Thursday, September 13, 2018

Grit and Luck: The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt

by William Nothdurft with Josh Smith

This book begins with a vivid description of destruction raining down on dinosaurs from above.
The second extinction of the dinosaurs from the Bahariya Oasis began shortly after midnight. It came from the sky. It began with a barely discernible disturbance in the air, a distant rumble that insinuated itself into the quiet of the night and quickly grew in intensity to a deafening roar. Then, suddenly, the sound became sight and the dark became light as the sky itself became fire. Moments later the roaring was punctuated by a stunning explosion that shattered the still night air. Then another. Then dozens more, until the earth shook and the ground split.
I anticipated my son being immediately transfixed. This book is recommended for Earth Studies in year 1 of Level 5 (ninth grade) in the beta Mater Amabilis™ high school plans, currently found only in the high school group on Facebook. I think it would also work in the second year of Level 5 which includes a study of Africa.

Early in the book, while talking about Dr. Stromer, the German in Egypt, the author describes a feeling that appears often in Charlotte Mason's geography book that we're also reading this year.
He was an unreconstructed colonialist snob. His journal makes it clear that he regarded the Egyptians he hired as inferior beings--ignorant, dirty, greedy, devious, even dangerous. The great irony, one that no doubt would have been lost on a Victorian-era aristocrat like Stromer, was that he depended upon these people utterly--to manage the camels, to guide him through the desert and keep him safe, to cook for him, and to carry burdens.
The book tells the story of one group of paleontologists who sought the original site of a German scientist's discoveries in Egypt before World War I. He was never able to return and, surprisingly given his success, no one else had either. It's a fascinating and fast-paced report of what life is actually like for graduate students and fellows planning an expedition and suffering through it's excitement and disappointments. Allison Tumarkin, a graduate student in the group, wrote in her journal:
Okay, now I know I'm really in the field. My clothes are covered in plaster, my hands are permanently Vinaced, my skin is cracking from plaster burn, my knees and shins are covered with bruises and every other word out of my mouth seems to be an expletive. We have so many inside jokes at this point it's like we've invented our own language. How could anyone ask for more?
There are a few descriptions of interactions with local Egyptians (in addition to the Egyptian scientists who participated in the expedition). Ken Lacovara, who could play the drums a little, talked about the differences between how American play drums and how Egyptians play drums. One evening, he had the opportunity to join in a community event.
For Americans, music--especially jazz--is a form of self-expression. For Egyptians, though, playing in a large group, it's more an expression of solidarity and camaraderie. But it was great fun anyway; I couldn't hold a conversation with these guys, but at least we could speak in music.
There are a few moments in the book that convey the thrill and amazement of field studies. Ken Lacovara talked about a rock he found with a colleague, Jen Smith:
When Jen and I looked at that rock, we were looking literally at a ten-second snapshot of part of the history of the world, a moment almost a hundred million years ago--one frame of the movie--preserved for all time. 
This is a marvelous book of popular science for high schoolers, especially those interested in paleontology. It combines bits and pieces of paleontology (of course), geology, geography, culture, history, scientific methodology, and the culture of science. First Son is only a few weeks in, but he's enjoying it tremendously.

I purchased this book used and have received nothing for this honest review. The links above are affiliate links to Amazon.

Monday, September 10, 2018

July and August 2018 Book Reports

The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Robert Cardinal Sarah with Nicolas Diat - link to my post. (library copy)

In the Steps of the Master by H. V. Morton - link to my post. (purchased used)

Calde of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe - I'm reading this series again and enjoying it more the second time around I think. Sometime in the past few years, the library copy of the last book was damaged or lost so here's hoping they buy another one for me. (library copy)

Echoes by John Ciardi - I picked this book out of the library catalog when I was searching for poetry books for the children. (How to Tell the Top of the Hill is delightful.) This book is beautifully printed on lovely paper. Many of the poems seemed melancholy or dispirited to me, but a few near the end of the book appealed to me. I liked Ten Minutes my Captive in which he describes a turtle he allows to escape "into the green flecked edge of water and home." (library copy)

Joan of Arc by Hilaire Belloc - link to my post. (purchased Kindle version)

Ember Rising by S.D. Smith - We started listening to this audiobook with Kansas Dad, but he asked us to finish it without him because he found it upsetting that the main characters seemed to suffer worse and worse fates as the book progressed. I'm going to have to go against the current on this series and admit I often find the writing almost painful. There's far too much alliteration and minute descriptions; I'm always thinking there should have been more editing. The story is reasonably good, though, and the children enjoy it. I bought it thinking it would be the last of the trilogy, but it's not. I suppose I'll buy the rest of the books for the children to read but I think I'll pass on the audiobook. (Audiobook received from our contribution to the funding page.)

Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe by Robert Matzen - This incredibly researched book tells Jimmy Stewart's wartime story based on extensive interviews and governmental reports. It gives detailed accounts and descriptions of life for bombers living in England and flying missions over Europe. Stewart's life in Hollywood (with all his exploits) is described just as openly as the often graphic scenes of carnage and struggle in war, so this is a book for mature readers, but it could be a fascinating read for anyone interested in World War II. (borrowed from my dad)

The Blood-Red Crescent by Henry Garnett - link to my post. (purchased used on Cathswap)

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw - One of the historical fiction books recommended by RC History for Connecting with History volume 1, this is an exciting story of an inadvertent double spy in the time of Queen Hatshepsut. There's a Novel Inquiries guide for the novel which I own, but I haven't decided if we'll use it. First Daughter (sixth grade) is going to read this for independent reading and I might not ask her to do anything in particular other than reading it. It's a good choice for a middle schooler or older student as there is some violence and romance. It's exciting and I enjoyed the story, but I was a little upset at some of the scenes where she flirts with a guard (to get him to let her out of the gate) or her love interest because they reaffirm stereotypes, but First Daughter hears me talk about those things enough for me not to be concerned about her reading them here and there. (purchased used)

Baptism of Fire by Andrezej Sapkowski - This is the third book in the Witcher series. After I read the second book, I wrote that I wouldn't recommend them due to the use of the rape myth in the plot line. Of course, I kept reading them myself and discovered this book has a surprising pro-life message. Entertaining fantasy and moral questions for a mature audience. (library copy)

Crosstalk by Connie Willis - This is a light-hearted science fiction book set in the near future when the instant messaging and texting creates a constant bombardment. I read this book in the twenty-four hours before and during my daughter's surgery. It was nothing major, just pins in a broken finger, but I was worried and this book was the perfect companion as I tried to relax and waited for the results. (library copy)

The Burgess Seashore Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess - link to my post. (purchased used)

Much Ado about Nothing by Shakespeare - First Son is reading this as his first Shakespeare play of high school so I read it to help myself be prepared. I read the No Fear Shakespeare version (linked) and the one he will read. It helps a lot to have the modern translation and some editorial helps to understand the references. It doesn't include any essays on the meaning, but I found a Cliff's Notes with a bit of information for him to read after he reads the play. (I just requested whatever was available on Reading even those short notes gave me some added dimensions for understanding the play, the characters, and the themes. I am absurdly excited to be reading Shakespeare with First Son and First Daughter this year. (They'll be reading different plays.) I've scheduled three plays for each of them this year, but even if we only make it through two of them, I'll be thrilled. Realizing I didn't encounter Shakespeare at all in college, I've decided this must be a priority for us in middle school and high school. It might be their only experience with the Bard. (purchased book for the play, requested book for the supplementary reading from

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson - link to my post. (purchased used)

Usually here I list all the books I'm reading, but that would take too long because I'm reading everything First Son is reading for high school. Yikes! It's a lot.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Poetry in the Sea: The Sea Around Us

by Rachel Carson

This is one of the nature books recommended for Level 5 Year 1 (ninth grade) by the beta Mater Amabilis™ plans (available in the high school facebook group). If you have read books from Mater Amabilis™ through elementary or middle school, you will encounter passages recalling A Book of Discovery and A Doorway of Amethyst, among others. These are fresh in my mind as First Daughter enters Level 3 this year (sixth grade) and it's lovely to consider how these connections will grow and develop over the years, creating a rich background for any future studies.

I have the Special Edition linked above with a beautiful forward by Ann Zwinger and a chapter added at the end by Jeffrey Levinton with updated scientific information (as of 1989).

