New year, 12 new reads: Standing between our children and the powers of darkness

Not to spoil everything, but the last line of A Swiftly Tilting Planet (that I  finished this week) says, “In this fateful hour, it was herself she placed between us and the powers of darkness” (Madeleine L’Engle).

I think that in this particular “hour” in the history of the world, our older children have more choices available to them for leisure time use than any previous era. And there is so much competing for that time!

Much of that time is spent digitally. Each l of our children still at home–12, 14, 16, and 18 years old–have digital devices available at their fingertips, supposedly when all their other jobs are done. (Some of the children have restrictions on their devices, while others don’t.) This places a big burden of resonsibility for wise time and resource use on their shoulders!  We have tried to teach them to self-monitor their mental intake and to listen to the Holy Ghost to guide those choices.

Cracking open a book

But just like us adults, they don’t always know what they are getting into once they crack open or download a book. Doesn’t it help to have recommendations from people we trust? And while a teen may not always want MOM to recommend a good book, they sometimes will (I think I have a semidecent track record with my children…right guys? Becca? Liza? Pete? Anna? Anyone?)

I try to find and read books that I could recommend to my own children, in a search for the very best to feed their minds and souls. By doing this, we as mothers have the opportunity to “place [ourselves] between [our children] and the powers of darkness.”  This doesn’t mean that the books we recommend are perfect, but that we believe there is so much good in them that they uplift the heart, inspire the mind, and leave no damage behind.

2018’s reading challenge

I’m ready for a new challenge to add to my reading for 2018: Find and read 12 great books to recommend to 12-18 year olds.

I’ll start that list off right now, having finished two books this week (and just started a third yesterday. It’s been a good book week!). I won’t include a summary of the book. If you want to know more about a book, click on the link.

