Wednesday, January 11, 2012

December 2011 Book Report

December's list is a bit longer than the others recently. I finally finished a few big books I'd been reading for months!

An Unreasonable Woman by Diane Wilson (free Kindle version, offered as a Limited-Time Offer)

Sinner: The Catholic Guy's Funny, Feeble Attempts to be a Faithful Catholic by Lino Rulli (a review for The Catholic Company)

Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories by Rosemary Wells tells the story of Mary Breckinridge and her Frontier Nursing Service in 1920s Appalachia. Each story has its sorrows, but is overflowing with hope and courage. I very much hope First Son is ready to read this himself next year and enjoy it when we reach the 1920s in our American history course. (library copy)

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J. M. Barrie started out very slowly. As Peter Pan was introduced, it got a little better, but there's not much of a plot in this book. It's really more of an introduction to Peter. I have to admit, I wasn't all that impressed, but that may have much to do with my heart breaking at the thought of a boy leaving his mother and then being locked out when he tried to return. (available for free on the Kindle)

The Storm by Cynthia Rylant was a preview. I'm on the lookout for early reader books for First Daughter. This book is the first in a series (The Lighthouse Family) and I think it will be a fine one. Kansas Dad peeked a bit over my shoulder and was wryly commenting on how ridiculous it is, but five year old girls relish the ridiculous. (library copy)

The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit is a collection of short stories involving English children and dragons. The dragons are generally bad (for those concerned about such things), though there is one that becomes tame and turns into a cat. I found the stories reasonably enjoyable and would be willing for my children to read them on their own, but I decided against reading them aloud. (available for free on the Kindle without illustrations)

The House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong tells of Tien Pao's journey and search for his parents when he is separated from them shortly after they flee their village and the attacking Japanese early in the Second Sino-Japanese war (I think) in the 1930s. At first I was horrified reading this book. As a mother, the thought of my young son experiencing war then being separated from us and (as far as we knew) worse...well, my heart was breaking. As I continued to read, however, I was amazed at the boy's courage and the descriptions of China and Chinese countrymen. The book includes descriptions of events that terrorize the young boy like planes strafing his village, men and horses being killed, blood turning the river red...This is not a book for young children, but it is a book for children. Next year, First Son will be in third grade. I'm considering reading this book aloud to him, either as part of our American studies (during which we'll study that time period and the book does include American soldiers in China) or for our geography study of China. I think, though, it will only work for us if I can read it when First Daughter is not listening. She has a sensitive heart and I would worry about her listening. (She'd be six early next school year. First Son at six might have been fine with this book, but I doubt First Daughter would be.)  (library copy)

Next Spring an Oriole by Gloria Whelan is the story of Libby and her family as they settle into their new home on the Michigan frontier. It's an easy chapter book and I intend for First Son to read it during our American history studies. It's the first of a series that looks promising. The author also appears to have many other historical fiction books that might fit with our studies. (library copy)

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (received as a gift from a dear friend)

A Doctor Like Papa by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock is an easy chapter book that touches on a variety of wonderful concepts - a girl who wants to be a doctor in 1918, WWI, the influenza epidemic, and the effects of all of these on families in Vermont. It's a story of fear, courage, and how people keep living when life is hard. First Son will be reading this as part of our American history next year. (library copy)

The Paint Brush Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla was better than the first book (The Chalk Box Kid). Gregory and his friends decide to paint the house of a neighbor with the stories of his life. When the house is scheduled for demolition to make room for a freeway, Gregory finds the courage to speak out to try to save the house. The ending is surprising, but sweet. First Son's reading level is above this book and I don't think I'll ask First Daughter to read it during her reading lessons, but it would be acceptable for silent reading. (library copy)

My Storytime Bible by Renita Boyle (a review for The Catholic Company)

The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie (library copy)

The Canada Geese Quilt by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock tells of Ariel and her family in the 1940s as they struggle with the recovery of her devoted grandmother after a stroke while preparing for a new baby. I think it could be a nice complement to a young person's study of World War II and think I'll ask First Son to read it next year (third grade). Like A Doctor Like Papa, the book is set in Vermont. (library copy)

O Little Town: A Novel by Don Reid is a little novel centered on the interactions of the people in a small town in the days before Christmas. It's a nice little story and kept me occupied during our drive to my parent's house when I wanted something light. The sermon at the end seemed to elicit a more miraculous response than it warranted, but I can live with that. (Kindle edition, available for free for as a limited time offer)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett was a great vacation book. It was engaging and entertaining without requiring a lot of thought on my part. Set in the 1960s, it focuses on racial interactions and inequities in a way that can help us think about them today as well. It's worth a few hours of your time to read it, though I do wish our library had a copy of the DVD so I could see the movie now. (borrowed copy)

The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz is the story of a ten year old girl on the frontier in Pennsylvania. She's ambivalent about her family's new home at the beginning of the novel, but grows to love it and to recognize her love for it. I had never read this as a child, but I intend to read it aloud to the kids when we're learning about the era just after the Revolutionary War. (library copy)

Because there were quite a few pre-reads this month, I thought I'd point out that I do not intend to read every book before the children do. It works out that way now because First Son doesn't read many chapter books unless I sit him down next to me and demand he read aloud. I do, however, like to pre-read all the books we may use for lessons because First Daughter is nearly three years younger than First Son and yet listens in on nearly all our lessons. She's a sensitive soul, as I've mentioned before, so I tend to be careful about what she may hear. I also like to pre-read any book I'm introducing within our lessons as I feel they may be given greater respect by the children. I'd like that respect to be well-deserved.

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