Though originally published in 1950 and revised in 1961, the scientific information in the book is not generally outdated. Often, Carson described observations rather than formulating theories. When she does talk about theories, there are often competing ones described and an admission that they just didn't know the answers yet. Levinton's chapter at the end provided some scientific updates but I don't remember anything striking me there as out-dated either. His writing is not nearly as lovely as that of Carson.

Carson begins before there was even an ocean, exploring how the earth formed and eventually water precipitated out and rained down. She explores in thought and word the ocean's surface, it's hidden depths, islands erupting, tides, and climate.
[Islands] are ephemeral, created today, destroyed tomorrow. With few exceptions, they are the results of the violent, explosive, earth-shaking eruptions of submarine volcanoes, working perhaps for millions of years to achieve their end. It is one of the paradoxes in the ways of earth and sea that a process seemingly so destructive, so catastrophic in nature, can result in an act of creation.
She easily brings the ancient life (and death) of the ocean creatures to a modern life, encouraging by her words excursions to seas long expired as well as the current sea-shore.
You do not have to travel to find the sea, for the traces of its ancient stands are everywhere about. Though you may be a thousand miles inland, you can easily find reminders that will reconstruct for the eye and ear of the mind the processions of its ghostly waves and the roar of its surf, far back in time. So, on a mountain top in Pennsylvania, I have sat on rocks of whitened limestone, fashioned of the shells of billions upon billions of minute sea creatures.
In the last paragraph of the book, she writes:
For the sea lies all about us. The commerce of all lands must cross it. The very winds that move over the lands have been cradled on its broad expanse and seek ever to return to it. The continents themselves dissolve and pass to the sea, in grain after grain of eroded land. So the rains that rose from it return again in rivers. In its mysterious past it encompasses all the dim origins of life and receives in the end, after, it may be, many transmutations, the dead husks of that same life.
My father was a bit unnerved that I chose a book by Carson for First Son to read. He believes her Silent Spring was the beginning of policies that have endangered millions of people who now die of malaria. First of all, there's very little of environmental hyperbole in The Sea Around Us. (Frankly, there's more of that in Levinton's chapter than the whole rest of the book combined.)

Secondly, Carson never advocated eliminating pest control entirely, though I'm sure some of her acolytes did. I researched a little about the use of DDT today and learned that some countries are indeed using it because other measures were not as successful at curbing mosquito populations and malarial infections. It seems like most medical communities, however, are concerned about its effects not just on the environment or birds but on the health of people themselves. (Some countries spray it only inside houses, on all the walls.) It seems likely that DDT in these cases prevents deaths from malaria but may be causing other health problems, so it seems prudent to continue to seek for other methods of addressing malaria.

All that to say, this is a book you can read even if you think Carson was completely wrong about DDT, but my own opinion is that DDT is detrimental and we should be continually seeking out other methods of controlling mosquitos and the spread of malaria.

In the Introduction, Ann Zwinger quoted Rachel Carson's speech after accepting the National Book Award:
"The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are," she said. "If there is wonder and beautify and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If they are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry."
I think it's likely there are lots of academic publications about the sea or the tides that lack poetry, but this book certainly does not. It's absolutely delightful.

I purchased this book used. I received nothing for this review. The links above are affiliate links to Amazon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Science in Second Grade: The Burgess Seashore Book for Children

by Thornton W. Burgess

This book has been on my shelf for a few years now, purchased when I thought I might read it aloud before we went to the ocean for the first time (and still the only time), but it's never been read. Second Son heard much of The Burgess Bird Book for Children (one of the Level 1A science recommendations on the Mater Amabilis™™ syllabus) as I read it aloud to Second Daughter so I thought he might be interested in this alternative. I offered him the choice of the bird book or the seashore book and, based only on the cover (and maybe what he remembered), he chose the seashore book.

I read it this summer before the school year began because I am ambitiously asking him to read it independently and narrate it to me. I'm fairly certain he can handle the material, given what he reads on his own, though I don't necessarily recommend this route for all second graders. He's a great reader and is already 8 years old since we started kindergarten a year later than recommended.

If you have read any of the Burgess books for children, you will be familiar with the format. An animal or two wander an environment and learn about the creatures that live there. The Seashore Book follows mostly a mouse and a fox. Some of the conversations are stilted, but there are lots of opportunities for curiosity and wonder. If you're near a seashore or manage to find a copy cheaper than the Burgess Bird Book, feel free to substitute this one.

