Josh’s 2019 Reading List, Part 1

2019 is officially halfway done. Life has been zipping by, but I’ve been trying to slow it down by living additional lives through books. So far, I’ve read 42 books this year. Actually, if I included children’s picture books, the number would be much higher than that, but since most picture books take less than five minutes to read, I don’t count them toward my goals.

Here’s my list.

Title Author Category Sub-Category
The Wild Robot Escapes Peter Brown Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Because of Winn-Dixie Kate DiCamillo Audio Book 9-12 YR
The Tiger Rising Kate DiCamillo Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
The Book Thief Markus Zusak Adult Fiction Historical
The Cardboard Kingdom Chad Sell Graphic Novel 9-12 YR
Lucy Randy Cecil Graphic Novel 6-8 YR
Have Sword, Will Travel Garth Nix & Sean Williams Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
The Terrible Two’s Last Laugh Mac Barnett & Jory John Kids Chapter Book 6-8 YR
Kenny & the Dragon Tony DiTerlizzi Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot Caroline Carlson Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Treasure Island Robert Lewis Stevenson Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Tom Swift Inventors’ Academy: The Drone Pursuit Victor Appleton Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Okay for Now Gary D. Schmidt Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut Adult Fiction Sci-Fi
The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines Adam Gidwitz Kids Chapter Book 6-8 YR
The VanderBeekers and the Hidden Garden Karina Yan Glaser Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Trouble Gary D. Schmidt Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Louisiana’s Way Home Kate DiCamillo Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
The Adventurer’s Guide to Treasure (and How to Steal It) Wade Albert White Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
The Dead Sea Squirrels: Squirreled Away Mike Nawrocki Kids Chapter Book 6-8 YR
Frogkisser! Garth Nix YA Fantasy
Abhorsen Garth Nix YA Fantasy
Let Sleeping Dragons Lie Garth Nix & Sean Williams Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Pay Attention, Carter Jones Gary D. Schmidt Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun J.R.R. Tolkien Adult Fiction Mythology
A Monster Calls Patrick Ness Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Amulet: The Stonekeeper Kazu Kibuishi Graphic Novel 9-12 YR
Jed and the Junkyard War Steven Bohls Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker: Incognito Shelly Johannes Kids Chapter Book 6-8 YR
Eggs, Beans and Crumpets P.G. Wodehouse Adult Fiction Humor
Hello, Universe Erin Entrada Kelly Audio Book 9-12 YR
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves M.T. Anderson YA Historical
Be Prepared Vera Brosgol Graphic Novel 9-12 YR
Early Riser Jasper Fforde Adult Fiction Sci-Fi
Knights vs. Dinosaurs Matt Phelan Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
The Heartwood Crown Matt Mikalatos YA Fantasy
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work John M. Gottman, PH.D. Adult Non-Fiction Marriage
Born to Be Postumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey Mark Dery Adult Non-Fiction Biography
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge M.T. Anderson & Eugene Yelchin YA Fantasy
The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: Flight of the Bluebird Kara LaReau Kids Chapter Book 6-8 YR
See You in the Cosmos Jack Cheng Kids Chapter Book 9-12 YR
All Manner of Things Susie Finkbeiner Adult Fiction Historical


Why track them? I track my reading for personal edification. I track my reading so I can have an easy reminder for when I’m talking about books with a friend and I want to reference the title or author. I track my reading so I can remember where I left off in a certain book series.

How about you? What have you read this year? What are your reading goals? How do you track what you read? What book should I absolutely add to my list before 2019 is over?

Also, if you have any questions about any of the books on my list, feel free to ask me about them! Not all of them are available for sale at Baker Book House for one reason or another, and I’d be happy to tell you the backstory if you are curious.


4 Tips for Traveling with Kids


As Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Parenting, might point out to parents planning any trip with children, God will use our kids to reveal the areas in our lives that need God’s guidance and grace. In other words, kids on trips will test your faith. And while your spiritual state is between you and God, maybe we can make traveling with kids a bit easier.

