Let's hit the highlights, shall we?
But first, let's digress. Check out this very cool list of 105 Ways to Give a Book! I nearly always give books as gifts, including at kids' birthday parties where I'm fully aware they won't be the most thrilling item in the pile. What about you?
OK, back to the topic at hand.
Read-Alouds (mostly to the girls):
Knights of the Round Table (A Stepping Stone Book) - Read this to the kids last week, and they loved it. I wasn't dazzled by the writing style -- I'm not big on sentence fragments[edited to add: IN PUBLISHED CHILDREN's BOOKS], but these weren't egregious -- but when the kids clamor for another chapter, and we can have talks afterward about the qualities of honor, etc., I call it a winner.
Galileo's Leaning Tower Experiment - Nice cross between fiction and nonfiction, making a scientific concept simple, clear and engaging. We liked it.
Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1) - The boy's certainly not old enough for The Hunger Games and its sequels, but I had to introduce him to Suzanne Collins. He was reluctant at first but ended up reading this for three hours straight one morning and is on the lookout for the rest of the series.
His Majesty's Elephant - Too soon to tell. This novel takes place in the time of Charlemagne, and so far Ian isn't sure why there's so much Arabic influence on the setting. I may need to read it myself so we can discuss.
Famous Men of the Middle Ages (Greenleaf Press) - The spine of his history study right now, this is constructed as a series of in-depth vignettes about ... see if you can guess ... famous men of the Middle Ages! We're both liking it -- history's always most interesting when told as people's stories, IMO.
Belong to Me. Y'all. I practically inhaled this over the weekend. If I liked the original, Love Walked In, (which I recommend reading first), I LOVED this book. It's unusual in that it's told from several points of view, including both first person and third person narrators. That way, you get to walk through each character's story along with him or her, but also see how the OTHER characters perceive them, and how that perception changes.
I think one reason I loved the story, besides the fact that the writing is funny, poetic, beautiful and moving, is that this theme -- people are always more than they seem -- really resonates with me. It's something I've learned and continue to learn, often through mistakes, in my own life. In fact, the first story I ever sold owed its existence to that very lesson, learned most poignantly when listening to another mother's story blew my superficial concepts about her out of the water.
Superficial concepts get shattered left and right in this book, and come to think of it, in that particular way it reminded me of The Help. There's a fantastic quote from the latter book that sums things up nicely, about how deep inside, we're all just folks who want to be understood, but since the flood, our house is in more chaos than usual and I can't find the notebook where I write down fantastic quotes. Sorry.
Later this week, I have a bit to say about favorite audiobooks, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, I'm off to dispense stories and goodnight kisses.