5 Easy, Proven Ways You Can Get More Books at Home Right Now

Right now I've got all four of my kids learning from home. We've opted for remote learning through their usual schools. For my middle schooler, Benjamin, this means working independently to complete 2 assignments per week in each of his 7 classes. He logs on twice a week for a video chat with an eighth, advisory class. My elementary schoolers, Levi and Jubilee, are logging on for short lessons from their teachers 4-5 times a day, and doing some independent work in between. My preschooler, Sam, is enjoying a bag of books and craft supplies that the leader of our city's School Readiness initiative offers for pick up every month or so.  

We're spending a lot of time at home. So, how can we get more books at home right now?

1. Library holds- If your library is open at all, the librarians are just wishing and hoping for your patronage. Our library is open with limited hours and with restrictions (no restroom access, mandatory masks, traffic stickers on the floor) and our librarians are thrilled to see us when we come in. If coming in isn't an option for people, they're offering a curbside pickup. When I get to the library I call and they will bring my checked out books to my car. I highly recommend looking into your local library as an option. My library is keeping all books returned to them in quarantine - untouched for 3 days. They've also ceased charging any fines. Look into what your library is doing. 

I definitely use library holds to get more books. Every so often, maybe once a week, I log on to my library's catalog and put books on hold that my kids want. I look up the books we want in the catalog and click to place a hold. Whether the book is coming from my home library or from another library in the system, I know it's coming. Then, when I go to the library, I browse for whatever looks good. The librarians put a lot of work into making books look good, letting you see the book covers, etc. So I grab what sparks some interest, and then at the checkout desk, I pick up my holds. 

I definitely end up getting more books with the help of holds. Sometimes I go expressly for picking up holds, but often I visit the library to browse and find I have holds that have come in. Putting books on hold eliminates the effort of remembering what book it was we wanted, and the effort of finding the book on the shelf. 

And hey, here's a cool tool -- the catalog of library catalogs -- called WorldCat. Find out what libraries near you have any given book in their catalog. 

2. Book Subscriptions- I've looked into several book subscription boxes, but so far I've stuck with my first love, Bookroo. It's great. They send you two books, wrapped as gifts. A small paper comes with them to tell parents the titles and summaries of the books. For the chapter book box, the card notes anything a parent might want to watch for -- tense scenes, usually. 

I like that the books come as a surprise. I like that I don't have to choose whether or not I want this book or that book, it's just "set and forget." They're vetted books, and I've liked all of the ones we've received in the picture book and chapter book boxes. There have been a couple of board books that I felt meh about, but a couple that have become absolute staples in our house. So, I'm hot and cold about the board book box, and very warm and loving toward the picture book and chapter book boxes. I've written more about Bookroo, I like them well enough that I've become an affiliate. You can see my other posts about Bookroo here

I like that Bookroo is a small business started by three book-loving sisters-in-law. So relatable. Subscribing right now seems like a great way to enjoy some books and support a small business. We gifted my 2nd grader, Jubilee, a 3-month Chapter Book Box subscription for her birthday. 

3. Digital libraries- I've tried two digital libraries recently, Kindle Unlimited and Epic. 

Kindle Unlimited left me feeling meh. That may be because I wanted it for the kids mostly, and it wasn't until after my free month trial ended that my 7th grader won a free Kindle from the library summer reading program. I found it somewhat difficult to browse, and any title I searched for wasn't on it, but the Amazon page to buy it would come up. Using it felt more like browsing Amazon than visiting a digital library. Perhaps if you have a Kindle for your kids, it will suit your family better.

