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Thursday, December 30, 2010
Fun (and teachable-moment) reading for tweens/teens
We are big readers around here, but sometimes it's hard to find a good series for the kids to read that will teach the good, the true and the beautiful. I've been reviewing chapter books (reading levels of 4th thru early high school) and thought I'd post some of the better titles of books your tweens/teens might enjoy.
For the girls:
Olivia and the Little Way and the just-released sequel, Olivia's Gift, tell the story of a girl named Olivia and her family and how her relationship with God and her Catholic faith are enriched as she learns more and more about St. Therese of Lisieux. These books teach without being preachy; and the situations are real -- moving to a new place and trying to make friends, adverse effects of caving to peer pressure or trying to mold yourself to "fit in", understanding what is really important (and it's not the $50 sweatshirt or owning a large house). This is a very Catholic book with lovely depictions of the graces received from the Sacraments.
In the first book, Olivia is a 10-year-old who has to move to another state and make all new friends; the sequel has Olivia at 12 visiting a North Carolina beach with her family and her best friend Hayley.
For the boys:
The series, Knights of Arretthrae, by former F-16 pilot and Christian dad Chuck Black, are an exceptional series for the boys. There are six books in the series, but each book is its own story so your boys can read them in any order and not lose anything. The stories have a very Christian (Black is an active evangelical Christian) flavor and are allegories of the Scriptures.
The fictional land of Arrethtrae is experiencing the battle between good and evil, between Lucius and his minions and the King/Prince and their army. Each book deals with a different virture/vice and aims to teach the reader what can happen if you cave to the vice instead of practicing the virture. For instance, in the first book, Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione, the virtue shown is fortitude even in the face of death while in the fifth book, Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor, the virtue shown is temperance and the dangers of apathy. The last book, Sir Rowan and the Camerian Conquest, is an end-of-time when the Prince comes to separate His followers from those who decided not to believe.
Each book concludes with chapter questions so these books make for great "school reading" that teaches as well as entertains. Tween/teen boys would enjoy these books that are filled with amazing battle scenes, strategies and well-drawn characters.
For the mystery-lovers: if you think GK Chesterton is a bit heady yet for your students, you can always give them Nancy Carpentier Brown's Father Brown readers, retellings of Chesterton's wonderful mysteries with protagonist Father Brown. The first, The Father Brown Reader, includes wonderful retellings of "The Blue Cross," "The Strange Feet," "The Flying Stars," and "The Absence of Mr. Glass." Brown does a great job of retelling without ruining, of keeping the flavor but making the stories accessible to a younger audience. The second book, The Father Brown Reader II: More Stories from Chesterton, include stories which are a bit heavier (with actual murders) but are well-worth reading: "The Invisible Man", "The Mirror of the Magistrate", "The Eye of Apollo" and "The Perishing of the Pendragons". These readers have lovely illustrations by Ted Schluenderfritz, a homeschooling dad who does marvelous sketches!