Tuesday, September 14, 2021

My Favorite Books of 2020!

 I let life get in the way of writing about my favorite books of 2020 around the new year like I've done for the past few years. But I've been thinking about it, and not only do I love seeing what books other people are reading and enjoying, but I also love having the record of what I've read to look back on. So here we are in September 2021, talking about my favorite books of 2020. Better late than never, right?

You can see from my list that I read through a few series of books in 2020. I finished the Harry Potter books for only the second time in my life, listening to them on Audible this time. The reader is fantastic, and I highly recommend the audio books! I read The Growly Books series to the boys at bedtime, which is a sweet adventure story that was perfect for their ages. And the girls and I read the Wingfeather Saga books together, which we LOVED.

For a few years now, I've tried to be intentional about reading African and African-American authors. In 2020 that included Alan Paton, Lecrae, Layla F. Saad, Jemar Tisby, and Solomon Northup.

This was a REALLY difficult year to pick a top five, and I only have two least favorites this time. I read a lot of really good books this year!

Now on to my top five:

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

 Educated by Tara Westover

 My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

 The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

And my least favorite:

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

Here's the whole list by genre:

*A star means it is an honorable mention and really, really good.

Fiction- Children:

North or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson*
The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson*
The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson*
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling*
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling*
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling*
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling*
The Growly Books: Widewater by Philip & Erin Ulrich
The Growly Books: Morning by Philip & Erin Ulrich
The Growly Books: Haven by Philip & Erin Ulrich
The Battle for Castle Cockatrice by Gerald Durrell

Fiction- Adult:

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens*
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens*
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte*
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Nonfiction- Biography:

Unashamed by Lecrae*
Call the Midwife by Jenifer Worth*
The Real Sherlock by Lucinda Hawksley
Educated by Tara Westover*
12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Nonfiction- History

Caffeine by Michael Pollan
The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson*
The Lion in the Living Room by Abigail Tucker*
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby*
Stories From Wales by Gwyn Jones

Nonfiction- Christian

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
Old Story New by Marty Machowski
The Bible, Biblical Storyline Reading Plan by BibleProject on Youversion app

Nonfiction- Other

Love Me, Feed Me by Dr. Katja Rowell
A Disease Called Fatigue by Dr. Cecile Jadin
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

Please let me know what your recent favorites have been, I'm always looking for new good books to read! 

If you want more lists, you can also check out:

My 2019 Book List

My Kids' 2018 Book Lists

My 2018 Book List

My Kids' 2017 Book Lists

My Girls' 2016 Book Lists

My Girls' 2015 Book Lists

I didn't have the kids do their list the last two years, but I love hearing about their favorite books each year, so I hope to remember to make that happen for 2021.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Back to School 2021

How have my babies gotten so big? How is it possible that I have 3 middle schoolers and no preschoolers??

In the 8 years that we've had school-aged kids, our family has done almost every version of school possible. 
Public school? Yep. 
Homeschool program that meets once a week? Done. 
Private Christian school? Check.
Traditional mom-taught homeschool? Yes.
Private International school? Also yes.

And what's working for us now is actually none of the above! When we first moved here, I homeschooled everyone. But that just wasn't going really well. I was stressed, exhausted, and worst of all, my relationships with my kids were tanking from the stress. So eventually we decided it was best to get a one-on-one tutor for Jude, me to only homeschool Haylee (she was the only one in secondary school), and to send the younger three to a local private international school. The school wasn't perfect, but the whole situation was so much better than me trying to teach everyone.

Then when Covid hit and their school went online, we decided really quickly that we'd rather just go back to traditional homeschooling than try to manage all of that mess (I know so many of you understand). So we went back to mom-taught homeschooling. And for more reasons than just Covid, we've stuck with it even once their school went back to in-person lessons. And while we feel certain that that is what is best for the kids at this point, we realized that it is still not at all what is best for this mama.

