Unlike many books of its kind, The Book Tree doesn't waste time trying to tell you why reading is important, what makes a good story, or how the authors came to be interested in making a list of their favorite books—all that's relegated to the brief, straightforward preface. Instead, mother Elizabeth McCallum and daughter Jane Scott simply provide lists of titles accompanied by short synopses to whet your appetite.
The authors are Christian, and often they'll point out ethical or spiritual elements of the books they've chosen to include, but this isn't a "build-a-Christian-worldview-through-literature" kind of book. It's simply a guide to great literature for preschoolers, elementary and middle school students, and high school kids, divided into age-appropriate chapters for easy reference.
Six chapters are divided (very broadly) by grade-level and genre:
- Preschool Literature
- Elementary School Fiction
- Middle School Fiction
- Elementary & Middle School Biography
- High School Fiction
- High School Biography
Some parents will no doubt be surprised by the age-groups to which some titles are assigned. For instance, Anne of Green Gables is included in "Elementary School Fiction," and in middle school kids are supposedly reading Dickens and H.G. Wells. No doubt some students will be advanced enough for this timeline, but others will not; use your judgement, and don't adhere to the recommendations slavishly.
By high school, students should be reading almost exclusively "great books," and this list reflects that: recommended titles in the last two chapters include everything from Quo Vadis and David Copperfield to Foxe's Book of Martyrs and The Screwtape Letters. Many may balk at this level of reading, but if kids are taught a love of reading from an early age, they'll be ready for (and wanting) a challenge when they get older.
Three indexes covering titles, authors, and subjects help parents navigate quickly, finding similar books or works by one author. Older students can probably use The Book Tree on their own, finding books that sound interesting to them. This isn't school-related, and there aren't discussion topics or anything to help guide study; the point is to get kids reading, and to get kids to enjoy reading.
Most of the books you'll find in The Book Tree are titles we carry at Exodus Books; many of them are among our staff favorites. We've listed what we have below, though if you find one we don't have we'd love for you to suggest it, and we'll do our best to bring it in. If you want kid who love literature but don't know where to start, this is a fantastic and easy-to-use resource you can use for many years to come.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
Did you find this review helpful?