Last summer we started a new ritual: each summer, we would choose a book for all of us to read each month. I got the idea for this because my oldest kids are too old now for our old habit of family story times to be regular any more. This helps takes the place of that. We’d have someone take a turn picking a book as each month started, scrounge up several copies from local libraries, and have a discussion at the end of the month.
Last year I just picked the books, and we only got to do two: John Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Esther Forbes’s Johnny Tremain. Everybody liked The Pearl, but we loved Johnny Tremain. It was an amazing story about a boy’s coming of age during the Revolutionary War. Seriously, why don’t schools make kids read that one anymore?
This year we did three books. Here’s how they went:
In June, my oldest daughter picked The Westing Game, a Newberry Medal-winning mystery that she’d read at school and loved. We all thought it was excellent. It was an extremely clever little puzzle book, well written and full of surprises, not the least of which are its many realistic, humane characters, and in a story appropriate for any young child! I figured out some of the book’s puzzles, but a couple went right by me. Here’s a hint for future readers: pay attention for compass directions.
In July, my oldest son chose The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters. We all enjoy fantasy, so this was a good fit. It was another wholesome story, with strong characters that you care about, and as much fun and excitement as any novel can have. My favorite part was that the hero’s father–usually absent or a problem in most children’s literature–was a normal, helpful, decent guy here, who even understood and supported his son in his adventure. Very nice!
In August, my wife picked Orson Scott Card’s The Memory of Earth, the first book in his science fiction Homecoming series. She’d had some other books by Card in mind, and wanted something with spiritual tones to it, but also something that would interest the kids. To their credit, they figured out the parallel with the plot of the Book of Mormon very quickly. Our discussion focused on comparing and contrasting the two, and how well Card’s story did or didn’t work in that context. I, for one, just liked the inclusion of a pack animal called “kurelomi” in chapter two. Clever, Orson.
The Huston family summer book club is hereby adjourned until next June.