Guys, I don't know what it is. We homeschooled for several years in America and I never struggled like this. I think a lot of it is the added stresses of missionary life, and I think some of it may be spiritual warfare (we notice spiritual warfare often in our physical and mental health, or lack thereof). But the longer I homeschooled all of these little sweet potatoes, the worse my mental health became. 

That may make you uncomfortable, but I'm learning that we would all benefit from more open and honest conversations about mental health, especially among moms and/or missionaries. Life is hard! Caring for our mental and physical health (which are interrelated, as my favorite Legally Blonde quote makes clear: "Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don't kill their husbands... they just don't!")

So anyway, last year we found a middle-ground that is working for us for now- homeschooling with tutors. It has honestly been a lifesaver for all of us. 

Grace has been teaching Jude for over a year and a half now, and she has been an incredible blessing to all of us. He has come so far and learned so much with her gentle, loving care. He loves her so much, and is so eager to do school with her every day. Ok... most days. But seriously, they are great together.

Also for a while now, Abe has been going to Tamala's house during the day to learn Chichewa, and since he started Kindergarten last month, she does about an hour of school work here at home with him before they leave for her house. He has been so excited to start Kindergarten, and he enjoys doing his work in the mornings. He also loves going to Tamala's and getting to play with some neighbor kids his age. She says his Chichewa is coming along really well, even though he's shy and won't use it much around us.

Our newest addition is Michelle, who tutors Haylee, Taylah, and JJ in all of their subjects. She has been the perfect combination of firm and friendly, and the kids have quickly taken a liking to her. They work hard for her and her no-nonsense teaching style, and they have fun with her during the breaks as well.

And last but not at all least, we can't forget Janet, who is Josh's executive assistant and patiently teaches the rest of us Chichewa 3 times a week. We are slow learners, but she doesn't give up on us, and cheers for every little victory we have as we stumble through learning it and do our best to speak like toddlers.

I can share more later about our curriculum choices if you're interested, but for now I just want to say that we are so incredibly thankful for this wonderful team of women who keep us sane and well-educated. 

Because I'm not homeschooling the kids anymore, I've been freed up to do so many more things for our family, my mental health, and the mission. In a family of 7, the house is never clean and the laundry is never finished, but it's significantly less out of control now that I have more free time! I also have time to exercise and take better care of my own mental and physical health. And I now claim half of Josh's office up at the school as my own. There, I can work on many of the guest relations and social media projects that I enjoy, and take those things off of Josh's very, very full plate as the president of the mission. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Updated: Annual St. Patrick's Day Pictures

If you've been following my blog for a very long time, you may remember that I love St. Patrick's Day. I love the color green, I love it when large groups of people wear matching things, and I love the story behind the real St. Patrick. We've been taking a family picture on St. Patrick's Day since Jude was born, and this has become a space for me to chronicle our changing and growing family over the years. 

2009: This was taken at the seminary, one of our first outings after Jude was born. Jude was just over a month old, and I was still in a lot of pain.

2010: In our apartment at the camp in Moldova. Jude made up for not having much green last year by sporting green from head to toe.

2011: Again in our camp apartment in Moldova. We both taught that day, so I actually got fixed up this year. Standing Jude up in the windowsill had become one of the only ways to get him to be still enough for a picture.

2012: We were back in America, and Murray State played in the NCAA tournament on St. Patrick's Day, so we had to find a way to celebrate both at the same time. You can barely see my green t-shirt under my Murray State one.

2013: St. Patrick's Day fell on Sunday this year, so we got a picture after church. We'd been driving down to Mt. Tabor for several weeks for Josh to preach, and they were about to vote on him a couple of weeks after this. Jude was grumpy and clinging to his empty to-go food container because he was hungry.

2014: In Jude's room in the parsonage, our home. The picture quality isn't as good on this one, because we took it with the front camera on my phone, but that's the best way to get Jude to look at the camera. This one just melts my heart. Also, maybe it's time to get Josh a new green sweater.

