the secret garden

Bespoke Book List: What Are Some Good Spring Readalouds?

Bespoke Book List: What Are Some Good Spring Readalouds?

Of course, any time is a good time for a good book! But there’s something about these books that makes them especially appropriate for springtime reading.

It’s impossible not to fall in love with the magic of springtime right along with Mary in The Secret Garden. When orphaned Mary travels from her home in India to the English moors to live with her uncle in his lonely manor house, she has no idea that a bit of earth, a nature-loving boy, and a curious robin will change everything she thinks she knows about the world. It’s impossible to come away from this book without dreaming of your own garden. (Though be prepared: If you’ve never read the book before, the passages in Yorkshire dialect may twist your tongue.)

The Wind in the Willows begins in the spring, when Mole climbs out of his underground home to discover the river and Ratty. Just like a river or like the beginning of spring, the book’s pace is sometimes quick and adventurous, sometimes slower and dreamier, but the adventures of Mole and Rat capture the essence of spring adventure.

If you’ve been watching the birds returning to your neighborhood, The Burgess Bird Book for Children makes the perfect spring readaloud: Each chapter introduces a new bird, complete with descriptions, habits, and nesting preferences, as the birds return to Peter Rabbit’s garden. If you want to drill down to specific identification, you’ll want to pick up a birding guide—and, of course, the birds of the English countryside may not be the same ones singing in your backyard. But there’s no better book for encouraging your kids to study their feathered neighbors carefully. (It’s definitely worth splurging on an illustrated edition for this book.)

In Clementine and the Spring Trip, Clementine is excited that spring has finally arrived. She loves the apple trees and Margaret’s crazy spring cleaning—and, of course, her school’s annual trip to Plimoth Plantation. As she’s faced with a series of strictly enforced rules—from new girl Olive’s secret language to the fourth graders lunch mandates—Clementine realizes that it’s important to follow rules—and to break them—for the right reasons.

The Penderwicks in Spring
By Jeanne Birdsall
By Elizabeth Orton Jones

The Penderwicks in Spring focuses on Batty and Ben, the youngest of the clan. Rosalind is in college, Skye and Jane are in high school, and Batty has started a (sometimes hilarious) dog-walking business to raise money for music lessons. There’s a dark undercurrent to this book—Batty is most introverted of the Penderwick sisters and the only one who doesn't remember their mother—but that feels right for a springtime book: It is the coming from darkness to light that makes springtime so magical. And there’s plenty of Penderwick laughter and charm, too.

The charmingly old-fashioned Twig is about a little girl who builds a fairy house in the small yard of her city apartment building. With a little help from a friendly sparrow, Twig meets an elf who’s able to shrink her down so that they can play house together in Twig’s little home. It’s a sweet, simple story that will probably inspire a few fairy houses.

In The Minpins, Billy can’t resist sneaking into the forest near his home—even though his overprotective mother has warned him not to. When he’s chased into a tree by a ferocious beast, he meets the curious Minpins and teams up with them to take down the Red-Hot Smoke-Belching Gruncher for once and all. This was Roald Dahl’s last book.

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow is a delightful hodgepodge of a book that perfectly captures the spirit of spring, with poetry on one page and science on the next. Read this to inspire your springtime nature walks or use it as a jumping off point for spring nature journaling.

Spring is practically one of the characters in A Room with a View, E.M. Forster’s gorgeous novel of uptight Brits on holiday in Italy. When Lucy Honeychurch visits Italy, she’s torn between the rules and restrictions of her prim upbringing and the freedom and passion she discovers in Florence.

“Here! lilac, with a branch of pine, / Here, out of my pocket, some moss which I pull’d off a live-oak in Florida, as it hung trailing down, / Here, some pinks and laurel leaves, and a handful of sage,” writes Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass, perfectly capturing the enchanted beauty of the world in spring. A poetry collection may not be your traditional readaloud, but this one’s made for al fresco reading together.

Monday Pep Talk No. 38

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week. photo by death to stock photos

Just FYI: We’re going to be moving the Monday Pep Talk over to a newsletter soon, so if you’re a Monday Pep Talk fan, keep an eye out for details. 



The summer Olympics start on Friday! Here are some fun ideas for Olympics projects you can work on together while watching the events.

Use your science skills to make your own ice cream for Ice Cream Sandwich Day (Tuesday).

Make a a batch of fizzing sidewalk chalk and decorate your driveway.



Ready in the time it takes to cook spaghetti: spaghetti with tomatoes, bacon, and eggs

This vegetarian take on the classic gyro is a great base for whatever summer veggies you have lying around.

Miso corn soup may just be my new favorite summer soup.



The Secret Garden
By Frances Hodgson Burnett

Celebrate Yorkshire Day (Monday) by reading the book that puts your Yorkshire accent skills to the test: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden.



When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry




blackberry-green tea cocktail