Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (1964)

april.jpgAcross Five Aprils follows the Creighton family starting in April 1861, just as the American Civil War begins.  Over the next 4 years, young Jethro Creighton watches as  family members struggle how to serve or whether to serve at all.  Public opinion ebbs and flows as battles are won and lost, soldiers (including a member of Jethro’s family) desert and the casualties mount.

Will the war ever end?  Which side will win?  How many more loved ones will be lost?

Our family has been fascinated for years by the touching and heroic human stories that come out of the Civil War era.  Across Five Aprils, which was a Newbery Honor Book in 1965, brings the Civil War to life for your young readers.  Although fictitious, Across Five Aprils was carefully researched and is based on family stories told to the author by her grandfather.

Middle Grade Reading Level, 224 pages, Newbery Honor Book, published in 1964.


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The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White (1970)

swan.jpgThe Trumpet of the Swan is the fanciful story of Louis, a young, mute swan, who yearns to have his unique voice heard in the world!

With the help of his father and a young boy named Sam Beaver, Louis finds several unusual ways to solve his problem.  Louis proves capable of attending school, holding down numerous jobs, and finding true love!  This is an amusing novel for young readers who enjoy animal stories.

By the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.

Middle Grade Reading Level, 252 pages, Published in 1970.  

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The Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Gareth by Lloyd Alexander (1963)

cat.jpgThe Time Cat: The Remarkable Journeys of Jason and Garth   Young Jason is thrilled (and not completely surprised) to discover his cat Gareth can talk!  Like most of us, Jason had often heard that cats have nine lives, but Gareth sets the record straight.  He doesn’t have nine lives, but he can VISIT nine other lives.  WOW!

Together they decide visit ancient Rome, Britain, Ireland, Japan, Italy, Peru, The Isle of Man and America — all at key times in history, of course.

Lloyd Alexander is considered one of the finest children’s authors of all time.  When reading The Time Cat, you’ll learn a fair amount of exciting history with each chapter.


Middle Grade Reading Level, 240 pages, Published in 1963).

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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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