the wee free men

Stuff We Like :: 5.13.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Hello, weekend, my old friend! This week we wrapped up our homeschool classes (and I got a little weepy saying happy graduation to a couple of my favorite creative writing students), made lots of waffles with my Mother’s Day waffle iron, and were supposed to clean out the linen closet but ended up reading in the sunshine instead. I hope your week’s been equally delightful—but I’m definitely not sorry it’s Friday!

around the web

Apparently Rick Riordan is not a big fan of the Percy Jackson movies either.

How “women’s empowerment” has become about selling us stuff.

At least I can say that being persnickety about grammar is a legitimate part of my personality type.

Is it weird that this piece about the role of hedgehogs in Slavic fairy tales is one of my favorite things I’ve read all month?

I remember 3-2-1 Contact! (I still find myself humming the Bloodhound Gang’s theme song now and again.)


at home | school | life

on the blog: Shelli’s sharing how her kindergarten in her homeschool worked this year.

in the magazine: We’re having a grand time coming up with book lists for our summer reading guide.

on pinterest: Our current snack obsession

in the magazine: I’ve gotten a couple of emails recently asking if we still do group subscriptions—we do! If you can get at least 20 people together, you can each get your subscription for a bargain $10.

in the archives: There should be more curriculum humor in the world.


reading list

on my night table: Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World's Greatest Tea (I love books that obsess over some small thing—in this case, tea), Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley (highly recommend), and Love Letters (because you can’t always be a Serious Reader and sometimes you just want to read about a brilliant Irish author with writer’s block and the up-and-coming editor who re-inspires him)

on my 14-year-old’s night table: The Wee Free Men and Yummy Kawaii Bento

on my 8-year-old’s night table: Warriors: Into the Wild (borrowed from his sister’s bookcase) and The Adventures of Captain Underpants

together: A Tale of Time City, Around the World in a Hundred Years


at home

watching: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I am forcing myself to dole out in small doses so I don’t binge it all at once

knitting: Semele

planning: High school! (Look for a post this summer breaking down our plans.)

eating: Calas (I am seriously obsessed with these—they call them rice beignets, and that’s pretty much what they are—yum)

listening: The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories

Bespoke Book Lists: What to Read After Harry Potter

Can you recommend a good book series for reading aloud? We have read Harry Potter, the Narnia books, and Percy Jackson, all of which we really enjoyed.

I feel like everyone should read Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain (start with The Book of Three), about the adventures of Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran and his friends — the princess/enchantress-in-training Eilonwy, king-turned-not-so-great-bard Fflewddur Fflam, and the curious and perpetually hungry Gurgi — as they fight to save Prydain from evil influences of Annuvin in an imaginary world drawn heavily from Welsh mythology. As in the Harry Potter books, Taran grows up over the course of his adventures so by the time the events in The High King take place, Taran is an adult facing adult decisions. This was one of my favorite series as a kid.

Everybody talks about The Hunger Games, but fewer people seem to know Suzanne Collins’ earlier series the Underland Chronicles, which may actually be a more interesting read. In the series’ first book, Gregor the Overlander, 11-year-old Gregor discovers a world beneath the surface of New York City, populated by giant cockroaches, tame bats, evil rats, and humans who have never seen the sun. Gregor, whose coming may have been foretold in an Underland prophecy, embarks on a series of quests, starting with a journey that might lead him to his long-missing father.

But what’s up with all the heroes? Add a couple of awesome heroines to your series readalouds with the Sisters Grimm, starting with The Fairy Tale Detectives. Sabrina and Daphne Grimm find out that Grimm’s fairy tales is not so much a collection of stories as it is a record of magical mischief cases solved by their famous ancestor. It’s fun to recognize characters from fairy tales living in the real world of Ferryport, and the sisters — especially Sabrina — are complicated, developing people, not just heroine stereotypes.

Another feminist series is Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet. Many people stop after A Wrinkle in Time, but continue on with A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time, and you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts. L’Engle is great reading for bright, thoughtful kids, who will appreciate the science, philosophy, and mathematics concepts that run through her books.

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.

If you’re missing the thrill of a magical world, pick up Charmed Life. It’s not the first book chronologically in Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series, but it makes an ideal introduction to a parallel world in which magic is supervised by the powerful enchanter Chrestomanci. In this book, Cat and his sister Gwendolen find themselves studying magic at the Chrestomanci’s own castle.

By Brandon Mull

One of my favorite recent new book series, Lockwood & Co. takes place in an alternate London haunted by ghosts and spectres that can only be seen — and defeated — by children with special abilities. Mysterious Anthony Lockwood hires plucky Lucy and cynical George to join his independent ghost detection agency, where the trio are pitted not only against vengeful spirits but also against the big supernatural agencies run by adults. The Screaming Staircase is the first in the series.

In Fablehaven, Kendra and Seth discover that their grandparents’ isolated country house is actually a preserve for mythical and legendary creatures — one of several secret preserves located around the world. The preserve is governed by strict rules for humans and magical beings, and breaking one of those rules can have serious consequences. Not surprisingly, there are dark forces at work hoping the harness the magical potential in places like Fablehaven.

It’s a little different from a traditional readaloud, but the graphic novel series Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi is a great adventure, following Emily and her brother Navin as they venture into an alternate version of earth to rescue their mom. The series kicks off with The Stonekeeper.


Are you looking for some new book ideas? We take Bespoke Reading List requests! Email us with what you’re looking for — “I have a 9-year-old obsessed with dinosaurs” or “what should a teenager who likes military history read?” — and we’ll play literary matchmaker.