2015: Finally some new faces in our picture! I have no idea what we were all saying, but it was almost certainly something to get them to all smile. Haylee was in a phase where she thought it was funny to make that face for pictures, she really was happy, I promise! Josh's shirt had little green stripes in it that you can't even see in the picture.

2016: I can't handle how much they have all grown in a year! Sweet little faces.

2017: Another new face! And these kids just keep getting bigger, even though we tell them to stop.

2018: Our fourth and last year on this gray couch, cause we are selling it when we move this summer! I just love these people so much. Also, Abe is wearing the same shirt Jude wore in 2011.

2019: Our first St. Patrick's Day in Malawi! It fell on a Sunday this year, so we were all dressed a bit nicer this year and took our picture right after church.

2020: Hey look, we got a bigger couch but we're still all crammed together!

2021: Back on our smaller couch, which now lives on the front porch! We just barely fit!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Top Books of 2019

Fifty-five books! Wow! Last year was my first year reading again after decades of not making time, and I read 40. This year I hit 55! I don’t set goals, that usually stresses me out and makes me want to run away from reading. I just read what and when I want.

What I Read
For 2019, I continued (and solidified my love of) reading a lot classics. I’m enjoying both adult classics and reading children’s classics to the kids at bedtime. There is a reason that most classics are classics, and it’s because they’re really, really good (with a few exceptions). As I’ve written in one of my “didn’t like” reviews, I can really feel that reading so much truly good literature has refined my tastes so that I don’t care for mediocre stuff. And really, life’s too short to read mediocre writing when there are so many amazing books out there.

I’ve also continued to look for books by African or African American authors. The Beautiful Struggle, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, The Last Resort, Becoming, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, and The Warmth of Other Suns were all by such authors.

I also LOVE biographies and autobiographies.

When I Read
I get asked often how I make time for reading. I do most of my reading with Audible while I’m doing laundry, gardening, driving alone, showering, or any other chance I get. I love listening to books when I'm occupied with an easy task where my mind would be otherwise fairly idle. I mostly read Kindle books on my phone when I’m somewhere with my phone and want to do something more productive than scrolling Instagram, like waiting in line at the grocery store, bank, etc. And I read physical books mostly during afternoon rest time or in the evenings.

Let's cut to the chase! Here are my top 5 books of 2019, followed by 5 I didn't like:

Top Five
#1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Unlike a lot of people, I was never made to read this book in high school or college. I only knew that it was a classic, and in my drive to read more classics, pulled it off the shelf. Josh, who did read it in high school, warned me that I wouldn’t like it. As I read, I would comment how much I was enjoying it, and he would say, “Don’t worry, you won’t by the end.” But I got to the end and loved every moment of it! Steinbeck is a masterful writer. Even the end (which if you’ve read it, you understand) is a bit odd but I thought so redemptive for her.

#2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This was possibly the most emotionally engaging book I’ve ever read. The whole book kept me spellbound and emotionally on-edge, and it left me completely undone at the end. On top of that, as with The Grapes of Wrath, I learned a viewpoint from history that I hadn’t previously considered.

#3. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
I listened to this one on Audible, and really loved it. It took a chapter or two for my ears to adjust to Dickens’s style, which I can only describe as a delectable treat for the ears. I’ve really loved all the Dickens books Ive read.

#4. The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
I feel like this book should be required reading for parents of tweens/teens, educators from middle school through college, and late high school/college students.

#5. The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers
I don’t even remember how I came across this book, but it is written by a white Zimbabwean who grew up there and his parents still live there. The destruction that Mugabe caused to his own country as president is devastating, and Rogers is an excellent writer who captured the ups and downs of life as a white Zimbabwean under Mugabe’s regime through the lens of his parents’ backpackers lodge. I couldn’t put it down.

