Best books of the month

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best booksJamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom

Sometimes the hardest part of choosing books for myself or my kids is the process of sifting through the thousands of choices available. But I find I’m much more likely to pick up a certain title if someone I know recommends it.

Maybe we can help each other with the book selection process. I’m introducing a new series today, and if you find it helpful we can do it on a monthly-ish basis.

book-buttonIt’s called Best Books of the Month.

Here’s how it works:

I’ll share a few of the titles we’ve enjoyed in our family this month, and I’ll ask you via social media what books you loved. Then I’ll compile the results into a handy list for you to bookmark and come back to when you’re in need of a good title.

So let’s get started! Here are a few recommendations from our family: (with short descriptions)

* Here, There Be Dragons

I’m not usually one for fantasy, but this recommendation from my friend Rachel DeMille had me hooked from the start! Awesome family read-aloud for the 12 and up crowd. Can’t wait to check out the rest in the series.

* Replenish

Maintaining calm in the midst of motherhood overwhelm? Yes, please.

* Free to Learn

I now rank this title as one of my top educational reads. A well-researched reminder about the importance of play in learning.

* Pinocchio

The original story is laugh-out-loud funny, with so many life lessons thrown in for good measure. For the 8-12 range (due to violence, you know–puppet violence!)

* Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Beautiful picture book about one of our favorite characters in history–Helen Keller. These illustrations and text had me choked up in parts. For ages 6-10.

Best books of the month

Now on to the titles your family enjoyed this month! All of these received 4 or 5 stars from those who recommended them on Facebook. (By the way, have you liked our Facebook page? It’s a jamming and encouraging space–love the interaction there.)

I’ve loosely organized these based on age range, but bear in mind that readiness varies from family to family and child to child. So take a good look at the descriptions to decide what’s right for your bookshelf.

4-8 years

8-12 years

12 and up

Can’t get enough?

Need even more recommendations? You can find the entire Facebook thread here. Enjoy!

How about you? Have any incredible titles to add? Leave them in the comments below, along with a recommended age range!

Originally published Sept 30, 2013

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. I LOVE this idea!!!
    Our best reads this month:
    Charlotte’s Web
    The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
    Jesus Storybook Bible

  2. yes!! you have some of our favorites there already, but i would add these (I say 8, but my 7 year old loved them all as well – depends on the child):
    My Side of the Mountain (8-12 – and up?)
    The Birchbark House Series (Louise Erdrich – also 8 and up I think – it gets pretty sad for a bit.)
    Bud, Not Buddy – listened to this on a car trip and LOVED it so much (8ish and up)
    The Higher Power of Lucky (8 and up)
    all of them were entertaining and engaging enough for the whole family to read aloud or listen to on long road trips…

  3. So happy you’re doing this, sweet Jamie, and so excited to see new titles here! I love me some classics, but it’s thrilling to see parents and their children engaging new literature.

    As for classics, my Caleb pulled my all-time favorite THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, off the shelf last night, so he could finish ahead of his class.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: The Fear of Writing Outside Your Experience — And Doing It Anyway

  4. Thank you so much for doing this. This is a wonderful service!

  5. I love this idea, also. One can never have too many book lists! 😉
    In the 4-8 category, I would add “Manfish: the story of Jacques Cousteau” which is a beautiful book about his life and passions.
    We just finished our read-aloud “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” last week and I would add that in both categories. Fun to read aloud or for an older reader. There is also a 40 minute movie (from 1985!) to follow with popcorn once you’ve finished. My kids loved it.
    Sarah M
    Sarah M’s latest post: Snapshot Story of Malibu, Lake Louise Inlet, British Columbia

  6. Thank you!!! This is such a great idea and so helpful!!!! I’m really excited about it. Are the age ranges normally for family read alouds or read alone ages?

  7. Great idea for a series, thanks!

    • Oh, my boys absolutely love “The Littles” series. A few others come to mind immediately Charlotte’s Web, Lentil, the Imagination Station series (Christian). All these are the 4-8 range.
      And for the 8-12 range, the Sugar Creek Gang series.

  8. I am always searching for book recommendations. Some books we read recently are Caddie Woodlawn, Magical Melons, and The Drummer Boy’s Battle, (Trailblazer Books).

  9. That is so funny that you mentioned The Day the Crayons Quit! Our librarian bought that book for my kids and they (my 3, 5, and nearly 7 year old) love it. We are reading Chronicles of Narnia together, and though the younger ones are having a harder time listening (I let them play quietly during reading time to keep their hands busy) my nearly 7 year old will beg me to read “just one more chapter!” It’s a lot of fun that’s for sure!
    Mama’s latest post: we moved! well, sort of

  10. Just saw this. Lots of good stuff here!
    New York Public Library’s 100 Top Children’s Books of the Last Hundred Years
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: The Fear of Writing Outside Your Experience — And Doing It Anyway

  11. love this idea. we just read “poppy” from the tales of dimwood forest series by avi and “fin family moomintroll”, which is also in a series. both highly recommended. ages 5 and 6.

