Back-to-School Booklist, 2017 edition (+ Giveaway!)

Have your kids already started school? Or perhaps that’s still to come in the next couple of weeks. No matter what stage of back-to-school season you’re in or whether you’re a homeschool family or fans of traditional school, check out our annual Back-to-School Booklist!

Back-to-School Booklist

As usual, our Back-to-School Booklist features books for all ages, both fiction and nonfiction, on seasonal and academic subjects and themes. Titles are linked to amazon (affiliate links–thanks!) and include links to RR reviews, where applicable (more links will be added as titles are reviewed).

Don’t miss the giveaway at the end!  **GIVEAWAY CLOSED**


Picture Books


Early Readers/Chapter Books  

  • Wile E. Coyote, Physical Science Genius series. Just why does that wily coyote never quite capture that speedy roadrunner? A fun mix of physics and cartoons. New titles available as well as old–look for these at your local library!
  • Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by John D’Agnese. An engaging picture book biography about the boy who loved to count things and noticed a fascinating number pattern in nature.
  • The Secret Project by Jonah Winters and illustrated by Jeannette Winters. A well-done first look at the Manhattan Project, focusing on the work at Los Alamos and the Trinity test site. Picture book, but style and content make it more suitable for newly independent readers.
  • Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out! Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood collected by Patricia McKissack and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Not technically an easy reader or chapter book, this collection is full of rhymes, stories, and fables that newly independent readers will enjoy–and their younger and older siblings will enjoy, too! Parents will recognize many of these familiar rhymes, regardless of cultural background.
  • Penguin Day by Nic Bishop. Short, straightforward text accompanied by darling photographs will reward newly independent readers, especially if they’re ready for some big words. Picture book, but it will work as an independent read.


Middle Grades 

*indicates a title that ages up well for young teens

  • The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming by J. Anderson Coats. Historical fiction set in Washington Territory. Miss Jane Deming is unable to go to school, but she is determined, by golly, to improve her mind and broaden her perspective….even if that means canoeing to town in the rain to go to school! (RR Review)
  • Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall.  This is the first volume in a mystery series for middle graders.  Howard operates on a shoestring and his voice is a take-off on innumerable Sam-Spade parodies.  But it’s done especially well here–fun and engaging.  Watch for our review tomorrow.
  • Posted by John David Anderson.*  Seventh grade gets off to a bad start when a few mean Facebook posts cause the powers that be to ban cell phones.  But the kids find a way around that with Post-It notes.  Some language and “Identity” issues (one student may be gay) but a worthwhile discussion starter.   See our review on Thursday.
  • When On Earth? History as You’ve Never Seen it Before! A history timeline on maps, showing simultaneous events and their geographic regions. Skip the first couple pages on origins and discover what else was going on during major world events!
  • Dragon Seed by Marty Machowski.*  Fantasy fiction for teens incorporated with a 12-lesson Bible study on spiritual warfare.  The plot is well known, but the background provides solid scriptural guidance for facing up to one’s own weaknesses and finding help in the right places.  We’ll post our review on Wednesday.
  •  Joplin, Wishing by Diane Stanley.  A thoughtful novel with a fantasy dimension, about finding the parts of your heritage you can use and letting go of the parts you can’t.  See our review tomorrow.
  • National Geographic Kids United States Atlas. Studying U.S. History this year? Grab this handy, colorful atlas to enjoy alongside history class!



*don’t miss the titles starred in the “Middle Grades” section; those titles work well for younger teens as well.

  • Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World by Kristen Hatten.  Nonfiction, esp. for girls, about finding your identity in God, published by New Growth Press.  We’ll review on Wednesday.
  • It Couldn’t Just Happen by Lawrence O. Richards. This is written from an outspoken Christian worldview (and a young earth creationist perspective, although not as dogmatically so as others), and the small sections are great at prompting good discussions for upper middle grades and early high school students about science and the Bible. Try reading just one section at a time with your children or students; do be prepared to discuss this one as not all Christians agree on the intersection of science and the Bible as presented here.
  • UndefeatedJim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin. For football and history buffs, this is a thought-provoking look at the history of football and its intersection with racist policies, the effects of good sportsmanship, and the drive to play the game. (RR Review)

