Monday, July 23, 2018

Six Girls and Three Good Books

My oldest daughter often shares favorite books with her friends. Like me, she knows that a good book improves with sharing.

At the beginning of summer, we asked several of her friends if they'd be interested in a summer book club. We chose three books that we had recently enjoyed reading, handed out copies, and set a date in July for a book club meeting.


Last week six girls and their moms met at our local library. All the girls and some of the moms had read all three books. I had prepared a short quiz on facts from the book plus some open-ended discussions questions. 

We had brought a box of favorite books that we had picked up at the used book store. The prize for the winner of the book quiz was first chance to pick a book. Everyone went home with a "new" book. 

Some of the girls asked if we could hold another book club meeting in August, so I called the evening a success. 

We chose the three books for their literary quality, ease of finding at the local library, and their ability to build empathy. We also chose books that were slightly below the girls' reading level. This was meant to be a fun summer activity, not a challenging school project. None of these books were overtly "Christian," but all shared important life lessons and didn't contain objectionable material, in my opinion. 

Here are the three books we read. (This includes affiliate links so a purchase gives me a small commission at no extra cost to you.)



Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
I had tried reading this book years ago but was turned off by the frilly cover. But this spring I tried again and loved it. Esperanza enjoys a privileged life as the daughter of a rich landowner in Mexico. But when her father is killed, Esperanza and her mother flee to the US. Life at a migrant farm during the Great Depression is hard,  and when her mother catches Valley Fever, Esperanza is forced to find a way to survive. 

This story is based on the author's grandmother's life. I highly recommend listening to the audio version so that you can enjoy a good Spanish reader. Even my boys listened to the book. I didn't know when we chose this book how much immigration would be in the recent news. I love how books like these help me walk in another's shoes for a few hours.

My daughter said this was the favorite book she read this year. Nine children climb on the bus on the first day of school, and we travel with them through the year with a different child narrator each month. There are a lot of characters,, but several mysteries and a strong plot line keeps the story moving.

Each child has their own set of challenges at home (these aren't the perfect Sunday School families), but by the end of the year, each one has learned how to support each other. Note: The book contains a violent bus crash that some children may find disturbing. 


A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park
This book will probably be added to my list of best books I read in 2018, even if it is a juvenile book. Park shares the true story of Salva, one of the lost boys of Sudan in the 1980's. The hardships that Salva survived and the way he has chosen to help others is inspiring. Also included is the fictional story of Nya who spends her hours each day walking to get water for her family.

The book is not long, but will be remembered long after you read the last page. Note: This book contains description of war and terrible violence but is not graphic.

If we have another teen girl book club next summer, by the books we enjoyed, what books would you recommend?

30 comments :

  1. Thanks for book ideas, for a little older reader. Our 15 yr old, "devours" books and reads many. Its a challenge to keep ahead of her to have books available. Thank you.
    I think of you often.
    Diane

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  2. Thank you for sharing! I find this age group a really hard age to find books for. I find it harder to find books for my oldest because for her siblings I can just tell them which ones their older sister read and we found fine but I am constantly searching for (and often pre-reading) ones for my oldest. Unfortunately I find so many books at this level contain one or two inappropriate man-woman or boy-girl scenes (not graphic but enough that its not appropriate) or are too graphic with violence.

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    1. I have the exact same problem. I have to discard many of the books that I preread. Most young adult books are not appropriate, in my opinion. I find that I'm going from middle grade books to adult nonfiction for my oldest. If you find a good book, I'd love to hear about it.
      Gina

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    2. I find my daughter tends to read books meant for younger children so that we don't run into issues. Also she tends to re-read books. What do you mean by going to adult non-fiction for your oldest? My daughter is so sensitive that many descriptions of problems really bother her like if its historical fiction and someone is shot.

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    3. Each child is different so you need adapt for your child. I would not recommend adult historical fiction because most contain things that are inappropriate for children. When I mentioned adult nonfiction, I was thinking of books like Kisses for Katie or God's Smuggler. History books by David McCullouogh are excellent for a mature reader. Many biographies will be good, but not all. I wouldn't just hand an adult book to my children without prereading first. Sometimes there can be just a page or two you need to skip and the rest of the book is fine.
      Gina
      Gina

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    4. thank you for the reply, Gina! It helps. Thankfully I like reading so I am pre-reading a lot. I was glad this year I pre-read the books that came with our (called Christian) history curriculum because WOW so many things were inappropriate in there. Sad. This year we are doing a different program and I was so pleased that they recommend certain books and they have little warnings with page numbers mentioned. I will still pre-read but I thought what a great idea!

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    5. I'd love if you would privately email me and tell me about some of your good book finds - especially what history program you are using that shares cautions. That sounds like a valuable resource for a mom with limited reading time.
      Gina

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    6. Sure I will do that.

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  3. Thank you for these wonderful books! I'll definitely look into them for our new school year.

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  4. This is an older book, since I read it as a teen and that was awhile ago, but I remember it as a very good insight into the world of someone different than myself. Light a Single Candle by Beverly Butler, I don't remember it being offensive or inappropriate but as I said it was awhile ago. :)

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    1. I never heard of it, Carolyn. Thanks for the suggestion.
      Gina

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  5. Hi Gina,
    I was looking for an audio book to listen to in the car with my young nieces during a long ride and checked out Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt from the library after a quick search online. It was amazing! The girls loved it, I loved it, and my husband who listened to it afterwards on his way to and from work loved it! It is a descriptive story of a house mouse who ends up outside for the first time ever and his encounters with such things as field mice, raccoons, grass, the moon, etc. It is recommended for children ages 8 - 12, but my husband and I enjoyed it nonetheless. I do recommend the audio book since it is read so well.
    Many blessings and prayers to your family.

