Summer Reading List For Tweens

Books for Tweens

I’m not one of those “take the summer off” kind of moms. When I homeschooled, we had a year ’round program. In the summer we actually did  a lot of our learning because going outside isn’t high on our list of things to do. It’s eight-hundred and sixty-two degrees outside most days in the summer, so why not spend it inside learning and doing fun stuff. Summer Reading List For Tweens

Now that BabyGirl is in a public school (or, soon to be charter school) gifted program, we have summer off. But that leaves BabyGirl with two months of having a lot of time on her hands. And since she read over 4-million words during the school year, you get an idea of how much she reads. And that 4-million words does not include any books she read multiple times. All told, including re-reads, she read close to 7-million words! In 10 months! That’s 700,000 words a month. Or, an average of 23,000 words a day.

While she’s likely to read a lot of books, she’s already read many books her peers haven’t. That makes it even more of a challenge to find suitable books. In talking to her about books she’d recommend for friends, we’ve come up with this list. While she can read and comprehend books at the adult level, they’re not always appropriate for a 10-year old. The follow books have a reading level of at least 4th grade.

8 Books Ever Tween Should Read

The following books are all linked to Amazon, from which I would get a small commission if you were to buy.

Tuck Everlasting is a somewhat short book with well-developed characters tweens can identify with easily. BabyGirl has read this book so many times. She actually keeps it in the car because she loves it so much.

Harry Potter is a series we put off because we knew once BabyGirl started them she wouldn’t be able to stop. The later books are a bit darker and more complex. JK Rowling’s characters are multi-dimensional, the story line is easy to follow, and the reader is quick to identify with many of the characters.

James and the Giant Peach is a Roald Dahl classic. The first part of the story is a bit sad, but it quickly turns in to the well-written fantasy classics true to Roald Dahl. Honestly, any Roald Dahl book would be a great addition to a summer reading list.

The Invisible Fran (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist) skews toward the younger side of tween, but who doesn’t love a book about a mad scientist. It’s an easy and fun read. As part of a series, if your kids like this one there are others to keep reluctant readers going or advanced readers wanting more.

Number the Stars may not be on most lists because of its subject matter. Set in Nazi-occupied Denmark, the story is a compelling historical fiction. The author handles the very delicate topic of World War II and the Holocaust in a way that is appropriate for juvenile readers.

The Hobbit is a somewhat lengthy classic that many young people love. The pre-story to the ever-popular Lord of the Rings series, The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins as he is swept up on an adventure with a wizard and a group of dwarves. Most of us know the story, but the book goes into much more depth and describes the people, places, and history in exacting detail.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle another classic that’s perfect for both hesitant and voracious readers, the story about the friendship between a young boy and a mouse is well-written, captivating, and fun. Beverly Cleary tells a tale every child loves, and wants to read.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming of age story set at the turn of the 20th century. A lengthy novel written over 60 years ago tells the story of an 11-year old girl growing up through difficult times. There is a great history lesson woven into the story, as well as important life lessons learned through the eyes of the young Francie.

The thing I love about BabyGirl being such a dedicated reader is that I get to re-read books I grew up with, as well as find new ones. There are so many great books out there, and these are just 8 of the many hundred I could probably list. However, these were chosen because they represent a great cross-section of options for young readers.

What other “must read” books would you add to this list?


I Nearly Lost My Mind Renewing A Passport

US Passport Image by Damian613 on FlickrImage Credit Damian613

I’m a follow the rules kind of gal. You tell me to bring 2 copies, I bring 2 copies. Directions say to write in blue ink, I don’t ask about shade of blue because I know they’re talking about the standard b-l-u-e, blue kind of ink. And because of the internet, my ability to follow the rules and be prepared when it comes to dealing with federal agencies has been well-honed.

I’m thinking, this passport renewal will be a breeze! Since we’re going to Italy next spring I wanted to make sure BabyGirl’s passport would be valid at least 6-months after our departure. That’s what the rules say, so I’m just following them. I figured that since I got her passport I’d be fully prepared to do the renewal.

First, let’s clear this up. Renewal is a misnomer. For kids it’s actually more like getting a newly issued passport. Kid’s passports aren’t really renewed as much as they are issued. With a few clickity, click, click, clicks I’m at the US Department of State website downloading and filling in the application. Print! Now instructions. Need to make sure I have the right size photo and correct number. Do I bring the old passport or not? Birth certificate? Watercolor from kindergarten? Let’s just see.

I gather up the current, still valid, US Passport. Fill out the form which I downloaded from the official site. Download and fill out the extra form to provide CycleGuy’s consent since he won’t be there in person. Get that notarized. Have photo taken. Head to passport agency at the county courthouse with BabyGirl in tow.

First stop was at the metal detectors. It’s like TSA except with real police officers and real guns. No joking! I beep and merit being hand-wanded. Something in my chestal area (yes, my chestal area as stated by Officer Hand Wand). He just keeps waving said hand wand over my chestal area as it beeps and beeps and beeps. A few more waves and I could have busted out my own flash mob to Friday!

With chestal area secured, I’m able to proceed to pick up my belongings and go to the passport office with BabyGirl. This office also issues marriage licenses so there were quite a few young couples all giddy and filled with love. I sign in and wait my turn. OK, not really my turn because BabyGirl put her name down. It’s her passport, she said. Hard to argue with that.

