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Family Reading Crate Subscription Review – March 2019

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 March 2019 Review

The included booklet introduces the theme, which is “Axis & Allies: WWII in Literature” this month:

“When the whole world goes to war, there are numerous stories to be told, from children caught in the crossfire to unlikely heroes and brave stories of resistance. It was a time where we saw the very best and the very worst of humanity.”

The booklet gives a brief description of each book and tells which member of the family it is appropriate for. 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 4 collectible bookmarks in our box. These are perfect for our theme and the book selections this month!

Each month you get a little toy or something to go along with the theme and this month we received two little whale toys that squirt water. 

Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco – Retail Value $18.99 (found here for $17.09)

This was the book for the younger readers in the family and it is based on on the true story of a WWII veteran which was told personally to Polacco. She even tells his story as though it is him speaking and recounting it to her, which I thought really added to the authenticity of it. As with all of her books, she tells this touching story through beautiful illustrations and manages to convey a heavier topic at a level that is appropriate for younger audiences. This story is about ‘Tucky Jo’, the youngest kid to enlist in the army at age 15 who befriends a local girl while he is posted in the Philippines with his division. He displays incredible kindness towards her and the people of her village, caring for them and even saving them in the end. Years later his kindness comes back around when she comes back into his life at a time when he needs some saving of his own. This story definitely had me a little teary-eyed at the end and I love that Polacco also included some information about this incredible man and all of the awards he received in real life.

A Whale in Paris by Daniel Presley and Claire Polders – Retail Value $17.99 (found here for $12.59)

This book is meant to be the family read aloud and I love the cover art! It looks like this book inspired one of our collectible bookmarks too. This story addresses some heavier topics such as the death of a parent and an allusion to alcoholism, but they are spoken about with subtlety. This was a very quick and easy read for me that told the story of a young girl, Chantal, who lives in Paris with her father during Germany’s occupation of the city. She is still saddened by the somewhat recent loss of her mother (due to a drowning accident – separate from the war) and while their life seems grim with the German soldiers around and poor food rations, it is told with a sense of optimism that makes it appropriate for a family read aloud. While waiting for aid from their American allies, Chantal makes a magical discovery at the Seine river. She befriends a whale who has made its way from the English Channel, bringing hope and love with him. In the end, this incredible creature helps Chantal and her family leading them to form a lasting friendship. I really enjoyed this and think this would be a great way to bring up how awful life might have been at this time from the perspective of someone who is younger. It would be great for a lesson in empathy! 

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero – Retail Value $16.99 (found here for $11.89) 

This book is meant for the older child or teen in the family and this one has a beautiful cover as well! Right from the start, the way that I would have described this book is hauntingly beautiful. I always wait until after I’ve read the books to read the curator’s description because I like to form my own opinions first, but it seems that she had the same idea as she referred to it as “powerful, haunting and beautiful.” This story begins with Karolina, a doll who is happily living in the Land of Dolls. She is aware that there is danger out there, but she hasn’t had any real firsthand experience until one day she wakes up in the human world in the shop of a dollmaker in Krakow, Poland. The dollmaker is a kind and lonely man who keeps to himself, but with Karolina’s help, he realizes that he possesses the magic that can help those suffering around them as the Nazis make their way into Poland. This book is such a great mix of history and imagination and I think it is a fantastic book to open up a dialogue about WWII. 

The Good at Heart by Ursula Werner – Retail Value $26 (found here for $4.10 + shipping)

This book is for the adult in the family and it was a little harder for me to get into, I think because it is an adult view of WWII, which is not quite as innocent and much more bleak. The story behind it is pretty interesting in that the author wrote this based on what she discovered about her own great-grandfather. It involves a family who is on the side of the Nazis, which makes it a unique read in itself since that is not usually the preferred viewpoint! I’m not too far into this one yet, but it sounds like it will be a suspenseful read based on the premise. 

From Amazon:

When World War II breaks out, Edith and Oskar Eberhardt move their family—their daughter, Marina; son-in-law, Franz; and their granddaughters—out of Berlin and into a small house in the quiet town of Blumental, near Switzerland. A member of Hitler’s cabinet, Oskar is gone most of the time, and Franz begins fighting in the war, so the women of the house are left to their quiet lives in the picturesque village.

But life in Blumental isn’t as idyllic as it appears. An egotistical Nazi captain terrorizes the citizens he’s assigned to protect. Neighbors spy on each other. Some mysteriously disappear. Marina has a lover who also has close ties to her family and the government. Thinking none of them share her hatred of the Reich, she joins a Protestant priest smuggling Jewish refugees over the nearby Swiss border. The latest “package” is two Polish girls who’ve lost the rest of their family, and against her better judgment, Marina finds she must hide them in the Eberhardt’s cellar. Everything is set to go smoothly until Oskar comes home with the news that the Führer will be visiting the area for a concert, and he will be making a house call on the Eberhardts.

Based on the author’s discoveries about her great-grandfather, this extraordinary debut, full of love, tragedy, and suspense, is a sensitive portrait of a family torn between doing their duty for their country and doing what’s right for their country, and especially for those they love.

Verdict: This was another great month of reading materials from Family Reading Crate! I love how the curator finds a way to make topics that might not appeal to everyone seem interesting through her book choices. While these all had a central theme of World War II, they each approached the subject from such a different point of view so that everyone in the family may be able to identify with the various characters on a more personal level. This would be such a great box for teaching about WWII and what it might have been like to be alive at that time.  Once again, the total value of our books far exceeds the $34.99 ($26.99 + $8.00 shipping) cost of the box at $79.97, which doesn’t even take into account all of the extras like the toy, bookmarks, or great discussion questions. 

To Wrap Up:

Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Yes, as of publication this box is still available.

Value Breakdown: At $34.99 (price + shipping) for this box, here’s what you are paying approximately per item:

  • Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco: $8.31
  • A Whale in Paris by Daniel Presley and Claire Polders: $7.87
  • The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M.Romero: $7.43
  • The Good at Heart by Ursula Werner: $11.38

Check out all of our Family Reading Crates reviews and Book Subscription Box reviews for more kid’s book options!

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Written by Brandi Dowell

Brandi Dowell

Brandi has loved the idea of subscription boxes since joining Birchbox in 2013. Now that she’s a mother of 3, she loves finding unique boxes to educate and entertain her kids while enjoying some more pampering boxes for herself. Her favorites these days are Lillypost, KiwiCo boxes & Wicked Good Perfume!

Posted in Family Reading Crate Reviews, Subscription Box Reviews, Subscription Boxes for Kids| Tags: family reading crate | 1 comment

Comment (1)

  1. I think this box is such a great concept. 🙂

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