If you like Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary . . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next.

Ramona Quimby wannabes are easy to find, but some are better than others. These are some that I have in my library, and I can recommend:

The Bantry Bay series by Hilda van Stockum. These are about an Irish family, but they have the same kind of family adventures and endearing mishaps as an American family like the Quimbys. Pegeen is especially fun, telling about an orphan girl who comes to live with the O’Sullivan family. Pegeen is a spirited young lady who manages to get herself into all sorts of trouble just by being herself… kind of like Ramona.
The Cottage at Bantry Bay.
Francie on the Run.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. I really like Clementine. Like Ramona, she’s lovable, but prone to misunderstandings and trouble. Books, so far, in this series are:
The Talented Clementine.
Clementine’s Letter.
Clementine, Friend of the Week.
Clementine and the Family Meeting.
Clementine and the Spring Trip.
Completely Clementine.

Clarice Bean books by Lauren Child. Clarice Bean is a bad speller, a good friend, and a fan of the fictional detective, Ruby Redfort. Clarice’s adventures at school and at home make for funny and entertaining reading. The three Clarice Bean books that I am familiar with are:
Utterly me, Clarice Bean.
Clarice Bean Spells Trouble.
Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now.

There seem to be more books in the series, and Lauren Child has written a spin-off series of Ruby Redfort detective novels.

Betsy books by Carolyn Haywood. Ms. Haywood wrote forty-seven books for children; twelve of them are the “Betsy books”, about a little girl growing up in a 1950’s neighborhood in a typical U.S. city. Ms. Haywood herself grew up and lived as an adult in Philadelphia, and she said that the children in her books were modeled on the children in her own Philadelphia neighborhood. Like the Ramona books, Betsy books feature children in school and at home engaging in everyday family activities with a lot of humor and affection. The titles are:
B Is for Betsy
Betsy and Billy
Back to School With Betsy
Betsy and the Boys
Betsy’s Busy Summer
Betsy’s Little Star
Betsy and the Circus
Betsy and Mr. Kilpatrick
Betsy’s Play School
Betsy’s Winterhouse
Merry Christmas from Betsy
Snowbound with Betsy

Some standalone books that might appeal to Ramona fans are:
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth.
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm.
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban.

If you like the Boxcar children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner . . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next.

Readalikes for the Boxcar Children books are plentiful, but the older titles are better. In fact, I only recommend the Boxcar children books in the original series up through number nineteen, Benny Uncovers a Mystery. The first nineteen Boxcar Children books were actually written by Gertrude Chandler Warner and are delightfully old-fashioned and wholesome in attitude. The 100+ subsequent titles in the series were written after Ms. Warner’s death in 1979, and I have been told that the books in the new series are not nearly as good as the originals.

Some follow-up suggestions for Boxcar Children:

Helen Fuller Orton’s mysteries. I have recommended Ms. Orton’s books before. Similar in style and reading level to The Boxcar Children series, the mysteries by Helen Fuller Orton are more intriguing and more varied in characters and plot than The Boxcar Children mysteries. Mystery in the Pirate Oak tells the story of Chad and Ellie Turner and their search for a missing silver box hidden long ago in the old oak tree in the nearby meadow. Grandmother Hale is hopeful that if the box could be found it might have something in it that would provide enough cash to fix her leaking roof and have the old house painted. Can Chad and Ellie find the sixty year old silver box before someone else does and before summer vacation is over?
Other books by Helen Fuller Orton, worth searching for if you have readers who enjoy the Boxcar Children:
Mystery of the Hidden Book.
Secret of the Rosewood Box.
Mystery of the Secret Drawer.
Mystery of the Lost Letter.
Mystery in the Apple Orchard.
Mystery Up the Winding Stair.
Mystery at the Little Red School-House.
Mystery in the Old Red Barn.
Mystery over the Brick Wall.

The Morgan Bay mysteries by John and Nancy Rambeau. If you have any of the books in this series hanging about in your attic and you want to get rid of them, send them my way. I own three of the eight books in this reading textbook series, and I’d love to have there rest. I enjoyed them when I was about seven or eight years old, and I’ve enjoyed recommending them to the younger readers in my library. The series starts out on about a second grade reading level and moves gently and progressively up to about third or fourth grade level within the series. For that reason and for reasons of plot development, the books are best read in order.
The Mystery of Morgan Castle.
The Mystery of the Missing Marlin.
The Mystery of the Marble Angel.
The Mystery of the Midnight Visitor.
The Mystery of the Marauder’s Gold.
The Mystery of the Musical Ghost.
The Mystery of Monks’ Island.
The Mystery of the Myrmidon’s Journey.

