Favorite Family Read-Aloud Books (Fall 2018-Spring 2019)

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We are finishing up the school year. History is over and science fair projects have been completed. We are shifting gears for summer. One of our favorite parts of our day is “Circle Time” which is in the afternoon right after I put Ava to bed for her “Quiet Hour.” Then we often gather a few snacks and make our way to the living room. We spend the next hour or so reading various books. Over the year we’ve watched CNN 10 for current events, read our history text, The Story of the World, Vol 4, read tons of picture books, mapped our way around the world, took notes and wrote narrations. But our favorite book is whatever we’re reading as our family read aloud.

We usually have a couple going at the same time. One that I’m actually reading and one we listen to on audiobook when we’re driving. We read in community this year as I put together a book club for our school year. We chose books that loosely coincided to our history studies to bring the era alive. And wow, did we ever read some great books! Here’s what we read:

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
A favorite from my own childhood this one was the most complicated in terms of language, but the kids ended up loving it even more than I thought they would. It’s just so compelling, sobbing our way through the end. The relationship between father and son in this book is just incredible.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Despite the fact that Laura is now a young woman these books still kept my kids spellbound, and I certainly enjoyed revisiting a favorite, once again, from my own childhood. Reading of the simple pleasures of pioneer life remind me to be thankful for our abundance today.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (audiobook)
I just love Caddie! And all the kids did too. This book is filled with adventure and is a great discussion starter to discuss the pioneer/Native American relationship, as many views are presented in this book.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (audiobook)
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall (audiobook)
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall (audiobook)
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall (audiobook)
The Penderwicks At Last by Jeanne Birdsall (audiobook)
My kids LOVED the Penderwicks and were so sad when this series was over. I, however, was not. I liked the first couple of books but as they went on they became less compelling. The final book didn’t even really have a plot.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munzo Ryan (audiobook)
This book had a bit of a slow start but it was so good! It is a story of Mexican immigration during the Depression and I discovered some things I did not know about history. Because of the Spanish this is a good choice for audio. The story is one of overcoming hardship and making a new life for yourself.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (audiobook)
This book captured our attention immediately and the writing was strong and vivid. Perfect middle grade historical fiction. I loved it and so did the kids! Somehow I missed this one as a kid, glad to get a chance to finally read it! Again, I was introduced to history I knew nothing about: how the people of Denmark worked together to remove a huge amount of its Jewish population by small fishing vessels overnight to Sweden after Nazi invasion!

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis (audiobook)
I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944 by Lauren Tarshis (audiobook)
I Survived the Attack of the Grizzlies, 1967 by Lauren Tarshis (audiobook)
Because we were studying W. W. II we listened to the battle of D-Day but then got interested in animal attacks. :) These are faced-paced historical fiction that are great to go along with history topics or introduce an era. Not classic literature but fascinating and based on true events.

George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans by Janet Benge
I realized this year we’ve not read any in-depth biographies of Christians. While we’ve read some picture books, I thought it was time to get a more detailed picture of some Christians who have made a lasting impact in the world. George Mueller was my first choice. The kids kept asking, “this guy becomes a missionary?” because his life was so marred by fast-living and outright theft. Hard to believe this man who loved money ended up being known for trusting the Lord for literally, the daily bread of hundreds of children. What an amazing man and ministry!

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (audiobook)
I was so excited to listen to this book, as it again was one I missed as a kid. This book was incredible! The characters were vivid and my kids couldn’t get enough. It was hard to listen to sometimes but it brought to life an era that was hard for them to imagine.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (audiobook)
The back-and-forth narrative style was fast-paced and brought home how other people live life around the world. When we were finished we watched videos about the real people depicted in this book and marveled at all Salva went through.

This year’s books were incredible! We were captivated and learned so much. We look forward to starting our new summer book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone! I don’t know who’s more excited, me or the kids!

What I'm Into Right Now (Mar 2019)

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The end of the school year feels so close yet so far away. The weather has been warm and I’ve been itching to get into the garden, but the schedule has not allowed it much yet. But I’m cutting lots of daffodils, forsythia, and hyacinths to bring indoors. It is amazing what the sun and flowers can do for the spirit! Here’s my round up of what I was into last month. I hope you can find something to inspire or interest you.

