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.)
Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo, $4.55. Kate DiCamillo is back with a 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 Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, $2.99. In addition to being a “compelling and enlightening report [that] forthrightly addresses the most significant topic of our lives” (that’s what Booklist says!), it’s part of the spine of Build Your Library’s 9th grade reading list.
Hemingway Didn’t Say That, by Garson O’Toole, $0.99. Are you a person who likes to know stuff and be right? Garson O’Toole is such a person (as am I). O’Toole discovered that many quotations are attributed to the wrong people or are remembered incorrectly. With the help of extensive internet searches and lots of patience, he has tracked down the origins of phrases you have likely heard. Each section includes a portion about his process and about how the errors came to be. This book will thrill word nerds and anyone who enjoys a little literary detective work.
STILL ON SALE
Wayside School is Falling Down, by Louis Sachar, $2.99. I was just talking to my nieces about how much they love this book series about an extremely unusual elementary school. Each of the 30 chapters in this book is another short story about the wacky students and staff of Wayside. Homeschoolers need not worry, it’s not a story focused on the nitty gritty of being at school. It’s jam packed with puns, non sequiturs, and unexpected anarchy. Your kids will either love it or hate it. Amy discusses the first book in the series here.
Stuff Matters, by Mark Miodownik, $2.99. This is one of my favorite types of books — the ones that provide explanations for all the elements of everyday life. Why is glass see-through? Why is metal reflective? Miodownik is a materials scientist who can discuss each of the 11 topics with scientific detail and a good deal of humor. Occasional illustrations help make the science more accessible.
Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu, $2.99. Amy adored this book about a girl whose underground zine accidentally starts a feminist revolution at her Texas high school. (It was one of our favorite books of 2017!)
Emma (Marvel Illustrated), by Jane Austen, Nancy Butler, and Janet Lee, $4.99. I hope you were all excited by the comic book Pride and Prejudice, because today I found comic book Emma! The illustrations are not as polished as in P&P, but the story is still great. Butler and Lee capture the most significant dialogue and plot points. Austen’s classic story of a misguided matchmaker is a good time in any format, including the Gwyneth Paltrow movie and, of course, Clueless.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, $2.94. This book is heartbreakingly beautiful, both in story and in the illustrations. Edward Tulane is an emotionally distant china rabbit who falls overboard on an ocean journey. This begins his tremendous adventure, from the bottom of the ocean to a hobo’s pack to a sick child’s bedside. I’m not going to lie, this book is really sad in parts (there are parallels to The Velveteen Rabbit), but the story is worth it.
Pride and Prejudice (Marvel Illustrated), by Jane Austen, Nancy Butler, and Hugo Petrus, $4.99. It’s the story you know and love, but told in a very different way. This is a full color Marvel comic version of Jane Austen’s classic. The art is good, and most of the dialogue is there. This is perfect for both the Jane Austen completionist (that would be me) and the skeptic (who can use this book as a study guide or — gasp — substitute for the real thing).
From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of our Fairy Tales, by Sara Maitland, $2.99. This book is a lot of things, but it manages to succeed on all fronts. Maitland studies the role that forests play in fairy tales. The book combines literary analysis of classic tales, a travelogue of her trips through ancient forests in Europe, and thought-provoking retellings of 12 common stories. Photos taken in the ancient forests bring the settings to life.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, $3.71. We studied this book as part of Brave Writer’s Arrow program last year, and it’s the kind of lyrical, moving book that lingers in your mind. From Amy’s review: “I thought this little middle grades fantasy was just lovely—a worthy precursor to authors like Gaiman and LeGuin. Barnhill has a knack for telling a complex story in deceptively simple, lyrical fairy tale language, and the way she teases the individual threads of this story together—the brave boy, the magical girl, the witch’s forgotten history, the mad mother—is brilliant. The characters—minor and major—live and breathe; the world of the story feels sturdy enough to stand on its own.”
The Complete Poetry, by Maya Angelou, $1.99. Maya Angelou is one of the greatest writers in American history. This comprehensive collection of her poetry includes Still I Rise, On the Pulse of Morning (recited at the Clinton inauguration), and Amazement Awaits (commissioned for the 2008 Olympics).