If the appeal of the Boxcar Children books lies not in their mystery or their simplified vocabulary and plot, but rather in the “romance” of four children living in a boxcar on their own, doing their own homemaking and supporting themselves by their own ingenuity, then the following books might appeal:

Mandy by Julie Edwards. Many, an orphan who longs to have her own home, discovers an abandoned cottage in the woods and fixes it up as her very own secret playhouse.
The Family Under The Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. Armand, an elderly street dweller in Paris, shares his home under the bridge with a poverty-stricken young mother and her three children.
Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink. Sisters Mary and Jean are shipwrecked with four babies on a deserted island, and the two older children make a home for themselves and the littles ones.
The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Eleanor Graham. I haven’t read this one, but it sounds intriguing.

Summer Reading: High School

Shaking the Nickel Bush by Ralph Moody. “Skinny and suffering from diabetes, Ralph Moody is ordered by a Boston doctor to seek a more healthful climate. Now nineteen years old, he strikes out into new territory hustling odd jobs, facing the problem of getting fresh milk and leafy green vegetables. He scrapes around to survive, risking his neck as a stunt rider for a movie company. With an improvident buddy named Lonnie, he camps out in an Arizona canyon and ‘shakes the nickel bush’ by sculpting plaster of paris busts of lawyers and bankers. This is 1918, and the young men travel through the Southwest not on horses but in a Ford aptly named Shiftless.” This book is the sixth book in a series of eight autobiographical novels by Ralph Moody, the author and protagonist who had to grow up fast after his father’s death when Ralph was only eleven years old. High schoolers may want to start with the fist book in the series, Little Britches, or just begin with this one, a gripping tale of a young man’s adventures and growth.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. High school is the right time to be introduced to Harper Lee’s great American novel. And then to the movie, which by my exacting standards is just as good as the novel. The story takes place over the course of more than one year, winter summer fall and spring, but it feels like a summertime novel, as Jem and Scout play with the summer visitor, and as they grow and learn about the realities of life in A good follow-up story is I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora, about a trio of rising ninth graders who spend the summer promoting TKAM and preparing for their big move to high school.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. In the fictional account of the Philadelphia 1793 yellow fever epidemic, Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson illustrates the deadly nature of yellow fever and its effects on the community with a story about Mattie Cook, a girl of fourteen who lives above a coffeehouse that provides her family’s livelihood. Since Mattie’s father is dead, Mattie’s mother, her grandmother, and the black cook, Eliza, run the coffeehouse, and Mattie and the serving girl, Polly, help. At the beginning of the book in August 1793, Mattie worries about her mother’s temper and about how to get a little extra sleep and avoid as much work as possible. By the end of the story, Mattie has been forced to take on adult responsibilities: nursing, providing food for her family, repelling thieves and intruders, and running the coffeehouse. Take a look at this post on Semicolon for more books about fevers, epidemics, and plagues.

Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins. Light summer reading. Fifteen year old Jazz Gardner’s mom tells her that the family is going to spend the summer in India, helping out at the orphanage that Mrs. Gardner lived in before she was adopted. And at about the same time, Jazz realizes that her feelings for Steve, her longtime business partner, have turned into something more than just platonic friendship. Unfortunately, there’s no indication from Steve that he sees Jazz as anything but a friend and a partner. And other girls are after Steve. And the business needs her. And who wants to go to India, anyway?

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle. I love Madeleine L’Engle, and Ring of Endless Light is one of my favorites. The Austin family is spending the summer with Vicky’s grandfather who is dying. As Vicky writes her poetry and deals with her grief over her grandfather, she also finds friendship and maybe even romance with three very different boys: Zachary, the wild romantic; Leo, an old friend; and Adam, the dolphin researcher.

Summer Moonshine by P.G. Wodehouse. Sir Buckstone Abbott is an English baron with a house he can’t keep up, so he rents out the rooms in Walsingford Hall to an odd assortment of boarders. Then, Sir Bucksone Abbott goes into debt, then into hiding, and leaves his daughter, Jane, to take care of things in his absence. Wodehousian romantic and monetary entanglements, confusion, and ridiculousness ensue. This one is not Bertie and Jeeves and not set at Blandings Castle, but it’s humor from 1937 that translates into the twenty-first century quite satisfactorily. Many high schoolers should be ready to be introduced to Wodehouse, especially those who became Anglophiles, as I did, while reading British children’s literature.

