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.)
Serafina and the Black Cloak is $3.99. Suzanne says: “This great middle school series is set in the Biltmore Estate and the surrounding forests and mountains of Asheville, Tenn. I’ve visited Biltmore several times, and it’s a treat to see the rooms I’ve toured come alive in Beatty’s version of life at Biltmore in 1899. Serafina, daughter of one of the house employees, prowls the house at night and designates herself Chief Rat Catcher, but children both upstairs and downstairs are going missing and Serafina soon realizes that there are evil forces at work, discovering her own magical heritage in the meantime.”
Jacob Have I Loved is $1.99. This odd, lonely book about two sisters isn’t everyone’s cup of tea: Older twin Louise is constantly lost in the shadows around her beautiful. talented sister’s perpetual glow, and she struggles with finding a path for herself. The first time I read this, as a teenager, it broke my heart open in all the best ways.
Chancellorsville is $1.99 — and if you’ve been looking for a hyper-focused account of one Civil War battle for your high school U.S. History class, I can recommend this one. (And not just me — Library Journal called it a “tour de force in military history.”)
Still on sale
Aru Shah and the End of Time is $3.99. It’s not surprising at all that is the first book in the Rick Riordan imprint — and sometimes it does feel like a badly dubbed version of the Percy Jackson series. Prickly, unlikable hero(ine) who discovers she’s actually a descendant of a god? Check. Unleashed evil ready to take over the world? Check. Plucky sidekicks who assist hero(ine) and also illuminate the value of friendship? Check. Secret mythic world hidden in plain sight? Check? Hero(ine) the only one who can put things right? Check. The Indian mythology is gorgeously done, though, and I have high hopes for this series once it finds its footing — and this first installment is definitely worth reading.
The Hidden Oracle is $3.99. Need a new series to sink your teeth into? Here you go: Rick Riordan heads back to Greek mythology with this series, which sets a turned-into-a-human-teen Apollo (he made Zeus mad once too often) in modern-day New York City. To survive — Apollo's made a lot of enemies who are ready to take advantage of his vulnerable human form — he's going to need some help from the Camp Half-Blood gang. This series kickoff is exactly what you'd expect from Riordan: non-stop action, lots of wit and pop culture references, and plenty of mythological mayhem. And who can resist a book for less than a buck?
Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems is $1.99 — and the perfect way to celebrate Mary Oliver’s literary legacy. This eclectic collection of poetry and essays reminds you that Oliver had a knack for saying what you were already thinking — just more beautifully and concretely: “The poem in which the reader does not feel himself or herself a participant is a lecture, listened to from an uncomfortable chair, in a stuffy room, inside a building,” write Oliver. No lectures here.
The Sirens of Titan is $2.99. Slaughterhouse-Five is probably Vonnegut’s best book, but The Sirens of Titan is my favorite: Malachi Constant is determined to circumvent the future that’s been predicted for him in this hilariously subversive and deeply resonant novel about free will, the meaning of life, and human happiness.
Archer’s Goon is $2.99. This is classic Diana Wynne Jones: A band of sorcerer siblings will go to any lengths to beat each other to the 2,000 words Harold’s author father was supposed to deliver — words that they believe will be the key to breaking them out of the individual jails they rule. Harold, of course, finds himself caught up in the competition, and trying to tell the good guys from the bad guys isn’t always easy.
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is $2.99. Auxier’s weird Gothic-fantasy mash-ups aren’t for everyone, but they’re definitely for me, and this story about a blind orphan who steals a box of magical eyes and ends up on a fantastic quest is delightful.
Everything, Everything is $2.99. I read this based on a recommendation from one of my students — she loved it, and I can see why. Maddy is allergic to the world, and she’s spent her life living alone in a protective bubble created by her mom. When Olly moves in next door, for the first time, Maddy’s tempted to risk life outside the bubble.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is $2.99. From Booklist: "Tommy and his friends think that Dwight is a weirdo who’s 'always talking about robots or spiders or something.' In true Dwight fashion, he shows up at school one day brandishing a little origami Yoda finger puppet. The really weird thing is that it doles out very un-Dwight-like bits of wisdom, and the mystery is whether the Yoda is just Dwight talking in a funny voice or if it actually has mystical powers." Hand this to your 4th to 6th grader who loves the Wimpy Kid series.
Jackaby is $1.20. This first in the series (of which I am a fan) introduces the supernatural Sherlock Holmes and his new assistant, runaway young lady (who’d rather be a paleontologist) Abigail Rook. Amy says, “Abigail, who’s very much a Watson in the Martin Freeman vein — smart, stout-hearted, and adventurous — needs a job, and R.F. Jackaby, supernatural consulting detective, needs an assistant. Abigail is not put off by the fact that Jackaby’s former assistant is now a duck living on the mysterious third floor of his haunted mansion, and she determinedly follows her new boss on his investigation of a mysterious serial killer, matching her keen observation and logic skills to Jackaby’s otherworldly knowledge. The serial killer plot is fine, but the real charm in this book — and trust me, there’s lots of charm — is the world Ritter has created.”
El Deafo is $2.99. Being different isn't always easy. When Cece Bell loses her hearing, she has to learn how to navigate the world in all new ways, including wearing a cutting-edge 1970s hearing aid and figuring out how to make friends when she can't always hear what people are saying—or when she hears too much. Cece is a likable, friendly character, and her story—part memoir, part graphic novel—is one that almost every middle schooler can relate to. This is one of the graphic novels designed specifically for the Kindle, so you don't have to worry about weird formatting issues.
The Clockwork Scarab is $0.60. Bram Stoker’s sis teams up with Sherlock Holmes’s niece to solve mysteries in a steampunky Victorian London. In this first book in the series, the duo suspects a secret society based on Egyptology may be behind the disappearance of two society girls. I think this is one of the most fun middle grades mystery series I’ve discovered in recent years.
Beauty is $1.20. This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is the book that got me hooked on Robin McKinley — I’m pretty sure I got it through a Scholastic book order form — and a recent rereading with my high schooler reminded me how much I love it. McKinley keeps the old-fashioned fairy tale setting with this story of a not-so-beautiful youngest daughter who volunteers to live in an enchanted castle to save her father. This would be great to read with a bunch of other Beauty and the Beast adaptations as a comparative literature project.
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.”
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 $1.20. 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.”
The Tail of Emily Windsnap is $2.99. 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.
Cheaper by the Dozen is $1.20. 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!
Iron Cast is $2.99. 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 $2.43 — 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.”
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.