Leah on the Offbeat, by Becky Albertalli, $2.99. I haven’t read this sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (made into a movie as Love, Simon), but I’m eager to find out more about what happens with Simon’s best friend. Leah on the Offbeat was the Goodreads YA book of the year! From the flap: When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
Truly Devious, by Maureen Johnson, $2.99. From our summer 2018 reading list: “Ellingham Academy is one of the most competitive private schools in the country—and also the scene of one of the country’s most notorious unsolved mysteries. New student Stevie Bell is determined to put her true crime obsession to work on Elligham’s famous cold case, but the murderer may not be ancient history after all.” My caveat: This is the first in a series, so if you can’t stand cliffhangers, buy it cheap but wait to read it until the series wraps — this first book has a particularly frustrating cliffhanger ending.
And Then You’re Dead, by Cody Cassidy and Paul Doherty, $4.99. This book is fascinatingly morbid. There are so many things that can kill you, but HOW do they kill you? If you get swallowed by a whale, do you die from stomach acid, being crushed, asphyxiation? These nightmare scenarios are explained with lots of dark humor and solid scientific information. My daughter and several of her tween/teen friends can’t get enough of this book, and it’s easy to see why. Don’t you also need to know what would actually happen if you were sacrificed to a volcano?
The Cloudspotter’s Guide, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, $4.99. Learn more about morning glory, cumulus, nimbostratus, and all those other clouds in this odd but awesome little book about the science, history, art, and pop culture significance of clouds.
The Game of Silence, by Louise Erdrich, $2.99. My daughter has listened to the audiobook of The Birchbark House (oddly, not available on Kindle) more times than I can count. We’ve loved hearing about Omakayas’s adventures in her Anishinabeg, or Ojibwe tribe. The Game of Silence picks up shortly after that book. Omakayas’s family meets a group of fellow tribespeople who have been displaced by white settlers. Over the course of the book, she discovers that she, too, will have to move away from her home. Erdrich’s deft touch makes this an enjoyable read, even through some tough subject matter.
Jackaby, by William Ritter, $3.59. I was so taken by Amy’s review last year that I immediately bought the whole series. Here’s what she had to say: 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.”
How We Got to Now, by Steven Johnson, $4.99. Steven Johnson is one of those people who sees all the hidden connections that shape the world. This book looks at six major areas of discovery and development to show all the effects set in motion by each development in technology. The very first section, on the history of glass, had me hooked. Full-color illustrations will grab the attention and keep your reader turning the pages.
Watch Us Rise, by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan, $2.99. I haven’t read this yet, but the concept is great and so many of my favorite authors have blurbed it! When Jasmine and Chelsea are unhappy with situations at their NYC high school, they start a Women’s Rights Club. School Library Journal says, “this thought-provoking novel explores ideas of body-shaming, racial stereotypes, and gender inequality.” The story unfolds in prose, poetry, blog articles, and more. I can’t wait to read it.
State by State, by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey, $1.99. This book has an excellent concept — find excellent, famous writers and have them write about a state that they know. You’ll hear from Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Franzen, Alison Bechdel, and more. The stories are funny, touching, odd, and wonderful, and they come together to create a unique snapshot of the US. Note: not all of the stories are suitable for all ages, so don’t just hand this over to a tween.
One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson, $1.99. I’m still new to this recommendation gig, so you haven’t gotten sick of my praise of Bill Bryson yet. You’ll be hearing about him often; his conversational tone makes his densely packed nonfiction seem like a casual chat with your smartest friend. In One Summer, Bryson shows a snapshot of all the things happening in 1927, many of which still impact our lives today. You’ll visit with Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, and many more.
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, trans. Edith Grossman, $1.99. I’m sure there are free versions out there, but this translation by Edith Grossman is the best I’ve read. Try it with your middle schooler, and you may be surprised — Suzanne’s middle school literature class totally fell in love with this funny, tragic tale of a self-created knight and his faithful squire.
Countdown, by Deborah Wiles, $1.99. Most history classes run out of time before they get to the last 50 years or so. This interesting novel tells the story of a tween living near D.C. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She is navigating family and school issues while also worrying and wondering about the likelihood of a Russian attack. What really makes this book great is the “documentary” style: it is peppered with magazine clips, news quotes, and song lyrics that will bring the ‘60s to life for your upper elementary or middle school reader.
How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, by Ken Ludwig, $4.99. I’ll be perfectly honest. I’m an English major who skillfully avoided Shakespeare for all four years of her undergraduate degree. He’s not my favorite. That said, Shakespeare is an important part of the literary landscape, both in unique language and important plot references. When we are ready to work Shakespeare into our language studies (beyond a discussion of The Lion King being a retelling of Hamlet), this is my go-to book. Carrie Pomeroy mentions the book in her article about trying to share her love for the Bard with her kids.