Nonfiction for High School Reading:

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Subtitled “Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics”, this narrative nonfiction book is for anyone interested in sports stories in general, rowing in particular, the rise of Nazism, the 1930’s, Olympic history, and just plain inspirational stories of perseverance and courage.

Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen. “Over Philadelphia, the air lay hot and humid: old people said it was the worst summer since 1750. . . . In the Pennsylvania State House, which we call Independence Hall, some fifty-five delegates, named by the legislatures of twelve states (Rhode Island balked, refusing attendance) met in convention, and during a summer of hard work and high feeling wrote out a plan of government which they hoped the states would accept, and which they entitled The Constitution of the United States of America.” Catherine Drinker Bowen tells readers, teens and adults as well, all about what took place in “the room where it happened” during that summer of 1787.

Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. The true story of a young man who decided to walk across the country from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific in search of . . . himself? Meaning? Patriotism? It’s a great story, and I absolutely loved living vicariously through Mr. Jenkins’ journey through the United States of 1979. (Jenkins only made it to New Orleans in the first book, so there’s a sequel, The Walk West.)

More Summer Reading ideas:

Summer Reading, Summer Setting.
Summer Reading: 52 Picks for the Hols.
June: Death in Summer.
Summer Reading: 2006.
Summer Reading List: Summer After High School.

What Should I Read Next?

I don’t have a lack of reading plans or books to be read. If anything, I have an over-abundance of reading plans and books I want to read. But sometimes I have trouble narrowing down the list to the particular book I want to read next. I thought for the month of February, I’d try to read your recommendations—from my To-Be-Read list on Goodreads, which has grown to an unmanageable, out of control, over 800 books. These are all books that I saw recommended somewhere. Maybe I read a review. Maybe I read your review. Or I picked up the book at the library or bookstore, but haven’t managed to read it yet. My question is, of all these 800+ books, which are the priorities? Which ones should I read NOW, in February?

I you want to take a look at my TBR list and give me some advice, I will promise to take your recommendations very seriously and try to read one or more of the books that each of you recommends. Remember, your recommendations need to come from the list I already have of books I want to read. I don’t need to add any books to the list, although I probably will.

So, let’s have a book sharing party. Which of the books on my list should I read next? Let the comments begin.

What Should I Read Next?

I’ve been listening to the podcast, What Should I Read Next? with Ann Bogel, author of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. On each podcast, Ms. Bogel interviews a reading guest, asking a few specific questions about the guest’s taste in books, and then recommends three books or authors for the guest’s consideration. I thought I’d try to answer Ms. Bogel’s questions, not because she’s asked me to be a guest on her podcast, but just because it might be an interesting exercise. If any of my readers want to recommend books to me based on my answers to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s questions, or if any of you want to answer the questions, have at it. Spring seems like a fine time for a lively book discussion.

First question: What are three of your favorite books (books that indicate your preferences in books)?

This question is a bit tricky. If I were to name my three favorite books of all time, you would get a wrong impression about the breadth of my reading tastes. My three favorite books of all time are Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. From that list, you would get the impression that I only read huge, weighty tomes about a character’s journey from youth to manhood and from innocence to maturity. Actually, there is some truth in the idea that I like characters that develop over time, grow and mature, and learn important lessons from the other people they meet along the way—and also rich and classic family sagas or books about an entire community. However, I’ve read all of Agatha Christie’s detective novels, not much character development there, and I can enjoy a good suspense novel or some narrative nonfiction, too. So, three favorites that indicate different things about my reading preferences are The Magnificent Century by Thomas B. Costain (narrative history), The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (Christian theological fantasy), and Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (time travel science fiction). Make of that what you will.

Second question: What is one book that you hated?

Only one? This question, were I to answer truthfully, would immediately disqualify me from ever being a guest on Ms. Bogel’s podcast. Her first three guests ALL named Me Before You by Jojo Moyes as one of their three favorite books. I hated that book with a purple passion. If you want to know why I hated it, you can read about it, but (warning!) there are spoilers in my rant on the many ways in which I hated Me Before You. And now I will, instead of naming that book as The One that I hated, break the rules all to pieces and choose two other titles that I also disliked—so much so that I failed to finish either one. And to make the heresy even more egregious, these two are books I have seen many, many other readers designate as favorites, even classics. I pretty much hated Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Third question: what are you reading now?