1. Make a List & Check It Twice

You probably aren’t going to forget clothes or the essential toiletries, but don’t leave the other essentials off your list. Some of the most forgotten items for trips are charging cords, hairbrushes, hand sanitizer, medicine, and glasses/contacts. It doesn’t hurt to pack an extra garbage bag too, both for use with dirty clothes or to use as an impromptu rain poncho if you need one.

2. Don’t Forget the Travel Games

It takes most kids about 34 seconds of being on the road to become bored. Fortunately, there are a ton of great travel games available at Baker Book House. Melissa & Doug’s entire On-the-Go line of products are designed to be self-contained and can keep kids happy for a lot longer than 34 seconds.

3. Pack a Story

Whether it is a chapter book that could be read out loud by the vehicle’s co-pilot or an audiobook, stories make travel time fly. Not in the mood for a long book? Check out a collection of Adventures in Odyssey episodes, they last about an hour each.

4. Travel Friendly Snack Ideas

If you don’t want to vacuum crushed cheerios out of your vehicle’s interior, check out these other snack ideas. Sure, you’ll still end up finding pulverized bits of these snacks too, but at least you’ll have some variety on the vehicle’s floor.

  • Carrots
  • String Cheese
  • Dried Fruit
  • Pita Chips
  • Squeezable Apple Sauce
  • Graham Crackers
  • Frozen Yogurt Tubes
  • Mini Muffins
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Veggie Straws
  • Granola Bars
  • Goldfish Crackers
  • Raisins
  • Trail Mix
  • Twizzlers (a must-have on any roadtrip)

*Bonus* Pray

This bonus tip is one we’ll do with you. The staff at Baker Book House will be praying for your family trip too. We’ll be praying that God would use your time together to reveal Himself to your family and that you’ll make it to your destination safely. Happy trails!

10 Ideas for Your Family’s Staycation

For some, spring break is a chance to seek warmer climates for a week and pretend that winter is far behind us. But for those of us who aren’t leaving the area, spring break is a week of confusion where the kids don’t have school and we don’t know what to do with them.

Staycationers, rejoice! Here are some ideas for you.

1. Unite & Conquer

Connect with some other staycationers and pool your resources. When you try to entertain your kids all day long, you’ll run out of energy long before they will. But when you connect with another family with similarly-aged children, the kids will tire each other out while you have a few moments of sanity in the company of understanding grownups.

2. Play a Game / Make a Game

Whether it’s a board game that you haven’t played in a while or a card game that your kids are finally old enough to learn, there’s something special about family games that makes time go by a bit quicker.
But if you are all played out with the games you have, this is a great time to make a new one. Charades is wonderful kid-friendly game that is easy to make and fun to play. Simply grab an empty tissue box, some paper, and a pencil, then start brainstorming options to act out.

3. Blanket Fort Movie Theater

If you don’t have fond memories of building blanket forts as a child, you may be entitled to an apology from your parents. Blanket forts are more than blankets suspended between dining room chairs and sofa backs. They are backdrops for imaginative play. Want to really blow your kids’ minds? Grab a laptop and set up an in-fort movie theater!

4. Library / Bookstore Tour

Is there a better feeling than being surrounded by books? Libraries and bookstores (like Baker Book House, for instance) are great places for kids to explore and expand their imaginations.
If you live in an area that is fortunate to have more than one library location or bookstore, you can even make a day of visiting multiple book repositories to compare the merits of each one.

5. Go for a Hike

Weather permitting, going for a hike is a great way to see the glory of God’s creation. Plus, with your kids running ahead of you, then running back to you, then running ahead of you again, it’s a great way to see the glory of tired children as well.
If you are going to venture out, why not bring a pack-able picnic along so you don’t have to come back too early. Not near a nice woodland trail? No worries! Kids can also tire themselves out in a park with a jungle gym.

6. Take in Some Culture

Whether it’s a children’s museum or an art museum or a museum of natural history, kids love seeing things they’ve never seen before.  Expand their horizons, then debrief over dinner to find out what they enjoyed the most. If they express a specific interest in an artist or an aspect of science, you can pour into that interest by pulling up more information on them in the future!

