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Books That Take Your Breath

One of my favorite things in the whole world is finding a new author to fall in love with.  I told you last month that I had stopped trying to convince the Littles to read Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright because they kept putting me off for what they thought were more adventurous stories.  And I have to admit, I was pushing it on them based on the back-cover synopsis alone.  It looked like the kind of book I Would Have Loved as kid, and I wanted them to know that kind of story.

Enright-Gone Away

What kind of story?  The kind where the kid goes to stay with relatives in the country for the summer.  The kind that makes summer seem like a revelation and country living more fascinating and exciting than any old suburb or city.  The kind that has at least one frog, one forest, one barn or other mysterious building.  Mostly though, the kind of story that gets by with no violence, very little mystery, and as Middle pointed out, “Hey, there wasn’t any real conflict in that story.”

(Before I go on, may I just say my kids Freaking Rock?)

“Well,” said I, “there were points of conflict.”

“I know,” he said (and I was So Proud!), “but most books have a major conflict in the plot and this one didn’t.”

Boom.  I have taught them something, after all.

The cool thing about it all is that I have also now introduced them to a memorable story and an author who can write books without major conflict in them and still make a point that resounds in their little hearts.

Every time I suggested they read Gone-Away Lake on their own, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I just read it?  Then I can Really Convince them.”  So one night I took it to bed with me.  I read about 5 pages.  I put it down.  Because I knew I was going to be making it a class as soon as we finished the book we were reading aloud together.  Within 5 pages I knew I had always been right about that book.

Want to know the best part?

We finished Gone-Away Lake last week.  Just so happens in my (far too) extensive library, I had the sequel, Return to Gone-Away.  Guess what we’re reading this week?

return to gone away

They insisted.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Listen, if you don’t already read aloud together in your homeschool every day, Get On It.  I’ve talked about the benefits before, but this one is new even to me.  If you pick the books for your homeschool reading class, you have the opportunity to introduce your littles to books they might not normally read–and I don’t just mean the Classics, though you know I think that is important, too.  I’m talking about the kinds of books that are written just for kids, the kinds that stay with us all our lives.  The kind that made me wistfully dream of living in the country when I was small and led me to my own beautiful farm and wondrous life.  The kind that can change everything for them and they don’t even know it till they turn the first page.

I truly hope you check out these books.  I like them so much I’m honing the novel studies I wrote for my shop’s grand opening.  You’ll love the study, too.

More shameless plugging.

P.S.  You still have through tomorrow to enter my giveaway for the Dr. Seuss canvases.  If you haven’t already, head over and give yourself a chance to win!  I’ll be announcing the winners on Friday.

Love wins,




How Reading Counters Meanness

I have a story for you.  It’s a story about a little girl who loved to read.  When she was very young, she saw all of her family–mother, father, brother–always immersed in books.  Her father and brother read wonderful stories to her from those books.  She begged to be taught to read herself and finally her brother taught her because she couldn’t wait until she was in school to get to read stories herself.

austen reading by the window

Years passed.  Friends came into her life.  They laughed at the books she always carried, but they also asked what each story was about.  The girl began to write stories of her own, trying to match the wonder she found in Raggedy Ann stories and Nancy Drew mysteries.  She never stopped writing stories or reading books.  In high school, all her teachers encouraged her to become a writer.  With knowing smiles, they allowed her to read her own book when she should have been paying attention in class.  She discovered new authors without assistance–Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen.  She began to understand history in a way she wouldn’t have otherwise.  When stress or meanness came into her life, she had a place to go, always.  She always had a book.

Last week, my beautiful husband was sick.  He had bronchitis, sinusitus, and an upper respiratory infection.  He was not feeling well at all, and he stayed home from work the whole week.  This meant I ran more than usual, hopping into the car to go to the store and pick up this or that for him.  Apparently it was a bad week for everyone around here, because about 80% of the people with whom I came into contact were grumpy and mean.  Or condescending and mean.  Or annoyed and mean.

high five

If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, then you know that I believe that the most important human trait is kindness and that I practice it every moment.  When people are mean to me, I have to admit,  I get confused.  If I am being polite, friendly, kind… why the hell are people responding to me this way?  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take a lot of guff, and when a situation calls for strength, I find it.  But if the cashier at the gas station stares a hole through me because I’m taking too long to put my change away, am I supposed to stare back?  Attack her, either verbally or physically?  Well, no, the situation calls for none of those things.  I don’t know what’s going on in her life to make her so impatient–I don’t even know her name–so why would I pull out my cranky card?

get well card

After one particular similar situation, I left the store and climbed into my car.  My brain was still trying to assess the event and I was feeling confused and a little hurt and a little offended and a little like, “Why the f— did I come out in public again?”  I put the keys in the ignition and looked down at the console.  There sat my Kindle.  Ready to be turned on, the text-to-speech option almost blinking at me with its serenity.  And I smiled.  And I forgot the meanness inside the store as I remembered I had a beautiful story to listen to on the way home, and I didn’t know that woman.  She didn’t even know my name.  In an hour she will have forgotten me.  In 2 minutes, I would forget her.  I turned on my Kindle, put the car in reverse, and smiled as that wonderful robotic voice began to read to me.