This one leaves less room for controversy, so I’ll just answer it straight. The last two books I read were Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah McKenzie and Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria. All I can say about these books is that the first was a good reminder of things I already know but tend to forget, and the biography of Joy Davidman Lewis was thorough and readable, but I opine that the author, Ms. Santamaria, didn’t grow to like her subject very much over the course of her research for the book.

Fourth question: is there anything you would like to change about your reading life? Switch genres? Read more of this or less of that? Change the way you read or the amount?

Honestly, I would like to go back to reading more slowly and carefully—and still read lots and lots of books. I think the internet has changed my reading. I have always read fairly quickly, mostly by skimming through descriptive passages. However, my skimming and my shorter attention span in the past few years have negatively impacted my enjoyment of the books I do read. I would like to read more carefully and more delight-fully. Stop and smell the roses, so to speak. I don’t really think that any particular reading recommendations can fix this problem. I just need to do it.

So, given those questions and those answers, what book(s) would you recommend that I read next? What do you think Mrs. Darcy/Bogel would recommend? Or would she recoil in horror at my lack of respect for Jojo Moyes?

I still loved listening to the podcast, Ms. Bogel.

Lad, a Dog by Albert Payson Terhune

What books do you recommend to fans of James Herriot’s wonderful animal stories about a veterinarian in Yorkshire? I’m not much of an animal lover or an animal story reader, although I do like the Herriot books, so I had only a very short list in my head of books that might appeal to animal-loving readers. Now, I can add Lad, a Dog to that short list.

The stories in Lad, and they are, like those in the Herriot books, separate stories tied together by continuing characters, are about a collie dog owned by a gentleman farmer in New Jersey. Lad, a sort of composite of all of the collies owned by Terhune over the years, lives on The Place and follows The Law of obedience and loyalty to The Master and Mistress. When he’s not being brave and clever, Lad likes to chase squirrels and lord it over the other collies on The Place. The stories in the book are sometimes a little repetitious, about the evils of dog shows and the intelligence and doggy excellence of Lad the collie, but each story showcases a little bit of a different aspect of Lad’s character and of the joys of owning a superlative dog like Lad.

Mr. Terhune wrote in the early part of the twentieth century. Lad was first published in 1919, and it’s set during World War I. But the stories are timeless, appealing to dog lovers and even to animal-averse people like me. (I like my pets safely penned inside books where they can’t poop or pee in my house. Unfortunately, my children have foisted upon me two cats and a dog who all reside in my domicile.)

My favorite animal stories (other than James Herriot’s books, which are the best ever) are:
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Branford. (two dogs and a cat)
Born Free by Joy Adamson. (a lioness)
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. (dog story)
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. (horse racing)
Rascal by Sterling North. (a raccoon)
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. (horse)
Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. (falcon and other woodland creatures)
Rain Reign by Ann Martin. (dog)
That’s nine, plus one I think I want to read: H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.
No talking animals or fantasy animals included, and I prefer books in which the dog doesn’t die, although some of the above break that rule.

What true or true-to-life dog stories or animal stories would you recommend for children or adults?

Book Advisory

I’ve been having fun recommending books to people who ask for specific recommendations in the Read Aloud Revival Facebook group and the Ambleside Online Facebook group as well as on my Facebook feed. I thought I’d share some of the requests and recommendations here, just for fun.

Request: Favorite living books about seeds, trees and/or early botany for children ages 7, 5 and 2.

More Potatoes by Millicent Selsam.
A Tree Is a Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla.
Mighty Tree by Dick Gackenbach.
Seeds and More Seeds by Millicent Selsam.
How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan.
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons.
The Reason for a Flower by Ruth Heller.
Plants That Never Ever Bloom by Ruth Heller.
A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry.
The Plant Sitter by Gene Zion.
A Seed Is Sleepy by Diana Aston.
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins.
The Poppy Seeds by Clyde Robert Bulla.

Request: LONG picture books or beginning chapter books for a three year old who will sit and listen for an hour at a time.

