Sunday, June 2, 2013

May 2013 Book Report

Call It Courage by Armstrong Perry is a Polynesian legend of a young boy who is afraid of the sea, in a culture and world where the sea is everything. Mafatu flees his island on a quest to conquer his fears, planning to return as a son to make his father proud. Seeking the conditional love of his father is the only disappointment in the book of perseverance, skill, and strength. Beautifully written, it's a wonderful book. I originally found it in an article at Memoria Press. If I had read it early enough, I would have included it as independent reading in third grade along with our study of the South Pacific Jungle Islands, but instead First Son will read it as one of his independent geography books in fourth grade. (library copy, but I recently requested a copy at

The Boy from Reactor 4 by Orest Stelmach is a mystery and action story of a young woman's quest to find a famous Ukrainian thief and the supposed millions he stole. It's nothing special, really, and I almost stopped reading it, but it was a good option on a hard day when I was distracted and limping around on a twisted ankle. I kept thinking I must have picked out a sequel because the back-story seemed too complicated, but apparently it's a first novel. (Kindle edition borrowed for free from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library)

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield is on the list of possible classic books to read in Level 2, but I personally didn't like it that much. It seemed disjointed, various scenes written but without a solid plot line. There was also a lot of drinking and smoking (not by the main boy). So I don't think I'll give it to First Son next year. (library copy)

Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is one I picked up when thinking about poems for the children, not for them, but because I thought I should be reading poetry myself. I tried to read every poem slowly, but some of them did not appeal to me. It's a problem I have with all poetry. Luckily the children don't have that option since they listen to me read aloud. I surprised myself by finding two poems I particularly liked. At the end, when I went back to them, I realized they were both by the same poet, Ramona McCallum. You can read one of them here. (She has a number of poems on the site.) Our library doesn't have her book, though, so I'll have to request it from inter-library loan. (library copy)

Stations of the Nativity by Lawrence Boadt (inter-library loan, but I purchased a copy after reading it)

Good Shepherd and the Child: A Joyful Journey by Sofia Cavalletti, Patricia Coulter, Gianna Gobbi, and Silvana Q. Montanaro (purchased copy)

Where the Flame Trees Bloom by Alma Flor Ada is one of the possible books listed by Mater Amabilis in Level 2 for the People and Places study of the Americas. It's a series of short stories, memories of a girl's childhood in Cuba. Many of the stories are sweet and well-written. First Son may read it next year in fourth grade. I'm still looking into our options. (

The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning with illustrations by Kate Greenaway is a nice edition of this poem for children. I had never read the entire poem myself and am now looking forward to sharing it with the children next year. I think we'll start our poetry with some Shakespearean sonnets, then read this together. (library copy)

The Most Beautiful Place in the World by Ann Cameron is a book I found while searching Amazon and our library catalog for books set in Central or South American. It tells of Juan who lives with his grandmother after his father abandons them and his mother leaves him to marry another man. His grandmother loves him a great deal and encourages him in his studies, but I decided against using this in our Central and South American study because I am reluctant to share stories of children abandoned by their parents with my children. (library)

Like Bug Juice on a Burger by Julie Sternberg is a sequel to Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie which I read recently. In this one, Eleanor goes off to summer camp. It's not as idyllic as she expects but she perseveres. I would never send my nine year old off to sleep-away camp for two weeks, but the book was excellent and I put it on the list for First Daughter to read in the future, maybe next year. (library)

Tierra del Fuego: A Journey to the End of the Earth by Peter Lourie is a brief book full of photographs of his visit to Tierra del Fuego. It gives a little introduction to the people and culture and would be easy enough for a fairly early reader. It's another book I found while searching for Central and South American books and I'm considering it as part of our People and Places studies in fourth grade. (library copy)

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright was available as a Playaway from our library so I pre-read it very quickly before we took a long car trip. It's a delightful story of four children who pool their allowance to give one child each week a truly eventful experience. First Daughter listened to this book on our trip and loved it. (library copy)

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson came up in the library searches I did for Central and South American books. Set in 1901, orphaned Maia travels to the Amazon River basin to live with relatives and Miss Minton, a governess who becomes a trusted friend. I'm putting this in our plans for next year as part of our study of Central and South America. I enjoyed it and I think First Son will like it, too. (library copy, but I've requested one from

Half Way Home by Hugh Howey is the story of a group of colonists released too soon, questioning the AI that is supposed to help them and struggling to survive. The homosexuality of the main character was more prominent in the story than I had anticipated, but other than that it was alright. This is the kind of story I like to have when we're traveling and I want to read to pass the time but have to stop often to look out the window. Perfect for that. (Hugh Howey is the author of the Wool series, which I've really enjoyed.) (purchased for the Kindle when it was only $1)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (purchased copy)

Books in Progress (and date started)


  1. I just pre-read The Saturdays for Catherine and I liked it so much that I checked out the rest of the series and am now on the third book. It reminds me of The Moffats, a book by Eleanor Estes, which we listened to last year. The kids really enjoyed it, laughing out loud at times. If our library has The Saturdays on CD, we'll listen to it next I think.

  2. I'm glad to know you are enjoying the whole series! I was hoping the rest of the books would be good, too.


Comments make me happy; thanks for speaking up!