Today's Best Book Deals for Your Homeschool
(Prices are correct as of the time of writing, but y'all know sales move fast — check before you click the buy button! These are Amazon links — read more about how we use affiliate links to help support some of the costs of the HSL blog here.)
Happy Christmas to anyone celebrating today!
The Underground Railroad is $2.99. This is one of those books that people keep telling you is so great but somehow you’re still not prepared for how good it really is. This book is fantastic. Whitehead blends the real history of slavery in the Civil War South with an invented Underground Railroad that’s actually a railroad in this story of a young woman named Cora who is on the run in search of freedom. The New York Times said it better than I can: “[A] potent, almost hallucinatory novel... It possesses the chilling matter-of-fact power of the slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, with echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift…He has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is $3.99. When he wins a golden ticket to visit the mysterious Wonka chocolate factory, Charlie has no idea of the adventures that await him inside. This is one of our all-time favorite readalouds — along with pretty much everything by Roald Dahl.
Still on sale
March: Book One is $3.99. Suzanne put the trilogy this book kicks off on her top nonfiction books read in 2017 list, saying, “It’s a must-read history of the civil rights movement, at a time when we desperately need to remember and learn from the accomplishments of earlier generations.”
The Power of Myth is $2.99. This is required reading for classics year at Jason’s school, where we appreciate the universality of the themes of mythology and religion across the globe (even if we get a little grumpy at how patriarchal it gets in some places). This book is in the form of a conversation between author Joseph Campbell and his interviewer Bill Moyers. (You may also be interested in: The Hero’s Journey: A Book and Movie List)
The Tail of Emily Windsnap is $3.99. My daughter loved this book about an ordinary 12-year-old who discovers she’s actually a mermaid when she was about 10. Booklist said this book is “light, imagination-tickling fare ideal for middle-grade girls, with charming ink-wash illustrations scattered throughout,” and that seems about right.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is $1.99. Suzanne says: “This week I want to rave about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. <deep breath> OMG SQUIRREL GIRL IS SO AWESOME! Buddies with Iron Man, victor over Marvel’s biggest-baddies including Doctor Doom and M.O.D.O.K, friends with the crush-worthy Chipmunk Hunk, she is the BEST and the MOST PERFECT and y’all should run out and buy her (on-going!!!) series right now. Seriously, this is funniest comic I have read in years (my husband kept coming over to see what I was giggling about) and it’s appropriate for ALL AGES, so send your favorite 5-year-old an issue or three to get their comics habit going. I know I’m using a lot of all-caps here, but check out her adventures with sidekick squirrel Tippy-Toes and tell me I’m wrong.” There is really no higher recommendation.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is $1.99. This is one of those big, satisfying books that makes for perfect holiday reading: In an alternate Austenian England, magic is still alive — but barely. Two magicians, with decidedly different abilities and opinions about magic, rise to power, and their friendship and eventual conflict will define the future of English magic. You know we love a good Jane-Austen-plus-magic mashup, and this one delivers, with fictional footnotes to boot. (The miniseries adaptation is also pretty good!)
Cheaper by the Dozen is $2.51. From the publisher: “No growing pains have ever been more hilarious than those suffered loudly by the riotous Gilbreth clan. First, there are a dozen red-haired, freckle-faced kids to contend with. Then there's Dad, a famous efficiency expert who believes a family can be run just like a factory. And there's Mother, his partner in everything except discipline. How they all survive such escapades as forgetting Frank, Jr., in a roadside restaurant or going on a first date with Dad in the backseat or having their tonsils removed en masse will keep you in stitches. You can be sure they're not only cheaper, they're funnier by the dozen.” This one’s a classic!
A Court of Thorns and Roses is $1.99. This fantasy series starter about a huntress who finds herself a prisoner in the kingdom of the faeries mixes elements from fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin with elements from Greek mythology. It’s mostly a YA romance with fantasy background, though, so if that’s your thing, this book definitely delivers.