Obadiah the Bold by Brinton Turkle.
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel.
Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik.
Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson.
Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite deAngeli.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.
Mother West Wind’s Children by Thornton Burgess.
All of these books, except for the one by de Angeli, have sequels, so if you like the first one there are more.

Request: Books for a five year old girl in first grade, but reading at about a second grade level.

Amanda Pig books by Jean Van Leeuwen.
Mr. Putter and Tabby books by Cynthia Rylant.
Thimbleberry Stories by Cynthia Rylant.
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.
The Secret of the Rosewood Box and other mysteries by Helen Fuller Orton.
The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case by Alexander McCall Smith.
26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie de Paola.
In Aunt Lucy’s Kitchen (Cobblestone Cousins) by Cynthia Rylant.
Those last three were suggested by Heidi Dunbar Scovel who blogs at Mt. Hope Chronicles, a wonderful resource for good book suggestions.

Request: Good books for young (8 and 9 year old) Harry Potter fans.

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson.
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart.
Redwall series by Brian Jacques.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.
The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clarke.
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillippa Pearce.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.
The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen.

Do you have any reader’s advisory requests, for adults or children? Bring it on. I really enjoy suggesting and pushing books.

Saturday Review of Books: 2014 Book Lists

SATURDAY December 27th, will be the annual special edition of the Saturday Review of Books especially for book lists. You can link to a list of your favorite books read in 2014, a list of all the books you read in 2014, a list of the books you plan to read in 2015, or any other end of the year or beginning of the year list of books. Whatever your list, it’s time for book lists. So come back on Saturday the 27th to link to yours.

Here’s the 2013 edition, with links to 105 lists of bloggers favorite books, planned-to-read books, and other book lists. Be sure to join in as we follow up Christmas and ring the old year out with book lists, my favorite kind of lists.

I tried to do book suggestions/reader’s advisory last year for those who linked to their book lists at the Saturday Review, but things got a little dicey and harried in December 2013. So I didn’t get around to recommending books for everyone who linked. This year I think I will only recommend for those who request a book recommendation in the comments of the Saturday Review next Saturday. So if you want to know what I would recommend to you reading pleasure, leave a request for reading suggestions on Saturday along with you link to your 2014-2015 book list(s).

Semicolon Book Recommendations

I just found this site, called Anne Knows Books, which offers personalized book recommendations for a reasonable price ($3.00 a month) based on a book profile that you fill out and update regularly. I also noted this post, Why I’m Not Making a Holiday Gift Guide by Alyssa at Everead, in which Alyssa offers to give you personalized book recommendations for yourself or for those who are on your Christmas shopping list.

Well, I generally give book recommendations at the end of the year to those who add a link to their “best of” reading lists at the Saturday Review of Books on the Saturday just before or after New Year’s Day. (The Saturday Review of Books, Special Edition for Book Lists will be January 3rd this time.) But I’d love to get a head start. If you have some Christmas shopping to do, and you’d like to buy a book for someone special, or if you’d like to have suggestion or two about what you might want to read next, leave me the following information, and I will suggest three or more books for you to choose from for your gift-giving. I need to know the gift recipient’s:

Age and gender
A few interests and hobbies
Two or three favorite books or genres, if you know

You could try Alyssa, too, or Anne Knows Books, and see if we come up with the same ideas. Have fun giving a book or two or three for Christmas. I’ll leave my suggestions in the comments section here, and I might compile them into a post at some time later in the season.

Saturday Review of Books: October 11, 2014

““For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.” ” ~Louis L’Amour

Talk about diversity, the theme at KidLitCon in Sacramento, CA this weekend. I’m not there, but I hope all of those who are there are enjoying the time spent discussing, dissecting, exploring, examining, and encouraging diversity in YA and children’s literature. Real, nourishing literature is as diverse as its authors and readers, and we readers need each other to find the “good stuff”. Link up your reviews here each Saturday so that we can discuss, dissect, explore, examine, and encourage all through the year.

Reading from Flickr via Wylio© 2009 Easa Shamih, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

SatReviewbuttonWelcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read. That’s how my own TBR list has become completely unmanageable and the reason I can’t join any reading challenges. I have my own personal challenge that never ends.

Also, don’t forget that nominations are open through October 15th for the Cybils, the book awards for children’s and young adult literature that are administered, judged, and awarded by kid lit bloggers.Anyone can nominate, so nominate your favorite children’s and YA books from 2013-2014 at the Cybils website.