  1. A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quintet series includes A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters–which I am beginning to listen to this month, now that I’ve finished the third book, and An Acceptable Time.) I really loved A Wrinkle in Time! L’Engle reminds me of C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her writings are not simply a story, but a story woven into a bigger picture story, which symbolic underpinnings. 
  2. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. I really loved this story about a 12 year old girl trying to find her place in the world after major loss. Reminded me of Patricia Reilly Giff and Kate DiCamillo in terms of beautifully compassionate stories. I wouldn’t hand this book to a child younger than 12, personally.
  3. Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace by Bana Alabed. Bana is a survivor of the war in Aleppo, Syria, her hometown. She was 8 years old at the time of the printing of her story (2017) and her mother helped her share her cry for help via Twitter when they were in the midst of the war. She helped rally international awareness and help through her #standwithaleppo tweets. But this story is far more than publicity for social media; it is the voice of a child telling about war and the impact it has on family, childhood, community. I want my children all to read it because we live in such peaceful circumstances that it is easy to forget that people all around the world are suffering. It is a wake-up call. What can we do to help? At a minimum, we can pray for the children of the world who are in Bana’s circumstances. Prayer is powerful. Bana’s prayers for help were answered. We can unite our prayers to not only ask for divine intervention and protection for children but also to know what to do to help them–and particularly to help those refugees who escape war and arrive in our communities.
  4. Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden. If you want a good, clean romance that isn’t too gushy (what I like!), I recommend this. I liked it better than some of Eden’s other books because it had a more believable story line, character development, and not too much gush, sap, or utter predictability. (OK: it wasn’t as if you couldn’t guess the ending, but I enjoyed the plot twists that took place that kept me reading.)
  5. Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter. Freckles is an old classic (don’t skip ahead to the next title just because it’s a classic!) that is a classic for a good reason: it has lots of adventure, romance, and character to catch your heart in its grasp. Here’s the story: a one-armed, orphaned, doesn’t-know-his-real-name young man arrives at a lumber camp looking for work. The boss takes a chance on him. He guards the swamp where valuable lumber is growing, and while doing so, becomes educated on the natural life teeming there. Not too long into the story a famous photographer arrives (aka The Bird Woman) and her interested side-kick, who “Freckles” (the name this orphan boy acquires) falls head over heels for and names the “Swamp Angel” (Angel for short). Their relationship development, and the dangerous events that follow as Freckles guards the swamp, and how he discovers his true identity, is the wonderful and endearing story told in this book that you won’t want to miss!
  6.  And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran. A boy who becomes blind from an accident at school grows in light and love for those around him. He becomes nearly fearless and doesn’t feel hindered by his disability. As a late teen, he becomes a leader in French Resistance in Paris.  
  7. The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, illustraed by Rachel Riordan.  So this isn’t a novel, but it an important book if you’re a teenager and haven’t spent a lot of time outside doing some pretty cool things. I feel like I got to do some fabulous stuff growing up, but I could have done more. I’m learning to love nature even more as an adult, and I think you haven’t really lived if you don’t #getout and experience and enjoy nature a little bit every season of the year! This book has ideas for every season that are not little children. This is a book that would be a great source for date ideas! Or for someone who really wants to experience life, like harvesting honey or making refrigerated pickles or doing yoga outdoors or catching moths. There is so much more to do than be on your phone or watching movies! Grab this book or visit the author’s website for more ideas!
  8. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. (I sure do have a lot of romance novels in this list! My apologies to those teens who don’t enjoy romance novels! I’ll try to get a little more balance in my literary genres….) This classic from my youth tells the story of a 17-year old girl, Jerusha Abbott, who has the chance to go to college thanks to a generous patron of the orphanage where she grew up. This patron doesn’t want thanks, but he does want letters from her monthly to report on her progress, since he hopes she will become a writer and wants to encourage her correspondance. Her letters are frank, refreshing and funny. I won’t tell anymore because I don’t want to ruin the plot. This book has been turned into a musical that I and my daughters love!
  9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is truly a pièce de résistance of its time and forever! I have read Little Women three times and listened to it five or six times through. (It’s my default book on my Audible app when I’m trying to go back to sleep at 3 am.) There is more humor and wisdom and beautiful plot and writing in this book than in most books ever written, in my humble opinion! When I was preparing a lesson on preparing for marriage for the young women in my area, I was surprised to recognize what great principles were in this book: no matter how much Laurie (the male protagonist) wants to marry Jo (the female protagonist), she stays true to herself and does not give in! She insists on listening to that feeling within that things would not work out for the best between them. It’s a great lesson. Young women need to remember their divine nature and stand up for themselves and never lower their standards simply to get married! Nor should they marry someone just because that person is “madly” in love with them! Jo stands strong, and everything works out in the end for both of them. This is also my sister Becca’s favorite book and well-loved by all of our daughters. AND it is a favorite musical of ours as well!
  10. Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson. Imagine being accused of a crime you didn’t commit and then being sent to death row to DIE for that crime! (That sounds like the Savior’s story!) There are people who have been saved from such a sentence by a lawyer named Bryan Stevenson, and this book tells that story, as well as others that will really make you think about justice and mercy and our legal system in the United States. This is an important book, I think, for teens to get to read. I particularly was impressed with the compassion that Mr. Stevenson shows towards all people.
  11. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This is written for a younger audience, so children age 10 and up could certainly read it, but it contains some pretty challenging content, including child abuse, war, foster care, and death. The author handles this content beautifully, and the example of the woman who fosters two London evacuees models for us how we can respond to emotional distress with love, patience, and kindness. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history, war stories, families, or inspiration. Historical fiction.
  12.  A Joyful Mother of Children: Help Despite the Hassels for Mothers of Young Children by Linda J. Eyre. I didn’t re-read this book this year, but I posted it here because I didn’t want to post other books that I had read because I didn’t feel I could recommend them whole-heartedly. I posted this book because I read it as a young teen, and it was literally life-changing for me. I think that when you are a teenager, if you have an interest, find a good non-fiction book or two (or 3 or4) about someone who pursued that interest. Then you can get a feel for what pursuing that interest might mean for you. I had always wanted to be a mother of a large family, and this book really inspired me! (Note: This cover is what it looked like back when I read it; google the title for an updated cover/title. You can also read it for free on

To see other titles I recommend for teens, go here.

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