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 New Year!
Island of the Blue Dolphins is $1.99. We like this book so much we planned an entire family vacation around it in the spring 2018 issue of HSL! It’s a classic for a reason: Teenage Karana survives alone on an island off the California coast in a tale that manages to be part survival story, part meditation on what it means to be human.
The Giver Quartet Omnibus — including The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son — is $3.99, a steal for all four books. From our middle school reading list: “What cost does utopia have? How important is freedom? Tweens are ready to tackle those ambiguous questions right along with young Jonah in this deceptively simple novel.”
The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden is $2.99. (The first book in the series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is also on sale!) I kind of love these books, which like the Melendy Quartet and the more recent Penderwick series are all about big families having little adventures — in this one, the Harlem family cultivates their own secret garden in a neighboring vacant lot.
On Turpentine Lane is $1.99. Suzanne says: “Lipman writes warmly affectionate stories about screwed-up but still loving families, both those we are born into and those we create along the way. In this one, our heroine moves into a new home and soon gets caught up with (1) a decades-old possible murder mystery, and (2) a handsome new housemate. Lipman’s characters are funny and actually try to be nice to each other and she’s never let me down—highly recommended for comfort reads (and getting over any mean-spirited and spiteful novels you may have accidentally read).”
Still on sale
The Wee Free Men is $1.99. It’s one of our all-time favorite readalouds — it dissolves us into giggles every time, and not just because I am really bad at the accents — and it’s also one of the books that we recommend as a worthy follow-up to Harry Potter: “Another destination worth visiting is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, where you can follow the adventures of young witch-in-training Tiffany Aching. Start with the hilarious The Wee Free Men, in which Tiffany discovers her powers and attracts the loyalty of the Nac Mac Feegle, an army of rowdy blue pixies.”
Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World is $1.99. This is one of the books I hand teen writers when they are struggling with bringing the interest and engagement they have for writing fiction into their academic writing — by focusing on a specific subject and using the same storytelling techniques you’d use to write a novel, Kurlansky is able to make this history of a fish un-put-down-able.
One Crazy Summer is $1.99 — and it was one of Suzanne’s top books read in 2017: “In 1968, three sisters travel from New York to California to spend the summer with the mother who left them to follow her own dreams. Instead of visiting Disneyland, they find themselves at a Black Panther day camp. After reading the first book, I couldn’t wait to read more about this amazing, loving, complicated family in P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama. My only complaint is that there aren’t more books in the series, as I’d happily follow these sisters from pre-teens to 40-somethings. (As an extra bonus, the covers of all three books are gorgeous.)”
In This House of Brede is $2.99. From Amy: “Continuing my ‘women writers I’d never heard of’ run, I read Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede, about a successful career woman who retires from the world to join a community of Benedictine nuns just in time to help solve the financial crisis caused by the death of the order’s charismatic Abbess. It's one of those books that you want to go back and read again right away just so that you don’t have to leave the world and people it’s created.”
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 $2.89 — 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.”
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!
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!
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?”
The Lie Tree is $1.79. 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.
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 $2.99. 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.