To get through the entire book without reading more than a chapter at a time, I'm assigning this twice a week. Because I have four children and my oldest is starting high school, I made no ambitious second grade science plans this year. We'll read this book and have our nature walk two or three times a month and consider it excellently covered.

I purchased this book used from another homeschooling family. I received nothing for this review. The links above are affiliate links to Amazon.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Battle of Lepanto: Blood-Red Crescent

by Henry Garnett

This historical fiction novel follows a young man who sails on his father's galley to fight against the Ottoman Turks. It is recommended at the grammar level of volume 3 in Connecting with History.

There are descriptions of death, mayhem, and destruction, so it is appropriate to wait for the grammar level (roughly grades 4-6) to read this novel. Second Daughter will read it independently for fourth grade. (It will be optional for First Daughter, in sixth grade.)

Though written explicitly from the Christian perspective, the author allows the main character and the reader to contemplate the Turkish perspective a little. I wouldn't say it's necessarily balanced, but it leaves room for compassion. At the end of the novel, Guido (the young man) says:
Then I don't understand how these miracles come to be mixed up with death, cruelty, and suffering.
In order to understand, he returns to the monastery of his education to learn and study more.

Links to RC History are affiliate links. I received nothing for this post which reflects my honest opinions. I purchased this book used from a member of the Cathswap Yahoo group.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Second Son's Kindergarten and First Grade Book Lists

I started some reading lessons with Second Son, my fourth and youngest child, during his pre-kindergarten year, focusing on phonics using Doodling Dragons and alphabet books. Read about that loose plan here.

Once he had mastered the letters and basic phonics, we started lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (skipping the first 26 lessons on the letters). Each day, Second Son and I would work through a lesson or two (or half a lesson, depending on how it went) and then we'd read a book together. Sometimes we'd alternate paragraphs and sometimes pages. Gradually he increased how much he read until by the end he was reading whole chapters aloud to me.

This plan worked very well for Second Son. However...if I were just starting out to teach multiple children to read over the next decade (as opposed to having taught four children to read over the past decade), I would be very tempted to buy the Foundations series. (This is not an affiliate link and I've never seen it in person.)

So here you'll first find all the books Second Son read for our reading lessons. Given that he's read all seven of the Harry Potter novels and is currently working his way through Stormy (which I haven't read) and a graphic novel version of The Odyssey (which I'm not necessarily recommending for your seven-year-old), I probably didn't challenge him enough. I suppose that's what happens when you're the fourth and last; I didn't want to skip any of my favorites and I wanted to let him read whatever he wanted out loud to me.

Unless otherwise noted, these are books we owned. I would grab a handful of books and let him choose one. These are therefore only loosely in reading-level order.
First Son's lists: kindergarten and first grade. In comparison, they are generally much harder much faster than Second Son's list. Since they both read well and neither of them hate me (or reading), perhaps this is some slight evidence that there's a lot of leeway for mistakes in this business of teaching someone to read.

First Daughter's first grade list is here. She doesn't have a kindergarten list because I didn't read "real" books with her until she had finished the lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.

Second Daughter's kindergarten and first grade book lists, which I only posted last week.

We are officially done teaching reading here on the Range!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Excellent Little Biography of a Great Saint: Joan of Arc

by Hilaire Belloc

This book is a recommended biography of Joan of Arc for the logic level (roughly grades 7-9) in volume 3 of Connecting with History. Because First Daughter has already read the biography for the grammar level, I thought I'd see if this would be a good fit. (I considered Mark Twain's Joan of Arc, and I think she could read it, but it would have to be an independent read as it's much longer than the Belloc one.)

This biography is relatively short and succinct, but excellently written.
As she stood, a dazzling light shone by her at her right hand, supplanting the day, and she was overcome with terror; till, from the midst of the glory, came a voice which spoke of the faith and its observance, and at last gave order that she should seek the uncrowned King of France, dispossessed by his foes, and rescue him and crown him at Rheims. At the third summons she saw St. Michael in his splendor and about him the soldiery of Heaven.
There are a few parts that made me laugh. Here, she's being questioned by theologians and clergy before the dauphin entrusts his soldiers to her:
The learned Aymeiri put her the question always put to those who assert divine aid: saying that if it were God's will to deliver the realm, He could do so without men-at-arms. Whom she answered that, if they would give her a few knights, they would work out God's will well enough.
Her end, of course, is clear from early on in the book. It's no secret she will be burned on the cross.
In those days--and now from the crowning nearly a month had gone by--as she was riding between the Bastard of Orleans and Regnault the Archbishop, she said in her joy at the people's cheering for the King: "Here are good folk, and here would I lie buried in this earth of theirs, when I die." But never was she to lie at peace in Christian earth beside the blessed dead, but more brightly, through the fire, to strike to Paradise.
There is a high-ranking soldier called the Bastard; it's not meant in a condemnatory way and is merely his title or nickname or something. If you have a child who might repeat it, you'll want to explain it's not a word we throw around casually.