7. Spring Cleaning

Admittedly, your kids probably aren’t going to enjoy this one as much as some of the others, but this is a great time to go through their wardrobes and pull out the things that no longer fit. Kids can look through their toy bins and find the things that they don’t play with anymore.
When you have a few boxes of things that need a new home, bring your kids to a thrift store and explain to them how their toys and clothes can bless someone else. If you are feeling generous, you might even allow them to pick out something “new” at the thrift store.

8. Homemade Pizzeria

How many times in life have you been disappointed to learn about an upcoming pizza party? Never. And the beautiful thing about pizza is that it is incredibly simple to make. Pick a crust (pre-made, pop-roll, bagel, English muffin, etc.), select your sauce (traditional pizza sauce, ranch, BBQ, etc.), choose your cheese, and pick your toppings.
The best thing is that when the kids make their own pizza, they are 10x more likely to eat it!

9. Bake-a-thon / Neighborly Giveaway

If the pizzeria idea goes over well, try introducing some other baking into the mix. Whether you make cookies or banana bread from scratch or you cheat and buy the ready-to-bake dough from the store, kids enjoy being with you in the kitchen.
And to lessen the risk of eating all the baked goods by yourself, get some sturdy paper plates and make some edible gifts for folks in your neighborhood or people in your church. The kids could even make some cards to go with them.

10. Read

Whether you encourage kids to read by themselves or you read to them, reading is a great way to sharpen their minds. And if you need a break from spring break, let us read to them instead. Baker Book House hosts story time every Thursday morning at 10:30 AM. We’d love to see you there!

Book Review | Kenny & the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi

Kenny & the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi

Book Description:

Kenny is a little rabbit with a very big problem. His two best friends are heading into a battle of legendary proportions—with each other! In one corner there’s Graeme, a well-read and cultured dragon with sophisticated tastes. In the other there’s George, a retired knight and dragon slayer who would be content to spend the rest of his days in his bookshop. Neither really wants to fight, but the village townsfolk are set on removing Graeme from their midst and calling George out of retirement. Can Kenny avert disaster?

Tony DiTerlizzi puts a fun-filled, thoroughly theatrical spin on Kenneth Graeme’s classic tale of subterfuge and showmanship with this lighthearted romp of a retelling.

The Bookworms Review:

Innocent, engaging, and fun, Kenny and the Dragon is a fresh retelling of an old story. DiTerlizzi’s whimsical drawings are only one part of what will draw readers into this book. Parents will appreciate the main character’s commitment to reading, friendship, and family. Kids will appreciate the humor and the pictures. Every reader, regardless of age, will learn that fighting is the least effective way to handle a disagreement. This book shows the value of out-of-the-box problem solving and that one should not believe every stereotype about dragons that one reads, even if it is in The King’s Royal Bestiary.

Buy the Book Here

52 Week Picture Book Challenge | Week 7

XO, Ox: A Love Story by Adam Rex

Book Description:

Dear Gazelle,

For some time now I have wanted to write a letter to say how much I admire you. You are so graceful and fine. Even when you are running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running away from tigers.

I think that what I’m trying to say is that I love you.


And so begins an epic, if initially unrequited, love affair between a graceful gazelle and a clumsy, hapless ox. Romance will never be the same.

Adam Rex’s hilarious, sweet, and at times heartbreaking letters between a hopelessly romantic ox and a conceited, beautiful gazelle are paired perfectly with Scott Campbell’s joyful illustrations to bring you a romance for the ages.

The Bookworms Review:

How does it feel to be pursued by a relentless love? How can one keep trying in the face of rejection after rejection after rejection? In XO, Ox: A Love Story, readers will discover the tragic beauty of an unrequited love, innocently expressed between an optimistic ox and the dreamy gazelle that he loves. It is a cute story, but it could easily stand in for the way God relentlessly pursues his bride, the church, even as she rejects Him. But no matter how you interpret this book, you will love it in the end.

Buy the Book Here

Additional Resources:


Book Review | The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

Book Description:

Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle?!

Caroline Carlson’s funny tween novel, The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot, is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society.

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.

There’s only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn’t exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

Written with uproarious wit and an inviting storyteller tone, the first book in Caroline Carlson’s quirky seafaring series is a piratical tale like no other.

