Bell Mountain: Ages 10 and up
My stars! I’m recommending books for homeschoolers, and it never enters my mind to recommend my own books! I’ve only just realized that I’ve left myself out.
I’ve been surprised, over the years, at how much Bell Mountain has been enjoyed by children whom you’d think were too young to read a novel. Most of the time it’s Daddy or Mommy who’s read the book to them. I’m very happy that my book can be read aloud to 8-year-olds–or even younger–and give them pleasure.
And of course it’s just the first book of a series… and the series has now grown to 13 books, with two more yet to be published… so it should be able to keep you interested for several years. Somehow the books have proved equally appealing to children and adult readers.
In Bell Mountain, a boy named Jack dreams a distant mountain is singing to him. Scripture says there is a bell on the summit of the mountain, waiting to be rung; and God will hear it. Jack believes he has had this dream because God wants him to ring the bell. He sets out for the mountain, accompanied by his friend, Ellayne. The story tells of their perilous journey to the mountain-top–along the way encountering strange beasts, strange people, miracles, treachery: everything that makes life worth living. Or at least worth reading about.
Click “Books” on our home page for descriptions and sample chapters of all 13 books in the series. Available from the Chalcedon Foundation Store at http://www.chalcedon.edu/ .
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (ages 12 and up)
Did King Richard III really murder his two nephews, “the princes in the Tower”? Classic mystery writer Josephine Tey didn’t think so, and in 1951 she wrote and published a book to prove it: The Daughter of Time. “Truth is the daughter of time”–and in time the truth comes out.
But history can be very, very tricky. Finding out “what really happened,” Thucydides wrote, over 2,000 years ago, is the hardest thing about studying history. And he ought to know!
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is just about the best week in the year–at least in the Northern Hemisphere, when it’s so terribly cold–for snuggling up with a good book. And given that the mortal remains of King Richard were only recently discovered under an English parking lot, this 15th-century mystery seems quite timely.
In Tey’s novel, Inspector Alan Grant (not the one from Jurassic Park) of Scotland Yard, laid up with a broken leg, applies modern police methods to investigate the claim against Richard. All I can tell you about it, without spoiling the fun, is that he does a very thorough job and I find his conclusion 100% convincing. So do a lot of people. The book is full of insights into history–how facts are gathered, the role of propaganda, how to decide whom to believe and whom to dismiss… I mean, how do we “know” what we think we know? How many things that we’re sure we know… just ain’t so?
History is chock-full of stuff like that. That’s why I love it.
Many critics think Daughter of Time is one of the four or five best mystery novels ever written–out of many thousands. I’ve probably read hundreds… and I agree!
That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (12 and Up–all the way up!)
This book blows my mind. Written in 1943, it only grows more applicable–and more alarming!–with each passing year.
Some of it will slide past you if you’re only 12 years old; but you won’t be 12 forever. There’s always more to this book, every time you read it. I’m 73 now and still learning from it–currently re-reading it, and still picking up tidbits I didn’t get the last time.
This is a story of Scientific Progress as performed by the Devil, featuring a sophisticated young married couple who have a lot of growing up to do but are very, very far from knowing it. Their desire to conform, to be with it, to hang out with the really cool people, almost kills them.
Science, higher education, government, bureaucracy, the whole academic world–Lewis just plain fricassees them all. He takes no prisoners.
His vision scares the daylights out of me. How did he see so clearly, so far into the future? There’s much in here to remind one of George Orwell’s 1984; only of course That Hideous Strength is a fantasy featuring a resurrected Merlin.
There is a bit of twaddle at the end; but maybe after another ten years I’ll find some merit in it. But 99% of the book is pure rocket fuel.
The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain (1963)
I first read this book when I was 14 years old. My mother read it first and had high praise for it: nothing she liked better than lively, well-written history.
This history is as colorful as it gets. The Wars of the Roses and Richard III; the Peasants’ Revolt; Henry VI sinking into lunacy; William Caxton setting up his printing press–they’re all here in glorious technicolor. And Costain isn’t afraid to admit it when his passions get involved. Nor is he afraid to dip into historical enigmas and controversies–did Richard III really murder his nephews?–weigh the evidence on either side, and try to find the truth.
Many young people think of history as a collection of boring and irrelevant trivia; but The Last Plantagenets is anything but that. It just might whet your appetite for more.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
I think I’ll ask for this for Christmas!
Today I offer up one of my own favorite series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and a reader recommendation for a fantasy novel by George MacDonald from 1872.
For ages 12 and under–or over
A Princess of Mars and its sequels, by ERB–his justly famous novels of earthman John Carter’s adventures on Barsoom, the planet that we know as Mars.
These ignited my imagination as a teenager, and I still enjoy them today. My favorite is No. 5, The Chessmen of Mars, in which a barbaric nation devotes itself to a game of Martian chess played with real warriors who have to battle it out on the chessboard. This weird creation is simply fantastic; but all ten novels in the series are good.
Recommended by Heidi (I haven’t read them yet, but I can’t wait to do so, once my own book is finished), The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, and other works by him–these sound like real winners. MacDonald was a huge influence on a lot of fantasy writers–and not just fantasy writers, either. G.K. Chesterton had very high praise for The Princess and the Goblin. It sounds like a work of truly unfettered imagination.