Five I Didn’t Like
#5. Farming Grace by Paula Scott
I got this for free or cheap on kindle and thought it looked worth a try. It is one woman’s true testimony of coming to adulthood and then to faith, and how God saved her, her husband, and their marriage over the course of several years. It’s a great story of lives drastically changed by the Gospel, and there aren’t glaring grammatical issues or anything, but it just isn’t great writing. It reads more like a blog than a novel. I feel a bit bad putting this one on my “didn’t like” list, cause it honestly isn’t terrible, but every time I thought about books I didn’t care for this year, this one came to mind.

#4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
It feels a bit like heresy to put this one on my “didn’t like” list, but I have to be honest. I just really didn’t care for The Hobbit. I’m told the Lord of the Rings books are better than this one, but after reading it, I don’t have much of a taste in my mouth for more Tolkien.

#3. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Have I ever read a more boring, didactic book in my life? I can’t remember one. This is another one I read to the girls, and we didn’t enjoy it at all. The girls and I had a few duds this year. It’s one long sermon about why people should treat horses better, which I guess I can see the need for back in its day when horses were used for transportation and farming, but have mercy. This was so boring.

#2. The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
The idea of a doctor who can talk to animals seemed right up my girls’ alley, and the 90’s Eddie Murphy movie Doctor Dolittle was so cute, that the girls and I thought we’d enjoy this one. Wrong. It was terrible, and worst of all racist. The author even used two particularly terrible racist words that I had to stop and explain that they were very not ok words.

#1. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
The only book this year that was so bad that I deliberately stopped reading about 2/3 of the way through. This is a new tween/teen book that gets glowing Amazon reviews, so I decided to read it with the girls at bedtime. First of all, I hate kids books that are written in first person in an “authentic voice” that’s full of incorrect grammar. I believe that an important part of reading is for kids to learn good writing and grammar, and books like this just reinforce what is incorrect. Second, it's just booooooring. Third, the whole premise of the book is that Coyote, a teen, thinks she's smarter and knows better than her dad and so she’s justified in lying to him multiple times. (Granted, most teens probably think this, but they don't need books to reinforce the idea.) The first lie never got so much as a, "you shouldn't have lied to me," from her dad, so I strongly doubt the second big one did either. Her dad doesn't actually parent her at all. She makes a lot of really stupid choices because she’s supposedly so street smart, which her dad of course never corrects, and I would actually have to stop reading and explain to my girls why things she did were terrible ideas and dangerous things to do. The last straw for us was when they picked up a runaway girl who had gotten kicked out of her parents’ home for being gay, and Coyote muses about how it doesn't matter who you love.

The Full List by Genre
I kind of want to say a little something about each of these, since most of them feel like good friends that I spent a lot of time with over the past year. But for the sake of brevity, I'll just give a list.
Orange font = I listened to it on Audible
* = Strong contenders for Top 5, it was a tough call to narrow it down to just 5

Fiction- Adult Classics

Fiction- Children’s Classics

Fiction- Historical

Fiction- Other

Nonfiction- Self Help

Nonfiction- Biography/Autobiography

Nonfiction- History

Nonfiction- Poetry

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

8 Months in Malawi

Wow, we have lived here for 8 months now! I'd intended to do a post at the 6 month mark, but... life. So much has happened since we moved here, that it's hard to even know where to start. It's been an exhausting and good 8 months.

We have added 3 kittens to our family! We got Neville and Luna from the SPCA in Blantyre. Josh agreed to get ONE cat, and he really wanted an orange one. Well when we got there, there were only these two little babies. The vet told us that they were turned in together after the rest of their litter had been killed. I just couldn't separate them, so we walked out with 2!

 The very next week tiny, dirty, malnourished Ginny found us on a walk to get Abe from preschool. Seriously, I turned around and she was following JJ down the dirt road! There was no way I could leave her there. I grew up with outside cats, and to me life just feels complete with a soft, purring kitty (or 3) in my lap. The kids all love them, and Rey loves them even more. A bit too much, really. They are all 3 so sweet and chill and tolerant of all of the love.

