Saturday, February 2, 2013

January 2013 Book Reports

Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt is based on excerpts from a journal the author kept while her family was living in China, mainly focused on her experiences as a volunteer at a Chinese orphanage. I was mainly interested in this book because my cousin adopted an adorable little girl from China a few years ago. From what I've seen elsewhere, her descriptions are accurate (and depressing). Unfortunately, her writing is merely adequate. Also, although she claims to love China, she never shows any great love for the people or culture of China in her writing. Because she lives in an enclave for ex-patriots, her main encounters with China is through the orphanage, which is probably China at its worst. (I don't have any recommendations for other books on orphanages in China, but if you can find a great love for China in the magnificent writings of Pearl S. Buck.) (Kindle edition, borrowed for free from the Kindle Owner's Lending Library)

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the tale of a murder no one prevented. I read it in a day and highly recommend it. (library copy)

The Trees Kneel at Christmas by Maud Hart Lovelace is the story of the two children in a Lebanese family set in Brooklyn in 1950, right in Park Slope, the wonderful neighborhood Kansas Dad and I called home when we lived in New York City. Afify and her brother, Hanna, set out on Christmas Eve to see if the trees kneel just as they do in Lebanon, to honor the Christ child's birth. It's full of wonderful details about life in New York for Lebanese immigrants, a heart-warming tale of faith. I didn't pre-read it in time to share it with the children last Christmas, but we'll read it during Advent next year. (We also didn't get to The Christmas Carol, so we're going to start with that and then read this one.) Do pre-read it as there are references to Mary and the Mass that seemed explicitly Catholic to me. Also there are quite a few adults who smoke, which isn't something we find often in contemporary children's literature. (library copy)

Theories of Childhood: An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget and Vygotsky by Carol Garhart Mooney is a brief introduction to these five child development theorists and how those theories would impact classroom and educational practices. She either assumes everything they theorize is accurate or doesn't touch on the less accepted ideas. I'd like to read more about Montessori and I consider what I am learning in my Catechesis of the Good Shepherd classes and as I continue to implement and learn about Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education. This was the shortest book at the library on the topic and I found it a nice introduction, useful for childcare providers, early childhood educators, and parents. (library copy)

The Woman Who Died A Lot: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde is the newest Thursday Next novel. I just love reading the Thursday Next books for the pure entertainment value. I thought the end of this one was wrapped up a little too quickly after how the plot was sluggish through earlier parts of the book and got the sense that much of the book was merely setting up his next Thursday Next book. That being said, I thought there could be some interesting discussions about the portrayal of religion and the value of human life and family relationships. I wish Kansas Dad could have read it along with me, but he still hasn't had time to read the last Thursday Next book. (Don't let anyone tell you being a college professor is a relaxing job, though I'm sure the four kids don't increase his free time.) (library copy)

A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children selected by Caroline Kennedy with fabulous paintings by Jon J. Muth just might be my new favorite book of poetry. For the past few years, I've purchased an anthology for each school year. If I continue the tradition, this will be the choice for next year. I imagine Ms. Kennedy and I would disagree on many things, but her poetry selections are delightful. There are fun selections for the children along with more challenging ones which will only appeal more as the children grow. As the very best collections should, it includes Daddy Fell into the Pond. The illustrations are simply perfect. (library copy)

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm is the first person tale written in the vernacular. It tells the tale of a 12 year old girl living with her large boy-filled family as pioneers in the Pacific Northwest. I suppose it was alright, but I didn't think it was great and was a little disappointed at how her grandmother treated her. (purchased at a library sale, but I think I'll pass it on to someone else)

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray is altogether a different story. The book is set in the last thirteenth century in England. Adam is the young son of a minstrel and loves his life on the open road. On one eventful day, he loses both his dog and his father. Alone, he searches for them. It's a tale full of adventure, friendship, courage, loyalty, wisdom, prudence, and a host of other virtues. It's full of wonderful glimpses of medieval life in the most natural way, as all the best historical fiction is. Highly recommended. I intend to read it to the children even though we're a little bit past this time in our history studies. (purchased copy, and worth every penny)

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall just wasn't very good. It's not terrible, though I don't like how the girls keep secrets from their father. The plot and writing seemed forced. If my kids asked to read it, I'd let them, but I don't intend to give it to them otherwise. (library copy)

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling is truly delightful and I can't believe I'd never read it before. That's a travesty I don't intend to inflict on my children. I'm going to read it aloud to them soon, hopefully before the end of the school year. We had listened to a wonderful audio version of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, so my children will recognize that story. (free Kindle edition)

Holding Jesus by Alfred McBride (a review for The Catholic Company)

Books in Progress (and date started)

1 comment:

  1. I did some reading about Montessori education over the summer and I found Montessori Today and Montessori in the Classroom particularly informative. I really enjoyed reading the classroom one - even though I don't teach in a classroom, it was so helpful to see what the day and school year looked like in practice. I wish a Charlotte Mason teacher would write a book like that!!


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