Jan/Feb 2016 Books We’ve Been Reading

Winter is my favorite season for reading. There’s just nothing like snuggling up with a hot mug of coffee and a page-turner. This winter has been colder than usual here in Tennessee, and while my kids watch their fair share of “Wild Kratts,” they’re also spending quite a bit of time with some good reads.

Weekly library trips, daily read-aloud times, “the quiet reading hour”, and assigned books are just a few ways we make reading in our home a priority. And the rule is that Mama reads too. No dinner prep, no laundry, and no cleaning during reading time. I sit down, pull out my novel, and read too. Can I just say that winter is actually bearable because of books?!

So if you’re curious what has been grabbing our attention, here’s our list of books we’ve been reading . . .

Books we've been reading

Books We’ve Been Reading


We started the New Year with two new books. One we’re reading through slowly for help in our manners: Polite Moments by Gary & Cathy Maldaner, and the other we pore over during breakfast: The Green Ember by S.D. Smith.

There are actually 5 volumes to Polite Moments but you can purchase them all in one book at Plain Path Publishers. Each volume focuses on a different topic including: how children should act when visiting other families, working for others, how to be a servant, and basic skills children need in order to succeed. We read through one page every couple of days at breakfast, and the numerous scripture references are helpful, too.

There is a lot of hype surrounding The Green Ember, an adventure novel featuring rabbit siblings Heather and Picket whose ordinary lives are turned upside, but to be honest, the kids and I are a little bored with it. I almost feel like Smith ripped off Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. The characters, scenes, and many of the themes very closely resemble those in Fellowship. However, I love Fellowship, and since my girls are not quite ready for it, we are going to persevere through The Green Ember instead. Plus, I am a little curious where this story is going.


Since I enrolled in our local library’s Winter Reading Program, I have been highly motivated to read more. It helps that the library is offering $10 Amazon gift certificates to all participants who read 6 books in January & February. Thus far I have read:

Sarah Whitcher’s Story by Elizabeth Yates :: My oldest also read this book about the early settlers in New Hampshire and what happens when one little girl gets lost in the woods. A lovely tale of nature, survival, and God’s sovereignty.

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny :: If you aren’t familiar with Penny, she writes the highly acclaimed Inspector Gamache murder mystery series set in Canada. This book is #3 in the series. (I would caution readers that this book does contain problematic language and situations.)

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien :: I read The Hobbit around Christmas and decided to do a re-read of all the Lord of the Rings books. I’m not usually a fantasy reader, but this book’s characters and settings really intrigue me. Tolkien was a literary genius!

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd :: This book is hands-down my favorite of the four. Set in pre-Civil War Charleston, it centers on the lives of two female characters — aristocratic plantation owner’s daughter, Sarah Grimke, and her slave, Handful — and how they together find freedom from the bondages society has set on them. Loved it!

Kate (age 7)

My oldest has assigned reads and free reads. I require her to read certain books related to early American history, the historical time period we are studying. She loves history, and these books I think have whetted her appetite.

Assigned reads: 

Sarah Whitcher’s Story by Elizabeth Yates (see above)

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh (currently reading)

For-Fun reads:

Encouraging your child to read good quality books can be a challenge when she only wants to read twaddle and books way below her reading level. That’s part of the reason why I have assigned reading: to expose my child to good literature so she can see bad writing and hopefully, one day, stop reading it.

Kate has been enjoying the 6-volume American Girl boxed set of Molly books. I actually owned these when I was a little girl.

She also read Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl in one day AFTER I read aloud the first 3 chapters. That’s a new trick I’m going to use more often! Sometimes you have to get your child involved in the book before they will read it for themselves. On their own they might give up, but when you sit down and read it together first, then they start to have a vested interest in the book and its characters and want to find out what happens next. {I always try to stop at a cliff-hanger just for this reason! Unfortunately, this same ploy didn’t work with Ramona the Pest.}

Cora (age 5)

My new reader has just finished Level 1 of All About Reading and is now quite an avid little reader, consuming any Level 1 and some Level 2 books she can find. Right now she’s devouring Cynthia Rylant’s various series of books including:

Henry & Mudge

Annie & Snowball


Annabeth (age 3 1/2) 

As a family, we read aloud together daily, but I’m trying to make it a habit to read independently with my 3-year-old so she (1) gets my undivided attention and (2) is exposed to good literature. Right now we are working through A Beatrix Potter Treasury and this version of Mother Goose rhymes. It saddens me that my oldest daughter has most of the nursery rhymes memorized because we read them over and over when she was little, but my other children barely know them.

That’s what we have been reading in January and February.

Have you got any books YOU would recommend? 

Happy Reading!


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