The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells (1885)

rise.jpgI think we can all agree that part of the American Dream is the possibility of a Rags to Riches story for anyone.  The Rise of Silas Lapham, written over 100 years ago, follows just such a success story.

Silas Lapham earns a fortune in the late 1800s in the paint industry.  His family is suddenly thrust into the highest echelons of Boston society.   How does an individual and a family handle such a dramatic change of circumstances?  Can Silas maintain both his morality and humility despite his vast newfound wealth?

I read this many years ago and think of its many themes and lessons often.  I love a novel that influences me like that.

High School Reading Level, 384 pages, Published in 1885.


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Fairchild Family Series by Rebecca Caudill (1947 – 1959)

happy.jpgHappy Little Family   Take a charming step back in time to meet the Fairchild family living in turn of the 20th century Kentucky.  Bonnie is the youngest child, can she finally join in all the fun of her older siblings now that she’s finally turned four?               Early Grade Reading Level, 107 pages, Published in 1947.




school.jpgSchoolhouse in the Woods, Bonnie is finally old enough to cross the swinging bridge to join her four older siblings at school.  What wonders await Bonnie and all the other students in this new school year?  Early Grade Reading Level, 129 pages, Published in 1949.





Up and Down the River  Bonnie and Debbie Fairchild are convinced they can early a fortune selling up and down the river.  But what they earn is much more valuable than money.  Early Grade Reading Level, 143 pages, Published in 1951.





parlor.jpgSchoolroom in the Parlor  Deep snow after Christmas makes it impossible for the Fairchild children to walk to their schoolhouse anymore.  How exciting to have school in their own parlor instead!  Early Grade Reading, 145 pages, Published in 1959.  





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Strawberry Girl and the Regional Series by Lois Lenski (1943 – 1968)

Lois Lenski wrote her Regional Series of children’s novels based on life in diverse areas of the United States.  This series was extremely popular with children who anticipated each new title for over 20 years!   Strawberry Girl, which won the Newbery Medal in 1946, is the best known.  I’ve listed the other titles here in case your library has them or you run across one in a used book store or your grandmother’s basement!

These 17 novels can be read in any order.

straw.jpgStrawberry Girl  Birdie’s family has just moved to the Florida backwoods.  Life seems almost too perfect with plenty of land, sun and strawberries!  Until Birdie’s family realizes their new neighbors are determined to start a fight!  Middle Grade Reading Level, 208 pages, Newbery Medal Winner, Published in 1945.  




bayou.jpgBayou Suzette Suzette’s father is gravely ill and she hunts and fishes in the bayou to keep her family alive.  Middle Grade Reading Level, 194 pages, published in 1943.  




blue.jpgBlue Ridge Billy Billy loves life in the Blue Ridge region — both the hard work and the beautiful mountains.  Middle Grade Reading Level, 226, pages, Published in 1946.  




judy.jpgJudy’s Journey  Judy’s migrant working family moves from Florida all the way to New Jersey to find work.  Will they ever be able to find a stable home of their own?  Middle Grade Reading Level, 222 pages, published in 1947.   




boom.jpgBoom Town Boy Will Orvie’s family discover oil beneath their dry and heavily mortgaged farm in Oklahoma?  And if they do, will their problems really be solved?  Middle Grade Reading Level, 192 pages, Published in 1948.  




cotton.jpgCotton in My Sack Joanda’s family are sharecroppers in the South.  Middle Grade Reading Level, 191 pages, Published in 1949. 





texas.jpgTexas Tomboy Charlie loves life on her family’s Texas farm.  But can they survive the continued droughts in their part of the country?  Middle Grade Reading, 212 pages, Published in 1950.  




prairie.jpgPrairie School  Delores and her school teacher are snowed in at their school in South Dakota.  What happens when Delores get sick?  Can her teacher help her get the medical care she needs?  Middle Grade Reading, 228 pages, Published in 1951.  




mama.jpgMama Hattie’s Girl Can an African American family find happiness or success when they move from the South to the North?  Middle Grade Reading Level, 180 pages, Published in 1953.  




corn.jpgCorn-Farm Boy Dick wants to quit school and work on his dad’s farm.  Middle School Reading Level, 180 pages, Published in 1954. 





boy.jpgSan Francisco Boy   Felix Fong’s family is new to San Francisco.  His siblings love the city from day one, but it takes Felix longer to call it home.  Middle Grade Reading Level, 186 pages, Published in 1955. 




flood.jpgFlood Friday Sally’s neighborhood has to band together as their homes are flooded and they all face the possibility of losing everything they own.  Based on the Connecticut floods of 1955.  Middle Grade Reading Level, 114 pages, Published in 1956.




house.jpgHouseboat Girl   What would it be like to live on a Mississippi River houseboat?  Come find out with Patsy’s family!  Middle Grade Reading Level, 204 pages, Published in 1957.  




coal.jpgCoal Camp Girl Christina’s father has been a coal miner for nearly 40 years.  What is life like for a girl growing up in a coal camp?  What are the dangers for her father and his fellow workers?  Middle Grade Reading Level, 175 pages, Published in 1959.  




shoo.jpgShoo-Fly Girl  Can an Amish family be friends with a non-Amish family?  This is a very sweet and eye-opening novel.  Middle Grade Reading Level, 176 pages, Published in 1963.  




log.jpgTo be a Logger What would it be like to grow up in a logging camp?  Middle Grade Reading Level, 174 pages, Published in 1967. 




deer v.jpg  Deer Valley Girl   After a three generation feud, can two Vermont families find peace again?  Middle Grade Reading Level, 145 pages, Published in 1968.  