We’re called and we hand over our documents only to be told ours are outdated. Evidently in the several weeks between when I printed out the documents and when I got my busy self there the US Government updated the forms. For an uber type-A this is not good. I’m a print out the form typewritten kinda gal. I’m not diggin’ the write-it-in-even-though-you-have-nice-handwriting-you-still-think-it-looks-sloppy process. But I do.

I turn in the new form, the notarized authorization from CycleGuy and the current passport. I hear noises. Thinking noises coming from the passport rep lady. I filled out the form correctly. Notarized form is in order. But then come the questions.

Do I have a birth certificate for BabyGirl? Uh, not on me. The instruction I had printed out didn’t say anything about bringing one. Besides, I have a valid US Passport for her right here. That should count for something since I provided an original birth certificate for that one. Out of courtesy she’ll submit the application without the birth certificate but it might be rejected or I’ll get a request for additional information. Sure, whatever. Let’s move this show along!

Next question was do I have a copy of CycleGuy’s driver’s license? Uh, no. It’s not in the instructions for the form. Oh, right, it’s good to have that because he’s not there in person. Right. Because if he was I wouldn’t need the darn form! I get that the US Government is trying to protect children from the crazy antics of a non-custodial parent but the rules didn’t say to bring it. So I didn’t!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never taken a mind reading class. Possibly I should consider that next time I find some free time! What do you think? And if I’d have taken a mind reading class I wouldn’t have had to ask you what you thought!

I’m feeling good that she’s going to take my paperwork and soon take my money and I’ll be on my way. Until she tells me they don’t take credit cards any more. But it’s on the website! Oh, right. I’m supposed to know the rule changed. (Note: find mind reading class ASAP!) And they don’t take cash, despite the fact that she sent me out to the ATM for which I paid $2.50 to withdraw funds to pay for this new passport. Checks only!

Ugh! Leave and return. And now I’m back with my check book. I write the check. It’s picture time. I hand over the photos. She eyes them a few minutes and hands one back to me. They only need one now. ONE? But, but, but, the website says 2!!!!

I pay, receipt in hand, empty pink leather passport cover held by BabyGirl. I leave the now submitted US Passport materials in the hands of the rep who will submit them despite my ‘potential lack of proper documentation’. Yah, sure, whatevs! I’m in no rush, so if they need this stuff I can get it to them.

But I’m still unsure why I’d need BabyGirl’s original birth certificate. She has a US Passport. I provided a birth certificate to get this official passport we now have. Oh, right, they need proof of US citizenship. Uh, that would be this here US Passport I’m offering. But I am polite and keep all sarcasm to myself.

I’ve checked the online status page and the passport is ‘currently in process’. Me, well, I think I need a few hours of therapy to sort out this experience. While the lady was really nice and very pleasant, I left the office shaking my head.

How can I have followed all the directions yet somehow missed that it’s all actually wrong?

UPDATE: Day after I wrote this, guess what showed up in the mail? Yes, you’re exactly right! BabyGirl’s passport arrived in record time. 12 business day including mailing time! Guess all my paperwork was done right. And I’m so happy I didn’t pay extra for expedited processing.


Traveling To Italy

Leaning Tower of Pisa image

In spring 2012, I am taking BabyGirl on her first trip to Italy! I’m so excited because it will also be my first time to Italy. We will be traveling with a homeschool group and the trip is primarily educational.

I was thrilled to join the group for this experience that will take us to to Rome, Naples, Florence, Pisa and Venice. We’ll not only see marvelous sites but we’ll also get to eat traditional foods and visit locations not usually on the traditional traveler’s itinerary.

I’m excited and nervous. Excited to visit Italy and see history come to life. Nervous because I’ll be traveling across the world with a 9 year old. Sure it’s not like she’s incapable of helping or taking care of herself. But, still, she’s my baby and I worry. All the what-if scenarios are playing out in my head. That’s normal, right?

As I mentioned, we’re going with a homeschool group. People who are like us. Who won’t think we’re weird because we want to take time to read every. single. word. Families like mine who will spend the next several months learning Italian, knowing our kids will really be our translators. Moms like me who will scrimp and save at every turn to make this trip possible.

I was 14 when I first left the United States. OK, that’s not really true. I lived in El Paso and would go to Juarez, Mexico on any given weekend with my Grandmother. But that really wasn’t the same. At 14 I boarded a plane and set out for Israel. I don’t remember what I thought back then. However, when I told BabyGirl we need to update her passport because we will be going to Italy next year she was as nonchalant as can be.

As if going to Italy is just like a trip to Disney. For her, though, it may be. I will spend the next several months preparing her for this trip. Italy will be woven into our curriculum at every turn. I want to be prepared as much as she is. I want to get the most out of seeing history come to life.

After a discussion of how we’ll get there, things we’ll see, places we’ll go, the real questions came. She needed to satisfy her 8 year old curiosities. She had to know what kind of hotel we were staying at. The all important, do they have wi-fi and can we bring the iPad. And the ever-importnat kid question, “Do they have normal food?”

Fortunately we have over 9 months to get all our questions answered and prepare ourselves for what is sure to be a wonderful trip. My concerns, though, are much different. Well, except for the wi-fi questions which is actually very important. International travel presents a number of issues, the least of which is the who plug situation. Is it two prong or three. Do we need an inverter or converter? How do I best protect my laptop and phone? You know, important stuff!

I know I have plenty of time to figure this all out. It’s an 11-day trip and I am already thinking about extending it a few days and going up to France. I mean, really, I would be very close to Disneyland Paris. *wink, wink*

So if I start getting obsessive about travel-related stuff you know why! And, if you’ve ever been to Italy, please tell me all the details and secrets. Please!