Watching:

When I was on Facebook raving about my love for the novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir my friend Amanda said she also loved it and recommended Home Fires as being of a similar theme. I remember when it came out and thought the trailer didn’t look that interesting. When will I learn? I thought the same of Poldark and I was clearly wrong there! So, I’ve given it a try and I just love it. It’s all about the lives of women in a small English town as the men leave to enlist as W. W. II looms large. It is wonderful if you like historical drama and stories of female friendship.

Listening:

I have been listening to Becoming Mrs. Lewis on audiobook and am really interested in the life of Joy Davidman. She is famous for marrying C. S. Lewis, and I had a vague notion of her being a writer herself and that she died of cancer. Little did I know of her tumultuous first marriage, that she had at one point a blooming literary career, and of her conversion to Christianity. She didn’t fit the Christian “mold” during her time, nor even in our time, probably. She was a divorced single mother raising two boys while fighting to reignite her writing career and make ends meet. She and Lewis struck up an unlikely relationship where she fell in love with him first. It is a unique story that has me riveted.

Reading:

I just finished Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace by Christie Purifoy. It is a treasure of a book. Unique and hard to pin down, it's a beautiful mix of personal memoir, spiritual reflection, gardening journal, and thoughts on what it means to make a home and invite community.

Eating:

I made this amazingly flavorful Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushroom, + Kale pasta and we LOVED it. Definitely going to make it again. Also, I made our favorite no-bake cookies and I was reminded just how delicious they are. Not to mention easy and generally a healthier alternative to your regular cookie. It’s also a great option for those who may have gluten issues—there are only rolled oats in them:.

What are YOU into right now?

What I Read in 2018 (Fiction)

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My fiction selections were way stronger this year as opposed to last year, which had lots of misses in-between the hits. This year I noted which titles were audio selections. I hope out of this list you will get some new novels to add to your own reading list this year!

Books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system, five being excellent!

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie**** (audio)
I watched the film first and then decided it was time to finally read this classic crime novel. It was great as audio (read by Dan Stevens, aka “Matthew” from Downton Abbey) and of course the end is so unique handing the reader a real moral dilemma to consider.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie****
I mean, you can never go wrong with Christie!

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher****
I attempted reading this book a year ago, but it didn't connect. This year it did. It took a bit to really get engrossed but once I did, I'm so glad I read it. It's the type of writing style I enjoy and the story has a lot of depth. The last few paragraphs made me tear up--in the best of ways!

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare***** (audio)
I really wish Speare had more novels! I love them all so much. No one really writes with the quality of this period of books. I can't ever quite put my finger on what I love so much about "older" writing. I hadn't read this since I was a girl and really forgot most of the plot, so it was like a totally fresh book. I liked it just as much as I did when I first read it. It held up just as well for me as an adult--maybe even better--than it did when I was a kid.

Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare**** (audio)
Sometimes middle grade novels really are the best! Young Miriam must come to terms with her prejudices and think through her preconceived ideas about the cultures she encounters when she is captured by Indians and lives in the wilderness and then is sold as a prisoner to French Catholics.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey***
I really loved the characters and the style of writing. It's almost a "scrapbook" in style, which adds to the story.  I DID have to slug my way through portions of it. I got a bit stuck, especially in the early parts and almost gave up, it's such a huge book. But the second half I liked better. I also like the "magical realism" the author included, which was inspired by native Alaskan mythology.

In the Woods by Tana French****
My first Tana French. It was a “slow burn” sort of crime story.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham***
When I first became familiar with the Tulsa race riot of 1921 (which I only learned about a few years ago) I was shocked and horrified. So I was interested and nervous to read this YA novelized version of it. The book definitely reads YA in tone but the topic is one more people need to remember. The blight of the Tulsa race riot is a horrific memory in our nation's history that is often conveniently "forgotten."

