Out of the Best Books: Classics We Enjoyed for May, June and July 2019


Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud by [Jurmain, Suzanne Tripp]

Here are most of the books we’ve been enjoying since May.

If you want to be reminded of why it’s so important to read in this day of cheap, easy entertainment (otherwise known as the screen), go here to read the epic quotes I found. Please know that I didn’t read every single word in the chapter books I list here. I at the least started all of them. Sometimes I read ahead if I got bored, and I didn’t/don’t always finish them. I’m still in the middle of some of them. For most of them, I skim and glean and just enjoy not feeling like I am beholden to an English teacher to catch every detail cover to cover that I might be quizzed on so I can get a good grade. Those days of fear are over! What a relief!

Every June I get this itch to get a bunch of patriotic books and immerse the kids and me in the history of the founding of America. So here are the books I got for this year. I love The Worst of Friends, pictured above. I think it’s super cool that Tom and Ben were so different, but still friends, but then they became enemies. Their story is an example to all of us that we can be friends with someone different from us, and if we fight, we can forgive and start over. I also love that Benjamin Rush, a mutual friend, helped to get them back together. It just makes me wonder if I could do the same thing for any warring friends I might have. 

Guts & Glory: The American Revolution by [Thompson, Ben]

This is probably the best book for anyone, kids and adults alike,  to get a concise view about why the American Revolution was so amazing. I love the illustrations. The author overdoses just a bit on the “dude…” language to make this book relatable to kids, especially tween boys, but that’s ok, I still like it.

An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster's Spelling Revolution

I learned from this book that Noah Webster and Ben Franklin were friends, and they introduced a new alphabet to America with new letters, that didn’t stick. So interesting!

This is my favorite picture book on George Washington because of Cheryl Harness’ gorgeous watercolor, outlined in ink illustrations. I also love all the classic, great stories of George that show his noble character. But if you are reading this to kids under 12, don’t bother to read every single word. It’s too much for them. All the words and all the details on the maps are for adults.

I’ve started this book, above, before with the older kids but we never finished. It’s one of those books that I’ve known existed since before my childhood, that I knew would be good to read, but I never did finish it. So now with my youngest, age 9, I am reading it and finishing it, finally! It has that corny, grade-school humor that he loves.

The Scarlet Stockings Spy (Tales of Young Americans) by [Noble, Trinka Hakes]

This is a great story about how a little girl honored her brother who served as a spy in the Revolution.

Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by [Brown, Don]

OK, this book happened later, not in the founding, but it’s a true story about Dolley Madison saving George’s portrait that was hanging in the White House from getting burned by the British during the War of 1812.

Ok, here are the adult books I picked for my “patriotic reading” for June:

The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government by [Lofgren, Mike]

After visiting Washington D.C. in May I was just curious to learn more about it and the “movers and shakers” who live there. I wanted to get a modern perspective of what goes on there. So I found this book. I disagree with some of what the author says. It’s interesting to read from an insider who got disgusted with our politicians.

The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine by [DeWitt, Dave]

I saw the book above in the gift shop at Colonial Williamsburg and so hunted it down at my local public library as soon as I got home. I didn’t know that Washington was such the fisherman. It includes recipes for such things as Jefferson’s ice cream (with a copy of it written in his own hand!) and Boston Baked Beans.



The American Covenant: One Nation Under God V1 (The Founding) (The American Covenant Series) by [Ballard, Timothy]

I started the book above years ago and I am finishing it this year! Going on my Washington DC trip totally piqued my interest to finish it. This book gives context to everything I saw on my trip, including the Masonic symbols on the Washington Memorial Arch in Valley Forge and the paintings in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. It is so good to learn of my nation’s covenant heritage. I read some of it on the plane there and back and still have more to go. It has tons of juicy details. Not to be missed!


I listened to this on audio CD in the car any time I went driving. That is the only CD player I have now that works, so if I get a book on CD, I have to listen to it in the car. I got to disc 11, out of 15, after renewing it once, and then had to turn it back to the library. Every year I listen to a patriotic book on audio in June. Two years ago it was 1776, last year it was Betsy Ross’ biography. I may not stay focused and hear every word, much less remember what I heard, but it’s good for my brain to hone my “listening to read-aloud” skills as much as it is for my kids. Although this book is probably not meant as a “read-aloud.” Here are a few great quotes from this book:

““It was typical of Washington’s style of leadership to present a promising proposal as someone else’s idea, rather than his own.”

““Thus the fate of entire Kingdoms often depends upon a few blockheads and irresolute men.”

OK now for the ordinary books we read that aren’t necessarily patriotic:

How Emily Saved the Bridge: The Story of Emily Warren Roebling and the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge


I heard about the story of Emily Roebling from Ramona Zabriskie’s Wife for Life book, which I read over a year ago. Emily is an example of a “Wife for Life,” because of how she helped her husband in his quest to build the Brooklyn Bridge, a feat of engineering, which in turn helped build their marriage. Fascinating! I enjoyed reading this book to my 9-year-old. I love picture books about real people that tell real stories in a short amount of time and leave me feeling so good. It’s just inspiring and amazing and wonderful to think that someone, especially a woman in the 1800s, could just decide that she can study something and be an expert on it, without going to formal school and getting a degree in that subject. Emily’s father-in-law, John Roebling, who started the Brooklyn Bridge, died, after getting tetanus while working on the bridge. Then her husband, who was left with the task of finishing the bridge, got ill and bedridden. So she took over the monumental task of being the liaison between her husband and the crew, communicating his vision and instructions, getting the bridge finished! Amazing! I’m going to get the book about them by David McCollough in Audible to get more details.

