10 Summer Reads to Spur Your Kids to Courage and Compassion

by Christina Hubbard. One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is combing the library shelves for great summer reads. Not for me. For my kids. I love matching their interests with books which will challenge and expand their understanding of the world. If you’ve spent any time on my blog, then you know courage and compassion are core values in my family. I want my kids to be confident, empathetic, and brave.

Sadly, one of my kids has decided reading is not his/her thing anymore. I’m out to prove that wonderful kid wrong! Here are a few things that help us with our summer reading, including a list of what we’re reading.

It’s not quite bribery…

It can be hard to motivate our kids to read when they’d rather be playing XBox or living at the pool. In our house, we dangle carrots. When a kid completes a set amount of books on the list (they get to choose the ones they find most interesting, they earn a reward. For my 13-year old daughter, this year will probably be a gel manicure. For my 9-year old son, the incentive will be a sleepover or a cool outing. Consider what would motivate your child to stick with it.

Real books, audio books, and snuggle time all help

Did you know? Most kids prefer physical books. I don’t know where I read that recently, but I think it’s pretty true. There’s something about touching those pages which helps the brain to connect the tangible with memory retention.

No matter what anyone has told you, audiobooks count as real books. My kids listen to them for hours on end. It builds auditory skills and allows the brain to really engage with the text in a way that reading from the page cannot.

Snuggle time and reading aloud promotes authentic connection. Not only can you practice your silly voices and accents, you can even encourage your child to read to you. You also get to love on that rambunctious kid and tighten that parent/kid bond while you’re at it.

What I do

I don’t read every book on the lists I create. It’s impossible for me to keep up with my kids’ voracious reading (at least one of them), BUT I do research each book. I look for compelling characters, descriptive writing with fabulous vocabulary, and solid recommendations. Great sources for amazing reads have been Sarah McKenzie at the Read Aloud Revival, Tsh Oxenreider’s lists on the Art of Simple (search for summer reading guide: there’s several), and Amy Sullivan’s Gutsy Girls Facebook group.

Here are ten reads I’ve pulled from my kids’ lists to encourage kindness and boldness.

Most of these books will get a thumbs up from either gender. Keep in mind, these recommendations are for a tween and a high-level reading upper elementary kid. I hope one of them finds their way into one of your kids’ hands or your own! (Also, if you have an adblocker turned on, you will not see the images.)

    1. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga) Description: Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
    2.  The Apothecary (The Apothecary Series) Description: It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows – a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies – Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.
    3. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (P.S.) Description: William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams.
    4. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young GirlDescription: Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
    5. The Green Ember (The Green Ember Series: Book 1)Description: Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.
    6. Watership Down: A Novel Description: A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for more than forty years, Richard Adams’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
    7. The Bronze Bow Description: The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forcing the Romans from his land of Israel. A fast-paced, suspenseful, vividly wrought tale of friendship, loyalty, the idea of home, community…A powerful, relevant read in turbulent times.
    8. The Trumpet of the Swan Description: The delightful classic by E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, about overcoming obstacles and the joy of music.
    9. Emily of New Moon Description: This early work by Lucy Maud Montgomery was originally published in 1923 and we are now republishing it with a brand new introductory biography. ‘Emily of New Moon’ is the first tale in the ‘Emily Starr’ series, and tells the story of an orphaned girl using her wit and courage to face the harsh world.
    10. Edge of Extinction 1: The Ark Plan The Edge of Extinction Description: Five years ago, Sky Mundy’s father vanished from North Compound without a trace. Now she has just stumbled on a clue that not only suggests his disappearance is just the tip of an even larger mystery, but also points directly to the surface. To find her dad—and possibly even save the world—Sky and her best friend, Shawn, must break out of their underground home and venture topside to a land reclaimed by nature and ruled by dinosaurs.

(Book descriptions are copied from Amazon. Also good to know: links above contain Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a book through one of them, I get a small percentage, which goes to keeping the lights on the blog.)

Happy reading!