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles***
This was not for me. I forced my way through the entire thing. I appreciated Towles writing ability but I just could not get into it.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan***
I found myself in a reading rut at this point. After Rules of Civility this one also wasn’t for me. I wanted to like it but it was just okay. I liked the cover more than the book.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich****
A brutal but quiet book with great writing and a difficult story. I thought the ending had closure, although the "why" was never answered and I don't think there was an answer to be had anyway. The book is about how a tragedy can change lives and pull people together and apart.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell**** (audio)
A great psychological thriller! A perfect blend of plot, character development, and description in my opinion. I listened on audio and loved all the accents. However, there ARE triggers. There is a sexual assault episode which is not glossed over. It could easily be skimmed past, however, because it pretty much is one main scene. Also, if you don't want to read the F-bomb than this book is not for you, because it is used often. ;)

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley*** (audio)

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley***** (audio)

As the Chimney Sweep Comes to Dust by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley**** (audio)
I am not going to review each of these books but will just say that the series is one of my favorites! Flavia de Luce is a character like no one else! Bradley is masterful writer (just look at those titles) who develops his characters with precision, the feel of time and place is masterful, and his plots always become page-turning. I love all the literary references and his ability to write a metaphor is incredible. I’m sad to think that there is only one more novel in the series left!

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson****
At first I thought the book was weird. I mean, I knew the premise, but could I read 529 pages of the same but different life? Then I wondered when the plot would start? Was it all going to just be little vignettes? But then I got into the rhythm and soon I had to find out what was going to happen to the Todd family. This is a thought-provoking book that makes you think about the choices you make, and how they direct your life. What if you stood here vs. there? Meet this person or don't meet them? In the end, I think this book has the making of a classic. I especially enjoyed all the literary references and Ursala's life/lives during the Blitz. It made that awful time more alive to me and emphasized the strangeness of war and everyday life.

A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert***
A fun cozy type of mystery. Think a Hallmark movie in book form, so at times, it verges on cheesy, but a nice summer-type of read.

A Confusion of Languages by Sioban Fallon****
This book was better than I expected it to be, it immediately swept me into the story. The structure was interesting, as was the setting, middle-eastern Jordan.

The Likeness by Tana French*****
I liked this a lot better than In the Woods. Although the plausibility of the premise was one you definitely needed to suspend belief, I didn't mind it. It made for such a cool story. I really enjoyed getting to know Cassie more (she was in book #1 too).

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen***** (audio)
Delightfully read by Rosamund Pike I absolutely loved revisiting Austen’s world again.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman****
This one grabbed me from chapter one and never let go. And yes, tears were running down my face by the end.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen***
I have enjoyed Allen’s other magical realism titles and I did find this one enjoyable too, but not quite as good.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan***** (audio)
I ADORED this book. I listened to it on audio and it enhanced the experience dramatically. Since it is a novel written in letters the different voices was a wonderful addition as was the music throughout the recording.
I had attempted listening to it once earlier in the year and couldn't get into it. But several months later I tried again after seeing a favorite bookstagramer talk about how much she loved it. I'm so glad I did because it is probably my favorite book of 2018 tied with the Flavia de Luce series. If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I think this might be the book for you.

What was your favorite fictional book of 2018?

What I Read in 2018 (Non-fiction)

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It was a good reading year for me! As I look over my list from the past year I see that in terms of non-fiction I read a lot of books with either a spiritual or educational/parenting focus. This was driven by my desire to particularly focus on helping my dyslexic kids in their educational journey. One thing that is missing is biographies and narrative history, which I love but just didn’t get to. Next year I hope to at least get one or two books of that genre into my rotation.

Books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system, five being excellent!

Different: The Story of an Outside-The-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson ****
Sally Clarkson’s books are always an encouragement and this one was unique because it was co-written by her son. The story shares what it was like to parent as well as to be a child who had learning differences, anxiety, and clinical OCD. The chapters alternated between Sally (the mother) and Nathan (the son) giving different perspectives to their experience and offering hope who might be walking a similar journey.

Founding Mothers: Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts*** (audio)
This was the only biography/narrative history I listened to in 2018. It was at times a highly editorialized history, with Roberts inserting herself rather frequently. That added to the "chatty" quality that wasn't terrible but sometimes seemed to lack professionally. I did love learning about some women I never had heard of: Mercy Otis Warren and Mary Katherine Goddard for instance. Goddard was the original printer of the Declaration of Independence right here in Baltimore! 

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot***
This one didn't speak to me as much as "A Lamp Unto My Feet" or "Be Still My Soul” which I thought were better compilations.

