Summer Reading: If You Liked The Hobbit

Epic adventure awaits in these fabulously constructed fantasy worlds.

The Fog Diver
By Joel Ross

When a deadly fog envelopes the Earth, people take to the skies, where a ragtag bunch of scavengers is ready to risk everything for a better life. First in a series. (Middle grades)

The Vengekeep Prophecies
By Brian Farrey

Jaxter Grimjinx was born to be a master thief—but it turns out that with disaster bearing down on his world, he may need to become a hero instead. (Middle grades)

Moril’s witnessed his father’s murder and his brother’s imprisonment, but that’s just the beginning of his problems. First in a quartet. (Middle grades)

Russian spies, magical potions, and a mysterious book star in an adventure that begins in 1950s California. First in a series. (Middle grades)

The Girl from Everywhere
By Heidi Heilig

Nix’s pirate father can sail his ship to any place, real or imagined, as long as he has a map. But the place he’s most determined to go may spell doom for his daughter. (Young adult)

The Mists of Avalon
By Marion Zimmer Bradley

Bradley reimagines the Arthurian legends from a feminist, pagan perspective in this dense volume told mostly from the perspective of the traditionally vilified Morgan le Fay. (Young adult)

Though it’s often recommended for middle grades, I think this subversive retelling of Paradise Lost is more likely to appeal to teens. (Young adult)

Another London—filled with magic and intrigue—exists parallel to the city Richard Mayhew knows—and Mayhew is about to slip through one of the cracks between worlds. (Young adult)

By Rachel Hartman

Spectacular world-building lights up this fantasy about a world where humans and intelligent dragons live in an uneasy truce. (Young adult)

Story Thieves
By James Riley

When Owen finds out his friend Bethany is half-fictional, he can’t wait to join her next jump into his favorite books—but fictional adventure proves more hazardous than he’s anticipated. (Middle grades)

On the Blue Comet
By Rosemary Wells

Witnessing a murder wins Oscar a seat on a magical train that travels through time and space. (Middle grades)

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
By Gail Carson Levine

Addie’s always been happy in the shadow of her adventurous sister Meryl, but when Meryl catches the Gray Death, Addie must summon her own courage and set out alone to save her sister. (Middle grades

This list is reprinted from the summer 2016 issue of HSL.

Monday Pep Talk No. 21

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

We’ll be taking a couple of weeks off this month to wrap up the winter issue (also, to be honest, to play video games and start some projects with our Hanukkah yarn), but we’ll be back with your regular Monday pep talk in January. And since we’ll be gone for a little while, we’ve padded this week’s pep talk with a few extra ideas to tide you over.

fun things to do this week (and beyond)

Celebrate Bill of Rights Day on Dec. 15 with an Oregon Trail-ish online game.

December 18 is Bake Cookies Day, which means you haven’t been procrastinating your holiday baking, you’ve just been waiting for the official day. (I’ll be making rum balls.)

Celebrate National Flashlight Day (Dec. 21) by making your own flashlights.

Put on a family production. It could be that I have read Little Women too many time, but I love the idea of putting on a holiday show in your living room.

Make your own fake snow, and you can have a snowball fight whether it’s a white solstice or not.

Get hooked on a podcast. A few to try: Professor Blastoff’s archives (sadly, no new episodes are coming, but this mash-up of science, philosophy, and humor can be addictive); the Tolkien Professor’s Tolkien chats (perfect for people who want to obsess—and I mean, really obsess—over Middle Earth), and the Infinite Monkey Cage, which is a little bit like what would result if Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, and Monty Python got together and decided to host a podcast about science.


ideas for holiday eating

I want to eat this white bean risotto with garlicky greens tonight—but I’m also wondering if there’s a version of this with black-eyed peas that would make an awesome New Year’s lunch.

This winter vegetable soup is one of those slow-cooker meals that you’ll be so happy to come home to.

Sweet potato and kale bubble and squeak? Yes, please!

This crispy coconut kale with roasted salmon and coconut rice is fancy enough to feel special but a nice break from all the rich roasts we seem to eat over the holidays.

Beef stroganoff with dumplings is the perfect dinner on a chilly evening.