The Break (Life-Saving Pause)


by Christina Hubbard. It doesn’t take much

to slip, when

we think

we’re strong. When we’re doing

what we love, going for

dreams, making

waves in the world.

But maybe doing

Needs to stop,



Who gave 

Feet their strength to run.

Hands, their grip to write.

Throat, its voice to praise,

Head, its thoughts to lead.

Body, its grace to stay


Restored in the break.

(Life-saving pause.)

This post is part of Five Minute Friday. Our one-word prompt was PAUSE.

How Survival Mode Enables You to Harness the Storm’s Strength


by Christina Hubbard. Storms heal. Last week, a perfect downpour swept through my neighborhood. It bent the top branches of the oak tree. New leaves rustled an intoxicating whisper against a slate sky. In the backyard tree, a lone bird chirped a song, seeming to beckon and harmonize with the darkening landscape. I was in a somber, restless mood myself and in need of a real rest, for many, many reasons.

I went up to the second-floor library away from the family. I opened the window and sat on the carpet where I could see, hear, and smell the storm. The chaos inside me was due in part to this process of recovery. Just that day the orthopedist had told me I needed physical therapy to speed the healing of my broken ankle. I had already been putting in an hour of exercises each day and three hours at the pool per week. I was tired of the tight tendons in my foot, shuffling from here to there, and the perpetual looks of pity. I was weary of trying to stay strong and be positive. I was exhausted from steering every conversation away from my broken state. My deepest desire that night was to brood like a thundercloud.

The Accident

Storms descend on us with force, sometimes rather suddenly. Angels bowl, as my mother used to say, with thunder and lightning. They downpour a darkness, both refreshing and ominous.

My injury happened unexpectedly. I fell off a step on the morning of my sister’s baby shower. Really though, it was the tipping point after months of previous trauma. On an October morning, my daughter was riding her bike to school. A car turned left, didn’t see her, and struck her. She fell to the pavement, staggered a few steps, and then collapsed a few feet away.

She had left the house in the dark before I even woke. My husband was in Romania for work. It was shortly before 7 a.m. when my phone lit up with a call from an unknown number: “Your daughter has been hit by a car. She’s okay.”

What does one do in such a crisis? I went on autopilot. I fumbled for pajama pants and my glasses. I woke my eight-year-old son with a shake and said, “I have to leave. Abi has been hit by a car. Get ready for school. I’ll be back soon.” He opened his eyes. I hoped he heard me, and I hoped he didn’t.

I got in the van. As I turned right around the block, I heard sirens. They were for her. That was the beginning of the season of survival.

Someone asked me last night at a party, “How have you been?” It all spilled out: seven months of survival. Recovery has been an elusive idea, just out of reach. “I had no idea,” the asker replied. My daughter’s accident, three months of the family being sick, then my ankle break, and two days later, surgery to repair nerve damage from Abi’s incident. In other words, we’ve been swaying in an endless storm.

Wanting to Forget

Life has bent us sideways, testing our rootedness, bashing us with force and elements. So many times I have wanted simply to duck into the basement—as we do in our Midwest tornadoes—and forget these past few months ever happened. I have wanted to forget the way I saw my girl helpless on the pavement surrounded by EMTs and police. How the officer asked if she halted her bike at the corner before crossing the intersection. How she lowered her eyes as she lay on the gurney and said, “I should have stopped.”

I wanted to erase from my memory how that officer lifted her bent up bike and asked for my keys so he could place it in the trunk of my van. How we couldn’t figure how to get the seatbelt across her aching shoulder so I could get her safely home. I yearned to forget how I went into task mode as I drove her to the house, left her in the car, and fetched my son, miraculously calm, eating cereal at the table, and dressed for school. I wanted to forget how he asked her if she was okay and all she could do was moan. How I dropped him at my friend’s house, and how she told me she prayed with him after I left.

I wanted to forget how her school principal called me on the way to the hospital, and I don’t even know why I answered. How I hung up and called my husband, choked back my croaking voice, and said with a tremble, “Abi’s been hit.” The trees seemed to glow their greenness against the morning sky so blue as we drove like it is after a storm.