We survived our first hot and dry season (September, October, November), and it wasn't too bad, though I'm told that it was more mild than usual. We beat the heat at swim lessons once a week with a lot of our homeschool friends, and the kids have gotten to be such good swimmers in a short time. We're now at the end of rainy season, and the rains are coming less and less lately. The rains have brought cooler temperatures and lower humidity, too, which have been lovely. Everything is so green and lush, and we have loved rainy season so much!

This time of year, the weather is just perfect. Highs are usually somewhere in the 70's, sometimes in the lower 80's and warm, and sometimes only in the upper 60's and quite chilly. And on that note, lots of people roll their eyes and laugh when I say that it's in the 60's and we are freezing, but think of it this way: We have no heat in our house. If it got down to the mid-50's at night and only the upper 60's in the day time inside your house, you'd be cold too!

Speaking of seasons, birthday season is winding down around here. Taylah turned 9 in December, Haylee turned 11 and I turned 35 in January, Jude turned 10 in February, JJ turned 7 at the beginning of this month, and next month Abe will be 3 and Josh will be 33. Phew!

We're in our second semester of homeschooling, and it's going really well. Last semester we mostly stuck to the 3 R's, so this semester we felt ready to add a few other subjects: history, science, and literature. For those of you who are interested, for language arts, handwriting, history, and science we are using The Good and The Beautiful, and we all really like it a lot. The kids are all doing math online, the girls using Teaching Textbooks and the boys using Mathseeds, and let me tell you that online math has been the single most life-changing thing we've ever done for our homeschooling. No more meltdowns! They are actually excited to do math now! It's amazing! We got literature kits from Veritas Press, which is basically just a bunch of books and comprehension guides. It's a great thing for H, T, and JJ because they are all above-average readers, but this is helping their comprehension and critical thinking instead of being able to just blow through books without really thinking about them. We are also loving Keyboarding Without Tears.

In ministry, God has been so faithful to us. It's obvious that Satan is anxious about all of the amazing things God is doing here, because he's really been fighting, but God has been so good. I'm reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." We are exhausted, but encouraged. God is doing big things here, and sustaining us with his grace. Please continue to pray for our family, team, mission, and church here as much as you can. We can really feel the effects of your prayers.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Things I Will Miss About This Stage

I'm going to be honest, this stage of parenting that we are currently in--with 5 kids from ages 11 to 2--is really exhausting. The combination of tween hormones, severe autism, sibling dynamics, and the terrible twos all at the same time leaves us falling into bed completely exhausted around 8:30pm every night.

In the midst of all of this, a week or so ago I got to where I began to ask myself what there was about this stage of life that I was supposed to miss when they grow up. Like seriously, it is so hard that I couldn't imagine missing any of it. I let myself wallow in that sentiment for a day or two before I realized that this wasn't going to get any easier, so I needed a change of attitude if we were all going to survive.

That's when I started making a simple list of things I could think of that I really would miss about this stage:

  • Them wanting to snuggle up next to me
  • JJ bringing me flowers
  • Sneak attack hugs and kisses
  • Sweet mispronounced words
  • Them being little and smelling sweet
  • Haylee doing the dishes
  • The way JJ and Abe love the cats
  • Reading with them at bedtime
  • The girls getting along so well
  • Drawings and coloring sheets that say, "To: Mama and Daddy"
  • Strings tucked into underwear as pretend tails
  • The girls' drawings of made-up families and stories they write about them
  • Abe saying, "I want ta _________ (sit, read, snuggle, etc) wif youuuu."
  • Jude pressing his smooth face against mine
  • Them wanting to be close to me
  • JJ's backwards shirts and shirts tucked into his underwear
  • Abe saying, "Mama yook!" (look)
  • Hearing the girls practicing playing their instruments

I made it to about the 3rd or 4th item on that list before I was sobbing uncontrollably. I've been keeping a running list on my phone ever since that day, and it has been such a good way for me to choose to notice the sweet things about my kids at their current ages.