Someone brought this poppy seed chicken casserole to every single potluck when I was growing up, and I still think this with a big plate of roasted broccoli makes the perfect dinner.


one great readaloud



one thought to ponder


in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

eggnog milkshake

Monday Pep Talk No. 10

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Another week, another dose of Monday inspiration to help make it a great one.

3 fun things to do this week

Take advantage of Museum Day on Saturday, when you can get free admission to participating museums across the country. (Find the participating museums near you here.)

Celebrate the autumnal equinox (it falls on the 23rd this year) by exploring the relationship between the sun and the seasons with this National Geographic video.

Celebrate Math Story Telling Day (Sept. 23) with some of our favorite living math books.


3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Apparently, National Great American Pot Pie Day (Wednesday) is a thing, but even if it weren’t, how can you resist a beef bourguignonne pot pie?

This Greek flatbread pizza looks delicious — and it’s gluten-free! (You could definitely add some leftover grilled lamb if you had it hanging out in the fridge.)

For a twist on the spaghetti-and-sauce standby, make spaghetti with parmesan and rosemary pork sauce. It’s pretty much the same process you’d normally use to make spaghetti but with a totally different flavor result.


one great readaloud

The Hobbit
By J. R. R. Tolkien

Celebrate Hobbit Day on September 22 with a readaloud of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. (It’s so, so, so much better than the movie.)


one thought to ponder

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration} 

homemade milano cookies

Magazine Extra: Great Nonfiction Books for Homeschoolers

Biographies, treasure hunts, and just plain fascinating people make these nonfiction stories as compelling as good fiction.

Gorgeous illustrations and a larger-than-life subject make this picture-book biography one of our favorites.


The cohost of NPR’s Morning Edition has put together a fascinating history of U.S. expansion, starring President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee chief John Ross, and a territory battle that would shape the modern United States.


Teens will dig this story about the hunt for notorious pirate Joseph Bannister’s lost ship, the Golden Fleece.


Haven’t you always wanted to know about the group that inspired Middle Earth, Narnia, and modern fantasy as a genre?


It’s great to see one of our favorite authors get the biography treatment in this young reader.

Stuff We Like :: 5.28.15

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

Around the Web

I loved this: that magic moment when you become a reader, not just someone who can read a book. (With bonus REM lyrics!)

Why can’t we read anymore?

Are you watching this great web series from the American Museum of Natural History? This most recent episode, all about languages as seen through the eyes of an anthropologist and a computational biologist, is fascinating.


On home/school/life

On the blog: Lisa nails it with her thoughts on the whole “Oh, I could never do that” attitude homeschool parents sometimes run into.

From the magazine:Practical strategies to help a student who’s having trouble focusing. (Middle school parents, this one’s for you!)

On Pinterest: I think building this cardboard castle would be such a fun summer project.



I’ve been ripping up old T-shirts to knit rugs for all our bathrooms. (It feels so good to find a use for all those old T-shirts.)

I’m also knitting up fresh dishcloths for the kitchen, which is probably as close as I ever get to spring cleaning. I like the Ballband Dishcloth pattern (it’s free!). (I use KnitPicks Dishie because it has the best colors, the cotton isn't too hard on my hands, and it seems to hold up well.)



Sometimes these kinds of books annoy me because you would have to have a PhD in woodworking to do anything they suggest, but Woodshed for Kids: 52 Woodworking Projects Kids Can Build really does have projects that kids can build.

I downloaded Rebecca from the free SYNC summer audiobooks series and have been loving listening to it while I’m walking the neighborhood. (Rebecca's not available anymore, but they have a great lineup of freebies for this summer.)

I am stalking Amazon for my copy of The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams— it’s supposed to be a fascinating read.


At Home

I am so late to the party with the whole Homicide: Life on the Streets thing, but I am so hooked.

Speaking of being late to the party, Jason and I are just getting around to listening to Serial, finally. Of course, being late adopters means we can binge listen, which is a plus.

Honey-roasted carrots with tahini yogurt are so good. (If you don’t have Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, go get it — it will change your vegetable cooking life forever.)