The Bookshelf


Here is a running list of the books that astonish us with their excellence;  the books that seem custom made for my son. They represent about 10% of the books that we have read. Maybe about 60% of the books we read fall into the “pretty good” category, but these are the A+ books:

  • books that have been read over and over
  • books that have provoked conversations, explanations, and outside research
  • books that have revealed surprisingly fascinating new worlds
  • books that have inspired us to be better people
  • books that have become reference materials

The A+ Academic Books –

Biography –

Music Was It (Leonard Bernstein), by Susan G. Rubin
Presenting Buffalo Bill – The Man Who Invented the Wild West
, by Candace Fleming
Eugene Bullard – World’s First Black Fighter Pilot
, by Larry Greenly
John Muir – My Life with Nature
, by Joseph Cornell
George E. Ohr – the Mad Potter
, by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Jim Thorpe – Original All American
, by Joseph Bruchac
A Real American – The Life of Ely S. Parker, by Joseph Bruchac

Science –

Animalium, by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom
Dinosaur Atlas, by Rooney/Gilleard (Lonely Planet Kids)
Grow, by Riz Reyes
Moon Shot, by Brian Floca
The Extreme Life of the Sea, by Stephen R. Palumbi and Anthony R. Palumbi
The Wonder Garden, by Kristjana S. Williams and Jenny Broom
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, by Dr. Dominic Williman and Ben Newman
Spineless, by Susan Middleton
Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches?, by Mike O’Connor
Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me?, by Mike O’Connor

Other –

City Atlas, by Georgia Cherry and Martin Haake
, by M.L. Nesbitt
, by Ken Jennings
Mosque, by David Macaulay
The Nobel Prize
, by Michael Worek
Popular Patents
, by Travis Brown
Rome Antics, by David Macaulay
The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities
, by Nino Lo Bello
Wow Canada
, by Vivien Bowers
How Trains Work, by Clive Gifford and James Gulliver Hancock ( Lonely Planet Kids)

A+ Academic Book Series –

The Usborne Books
–  we especially liked their books about Explorers, Religions of the World, and Scientists
A Wicked History (Scholastic) books
–  we especially liked their books about Sir Francis Drake and Grigory Rasputin
The Peter Sis books – all are wonderful
–  we especially liked “The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery”
The Diane Stanley books
–  we especially liked her books about Michelangelo and Charles Dickens
The Young Readers Shakespeare books, by Adam McKeown
–  we especially liked Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Graphic Library Books
–  we especially liked the books on George Washington Carver and Johann Gutenberg
The DK series – some are excellent, some are less so (but the graphics are dependably excellent)
–  we especially liked the DK books on Cats, Thomas Edison, Ghandi, and Albert Einstein
The Lonely Planet NOT-FOR-PARENTS Series
–  if the setting for our fiction books takes us out of the country, the “Everything You Wanted to Know” books (so far:  China, Africa, South America) provide fun and actually valuable supplemental reading
The Ken Jennings Junior Genius Guides – all are superb
–  just when we think we know a lot about a particular subject we pick up a clever, quirky, well researched, continually captivating Junior Genius Guide and learn so much more about dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, maps/geography, US Presidents, and Greek Mythology

The A+ Reading for Fun Books –

A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck
Cheaper by the Dozen
, by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreath
, by Gary Paulsen
Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate 
Rules of the Road
, by Joan Bauer
, by Gordon Korman
Surviving the Applewhites
, by Stephanie B. Tolan
The Not-Just-Anybody Family
, by Betsy Byars
The Wednesday Wars
, by Gary D. Schmidt
While Mrs. Coverlet was Away
, by Mary Nash
Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians
, by Mary Nash
Understood Betsy
, by Dorothy Canfield Fischer
Paddle-to-the-Sea, by Holling Clancy Holling

A+ Fiction Book Series –

The Tom Gates Books, by Liz Pichon
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

My one-on-one teaching philosophy, in case anybody wants to know –

  • teach anything YOU (the parent) want to learn.  I find that when I brim with enthusiasm over a particular topic or book, my son catches the spirit.
  • make up for lost time – read stories and poems that YOU should have read during your formative years.
  • teach FAST! One or two pages is often plenty, then move on to a totally different topic.
  • when reading, be on the lookout for unfamiliar locations, then STOP and find the location on a globe.
  • when reading, be on the lookout for unfamiliar words, then STOP and look the word up.
  • give lots of quizzes to check on YOUR ability to convey facts (and hopefully to give a lot of pretend “A+”s).

Final notes –

The procurement of books: Here is our situation – my son is so captivated by books that it is impossible for us to leave a library without causing a big fat scene.  So, I purchase every book that we try out. This doesn’t mean we pay full price all the time – I always look through the used book sellers on Amazon, and have bought many a book for as low as one penny, plus shipping.

In addition to the books (if it sounds interesting, we are interested)

–  magazine reading (The Economist frequently has articles that enrich topics we are studying – or have studied)
–  big calendars (that was our best choice for closely examining the complicated machinations of Rube Goldberg)
–  web sites (duh, Wikipedia)
–  iPad apps (you know we love Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System app)
–  we are on the ready to embrace new topics from anywhere:  we started our unit on Albert Einstein after musing over a “cultivating thought” essay printed on a Chipotle cup…I started looking for material on Napoleon Bonaparte after purchasing a napoleon pastry from a local bakery.  What will provoke learning tomorrow?