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    1. Sounds like a fun book that we'd all enjoy!
      Thanks,
      Gina

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  6. My daughter's favorite book going into middle school age was Pride and Prejudice. She also enjoyed some she read for school - The Bronze Bow, Wonder, Many Waters, and The Hobbit... We also read Kisses from Katie together and had great discussions. I loved A Long Walk to Water too!

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    1. I've read Pride and Prejudice many times, but wasn't sure my daughter would enjoy it yet. She likes classics like Little Woman and Anne of Green Gables. Kisses for Katie is a great suggestion. It is an inspiring book but I never thought of giving it to her.
      Gina

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    2. Gina have you read all the books by L.M Montgomery? I was briefly looking at the shelf at the library of her books and noticed there are so many more by her (even not about Anne) but my daughter started reading the back of one and thought it was not appropriate so she set it down but I did not have time then to go into it more. Just wondering which ones you've read and if you found them any good. Also did you read and find the other books by the same author as Little Women any good?

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    3. I read nearly all of L.M. Montgomery's book when I was a teen. Some are better than others, in my opinion. Some have romance that would be better for an older teen but it is always clean and appropriate.

      Louisa May Alcott wrote many more good books than just Little Women. Many can be found free online since they are older. Jack and Jill, Old Fashioned Girl, and Under the Lilacs are ones you might look for.
      Gina

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    4. Thank you, Gina. I have trouble knowing what romance is appropriate or not. For example I was pre-reading this one book that was really good. It had one scene where a man kissed the woman on her forehead and soon after that they were engaged. It was not central to the story at all just one part. But my daughter is 12 and mature but I never know how much this puts thoughts in their minds about boys. I just want to be careful. I grew up being allowed to read anything and I don't want my daughter going through that. I don't know. Its just tough to know sometimes what to do. I know its a personal choice but I was wondering how does your family figure out what is appropriate romance in a book and what is not? Obviously situations like what I came across while pre-reading a few like a man gazing at a woman bathing in a river nude (yikes!) or intimacy scences that are supposed to be private for married couples. But the more mild stuff I just don't know where the line is.

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    5. I don't always know where to draw the line either. I too regret some of the things I read as a teen, but I also don't want to be completely ridiculous. I think it can be good to discuss potential problems with your children. Ultimately I want my children to be able to learn to discern for themselves what is good. It is just hard - but no one said that parenting was easy. Guess we need to keep praying!
      Gina

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    6. This makes sense. I find that the odd time something mild slips through and my daughter talks to me about it. She was reading one book and it came up about a Grade 4 boy liking a girl and being boyfriend girlfriend. She said that sounds silly so I stopped reading. We discussed why that is not appropriate at that age and why there are better things etc. So in a way she was discerning for herself there and knew what was wrong.

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  7. These are great! I am a teacher and have read "Esperanza Rising" as a literature novel with many students. I think your daughter may also enjoy "Spring Pearl: the Last Flower" by Lawrence Yep.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm going to see if my library has it. I've read other books by Yep but not that one.
      Gina

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  8. The "Bronze Bow". Our sixth grade teacher read that book to us. If I remember correctly all of us really enjoyed it.

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  9. "Understood Betsy" by Dorothy Canfield Fisher is a beautiful book. Very much along a Louisa May Alcott or Lucy Maud Montgomery ideas. Also "Just David" by Eleanor H. Porter (Same author as Pollyanna) is another beautiful book.

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  10. What a fun idea to do a summer book club for your daughter and her friends! I want to do this in a few years with my children.

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  11. Paula the Waldensian by Eva Lecomte is a good book with good life lessons. ~ Joanne

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  12. I forgot to mention the Paula the Waldensian by Eva Lecomte book we got had a picture of a little girl on the front with a cow and sheep. I saw there were different ones for sale not sure if they are all quite the same. ~Joanne

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  13. I have some suggestions that captivated me as a teen girl that don't contain anything offensive as far as I remember...
    "Daughter of Venice" by Donna Napoli
    The "Boston Jane" books (there are 3)
    "Princess Academy" by Shannan Hale (not princess in the way you think- about family ties and doing what is right).
    You could also move on to some Jane Austen (may be challenging, but do-able for age 12 and up)...something like "Emma" might be an easier one to start with. Always polite and not offensive while having good plots and characters.
    PS I remember reading "Esperanza Rising"
    Thinking of you and your family often Gina! Long time reader. God Bless.

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  14. What a terrific idea and something so special to give your daughter.

    A Long Walk to Water was a powerful read for me too.

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  15. My parents both grew up Brethren, in Central Pennsylvania. I now live in the South. You may already know about this, but there are some Mennonite publishing companies where you can find absolutely wonderful books (true stories). One of the last time I went back to Pennsylvania to visit my family, I found a little Christian bookstore that even has a little library in the back with a lot of these types of books. I bought this one and it is VERY good! It is about someone being martyred, so I am not sure what you would feel as age appropriate but you would probably like to read it yourself. A FLAME FOREVER BRIGHT BY CLAUDIA ESH. This is just one example of some of the books. I love to read inspiring things such as these. Chris W.

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