I would like to erase from my memory how I didn’t realize how hard I wanted to weep as I sat across the room and watched the ER doctor examine her in that big white railed bed. How I wanted my parents to hold me, but they couldn’t because they were hundreds of miles away and probably too afraid to call me back after my text. Yes, I wanted to forget it all.

Stuck and Struck

Survival bends you backward like a storm you never saw coming. When no one is there to hold your hand, and you don’t know what to do because you’ve never been here before. In my case, I didn’t know whom to call or how. I wanted to phone the pastor of the small church we had started attending, but I couldn’t even think of how to do it or what to say.

Survival is the state of being stuck in a moment. It’s the doctor saying, “You can go home,” but you barely believe him. It’s trusting your feet are going to get you to your car somehow. It’s saying yes to the first family member who offers to come and be with you, even though they’re thousands of miles away. It’s saying, “Oh, God,” in your head over and over.

Survival is being struck by life’s miraculousness and the fragility of breath. Its a heart beating alive so loudly within your own chest and being paralyzed at the same time. Survival is life breaking and marching forward before your eyes, and still, somehow, you keep going.

As I write this, my head throbs thinking of all of this again—how what we don’t want to happen often hits us with a gut-punch and leaves us reeling for days, weeks, and months. How even when we see the wonder standing mostly unscathed (she just had a few broken bones), we are still hit hard. In surreal moments later, we think we’re coming up, standing upright, stronger even. Then repercussions and winds knock us down: sickness, PTSD from cars coming at us, driving by the place we survived, and trying to hold ourselves together.

The Release

Thunderstorms can only hold their watery burdens so long. They loom and push us with gusts, but eventually, the skies must let their contents go. They must release the rain. In the library, as I watched the storm through the window and sniffed wetness through the screen, I surrendered a sense of holding on.

There is something cathartic about a storm, a supernatural strengthening. Roots push deeper into dirt as rain descends. Plants shoot up and out of the ground, seemingly overnight, while lightning startles the senses. We feel uprooted and sown in a single moment. The dust of our lives abruptly watered.

I will not forget this season of survival. As much as I want to, I cannot. If I cease to remember how I endured, how my family persevered and held on, despite nearly facing our worst fear, then I cease to heal. We are here to listen to the storm and to be in it, not run from it. The storm tests and tries us like nothing else. We must remember.

We must not forget what happened and what could have. Denial is no heart’s friend. We have been saved from so much, but not hardship.

To the ancient desert fathers and mothers, suffering was not a trial, but often, a desire. Later, Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century monk, encouraged his friends to suffer well and to embrace it wholeheartedly, “Love sweetens pain; and when one loves God, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage.” This bothers me and makes me incredibly curious. Dear Jesus, my faith has so far to go.  

So in our anxiety, doubt, discomfort, in our so-very-tired states of surviving with only enough hope and patience to cup in our hands and drink feebly, we hold on. Our lives do not end in our irritation, discomfort, or even our earth-shattering losses. If we live in God’s kingdom, death cannot hold us. This is a mentality which is missing from most of our lives. Today’s storms are training grounds for heaven. I may never know how, but gloriously, we are made more whole through periods of suffering.

Teach Us, Oh, Lord

When the heavens cease their emptying, everything looks verdant, almost neon, and smells of fresh, damp earth. Thunderstorms heighten the senses and swathe the world in an urgent realness.

That storm last week marked the end of my survival season and the beginning of recovery—from everything. From almost losing a child, trying to be her rock and help, from rotating shifts with my husband, and finally, becoming the cared for.

The rain soaked to the earth lightly that dusk while the bird sang her song sweet and shrill. I breathed deeply in and out, of dark, sodden soil, leafy growth, and recovered life. This is a time of coming to understand pains’ great change, the wear it bears down on body and soul. Suffering presses us to our limits and pushes us to the brink of our nothingness. This is the kind of healing that hurts. It stretches sinews and cynical thought processes we never knew we had. We sacrifice time and create a space to make way for the hope of recovery. Survival is both storm—destructive, dark, and beautiful—and it is miracle, alive, and so, so fragile.

