Giving Books: Mystery Series for Young Readers

The Milo and Jazz Mysteries by Lewis B. Montgomery.
The Case of the Stinky Socks.
The Case of the Poisoned Pig.
The Case of the Haunted Haunted House.
The Case of the Amazing Zelda.
The Case of the July 4th Jinx.
The Case of the Missing Moose.
The Case of the Purple Pool.
I read the seventh and most recently published book in the series, The Case of the Purple Pool, because it was one of the books nominated for the Cybils in the Early Chapter Books category. Milo and Jazz are detectives-in-training, but even with the benefit of their lessons from Dash Marlowe, Super Sleuth, the two youngsters are stumped when someone turns the neighborhood swimming pool water purple. How? Why? And will it happen again? I figured out the solution to the mystery within pages, but young readers might just have to exercise their brains to solve this one. I think mystery fans ages 6-10 will enjoy this series.

The First Kids Mysteries by Martha Freeman.
The Case of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Dog.
The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar.
10-year old Cammie and 7-year old Tessa have a very important mom and a very lively dog. Hooligan, the dog, lives up to his name and creates havoc wherever he goes. And Mom, well, Mom is the President of the United States. So Cammie and Tessa and Hooligan live in the White House with their mom and dad and Hooligan and Granny and Aunt Jen and her son, Nate, and Granny’s canary who doesn’t have a name—yet. In the Case of the Diamond Dog Collar, Hooligan receives a gift from the president’s dog in a neighboring country, and one of the twelve fake diamonds on the collar goes missing. Cammie and Tessa must put on their detective hats and go to work to find out where the (fake) diamond could be. This series is a little more challenging for readers, so I’d suggest it for ages 9-12, especially if those mystery fans are still prefer shorter books.

Young Cam Jansen Mysteries by David Adler.
Young Cam Jansen and the Dinosaur Game.
Young Cam Jansen and the Missing Cookie.
Young Cam Jansen and the Lost Tooth.
Young Cam Jansen and the Ice Skate Mystery.
Young Cam Jansen and the Baseball Mystery.
Young Cam Jansen and the Pizza Shop Mystery.
Young Cam Jansen and the Library Mystery.
Cam Jansen has a photographic memory, and that’s one of the things that makes her such a good detective. Some people nicknamed her “The Camera” because she remembers things just like a camera, and then they just called her “Cam.” These books are beginning, level two readers for very young readers. If your reader finishes these and wants more Cam Jansen, there are a slew of Cam Jansen mysteries that are in the “Early Chapter Books” category, second to fourth grade reading level.

Then, there are these classic series that still hold the attention of young readers:

The Boxcar Children series.
Encyclopedia Brown series.
Nate the Great series.

Giving Books: Picture Books for Mom and Baby

A friend asked me for some suggestions for a project that her church is doing to gather some gifts for young single moms in their area. Here are my favorite classic picture books for Mom and baby (or toddler/preschooler) to enjoy together:

Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. Some people think the mother in this story is way too overprotective, but I happen to think that the little ones like the idea of a Mother Bunny who will never let them escape her love for them.

Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Another winning title from the pen of Ms. Brown.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.

Drummer Hoff by Ed Emberly. Drummer Hoff fired it off.

Is It Red? Is It Yellow? Is It Blue? by Tana Hoban. Beautiful city photographs introduce children to colors.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. Will the carrot seed that the boy plants really grow? A lesson i patience and faith.

Umbrella by Taro Yashima. A little Japanese girl longs to take her new umbrella to school but must wait until it rains.

Noah’s Ark by Peter Spier. Peter Spier is a talented illustrator, and in his books mostly the pictures tell the story. The pictures are a little too small and detailed for the youngest ones, but children will grow into this book and others by Spier.

The Gingerbead Boy by Paul Galdone. All of Galdone’s folk tale/fairy tale renderings are wonderful with big, bold illustrations and straightforward narration. These books, including The Three Bears, The Little Red Hen, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and many others, are my favorite beginning folk tale books for reading aloud to young children.

Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow. Charlotte Zolotow is another of my favorite picture book authors, and this story of a girl who is looking for a present for her mother is deliciously repetitious but also surprising. Illustrations are by Maurice Sendak.

