Friday, July 1, 2011

June Book Reports

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield

Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes is the story of a young apprentice in Boston as the revolutionary thoughts are brewing. Johnny is intimately involved in the plots and participates in the Boston Tea Party. The setting describes many historical figures and events vividly but the fictional characters are engaging in themselves. I was contemplating it for our study of the Revolutionary War in second grade, but I think it would better suit older children. I'll make a note of it for the next time we study it.

Silas Marner by George Eliot is the story of Silas Marner, a weaver wronged by his fiance and best friend who loses faith in God and humanity. He wanders to a new land and discovers hoarding money gives him a security he lacks. The book, of course, is the story of his redemption, when a young girl with golden hair wanders into his hut shortly after his gold is stolen. I hadn't read this book since I was in high school and it's much better than I remembered.
And all as we've got to do is trusten, Master Marner--to do the right thing as fur as we know, and to trusten. For if us as knows so little can see a bit o' good and rights, we may be sure as there's a good and a rights bigger nor what we can know--I feel it i' my own inside as it must be so.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is clever and fun. I hadn't read it, though I can't think why since it's a short tale. I'm delighted to find the Kindle is encouraging me to read many of the classics I have always wanted to read.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting is another children's classic I had never read. It's a pretty fun and exciting book, but was anyone else disturbed at the part where the poor black prince in Africa wants to be white and they kind of trick him by painting his face with a weird concoction of chemicals? I'm not sure I'll avoid reading it with the kids just because of that, but I have to admit I'm not sure how I feel about it.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Hmm, how many classic children's books can I read for the first time in a month? This is another one I missed when growing up. (I really read all the time, really and truly.) This one is very enjoyable, but I think its puns and cleverness is better suited to an independent reader with a bit more grammar and spelling knowledge. I think I'll set it aside and let First Son read it on his own later, perhaps in third or fourth grade.

The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald. This is one classic children's novel I did read, but I'd forgotten most of it. I enjoyed it thoroughly and think we'll probably listen to it together this summer or next year. It's available for free for the Kindle.

Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen tells the story of nine-year-old Mary Ellen Todd, who travels the Oregon Trail with her family. I was considering reading this aloud to the children next year as we study westward migration, but I'm not quite sure. I'm not too concerned about all the people who die; such things happened on the Oregon Trial and I'm hopeful my children will not fear death. No...what concerns me is the story of the other father in their group who, in the midst of hallucinations, attempts to stab his children with a knife. It's one thing if parents die (as this father did), but to physically attack his own children...I'm not sure I want my children thinking of such things, especially the girls. I do think it would be a better choice than On to Oregon! for us, but at the moment I think we'll wait until the next time we study the Oregon Trail to read one of these books.

Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards by Dr. Ray Guarendi (a review for The Catholic Company)

Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark (Lewis & Clark Expedition) by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent is recommended on Serendipity's Along the American History Trail for Lewis and Clark. Though I intend to use many of Serendipity's book recommendations for our American History next year (because This Country of Ours did not work for us at all last year), I don't plan to incorporate everything like nature study, science, and music. We're going to read American History. However, this book is surprisingly good and has the distinct advantage of mentioning and picturing many wildflowers and plants that continue to grow here in Kansas, some in our own front meadow. So I'm considering...I'm thinking of flipping through it a bit with them here and there and then bringing it out again in the spring and summer to identify some of the plants in person. (I think we'll finish Lewis and Clark before the spring flowers really appear.)

My reading list this month is heavy on the children's books as I'm trying to read my way through a bunch of them in preparation for next year. Kansas Dad has been encouraging me to read some more challenging material as well so I've also been reading through Towards A Philosophy of Education which I actually bought for the Kindle. It wasn't very expensive and doesn't hurt my hand to hold it open like my copy (which is not the one in the link).

On a related note, we listened to Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry this month. If I had remembered more of it, I would have saved it for next year's American history. It's set in Vermont (mostly) in the 1790s and continues past the War of 1812. Ah well, we enjoyed it now.


  1. Great reviews! Thanks!
    That's good to know about Bound for Oregon. I have it on the shelf for Amanda to read, since we've liked other books by Van Leeuwen, and I picked it up at a library sale. Perhaps I shouldn't encourage it just yet.
    I read The Story of Doctor Dolittle to the girls last summer, and we all really liked it. I can't remember exactly, but I think I just kind of skipped over the part you mentioned. We read the unabridged, but I did read a warning somewhere beforehand about some of the content.
    I remember trying to read The Phantom Tollbooth when I was younger but being so turned off by the cover of the copy I had that I couldn't finish it. =)
    I want to try reading one of George McDonald's books to the girls this year, though I hadn't decided yet which one. I've never read any of them myself. Maybe I'll see if I can find audio versions, too.

  2. Tiffany, I'm reading another George McDonald book right now and am really enjoying it. Great books!

  3. I LOVED reading Johnny Tremain when I was young! I hope your children will eventually get to enjoy this book.

  4. Anonymous, we will definitely read it. I could barely put it down myself. I'm not sure what the best age is, but as my oldest is only seven I think we will have plenty of time in the future.


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