Epic is the digital library that the kids' schools signed up with when distance learning started last March. The kids found plenty to read on it, enough that I had to decide to what degree reading books on Epic counted as "screen time." Jubilee read a lot of Snoopy and Charlie Brown in the spring, and is currently reading the Phoebe and her Unicorn series. She was disappointed Epic didn't have the first Harry Potter book; our copy is missing at the moment. Levi has also found plenty to read for fun (Cat Ninja!) and completed reading assigned by his teacher on Epic as well. From my parent screen I can see that my kids have read over 100 hours and more than 150 books on Epic, already. My kids can only read during school hours, but parents can pay $10/month for unlimited access, and any parent can sign up for a free 30-day trial. Also, a subscription can be gifted. 

4. 4. 

4. Local bookstores- We've got Books-A-Million nearby; they're a chain bookstore and man am I glad they are around! If you've got a local bookstore, support it! Get their membership. Books-A-Million has a "millionaire's card" and at $25/year it gives me free shipping and 10% off everything, as well as access to some special sales. It hits the sweet spot for me because it's the closest to my house AND it's easy to order online AND it appeals to my frugal side with its sales and membership benefits.

 A little bit further away we've got a local independent book store, Bank Square Books. Talk about charming! The place is everything I want a bookstore to be: full of books, also cute stuff, knowledgeable staff, and places to sit. Well, I haven't been in 2020, so I can't say whether or not the places to sit have disappeared. But the thing I love about local independent bookstores is they're most likely to host awesome author events and bring authors and speakers to town and to the schools (and to virtual settings, too). In my experience, you'll end up paying sticker price (or close to it) for the books you buy at a non-chain bookstore, but when you do, you're sprinkling literacy benefits into the whole community.  

5. Online bookstores- 

I mean, when I say "easy and proven," even a local shopper like me has to admit that Amazon belongs on the list. The online bookstore that turned into an online "everything" store has made it SO easy to buy books. I regularly use Amazon for its detailed book information features. Reading levels, page counts, publication dates, all in one easy space! If you're on Amazon and you're ordering something anyway, you can run a quick search for the best deals. Type "children's books" or "YA books" in the search bar, then when the results come up, click the box on the left hand side for "Today's Deals." Then sort by Price: Low to High.  

BAM! Books-A-Million    

Books-A-Million also sells online, and they seem to have more variety in kids' books on sale (maybe because they stock physical stores). I shall make getting to their online bargain bin easy for you: First, go to the website. Then click on Bargain Books (it's a dropdown menu, but just click it, don't pay any attention to the dropping down. Also, don't be distracted by Sale. You want Bargain Books). Then scroll down to the third row and along the top of the row click the tiny link "Shop All Kids Books Starting at $3.97". Enjoy scrolling the deals! 

Happy reading! And hey, how does school look for you right now?

27 Books for a 12 Year Old Girl Who Reads Like Crazy

Last Christmas, my good friend Nancy called me up asking for my advice on a book subscription box for her granddaughter. This granddaughter is a precocious reader with an insatiable appetite for books

I told her that I love Bookroo, but their oldest box is targeted to ages 7-10. Nancy said that definitely wouldn't do. Her granddaughter had read and loved the whole Harry Potter series, The Lunar Chronicles, the Septimus Heap Books, I Will Always Write Back, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Making Bombs for Hitler, To Kill a Mockingbird, Little Women, and more. 

Nancy said she had looked into OwlCrate, but that her granddaughter didn't want any of the "stuff" just the books. Little did we know, Amazon had just launched it's Prime Book Box for Kids, including a 9-12 age bracket. So, after we failed to find anything suitable I said "Hey, how about I send you a big list of books I think she'd like, and you can pick a couple each month and send them to her?" Everyone loved the idea, and Nancy dubbed it "Grandma's Book of the Month Club, curated by Alysa Stewart!"

Anyway, I thought the rest of you might like to peek at the list I put together. 

27 Books for a 12 Year Old Girl reading at a high level

I have put an asterisk (*) next to the ones that I have not personally read, but those are all either award winning and/or well loved by multiple kids/teachers I know. I have put a tilde (~) next to the ones that are the thickest. 