This is a nice little biography of St. Joan of Arc that First Daughter will read this year in sixth grade. It's a good option for those looking who have already read the Vision biography and might not have the time or inclination for Mark Twain's much longer book.

I read a Kindle version of this book (linked below in the italics) which was a good copy overall. There were a few mistakes in the text ("main" instead of "maid") but only a handful. The table of contents was linked and the formatting was decent.

I received nothing for writing this review. The links above are affiliate links to RC History, the home of Connecting with History. I purchased a Kindle version of this book (affiliate link to Amazon). 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Wonder and Awe in Israel: In the Steps of the Master

by H. V. Morton

This book is on the list of optional additional reading for geography in Level 5 (ninth and tenth grades) on the Mater Amabilis™beta plans (available in the facebook group for high school). When I saw it, I immediately searched online for a used copy because I loved Morton's A Traveller in Rome which I read in 2016 before (mostly) going to Rome. I chose this book because there is a chance First Son will have the opportunity to visit Israel during his high school years and I thought this book would be an excellent preparation for that experience. I haven't quite decided whether he can handle any additional reading, but it's still a possibility. Either way, I had the pleasure of reading this book myself.

Morton travels through Israel with a Bible, his imagination, and immense curiosity. His writing allows the reader to see the world through his eyes beautifully.
As the sun goes down, a stillness falls over Egypt. Water channels that cross the fields turn to the colour of blood, then to bright yellow that fades into silver. The palm trees might be cut from black paper and pasted against the incandescence of the sky. The brown hawks that hang all day above the sugar-cane and the growing wheat are seen no more and, one by one, the stars burn over the sandhills and lie caught in the stiff fronds of the date palms.
The book was originally written in 1934 when Israel was under British rule. It reveals clearly the condescension of the British even while the author is trying to be sympathetic or complimentary to many of the people who make Israel or Palestine home. Once, a Belgian tells of how they have been traveling and visiting with the protection of the Arab Legion (a kind of police force of the time apparently organized by the British) and says:
"Things like the Arab Legion...justify your colonization."
If, however, you can recognize and overlook that attitude as a remnant of a time long past (attempting to avoid as much stereotyping as possible yourself), this book glows with the spirit of wonder and awe at being so near the home of Jesus.
 I do not know for certain whether the Via Dolorosa is really the road on which Jesus carried the Cross, and neither, I think, does anyone else. Its route depends on the situation of Pilate's judgment hall and the unknown position of the Gate Genath. But it does not seem to me to matter very much whether it is the actual road or a memorial to the actual road. What is important is that men and women who have walked upon it have met there the vision of Christ.
In some ways, Morton's sense of adventure and desire to explore deeply the geography and history of the land reminds me of Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels. Amazingly, he manages to find a guide to take him through Hezekiah's Tunnel even though:
It is wet, messy and dangerous, and you have to explore it at night in order not to stir up the water of the Virgin's Fountain in which the women of Siloam wash their clothes during the daytime.
Later, he writes of the journey through the tunnel.
The first three hundred feet were simple, but then the tunnel became low and we had to walk bent double. There were also pot holes in which we suddenly sank well over the knees. The total length of the tunnel is over a quarter of a mile, so that I had plenty of time to regret my decision to explore it and to admire the common sense of all those people who refused to go with me.
And yet, he describes the tunnel clearly, wondering about the men who created it, the fear through which they worked, and some of the mysteries that still surround it. Then he describes the beauty of the world into which he emerges.
As we went on through the lonely valley with its crowded tombs, we came to the foot of the Mount of Olives and saw the little walled Garden of Gethsemane, with the light of the moon falling between its cypress trees and lying across its quiet paths.
As he travels, he often sits with his Bible and reads the passages in the very places they happened. He describes them in detail, exquisitely filling them out with his imagination. At the end of his description of Salome's dance and the execution of John the Baptism, he writes:
The executioner goes with his sword down to the dungeon. He returns with the head of the Baptist, still warm. And the night wind moves the hair.
The book ends as Morton comtemplates Easter in Jerusalem.
The moon hung above the Mount, touching the ridge with a gold haze, washing every white track in light, painting each olive tree in shadow against the rocks. How hushed it was in the light of the moon. Not a footstep rang in the streets below me; no one moved in the silence beyond the wall. Above the black shadow of the Kedron Valley I could see the moonlight silvering the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane...
I don't know if anyone today is writing such lyrical travel books, but at least someone is reprinting the Morton ones. If I ever make it to Israel, I'm taking this book with me.