  12. Kathy Heisleman says:

    Some of our family’s favorite books:
    Anything by Eliz Enright–‘Saturdays, the Moffats, Gone Away Lake”–all of her books are terrific for imagination & clean safe fun.
    “The Velvet Room’ by Zilpha Snyder
    ‘Swallows & Amazons” series by Arthur Ransome. 1930’s British language & sailing terms you might have to look up, but it’s so much fun that it is totally work the effort.
    All of “The Borrowers” books
    “Fairy Houses Everywhere”-a pictorial with the most clever fairy houses ever–all made of natural materials. Several books in the series-at the ocean, in the forest, etc.
    Any fairy book by Cecily Mary Barker–generally girls enjoy but the pictures are beautiful.
    Any of the “Ology” books-“Piratology”, “Dragonology”,”Ooceanology”:–beauriful interactive pages and what a workout for the imagination!! Lots of books in the series.

  13. Angela Long says:

    Big Bang! The Tongue-Tickling Tale of a Speck That Became Spectacular / 7& up
    Nadia’s Hands
    Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story
    Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story: Book 1-3 (The Universe Series) (Sharing Nature with Children Books) 7 & up
    Maybe Yes, Maybe No
    Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong
    The Little Book of Big Questions
    Older Than the Stars
    Pumpkin Soup
    Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire (Mia likes the calmness of the stories)
    I Wonder
    Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction ( I’m reading this currently)
    Old Turtle
    Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable
    Zen Shorts
    The Golden Rule

  14. Love, love, love this idea! I am always on the outlook for books to read – for myself, for my kids, and for us as a family. I just requested several of your recommendations from our library and can hardly wait to pick them up. Looking forward to this being a regular post series. Thank you for your efforts in compiling all these titles. I look forward to seeing what others recommend as well.
    Jessica Kauffman’s latest post: Weekend Reading

  15. This is such a great idea! My boys (4.5 and 7.5) have been devouring Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and all of the books in the Hank The Cowdog Series (I especially recommend these on audio, the reader is WONDERFUL!). My 7yo has also been enjoying The Magic Tree House series and both boys enjoy these books as read alouds. I can’t wait to try out some of the books on the list!
    Gabrielle’s latest post: Weekly Wrap-up

  16. I laughed when you said you weren’t into fantasy. Fantasy is my kids favorite genre and my own tastes have changed accordingly. I still don’t read fantasy on my own but so many of our family stories are in that vein.
    renee @ FIMBY’s latest post: Under Pressure

  17. Marnita Sonnenberg says:

    We are doing American History this year ( along with review on explorers and Native American tribes. So far we have enjoyed Pocohontas and the Strangers, Squanto ( by Focus on the Family radio theatre) and are reading the Starving Times ( My America book series).

  18. The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill is simply wonderful!!!

  19. I wouldn’t put Peter and the Starcatchers as 12 and up personally … we read the whole series aloud when my kiddos were around 8-10. They loved them!

  20. Oh I love this! Yes please keep this series going 🙂 I love to get book recommendations.
    Mel@TheDizzyMom’s latest post: 31 Days of Raising Boys: The Noise

  21. Mum In ME says:

    Thank you Jamie – this is brilliant! We love books and I began the day doubting that another day of reading the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary aloud while my children color was possibly of concern. We haven’t explored any other areas of learning besides, pretend play and Lego building. They enjoyed 3 whole days of this last week per their request. They can’t get enough of Ramona and her family. Her self confidence to stand up for what is right, her creativity and curiosity mingled with her need to be loved sets the scene for many hours of fun for a 5 and 7 year old. The discussions that we have are simply wonderful and engaging and all that I know Leadership Education is about.
    We will add another recent favorite as they are great for boys and parents alike. They bring history to life with humor and inspire many questions on top of the fact they are in that special section of the library no one dwells – Graphic novels.
    Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales –
    One Dead Spy
    and Big Bad Ironclad

  22. I’m going to have to check some of these out!
    My husband recently read The Hobbit to the kids. I was surprised at how much my 8 year old and 6 year old enjoyed it. At points, because daddy does good funny voices, my 4 year old was even entertained!
    Shirley’s latest post: Conference Reflection, 300th Post, and GIVEAWAY!

  23. I can highly recommend Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays series. I loved them as a child, and have used the audio books with my girls.

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