~The Letter for the King (realistic historical fiction)

Fake Blood (graphic novel, realistic fiction)

Bad Island (graphic novel, realistic fantasy)

Saffy's Angel & Indigo's Star (first two in a realistic fiction series)

*The Wild Robot (science fiction

*The One and Only Ivan (based on a true story)

What If? by Randall Monroe (non-fiction...speculative?)

Super Science: Matter Matters (a pop-up non-fiction book)

~The True Meaning of Smekday (science fiction)

Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad (Non-fiction. I read the Young readers edition to my kids, so I haven't read the adult version and couldn't say if it has inappropriate content. The YRE was very inspiring)

*Under the Egg (mystery, realistic fiction)

Fuzzy Mud (realistic science fiction)

The View from the Cherry Tree (realistic fiction, mystery)

Leviathan (steampunk fantasy)

Terrible Typhoid Mary (non-fiction)

*Dragonwatch (fantasy)

El Deafo (graphic novel memoir)

*Story Thieves (fantasy)

~The Secret Keepers (realistic fiction, mystery)

Wires & Nerve Vol 1 & Vol 2 (Graphic Novel sequels to the lunar chronicles, science fiction)

~Steelheart (science fiction)

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Good Boy (graphic novel, mystery, fantasy)


About midway though the year I asked Nancy how it was going. She said "This last week I sent her The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. . . I'm using your list and other recommendations. Ensley said it's the best present she's ever had!"

I hope you enjoyed this list. What would you add to it? 

Parenting thoughts: On Being Consistent

Once upon a time there was a mom who heard the advice to "be consistent." It was me. I heard it from many sources and in many contexts. I've applied and misapplied the advice to "be consistent" over the course of a dozen years of parenting. Now I have a few things to say about it. 

  • Be consistent does NOT mean you can't change your mind -- even in the middle of a power struggle. I can't tell you how many times I've walked it back when I've gotten to the breaking point. My husband's calm perspective has helped me realize that the most important thing to be consistent with is not being consistent in following up on a threat, it's being consistent in loving and teaching the kids. 
  • Be consistent does NOT mean you can't apologize to your child. You can apologize when you've lost your temper. It won't teach the kids that their poor choice was actually fine. If you teach your kids at planned, happy times about the behavior you expect from them, they'll get it. And they'll appreciate and emulate your apologies.  
  • Be consistent in giving your children limits. Teach your children the limits and expectations when everyone is calm, happy and in a place of love. This will require you to plan ahead, so that you're not trying to teach right behavior just a moment after you stop poor behavior. Planning calm times to teach your kids is hard, but that's ok, you're an adult. Setting times for things and following through is a great area in which to be consistent. There are great times to "teach as you go" and "teach in the moment." But if you don't set aside times to teach behavior that are unconnected to your child's current behavior, you're being more consistent in criticism than in teaching. 
  • Be consistent does NOT mean "do things the same way for each of your children." 
  • Be consistent means keep the promises you made when you were calm, happy and thinking rationally.
  • Be consistent means apply those consequences for behavior you laid out when you and your child were calm, happy and thinking rationally. 
  • Be consistent in loving your children.
  • Be consistent in teaching your children.

Do you have any parenting wisdom to share? I've been enjoying reading The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. Not done with it yet, but I like it so far!

Ick! and Nerp! Two gross, great books

 Today I've got to tell you about two gross, great books.


I first got to know Melissa Stewart's name in 2013, when I was reading massive amounts of juvenile non-fiction for the Cybils book award. (It didn't hurt that we have almost the same name. We're not related, that I know of!) She is a superstar of non-fiction for kids. I went over to her website to see how many books she's written . . . and I still don't have an answer for you because they're divided into categories and subcategories and it was too many to count!

Anyway, when I saw that top-notch author Melissa Stewart had paired with the top-notch photography and design people at National Geographic Kids, I was very interested. I requested a review copy of Ick! and I don't regret it. 