I received nothing for writing this post. I bought a used copy of In the Steps of the Master and borrowed a copy of A Traveller in Rome. The links above to Amazon are affiliate links.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Second Daughter's Kindergarten and First Grade Book Lists

Second Daughter just finished her third grade year in 2018, so of course it's time to post her kindergarten and first grade books.

In her pre-kindergarten year, Second Daughter and I read some alphabet books (though not as extensively as I did with Second Son) and played lots of phonogram games from the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book. She's always loved games. Then we worked through the lessons in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. With First Daughter, I waited until we finished all of the lessons before reading any "real" books, but I realized later that wasn't necessary. With Second Daughter, we started reading books together after her official lesson each day so she could have some actual stories along with her phonics.

First, we alternated paragraphs. (I would read one, then she would read one.) Then we moved up to pages. Eventually, she would read half of a chapter or a whole chapter out loud to me.

The combination of The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and reading books together worked very well. She can read! If, however, I were just starting out to teach multiple children to read over the next decade (as opposed to having taught four children to read over the past decade), I would be very tempted to buy the Foundations series. (This is not an affiliate link and I've never seen it in person, but I did purchase and use Essentials with First Son and, a little, with First Daughter, and I have heard good things about Foundations.)

Unless otherwise noted, all of these books are from the library.

The kindergarten books (2014-2015):
The first grade books (2015-2016):
I posted First Son's first fifty books of kindergarten. Apparently I intended to post more but never did and I suspect I don't even have them written down anywhere. Here's the list of books he read with me in first grade.

First Daughter didn't have any kindergarten books (because I was waiting to finish The Ordinary Parent's Guide), but here are her first grade books.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Power of Silence

by Robert Cardinal Sarah
with Nicholas Diat
translated by Michael J. Miller

This book is not a fully-formed, organized treatise on silence. It is instead a conversation between Cardinal Sarah and the reporter, Nicholas Diat. Realizing that about half-way through the book helped me to place it in perspective. I felt like he was circling around the major statements he was making, as if observing "silence" from multiple view-points but not articulating a single coherent thesis....because he wasn't.

Not that you shouldn't read this book. I think Catholics and non-Catholics alike will be gleaning insight from this book for years to come. It's a challenge to us all to eliminate the noise of our lives, both that coming from outside, which is often easy to recognize, and that coming from inside our own minds, which is much more difficult to assess and manage.

This book is presented in five chapters:
  1. Silence versus the World's Noise
  2. God Does Not Speak, but His Voice is Quite Clear
  3. Silence, the Mystery, and the Sacred
  4. God's Silence in the Face of Evil Unleashed
  5. Like a Voice Crying out in the Desert: The Meeting at the Grande Chartreuse
I read this book over many months, checking it out from the library and returning it when someone else wanted it, then checking it out again. It is the kind of book that benefits from slow reading and (ironically?) required relative silence for me to grant it my full attention. I could not, therefore, read it while children were running around and interrupting me at their whim. This would be an excellent book for quiet reflection in adoration before the blessed Eucharist, reading a paragraph or two then contemplating it while gazing at our Lord.

Looking back, the first three chapters have melded together in my mind without a clear differentiation between them. In those chapters, Cardinal Sarah defined silence in contrast with the modern world, clarified its place in liturgy, prayer, and adoration, and emphasized its role for the benefit of civilizations.