Storms cleanse the land and us. They revive what is dry and dying within us. This summer we recover and find a resiliency which lives beyond and moves forward with such a power and grace—we must not only wonder at it, we become it. I will not forget.

These Vessels of Mercy Include All of Us (and a Retreat!)

by Christina Hubbard. Before you read today’s poem, I want to tell you about an upcoming women’s retreat coming later this summer. The Sacred Space Retreat for women will be happening in the Kansas City area in August. Intentional time to recover your life and get away with God. Doesn’t that sound amazing? To stay in the loop, go here. Now, for some poetry!

How quick I am to catch a snatch of anger,

Ragged rope.

I tie it to the creaking dock of social media

Where all grievances can be aired by anyone, anytime.

Free port. Tie yourself tight.

The storm cometh.

How heavy hearts are, wounded by centuries of injustice.

It makes me sick.

I want to jump ship and never ever

Let my shadow absorb what a screen tells me

Is reality.

Oh, people, hope in the Lord,

Not your feelings.

Not even your brother,

Your sister.

They will let you down.

We are all unsteady seafarers.

We must not hasten to conclusion

As waves break upon our bows.

Your hands, your heart, such a harbor

For so many souls

Like mine.

Let us lash ourselves together

For the ride.

Include what needs love,

All things,

All people.

Alien, different, disabled, mentally unsound.

Each of us, unstable,

Teetering on unworthy legs.

Throw me a line of hope.

Dear, vessel of mercy.

Insiders and Outsiders

24 These vessels of mercy include all of us. God has invited Jews and non-Jews, insiders and outsiders; it makes no difference. 25 The prophet Hosea says:

I will give a new name to those who are not My people; I’ll call them “My people,”
    and to the one who has not been loved, I’ll rename her “beloved.”[a]
26 And it shall turn out that in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,”
    they will be called “children of the living God.”[b]  Romans 9:24-26 The Voice (VOICE)

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a creative community of writers. This week our one-word prompt was INCLUDE. Note: I usually go over the five, and yes, I edit. It’s how I roll. 

How to Know What You Are Doing Matters

by Christina Hubbard. This doesn’t feel like I thought it would. In this territory of doing what makes me come alive, there are few assurances with just a sprinkling of hints that maybe, just maybe, I’m going in the right direction. I’m doing the things I believe I was made to do: write, speak, teach, and invite others into the journey. Regularly, I do things which scare me, but my voice hasn’t stopped shaking. At least, it doesn’t FEEL like it.

I told a friend recently, “I thought this would feel surer. I thought doing what I am called to do would give me a sense of purpose.” Maybe I expected self-doubt to disappear or my inner critic to hush up once and for all. But with each step into the unknown, I continually ask myself, “Should I be running in the other direction?”

Does doing what makes us come alive really change us?

Do we get more confident on this path of creative courage? Why don’t we experience the positive side effects right away? Things like boldness and just knowing. Things like speaking into empty spaces and seeing God at work. Evidence, people.

What we influencers want to know is this: am I making a difference? We want physical confirmation, outside ourselves and within. We want to both see and hear the stories of transformation and new connections. We want to experience bravery in our bones.

We expect results for our effort. Not necessarily numbers or success, but a core belief that what we are doing really does matter. We hope our faithfulness in the menial will fill us with significance. That we have endured and done well. Our work is worth a sense of self-worth, right?


God does not give us self-esteem. He does not even promise us tomorrow. He hands us right now. This moment. He gives us the work of today. More importantly, He offers us faith. I love to call it a belief beyond ourselves. In the present moment, we come honestly, imperfectly and ask Him to help us do the task at hand. Because we know we can’t. Not on our own. If we do believe that, then we’ve got some pride to work through. We depend on God, small choice by small choice. Tweet This

Call this abiding, showing up, or listening.