When the book arrived, my kids pored over it, and read out loads of disgusting facts for each other and me. "Mom, did you know about dung beetles?!" It was a big hit with my three oldest kids ages 12, 9, and 7. This isn't the sort of book that you have to read back to front. Each page focuses on one disgusting thing about an animal, and has a few sections on it: the main text, some stats, a couple of cool facts, and an "extra ick." The book is divided into three sections, one each for the gross things animals eat, their gross dwellings, and the gross ways they scare off predators.

Benjamin (12) knew right off the bat that the horned lizard would be in the book, and he was excited to find that page, then find equally icky facts about other animals. 

Of one of the pages Jubilee (7) said, "That's Ick. That's literally the title. Ick." 

Of the whole book Levi (9) said, "I like it. And it's disgusting." This is Levi's face, as Benjamin reads him an icky fact.

As for me, I like it, too. I learned many cool facts and already knew about dung beetles. I didn't get grossed out until I read about the tongue-eating louse. But I'll not spoil you on that one. 

Thumbs up for this one! There's a lot to learn from it, it's well written and designed, and has some truly horrifying and amazing photos. 

Nerp! by Sarah Lynne Reul

As far as disgusting goes, Nerp! is on the cute side of gross. It's a story of a little monster who doesn't want to eat any of the delicious foods his parents serve him. And his monster pet isn't interested in his own food. If you've ever had a toddler and a pet at the same time, this book is gonna speak right to your reality. 

The text is written in nonsense words: "Nerp!" is what our little monster says instead of "Nope!" And the nonsense titles of all the gourmet dishes that are served to him are sometimes disgusting and sometimes delightful. My kids had no trouble following the nonsense, and they had a great time talking about which dishes they would actually want to try. The book does have a little bit of an ick factor. For Jubilee, contemplating the book's ending gave her a tummy ache! It just gave the rest of us the giggles.

I absolutely adore the illustrations of this book. The emotions on every monster's face in each page are just spot on. I think the style might be considered collage? Sarah Lynne Reul built a miniature set and photographed it, then drew the characters and foods on top. The effect of the art is somewhere between real and make-believe, and the story is somewhere between "ick" and "aww."  

Recommended! I requested a review copy of this one because I loved Sarah Lynne Reul's The Breaking News which I bought at KidLitCon. Now I've got more to love. 

Surprise! The New Top-Selling Book of Everead!

I've been blogging about books here on Everead since July 2008. I just love to talk about books, and when I found out I could get a little bit of credit for recommending them to people, I became an Amazon Affiliate. 

In 2014 I wrote a post recommending some books for a friend's 13 year old son, and that post really took off. I mean, I think that at least for a while there it would come up on the first page of results if you searched google for "books for a 13 year old boy." Apparently the favorite book from that list was Wildfire Run by Dee Garretson, because that was the top-selling book of Everead for over 4 years. (See my posts about it here.) 

But recently I took a look at the reports on my Amazon Affiliate account, and folks! We have a New Bestseller! 

Drumroll please...

by Leslie Connor!

I couldn't be more pleased to have another excuse to talk about Crunch. I first read it in 2010 and there are at least 6 posts that mention it here on Everead now. I met Leslie Connor at an SCBWI meeting, and heard her speak at KidLitCon. It's a pleasure to make you aware (or more aware) of this fine book of hers.

Like Wildfire Run, Crunch is a hidden gem of a book. Not many people know about it, but it is absolutely worth reading. I'd particularly recommend it for fans of The Penderwicks books.

The premise of the book is that the Mariss family has 5 kids, and they run a bike shop. 14-year-old Dewey is our main protagonist. His dad is a truck driver, so his parents take a short drive together. All of a sudden . . . the gasoline crunch of the 1970's hits. The Mariss parents are stuck away from home longer than expected. Dewey and the rest of the kids aren't just locking the doors, watching TV and waiting for them to get home, though. They've got to keep the bike shop running and because gas in short supply, the shop is doing big business. Then, things start to go missing.  

