Mrs. Leslie Bustard, Veritas High School Humanities & Writing teacher, provides her list of favorite book and music suggestions for your child, if you're looking for some stocking stuffers or last-minute gifts that spark a love of literature and fine art, here is are some wonderful ideas (with snippets of reviews or the publisher's descriptions to give you some more information on each).
Many of these books are available on Amazon, and there's still time to order before Christmas. However, we find a great joy and benefit in supporting our local small bookstores, like Hearts & Minds Bookstore in Dallastown. If you've got time this weekend, take a trip out to browse the shelves somewhere local!
For Upper Elementary Students:
- The Green Ember by SD Smith.
"Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world. Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend."
Sarah Clarkson of Read for the Heart says “A captivating story with sword-bearing rabbits, daring quests, and moments of poignant beauty, The Green Ember is a tale that will delight and inspire young readers to courage and creativity and would make a perfect book for a family to read aloud.”
All books by SD Smith come highly recommended.
For Middle School Readers:
- The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler (A True Story!) by John Hendrix
"In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to free the German people from oppression during World War II.”
This book has won several awards. Recently it was named one of the best books of 2018 for middle grades by Kirkus Review, as well as the Gold Medal from Society of Illustrators in the book category (that’s a big deal in the illustrators’ world).
- The Day the Angels Fell by Lancaster resident Shawn Smucker.
Winner of a 2018 Christianity Today Book Award. "It was the summer of storms and strays and strangers. The Summer that lightning struck the big oak tree in the front yard. The summer his mother died in a tragic accident — and young Samuel Chambers would have done anything to bring back time. Even today, he can hardly believe it all happened… Prompted by three strange carnival fortune-tellers and the surfacing of his mysterious and reclusive neighbor, Sam begins his search for the Tree of Life — the only thing that could possibly bring his mother back.”
Shawn Smucker is following in the tradition of great authors of literature for young people. Mr. Smucker was a speaker at VeriTalks 2018. This book is a captivating story, with brilliant sentences.
- The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker.
The sequel to The Day the Angels Fell “Abra Miller carries a secret and a responsibility she never expected. Before the Tree of Life, everything in Abra Miller’s life had been predictable, Safe. Normal. But after the tree, everything has felt fragile… like holding a soap bubble in the palm of her hand. After years of fruitless searching for the next Fee, she begins to wonder if it was nothing more than a vivid dream.”
Discover the world on the Edge of Over There. Mrs. Bustard could not put this book down and kept thinking about it for days after she finished it.
- Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
Everyone should read at least one Kate DiCamillo book. "A classic tale by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo, America's beloved storyteller. One summer’s day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries – and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It’s because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it’s because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that summer is because of Winn-Dixie.” Mrs. Bustard read this book in one sitting because it was so good.
- Drawing is Magic by John Hendrix
"A sketchbook is an essential tool for the growth of any aspiring artist, but its blank pages can be daunting to even the most motivated. Obsessed with perfection, many wind up treating their sketchbooks more like portfolios than playgrounds. In Drawing Is Magic, author John Hendrix teaches aspiring and advanced artists to find their unique visual voices and become creative daredevils. Through his freeing, offbeat exercises, drawers learn a sophisticated philosophy of creative thinking—in a way that is totally accessible and fun.” Mr. Bustard recommends this fun book.
- The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin
Pete Peterson of The Rabbit Room says, "A book that nearly defies categorization - equal parts Watership Down, Lord of the Rings, Animal Farm...and The Canterbury Tales. It’s the story of Chauntecleer the rooster, Lord of all he surveys until the twisted and evil Cockatrice sets his eye and his armies upon the land. In the end Chaunticleer and his farmland subjects must stand together in the face of the destruction of the earth and the wakening of Wyrm. It’s a story that’s both intimate and epic, horrifying and humorous, dreadful and hopeful. I’ve never read anything else quite like it. “ One of Mrs. Bustard top ten favorite contemporary books.
- The Chosen by Chaim Potok
"Anyone who finds it is finding a jewel. Its themes are profound and universal.” --Wall Street Journal
"It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither they will never retreat from again….” A favorite of Mrs. Bustard’s.
- Kirsten Lavendatter I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset and translated by Tiina Nunnally.
This story interweaves political, social, and religious history with the daily aspects of family life to create a colorful, richly detailed tapestry of Norway during the fourteenth-century. The trilogy, however, is more then a journey into the past, it is the story of one woman, Kirsten, living as daughter, wife, and mother and learning to live with the choice she made. This book won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928, and is yet another favorite of Mrs. Bustard
- Emma (graphic novel) adapted by Nancy Butler and illustrated by Janet Lee
Jane Austen’s most precocious heroine, Emma Woodhouse, comes to life in this fun adaptation.
- The Mission of the Body of Christ by Russ Ramsey
Jesus sent his followers into the world. Through dynamic narrative and great story telling, Russ Ramsey traces the journey of the early church with thirty-one daily readings through the book of Acts.
- Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior.
The enthralling biography of the woman writer who helped end the slave trade, changed Britain’s upper classes, and taught a nation to read.
- On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior and illustrated by Ned Bustard.
Dr. Prior "takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians through history have identified as the most essential for good character and the good life.” This book was named A Best Book of 2018 in Religion by Publishers Weekly.
For Narnia Lovers:
- The World According to Narnia: Christian Meaning in CS Lewis Beloved Chronicles by Jonathan Rogers. “
A lively and engaging exploration of the many Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’s widely-known and universally loved stories.” (Good Reads)
For Elementary Students:
- Music Suggestions: Rain for Roots
Big Stories for Little Ones
The Kingdom of Heaven is Like This
Waiting Songs (for Advent)
This music is Scripturally and theologically rich and musically simple and enjoyable. Your children will grow to know the love and trustworthiness of Jesus while listening and singing along. And so will you, the parent!
- Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus written and illustrated John Hendrix.
A beautifully illustrated biography of Jesus Christ.
- The Complete Brambly Hedge and A Year in Brambly Hedge by Jill Barkley.
A Bustard family favorite for its wonderful illustrations and sweet stories. Come explore The mice of Brambly Hedge and their miniature world of the hedgerow.
- Every Moment Holy, written by Douglas Kaine McKelvey and illustrated by Ned Bustard
This book introduces and helps us think about new liturgies for daily life, such as “A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends or “A Liturgy for the First Hearthfire of the Season.” “These are ways of reminding us that our lives are shot through with sacred purpose even when, and especially when, we are too busy or too caught up in our busyness to notice.”
- She Waits music by The Grey Havens
Rich and thoughtful pop music created by people who love JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.