Sometimes we get a high five. Most days we do not. Chances are we’ll hear someone else being told “Awesome job!” We’ll overhear that friend we’ve poured our effort into saying thanks to another person who’s influenced them. Those are the moments we are really tempted to wonder: is what I’m doing important?

Let me tell you my truth (the one that hit me upside the head this morning): what you do is not the ticket. Who you are is. Remember: you are a daughter or a son of the King. You are beloved, not compared. You are known, not ignored. You are a new creation, not a recycled milk jug. You are filled. You are empowered. You are gifted.

You don’t have to feel it to know it.

You don’t have to see the person you are praying for to know that God is helping them when you ask. You don’t have to see a blessed miracle or know the next thing to do.

What we are doing is moving steadily in the right direction, inch by inch. There will be moments of great knowing. Of feeling the sinews of your muscles taught with God-breathed energy and life and you feel like you could explode with joy! There will be many, many of those. There will moments when your fingers fly across a keyboard or your voice says things you could never come up with on your own but you know it was God. It happens. There will also be moments, like mine today, when the rejection notices pile up and you run to a book, podcast, or a blog post, to escape the discomfort.

These are the intermittent moments, when birds chirp and traffic passes and you’re staring out the window, a little down, a tad faithless, a bit wound and frayed from all the wondering: know you matter. Know that by living into the identity of one who is loved, the doing happens, but it’s importance lessens.

You will care less about yourself and more about God. You will learn to hone a sense of the eternal, not the temporal. You will relish the internal tension which reminds you are human, God is God, and He knows what we need this very second.

Yes, my friend, you are changing. Even now. That influences a lot.

A Simple Prayer by Richard Foster

from Prayers from the Heart

I am, oh God, a jumbled mass of motives. One moment I’m adoring You and the next I’m shaking my fist at You. I vacillate between mounting hope and deepening despair. I am full of faith and full of doubt. I want the best for others and am jealous when they get it. Even so, God, I will not run from your presence nor will I pretend to be what I am not. Thank you for accepting me with all my contradictions. Amen.

Turn Your Art Inside Out: Make to Share

by Christina Hubbard. An artist naturally makes art for herself. She does her craft because it’s what she loves. But our art is not for ourselves. It is meant to be shared.

For Whom Do You Create?

This past weekend I encouraged a group of creatives to write down who they were created to be. My instructions were to finish a prompt like this:

  • I make…
  • I lead…
  • I help…
  • I recreate…
  • I change…

Then I said, “Don’t write down who you are.” (Roles, jobs, etc.) I wanted them to think about the gift they bring to the proverbial creative table. “Don’t overthink it. Write down the first thing that comes to mind.”

The exercise proved challenging for several reasons: 1. I didn’t explain it that well AND 2. we should have started with another person, not ourselves.

When we create, it’s often just us and our raw materials in a room shut out from the world. What if we started our art with another person in mind?

We are called to believe and serve beyond ourselves. Scott Cormode says it well,

“…But we do not exist for ourselves and neither can we work for ourselves. Instead, every Christian’s calling begins with listening to the longings and losses of the people entrusted to our care.

God calls us neither to a task nor to a job, and not even to exercise a gift. God calls us to a people. The entire point of doing the task or exercising the gift is to benefit others. For example, we create because God creates. Artists and entrepreneurs alike celebrate this point. But why did God create? God creates for the sake of his people.10 Artists who create just for the sake of creating miss the point. Art should be shared.”

Your Art Heals Someone

Think of the individual who needs the beauty you bring. Who is she? What does she look like? What are her struggles and stories? What is her deepest desire? How can you help?

When I consider these questions, I construct a bridge between my heart and another’s. My art extends beyond the bounds of my body. Tweet This

Pair what you do with whom you serve. Pay attention to the “longings and losses” of your people. Turn the “I” into “we.” Make to share.

Share a sentence about the person you serve in the comments below.

This post is inspired by Five Minute Friday. Our one word prompt was TURN. I always try to write it in five minutes or less, but I went over again. C’est la vie!

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