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is $1.99. Wow, wow, wow. OK, all on its own, Kindred—Butler's time-traveling novel in which a black woman in 1970s California is transported through time and space to antebellum Maryland, where she connects with her family's enslaved history, is dark and complicated and brilliant, but this graphic novel adaptation truly does the book justice. This is not an easy book to read—it asks hard questions about slavery, racism, and violence (especially violence against women), and it does not offer easy answers. It should be on your teenager's reading list for sure.
Iron Cast is $1.99. Suzanne says: “This YA fantasy novel (which, honestly, I would have picked up just for the cover) is set in Jazz Age 1919 Boston, and tells the story of teenage best friends and nightclub performers, Ada and Corinne. They are hemopaths, meaning that they’re allergic to iron and have special powers: Ada can affect people’s emotions through her music, while Corinne can cast illusions by quoting poetry. Together they have to deal with anti-hemopath sentiment and escape the evil doctor who’s running hemopath experiments in the asylum just outside town.”
Raymie Nightingale is $3.37 — which is a weird price but a total steal on this middle grades novel about a Little Miss pageant that forges a bond between three lonely girls. The New York Times Book Review said it better than I can: “With its short, vibrant chapters and clear, gentle prose, this triumphant and necessary book conjures the enchantments of childhood without shying away from the fraught realities of abandonment, abuse and neglect.”
Wildwood is $1.99. This dreamy middle grades fantasy story has some high-profile fans: Lemony Snicket says, “This book is like the wild, strange forest it describes. It is full of suspense and danger and frightening things the world has never seen, and once I stepped inside I never wanted to leave.”
Monday’s Not Coming is $1.99. From our summer 2018 reading list: “When Claudia’s best friend Monday doesn’t show up for the first day of school, Claudia knows something wrong. But no one else seems to be worried at all. As Claudia tries to find what happened to her friend, she also finds that Monday has been keeping some dangerous secrets.”
Just One Damned Thing After Another is $1.99. This book kicks off the Chronicles of St. Mary’s series, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea but which ticks pretty much all my boxes: These books are pure, history nerd, easy reading fun — the time-traveling historians of St. Mary’s are as compelling as binge television. Resist the urge to compare them to Connie Willis, and you should be fine.
Nimona is $1.99. From our summer readalikes review: “Nimona is a smart, sassy comic about a shape-shifting girl who teams up with a not-so-evil villain to take down a not-so-great hero. It may just turn out to be your new favorite fantasy story.” It’s definitely one of our favorites!
Of Mice and Men is $1.99. Steinbeck’s novel is a reading list classic for good reason — Kirkus Reviews wrote: “It is oddly absorbing - this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find — in a ranch — what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define. Steinbeck is a genius - and an original.”
I Capture the Castle is $1.99. From the publisher: “I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"-- and the heart of the reader-- in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.”
To Say Nothing of the Dog is $2.99 — and definitely right up there on Amy’s list of all-time favorite books. From our great time travel reads list: “If you read only one of Connie Willis’ time travel books, make it this one. Historian Ned Henry needs a break, but he’s not going to get one when he time travels to Victorian England in this P.G. Wodehouse-meets-Doctor Who romp of a book.”
And Then There Were None is $1.99. The suspense builds over the course of this mystery classic as ten people with spotted pasts realize that they've been lured to a posh but deserted island to be murdered, one by one, by a vigilante who wants them to pay for their crimes and who—they slowly realize—must be one of their number. It's both tense and intense, and don't start it unless you're ready to read it through to the end. (The recent BBC adaptation does a great job capturing the book's atmospheric suspense.) A great book for your high school summer reading list.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is $1.99. I can’t recommend this book (and its follow-up The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden) enough if you like cozy, big family stories full of quiet little adventures. The Vanderbeeker family — two parents, five children, a dog, a cat, and a bunny — live in Harlem, where their adventures include dance competitions, building Rube Goldberg machines, and exploring their community. They remind me of modern day Melendys!
