Betsy’s Favorite Books, Old and New

We are excited to be partnering with Storyglory Kids for our Winter Book Fair this year! In the past, we linked to amazon for all of our Christmas gift suggestions, but this year, whenever possible, we’ll be directing you to Story Glory for your book-related shopping. Like amazon, we get a small commission. Unlike amazon, you will be supporting three small Christian businesses (Storyglory Kids, Redeemed Reader, and Westminster Books—who helps fulfill the actual orders). Bonus: you won’t see any offensive ads, nor will you be bombarded by sponsored products you don’t want. Our readers get an extra discount during the first two weeks of the sale, so don’t wait!

*Curious about what I myself bought at our sale? Read on!

You can find all of our suggested books on the Storyglory website, but we thought it would be fun to take turns and each highlight some of our favorites from this list. (We curated the entire list, but some of the books are extra special favorites for some of us.) We have linked to RR reviews where applicable below, but you can find all of them on Storyglory’s store, linked above.

Betsy’s Favorite Books

We had lots of fun choosing which books to feature this year because we didn’t focus solely on newer books. One of the books I’m highlighting below is the very first book I remember reading on my own: Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff. I no longer have my childhood copy, but I most definitely do have a replacement copy. Other books I’m highlighting as favorites this year include ones I’ve read to and with my children (all now teens—in fact, all three of my children can drive themselves around town now and are attending dual enrollment classes at our local university… so they’re hardly “children” any longer!).

Favorite Picture Books:

  • Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
  • The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (this is one of my all-time favorite newer picture books. I never get tired of looking at it. In fact, I actually predicted this would win the Caldecott that year. That might be the only time I’ve ever been right. I use this when I teach a class on reviewing children’s books!)

Old Favorites:

  • Gyo Fujikawa’s Mother Goose (and her other books!). I adored these books as a child, and children today continue to be drawn to Fujikawa’s exuberant drawings of children being children. Fujikawa filled her books with babies and children from different ethnic backgrounds, which was fairly unique at the time.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: this was my favorite book growing up, and I’ve read it more than any other book save for the Bible. I have a t-shirt from Litographs (and a tote bag) with the entire book’s text on it. I can quote large portions of it, and I credit this book for my love of gardening and growing things. I moved to an older home last year and have had such fun with my own “secret garden” as I uncover plants, give them room to breathe, and see if they are “wick.”
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. I not only own this book and have read it several times, but I hadve the next 2 or 3 in the series, too. I liked the Judy Garland movie, but the book is better, of course! These books are fun, quirky fantasy for kids like me who didn’t quite embrace the epic-ness of series like The Lord of the Rings.

New Favorites:

  • The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams by Daniel Nayeri: I won’t be the only RR team member to list this one, I’m thinking. Nayeri is a delightful author, and I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I read it twice with the span of 3 months (and, given how many different books I read, this shows how much I enjoyed it!).
  • Nothing Else But Miracles by Kate Albus. This wasn’t a perfect book; I had some quibbles with the ending (but you’ll have to wait and see because we’re going to discuss this one for our Newbery Buzz series!). But the audio was fantastic, and the setting was remarkably well done. This is a fun read even though it’s about serious stuff.
  • The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix. I’ve read this one several times, and it never fails to amaze me. Hendrix’s use of color and art alongside the text communicates so much about both Bonhoeffer and the rise of the Nazi party. In fact, I started Metaxas’s tome on Bonhoeffer not too long after first reading The Faithful Spy and quit after 100 pages. I’d already learned most of the information from Hendrix!

Favorite series (then and now):

I’m an avid reader and always have been. Truly I could list every single series in our sale as a favorite of either mine or my children’s (or for all of us!). I’m limiting myself to my top 5. Gulp.