I had a book.  I always have a book.

This.  This is why we want to engender a love of reading in our children.  Sure, there are other reasons–to promote literacy and good speech, to help them learn about the world, to give them knowledge.  But the single best thing about a book is that it takes you away.  I’ve said it before, but I fully believe that teaching our littles to love reading gives them a healthy form of escapism and could save them from trying other, more dangerous ways to escape.  Sure, I could have come straight home and poured a stiff drink to shake off that incident.  It probably would have relaxed me.  But by the time I got home I would have been stewing in it for 15 minutes, blowing it up in my head, letting my feelings hurt even more.  I might have needed 2 drinks at that point. haha

reading escape


Instead, I had immediate succor.  Something that relaxed me and made the incident seem as trivial as it really was.  We want that for our kids, don’t we?  Because no matter how much we want to and how hard we try, we can’t protect them from all the mean people in the world or all the temporarily mean moods.

There is nothing more relaxing than falling into a good story and staying there until your brain is ready to deal with your problems.  So read to your littles.  Read in front of your littles.  Have your littles read to you.  Read, read, read.

Some day, when they’re pulling away from the store with an oncoming headache, they will thank you.

Love wins,


Free Downloads for National Reading Month

national reading month

Dr. Seuss Day kicked off the greatest month of the year, National Reading Month.  You know me, anything that celebrates reading is top of the list.  It’s the curse of being a Lit Mama.

I’ve often talked about the importance of reading, so I’m not going to bend your ear too much here.  If you want to celebrate national reading month in good form or want to know why you should, check out my posts The Joys of Guided Reading, Teach Your Children Well, 10 Rocking Advantages of Reading Aloud, or 5 Ways to Love Your Library.

Mostly, this month is about teaching or reminding our littles to love literature in all its forms.  To buy them new books, take trips to the library, spread out on the floor with a stack of picture books and read together, start a new chapter book as a family.  It’s about loving stories and the written word.  It’s what we do.

Here are three new free downloads to help your littles celebrate National Reading Month.

My Reading Journey is a book log where your little can track each book he’s read for the month.

Reading journey log

These Belongs To book labels will make your child feel like each book is her special place.

Belongs To book labels

Finally, here are some Dr. Seuss bookmarks so your littles can keep their places in all those incredible books.

seuss bookmarks

I hope they make your littles smile.

Love wins,


YA Book Review: Blood Sigil

blood sigil

Remember 2 weeks ago when I praised The Fifth Vertex, the first book in Kevin Hoffman’s series The Sigilord Chronicles?  And how I said that what I expected from the cover was not what I got, but what I got was an amazing and tightly-written story that stuck with me?

Well, I finally got to read the second installment, Blood Sigil, and let me tell you, this series is the stuff.  In this chapter of Urus’s story we meet even more interesting characters, and the characters we already knew grow by leaps and bounds.  See, Urus has discovered his power but he still isn’t quite sure how to use it.  Unfortunately, the fate of the  multiverse depends on him getting it together.  Enter Luce, the beautiful girl from another universe who knows how to use sigils and can teach Urus a thing or two.  As long as they can stay alive long enough for him to learn.  Because another sigilord has been found on Urus’s home planet and it’s up to Urus and Luce to rescue him before the arbiters find him and put him to death.  Cailix is still searching for Anderis in order to exact her revenge, and Anderis is giving her ever more reasons to seek vengeance.  Murin spends most of the book searching for Urus and finds, instead, monsters from Hell.   Literally.  When they all come back together in the end, the battle is explosive.

The really cool thing about this particular book is that it has even more depth than the first.  I don’t know if Hoffman planned it that way or if his writing is just improving with practice, as that of all authors does.  As I read this exciting adventure, I was often struck by how much More I was getting from the story, how much deeper into the science behind the multiverse and time-and-space travel I fell, how much stronger each of the characters seemed.  Don’t get me wrong, that is not to take anything at all from the first book.  The first book was incredible.  It’s just that it doesn’t often happen that the second book in a series excels above and beyond the first.

The best part?  The truth about Murin–that strange, mysterious, cryptic man who led Urus into all this to begin with–who and what he is knocked me straight off my feet.   I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so hard while reading a book.  Hoffman did an excellent job of keeping that truth from the reader until it was exposed, all the while leaving very subtle hints that made it all seem perfectly probable.  Skills, people.  Hoffman has them.

All I can say, Kevin Hoffman, is please don’t make me wait another year to see how this all plays out.  I am all impatience and anticipation.

If you have a little who loves adventure, fantasy, and a little bit of sci-fi, this is the story for him or her.  If you want to teach your littles about strong character and plot development, this series will give you loads to work with.  Plus, it’s just plain fun.

Happy reading!

Love wins,