A recurring thought from Cardinal Sarah is the work of God done in complete silence. He talks about the moment of transubstantiation, as the bread and wine transform into the body and blood of Jesus. This miracle happens after the words of consecration, in silence.
Mankind must join a sort of resistance movement. What will become of our world if it does not look for intervals of silence?  Without it, life does not exist. The greatest mysteries of the world are born and unfold in silence. How does nature develop? In the greatest silence. A tree grows in silence, and springs of water flow at first in the silence of the ground. The sun that rises over the earth in its splendor and grandeur warms us in silence.  What is extraordinary is always silent.
Later, he talks about Christ in the Eucharist:
There is nothing littler, meeker, or more silent than Christ present in the Host. This little piece of bread embodies the humility and perfect silence of God, his tenderness and his love for us. 
Another point he mentioned more than once and that resonated with me, a layperson who spends my day listening to my children as I wash dishes or try to help another child, is the importance of silence when interacting with other people. Our interior silence, if we can cultivate and maintain it (we must!) is what allows us to truly hear, understand, and respond to those around us.
In order to listen, it is necessary to keep quiet. I do not mean merely a sort of constraint to be physically silent and not to interrupt what someone else is saying, but rather an interior silence, in other words, a silence that not only is directed toward receiving the other person's words but also reflects a heart overflowing with a humble love, capable of full attention, friendly welcome and voluntary self-denial, and strong with the awareness of our poverty.
This focus is an outward form of our love of others and our recognition of their dignity and worth.
The silence of listening is a form of attention, a gift of self to the other, and a mark of moral generosity. It should manifest an awareness of our humility so as to agree to receive from another person a gift that God is giving us. For the other person is always a treasure and a precious gift that God offers to help us grow in humility, humanity, and nobility.
Cardinal Sarah described an experience at World Youth Day in Madrid with Pope Benedict XVI. Delayed by a storm, Pope Benedict tossed aside his prepared speech and instead kneeled before the Blessed Sacrament.
There were more than a million young people behind him, drenched to the skin, standing in the mud; nevertheless, over that immense crowd reigned an impressive sacred silence that was literally "filled with the adored presence". It is an unforgettable memory, an image of the Church united in great silence around her Lord. 
In chapter 4, Cardinal Sarah addresses the problem of evil: How do we reconcile God's silence with the horrors of the world? Cardinal Sarah has personally experienced the a violent government in Guinea. Despite violence and threats, he does not encourage rebellion. Instead he denounces injustice wherever he finds it, including in western governments.

He has also personally observed how prayer helped displaced people in turbulent times and in poverty. He asserts poverty is not a bad thing, and that the Western world's war against it is misplaced. Later, though, he makes a distinction between a poverty that brings us closer to God and a poverty that is a misery.

In the end, we cannot ever truly understand the evil we see in the world around us.
Without God, man is torn, anxious, worried, agitated, and he cannot arrive at interior rust. True life is not in rebellion but in silent adoration. Of course, we have no answer to the problem of evil; yet our task is to make it less intolerable and to offer a remedy without pride, discreetly, insofar as we can, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta and many other saints did.
The last chapter, Like a Voice Crying Out in the Desert, was my favorite. In this chapter, Nicolas Diat, Cardinal Sarah, and the Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, Dysmas de Lassus, speak together about silence. The Grande Chartreuse is the great Carthusian monastery, where monks pray, live, and eat in the Great Silence within their own cells, rarely speaking to each other.

The Prior speaks about his order's focus on silence and prayer.
We are like children who watch the ocean for the first time. Fascinated by what they see, they nevertheless guess that what is found beyond it far surpasses their gaze and even their imagination. They can simultaneously say that they have seen the ocean, that they know it, and that they have still to discover everything. When we are talking about that ocean without a shore, Gods infinitude, the mystery offers an endless overture to him whom we will never finish discovering.
We are probably a family that seeks and cultivates silence more than most. We have relatively few devices that chirp at us throughout the day and night. We do not watch the news. We spend time in adoration every week. Our vacations are spent at national parks. Reading this book was a natural outgrowth of that lifestyle and was also a challenge to me to deepen our relationship with silence and learn to address the interior silence that often still rages within me.

I highly recommend you read this book but that you take your time with it.

I checked this book out from our library and did not receive anything for writing this post. The Amazon links are affiliate links.