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields*****
Refreshing and encouraging! This should be the first parenting book anyone reads, by doing so it will lay a great foundation and help them weed out all the parenting books they DON'T need to read.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass*****
A MUST-READ for anyone interested in narration. She explains with clarity what it is and is not, how to use it in a classroom, how to use it with kids with learning difficulties, how to move from oral to written narrations from age 6 to high school.

Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures & Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson*****
With chapter titles like "Books Can Stir You to Action" and "Books Can Foster Community" Sarah Clarkson's Book Girl is a joyful manifesto of all the good that books bring to our lives. Almost every chapter has a booklist too, so lots more titles to consider adding to your reading list!

Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking By Faith by Jon Bloom*****
Gritty, earthy, imaginative while staying true to scripture. I read this as a devotional, reading the scripture each chapter was based on. So good!

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins*****
I read this for the second time. Written in a conversational—sometimes sarcastic style—I learned a lot from Cindy’s memoir on homeschooling.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Every Life by Tish Harrison Warren****
I enjoyed reading this thought-provoking book (with cool chapter titles) a little bit each morning.

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp*****
This is my favorite Ann Voskamp book and this is my third time reading it as my Advent devotional. Always speaks to me.

Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent with Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins****
I definitely enjoyed this more than my kids did! We listened our way through Handel’s Messiah for Advent this year. It was very easy to follow along with this book as a guide.

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide
A book every parent and educator must read about dyslexia. The first half of the book is dedicated to brain science while the second discusses more practical application in the skill work of reading and writing and how that applies to different ages. Focusing on the STRENGTHS of dyslexia is important too, because there are strengths as well as weaknesses. And the teacher/student/parent knows the weaknesses only too well, so it is equally important to tap into the strengths.

What was YOUR favorite non-fiction book this year?

What I'm Into Right Now (August 2018)

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I'm a bit late with my monthly "what I'm into" post because of vacation but here we are, in the midst of September already! I'm so ready for cooler weather, apples picking, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin baked goods of all sorts!

Watching:
While on vacation we watched Jumanji: Welcome to the Junglewhich was quite fun! Otherwise, we've just been watching Parks and Recreation on Netflix because it's short and funny (and we love Ron Swanson).

Listening:
I just finished my latest Flavia de Luce novel on audio and the kids and I are listening to The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings together for our homeschool bookclub. I remember absolutely loving that book when I was younger.

Reading:
I just finished Sarah Clarkson's delightful and inspiring Book Girl and added some good books on my to-read list for fall. Most of them are older books, as opposed to newer, and I can't wait to dive into some Elizabeth Goudge and Rumer Godden. Over vacation I was looking for a fast-paced thriller and really loved The Likeness by Tana French. The premise was on the unbelievable side, but I could suspend belief because the story was so intriguing.

I’m also reading Not By Sight by Jon Bloom. I’m reading it as a devotional—reading the scripture he notes at the beginning, then reading the short chapter that corresponds each morning. The writing is fresh and vivid, breathing life into familiar stories.

Eating:
These Smashed Sweet Potatoes were so delicious as were a batch of Pumpkin Spice Granola. I also made a batch of our favorite Quinoa Muffins (I use cranberries) for breakfast/snacks this week. They are tasty with a hint of sweetness and so filling!

What are YOU into right now?

My Favorite Homeschool Books

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I must confess I've not read many books on homeschooling, partially because I was homeschooled myself, loved it, and had a great experience, so I never went through a "research" phase to determine if it was something I wanted to do or not. 

But this time of year I am deeply thinking and planning about our upcoming academic year, and I find myself returning to some books again and again, as well as discovering some new favorites.

One book that I read almost annually is Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace. This is a slim volume that is full of wisdom, encouragement, and practical suggestions. This book introduced me to loop scheduling, using a "time budget," and choosing a literary mentor to guide my reading through the year.

