2017 Read Harder Challenge Results

My 2017 Read Harder Challenge Results: 20/24

1. Read a book about sports. 0
2. Read a debut novel. “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter
3. Read a book about books. “The Bookseller (first Hugo Marston Novel)” by Mark Pryor 
4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. 0
5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. (1) “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri; (2) “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon
6. Read an all-ages comic. “Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets”
7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. (1) “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley; (2) “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. Read a travel memoir. “The Olive Grove” by Katherine Kizilos
9. Read a book you’ve read before. (1) “The Name of This Book Is Secret” by Pseudonymous Bosch; (2) “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. “Walking After Midnight” by Kate Abbott
11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter
12. Read a fantasy novel. (1) “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler; (2) “The Magicians” by Lev; (3) Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising #1) by Susan Cooper
13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil DeGrass Tyson
14. Read a book about war. “City of Theives” by David Benioff
15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. 0
16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
17. Read a classic by an author of color. “Native Son” by Richard Wright
18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. (1) “Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 (Wires and Nerves, #1)” by Marissa Meyer; (2) “Cleopatra in Space #3: Secret of the Time Tablets”
19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey. “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept” Paolo Coelho
20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. “What’s in a Name” by Pat Henshaw
21. Read a book published by a micropress. 0
22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri
23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. “Rose” by Li-Young Lee
24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler

Our Evenings


We have been spending our summer evenings reading. Daddy has been reading Harry Potter books to us for hours almost every night. We’re into the middle of book 4 now, and the children’s enthusiasm for this nightly ritual has not waned. They even prefer this over a movie night.

#magic #7yearold

You might say it has ignited their imagination.

Wizard #summer #boys #7yearold

This one loves to shout spells and play wizard.

Reading Harry Potter book 3 tonight under the wisteria while rare, blessed raindrops fall.

Sometimes we read outside together, if its not too hot. Sometimes we’re inside, enjoying the AC. Ian got the ebooks too, so if we’re out at a restaurant he can read to us while we’re waiting for a table, or when we’re waiting for the play to begin.


Ian is a master of funny voices and accents. It’s amazing to hear him read a conversation in a scene with eight wizards in the room, some sounding Scottish, Irish, Russian, English, American, powerful, weak, evil, or snobby. He switches between these various voices with such facility. I applaud at the end of certain scenes because they sound damned difficult to read aloud!

I’m loving this summer’s evening entertainment. I love how we’re all enjoying it, how the Harry Potter books have wide enough appeal that all four of us are engaged. It’s simple, and sweet, and bonding.

Reading Reward

Lucas just had his fifth piano recital. He played two fairly long pieces of music: the theme from Star Wars and “Colorful Sonatina,” with three movements. “Six whole pages of music!” he would like everyone to know.

Preparing for "Star Wars" Theme

Ready to Play "Colorful Sonatina"

We are so very proud of him. He worked hard for this one, and to ensure that he got in all the practice time he needed, I made a “14 Days of Music” chart to track his practice sessions. I put two rewards on the chart: one at seven practices for a dessert of his choice (cookies and cream ice cream) and one “book reward.” He worked for that book reward, having decided long before he achieved it that what he wanted was a Missile Mouse graphic novel.

After Piano Recital: Taking His Bow

This is my not-so-great shot of Lucas just after he finished playing. He was happy and relieved to have it behind him, I think, and proud of how well he played. After the recital cookies, we went straight to the bookstore to buy Missile Mouse. He came straight home and read it cover to cover!

Can you think of a better reward that a new book? No, I can’t either.

I love that my kid is motivated by reading books! Lucas has four different books going right now, I think. I don’t know if he switches between them when the reading gets difficult, or if he just enjoys having several different stories to dive into. Right now he’s reading The 39 Clues book 1, Stuart Little and a Jack and Annie Magic Tree House book (I have no idea which number). He also picks up grandma’s book about Samurai once in a while, which is way over his head but totally cool nonetheless.

He’s now pushing the books he has read on me and Ian. He thinks Ian would enjoy Missile Mouse. And for me, he recommends the Spiderwick Chronicles. “Mom, I think you’d really like this one. You should borrow my book and read it.” And you know what? I am. And I will, whenever he says that because it’s totally wonderful that he wants to share his discoveries. If we can geek out about the books we enjoy together, I’ll be a happy mama indeed!

My Summer Reading So Far

Busy, busy, busy summer! We still have three and a half more weeks off school and I’m pleased to say I am not so fed up with summer vacation that I’m ready to tear my hair out like in other past, lonely summers.

I’ve been working steadily and the kids have greatly enjoyed their various activities (preschool, summer camps, swim team, playgroup play dates, and lots of time with friends.) I have gobs of work to do in the next two weeks before our trip to Burning Man, but I’m keeping calm and carrying on, as they say.

I’m happy to report that I’ve even been able to squeeze in a little reading for pleasure, which isn’t always possible in my world. Here’s what I’ve been reading, in addition to all the books I read to my kids:

Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The classic, just as you remember it, which I may or may not have read when I was a kid. It seems to me I read some of these books, but I really don’t remember them. As farming and domestic arts are a big part of the third-grade curriculum at Lucas’s school, I’m pretty sure this is on the reading list for this year. We are starting now to read it aloud. Next up, Farmer Boy.

Magyk (Septimus Heap Book One), by Angie Sage

This is a newish fantasy series for the 9- to 12-year-old crowd. There are at least five of these Septimus Heap books. The back cover says that fans of Harry Potter will love Septimus Heap, which is why I bought it. I tend to agree, although there are plenty of differences and unique characteristics in this fantasy world. I would be happy to read this aloud to the younger children in that recommended age group; it’s not too scary. Orphaned children, plenty of magyk spells, a dragon boat—really what more could you ask for?

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funk

What can I say? I love children’s fiction! Inkheart is the first of another fantasy series for children 9 to 12 years old. This is one of those books about a book—a fascinating and dangerous world leaks out of the pages of a book and into our world. Villains abound in this story, and their dastardly deeds go unchecked, but for the efforts of a bookish girl, her book-restoring father, and a homesick loner thrust out of his storybook and marooned here. I’d say this series is better for those on the upper end of that age bracket, even for precocious readers. It was very fun and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. Meggie is a wonderful 12-year-old heroine who loves books—like me!

Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, by Robert Rankin

I bought this book for its title alone. Rankin is kind of a mix of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, and this book has a liberal dose of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, too. It’s a murder mystery set in Toy City, where toys and dolls walk and talk and drink alcohol. It was fun and irreverent, and I’m curious about Rankin’s other books, but I think this novel should have wrapped up about 40 pages before it actually did.

The Gates, by John Connolly

I’ve never read John Connolly before this one, which I picked up at the library because it had a nifty cover and was featured in the “new titles” section. The protagonist is 11 years old, but I’m not quite sure if this book is a juvenile novel or an adult novel. I would recommend it! Very fun. The gates of hell open up and assorted demons escape into an English suburban community. Only the boy and his dog understand how evil the neighbors down the street really are.

The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood

I’m still trying to get through this book. For some reason I put it down and picked it up repeatedly. I’ll guess the reason is simply that life happened. This is my first Atwood book—I know, I know. I should have read lots of her work before now—at least The Handmaid’s Tale—but I haven’t. (I blame all the ninjas and zombies.) So, despite the fact that it’s taking me forever to read this novel about five women, one of whom has profoundly betrayed all the rest, supposedly died, and then reappeared to intersect their lives again should not reflect on the author. The fault is mine. Atwood’s book is has a rich and intelligent plot and her characters sing on the page. I hope to finish this one in the next week or so.

  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2018 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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