The biggest news this year is that we have another local library taking on our project (a friend of mine helped make the connection) and so now we are starting to put great family reading into TWO libraries at once! :)
You can read about our previous efforts in this area by looking at our library topic tab.
I finished up the ornaments last night, with some much appreciated help from John and from Gus. The work went a little quicker this year as I have quite a few leftovers from last year to fill in. I can also add more over the next few weeks if it's needed.
Here are the books pictured (plus one that's not). Most of the leftovers from last year are DVDs as they sold a lot more slowly. Since we still have the ornaments, I thought I'd keep trying and see if we can get a few more each time. I imagine that, though most of the buyers seem more interested in books, there are probably a few for whom DVDs will be more appealing.
Ordered from left to right, starting at the top (if you can figure that out!):
The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Soule
The Grunt Padre
Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive
Buildings that Changed the World (I found this at a different local library while working on an Architecture Unit Study for Heart and Mind Magazine a few years ago - and really liked it!)
101 Things You Gotta Do Before You're 12
Nicolaus Copernicus: The Earth is a Planet
Sholom's Treasure: How Sholom Aleichem Became a Writer
Ten Mile Day and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad
Penguins by Seymour Simon
Mom and Dad are Palindromes
Dolley Madison Saves George Washington
Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter
One Grain of Rice by Demi
In Flanders' Field: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain
One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference
How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A.
The Greatest Game Ever Played
How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning
First Farm in the Valley
Potato: A Tale from the Great Depression
The Best Beekeeper of Lalibella: A Tale from Africa
My Heart Lies South: The Story of My Mexican Marriage
Hero on Horseback: The Story of Casimir Pulaski
Taj Mahal by Caroline Arnold
Everybody Bakes Bread
Bessie Smith and the Night Riders (this one may not make it in as I just realized that I accidentally printed it up with the wrong description - not much time to fix it today, so I may put it aside for next year)
The Swamp Fox of the Revolution (not pictured)
How I Find the Books:
This is not an exact science. I don't get to read very many of the books ahead of time - they're just not available to me for purchase (and I obviously can't find them yet in my local library!). Here are some of my methods for finding good stuff:
First, I take at least one "research" trip to a big local bookstore. I always find some nice goodies and get to take a close look at these. My favorites from this year's trip were Planting the Trees of Kenya (which our library already owns) and 101 Things You Gotta Do Before You're 12. Good stuff! These books don't require further research since I get to look at them myself. Just have to check them against the library's online catalog.
Certain authors and series can be reliable enough for me to add new selections to our tree without seeing them ahead of time. We've done a lot of books from the Sterling Point Biographies and from Lets Read-and-Find-Out Science. Filling in the library's collection of certain favorite authors and illustrators can also be a good idea. For example, last year Tomie de Paola's book on St. Patrick was added to the library through this project.
Next, I find online or in-print book lists to filter through some helpful recommendations. Last year, I made substantial use of Maureen Wittman's For the Love of Literature. This year, Cay Gibson's Picture Perfect Childhood was extremely helpful. I make up lists of books that look interesting and then research them on Amazon.com to make sure they're in print and to check out the reviews. Since I don't get to see these books ahead of time, I'm very fussy at this stage - I look to see that the reviewers are happy and that there are no major flaws. Book descriptions and reviews will often give clues about bias and tone.
I also pick up book titles here and there from the blogosphere and whatnot. For example, the Creative Family is a title I've seen a number of homeschool moms blog about. Sounds good!
Overall, I've noticed that picture books tend to sell better than chapter books and DVDs sell very slowly. It's likely that I'll be turning to Cay Gibson's book again next year as there are plenty of suggestions left to check out.
What I'm Trying to Accomplish:
It seems to me that picture books are a great way to encourage good education today. Not only are they appealing and in the midst of a sort of Renaissance right now (lots of true, good and beautiful stuff out there!) but they also tend to be less agenda-based than the textbooks that children are using in schools. (Read Language Police by Diane Ravitch if you're not familiar with these problems). I'm not out to promote a specific agenda or sneak something in under the librarians' noses. Instead, I'm focusing on the true, the good and the beautiful - often in the form of natural virtues and good things that everyone can appreciate, but won't necessarily encounter without this sort of nudge. Good things that seem to abound in books like these include concepts like: charity and kindness, hope, perseverance, beauty in nature, appreciation of the dignity of the person, cultural connectedness, historical perspective and the sense that one person really can make a difference.