A very special packaged arrived at the house this week.
An advance copy of my new family herbal book, Herbal Adventures!
With my daughter by my side, literally jumping up and down while I opened the envelope, we savored our first peek.
And it was every bit as thrilling as I thought it would be.
My daughter and I curled up together on the couch, and slowly flipped through all 170-plus pages, drinking in the experience of holding our copy for the first time.
Our book! At last.
For those of you who were waiting to pick up your own copy (or copies for gifts this holiday season), there is a wild and crazy sale running right now on Amazon. The book is just $15, but I’m not sure for how much longer. (If you pre-ordered already, don’t despair! Your price will drop to this one as well.)
You can find that deal right here.
If you’d prefer to pre-order your copy from your local bookshop (yay, you!) you can find one who carries it here by clicking on the red “I” icon next to US, or the appropriate link for your country if you’re not in the States.
Wishing you each Herbal Adventures of the most delightful sort.
Though my kids are 10 and 16, we still read books aloud together each week. It’s a moment that I treasure as we start our homeschool day, or while they work on washing the lunch dishes, or before everyone heads off to their own books and beds.
Often it’s just my 10 year old and me, but the books that follow captivated my teen as well and we savored them–together.
As summer turns toward autumn, I wanted to encourage you to begin (or continue!) your own family read-aloud tradition by sharing a list of our favorite read-aloud books with you.
Since one of my children has been sensitive to violent or suspenseful content, I shared
themes you may want to be aware of in the text that follows for families with a tenderheart of their own, or simply for your own awareness. For our family, these themes open doors for meaningful conversations and now that everyone is ready to handle them we don’t shy away.
Many of these books are laced with magic as well. While we love this, I understand it’s not a match for every family’s beliefs and values, so I mention it.
Check your library for these captivating titles, buy them at your local bookstore, or use the afflinked pictures and titles that follow! However you do it, make a habit of reading together as a family. I am certain it’s a choice you won’t regret.
Happy reading, friends.
Our 10 favorite family read aloud books
We read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon a few autumns ago and I remember it being the first children’s book that I truly fell in love with as an adult. The day we cracked it open we spread a blanket on the grass and read all day long, carrying our lunches out to the blanket and reading straight through until dinnertime.
It’s that captivating, for adults and children alike, and the subsequent books in the series (Starry River of the Sky, and When the Sea Turned to Silver) are as good as the first.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, kidnapping.
We picked up Wildwood on a whim at the library last winter and were hooked from the start (all of us)! We followed up with the sequels without even a pause, and enjoyed the three books so much we’re planning to start the series again soon. We love Wildwood. The characters, the child-heroes, the animals, the magic, everything.
There are some intense parts (especially in the latter two books), however, so I was glad I waited until my youngest was ready.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death.
The night we started this book we thought it might be too much. It begins with a local legend of a witch who lives in the forest and eats children, and is well told (read: scary).
I stopped reading and checked in with my plot-sensitive kid. She wasn’t so sure. So we read the book flap and she decided she was ready to dig in. And how glad we all were! A beautiful book laced with deep magic. If your family isn’t plot sensitive, don’t read the book flap, though. There are major spoilers found there.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, bigotry.
We fell in love with the main characters in this book from the very start. The girl, the boys, the dog… There is a copious amount blood and other unapologetic violence here, but it’s handled quite well. Themes of racism, sexism, and religious persecution make for excellent conversations after the book has been put away. A family favorite to be sure.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, racism, sexism, spiritual persecution.
Our current read-aloud, I am as captivated as my 11 and 16 year olds. Some intense themes, but a wonderful read full of strong girls (and boys!) that save the day.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, slavery.
Books 1 through 3 are on our very short list of favorite books. (Book 4 takes place much later in the girl’s lives, so it was harder to get into but still an enjoyable read.) Though we read these books years ago, the characters are still discussed often in our home, almost like old friends. There is discussion of cancer and the loss of a parent.
Edited to add: a friend just emailed me to say that there is a 5th Penderwicks book that just came out this spring! Looks like our next read-aloud is scheduled!
Themes: cancer, death.
A friend picked up a copy of My Side of the Mountain at a thrift store for Sage when he was 8 or 9. We’re read it together several times since then, reveling in the story of a boy’s solitary life in the wilds. An inspiring and captivating tale that will make you want to run off to the hills.
Themes to be aware of: runaway.