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I'm currently really loving the influence of Cindy Rollins. First, I read her book Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Towards SanctificationIt's really more of a memoir than anything else, but filled with so much goodness that includes what she did right--and wrong--told in a conversational way with a side of sarcasm. I've also become a Patron of her podcast, and am literally sitting down and taking notes of the exclusive content I've received by joining here.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass is a book I wish had been written several years ago when I was just starting this homeschool journey. It has cleared up all my questions having children narrate ("tell back") the material that is read to them (or they read) either orally or in written form. Since my boys struggled so much with reading/writing due to dyslexia we have not been consistent in this area, but this book has helped me as I plan for this year. There is even a chapter on narrations and learning challenges, so there is much to consider in this wonderful book. I will also be implementing some of the content from the "narration in the classroom" chapter in my co-op class this year.

What is your favorite homeschooling book? Or, if you don't homeschool, a book that has impacted your educational philosophy or parenting style?

The Power of the Voice

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I'm very excited to share that an essay I wrote about my life as a homeschooled student has been featured in Wild + Free's most recent subscriber bundle, Wander. Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community. I have benefitted from their conferences, digital bundles, Instagram, and podcast.

I was thrilled to write about one of the most treasured memories from my days as a homeschooled student when my mom read to my siblings and me after lunch. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to my favorite character, while being transported to another time or place by the power of Mom’s voice. These books were dubbed 'family books,' and we continued to read aloud together even long after I was old enough to read on my own. The power of the audible voice captured any wanderings of my mind, making the stories dance off the page and into my imagination.

To illustrate this article, my friend Molly Balint of The Farmhouse Creative photographed our own read-aloud moments. It's so special to have these images, not just for the article, but to treasure and document our days.

I also got to chat with Jennifer Pepito about reading aloud as a family and how to know whether we're doing too much or enough in the podcast portion of the bundle.

If you are interested in subscribing to the bundle (which is basically a digital magazine), check out the details here. You can even try one for FREE!

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What I'm Into Right Now (July 2018)

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July is almost over (can you believe it!) and since I wasn't able to post in June I have a nice round up of favorite things for you this month.

Watching:

We've been watching When Calls the Heart for all five seasons as a family because it's a clean show the kids enjoy. Kind of reminds me of Christy or Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, remember those? Season five, however, ended in a very un-Hallmark manner with a shocker that left the kids in tears! What!?! Definitely will be interested in what plays out next season!

I still am enjoying Father Brown on Netflix. It's my laundry-folding show and it's a comfort that the bad guys are always caught and the mysteries are tidily solved each episode.

Listening:

I've become a Patron of Cindy Rollins' podcast, The Mason Jar and am enjoying the exclusive content from her site. I am literally taking notes, the content is just that good.

Also, I just finished the fourth book in Alan Bradley's charming Flavia de Luce series. I adore them on audio. I don't know anyone else personally who has read them, however Cindy Rollins and Jen Hatmaker are fans. I was really happy to hear Jen rave about them on a recent episode of What Should I Read Next. These books really need more people to discover them!

Reading:

I've read some good books lately, one of my favorites was this psychological thriller I Found You. Caveats include strong language and an especially icky assault scene, but overall I just couldn't put it down. Can't wait to try more of her books. A Murder for the Books has been a fun cozy type of mystery. Think a Hallmark movie in book form, so at times, it verges on cheesy, but a nice summer-type of read.

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt was one of the best parenting books I've ever read. Seriously, there's not many more books you need to read besides this one. It was my first introduction to Leslie Leyland Fields, but I definitely plan to read more of her work!

I picked two books this summer to be my "professional development" to help me become a better homeschool parent to my kids. The first title, The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain has been hugely helpful and encouraging as I look to more year helping the boys thrive not only in spite of, but because of, their dyslexia. The other is Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass which I'm busy highlighting. It will be helpful in not only our narrations at home, but as I teach a Writing and Rhetoric class at our local co-op.

Eating:

I made these Stuffed Sweet Peppers (by one of my favorite Instagrammers) for a party and man, were they delish! Also easy, which is always a plus. The other night we also tried these Korean BBQ Burritos which were quite tasty and had a unique blend of flavors.

What are YOU into right now?

Literary Ladies: A Picture Booklist

My daughter is my mini-me. She spends her days drawing and writing books. When I say she writes books, I means she truly is crafting books just like I did when I used to create slightly plagiarized versions of Beatrix Potter's stories. She folds and staples the pages together to make the cover and pages for the inside of her latest title. Maybe "Fitz Learns to Swim" or "The Lost Tea Cup," which have been two of her latest endeavors. You can imagine her excitement when I bought her these.