The Bookworms Review:

Aside from their penchant for taking things that don’t belong to them, the problem with pirates is their tendency toward being an all-boys club. Girls, society believes, would be better off attending finishing school and becoming governesses in due time. For parents who value the message that our societal roles are better dictated by our God-given abilities rather than our genders, this book is a refreshing read.

As for those worried about the role of magic and the glorification of piratical behavior, fear not. In Carlson’s world, magic is akin to gold in making it possible for one’s will to become reality, and the unequal distribution of this power is one of the problems that the characters are trying to solve. This book also teaches kids that their voices matter, things are not always as they seem, and the quest to help a friend is always one worth going on.

Buy the Book Here

52 Week Picture Book Challenge | Week 6

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

Book Description:

A universal, deeply moving exploration of grief and empathy.

With its spare, poignant text and irresistibly sweet illustrations, The Rabbit Listened is a tender meditation on loss.

When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs.

Whether read in the wake of tragedy or as a primer for comforting others, this is a deeply moving and unforgettable story sure to soothe heartache of all sizes.

The Bookworms Review:

The Rabbit Listened is nothing short of collegiate-level communication training cleverly disguised as a children’s picture book. Though it is useful to help kids deal with grief, this book should be required reading for adults as they deal with regular life and other people. The world could use more empathy, and learning to listen is the first step toward the solution. Though the topic of faith doesn’t come up within the book’s pages, Christian parents and educators would be hard-pressed to find a better book for showing what love looks like in the wake of hard times.

Buy the Book Here

Additional Resources:


Seek and Explore Devotions for Kids | An Interview with the Authors

If you haven’t seen the new book, Seek and Explore Devotional for Kids, by Yvonne Van Ee and Michael Williams, it is worth a look. This daily devotional for kids is written on a kid’s level and involves a lot more than just a daily reading. Baker Bookworms was so intrigued by the book that we reached out to its authors and Michael Williams got back to us. Here are the questions we asked and the answers we got back!

Seek and Explore Devotions for Kids has 366 devotions inside for kids, but it isn’t laid out like other year-long devotionals. Instead of January to December, the content is laid out from Genesis to Revelation. Why did you decide to present the devotional in this way?
Instead of jumping all over the Bible, we wanted kids to be able to go through it just the way it has been divinely arranged: from Genesis to Revelation. This orderly progression will reveal an intentional arrangement and movement of history from one book to another. It also ensures that kids engage the entire Bible and not simply selected texts. They get the more difficult books as well as the more comfortable ones!
The devotional offers a variety of reading and hands-on activities. How will this varied experience help kids better understand the Bible?
Kids (and everybody for that matter) learn in different ways. This is understandable because all human beings are multidimensional. We have minds, wills, emotions, physical capabilities. The full, healthy Christian life should engage all of these aspects. By approaching each book of the Bible from a variety of learning styles, everyone will be able to understand the main message and its significance for their lives no matter their learning strengths or weaknesses!
One of the characters readers meet is Hearty, a panda bear who understands feelings and emotions. Emotional intelligence is something many adults struggle with. How does including a character like Hearty help kids develop their emotional intelligence?
Having kids engage with Hearty at the same level as they engage Arty, Talky, Thinky, and the others encourages them to view this aspect of their personalities as just as important as all the others. This promotes a more balanced psychological development because all aspects of their person are invited to participate in the learning process.
Every week includes a devotional on how to find Jesus in each book of the Bible. How does Jesus fit into the Old Testament before He was even born?
One time when he was talking with the religious leaders, Jesus told them something amazing. He said that the Old Testament Scriptures they were studying were talking about him (John 5:39). After he rose from the dead, Jesus said the same thing to his disciples (Luke 24:27). This makes sense, doesn’t it? If the whole Bible is talking about God’s plan to save human beings from their sin, and that plan is fulfilled by Jesus, then the whole Bible must be talking about Jesus! This devotional helps kids see how that is truly the case.
It is said that if you want to learn something well, you should teach it to someone else. What was something that you learned as you wrote the devotional? What do you hope the readers will learn?

