Family Reading Crate Subscription Review – December 2018
Family Reading Crate is a book box designed with the whole family in mind. Each month you will get about 4 books based on a common theme and one of these will be hand-picked just for the adult in the family. You will also receive a booklet with discussion questions and a few items that tie into the books including collectible bookmarks.
This is offered through Build Your Library a secular literature-based homeschool curriculum website.
This box was sent to us at no cost for review purposes. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
About Family Reading Crate
The Subscription Box: Family Reading Crate
The Cost: $26.99 + $8.00 shipping
The Products: A selection of 4 books (one of which is for an adult), discussion booklet and a few other items related to the box theme
Ships to: US
Family Reading Crate December 2018 Review
We received a holiday card this month from the box curator, Emily, which I felt was a nice, personal touch!
The included booklet introduces the theme, which is Happy Holidays this month, and also gives a brief description of who each book is meant for in the family. They include a link to their website which provides activities and printables as well as suggestions for books and movies all related to the month’s theme. These are great extension ideas to use with the whole family.
Also included are discussion questions for each of the kids’ books. These range from direct questions about the content to making inferences to personal opinions about the story. These are perfect for family discussion or even as writing prompts as part of a homeschool curriculum.
Instead of discussion questions for the adult book, there is a book review by the curator of the box.
We received these 3 collectible bookmarks in our box.
Each month you get a little toy or something to go along with the theme and this month we received these two mini plush snowmen. They are little and cute and the kids already love playing with them!
This was the book for the younger readers in the family and I love how it provides an opportunity to talk about history and what it might have been like for a child living in Nazi Europe. While this book does not go into any sort of detail about this, it begins with Oskar being sent on a ship to America to live with his Aunt whom he’s never met in order to escape the awful reality of life in his home country. All he has is a photograph, an address and a reminder from his parents to look for the blessings. He navigates his way through New York City and meets many people along the way who extend kindness to him; from the woman who gives him a loaf of bread when she sees that he is hungry, to the boy who gives him the mittens from his own hands to keep him warm. Although Oskar is tired, hungry and cold, he is able to find blessings everywhere. This is such a great lesson for younger kids to teach them to appreciate what they have and even give them a lesson in empathy. If your child is older, it’s also a great way to discuss the historical events that led to Oskar being shipped to America. While it takes place on Christmas Eve and has a slight mention of Hannukah, I didn’t find this to be a religious story, but one that any family might appreciate and enjoy for its display of human kindness!
This book is meant to be the family book. Read aloud, it was a fun, magical tale about a boy named Nikolas, whose family calls him Christmas. He lost his mother some time ago and lives very poorly with his father, a woodcutter. Soon his father gets an offer to go in search of Elfheim, which no one is really sure even exists. His father leaves him in the care of his cruel Aunt and when it has been long enough and his father hasn’t returned, he decides to head North after him. Along the way he befriends a reindeer, whom he names Blitzen, that helps him find his way and just when they are about to give up, he reaches Elfheim and is taken, prisoner. While the Elves used to welcome humans, Nikolas soon learns that his own father and the men he was with kidnapped one of the elves to prove their existence to the King leading them to distrust humans. The rest of the novel tells of his escape and the sacrifice his father makes for him that leads him to live the rest of his life with the elves and eventually to him becoming the familiar Father Christmas that everyone knows and loves.
The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith – Retail Value $8.99
This book is meant for the older child or teen in the family. From Amazon: “Based on the original inspiration for the Nutcracker ballet, Sherri L. Smith brings the Nutcracker Prince to life in this fascinating journey into a world of toymaking, magical curses, clockmaking guilds, talking mice and erudite squirrels.”
The Nutcracker and the holidays go hand in hand so I can see why this book was chosen for this box! It was a bit slow at the beginning and hard for me to get into, but once the adventure began, it really picked up. The story opens as Stefan is observing the burial of his mother. He is the son of a toymaker and has been training as his father’s apprentice, although they seem to have a difference in opinion when it comes to what constitutes a toy. Stefan is very intrigued by toys that wind and move while his father prefers the more traditional, simple wooden toys that don’t move at all. So when his cousin, Christian, a clockmaker, comes to town it makes sense that he would travel and pursue an apprenticeship with him. Only there is more to Christian’s story as they learn that he is on a mission to save the Princess of Boldavia and is being spied on by mice who are in service of the Mouse Queen, who wishes to take over Boldavia. Things get more personal when Stefan’s own father goes missing and they now have to save him, too.
This book is for the adult in the family and I thoroughly enjoyed it! This is such a great idea for a story, it was almost as if it were a behind the scenes look at the life of Charles Dickens, although mostly fictional. Everyone knows the classic story, A Christmas Carol, and this novel finds us exploring Dickens’ life prior to writing this famous work and gives a rich backstory about the inspiration behind it. In the novel, Dickens is a family man whose wife has just given birth to their sixth child and his family is eagerly awaiting Christmas and all of the usual celebrations it brings. Unfortunately, his latest writings were not favored and his publishers want him to write a Christmas story in time for Christmas. With his finances dwindling and the pressure of writing a novel mounting, he finds himself becoming stressed and short with his family, but soon he finds inspiration in an unlikely muse. I loved the subtle way this book incorporated ideas from A Christmas Carol into Dickens life in the book; for example, we meet a Jacob Marl, a Cratchit, a Fezziweg and even hear the name Ebenezer, as if to demonstrate how Dickens drew inspiration from his everyday life. Although I am not sure how much of this is actually biographical, it was still very enjoyable and made me feel like I knew Dickens himself, albeit a fictionalized account of him. This is the perfect read for getting cozy by the fire and sipping on some hot cocoa!
Verdict: I enjoyed the holiday twist on this month’s Family Reading Crate. Although this is a secular subscription, there were certainly a lot of mentions of Christmas in this month’s selections, yet there were no major religious undertones to any of the works, so I think that anyone would be able to find enjoyment in these works. My favorite was definitely the adult pick for this month, but all of the stories were great for their intended audience. I do find myself wishing that maybe there was one book that highlighted a holiday other than Christmas, just to balance it out a bit, but that’s just if I’m being really picky! I’m always amazed at what a great value we receive in this box and this month is no exception considering we received a total value of $69.96 and the box only costs $34.99 ($26.99 + $8.00 shipping).
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Yes! As of publication, this box is still available to purchase!
Value Breakdown: At $34.99 (price + shipping) for this box, here’s what you are paying approximately per item:
- Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon: $9.13
- A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig: $8.62
- The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri L. Smith: $4.56
- Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva: $12.68
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!
What do you think of this month’s Family Reading Crate?