This book is about living on Vashon Island, in the San Juan Islands. It makes me want to move there! It’s always fun to see how other people live and to learn about different places.


This is another true story. It shows the power of people to cause change. I love it!

This book, by the author of Snowflake Bentley, is such a fun celebration of the life of Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse, a famous restaurant, and her passion for uniting people with wholesome food. I love Alice’s idea of the Edible Schoolyard.

I love this picture book story of the life of Booker T. Washington. He was an amazing man. I didn’t know he was so visionary that he literally built the school that he founded brick by brick, even making the bricks himself, after intense study. In this age of easily accessible tutorials, he leaves us no excuse for not accomplishing our dreams. The watercolor illustrations are just lovely.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling by [Wood, Maryrose]

I heard about this book from Sarah Mackenize’s podcast when she interviewed, MaryRose Wood, the author, a mom who has homeschooled, and sounds charming. Then my friend Sarah F. was talking about it in the car on our D.C. trip. as we drove from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Everything she said about it was true. It is a charming, funny story with delightful quotes, such as:

“A well-organized stocking drawer is the first step toward a well-organized mind.”

“All books are judged by their covers until they are read.”

“If it were easy to resist, it would not be called chocolate cake.”

“When the impossible becomes merely difficult, that’s when you know you’ve won.”

We’ve listened to it in audio format. This one and the book below have been my audiobook “savers” to play for the kids when they are doing dishes and my voice is tired or I don’t have time to read aloud.

The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, Book 2) by [Nielsen, Jennifer A.]

Jennifer Nielsen has a real knack for creating cliffhangers at the end of almost every chapter of her writing. Her books are great for reluctant readers. This book is the second in this series. I started reading the first one aloud and my 14-year-old found it and read it on his own. So now we are reading the second one. I look forward to reading many more by her with the kids.


The Book of Boy by [Murdock, Catherine Gilbert]


The above book is my latest pick in my attempt to turn my youngest, who is 9, into an avid reader. I want to help move him along beyond Calvin and Hobbes and Nathan Hale books. He says he likes it. This is what he says about the plot: “they go to a chapel and the man is leading the way, going to the monastery, and there’s a chest you have to climb because it’s so tall. They don’t realize it but there’s a nun in that room who sees them and runs off to tell the sisters that she thinks she saw an angel.” Sounds exciting!

He’s been rereading the books below from Nathan Hale, which I’ve read aloud to him for bedtime stories. We own some of them and then he picked some off the public library shelves. I love that he is picking them out on his own! It’s great that they are about real history. He read all these without my knowledge these past few months. It reminds me of how when I was a kid and lived in a much more book-deprived world. We didn’t have near as many books in my childhood home as I own now. I only owned two chapter books, which were both Little House books, and I would read them over and over until I discovered the Bobbsey Twins and Happy Hollisters at my school library. Kids these days are so lucky! They have such a broader range of choices!

Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (A World War I Tale) (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales Book 4)


Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy



Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars by [Hale, Nathan]

My 13-year-old daughter found this book below and enjoyed it. I thought it was cool because it mentions one of the sites I had just seen on my “National Treasure” tour, which was the National Gallery of Art. We even admired the statue that takes prominence in the book, the ballerina girl, “The Dancer,” sculpted by Degas.

The Van Gogh Deception by [Hicks, Deron R.]


Guts & Glory: World War II by [Thompson, Ben]

My 14 year old read this book on his own, even initiating the check-out from the library. Oh, how that warms my heart. He and his sister took the Hero Project last semester so now he’s super interested in World War II. He also read the book below.

Flags of Our Fathers by [Bradley, James, Powers, Ron]

I found the YNAB book below so fun! Jesse Mecham definitely writes in a fun, easy-to-read style. I listened to this book in a week on audio. I like that he’s more flexible than Dave Ramsey about financial goals. He’s just like Dave in saying that debt should be paid off ASAP and then avoided unless you are doing a mortgage. He has more info on doing a budget without ruining your marriage and how to teach kids how to budget than Dave does in either of his money books.

You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want by [Mecham, Jesse]

After I listened to YNAB, I listened to Switch, below. I looooove this book! It is so interesting to ponder the question of “how do I change when change is hard?” The authors have several principles, like eight, on how to change, and they illustrate each principle with several stories. So fun!  I listened to this while sewing my patriotic garlands. 

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by [Heath, Chip, Heath, Dan]


I read (i.e. listened to via Audible) this one to see if it’s a good middle-grade novel relating to the Civil War. I wasn’t disappointed. Richard Peck crafted a great, enthralling story within a story about how the Civil War affected a family for generations to come. I kept wondering what would happen next!

We also did our family Book of Mormon and New Testament reading for Come, Follow, Me. 

If you are wondering how I fit so many books in, the answers are:

  1. I read aloud to my kids while they do dishes and clean the kitchen, and/or prep food, either for a meal for the food dehydrator. Or while they iron or do other chores.
  2. Like I said earlier, I listen to audiobooks in the car, either on CD or on my phone.
  3. I read books while enjoying the sun.
  4. I listen to a lot of audiobooks using  Audible and Scribd while I am doing chores. So far, I can find more books on Scribd than audible. Scribd also has books in text form, summaries of books in PDFs, snapshots, which I guess are short summaries, and even sheet music. You can try it for two months free here. It’s such an amazing resource! (Disclaimer: if you sign up, I will get a month free. Feel free to pass along the same deal after you sign up, it’s wonderful!)
  5. I don’t read every single word of the chapter books, and I might not even finish the book, and that’s OK because I get the gist of the book:-).






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