  • Frog and Toad: My mother and sister and I still reference Frog and Toad on occasion with one another. Not only did I read these to my kids, but we have the stuffed animal versions of Frog and Toad. A series not to be missed; read them to your pre-readers and then let your new readers try reading the books on their own.
  • Nancy Drew! During summer breaks in elementary school, I read multiple Nancy Drew books in a day. I handled my grandmother’s original copies with delicate fingers, borrowed them from the local library, and simply devoured them. I haven’t read the newer versions, but I’m betting the older, classic versions are better! I also read the Hardy Boys just as avidly.
  • My daughter and I adored the Lulu books by Hilary McKay. Vastly superior in terms of literary style and character development than the Lulu books by Viorst, the Junie B. Jones books, or, really, most modern chapter books for girls. Highly recommended. My kids also enjoyed the Billy and Blaze books, which I somehow missed as a child.
  • Narnia forever! I’m in the Narnia-over-Middle-Earth camp; it seems some (like my daughter) would move to Middle Earth without a backward glance at Narnia. Not me. My favorite is The Horse and His Boy, although I’ve come to really appreciate The Silver Chair more in recent years. I have my childhood set (which is in publication order, for those who know about that debate!).
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin: practically a perfect book for upper elementary. Poignant with such good thoughts about gratitude. Bonus: it’s a stunningly beautiful book, too. I enjoyed the entire series, but I like the first one best. We’ve listened to it, and I’ve read it several times (and we own it!).
  • If my kids were chiming in, I have no doubt that Wingfeather, Prince Warriors, Vanderbeekers, and Ranger’s Apprentice would all get a mention.

Favorite place to read:

ANYWHERE. I read every night before going to bed. I often read on the couch in the afternoon while I’m enjoying an afternoon beverage (sparking water, hot tea, or whatever… depending on the season and where I am). I bring books to the beach, books on planes, audio books in the car, ….

Favorite accessories for reading: (tea, particular mug/blanket/etc.)

Because I can—and do—read anywhere, accessories are optional. However, in an effort to put some limits on my reading, I started allowing myself to sit down in the middle of the day with a beverage (hot tea, for instance) and read while I was enjoying the drink. When I finished my tea, I had to return to real life, but I was refreshed physically and mentally. I began this habit after my first child was born, during afternoon nap time. Eighteen years later, I might be the one napping, but I still pause in the middle of the day to read with a cup of something in hand.

Books I’m Buying THIS Year:

I love being a “book aunt,” but with some nephews landing in the official world of adulthood, it’s getting harder. My sister’s family is getting a family board game that her two adult sons might play with the younger son. For the others, I bought the following through our Storyglory Winter Book Fair:

  • For a 12-year-old boy: The new Watership Down Graphic Novel (which I may have to borrow as soon as it’s opened so I can enjoy it, too!!)
  • For a 15-year-old boy: Fallout by Steve Sheinkin
  • For an almost 9-year-old boy: Encyclopedia Brown…. he is going to LOVE it.
  • For his almost 9-year-old twin sister: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke.
  • For my own three kids… well, they all now read Redeemed Reader on occasion, so I can’t list their titles here. Suffice it say that all three have been reviewed on RR and all three by Janie!

Where are my favorites in this list of purchases? Easy: I’ve already gifted some of my favorites to these families. And, just because a book is *my* favorite doesn’t mean it will be loved by someone else. An important part of giving books as gifts is knowing the recipient and buying something he or she will like, even if it’s different from what I might like for myself.

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Get the information you need to make wise choices about books for your children and teens.

Our weekly newsletter includes our latest reviews, related links from around the web, a featured book list, book trivia, and more. We never sell your information. You may unsubscribe at any time.

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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. Luann on December 6, 2023 at 7:18 am

    I’m really enjoying this series of posts and am hoping there will be more. Can you say more about the class on reviewing children’s books? Would someone be able to take your class?

    • Betsy Farquhar on December 6, 2023 at 9:40 am

      We don’t do enough of these kinds of posts, do we? I think a class on reviewing books would be so much fun to offer on a regular basis. Currently, I just fill in for a children’s literature professor one class period each year. I’m just an extra feature ;-).

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