Older Teen/Adult 

  • American Eclipse by David Baron. An interesting look at a previous eclipse in 1878 and its effect on our nation–eclipse fever is nothing new! (RR Review)
  • Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology by Adam Alter. Alter examines the changes in human behavior addictions since the dawn of smart phones and wearable technology. Rather than advocating we all become Luddites, Alter challenges the reader to leverage our addictive tendencies for the better. (Review coming)
  • 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Reinke takes a look at how his phone use is changing him–and the rest of us. A good companion read to Irresistible, this one is from a Christian perspective. (Review coming)
  • God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker. We haven’t had a chance to read/review this one yet, but it comes highly recommended. Walker delves into the identity question in general, not just transgender identity. Sounds like an interesting read for us parents! (and perhaps those headed off to college)

Don’t forget to check out our Space and Sci-Fi Booklist for more fun titles to start the year off!

What about you? What books can you recommend for students heading back to school this month? Comment below for a chance to win the Weird But True student planner*!


Giveaway ends Saturday, August 26, at midnight Pacific time.  **GIVEAWAY CLOSED**

*Weird But True Daily Planner: 365 Days to Fill with School, Sports, Friends, and Fun! National Geographic Kids, 2017. Does your child love pouring over the Weird But True! fact and trivia books? This undated planner features 5 days on each 2 page spread accompanied by a weird but true fact or activity plus plenty of room to write homework assignments and special events. Students simply circle the days of the week; the planner will work for any year. Planner is vibrant, lively, and includes the usual student planner “helps” at the end (maps, etc.). Note: there is one reference to “millions of years.”  [planner and National Geographic Kids United States Atlas provided free by National Geographic Kids for a fair review]

Previous Back-to-School Booklists:

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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  1. K. Hill on August 21, 2017 at 5:50 am

    What a fun looking planner! I really like the book “Noah Webster and His Words”, as well as “Blockhead”. Thank you for all the great recommendations!

  2. Meredith on August 21, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    All of these books sound very intriguing, particularly the Dragon Seed, the Diane Stanley novel, the transgender discussion book, and the technology ones. Thank you so much, and I hope you had a chance to enjoy the eclipse today. Truly reminded me of how awesome and creative God is! And, it was really funny hearing the crickets and cicadas communicating while it was briefly dark. Then, as soon as the sun emerged again, they quieted down. Really neat! God bless you.

    • Betsy Farquhar on August 21, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      Yes, Meredith, the eclipse was amazing! Janie may have more to report since she traveled to the “path of totality.” I “only” saw a 96% coverage in my area, but it was a very cool experience. We were commenting how the precision and predictability of this eclipse could only be the result of an orderly Creation (and not mere “happenstance”)!

  3. Marijo on August 22, 2017 at 7:58 am

    Thank you for compiling this list.

  4. Joey E on August 22, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    “This Changes Everything” — I did a “book club” with my 2 teens this summer with this book. It gave them (and me!) a lot to think and talk about.

  5. Andrea Briley on August 23, 2017 at 6:02 am

    Thanks for the recommendations! We will add them to our list as we are still finishing up the Wilderking series (our summer was not long enough!).

  6. Mikie McFarland on August 23, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    My 12 year old and I are reading through “Between Us Girls” (also published by New Growth Press). Great book to foster discussion between girls and moms!

  7. Tracy Arbanas on August 23, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Your website is wonderful! Thanks for all the work you put into it!

  8. Sunny on August 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Thank you for this post! The Hiding Place is on my daughter’s reading list this month.

  9. Meg on August 24, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Haven’t read the American Girl books but I have heard good things about their books dealing with different issues that girls face. I think the book Face Time sounds interesting.

  10. Karen Meyer on August 24, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    I’m an author of historical fiction for middle grade readers, so I read lots of that genre.
    I found that one of your recommendations for a biography a was especially well-written. “The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill” mixes history and biography. The country was
    deeply divided back then, too, and each side did evil things to the other.

  11. Beth on August 24, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Thanks for offering this book. And thank you for the reviews and suggestions for books. We are enjoying The Ordinary Princess from last time around. I am looking forward to the Fibonacci books this time around.


  12. Christina Kim on August 25, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    That looks like a super fun planner!

    My girls keep on reading El Deafo over and over!

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