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3 Books by 1992 Teacher of the Year, Rafe Esquith (2003 – 2009) + a Documentary (2005)

I read these books a few years ago and think of them everyday!  Whether you’re a supportive parent or a homeschooler, there are many, many insights and inspirations here.  Don’t miss the documentary The Hobart Shakespeareans!

short.jpgThere Are No Shortcuts Mr. Esquith taught 5th grade at Hobart Elementary in inner-city Los Angeles for over 30 years.  He instilled in his students a love of learning not often seen in most students — anywhere.  His students studied Algebra, learned to play the guitar, read the classics out loud as a class and even staged a full-length Shakespeare play each year.  This is one amazing classroom!  Most of his students continue to excel in school and eventually attend prestigious universities.  Parenting and Teaching Book, 224 pages, Published in 2003. 


teach.jpgTeach Like Your Hair’s On Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56  More insight and inspiration on how to be an outstanding teacher.  You’ll see why he is probably the best known public school teacher in America, and why parents want their children in his classroom.  Parenting and Teaching Book, 243 pages, Published in 2007.  



light.jpgLighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-Up, Muddled-Up, Shook-Up World  This book is primarily aimed at parents who are looking for a good teacher for their child and how to be supportive at home.  Parenting and Teaching Book, 208 pages, Published in 2009.  





film.jpgThe Hobart Shakespeareans documentary is where I discovered Rafe Esquith.  This inspiring film takes you through an entire year in his classroom, culminating in the full-length Shakespeare production (complete with original score) attended by both Ian McKellan and Michael York.  Released in 2005.



In doing my research for this post, I discovered that controversy surrounded Rafe Esquith’s final year of teaching in 2015.  It’s been three years since then.  I have no way to know what is fact or fiction.  I personally feel his body of work is still worthy of watching and reading.



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The Big Red Series by Jim Kjelgaard (1945 – 1953)

If your children enjoy animal stories or adventure stories — or both! — they’ll love Jim Kjelgaard’s novels.  Between 1941 – 1969, Jim Kjelgaard wrote more than 40 children’s novels filled with heroic animals who know to tell their own courageous stories!  Check out Mr. Kjelgaard’s shelf at your local library — you can’t go wrong!

big.jpgBest loved of Jim Kjelgaard’s novels is Big Red, a beautiful Irish Setter.  Big Red and his young owner Danny, grown up together in the great outdoors.  Adventure and danger await them at nearly every turn!  Disney produced a movie version loosely based on the book in 1962 starring Walter Pidgeon.  Middle Grade Reading Level, 254 pages, Published in 1945.





irish.jpgIrish Red, Son of Big Red, Big Red’s puppy doesn’t appear to be living up to the reputation of his beloved father — but maybe Mike just needs the right circumstances to prove what kind of dog he really is!  Middle Grade Reading Level, 192 pages, published in 1951.





outlaw.jpgOutlaw Red, Son of Big Red.  Pampered and raised as a champion, Sean (Outlaw Red) longs to prove himself in the wilderness like his famous father.  Suddenly Sean finds himself on his own in the wilderness.  Does he really have what it takes to survive?  Middle Grade Reading Level, 192 pages, published in 1953.

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Tales from Dimwood Forest series by Avi (1995 – 2009)

Avi (Edward Wortis) is one of the most prolific children’s authors of our time.  So far he’s published more than 70 books, won the Newbery Medal and received the Newbery Honor Award twice.  His Tales from Dimwood Forest are some of his very best!

poppy.jpgPoppy  Ocax the owl terrorizes the mice of Dimwood Forest, even killing Ragweed on the night he proposes to Poppy.  Although heartbroken, Poppy is determined to overthrow Ocax by capitalizing on his secret fear.   Early Middle Grade Reading Level, 176 pages, published in 1995




rye.jpgPoppy and Rye Poppy and her new porcupine friend Ereth travel across the forest to bring the sad news of Ragweed’s death to his family.  They discover Ragweed’s family in peril and risk everything to save them.  And just possibly Poppy finds love again!  Early Middle Grade Reading Level, 208 pages, Published in 1997.  




ragweed.jpgRagweed This prequel to the Dimwood Forest series follows Ragweed’s exciting adventures before meeting Poppy.  Can be read first.  Early Middle Grade Reading Level, 208 pages, Published in 1999.





ereth.jpgEreth’s Birthday Ereth feels he’s been forgotten by his closets friends on his birthday, so he decides to celebrate alone by finding the salt deep in Dimwood Forest.  But his special day turns out much differently than he ever anticipated!  Middle Grade Reading Level, 192 pages, Published in 2000.




return.jpgPoppy’s Return Poppy’s parents and siblings are in dire trouble and need Poppy to come home and save them!  Poppy brings her rebellious son, Junior, with her, along with his skunk friend and Poppy’s dear pal, Ereth.  What kind of danger and adventures will they encounter as they rescue those they love?  Middle Grade Reading Level, 256 pages, Published in 2005. 




ere.jpgPoppy and Ereth  Poor Poppy is swooped up by a bat and Ereth assumes she’s dead!  While Ereth plans the best funeral ever, Poppy plans her escape from the terrifying bats!  Middle Grade Reading Level, 224 pages, Published in 2009.  

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The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill (1962)


What is Betsy to do when a birthday party invitation asks her to bring her best doll for a fun competition?

Betsy owns a dozen dolls.  Each is beautiful in its own way.  How will she ever choose?

The Best-Loved Doll is a touching read- aloud for little girls who love their dolls too!

Early Grade Reading Level, 64 pages (heavily illustrated), Published in 1962.

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