This exercise was the perfect reminder of how precious this fleeting time of their childhood is. And as if I needed even more reminders to cherish this sweet and exhausting time of life, I started working on a photo book that took me back through the troves of old pictures of them. Seeing before my eyes how quickly the last 10 years with Jude (he will be 10 in less than 2 weeks, and don't think for a second that I'm handling that well at all), 4.5 years with Haylee, Taylah, and JJ, and almost 3 years with Abe have already gone is an instant reminder that they will be grown before we blink twice.

It's also helped to reflect on how much easier things have already gotten as they've gotten bigger. The first year or two of having 4 kids, ages 2, 4, 5, and 6, was BRUTAL. The girls almost daily had huge meltdowns, JJ was in the terrible two and threenager stages, and Jude was much more difficult than he is now. Now the girls happily cook and clean, they are all imaginative and funny, Jude has come so far, and Abe is often a delight (when he isn't losing it for no apparent reason, because he's two and painfully strong-willed). So even though it is still so hard many days, the perspective of time reminds us that they do grow and get easier in many ways.

I'm posting this today to hopefully encourage you, weary mom or dad, that there are things to cherish and miss about even the hardest seasons of our kids. If you need a reminder, trying making a list and flipping through old pictures, but I take no responsibility if you end up in a puddle of tears like I did. 😉

Saturday, December 29, 2018

My Kids' Favorite Books of 2018

For the past several years, I’ve had the kids tell me about their favorite books they’ve read that year. I love getting a glimpse into which books stuck with them, and looking back at their favorites in years past. Hopefully they also serve as some recommendations for parents with similar aged kids. As you'll see, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton were big favorites in this house this year.

This is JJ’s second year participating, and I have to say that I’m really proud of the quality of books he chose. I typed as he told me about his favorites. The girls typed their own lists.

JJ (6 years old, 3 months shy of 7)

Boy and Going Solo by Roald Dahl
Daddy read this to me at bedtime. It’s about World War II and about Roald Dahl’s life. The funny part was because he said he didn’t want to go to Egypt, and then finally on Going Solo, he DID go to Egypt! I remember the snake stories, and I’m glad we stopped reading about those. My favorite part was when he got the JU88, which is a plane that can actually explode your airplane, but a regular airplane just makes holes in a JU88.

Those were all questions I didn’t know, and I really enjoyed reading what they are instead of asking you a BILLION questions. (Mama note: I had this book as a kid and LOVED it. It’s all questions and answers about odd things that most people don’t know the answer to, like why cowboy boots have heels. I found an old copy for the kids a while back, and they’ve all enjoyed it as much as I did.)

Peter Pan by JM Barrie
This one Mama just finished reading to me not that long ago. (Mama’s note: Peter Pan is best as a read-aloud so you can edit Tink’s tendency to call people silly donkeys.) It was when Peter flew into the nursery, and Wendy sewed his shadow back on, and they went to Neverland where they never grow up. And then when they got there, there was Captain Hook and it said why Hook had a claw instead of a hand there. It was because Peter Pan cut his hand off and threw it to a crocodile, and a lot of times it would try to come and eat him. I don’t have a favorite part, I just like the whole book.

It was about a library that was very neat, but it also sounded like it looked like it was haunted. They tried looking for the person who had locked some of the doors so they couldn’t get through, and they had to crawl through windows.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
It’s about a boy who is a farmer, named Almanzo. He took a man named Tom’s money back to him when he found it. One time they made a candy when their parents were gone, and Almanzo decided to give some to his little pig, and the next morning her teeth were stuck together. She couldn’t squeal when they were chasing her, and finally Royal got her and got the candy off her teeth, and she went squealing to her pen.