And so, I think it's important to encourage her imagination not just with quality art products and quality literature, but also the stories of women who've gone on before her. Women who were once girls and were equally enchanted by stories and scribbled away with ink and feathered pens.

So today, I'm rounding up some of my favorite picture books about literary ladies to share with you, just in case you have your own authoress in the making.

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Agatha Christie (Little People Big Dreams series) by Isabel Sanchez Vegara

The Little People, Big Dreams series is delightful and I was so pleased to find Agatha Christie's biography included. We discover how she became something of an expert at poisons (as a nurse during W.W. I) and how she came to develop her famous sleuths, Poirot and Miss Marple.

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Lucy Maud Montgomery by Alexandra Wallner

When Montgomery rediscovers an old manuscript that she had tucked into a hatbox, little does she know it will be the making of her career. Anne of Green Gables is such a favorite book and TV series it's wonderful for kids to find out the "story behind the story" and where the idea came from, as well as more about Montgomery's life.

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Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus

Harper Lee is somewhat of a literary mystery. She withdrew from any sort of publicity after To Kill A Mockingbird and kept to herself the rest of her life. I really enjoyed this picture book and the wonderful illustrations. I didn't realize how much the characters mirrored her own life. My favorite little tidbit the book shares is that Lee and Truman Capote, as children, took turns dictating stories to each other while the other typed them out.

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Ordinary Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson is the queen of biographical picture books, so you will find more than one title by her on this list. This new book about the life of Jane Austen is made even more charming by the ink and watercolor illustrations of Qin Leng.

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Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker

My boys loved all of Virginia Lee Burton's books when they were little. Anything that had big machines in it inspired interest. Also, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was one of the first books we bought them, because it was also one of the few picture book my husband remembers and loved. This a lovely whimsical story that shares how Burton's two boys inspired her interest in picture book writing. I had no idea she was already an accomplished artist and dancer too!

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of the Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson (Not pictured)

Before Beatrix was a famous children's book author she was just a girl who loved to draw animals. Charmingly told, this is the mostly true story of how she borrowed an guinea pig and it all went terribly wrong.

What I'm Into Right Now (May 2018)

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Today I'm sharing what I've been into this month. My reading slump in fiction kind of continues, but everything else was great!

Watch:
We watched a new Agatha Christie adaptation of the novel The Crooked House on Amazon Prime. I must admit at first it was a bit of a snooze, maybe the first twenty minutes or so. I might have been tempted to give up, if it wasn't that I knew Agatha Christie would deliver. And she sure did! The end was quite a shock as you figure out what's about to happen! 

Listen:
Ever since we saw The Greatest Showman we've been listening to the soundtrack. We all love it. It's so cute to listen to Ava sing, "every night I lie in bed, the brightest colors fill my head . . . "

Read:
Since my last post I've read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. Both were "meh" to me. The writing was great by Towles and the concept of the story was interesting by Hogan but I just couldn't love the characters or get caught up in the story. I am listening to the next Flavia mystery on audio, however, and am enjoying it greatly! I'm really loving the characters and setting in this series and the author really captures the time period. I'm sure a lot of research goes into these books but it never feels that way. 

Eat:
We've been eating some really yummy stuff. A friend texted me this recipe for a white pizza and we've made it twice. These Greek Lamb Meatballs with Green Goddess Dressing were amazing! I used ground beef instead of lamb and couscous and got my Green Goddess Dressing from Trader Joe's. Also, strangely enough while getting oral laser surgery done the doctor's office had the Pioneer Woman's show on and she made these Cherry Pie Cookie Bars while my mouth was open and numb. They also made my mouth water and immediately went home and bookmarked the recipe and later made it. It was such a easy but delicious recipe that can easily feed a crowd. The orange zest really makes it!

Also, while at Trader Joe's I picked up a bar of their Cold Brew Coffee Chocolate Bar. Oh my, is it ever good! I've also been paging through Joanna Gaines' new cookbook Magnolia Table. So far we've only made her overnight French Toast but it was hands down the best overnight french toast I've made. Nice and crunchy on top. Delicious and fed us for two mornings. With my crowd, that's 

What have YOU been into lately?