Living Books, Top Picks

Top Picks: Books about Books

Realms of Gold in Children’s Books  by Bertha Mahoney and Elinor Whitney.  This is my “gold standard” of good book recommendations.  It was printed in 1929, so the books are old, though many are still in print, or have been reprinted. The recommendations in this nearly 800 page book are very clearly categorized.  Part I (for 1-4 years) is broken down into topics such as Mother Goose, Picture Books that Will Live Forever, Stories of Animals, etc.  Part II (4-8 years) covers Poetry, Read-Alouds, Bible Stories, Animals, and much more.  Part III (from 8 years old +) is the lengthiest section and covers both fiction and non-fiction subjects.  There are great summaries of the books recommended in this reference, as well as illustrations from many of the chosen volumes.

Five Years of Children’s Books (A Supplement to Realms of Gold ) by Bertha Mahoney and Elinor Whitney.  Published in 1936, this is the second volume to Realms of Gold, and covers only the books published in the five years succeeding Realms of Gold–this is why we refer to this time period in the 1930s as the Golden Age of Children’s Literature.  Set up much like the first volume, Five Years of Children’s Literature is also a lengthy reference–600 pages.  If you are serious about reading, finding, and/or collecting quality children’s literature, these books will be invaluable to you.

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt.  This classic Christian reference of great books for families to read.  The first part of this reference is an apologetic for children’s literature, the various types of books children need to read, and what to consider when choosing great books for your children.  The second part contains Hunt’s book recommendations, divided up by age level and type of literature.  This 250 page book contains both an index of author’s names and an index of all the book titles in the whole volume.

Who Should We Then Read, Vol. 1 & 2 by Jan Bloom.  Volume 1 is the first book that got me, Emily, collecting, obsessing really, about living books.  Unlike other book recommendation books that focus on age level and genre, Jan Bloom highlights authors who wrote great books.  For my mind, it was easier to memorize the 157 authors’ names in that first volume (there are 157 in the second as well) than hundreds and hundreds of individual book titles.  Along with a short biography of each author, Jan Bloom includes a bibliography of all the author’s books by genre and general age category.  It’s a handy size to carry when I’m out booking, and my copies are tabbed and highlighted to help me remember what books I own.

Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson.  This is a Child-Light Book, and is written from the perspective of a Charlotte Mason educator trying to find the best living books for children.  The organizing force behind this book is genre of literature.  Wilson presents books on Animals, Art & Architecture, Bible, Biography, History, Fables, Mythology, and all sorts of other kinds of literature.  Each title is described and appropriate age level is noted.

American History in Juvenile Books: A Chronological Guide by Seymour Metzner.  American History in Juvenile Books and the companion World History in Juvenile Books were published in the 1960s and are excellent guides to good history & historical fiction books from the Golden Age of Children’s Literature.  The American History book is sorted chronologically, the World History volume is listed by geographical region and further subdivided by historical time period.  Both of these volumes include biographies as well as historical fiction listings.  Age/Grade levels are noted making these resources invaluable for picking books for multiple ages in your homeschool.

Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson.  This book is subtitled “Whole Books for Wholehearted Families” and is a cross between Who Should We Then Read and Honey for a Child’s Heart–books are organized by genre, then by author within those genres.  Written by a homeschool graduate, Clarkson’s book recommendations come from her firsthand knowledge of those literary treasures that she and her family enjoyed.

Children and Books by May Hill Arbuthnot.  This is the classic reference for the serious student of children’s literature.  Librarians and teachers have relied on this book for more than sixty years.  First published in 1947, each subsequent edition includes the recent additions to the classic books recommended in the original.  Since we collect books published primarily before 1970, I have a few editions of Children and Books dated before 1970.  As with encyclopedias, each edition doesn’t become longer with the new information, meaning they cut out some of the original books to make room for the new.   The information on children’s development as readers and the different genres make this a helpful resource even beyond the book lists.

Let the Author Speak: A Guide to Worthy Books Based on Historical Setting by Carolyn Hatcher.  This slim guide is very helpful in determining which living books to study for history with different aged students.  Historical fiction and Biography choices are also included.  The bulk of this book is the tables of book titles, authors, reading levels, time periods, settings, and brief descriptions.  The tables are sorted three different ways: by time period/setting, author’s name, and title.

All Through the Ages: History Through Literature Guide by Christine Miller.  This guide is sort of like an expanded version of Let the Author Speak.  Miller provides a framework of Chronological History and gives us some background information about the various history periods/settings, major events, and then provides us with book recommendations on the history, biography, historical fiction, literature, and culture of these periods.  An emphasis on Christianity and Biblical History is found throughout.  Also included are sections of Geographical History, History of Science and Mathematics, History of the Arts, and Great Books of Western Civilization.

3 thoughts on “Top Picks: Books about Books

  1. Thank you so much for these recommendations! I love books of booklists, especially lists of books for kids. (The book that initiated this love is A Time to Read: For Those Who Love Books, Children, and God by Mary-Ruth Wilkinson and Heidi Wilkinson-Teel.)

    I am so grateful for your blog! Please keep the book recommendations coming.

    Kimberlee Conway Ireton

  2. There is another book by this same author about World Literature.
    World History in Juvenile Books: A Chronological Guide by Seymour Metzner.

    Excellent resource.

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