Taylah (just turned 9)

Matilida by Roald Dahl
Matilda is a book about a 5-year-old girl- Matilda- who is very smart.
It is so hilariously funny! I think that everyone would love reading it.
Matilda lives with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, and her big brother Michael.
Her parents are very mean. I don’t know how Matilda ever even survived. 
If I was her, I would not care how badly my parents were treating, and I would try to get back at them. I just would hate living like Matilda did.

The Naughtiest Girl #1 by Enid Blyton
The Naughtiest Girl is a book about a very naughty girl. I mean VERY, VERY, VERY naughty!!!!!!!!
Her name is Elizabeth Allen. She is so naughty, that at her school, Whyteleafe School, no one likes her at all!! She didn’t even have one friend! She always gets told on, and there are almost always people complaining about her. I would’t want to be Elizabeth’s friend. She’s so naughty and mean, I’d tell on her too! She loses her temper often and very easily. I would find it hard to teach her. I would get vey mad at her.

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
Mary Poppins is about two children who get a very strict baby-sitter.
VERY, VERY, strict. The children find it quite hard to like her. Her name is Mary Poppins.
When they do grow to like her, the next day she’s gone!!!!!!! Will she ever come back?
I hope so, and can’t wait to read more Mary Poppins books. I wonder how many more there are? I want to get all of them- on my kindle. I wouldn’t want a baby-sitter like Mary.
Just imagine if I did! I’d be miserable. Wouldn’t you be? I know the next book is Mary Poppins Comes Back.

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
The Lemonade War is about 2 siblings who get in a fight and do lemonade stands to
see who earns the most money. I really want to get the rest of these books.
I love, love, love, LOVED this book! But that also might happen to be because I love to read- so does my sister!!!!!! There is barely any room on our book-shelf to put anymore books, we have so many. Every time we go shopping, we just keep on buying more books.

The Worst Thing About My Sister is about 2 sisters who are very different from each other.
One is more girlish, while the other’s a tom-boy. They fight a lot, like most siblings. 
1: The older one, Melissa, never sticks up for her younger sister Martina.
2: Melissa tells on them every time they get in a fight.
3: Melissa stole Martina’s special night with their father, even though everyone knows
that Martina loves to eat popcorn while watching Toy Story 3.
4: She’s always wearing makeup.
I’m more like Melissa, I think. If you have a different opinion, then fine.

Haylee (turning 11 in 2 weeks)

Matilda by Roald Dahl
This book is about a girl named Matilda, who is SUPER smart and talented. I mean, she could talk and knew all words grown ups know when she was 1!! Matilda’s parents think she is useless. When Matilda goes to school her teacher thinks she is amazing! I wish I was as smart as Matilda. Do you? I won’t tell you any more so I won’t spoil anything. Read this book, you’ll never regret it!

This book is AMAZING!!!!!  It is about a girl who everyone thinks is a freak, who finds out she’s a princess! She isn’t very happy about it, especially when she has to have princess lessons with her grandmother. I’ve alredy bought the second of this series. 

The Famous Five 1 by Enid Blyton
This series is great! The books are very adventurous, so if you like adventures read this series! Three children, Julian, Dick, and Anne go to visit their tom-boy cousin at  Kirrin Cottage. Their cousin shows them her island and they find some exiting discoveries. These books are so good I have read the second and third books in this series.    

The Naughtiest Girl #1 by Enid Blyton
This is a hilarious book. Elizabeth Allen is a VERY NAUGHTY girl. When her mother sends her to school she plans to be so naughty Whyteleafe School will kick her out. I enjoyed this book a lot, and so will you!! 

This is my favorite book of all time!!! A boy named Harry finds out by a giant named Hagrid, that he is a wizard and his parents were killed by the evil Lord Voldemort. He goes to a school for wizards and witches and finds himself in adventures he never thought he’d be in. I read this book with my mom and sister and it took us two years to read the whole series. There are seven books. I’ve reread all the books three times already this year!

If you’d like to see their lists from previous years, you can click on the years to check out their 2017, 2016, and 2015 lists.