The Brilliant Books of James Herriot! (1972 – 1992)

Do I like animals?  Yes.  Do I LOVE animals?  Not particularly.   Despite my ambivalent feelings about the animal kingdom, I am a HUGE fan of the James Herriot books!  If you’ve not yet met Dr. Herriot (a talented, self-deprecating country veterinarian in Yorkshire, England), you’re in for a spectacular treat!

You’ll lean over his shoulder as he lovingly cares for baby calves, horses, sheep, kittens, puppies. . ., charms eccentric pet owners, wrangles with his two highly amusing veterinary partners, drives the backroads of his beloved Yorkshire and finally marries his wise and beautiful (and patient) wife.

I cannot recommend these books highly enough!  They are a delight.  You’ll be sobbing one chapter and gasping with laughter the next — this man really known how to tell a story!  Tricky Woo is our family’s favorite!   I can’t wait for you to read them!

The British television series based on these books is also EXCELLENT!

Herriot 1.jpg All Creatures Great and Small, 448 pgs, published 1972

Herriot 2.jpg All Things Bright and Beautiful, 384 pgs, published 1974

Herriot 3.jpg All Things Wise and Wonderful, 448 pgs, published 1977

Herriot 4.jpg The Lord God Made Them All, 384 pgs, published 1981

herriot 5.jpg Every Living Thing, 352 pgs, publshed 1992

High School reading level, 350+ pages each volume, Books for Boys, Published from 1972 – 

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Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1933)


If you’ve ever wanted to live on acres of land where you had a lovely house and grew most of your own food, this book is for you!  Although Farmer Boy is usually listed as part of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it is a stand alone book following the childhood of Laura’s future husband, Almanzo Wilder.

Farmer.jpgAlmanzo Wilder’s family lives on a farm near Malone, New York.  Father is a respected and prosperous farmer and Mother cares for the family and keeps an excellent house.  Almanzo, at age nine, is finally old enough to attend the one-room school house with his 3 older siblings, but quickly finds that school isn’t quite what he expected and he misses being at home.  He longs to be like his father, tending and training the animals, filling the ice house for summer, planting and harvesting crops, building and repairing things around the farm.  His parents understand his wishes, but know he needs formal schooling too.  Almanzo stays in school, but is more than happy to miss when it’s necessary to help around the farm — and in the 1860’s that happened quite a lot.

Farmer Boy is a beautiful peek into a bygone era when parents taught their children morals through both word and deed, and children worked nearly as hard as their parents to keep a roof over the family’s head.

This is one of my all-time favorite read aloud books — we read it multiple times!  Let me know if it’s one of your favorites too!

Middle Grade reading level, 344 pages, Books for Boys, Published in 1933.


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No Flying in the House by Betty Brock (1970)

flying.jpgThis story will thrill any little girl who’s ever dreamed she is really a fairy princess!

Who wouldn’t want to be little Annabel?  She lives in a mansion by the sea with a wealthy, elderly widow, she has a doting nanny, and she owns a tiny three-inch dog named Gloria —  who talks!  Could life get any better?

Yes, it can.

One day while playing in the drawing room alone, Annabel discovers a mysterious golden toy cat with emerald eyes.  This strange cat, who can also speak, announces that Annabel is NOT a regular little girl.  In fact, she’s really a fairy!

Before she knows what’s happening, Annabel discovers she can do many amazing things — including FLY around the house!  This should be the best of news, but what Annabel really wants to know is, “Who are my parents and WHERE ARE THEY??”  No Flying in the House is filled with several exciting mysteries for your little fairy princess to discover!

Advanced early grade reading level, 144 pages, Published in 1970.

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4 Adventure Books for Teens by Jack London (1902 – 1906)

Winter weather is right around the corner — maybe you’ve already turned that corner — and it’s time to bring out the books that will keep your kids reading long into the evening, curled up on the couch or hiding with a flashlight under their covers.  No one brings adventure to life quite like Jack London!  Here are his 4 best-loved short novels!  These stories are not for the faint of heart.

dazzler.jpgCruise of the Dazzler, 82 pgs , published in 1902.  Joe Bronson runs away from home to join the small crew of the Dazzler.  Joe quickly realizes the captain, French Pete, is involved in illegal practices, which include stealing the safe from Joe’s father’s business!  Will Joe and his crew mate ever escape French Pete and go home again?



