Friday, March 2, 2012

February 2012 Book Report

The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke is a wonderful little book, imagining a fourth wise man who seeks the Christ child his entire life, from Bethlehem to Egypt to Jerusalem. It's not always accurate in a Scriptural sense, but it is true to the heart of Jesus' teachings. I'm not entirely sure my children would be ready to appreciate it, but I'm going to consider it as a family read-aloud next year during Advent. (library copy, but it's free for the Kindle)

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is another book for the science fiction and theology class I'm auditing. I love reading Ray Bradbury and am not sure why I haven't read more of his books. His descriptions are wonderful, though his anti-war and environmentalist themes can be a little overwhelming. Overall, recommended. (desk copy)

Raising Financially Fit Kids by Joline Godfrey (library copy)

The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive World History by Robert Royal, though I really only read one chapter - on Edith Stein. I found the chapter gave a good biography of her, including her life leading up to her conversion to Catholicism. The whole book looks pretty interesting, though I think I'd have to read it a chapter a month or something to avoid becoming depressed. We read a lot of saints here, but not all of them are martyrs for the faith. This book in particular could become difficult to read because these are all recent martyrs, reminding us that Christians are not as safe in the world as we feel here in America. (library copy)

The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald is one I found in the Sonlight catalog but I found it horrible. The book is narrated by a young boy whose brother is The Great Brain. He uses every person, event and action to his own financial advantage. I was really horrified to read some of the things he does to his brother and was displeased by the description of how he helped a young Greek immigrant fit in for his own profit, but the worst part of the book was the casual portrayal of how a young amputee wanted to commit suicide with the aid of the narrator. He doesn't succeed, but it was just awful. I would certainly not read this book to my children. I might not even allow them to read it if they found it on their own. It's that bad. (library copy)

Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1) by Octavia E. Butler was another book for the science fiction and theology class I'm attending. It's a rather dark portrayal of humans in a world in which aliens have "rescued" humans from an earth destroyed by war. Earth is being remade, but the aliens want to interbreed with humans. Unlike Star Trek, these aliens are different in every way. There's a lot of uncomfortable scenes and this book is certainly only for teens and older readers. I will reserve final judgment until I finish the trilogy, though I probably won't have time for those other two books until the class is over. (library copy)

Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford (purchased copy)

52 Days by Camel: My Sahara Adventure by Lawrie Raskin with Debora Pearson is a delightful account of the author-photographer's travels in the desert on a journey to Timbuktu and beyond. Full of information about salt, caravans, people, customs and Islam, this will be a perfect book for our study of deserts in third grade as recommended by Mater Amabilis. This book is one of those we'll use in our move to First Son reading more of his studies independently. He may read this aloud to me, but he will read it himself. (library copy)

The Child who Never Grew by Pearl S. Buck (inter-library loan)

A Little Tiger in the Chinese Night: An Autobiography in Art and The Children of China: An Artist's Journey by Song Nan Zhang, both recommended by Mater Amabilis for third grade. The first book tells of the author's life in China during the revolution and Communism including the dramatic events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 (when the author was in Canada but his son was involved in the protest). The second shows children in the far reaches of China, painted during and after the author traveled around the country. These books show a harsh life. In addition to the general fears under Communism, the text in the first book tells of a man who commits suicide. I think these will be appropriate for a third grader, though we may not read all of them aloud when his younger sisters are listening. The second one offers some good opportunities to talk about the geography of China naturally flowing from the book. The study would probably be fine with either of the books, but since our library has both of them we'll read them both in the course of one term along with map work for China. (library copies)

Sovietrek: A Journey by Bicycle Across Russia by Dan Buettner shows the journey he made with three others across Russia in 1990 by bicycle. The book begins by telling of the inspiration for the trek, the challenges to get funded and approved and the journey from Minnesota to eastern Europe. The trip through Russia is shown in wonderful detail and in photographs. It's astounding to read how the Russian people lived even just 25 years ago. The bikers endured harsh conditions and challenges along the way but were always welcomed and assisted by the Russians they encountered. This will be a wonderful addition to our studies next year. (library copy)

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie was a fun relaxing book to read. I didn't guess the murderer, but I never do on those rare occasions when I read a mystery because I rarely bother to think much about it. It seems Poirot functioned mainly on stereotypes, but I guess you can't argue with results. (library copy)


  1. I don't remember The Great Brain being that bad, but of course, I last read it when I was a kid. I will definitely have to check into it because I have that book, as well as one or two of the sequels. They might have to disappear.

    I always find your book reports interesting and often have to open up a library link while I'm reading it. I have a few book reviews I want to do if I ever get around to it. :)

  2. H of B, I always check out the books you recommend. I'm afraid my "to read" list only gets longer and longer. This English class isn't helping as I'm spending a lot of my reading time on it, but I'm really enjoying it, too.

    I kept waiting for some kind of redemption in The Great Brain and he does seem to have a slight change of heart at the end, but it happens inexplicably in just the last few pages. I doubt a kid reading it would learn much about how we should really behave toward others by reading this book -- at least not in the good sense. However, I could be over-reacting.


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