What to Read While the Kids Are Home

Editor Angela Reitsma Bick offers her advice on junior fiction and young adult books and series worth adding to the family repertoire.

What can you read with the kids once you finish Harry Potter
Try The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer. Twins Alex and Conner leave regular life behind when they travel through a storybook into a world where fairy tales are true, and their beloved grandmother is actually the Fairy Godmother. Can stories inspire us? Can we draw courage from the characters we read about? This warm, funny book is packed with adventure as Alex and Connor find out. (Junior fiction)

Science-fiction meets Brothers Grimm in this futuristic, cyberpunk Cinderella, first in The Lunar Chronicles series. Cinder is a 16-year-old cyborg mechanic living in New Beijing after World War 4 during a (gulp) pandemic. Prince Kai shows up in her shop with a broken android, her sister falls ill, Cinder’s evil stepmother volunteers her for plague research, and that’s only the beginning in this highly enjoyable, fast-paced book. (Young adult)

What to read when you want to laugh:
Gordan Korman books like the Bruno and Boots series were a childhood staple in the 80s and 90s, and this Canadian author is still publishing funny junior fiction 30 years later. Though his adventure series are less compelling, any new Korman book in a school setting showcases his comedic talent: especially the Ungifted series, Restart, Slacker, The Unteachables, Schooled and the Swindle series.

What to read to make history come alive:
The Heart of a Champion by Ellen Schwartz: Despite having a heart murmur, Kenny Sakamoto longs to play baseball on Vancouver’s Asahi team like his famous brother. But after Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, Kenny and his family are forced into internment camps in B.C.’s interior with other Japanese-Canadians for the rest of World War II. Even here, a game of baseball changes everything. (Junior fiction).

The Vietnam War happens off stage in Gary D. Schmidt’s poignant Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now, but its impact is felt by every character in these two linked coming-of-age stories. Schmidt, an English professor at Calvin University, writes incredibly powerful prose with a light touch; you will be cheering for his very relatable upper-middle school characters to the last page. (Young adult).

Read more of our writers’ recommendations:

These are atypical times, and we thought it fitting to publish an atypical review section in this issue. Instead of our normal format, we’ve gathered some reflections from regular contributors on what’s helping them through social distancing, social upheaval, and, well, just the strange state of affairs in which we find ourselves. Music, books, TV, and film are such great helps in trying times. They help us escape to new worlds and far-off places, while also offering wisdom and insight to help us understand this sad and beautiful world. All that and more. Maybe you’ll find something here that’ll help you, too! – Brian Bork, Reviews Editor

  • Angela became Editor of CC in 2009, having learned English grammar in Moscow, research skills in grad school and everything else on the fly. Her vision is for CC to give body to a Reformed perspective by exploring what it means to follow Jesus today. She hopes that the shared stories of God at work in the world inspire each reader to participate in the ongoing task of renewing his creation. Angela lives in Newcastle, Ontario with her husband, Allan, and three children.

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