The Call of the Wild.jpgThe Call of the Wild, 64 pgs, published in 1903.  Buck, a beautiful, large dog living a peaceful life in sunny California, is stolen and sold on the black market to brutal prospectors looking for gold in the Yukon.  Buck’s life and personality are turned upside down.  Will he ever return home and become again the gentle dog he once was?



White Fang.jpgWhite Fang , 160 pgs, published in 1906.  This is somewhat the story of The Call of the Wild in reverse.  That’s all I’m going to say.  You can read for yourself to learn if White Fang’s life turns out happy or not.




Sea Wolf.jpgThe Sea Wolf, 144 pgs, published in 1904  Here again is a variation of the Call of the Wild story, but this time with a man instead of a dog.  Can a refined and educated person experience extreme brutality at sea and then return to civilized life?



High School reading level, 64 – 160 pages, Books for Boys, Adventure, Published 1902 – 1906


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All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor (1951 – 1978)

There’s something to be said for a book that makes you wish you’d been part of a poor immigrant family living in New York’s upper east side on the eve of World War I.  Sydney Taylor’s time-honored classic does just that.  Amazon Home Page

all of a kind.jpgElla, Henny, Sarah (the author), Charlotte and Gertie are sisters and best pals.  Their lives are full of small everyday adventures that include neighbors, household chores, trips to the library and religious holidays. Their beloved Mama and Papa love and care for them, but also allow the girls to learn some of the hard lessons of life.  This is a series you’ll be glad your children are reading.

All-of-a-Kind Family books are based on the author’s own five-sister, Jewish family during the early 1900s.  This classic book introduces modern children to family life long before technology and social media.

All three of my daughters LOVED this book (I’m not certain we knew there were sequels) since they too felt like an “all-of-a-kind family” for many years–until their adorable little brothers were born!

All-of-a-Kind Family, 192 pages, published in 1951

More All-of-a-Kind Family, 200 pages, published in 1954

All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, 200 pages, published in 1958

All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, 200 pages, published in 1972

Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family, 200 pages, published in 1978

Middle Grade reading levels, 200 pages each volume, Books for Girls, Published 1951 – 1978



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The Tripods Trilogy (plus a prequel) by John Christopher (1967 – 1988)

tripods.jpgEarth has been invaded by aliens!

The alien Masters and their mechanical Tripods (much like those AT-AT Walkers from Star Wars– yes, I had to look that name up) have brainwashed and enslaved one country after another.  In their effort to control the planet, the Masters also abolish capitalism (which they see as too individualistic, rebellious and messy) and re-create the more simple agrarian societies of earth’s distant past in order to keep their new slaves more docile.  Although the stories begin in rural England, they soon evolve into an international quest following a small group of teenaged boys who are willing to risk everything to restore the Earth they know used to exist!

John Christopher (a pen name for adult author Christopher Samuel Youd) is one of the early children’s dystopian writers.  Interesting to see a genre in its infancy.

If you have a son or daughter who enjoys Dystopian Science Fiction, The Tripods Trilogy might just be the “new” book series you’ve been looking for.  Although these books contain no foul language, there are a number of deaths.

The Tripods Trilogy

The White Mountains, 272 pages, published in 1967

The City of Gold and Lead, 304 pages, published in 1967

The Pool of Fire, 272 pages, published in 1968

When the Tripods Came (prequel — to be read last), 240 pages, published in 1988

Middle Grade reading level, 250-300 pages per volume, Published 1967-1988.  

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Another Christmas Family Read Aloud!

home.jpgI grew up watching The Waltons on television — me and every other person in the United States from 1972 – 1981.  Possibly you’ve watched the re-runs.  The show was based on the book Spencer’s Mountain by Earl Hamner, Jr. published in 1961.  It’s a fictional version of his life growing up in a loving and lively family in rural Virginia during the Great Depression.

In 1971, Mr. Hamner wrote a second book about Spencer’s Mountain called The Homecoming.  This 125 page novel is set at Christmastime.  Father has left home to find work elsewhere during the Depression, but promises to be home for Christmas.  Christmas Eve day passes slowly while the family prepares the house for the family celebrations but worries at father’s unexplained delay.   The sometimes gut-wrenching and sometimes hilarious events of this special Christmas Eve from 1933 will warm your heart.  It’s a bit pricey online, and tricky to find at a used book store, but if you’re fortunate enough to have a well-established library, they may have a copy in their stacks!

The made-for-TV movie, The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, was a holiday staple back in the 1970’s and is still available on DVD.

High School Reading Level, 125 pages, Holidays, Published in 1971.  

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