Well, here is my solution to that. I'm going to keep an online diary of it here. Just for myself. And if anyone else finds that interesting, well GREAT!
My first book of the year is sort of a cheater. I actually started reading this book to my daughter before Christmas, but just finished it this week. We try to read a chapter every night before bed while Daddy reads a book to the boys. But, with Christmas and all, we didn't end up reading every night and it just took longer.
This book is called, Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. What a fantastic book! I just happened across it at Half-Price Books, and thought, "Wow. I didn't know he wrote anything else." You see, I knew this author for Where the Red Fern Grows. My 4th grade teacher read this book out loud to our class many moons ago and I will forever be grateful to her for that. I loved that book so much I just knew Summer of the Monkeys had to be a great book, as well.
I was not disappointed! This book takes place in the late 1800's and gives you a feel for country life and simpler times. It beautifully illustrates the relationships a boy SHOULD have with his father and grandfather. I felt proud of Jay Berry all throughout the story and wanted to applaud his grandfather for taking such an active role in his grandson's life.
Here is the synopsis on Amazon:
The last thing a fourteen-year-old boy expects to find along an old Ozark river bottom is a tree full of monkeys. Jay Berry Lee's grandpa had an explanation, of course--as he did for most things. The monkeys had escaped from a traveling circus, and there was a handsome reward in store for anyone who could catch them. Grandpa said there wasn't any animal that couldn't be caught somehow, and Jay Berry started out believing him . . .
But by the end of the "summer of the monkeys," Jay Berry Lee had learned a lot more than he ever bargained for--and not just about monkeys. He learned about faith, and wishes coming true, and knowing what it is you really want. He even learned a little about growing up . . .
This novel, set in rural Oklahoma around the turn of the century, is a heart-warming family story--full of rich detail and delightful characters--about a time and place when miracles were really the simplest of things...
Normally, I am easily amused. However, most books do NOT make me laugh out loud. This book did. Many times. My daughter and I LAUGHED. OUT. LOUD!
A little note: There is one chapter (Ch. 9) where Jay Berry inadvertently becomes drunk. If this would be a sensitive topic for your child, pre-read it and the following chapter and determine for yourself if you want to read it or skip it. I don't think it would take away too much of the story if it were skipped, BUT, I will say, there is good that comes from it! We did not skip it and I'm glad.
This book was so enjoyable, I highly recommend it! The back cover says it is a Reading Level 5.0 and for ages 10 and up. My daughter (almost 10) is a voracious reader and could read this in a day or two. It could be a challenging read for some 10 year olds, but it also makes a great Read Aloud for parent and child(ren).
Whether your child reads it on their own, you read it to them, or you just read it for yourself, don't pass up Summer of the Monkeys! Really, you don't know what you're missing!