Two Brilliant Children’s Books

August 6, 2013 | My Jottings

I have such good memories of reading out loud to my children. I read to them long after they were able to read for themselves, often in the car on a road trip or right before bed. During the last year of home schooling, Sara and I read 54 books together, and one of my favorites came from that time.

Our literature-based curriculum said we had to read Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman, HA10-land when I looked at the cover I said to myself, “Bleh.” I try never to judge a book by its cover but a story about a boy climbing a mountain just wasn’t something I wanted to delve into that year. We sat on the couch and started reading, though, while the snow fell outside and a tiny fire burned in our living room fireplace. The first chapter was okay. The second chapter better. And by the third chapter, Sara was saying, “Mom, please read another chapter!” and we couldn’t put it down after that.

I read this book out loud to my grandson Mr. McBoy last year, and the results were the same. He kept begging for me to read the next chapter and then the next, and it was a book that made our hearts thrill. This book would be a wonderful gift to any child/pre-teen in your life, definitely one you’d want to own. In fact, recently I realized that I’d forgotten who I loaned my copy to, so I bought a new one. I don’t ever want it not to be on my book shelves. 🙂  If you read this to a child, they need to be a good listener. I don’t think a five year-old would understand it, but I think a seven or eight year-old could. And as it is with most good children’s books, Banner in the Sky is fantastic for adults too.

The other book I would like to tell you about today is one of my all-time favorites. I just finished reading it out loud to three of my grandchildren and to say they loved it and hung on every word would be quite an understatement. It’s out of print (to my knowledge) but you can get used copies, and it’s worth every dime or dollar you might have to pay. It’s called The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein by one of my favorite children’s authors, Carol Ryrie Brink.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t remember how many times I’ve read this book. It’s the story of a brainy, sensitive, lonely little girl named Irma who tells a whopper of a lie. The consequences of that lie and the lessons learned are so huge that I found myself sobbing as I read the last few chapters to my grandchildren this week.

My first copy fell apart and I sent away for another one, and it’s one I will always want to be on my shelves. There are a few grandchildren I haven’t read this to yet, and I’m anxious to begin again with them.

I’ve always loved Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations as well, and every time I came to a page with a drawing on it, the children crowded around me to study the details and smile at each one. Hyman was such a gifted artist — in the past I’ve checked books out of the library just because she was the illustrator.

Here’s one of the drawings from The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein:

s_p1250772I’ve mentioned this before, but I think any book by Carol Ryrie Brink is a treasure. The Pink Motel, Winter Cottage, Caddie Woodlawn and Magical Melons are all beautiful in their own way.

Now I’ve started another book with one of my grandchildren — Fred Gibson’s Old Yeller. I’m familiar with the story from the movie so I know we’ll be crying before the last page is turned. But that’s okay. Crying over good literature with someone you love is one of the best things in life, in my opinion.

Some of you have shared the titles of your favorite children’s books before, but I’d love for you to share again if you would. There are new readers here and we all could use a good recommendation on how to bless the lives of the children we love!

Happy reading….


  1. Jodi Clair says:

    Good morning Julie,

    I am just returning from a long Michigan road trip, made painfully longer by my negligent navigating! “Stuart Little” audiobook delighted my 5 year old and me, and certainly had me laughing out loud. I will look for Irma! Thanks for the recommendations 🙂


  2. Just Julie says:

    Hi Jodi, I love Stuart Little too! Have you read Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan? Wonderful also! Thank you for sharing Jodi…I’ll miss seeing you so much… xoxo

  3. Kay in Cornwall, UK says:

    My daughter Louisa and I loved reading the Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem. The stories were quite sweet but it was really the illustrations that held our attention. Such wonderful attention to detail! We both have fond memories of cuddling up on the sofa and picking out all the little bits that we liked best. I believe that Jill Barklem became a Christian because of her study of wildlife whilst writing her books.
    My boys liked nursery rhyme books when they were very small. I think they liked the comfort of the poetry’s rhythym. They also liked various Ladybird books, both fiction and non-fiction.
    However, none of my three children read anywhere near as much as I have done and continue to do.
    ‘Life is too short not to read books.’

  4. Just Julie says:

    I’m going to order some of the Brambly Hedge books after hearing about them from you, Kay. I think the youngest of my grands would enjoy those. I agree with you — I cannot imagine a life without books. It would be dull and terrible. 🙂 xoxo

  5. Carolyn says:

    The top 13 books of my childhood, in no particular order:

    1) Among The Dolls by William Sleater
    2) All the Ramona books (and Ellen Tebbits) by Beverly Cleary
    3) Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy
    4) The Narnia Books by C.S. Lewis
    5) James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
    6) Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
    7) From the Mixed up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
    8) Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
    9) Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C O’Brian
    10) The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Books by Betty MacDonald
    11) The Pink Motel and Baby Island (and Irma Baumlein) by Carol Ryrie Brink
    12) The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
    13) The Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry

  6. Just Julie says:

    I loved your list, Carolyn! I had forgotten a few of those. Harriet the Spy made me want to start taking notes of everything. And remember how we read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in the car? So many good memories! Thank you…. xoxo

  7. Ganeida says:

    I rabbit on about children’s books a lot but here is one of our favourites for younger readers ~ & so not American, which you might enjoy for the novelty:

    Cait learnt so much from these simple stories & taught herself a number of things. 🙂

  8. Just Julie says:

    This looks like the type of book I’d love, Ganeida. I am drawn to the older ones so often. I will buy it… Blessings…. xoxo

  9. Ganeida says:
  10. Just Julie says:

    Ganeida, I’m not familiar with The Good Master or its author, but love Thee Hannah! Couldn’t we have the best time just rereading great children’s lit?

  11. Carrie says:

    Caddie Woodlawn & the Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink were childhood favorites and Carolyn’s top 13 book list brought back so many great memories of reading both as a child and to my children.
    I am back after a break from spending time in front of the computer. So glad to hear that your surgery has gone well and will pray for your spirit to be lifted up during a slow painful recovery.

  12. Just Julie says:

    How nice to know someone who has read The Pink Motel…I don’t meet many who have heard of it, even if they know Brink’s other books. I’m so glad you’re back visiting Carrie…I’ve thought of you frequently and wondered how summer on the farm has been going! And thank you so very much for your prayers. I’m very touched by what you wrote. xoxo

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