If I were buying only ten books for a beginning library for mom and a young child to read together over and over again, these are the ten I would choose.

What about you?

Giving Books: Series for 10 Year Old Girls

I happen to have a 10 year old, Z-baby, and she’s also a reluctant reader. I would suggest the following series for the 8, 9, and 10 year olds in your life, especially for the baby of the family, the reader who needs a little “push”, or the precocious six or seven year old.

Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker. I love Clementine, and there’s a new book in the series, Clementine and the Family Meeting. In this fifth book in the series, Clementine’s family is experiencing some changes. But according to Clementine’s Awesome Dad, who reminds me a little bit of Engineer Husband, “It will be fine, we’ll adapt. Because this how we roll, Clementine, this is how we roll.” (I’m going to start using that phrase with my urchins and see how they like it.)
Semicolon review of Clementine’s Letter.

Dyamonde Daniel books by Nikki Grimes. Semicolon review of the third book in the series, Almost Zero. Dyamonde is growing up in a lower middle class single parent family in the city, and she’s learning how to appreciate what she has and share with others. This series is the perfect antidote to Christmas (or anytime) greed and consumerism.

Ruby Lu books by Lenore Look. Semicolon review of Ruby Lu, Star of the Show. Ruby Lu is a star—a Chinese American, Spanish-learning, Haiku Heroine, dog training, hair cutting, hard working, list making, washing machine wearing, self-sacrificing center of attention and activity.

Moxy Maxwell books by Peggy Gifford. Semicolon review of Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little.

Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. These stories still hold up quite well after, what, 30 years? You can get The Complete Ramona Collection, beginning with Beezus and Ramona, for $23.78 at Amazon.

The Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Not the new books added to the series, but the old ones that Ms. Warner wrote more than thirty years ago. The idea of children living on their own and solving mysteries by themselves is irresistible to a certain type of child.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, Ratzeburg, Germany, 1799

Poet Samuel Coleridge wrote:

“There is a Christmas custom here which pleased and interested me. The children make little presents to their parents, and to each other; and the parents to the children. For three or four months before Christmas the girls are all busy, and the boys save up their pocket-money, to make or purchase these presents. What the present is to be is cautiously kept secret, and the girls have a world of contrivances to conceal it—such as working when they are out on visits, and the others are not with them; getting up in the morning before day-light, and the like. Then, on the evening before Christmas Day, one of the parlours is lighted up by the children, into which the parents must not go. A great yew bough is fastened on the table at a little distance from the wall, a multitude of tapers are fastened in the bough, but so as not to catch it till they are nearly burnt out, and coloured paper hangs and flutters from the twigs. Under this bough the children lay out in great order the presents they mean for their parents, still concealing in their pockets what they intend for each other. Then the parents are introduced, and each presents his little gift, and then bring out the rest one by one from their pockets, and resent them with kisses and embraces. When I witnessed this scene there were eight or nine children, and the eldest daughter and the mother wept aloud for joy and tenderness; and the tears ran down the face of the father, and he clasped all his children so tight to his breast, it seemed as if he did it to stifle the sob that was rising within him. I was very much affected.”

Today’s Gifts:
A song: On December 8, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on CBS.

A booklist: Top 10 Poetry Books for Christmas (books about writing and reading poetry) at Seedlings in Stone

A birthday: John Milton, poet, b.1608.
Joel Chandler Harris, folklorist, b.1848

A poem: Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity by John Milton.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, Claremont, England, 1836

From Princess Victoria’s journal, Claremont, December 24, 1836:

“Very soon after dinner Mamma sent for us into the gallery, where all the things were arranged on different tables. From my dear Mamma I received a beautiful massive gold buckle in the shape of two serpents; a lovely little delicate gold chain with turquoise clasp; a lovely coloured sketch of dearest Aunt Louise by Partridge copied from the picture he brought and so like her; 3 bautiful drawings my Munn, one lovely seaview by Peser and one cattle piece by Cooper (all coloured), 3 prints, a book called Finden’s Tableau, Heath’s Picturesque Annual, Ireland; both these are very pretty; Friendship’s Offering and the English Annual for 1837, the Holy Land illustrated beautifully, two handkerchiefs, a very pretty black satin apron trimmed with red velvet, and two almanacks. From dear Uncle Leopold, a beautiful turquoise ring,; from the Queen a fine piece of Indian gold tissue, and from Sir J. Conroy a print. I gave my dear Lehzen a green morocco jewel case, and the Picturesque Annual; Mamma gave her a shawl, a pair of turquoise earrings, an annual, and handkerchief. I then took Mamma to the Library where my humble table was arranged; I gave her a bracelt made of my hair, and the Keepsake , and Oriental Annual. I stayed up til eleven!”

Victoria was seventeen years old when she wrote this entry in her journal. The next year, 1837, when she was eighteen years old, she became Queen Victoria, Sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Today’s Gifts:
A song: Be Still My Soul, music by Jean SIbelius.

A booklist: Popular and well known authors choose their favorite books of 2010.

A birthday: Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, b.1865.

A poem: Jest ‘Fore Christmas by Eugene Field.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, New Mexico, 1850’s

From Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop:

Father Vaillant had been absent in Arizona since midsummer, and it was now December. Bishop Latour had been going through one of those periods of coldness and doubt which, from his boyhood, had occasionally settled down upon his spirit and meade him feel an alien, wherever he was. He attended to his correspondence, went on his rounds among the parish priests, held services at missions that were without pastors, superintended the building of the addition to the Sisters’ school: but his heart was not in these things.

One night about three weeks before Christmas he was lying in his bed, unable to sleep, with the sense of failure clutching at his heart. His prayers were empty words and brought him no refreshment. His soul had become a barren field. He had nothing within himself to give his priests or his people. His works seemed superficial, a house built upon the sands. His great diocese was still a heathen country. The Indians travelled their old road of fear and darkness, battling with evil omens and ancient shadows. The Mexicans were children who played with their religion.

The novel goes on to tell how Bishop Latour is renewed in his faith by the faith of an old peasant woman, Sada. We all need renewed vision sometimes. If the above description applies to you this Christmas season, take heart. I believe Christ will meet you in the middle of a Christmas drought if you keep your eyes open and your ears tuned to His voice.

Today’s Gifts:
A song: Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus at Mocha with Linda.

A booklist: Read aloud Christmas titles from the library at Hope Is the Word.

A birthday: Willa Cather, American novelist, b.1873.

A poem: The Oxen by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, Myra, Lycia (Turkey), c.300.

St, Nicholas Day.

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic his giving, by grace, through faith, and this not of ourselves.” ~Nicholas of Myra, c.288-354 AD.

Today’s gifts:
A song: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

A booklist: Mother Reader’s 105 Ways to Give a Book

A birthday: Joyce Kilmer, b.1886.

A poem: The Fourth Shepherd by Joyce Kilmer.

Soundtrack for Carney’s House Party by Maud Hart Lovelace

I’ve just been reading the newly published edition of Maud Hart Lovlace’s Deep Valley, Minnesota novel, Carney’s House Party in which a group of college girlfriends, old and new, come together in the midwestern epitome of style and fashion for a house party, a month long sleepover with lots of picnics and teas and parties and dances and sight-seeing and good wholesome fun. Of course there’s romance, and lots of singing.

The house party sing and dance to this lovely tribute to the “flying machine.”

And these are two more songs that the orchestra plays at the “dance party” that the Crowd enjoys.

Sam, one of Carney’s two love interests, plays this song on his saxophone.

More information on the Music of Deep Valley can be found in this presentation put together by Barbara Carter, co-president of the Maud Hart Lovelace Society.

Besides the music, the other things I noticed while reading this book:

Carney is appalled and embarrassed that a boy that likes her dares to kiss her BEFORE they have an understanding or an engagement:

When they reached an elm tree so large and thickly leaved that its shadows defeated even Japanese lanterns, he stopped and kissed her.
Carney broke away from him. She was really angry now. It was possible to forgive what had happened the night before . . . they had both been wrought up. But this was different. It was inexcusable.

Wow! We’ve come a long way, baby, since 1912, and not in the right direction. Nowadays if the guy doesn’t make a pass at a girl, she might have a suspicion that he’s gay, or at last uninterested.