Crunch is a middle-grade realistic fiction novel, great for ages 8+, and it would be a fantastic book to read aloud. It is a standalone book, not part of a series. It won top honors from Cybils judges.

As I said in my original review, I felt this book was completely real. So authentic, and uplifting. It gives the reader a lot to think about. I don't often re-read books, but I have read Crunch at least twice. I haven't read Crunch in years, but one quote from it has stuck with me all this time. In fact, I said it to my husband in the kitchen the other day. It's an aphorism that Mr. Meriss shares with Dewey: "An ounce of maintenance is worth a pound of repairs."

I'm also a fan of Leslie Connor's book Waiting for Normal. The "strawberry shaped objects" of that book have stayed with me. Connor has been hitting it out of the park for a long time, and I really need to catch up on her recent releases! She's won numerous awards for The Truth According to Mason Buttle and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook. Those two books go together, I hear. A Home for Goddesses and Dogs came out in early 2020.   

Benjamin (age 12) has read Crunch multiple times, and says "It's really good." He's hoping I'll read it aloud to the family in honor of it's new status. I'm on board! I think Jubilee would love it, since she really loves biking. She asked 

Well, discovering that Crunch is the new top seller of Everead was perfectly timed, for me. See, I hope to get a bike for my birthday this year. 🚲 And since about March of this year, I think we've all been thinking a little bit more about what happens when supply chains hit snags. 

Haven't heard enough yet? Take a look at some of the five star reviews on Amazon. 😉

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Hello! Thought I'd pop in here and share my thoughts about my most recent read: A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell.

My mom came to visit me, to help with our recent move, and on her way over she bought this book in the airport. She read it while she was here and kept telling us how Virginia Hall's life was SO compelling. When she was packing her bags I asked her to leave the book behind, so that I could read it. And because she cares more about my feelings than about the refund she would get if she returned it, she left it behind. Yay for moms!

Books We've Bought During the Covid-19 Pandemic

This extra time at home, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has NOT meant extra reading time for me. How about you? I've been pedaling the bicycle of life like a novice in her sister-in-law's spin class on Thanksgiving weekend.

Not only have we been adjusting to distance learning (which for my 3 school aged kids has meant 5 days a week of logging on to school-provided laptops, and for my husband and myself it has meant transitioning to teaching via video online), but also we have moved! And moving house is no joke.

Amidst it all, we've managed to do a little reading, and because libraries were closed, we bought a few books. The ones we bought from Books-A-Million came far faster than the ones we bought on Amazon. That's probably because I have a BAM membership and we don't have Amazon Prime, and because Amazon has prioritized essential items. Anyway, here's the rundown.

Exciting New Installment in The Dragonwatch Series!

Alysa here, and I've got a special guest review for you today. My sixth-grade son Benjamin and his best friend Zaya have both read and reviewed the latest Brandon Mull book. Enjoy!

Dragonwatch: Master of the Phantom Isle—Book 3 in Brandon Mull's Dragonwatch series.

This thrilling sequel to Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King, is packed with action. Seth is desperate to figure out where he fits in in the magical world. Kendra is equally desperate to find her brother, Seth. Kendra's quest to find Seth brings her to a fallen dragon sanctuary. Can Kendra find her brother? Can she and her allies win the perilous war with the dragons? Can Seth resist the darkness that surrounds him? Find out in Dragonwatch: Master of the Phantom Isle.

Zaya: I was excited to read Master of the Phantom Isle. because the book before is a real cliffhanger. I actually think it’s probably one of the best cliffhangers because it really involves the main characters and its resolution could completely affect the plot line. I had to find out what would happen! It was fun to read and It really pulled me in.

Benjamin: Yep! Ditto.

Zaya: When I only had 20 pages left, my older brother stole it from me at school and I was devastated. And super mad. I yelled at him.
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