(D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Adventure/Thriller, Beyond Books, Book Reviews, Christian, Middle Grades, Raising Readers, Reflections
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Five Favorites: Old and New

With leaves changing and school beginning, our Redeemed Reader intern, Zoe Watters, shares five books that can be enjoyed any time of year.  As she says, some lessons, including spiritual ones, are learned better in stories. For example, “it is more fun to have adventures with others, and rescue missions are more successful when kids join together and use their talents instead of going it alone.”  What books does she recommend? Without further ado . . .

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. Originally published 1902, 272 pages.

If five siblings move to a new place where there is nothing to do, they are bound to have an adventure. When the siblings find a gravel-pit and attempt to dig a hole to Australia, they instead meet It, an unusual creature who can grant wishes. Being sensible children who know not to pass up such an opportunity, they immediately make wishes, but this story shows us that wishes don’t always turn out well.  Five Children And It teaches us to be like Paul who learned to be content in whatever situation (Philippians 4:11). We see why it is better to enjoy the lives God has given us, to not wish for things we don’t have, and to enjoy days that we couldn’t ask, imagine —or wish for.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. Little, Brown, 2010. 480 pages.

Four children get to spend a day in a candy factory and become candymakers by creating something that, if it wins, will be sold throughout the world. It seems each contestant’s goal is simply to win, but in this clever method of storytelling, we see each character’s background and get a glimpse of their real desires. When they meet at the factory, the rest of the story is told from each child’s perspective.  Though you’ll read the same story four times, it does not become boring. Instead, you will start solving the mystery behind each child —and also the mystery of someone who is sneaking around and who might be trying to steal the factory’s secret recipe. Readers will discover why Phillip is a perpetual grump, why Miles is so obsessed with the afterlives, and why Daisy seems to love romance stories. Reading the same story from different perspectives teaches us we can’t assume to know the reason behind everything that someone does, without knowing who they really are. Of course the yummiest part of this book is the candy and other treats. Who wouldn’t want to try Chocolate Pizza?

The Melendys Quartet by Elizabeth Enright. Originally published 1941 – 1951, reprinted by MacMillan in 2008.

In this delightful series about the Melendy children, we find that sometimes it’s good to be bored, for that is when an adventure comes along.  In the first book, instead of complaining about the rainy weather keeping them inside, the Melendys discover the special nooks and crannies of the house they and their father have just moved into. The books grow even more enjoyable as the children grow up and move to Saturday adventures —where each child takes turns doing whatever they wish with the money they’ve pooled— and later to adventures on vacation. Eventually, three of the five siblings move off to college, and a mystery comes along that takes the youngest two all over the place. These delightful stories show siblings enjoying being together and having adventures that will turn into lasting memories.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  Little, Brown, 2007. 512 pages.

This story starts off confusing, but that is part of the mystery and suspense of the series. Once readers get into the story, the same suspense makes it hard to put this series’ starter down. Given a test to determine their knowledge, two boys and two girls pass the first few tests. Then, Mr. Benedict, the man behind the tests, forms them into a team and helps the children discover their individual talents.  It becomes clear they were chosen for their unique talents to fight an evil man who is trying to control the world. While they have the help of Mr. Benedict, the children must ultimately face their enemy alone. Along the way, the children learn the value of working together yet using individual talents (perfect memory, almost super-strength, and others) in order to conquer.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Puffin Books, 2014 edition, 816 pages.

Don’t be distressed by the length of this book! Little Women is a sweet and enjoyable read from page 1 to 816, and Louisa May Alcott’s simple style of writing makes this story easy to follow. Four sisters find ways to have adventures together in a small town where they have little money.  These adventures are fun in themselves, but they also teach lessons, from how to rightly curl a sister’s hair, to triumphing through heartbreak. Though Christian themes are mentioned, such as seeking to be like Christian from Pilgrim’s Progress, the focus is on human effort versus the gospel. Still, for those who hate for a story to end, there is plenty to enjoy. Also, most readers will find they are like one of the story’s characters: Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy.  Although I am not as shy as Beth, I think I am the most like her, especially when it comes to playing piano. Beth and all her sisters use their personalities to refine each other, seek to be happy, make friends with others, and live as gentlewomen.

Zoe Watters lives in Louisville, Kentucky and is currently a junior in high school. In her free time, she plays plays piano, does CrossFit, and of course, loves to read. Her favorite books are Little Women (for its simple way of telling a lovely story) and Cheaper by the Dozen (for it’s great humor). 

Thank you, Zoe, for sharing some of your favorites!  Now that Zoe has shared some of her favorite stories, can you tell us yours?

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