We may not be taking big vacations and I may often be distracted with Calvin’s care BUT reading out loud together carries us on many adventures, gives us invaluable experiences and discussions together, and glues us together in formative ways. Here’s what we’ve been reading in the evenings…our golden time.
At first I thought this would be a rather dry book but I still popped it into my library bag. Often it’s the books you least expect to be good that capture the whole family! The story is about Charlotte, a 13-year-old upperclass girl, who travels from England to Providence, Rhode Island. She starts the journey under rather mysterious circumstances and begin a voyage that will indeed bring her to Providence but will change her completely. Be ready to feel the wind in your face, smell the stench of the brigg, and make friends with a salty crew. Full of intrigue, mystery and surprise, even your boys will love it.
Conversation Starters: At the end of the book there is a conversation waiting to be had about culture shock, how it changes us when our perspective broadens and how we react when we are misunderstood. Even if you’ve never travelled, your kids will feel the change in Charlotte, the difficulty in transition, and seeking to be understood.
It’s a book that challenges perceptions of race and class and identifying with people “like” us. It brings up a discussion of authority–“How did Charlotte react in the end? Why? What do you think about it?”
The entire family listened but I think my kids from ages 8-13 and the adults benefited most. There was lots of lively discussion along the way!
This was a wonderfully creative story filled with a bit of science-fiction, strong morals and surprise. As a parent, I usually only carry on with big thick books that are interesting. I often wanted to read ahead on my own after I’d tucked the kids in. The character development was so clever and the plot-line kept us guessing.
When a peculiar ad for gifted children appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.
As our heroes face physical and mental trials beyond their wildest imaginations, they have no choice but to turn to each other for support. But with their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?
Conversation Starters: Most of the time the kids only wanted to talk about which character they were like. After each of them deciding they were a mix of one or two we were able to get on other topics, but to them this was the most important discussion 😉
Some major themes that came up for us were the discussion of evil being portrayed as “good” and how most people doing evil often have convinced themselves they are doing it for the greater good. Which naturally led into a talk of communism (thanks Darryl), government structures and the use of power.
There was a lot of fun that went along with trying to solve the puzzles along with the heroes in the book. It’s a great time to talk about the way each of the characters have strengths and flaws and do a bit of self-reflection.
Again, this was perfect for my kids ages 8-13. They cannot stop talking about it!
Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a larger family like ours or perhaps it’s the way Birdsall makes the characters so alive and relatable, whatever it is–we love this series!
We stumbled upon it at the library at proceeded to go through every book together. We feel like we know the Penderwick family; my kids will frequently say things like: “Stop being so dramatic, you’re being like Jane” or “I am like Skye, I DON’T like girly things.” And on and on it goes.
The everyday mishaps, hilarity and sadness feel so real. So ordinary in the most precious way. The family is not a Christian family and you might need to guide some discussions when boyfriends come on the scene in later books, but the tried and true themes of loyalty, family bonds and the life of a sibling made the series a gem.
Conversation Starters: There are so MANY. You’ll undoubtedly start talking together about personalities (and yes, of course kids pick up the discussion of which character they most relate too), the responsibilities of older kids, the frustration and hilarity of toddlers, and how we deal with hard emotions like anger, sadness and feelings of failure. Overall, the book portrays the value of family and what it means to be a family…and there’s no end to discussion there.
This is easier reading. I’d suggest reading it to kids as young as five up to adults!