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.)
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The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, $1.99. “Are you a gifted child looking for Special Opportunities?” Yes, please! This strange advertisement gets the action rolling. Four clever children are selected. Their mission: to infiltrate a shady Institute where an evil man is working to take over the world. The book is filled with action, puzzles, and a strong message about individuality. If you enjoy the book, we have a whole gift guide inspired by the Mysterious Benedicts.
Hocus Pocus, by A.W. Jantha, $1.99. This is just pure Fall fun. In honor of Hocus Pocus’s 25th anniversary, DIsney has released an entertaining YA novel that includes the story of the original film and a sequel featuring the next generation of mortals coming up against the Sanderson sisters. The book is breezy, darkly funny, and manages to be fully nostalgic and fresh at the same time. This is some pumpkin spiced popcorn for the reader’s soul.
The History of the Medieval World, by Susan Wise Bauer, $2.99. You probably know Bauer’s name from her popular Story of the World history curricula. This book is part of her history series designed for adults. The text is more dense, and the topics are sometimes more brutal, but the writing still feels conversational. Best of all, Bauer maintains the truly global scope of Story of the World. Many medieval histories focus only on Europe and the Crusades, but this book includes chapters on India, China, and more.
STILL ON SALE
The Confidence Code for Girls, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, $2.99. This is another book that had me hopping up and down. My daughter LOVES this book. She has highlighted portions, rereads certain chapters when she is having a rough time, and recommends it to all the kids in her age bracket. This book aims to stop the cycle of self-doubt in tweens and teens by encouraging them to embrace their whole selves and try things even when success is not guaranteed. The text is broken up with fun illustrations, quizzes, and more. My favorite 9 year old says, “Basically this book has become my bible. It has helped me through emotional and physical problems with friends, screentime, puberty, overthinking, not taking risks, and more. I strongly recommend this book for girls who need a source to help them with these struggles.”
The Storm Runner, by J. C. Cervantes, $0.99. Rick Riordan has been endorsing other middle grade authors who are writing interesting stories based on world mythology. My family has particularly enjoyed the Aru Shah series, based on the Hindu Mahabharata. The Storm Runner draws on Mayan mythology to tell the story of 12-year-old Zane, who discovers a gateway to another world through a New Mexican volcano. Page-turning hijinks and interesting mythological details will engage readers young and old.
Piecing Me Together, by Renee Watson, $5.03. This Newberry and Coretta Scott King award winner is going to become a classic of high school literature curricula. Jade attends a private school outside of her own poorer community, and she feels like an outsider. The well-meaning people around her offer her opportunities for “at-risk” students, but these do not make her feel accepted or understood. This is the story of Jade finding her own voice and channeling that energy into making a difference for others around her. School Library Journal describes it as a “nuanced meditation on race, privilege, and intersectionality.”
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown, $4.99. Here is what we said about this book in our Great Books for Studying Native American History article: Brown’s incisive, authoritative account of the systematic 19th century destruction of Native American populations by the United States illuminates the perspective of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes who lived through it. This is not an easy book to read, but it’s an important one.
Home Is Where the School Is, by Jennifer Lois, $1.67. Homeschooling moms, this one is for you. Sociology professor Jennifor Lois has researched homeschooling culture for a decade to discover the tremendous variety in why people homeschool, what that work looks like, and the emotional strains faced by the homeschooling parent. I haven’t read this yet, but it was recommended by a few other homeschooling moms in my orbit. I loved all my sociology classes in college, and I’m looking forward to considering my everyday life through another lens.
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.
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!)
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.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, $3.66. 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, $4.99. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)