I Scream! Ice Cream!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, $1.99. What’s a wordle, you ask? A wordle is a set of words that sound exactly the same but have different meanings. “Heroes” and “he rows,” “reindeer” and “rain, dear.” The puns only get more elaborate from there. The hilarious wordplay and adorable illustrations will entertain readers of all ages.
I Contain Multitudes, by Ed Yong, $2.99. This book absolutely fascinated and disturbed me. Ed Yong’s extensive book is a guide to the millions of microbes that live in and on all creatures. You will learn about how microorganisms improve the lives of their hosts — making squid invisible, leading mice right to the cats who want to eat them, and defending humans from disease. This will change your outlook on the many lives around you.
York: The Shadow Cipher, by Laura Ruby, $1.99. This book is smoldering on my daughter’s shelf, just waiting for one or both of us to pick it up. Set in an alternate history New York, three kids must search the city to find clues to a mysterious cipher that will prevent developers from destroying the city as they know it. The book is packed with steampunk details, tantalizing puzzles, and engaging characters. The sequel was just released this summer, so there’ll be no anxious waiting for the next installment.
The Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Stone, $3.03. Beware! Grover doesn’t want you to read this book! There’s a monster at the end! The delightful illustrations bring the Sesame Street characters to life. You’ll want to make sure you have a color display to get the most out of this charming read aloud.
The Witch’s Boy, by Kelly Barnill, $4.51. Kelly Barnhill’s modern fairy tales are effortlessly complex, and I love them all. From the publisher: “When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Across the forest that borders Ned’s village, Áine, the daughter of the Bandit King, is haunted by her mother’s last words: “The wrong boy will save your life, and you will save his.” When the Bandit King comes to steal the magic Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, Áine and Ned meet. Can they trust each other long enough to cross a dangerous enchanted forest and stop the war about to boil over between their two kingdoms?
The Princess Bride, by Williams Golding, $3.49. This book is in our Middle School Reading List and our Summer Reading list for fans of The Phantom Tollbooth. Golding’s novel might poke fun at some of the traditional fairy-tale elements in epic adventures, but the story of Buttercup and her Westley is an unabashed literary delight. (Golding was inserting wry narrator notes long before the trend took off in children’s literature.)
I love science, but I’m also a social science person; I applied to college as a biochemistry major and graduated with an English degree. Periodic Tales, by Hugh Aldersey-Wiliams, $2.99, is the best of both world. Aldersley-Williams explains not just what an element does, but how it got discovered and what roles it has played in history and modern society. This is a great companion for a high school chemistry course. The writing feels like Bill Bryson’s A Brief History of Nearly Everything, another science book that I can’t recommend enough.
The Odyssey is also on sale today for $1.99. This Lattimore translation is near and dear to my heart; it’s the very first book freshmen read in Columbia’s core curriculum. Not the easiest read, as it stays fairly close to the original Greek, but the ultimate in epic poetry and a great choice for flexing those literary analysis skills.
My daughter can’t get enough of the Vanderbeeker family! The second book in the series, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, is on sale today for $3.49. You’ll enjoy getting to know the large and somewhat chaotic Vanderbeeker family in their Harlem brownstone. In this book, the girls are working to create a secret garden for a beloved neighor. This series has hints of the All-Of-A-Kind family series and is perfect for Penderwicks fans.
Think Like a Freak, $2.99, is kind of a self-help book for people who hate self help. You may know Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner from the excellent Freakonomics podcast. They take economic principles and apply them to everyday situations. This is a great read for an older teen who wants to know more about why the world is the way it is, or for a parent to pick and choose sections to share with younger kids. There are a few heavier topics.
Sabriel, $1.99, is the first book in the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. This is a fantasy classic featuring a strong female lead, an epic quest to save the world, and a feline companion who is more than it seems. Get ready to dig deep into Nix’s impressive world building. I devoured these in my late teens.
Look! Look! Look!, $0.99, is an adorable picture book that is also a great introduction to looking at art. Three tiny mice have discovered a fine art postcard. Follow them as the discover patterns, textures, and shapes. Don’t miss the activity guide at the end! Note, you’ll want to read this one on a color screen or you will lose out on some of the details.