As Yvonne and I worked on this devotional together, we were reminded once again of how amazingly loving God is. It is difficult to read about how human beings treat God. And yet God continues to show his love to us. This is something that we all need to be reminded of again and again. It’s what God does for us in his Word in all kinds of different ways. He reminds us that he loves us and wants a relationship with us in spite of our sin. Jesus is the best expression of that love. And that’s why the whole Bible is about him. We want readers to see how the Bible is talking about Jesus so they can better understand just how much God loves them.

Great Books for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a celebration of history’s figures who have struggled for freedom, equality, and respect. As we continue to grow in God’s love for all people, let us teach our kids about our failures and our successes in racial equality. The books below are a great place to begin some of those lessons.

So Tall Within

By Gary D. Schmidt

Retail 18.99

A life that spanned slavery and freedom. Feet that walked from the Deep South to Battle Creek, Michigan. In Gary Schmidt’s capable hands, the story of Sojourner Truth comes alive with every struggle and every triumph. Walk alongside her as she tells you her story so that you may continue the journey that she began.

One Crazy Summer

By Rita Williams-Garcia

Retail 7.99

In search of the mother who abandoned them, three girls travel to Oakland, California in 1968 and are inadvertently caught up in the Black Panther movement. One Crazy Summer is an evenhanded look at life during one of the most racially-charged times in history.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

By Gary D. Schmidt

Retail 7.99

One new kid to town who is shunned by his peers. One black girl whose peers are shunned by the town. One relationship that changes what friendship looks like forever. Based on the true story of Malaga Island off the coast of Maine, Gary D. Schmidt shines a light on racism, relationships, and the church.

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?

By Bonnie Bader

Retail 5.99

If the only thing you know about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that he gave the “I Have a Dream” speech, then you have missed the history that made that speech possible. What was the connection between King and Henry David Thoreau? How was King influenced by Mahatma Gandhi? Full of interesting facts written at an accessible level for kids, Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? is a great resource for kids and adults alike.

I Am Rosa Parks

By Brad Meltzer

Retail 14.99

Though we have only begun the journey toward racial equality, we have come a long way. Meltzer’s picture book biography, I Am Rosa Parks, gives an in-depth look at segregation and one brave woman’s stand against it. With engaging illustrations and real historical depth, this book encourages the next generation to pick up where Rosa Parks left off.

Hidden Figures

By Margot Lee Shetterly

Retail 17.99

This beautifully illustrated picture book shares the true story of the four black women who made it possible for Neil Armstrong to walk on moon. Though we may be rejected time and again, the color of our skin doesn’t matter in the face of hard work, perseverance, and a love of math.


By Dorena Williamson

Retail 14.99

Instead of being colorblind to the differences of race, Dorena Williamson encourages Christians to embrace the Colorfull way God has made us. When we celebrate our differences instead of pretending they don’t exist, we are able to see the beauty of God’s enormous spectrum.

52 Week Picture Book Challenge | Week 5

Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? by Crystal Bowman & Teri McKinley

Book Description:

Kids ask a lot of questions. Some silly and some innocent. Some deep and some serious. The books in the I’ve Got Questions series address many of those childlike questions and offer satisfying answers. The content is lively and fun, yet meaningful and respectful of a child’s inquisitive mind. While the books have a strong educational component, the deeper purpose is to show parents how they can respond to their child’s questions with patience and love. Illustrations feature multicultural characters both male and female.

Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? answers questions about animals. Children learn about starfish, elephants, bears, stars, earthworms, eagles, trees, and heaven, while absorbing the underlying themes of God’s love and grace and a parent’s love for a child.

The Bookworms Review:

Spoiler Alert! – Baby bears do have mommies. The mother/child bond is just one of the amazing ways that God created animals and people. In fact, sometimes those mothers and children write great books together, just like Teri McKinley did with her mom, Crystal Bowman.

Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? is perfect for kids who love animals and asking questions. Each beautifully illustrated page shares fun facts about an animal in an engaging rhythm and rhyme format. Best of all, the book closes with a reminder that God made all the animals and cares for each one, including us.

Buy the Book Here

Additional Resources: