Book Tracker Journal for March
Spring ahead — Here’s my book tracker journal with Reviews of Books for March.
It’s part of the book tracker challenge I received from my son. I have been keeping a running total and the books “up next” on my shelf since the beginning of January. This post is a journal of my book tracker. You can download a free printable for your own book tracker journal from my original post.
Each month I pick my “Favorites” of what I’ve read.
You’ll notice I am reading a lot of children’s books. Many of them are recommended from Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook and were books we missed while my kids grew up. I’m searching for “living books“. A good story is a good story!
Genre and Dates Finished in italics. A rating of ★★★★★ indicates a really good read or a living book.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase after clicking through, SelfEducatingFamily will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Book Tracker Journal of Favorites
Books in March
March Books are shown in bold and alphabetized with all of the January & February books. I’ve highlighted the past favorites with images.
Reviews of Books Read in March 2023
Reviews for Children’s Illustrated Picture Books
- Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet. ★★★★★. Picture book Caldecott Winner. Another recommendation from Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook. I wondered why I never read this when my boys were little because I totally enjoy Macy’s Day Parade history. But it’s because the book is from 2011 — just as my kids were leaving the picture book section! This one really deserves a Caldecott! Great detail of the famous puppeteer and creator of the balloons, Tony Sarg. Fun read with rich illustrations. Non-fiction Children’s Picture Book: 1/3/2
- Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans written & illustrated by Don Brown. ★★★ Excellent illustrations evoke a dismal feeling of a tragic story. The book describes a ton of facts that happened during this disaster, but I feel like the book itself lacked any connection to people because all of the vignettes which could have brought this tragedy to life were anonymous. While I’m not keen on the graphic novel style, I thought this one was pulled off well because of the stormy illustrations. Non-fiction Teen Graphic Novel: 1/5/23
- A Persian Princess by Barbara Diamond Goldin. ★★★★ Fun story about Purim with an Iranian grandmother and her grandaughter told from the Sephardic tradition. Fiction: Holiday Stories: 2/21/23
- Queen Esther by Tomie De Paola. ★★★★ Purim story about Esther. I usually enjoy de Paulo’s illustrations, so this was fun when I was looking to screen a few Purim storybooks. Fiction: Holiday Stories: 2/21/23
- Queen Esther the Morning Star by Mordecai Gerstein. ★★★★ Purim story with rich illustrations. Depictions of Haman are particularly vile in the style of the cartoonish villain! Fiction: Holiday Stories: 2/21/23
- Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf: With a Fully-Orchestrated and Narrated CD adapted by Janet Schulman and illustrated by Peter Malone. ★★★★★ Reread. Prokofiev’s timeless story and music together in a read-along book. When we studied Prokofiev in Composer Studies, this was a favorite. The music is wonderful to listen to by itself (especially the first time through to let the imagination soar), but once you are familiar with the music, the book is fun to read along with. Fiction: Children’s Illustrated Classics: 3/30/23
* Favorite *
- We are the Ship: The Story of the Negro Baseball League, words & paintings by Kadir Nelson. ★★★★★ Superb book backed by in-depth research tells the compelling story of baseball when the leagues were segregated. Nelson’s realistic paintings combined with his story-telling make this book a winner. I found myself pulled into the story because it’s told in the first person plural: “Players today just don’t know how bad it could be. We look back and wonder, ‘How did we do all that?’ It’s simple. We loved the game so much, we just looked past everything else. We were ballplayers.” Highly recommended. Non-fiction Illustrated Chapter Book: 1/6/23
- Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk by Jane Sutcliffe, Illustrated by John Shelley. ★★★★★ Rich non-fiction that details the coined words in Shakespeare’s writings. Illustrations are fun and super detailed reminiscent of “Where’s Waldo” artwork or anything by Jerry Pinkney. Brings Elizabethan England to life. Children’s Illustrated Picture Book: 1/1/23
* Favorite *
- Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth. ★★★★★ Re-Read. We rearranged a bookcase and I had to re-read this old favorite from when my boys were little. It stands up to many re-reads, which is perfect for a children’s book. Stillwater is a zen panda who moves in next to 3 kids. Children’s Illustrated Picture Book: 2/28/23
Fiction Book Reviews
- The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes. ★★★★ While researching how to use poetry in homeschooling, I came across several poet/authors who I wanted to look into further and Langston Hughes was one of them. Hughes wrote a popular newspaper column in the 50s and created a character called Jesse B. Semple who appeared daily in various vignettes of life. The stories were gathered into three collections and then later all gathered together in this book. The genius of the stories is that “Simple” (aka Semple) is a guy everyone knows, even though he is fictional. I usually find dialect a bit hard to read, but because Simple lives in Harlem, NY, I can read it easily because I grew up in NY. I deducted one star because the collection is not that great in book format, but it would be fantastic as a daily newspaper column because each chapter really stands alone well. It would make a great daily blog in today’s world without newspapers. This is a good read for older students studying race issues of the 50s or 60s because it expresses how the world was then. Warning: Semple drinks and womanizes. Fiction: 1/24/23
- The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. ★★★★ While this is definitely a living book because the characters and story really came to life, I felt like it isn’t equal to Treasure Island or Dr. Jekyll or even Kidnapped. But it was a fun read anyway since he is a great writer and I typically enjoy historical fiction. This one is set in the War of the Roses just before Richard III’s time. Lancasters vs. Yorks. This has romance and adventure, and several wartime violence scenes in which the hero kills a few people. Overall, the story has a bit of a “Robin Hood” feel to it. Fiction: Historical: 1/12/23
- Here’s Hank: A Short Tale about a Long Dog by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver. ★★. Recommendation from Jim Trelease. I really wanted to love this book. I had to read it because I love the Fonz and because the book is written with a font that is designed to help dyslexic readers read easier. While I found the story compelling, I was disappointed in the characters, whom I found shallow and caricaturesque. The story has a dyslexic boy (our hero) trapped in an all-too-common situation where the school system labels him as a slacker. I think I am just biased against a school system that says “get a dog and try harder” instead of “change the school system”. Anyway, I will test this book with my dyslexic reader and give it an extra star if he loves it. Fiction Children’s Easy Reader/Short Chapter Book: 1/4/23
- Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson ★★★★ Book 3-1/2 of the Stormlight Archives. I liked this one a lot. See other books in this series. Science Fiction Fantasy Novella: 2/4/23
- Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★ Book 2-1/2 of the Stormlight Archives. I’m reading this series because my son asked me to. This one was a refreshingly small book that was inserted into the series to explain some things that apparently exist at the beginning of Book 3, and to follow one of the interesting side characters from Book 2. You can’t read it unless you read the whole series, so you have to commit, because the typical books in the series are really long. Overall, I am enjoying the series. The books are hard to put down. But the stories do have a feeling of being so complex that they are never going to resolve. For a series, it works, but I get a little nostalgic for the days when a book told one story. Science Fiction Fantasy Novella: 1/5/23
- Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnin. ★★★★ Very well-written story from1922 about 4 British women of that time who go to Italy for a month, so in a way, it is historical fiction being over 100 years old. Von Arnin is a good writer, but she writes many descriptions of Italy’s beauty in April, and while it certainly paints the picture, it’s a bit much for me! I linked to the free Kindle classic version, but I can’t vouch for that since I read the ordinary paperback. Fiction Historical Romance: 2/17/23
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. ★★★★★ Classic favorite! I couldn’t remember if I had read this before or not. It’s listed in the free reading of Year 3 on Ambleside Online. I adore the Secret Garden, also by Burnett, and I’ve read that numerous times since my mom gave me a copy for my birthday one year. This one is a sweet story but I feel like our heroine is a bit too on the perfect side. Yet, she makes me want to be kinder to others! That’s a good lesson! Fiction: Classic Literature for Youth: 3/ 7/23
* Favorite *
- Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. ★★★★★ Re-read. Classic. I love this series. I wanted to refresh my mind on the story of how Laura becomes a teacher at age 16. She’s actually two months shy of 16. and only gets certified for up to grade 3. She passes her exams by reciting all of American History at a School Expo from Columbus to Rutherford B. Hayes. I don’t think many 9th graders today can do this. What I noticed this time reading it, the series makes you want to read other books in the series. But I think it stands alone a bit better than some of the modern book series. Fiction: Historical Fiction: 2/23/23
- Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★ Book 1 of the Mistborn Trilogy. I’m reading along with my son who likes this author. Support your kids! I liked this story. I liked that it was small enough to read easily, unlike his 1200 page books in the Stormlight Archives. Science Fiction Fantasy: 3/4/23
- Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★ Book 3 of The Stormlight Archives. See Edgedancer. Huge book. I made the mistake of reading the paperback version. At 1200+ pages, it’s way too fat to read in paperback. Science Fiction Fantasy: 1/20/23
- The Red House by A.A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh). ★★★★ Did you know Milne wrote a mystery? He actually started as a humorist, then wrote this mystery and then the Pooh books for his son Christopher. He had very particular ideas about what made a good mystery which he discusses in the preface. He does a good job following his rules and comes up with a thoroughly enjoyable mystery. It feels like a light story, though, so I didn’t give it 5 stars. But it’s a fun read. Fiction Mystery: 1/26/23
- Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★ Book 4 of the Stormlight Archives. See Edgedancer. Remember, I’m reading this series because my son (the one who is NOT that excited about books) likes them and listens to the audiobooks. I’m trying to support him and we do have good conversations about these books. This one, in particular, I liked slightly more than the others, maybe deserving of a 5-star review. The story is, once again, compelling. My only criticism is that these books are really 3 separate books that never end. They are huge. And even after 4 of them (plus 2 novellas) — probably more than 5500 pages — the story STILL isn’t over. But, then again, the story is compelling.
- Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner with illustrations by Marcia Sewall. ★★★★ WARNING: Spoilers!! This fictional tale of a legendary dogsled race where a boy has to race to win the tax money for the farm. If your child doesn’t like stories like Old Yeller, chose a different book. The story is touching. Fiction Easy Reader Illustrated Chapter Book: 1/6/23
- The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson, Book 2 of the Mistborn Series. ★★★★ I’m liking the Mistborn series. So far, they’ve been good reads. Interesting stories & characters with some good plot twists. This second one has deeper character development. But it’s a war story (as well as a romance and a coming-of-age story.) I won’t give any spoilers. I would prefer if the ending didn’t beg for another book – I like endings that end better. But I went into it knowing it was a trilogy, so that’s okay. Fiction Fantasy Sci-Fi: 3/29/31
Reviews for Non-Fiction books
- The Aromatherapy Companion by Jade Shutes and Amy Galper. ★★★★ Good little reference book with very lovely illustrations. Strong intro to oils and how to use them along with safety info. I really liked the end section with tables and descriptions. Non-Fiction How-To: 2/21/23
- Common Sense by Thomas Paine. ★★★★★ This is on the Ambleside Online reading list for 9th grade to go along with early American history. It should be required by every U.S. citizen. “Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil;” Paine is a very persuasive writer as you might expect. This small treatise went viral in its day. It was first published after Lexington & Concord and after the Battle of Breed’s Hill (aka Bunker Hill). He believed the time for reconciliation was over. His treatise is also remarkable for the arguments against a kingship in general. It’s a good read. Non-Fiction History -Primary Document: 2/2/23
- DIY Beauty by Ina De Clerq ★★★★ Excellent recipes and solid explanations of natural alternatives to common on-the-shelf beauty products (like Burt’s Bees lip balm). If you or your teen enjoyed the series above, then this is a much better book to continue with. Or skip the above series and head straight to this. I’ve already tried 2 recipes and want to make notes about several others. I wouldn’t consider this a living book, but for a “how-to” packed with recipes, it’s pretty good. Non-fiction How-To Book: 1/9/2023
- Dopamine Nation by Dr. Anna Lembke. ★★★★ I gave this book an extra star because it is at least talking about the problem of addiction in our technological society AND because it gives some practical solutions. Warning though, it’s very explicit, so only appropriate for mature readers. It’s an important topic to bring up. Non-Fiction: 1/30/23
- Duct Tape Purim by Jill Bloomfield. ★★★★ Fun kids crafting book. If you like doing duct tape crafts, these are fun. Non-Fiction How-To: 3/3/23
- The Essential Oils Apothecary (skimmed), The Essential Oils Diet, and The Healing Power of Essential Oils by Eric Zeilinski and Sabrina Ann Zeilinski. ★★★★ I read them in reverse chronological order, accidentally. I did not expect to like the Diet book (it’s really a lifestyle book) but I actually did, though I skimmed the recipes section. The recipes sound good, but I’m usually drawn into recipes by photos and this had none. I liked how they broke down topical vs aromatherapy usage. And all the safety warnings were thorough. I guess the biggest new takeaway for me was that these oils are extremely potent and can do many different therapeutic things. My favorite of these three books was the one that was written first: The Healing Power of Essential Oils. Perhaps because it was the most general and comprehensive. It makes it easy to start making blends for specific purposes. All the books come from a Christian perspective. Non-fiction How-To 1/23
- Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine by Josh Axe, Jordin Rubin, and Ty Bollinger. ★★★★ Beautifully arranged book and unabashedly Christian. The attractive, easy-to-use format makes it simple to find what you are looking for. If I decide to put this on my shelf for a reference book, I would use it for the clear descriptions of the oils and their uses rather than for the applications shown in the recipes. Non-Fiction How-To: 1/25/23
- Essential Oils to Boost the Brain and Heal the Body by Jodi Cohen. ★★★★★ Fantastic resource. I need this for my home library. Cohen addresses the body as a system and uses essential oils to heal via brain chemistry mechanisms. So much helpful information as well as practical action steps. Non-Fiction: 3/17/23
- Everyday Essential Oils by Daniele Festy. ★★★★ Lovely book that concentrates on 6 specific basic oils and the stuff you can do with them. Great beginner book which would be a good way to start if you were starting from scratch. Non-Fiction How-To: 2/18/23
- Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey. ★★★★★ This book is on my permanent reference shelf and I finally finished it cover-to-cover. Kirsten has a website at ferment.works. Fantastic book that explains principles and practices, and has recipes for various fermenting methods, as well as how to use your ferments and how to troubleshoot. I’m going to schedule making ferments in my planner to get more of a variety of ferments. Non-Fiction How-To: 2/1/23
- Fermenting: Pickles, Kimchi, Kefir, Kombucha, Sourdough, Yogurt, Cheese and More! by Wardeh Harmon. ★★★★★ Takes fermenting up a level. I love this book and all of Wardeh’s recipes. You can find her at TraditionalCookingSkills.com. This was a partial re-read. I wanted to finish the book, so I re-skimmed the part I read last year. Now I have to make the recipes more regularly. A great resource for learning and doing ferments. Non-Fiction How-To: 1/15/23
* Favorite *
- The Guide to Woodworking with Kids by Doug Stowe. ★★★★★ Excellent how-to by the premier Sloydist teacher in the U.S. (that I know of!) The book reads well and could easily be used as a guide for handicraft in wood sloyd. It teaches methodology, recommends tools and requirements, and gives details on a number of projects along with real-life examples by kids. See also the article called Wood Craft Ideas from the Guide to Woodworking. Non-Fiction How-To: 2/19/23
- Home Apothecary by Ashley English. ★★★★★ Excellent how-to on using essential oils. I loved the layout and tried a few recipes. Non-Fiction How-To: 1/31/23
* Favorite *
- Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook edited and revised by Cyndi Giorgis. ★★★★★. Excellent reference book. Read once to be committed to reading aloud now for your kid’s sake. Then refer to it when you want some excellent read-aloud books. Or go to his website which lists his recommendations. I’m going to check out some titles that we missed when my guys were smaller. Trelease asks, “At what age do you stop reading aloud picture books? In a word — never.” Non-fiction Education: 1/1/23 –started in December!
- Lotions, Potions & Polish: DIY Crafts and Recipes by Aubre Andrus. ★★ Slick book with a small bit of substance. This book is listed for teens, and it has the feel of a slick magazine with beautiful layouts and photography. I think it would make a fun book for crafting with small children, but they probably couldn’t do that because it has some recipes that melt and use a stove. I guess if your young teen expresses an interest in learning some basics, this book could be fun. Extra star for the benefit of the doubt. Also in the same series are Gloss, Floss & Wash and Spray, Smooth & Shampoo. I put these on my reserve list from a search for essential oils crafts. There are not that many recipes with essential oils in them. Non-fiction Teen How-To Book: 1/5/23
- A New Handwriting for Teachers by M.M. Bridges. ★ ★ ★ ★ Public Domain (free) book from 1923 used in the Charlotte Mason Schools. Instructions for a calligraphy font. This would have been just a normal handwriting font, but today we would need the special calligraphy pens that were common then. It is pretty handwriting and looks easy enough to learn. Non-Fiction How-To: 3/20/23
- Poems by a Little Girl by Hilda Conkling. ★★★ I’m sorry. I tried to like this. But I had to force myself to read it. She was a child poet featured in my ebook The Poetry Hater’s Guide to Loving Poetry which I wrote to add poetry to my day since it really is vital to an education. I really was very excited to get her book of poetry after I read about her background. Unfortunately, I resonated most with her poem called Poems which had a line in it about not understanding poems. I will keep trying to use my own advice about reading poems. Non-fiction Poetry: 3/2/23
- Prepper’s Natural Medicine by Cat Ellis. ★★★★★ This is a great resource for learning medicinal herbs! Rosemary Gladstar’s iconic book Medicinal Herbs is, of course, the one book you should have on your shelf if you like this field, but Ellis’s guide is really good. Despite its lack of photos, the content is broad and straightforward. I’m not sure if it’s good for the beginner since I own & use Gladstar’s book, but I found it a great resource. It also covers essential oils to an extent, which is how I found it. Non-fiction Reference: 3/30/23
- The School Revolution by Ron Paul. ★★★★★ Great read on the need for school reform. He proposes that the free market of homeschoolers using technology with many different options will ultimately cause the public state-funded schooling to become obsolete, similar to the post office in the wake of competition from FedEx. The book was written in 2013, just as he was developing the Ron Paul Curriculum. I wish I read the book before my sons used some of the RPC for high school! Non-fiction: 3/2/23
- Seed Saving: A Beginner’s Guide to Heirloom Gardening by Caleb Warnock. ★★★★★ Reread. I got so much more from this on a second reading. I was looking for specifics for seed saving for this current season. Here are the easiest seeds according to Warnock: Peas, lettuce, peppers, and sometimes tomatoes and beans. Don’t even think about carrot or corn seeds unless you are a professional! A superb resource for your gardening shelf. Non-fiction How-To: 3/13/23
- Shallow Pit Garden Composting: The Easy, No-Smell, No-Turning Way to Create Organic Compost For Your Garden by Caleb Warnock. ★★★★★ Reread. Useful, practical advice just before spring. I’m going to try this method of composting. Warnock is also from a very dry climate, so it seems like it could help me in my semi-arid climate to keep the compost moist. Non-fiction How-To: 3/16/23
- Simple Qigong Exercises for Health by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. ★★★★ Explains the 8 pieces of brocade both sitting and standing with pictures and descriptions of the poems. I wanted to read this before testing the movements with the companion video. Non-Fiction How-To: 1/8/23
- Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior In Company And Conversation. ★★★★★ This is an arrangement of 110 sayings that young George Washington copied when he was 14 or 15 years old. The sayings are all about manners. It’s fun because I recognize weaknesses in my kids’ manners as well as my own. A great resource for copywork. Also has a fantastic vocabulary of plenty of words no longer in common usage. Best quote: “Being set at meat, Scratch not, neither Spit, Cough, or blow your Nose except there’s a Necessity for it.” or “Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; For ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.” Non-fiction Historical Book of Quotations: 1/3/23
- Why the Universe is the Way it Is by Hugh Ross. ★★★★★ This was one of my hubby’s books he had on his desk when I needed a book to read and was too lazy to get up to get my own book. I enjoyed it! I thought I would just skim it a bit for the 20 minutes I had to kill, but I finished it because it was really interesting. It’s by an astronomer and can get a little geeky. He makes the hard astronomy part easy to understand for the layperson. Non-Fiction: 3/31/23
- Wild Beauty by Jane Blankenship. ★★★ Sorry for the harsh criticism, but I was disappointed in this book. It gets great reviews and has gorgeous pictures, but it just didn’t resonate with me. I wanted labels on the pictures if they corresponded to a recipe. Or maybe I’m simply not looking for recipes like “Mermaid Hair Mask.” It’s probably just me. Non-Fiction How-To: 1/10/23
- The Wisdom of our Hands: Crafting a Life by Doug Stowe. ★★★★★ Superb guide that talks about the importance of handcraft, in particular woodworking. Stowe is really talking about using woodworking to craft a better life and a better world. Great quote: “Deep engagement with the hands as they are crafting has an effect on your sense of well-being that should not be ignored.” Non-Fiction Education: 1/2/23 –started in December!
- Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening: How to Grow Nutrient-Dense, Soil-Sprouted Greens in Less Than 10 days by Peter Burke. ★★★★★ Superb guide on how to get your indoor system going so that you can grow a salad every day of the year. Extremely practical, great photographs, and clear instruction. I’m going to have to modify my setup based on some of his practices. And I’m going to update my microgreens article once I make the improvements. Highly recommended. Non-fiction How-To: 2/20/23