Tuesday, September 4, 2012

August 2012 Book Reports

Pearl Harbor Is Burning!: A Story of World War II (Once Upon America) by Kathleen V. Kudlinkski is a short chapter book of the attack on Pearl Harbor as seen through the eyes of a young boy, a haoli newly arrived in Hawai'i. I will probably have First Son read it independently during our study of World War II this year in American history. We're spending two full weeks on Pearl Harbor and he should have plenty of time to read this on his own as a supplement. (library copy)

Celebrating the Holy Eucharist by Francis Cardinal Arinze is a book I bought to read myself last summer before I prepared First Son for his First Holy Communion. Since he received for the first time last March, you can see that I was a little late in reading it, but I found it a clear and rich resource in refreshing myself on the purpose and place of the Eucharist in the Catholic faith. Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the time the book was written, is widely respected. There are a lot of books you could read on the Eucharist and the Mass; this is certainly one of the good ones. (purchased copy)

The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman. In this book, Mr. Chapman proposes there are five "languages" through which people can feel loved and that one of them (say, "quality time") is the most important to any individual person. If we can figure out the "love language" of our spouse, we can make sure he or she always feels loved. Some of the language in this book is just plain silly (like "keeping the love tank full") and I'm not sure I'd agree that people have only one love language, but there is some value in thinking about how to show a spouse (or anyone) love. There's nothing wrong with asking your spouse what you can do for him or her (and then do it). If reading this book gives you some ideas on how to talk about it together, how to respond, or ways to show love, then all the better. There was one story of a woman who seemed to be in an abusive relationship who the author encouraged to spend six months catering to her husband in an effort to save the marriage. I can only assume it was not described well as surely a counselor would have sought to stop the abuse first, but I would be cautious about recommending this book to anyone that might be abused or mistreated in a relationship. (borrowed free from the Kindle Lending Library)

Tikta'liktak: An Inuit-Eskimo Legend retold and illustrated by James Houston is the tale of a young Inuit out hunting for food for his family during a time of hunger. He finds himself separated from the mainland on a bit of ice and heading out to sea. With skill and courage, he makes his way to an island and fights for his survival. It's wonderfully written and exciting, an intimate look at life for Inuit-Eskimos in the Arctic. I intend to put it on the list for independent reading during First Son's Arctic study in third grade. (library copy)

Turn Homeward, Hannalee by Patricia Beatty was a book I previewed thinking we might read it during our Civil War studies. I think we'll wait a few years for it as there's a description of a Civil War battle that would be a little too violent for the little girls (who will only be five and four when we start the year), but it's an excellent book written around the little-known effective deportation of mill workers from two towns by General Sherman. Young and old, the workers were separated from their families, shipped to Indiana and auctioned off as servants to mill owners or families there. In this book, a twelve year old girl escapes and journeys home. It shows clearly the deprivation of families in the South and the horrors of war. There are good people and bad people on both sides. It's on our list for the next time we cover the Civil War in American History, when the girls are older. (library copy)

Longing for Enough in a Culture of More by Paul L. Escamilla seemed promising, but I just could not enjoy it. The style seemed to be struggling to be poetic, the constant quotations interfered with the flow of the text, and it was overly preachy as if written to convince people to long for more rather than showing us how to live in such a way. Overall, not impressed. (inter-library loan)

Saints and Heroes by Ethel Pochocki (purchased copy)

A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman is recommended in volume 3 of Connecting with History. It's an illustrated retelling of the fable in which a peasant cleverly yet quietly overcomes the Emperor of China. It's a wonderful version and I intend to assign it to First Son as independent reading this year in third grade. (copy from PaperBackSwap.com)

The Indian School and Night Of The Full Moon by Gloria Whelan. I found The Indian School too preachy for my taste, but Night of the Full Moon (a sequel to Next Spring An Oriole) was better. The tale around the forced relocation of the Potawatomi Indians from Indiana and southern Michigan to Kansas will be a good short chapter book for our study of the 1840s when the girls are a bit older (First Daughter in first or second grade). It's not great historical fiction, but it's good and I like having something for the young readers. (library copies)

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark is the tale of Cusi, a young Incan raised in a secluded and secret valley. In the course of the book, he learns much about the history of his people and their current conditions, as well as the state of his own heart. It's beautifully written and gives a wonderful glimpse into the quiet life of the Andes Mountains. Not very much happens, however, so I'm not entirely sure the children would enjoy it. Personally I found the ending a little underwhelming. I think we'll try it as a family read-aloud next year as it has great merits in its descriptions. I'd be open to other suggestions, though, if anyone has any. (library copies)

How To Slay a Dragon (The Journals of Myrth, Book1) by Bill Allen is the first book of a series aimed at young readers in which a gangly 11 year old is magically transported to another world in which he's told he's going to fulfill the prophecy and slaw a dragon. It was fun but mostly followed an expected course. I would not be opposed to First Son reading it, but I don't think I'll hand it to him. For those worried about dragons in general, they're certainly not good in this book, but they are not written entirely evil. There is some parlaying with the enemy. (borrowed for free from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library)

The Catholics Next Door: Adventures in Imperfect Living by Greg and Jennifer Willits (a review for The Catholic Company)

Twelve Greeks and Romans Who Changed the World by Carl J. Richard is a wonderful, readable, informative book on the Ancient World. The author manages to cover pretty much all of Greek and Roman history in twelve chapters on each of twelve men who shaped their world and ours, including Homer, Plate, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, St. Paul, and Augustine (among others). The details are dense, but the writing is lively and spattered with little jokes and asides. The author is Christian, but I think it would read well as a secular text. I have every intention of putting this aside to use myself as a resource and to share with my children when they are teenagers (some of the material is for mature readers - we are talking about the politics of Rome and the Empire) in the course of our history reading. (purchased used at a library sale)

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