HomeBooks by AgeAges 0-3Five Family Favorites with Cindy Jenson-Elliott, Author of Weeds Find a Way
Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott

Five Family Favorites with Cindy Jenson-Elliott, Author of Weeds Find a Way

Cindy Jenson-Elliott | The Children’s Book Review | January 15, 2014

We are a family of avid and eclectic readers. We read everything from 1950s comic books to gorgeous picture books, from Audubon Society nature identification books to YA dystopian novels, from New Yorker articles to the simplest board books. We love everything in print—or, rather, we love to try out everything, like competitive eaters at a church potluck. When we find something we love, we read it over and over again, and talk about it endlessly. So, when I asked my children, ages 10 and 15, what would be our five family favorites, we had a hard time picking. It seems that every few years of development, our repertoire has grown. For that reason, I will pick our five favorite books by eras of about 3 years, roughly matching the changes in our family life.

Book One: Ages 0–3

Beatrix Potter The Complete CollectionThe Collected Tales of Beatrix Potter

By Beatrix Potter

Our Beatrix Potter book has come with us on every camping trip we have ever taken, from the time my daughter was 4 months, until the present. Every tale is made to be read aloud, rolling off the tongue like birdsong. The characters remind us of the folks who come to visit our own home—the bumbling May beetles, May and Juno—who bonk into our computers late at night—“Hello, May! Excuse me, Juno!” or the cheeky baby raccoon who settled into our apricot tree when the fruit was ripest and could not be persuaded to leave. Potter’s animals are sneaky and flawed, foolish and trusting—they are delightfully like ourselves, but cuter—so that we can laugh at our own ridiculous vanities. We still read the stories aloud, by the glow of flashlights, snuggled into our sleeping bags, until we fall asleep.

Ages 0-7 | Publisher: Warne | ISBN-13: 978-0723258049

Book Two: Ages 4–6

Thomas the Tank Engine-Story-CollectionThomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection

By Reverend W. Awdry

My kids won’t want me to write this next one, but it is the truth—Thomas the Tank Engine: The Complete Collection, by Reverend W. Awdry. Published in 1946, this thick volume contains all the stories every written about the trains of the Island of Sodor—not the commercialized versions, but with the original charming tales with richly-colored illustrations. When my son was little, we knew every train’s name, personality and foible. Every winter we return to one particular story for a family ritual of cocoa-drinking and recitation of the story of the “Flying Kipper.”

Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | Oct. 25, 2005 | ISBN-13: 978-0375834097

Book Three: Ages 7–10

Hank the CowdogHank the Cow Dog—any book in the series.

My husband is a master of accents. When we were young newlyweds, he would read Charles Dickens’s novels to me, mimicking every character’s voice to perfection. For our children, he draws on his southern and Midwestern roots, and calls forth a whiny voice for Drover the mutt, a twang for Hank the Cowdog, and a yelping pant for the Coyote brothers. The characters are  well-rounded and  hilarious, and we are always amazed that author John R. Erickson can find new and ridiculous problems for Hank to face in every book. These books are also favorites when we camp or travel.

Ages 7-10 | Publisher: Maverick Books | Oct. 15, 2011, Reprint Edition | ISBN-13: 978-1591881018

Book Four: Ages 10–13

harry_potter_paperback_setHarry Potter Series

By J.K. Rowling

Clichéd as it must sound at this point, our family went to a ridiculous number of Harry Potter parties, in thrown-together character costumes, every time a book came out. It was such a joyful experience! We went to one on the spur of the moment in a Great Hall just like Hogwarts at the University of Chicago, when we were visiting there one summer. For the next book—was it only a year later?—we went to a party closer to home at the UCSD bookstore, and won a trivia contest that earned us two skull-shaped mugs we still use. When the last book came I arrived at the bookstore at midnight, with hundreds of other muggles. I was blown away how much we all cared about this imaginary boy. It was like time had stopped for us all to celebrate this life that had changed as we changed. We have all read every book many times over, and love the Jim Dale audiobooks. I return to Harry Potter in times of trouble, when I need to be in a familiar place—Hogwarts – to catch my breath. It is true bibliotherapy.

Cindy Jenson-Elliott's family

Cindy Jenson-Elliott’s family.

Ages 8 and up | Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books; Kindle edition | July 7, 2009 | ISBN-13: 978-0545162074

Book Five: Timeless Favorites

The-Jungle-BooksMowgli Stories and The Jungle Books

By Rudyard Kipling

These stories are meant to be read aloud. The cadence of the narrator and exotic, poetic language make these books a pleasure to read out loud. The characters are deep, strong and ethical—so good inside—that I feel like I must make us readers better as people just for reading the books. When I read books like this to my children, I feel like I am offering what is most important in the world, like sunlight and rain, clean air and the sound of the wind. Good books are like that—like nature—containing all the goodness and sadness, astonishing beauty and terrible loss—everything inside us and out. I feel so lucky to have children to read to, to work with children every day and help them connect with nature and great books, and to write books that help children know the world inside and out.

About the Author
Cindy Jenson-Elliott

Cindy Jenson-Elliott

Cindy Jenson-Elliott is the author of fourteen books of nonfiction and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and educational publishers. She is a teacher and environmental educator with an MA in education and a passion for connecting children with nature. In her free time, she enjoys swimming in the ocean and spending time outdoors in San Diego, where she lives and gardens with her family of four humans and three Buff Orpington chickens. Visit her at CindyJensonElliott.com.

WEEDS FIND A WAY, available now!


Check out all the stops on the WEEDS FIND A WAY blog tour!
Mon, Feb 24
Growing with Science
Tues, Feb 25
As They Grow Up
Wed, Feb 26
Kid Lit Frenzy
Thurs, Feb 27
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Children’s Book Review
Mon, Mar 3
Let’s Go Chipper!
Tues, Mar 4
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Mar 5
Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Mar 6
5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Mar 7
Archimedes Notebook
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The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literacy. We publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. We also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to grow readers. This article was written and provided by a guest author.

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