Bethlehem Books is having a Christmastime sale, and that makes me want to go shopping. Yes, I am a book geek (if that were not obvious yet), and books are almost always my favorite gifts to give and receive.
Bethlehem Books self-describes as a book publisher “dedicated to putting good literature into children's hands by re-printing quality books from the earlier part of the 20th century. We publish tried and true historical fiction, adventure tales, biographies, and family stories which help children and young adults expand their imagination and understand the past.”
Amen to all that! Virtually every single Behlehem book our family owns or anyone in our family has read from the library has been a “hit.” That’s an amazing track record for any publisher, so it should be obvious the people at Bethlehem Books have amazingly taste in good older books. One proviso is that the books are often best, at least to start, as a “read-aloud,” and then often various children (or adults) will abscond with the book to read ahead.
Bethlehem Books are often found in Catholic and Christian bookstores, as well as their website, and other online retailers. On a recent family trip to England, I even saw a few titles of Bethlehem books at the Daughters of St. Paul shop in London.
I’ve only just started my own wish list from Bethlehem Books. I wish I had a paper catalog to peruse, because unfortunately, the website is a little tricky to navigate. Meanwhile, here are some of our family favorites:
*The Bantry Bay series: This series about an Irish family and their adventures in 1930s Ireland is written by popular author Hilda von Stockum. The Cottage at Bantry Bay is first in the series, followed by Francie on the Run and Pegeen. I love all three, but my favorite would have to be Francie on the Run for his various adventures and mishaps trying to return home solo after a stay in a Dublin hospital to fix his "lame foot."
*The Mitchells series: We’ve only read the first in this other Hilda von Stockum series –The Mitchells: Five for Victory--about a Washington, D.C. family during WW II, so I guess I’d have to put Canadian Summer and Friendly Gables near the top of our wish list. The interplay of the siblings, their family, friends and neighbors is realistic and just plain fun.
*Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard. This is a great historical fiction account of how St. Augustine brought , told through the eyes of St. Augustine, two local (fictional) children, Fritha and Rolf. An exciting story with lots of historical detail. When another family tried to borrow it, we couldn’t find our copy, so I might have to order another one. It’s jus such a great book!
*Madeleine Takes Command by Ethel Brill tells the story of how 14-year-old Madeleine, her two younger brothers and a few others work to hold off an Indian attack on their French Canadian fort in the 1690s. Exciting and read numerous times by various members of our family.
*Alvin’s Secret Code by Clifford Hicks. This is probably the best of the Alvin mystery stories written by Hicks, though I see Bethlehem also publishes two other of the Alvin books (Alvin Fernald, Foreign Trader and Alvin Fernald, Mayor for a Day); both now on my wish list. Alvin’s Secret Code concerns a Civil War treasure and the mystery of its location, and Alvin of course solves it, at the same time learning about secret codes.
More than a year ago, we read Alvin’s Secret Code in the girls book group my daughters and I host, and I contacted Mr. Hicks to see if he would be a “virtual visitor” to our group via phone. He was so sweet in responding to me by letter to say his hearing was not very good, so a phone call was not a good idea, but he answered lots of questions and thanked us for our interest. He passed away just a few months ago, so I will especially treasure that letter and his friendship to our book group.
*Finally, I must share a great little biography of my favorite author, Jane Austen. Presenting Miss Jane Austen by May Lamberton Becker is a gentle introduction to the life and work of the great Jane.
I could go on and on, but this is a good start.
If you are familiar with the Bethlehem Books, take a moment to share one or two (or more!) of your favorites in the comments. If you’re not, do take some time to check out this great publisher.