Conrad’s Fate is $3.99. Conrad’s creepy uncle has warned him that the key to overturning his bad luck lies in finding the wizard who did him wrong in a past life — so Conrad’s gone undercover at the estate on the hill to do just that. But he’s not the only one with an ulterior motive for working as a servant, he discovers, when he meets his new roommate, and things are definitely not normal at the mansion, where reality is prone to making abrupt changes at any time. You don’t have to read Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci series in any particular order, but I do think this one has a lot of inside jokes for people who’ve already met reluctant Chrestomanci Christopher and Millie in The Lives of Christopher Chant.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is $2.99 — and one of my all-time favorite Agatha Christie mysteries. From our Agatha Christie book/movie list: “The premise is simple enough — a newly retired Hercule Poirot agrees to investigate the murder of wealthy Roger Ackroyd. But this book turns the detective novel on its head in the best possible way. No wonder the Crime Writers’ Association voted it the best crime novel ever written.”
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is $2.99. From our fall 2014 review: “XKCD creator Munroe tackles questions from “What if there were no moon?” to “How many elements in the periodic table can kill you?”
Code Name Verity is $1.99. Speaking of World War II fiction, this YA novel, according to Kirkus Reviews, is “a carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.”
The Lie Tree is $2.06. Even when I don’t especially like Hardinge’s work, I find it so interesting, and this book — about a 19th century English girl who gets caught up in the era’s intellectual battle between evolutionary theory and traditional faith when she sets out to solve the murder of her priest/amateur archaeologist father — is no exception. I had some nits to pick, particularly with the resolution, but this one’s totally worth reading.
Horton Halfpott : Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset is $2.99 — and if that title doesn’t make you smile, steer clear, because this middle grades tongue-in-cheek take on Dickens, Upstairs Downstairs, and Gothic lit totally lives up to its slightly ridiculous, utterly delightful name.
Gregor the Overlander is $3.99. This fantasy epic takes place in a world deep beneath the city streets, where cockroaches, rats, and spiders have an uneasy truce with the Underlander humans. When Gregor accidentally plunges into the world, following his little sister, the Underlanders think he may be the hero of their ancient prophesy.
George is $3.99. “While George has no doubt she's a girl, her family relates to her as they always have: as a boy. George hopes that if she can secure the role of Charlotte in her class's upcoming production of Charlotte's Web, her mom will finally see her as a girl and be able to come to terms with the fact that George is transgender. With the help of her closest ally, Kelly, George attempts to get the rest of the world to accept her as she is,” says School Library Journal.
The Farwalker’s Quest is $3.99. Why isn’t this middle grades fantasy more popular? Set in a futuristic, post-technology world, the story sends friends Ariel and Zeke on a quest to find the source of an ancient telling-dart, which, of course, also becomes a quest to discover who they really are.
Strange Practice is $2.99. My daughter recommends this twist on traditional monster literature: Dr. Greta Helsing treats all kinds of undead ailments, from entropy in mummies to vocal strain in banshees. It’s an abnormally normal life — until a group of murderous monks start killing London’s living and dead inhabitants, and Greta may be the only one who can stop them.
The Game of Silence is $1.99. Shelli loves this series about an Ojibwe girl navigating changes during U.S. westward migration: “The book opens with Omakayas standing on the shore of her home, an island in Lake Superior. In the far distance, she sees strange people approaching. Once they arrive, her family finds that these people are Anishinabeg people too. (We call them the Ojibwe or Chippewa people now.) They are haggard, hungry, and some of them have lost members of their family. Among them is a baby boy who has lost his parents, and now he becomes Omakayas’s new baby brother. These people are refugees who have been pushed out of their homes by the chimookomanag, or white people, and as the story unfolds, Omakayas’s family realizes that they, too, must leave their homes.”
Howl’s Moving Castle is $3.99. Sometimes a curse can be just what you needed, as Sophie discovers in this delightful fantasy about a hat maker's daughter who's cursed to premature old age by the Witch of the Waste. To break the curse, Sophie will need to team up with the mysterious wizard Howl, who happens to be stuck under a curse of his own — but first, she'll have to get to his castle, which has a habit of wandering around. I love this as a readaloud, on its own, or (of course) a companion piece to the equally wonderful (though often quite different) movie adaptation.