Carney’s House Party ends with Carney engaged to be married to the love of her life, but also returning to Vassar to finish her college degree before getting married. Back then, it seemed as if women definitely could “have it all.” And why not? Education, career (?), family, marriage. Just because it’s difficult to juggle everything doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.

I am so fond of these new editions of Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley books that I’m planning to save them to give to a special daughter as Christmas presents. I may even buy some more copies so that I can give each of my lovely daughters their own set. (It’s OK. I don’t think they read the blog very thoroughly, if at all.)

Christmas in Royal Surrey Gardens, London, 1857

Sermon delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 20, 1857, by the Rev. C.H. Spurgeon at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens:

And oh, if thou hast anything on thy conscience, anything that prevents thy having peace of mind, keep thy Christmas in thy chamber, praying to God to give thee peace; for it is peace on earth, mind, peace in thyself, peace with thyself, peace with thy fellow men, peace with thy God. And do not think thou hast well celebrated that day till thou canst say,
“O God,
’With the world, myself, and thee
I ere I sleep at peace will be. ”
And when the Lord Jesus has become your peace, remember, there is another thing, good will towards men. Do not try to keep Christmas without keeping good will towards men. You are a gentleman, and have servants. Well, try and set their chimneys on fire with a large piece of good, substantial beef for them. If you are men of wealth, you have poor in your neighborhood. Find something wherewith to clothe the naked, and feed the hungry, and make glad the mourner. Remember, it is good will towards men. Try, if you can, to show them good will at this special season; and if you will do that, the poor will say with me, that indeed they wish there were six Christmases in the year.
Let each one of us go from this place determined, that if we are angry all the year round, this next week shall be an exception; that if we have snarled at everybody last year, this Christmas time we will strive to be kindly affectionate to others; and if we have lived all this year at enmity with God, I pray that by his Spirit he may this week give us peace with him; and then, indeed, my brother, it will be the merriest Christmas we ever had in all our lives. You are going home to your father and mother, young men; many of you are going from your shops to your homes. You remember what I preached on last Christmas time. Go home to thy friends, and tell them what the Lord hath done for thy soul, and that will make a blessed round of stories at the Christmas fire. If you will each of you tell your parents how the Lord met with you in the house of prayer; how, when you left home, you were a gay, wild blade, but have now come back to love your mother’s God, and read your father’s Bible. Oh, what a happy Christmas that will make! What more shall I say? May God give you peace with yourselves; may he give you good will towards all your friends, your enemies, and your neighbors; and may he give you grace to give glory to God in the highest. I will say no more, except at the close of this sermon to wish every one of you, when the day shall come, the happiest Christmas you ever had in your lives.

Read the entire sermon.

The words in italics are my particular prayer for a certain young man I know this Christmas. Will you pray them with me for that prodigal whose name is known already to the waiting, loving and forgiving Father?

The $10 Challenge


I read about the $10 Challenge and then linked to it here. Then, I thought my family should do this: take $10 and find someone in need to whom to give the money. Then, I had an expensive thought. What if I gave ten dollars to each of my eight children, ages 24 down to 8, and asked them to give away their ten dollar bill before Christmas to someone who could use a Christmas blessing? Ummm, 8 x 10 is more than ten dollars. Everything ends up costing a lot more than it seems it will at first when you multiply by eight—or even ten (including Engineer Husband and me, too). Oh, well, it would be a good Christmas experiment.

I kept waiting and waiting until I could get everyone together at the same time. This feat is difficult when you have three twenty-somethings, two teens, and a twelve year old, all with active social and work lives. I ended up having six out of the eight here when I told them about the $10 Challenge. The other two would just have to hear about it later. I gave out the tens, and everyone’s eyes lit up. Then, I told them that the deal was that they had to give it away. First, some of them tried trading ten dollar bills: “You give me yours, and I’ll give you mine.” I told them that there were no rules, but that trading money was against the rules. I also suggested that they pray and ask God to show them the person or group to whom they should give their money.

So, now each of my children (except the two missing links) has a ten dollar bill to give away. We’ll see what they do with it.

I told them they had to report back on Christmas morning.