I would be remiss to not mention everyone’s classic family read-aloud, the Harry Potter books. We have gotten as far as book 4 (when things start to get even more intense than in earlier books), and we’re taking a break now. My eldest has read them all, but book four and up are better suited for older or less sensitive kids (okay, and adults).
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death.
I would be remiss in not mentioning Narnia! Most of us read these as kids ourselves, and they’re every bit as captivating as adults, sharing them with our children. Reading the whole series (rather than just the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) puts Narnia into a greater context.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence.
Published in the 1930’s and 40’s, there is unapologetic racism peppered throughout these books that sparked meaningful conversations in our home about the time at which they were written and what life in colonized America might have been like for both First Nations peoples and white immigrants. Don’t miss the opportunity to discuss racism when reading this series.
Themes to be aware of: racism.
And what do you say we add an 11th: my own book, due out this fall!
While a how-to book like Herbal Adventures might not be the first to come to mind as a read-aloud, I’ve written it to be just that! Each plant chapter begins with a first-person plant introduction, and each of these backyard herbs comes to life in their own words.
And since it was designed for parents and kids to explore together, the recipes, crafts, and projects included are the perfect transition from reading time into hands-on learning time–together.
What’s your family’s favorite read aloud? Share it in the comments below!
Yesterday I found myself inexplicably edgy. Grumpy, jumpy, terse, and sour.
So I did what any reasonable person would do in this state.
I mixed up a batch of gigantic bubble juice, made some bubble wands with my kids, and got over myself.
I laughed. I played. I watched my kids laugh and play.
In short, I got a much needed attitude adjustment. Because with six to eight foot bubbles floating across my yard – well, I couldn’t stay crabby even if I wanted to.
And it didn’t cost us a penny. Our supplies list was scavenged up between our basement and our workshop, our kitchen and our brush pile.
Insane, super-sized bubble fun.
And a cure for crabbiness no less.
We ended up making a dozen of the wands in the afternoon to take to our homeschooling potluck. And they were a hit! By the end of the night a full gallon of bubble juice was gone and I think everyone had as much fun as we did making bubbles.
I suggest you stop whatever you had planned for today and do this instead.
Especially if you’re grouchy.
MAKE YOUR WAND
All you need are two sticks (any size), two screw eyes (any size), a washer or other smooth weight (any size), and some yarn (any kind). See how flexible this is?
You could replace the sticks with purchased dowels but I ask: why uses dowels when you have sticks? Because sticks are free. And they grow in your yard. (Or your neighbors yard…)
Cut two branches, trimming off any side branches or pokie bits. Shoot for around 12″ to 24″.
In one end of each branch attach a screw eye. (I pre-drilled my holes with a small drill bit to make this easier.)
Cut a length of kitchen twine or yarn (mine was cotton) approximately 6′ long and thread through your sticks and your washer. Tie with an overhand knot anywhere you like.
MAKE SOME BUBBLES!
First, make your bubble juice.
I used this recipe. It was fantastic. My favorite recipe yet.
You can also use my more basic recipe if you don’t have some of her ingredients, like corn starch or glycerin.
(A note about dish soap: I have tried making bubbles with more natural dish soap to no avail. These babies are Dawn, all the way. We don’t use it on our dishes, but for bubbles we keep it on hand.)
Second, dip your string.
Hold the screw-eye and yarn ends of your two sticks together.
Completely submerge the yarn in the bubble juice. (The first dip is the fussiest.)
Lift the wand slowly from the juice, then separate the sticks to open the yarn loop.
Walk slowly backward into the wind and watch your bubbles soar!
You can encourage smaller, (thought still huge!) bubbles to break off and fly free by bringing the yarn loop back together to snip off a bubble here and there.
The bubble below floated clear over our house and was bigger than the biggest watermelon.
Note: if your bubble juice gets frothy on the top from use give it a few minutes to settle down. It works best without foam. Also, one wand in the juice at a time unless you want to spend your time untangling bubble wand strings.
And if you or your kids love to learn about how things work, check out this explanation of bubbles. It was fascinating to my kids.
P.S. For younger kids the handmade bubble wand tutorial I wrote here is the best. So beautiful and fun.
Originally published on CLEAN in 2013.
I have a new blog post up on my family blog, CLEAN, today. We’re foraging herbs, petting bumble bees, and savoring a simple summer.
Head over now to read more. You can find it here.