a spell and have had to make lives for themselves there, and it’s very funny learning what the various characters do. Snow White as a Kindergarten teacher was one of my favorites.

It’s a cute story, and while I wasn’t motivated to read more in the series for myself, I can imagine giving it to my kids to read for themselves when they get older. At least in the first book, there wasn’t anything I’d object to content-wise, and it was a fun re-imagining of familiar fairy tale stories.

pip-bartletts-guide-to-magical-creaturesPip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures was really amusing – I loved Pip and was so entertained by her Unicorn mishap. I loved how Pip’s world was so recognizable as ours, with just the added element of oh, yeah, there are magical creatures. I will be looking for the next in this series when it releases next year.

This is one where I think the print version is preferred to the electronic version – I read it via Kindle, and there are some illustrations that were either hard or all but impossible to see. It wasn’t essential, but they are fun, and when I have my kids read this, they’ll be reading it in print.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: November 2014 Recap

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Have a MAGICAL November and December with Us

We’ve had a really nice discussion about the Modern US books featured in the Family Exploration Book Club in September & October. While we’re still discussing Stuck in Neutral, I wanted to be sure and share the titles for November and December in time for everyone to locate the books.


For the youngest readers, the picture book selected is The Boy from the Dragon Palace adapted by Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

For November’s chapter book title, we’re reading The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson

December’s selection is Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

Chat about the books

We’d love to chat about the books with you in the Facebook group – tell us what you & your family think about the titles, or share additional ideas for books (or crafts, or food) that connect to the theme!

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Review: VeggieTales Devotional (and a giveaway!)

Every Day with God covers VeggieTales Every Day with God: 365 Daily Devos

All three of my kids (7, 5, and 2) have loved VeggieTales, so when I found out they offered a devotional I jumped at the chance to look at it. I thought perhaps it’d be something we could do as a family during our morning Bible time – the suggested age range is 4 to 7.

While it could work for that, it’s actually written in such an accessible way that it also works for my oldest to read for himself, and that’s how I’m going to use it. He doesn’t know it but the devotional is going to go into his Christmas stocking.

Why I Like it

Each page has one days’s devotional on it, and it’s short enough to not be overwhelming to newer readers (my son is a good reader, but he still doesn’t like reading things when then text is too small or there’s not enough white space on a page). Each day has a scripture reference (from a variety of translations), devotional text, thought of the day, and prayer starter.

I like that the days are not dated, but numbered, and that the content is age-appropriate, without being babyish. I really liked how the thought of the day connected the scripture to things my kids may be experiencing. It felt like a great way to begin learning to apply scripture to their life.

My only real complaint with the book is that the designating the books either for boys or girls seems unnecessary. Flipping through the boy’s version, I didn’t notice anything that wouldn’t work for girls as well, although I admit that I didn’t read all 365 entries yet. I’m assuming it was more of a marketing decision than anything else, and realize that my older two would probably both love it being “for them” so specifically.

Want Your Own Copy?

Would you like a copy of the devotional? I have one copy to give away (boy’s or girl’s version – your pick). Enter below – the giveaway ends at 12 AM October 10th. I will contact the winner who will have 24 hours to respond, or I’ll select another winner. Good luck!

Find the book: Boy’s version | Girl’s version | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Every Day with God is the latest 365-day devotional (one for boys and another for girls) from VeggieTales. The updated content and art offer the perfect opportunity for parent and child to share time together each day. Each entry includes a Bible verse, short devotion, Thought of the Day, and prayer. The content will help children learn more about God and develop a daily practice to keep Him close in their lives. The book is perfect for bedtime reading, family devotion time, or as a fresh way to start each day!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Quick Lit: Recent Middle-Grade and YA Reads

The PenderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

As I mentioned on my Instagram, I would have LOVED this book as a kid. LOVED IT. It’s funny and imaginative and the girls make it sound like being a Penderwick is so much fun. As an adult reading it, I can see lots of flaws with it, so I’m still debating how to rate it on Goodreads. A 5-Star book for kids, and a 3-Star read for me. Read it to your kids, let them read it themselves, or read it yourself and try and channel your inner 10 year old.

Looking for AlibrandiLooking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Read during my Australia books binge, and the premise sounded like it was going to be just another typical coming-of-age story. Although it could have been completely cliched, Josephine is such an appealing character she turns the book into something much more than I expected. Nicely written, and it deserved a better cover for the American version than it got. There are some mature themes in it, so be aware of that if you’ve got younger teens interested in it.

An Uncertain ChoiceAn Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Light historical romance. I usually enjoy Hedlund’s books, but didn’t like this one (her first YA novel) as much. There are two more in the series but I’m unlikely to pick them up. Disclaimer: I don’t typically like romance novels so if you do and think this one sounds good, I’d give it a try. I wanted more emphasis on the history and less on the romance angle, and the plot was WAY too predictable.

The School for Good and EvilThe School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

I’d heard RAVES about this book so I stuck with it even when I wasn’t enjoying it, thinking it had to get better. Sadly, no, it didn’t. I love fractured fairy tales, and while I loved the premise of this, it was dreadful. Derivative, repetitive, with awful messages – it makes me wonder what other people were seeing in it to like it so much. I’m dumbfounded that it was a best seller.

Please don’t waste your reading time, and please don’t give it to your daughter(s) to read. Want to know more details about why not? This gif-heavy review summarizes my main issues with the book. A heads-up though that there’s some language in it if that offends you, and it’s loaded with spoilers.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Quick Lit: Recent Middle Grade and Young Adult Books
Two years ago: Quick Lit: Recent Christian Reads (2014)
Three years ago: Quick Lit: Recent Christian Reads (2013)

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Recent Readalouds: The Princess in Black series

Princess in Black 1 and 2

The Princess in Black and The Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Books one and two of the series were birthday gifts to my daughter, and she loved them. I wasn’t sure how they’d be as readalouds – they’re suitable for somewhat newer readers, and sometimes those books can be painful to read aloud. I should have trusted Hale, as these were fun.

They are quite silly, but not in an obnoxious way, instead in a this-is-delightful-to-young-kids way. The illustrations are wonderful too, and there are lots of them, making this book a nice bridge between picture books and chapter books.

Princess Magnolia is appealing, and while I think the books were just about perfect for a 5 year old girl to listen to, my 7 year old son happily listened in as well. Admittedly, his favorite parts were when Magnolia is battling the monsters.

Book #3 releases in paperback just in time for Christmas (and I’ve already pre-ordered it), and the final book in the series releases in hardcover in November. I’m holding off on it only because the other books we’ll have will all be paperbacks, and it kind of bugs me to have the series be mismatched on our shelves. Fingers crossed that book #4 will be out in paperback before her next birthday in 2017.

They’re not books that I want to read aloud again and again and again, but it’s fun to read them a handful of times, and then have my daughter “read” them herself is fantastic. I’m sure once she starts reading for real she’ll tackle these on her own again too.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers
Three years ago: God’s Bestseller by Brian Moynahan

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Birthday Books for My Birthday Girl

My baby turns 2 today, so it’s a perfect time to add favorite books to our own collection. We added:

The Pout Pout Fish

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna. She loves this book. She’s been missing it since I took it back to the library last month, and I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to have it back.


Moo! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. All the kids like this one – it’s so much fun.

Kitten's First Full Moon

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. I’ve been meaning to buy this since my oldest was a baby, and I finally am. He helped me open the box when these arrived yesterday and was so happy to see this one in the stack for her.

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
Two years ago: Blog Break, New Baby Edition