Thursday, June 12, 2014

May 2014 Book Reports

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson is a book I never read when I was younger. It's a compelling look at sibling rivalry between twin girls, one of which seems to be more favored by everyone, written from the point of view of the other. The resolution seemed inadequate when I first read it, partly perhaps because I read the last two-thirds of the book very quickly. I think it's also the kind of book that benefits from thinking about it for a while after reading it. (library copy)

Conquest: Book 1, The Chronicles of the Invaders by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard is the first of a planned trilogy in which a superior (but not vastly superior) race of aliens, one startlingly like humans, conquers Earth and tries to subdue it, so far unsuccessfully. A young Illyri, Syl, becomes embroiled in the politics of her race and the battle for freedom by the humans. Written for young adults, the book contains hints of plenty of classic and cult science fiction like Battlestar Galactica, Dune, and even Stargate. So far, it's pretty enjoyable and I'm looking forward to reading more. (library copy)

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling is the story of a lazy obnoxious rich boy who topples over the side of his fancy steamship and is picked up by a fishing dory. He spends the season cod fishing until the boat is full and they can head back to land, learning much about how to be a man and the value of work. It's a good book, but even I found the language difficult to follow at times, so I'm not going to assign it to First Son just yet. I think I'll just leave it on the shelf. The copy I have is an old one with lots of illustrations, notes, and definitions on the sides of the pages, so it's a good one, but I couldn't find the edition on Amazon. (purchased discarded library copy)

Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez (with Kristin Ohlson) is a memoir of an American woman who volunteers in Afghanistan and then returns later to start a beauty school. Some of the language was a little crass for me, which is more intrusive when listening to the audio version rather than reading it. My main problem with it was that, despite the author's insistence that she loved the Afghani women, she was constantly condescending to them and, in particular, to their beliefs. Obviously, things like stoning are unacceptable, but short of that, I think she could have been more understanding. She also marries a man she barely knows with whom she cannot even talk because they speak different languages. (She apparently does not make an effort to learn any languages herself.) Finally, at the end it seemed like one woman's horrible story after another and was overwhelming rather than uplifting. (playaway from the library)

Anna Hibiscus and Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke are easy reader books about a young girl who lives in Africa (Amazing Africa) with her parents, twin brothers, grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins. She is rich and greatly loved and their family is sweet and wonderful. The poverty of the city outside their compound is in the first book a little and the main subject of the last chapter of the latter book. These are great books about Africa because they show some of the contrast in many large African cities today - wealth and poverty, technology like cell phones and texting but inconsistent electricity. Her whole family works to make Africa, and the world, a better place, including little Anna who must do so by going to school. These books are a bit too easy for First Daughter, but I think I'll put them on her list for next year when First Son is also reading books set in Africa. There are a bunch of Anna Hibiscus books, but these are the only two our library has. (library copies)

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat is the hilarious book of the misadventures of Billy and his two owls, Wol and Weeps. There's a tremendous amount of descriptions of the wildlife and prairies of Saskatchewan as well. I was considering it for First Son to read next year, but think instead I'll offer it as possible summer reading. It's enjoyable enough for summer! (library copy)

Darkness Be My Friend (The Tomorrow Series #4) by John Marsden was reviewed for another website. As I said last month, I'm reviewing the series but it's not really worth your time. (audio CD from the library)

The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son by Lois Lowry (library copies)

A Gift from Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood by Baba Wague Diakite is written by an artist from Mali who now splits his time between Mali and the United States. His book gives a wonderful glimpse into live in a village in Mali with his grandparents and then a large city where he lives with his mother. At the end of the book, he is a grown man who marries a woman from Kansas (including a favorable description of her hometown and family). First Son will be reading this next year for his African studies. This is not a Christian book and the references to African beliefs, but nothing that would preclude me from sharing this with my son. (library copy)

Waiting for the Apocalypse: A Memoir of Faith and Family by Veronica Chater is the fascinating and heart-breaking memoir of a family uprooted by their parents' refusal to accept Vatican II. I have been thinking about it deeply since I read it, trying to discern what (if anything) I should draw from it. I think most of all, it was a reminder to me to love my children unconditionally, even when they make mistakes. I think, too, it speaks to a balance between sacrifices for the sake of our faith and needlessly endangering our families. (library copy)

Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan is the story of a young girl orphaned by influenza in 1918 after living her entire life in Africa with her missionary parents. After a journey to England, she perseveres in following her dream and her heart back to the land she loves. This could be a good book for the fifth grade MA study of Africa, especially for girls. (library copy)

Tankborn (Tankborn Trilogy) by Karen Sandler is the first in a series for young adults set far into the future on another planet. It the context of GENs (genetically modified creatures), it explores what it means to be human, caste systems, racism, and how to do right in the face of great wrongs. The last chapter is the weakest, but it could be an interesting series. I am reviewing this series for another website. (library copy)

Blue Sea Burning (The Chronicles of Egg) by Geoff Rodkey is the third and final book in the Chronicles of Egg series, one of my favorite middle grade series, though I would recommend it for older students in that range due to some romantic interests by the main characters in addition to some pretty violent actions. It was an exciting and satisfying end to the series, though, especially since it leaves room for the characters to continue to grow. (library copy)

Homeschooling with Gentleness by Suzie Andres (inter-library loan)

Clementine's Letter by Sara Pennypacker, pictures by Marla Frazee (library copy)

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende (library copy) 

A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia by Alice Turner Curtis is a sweet little book set in the time of the Revolutionary War. I think First Daughter will love reading this with our American history studies next year in second grade. It's part of a series and, if she likes, I'll let her read the rest without pre-reading them myself. (free Kindle book)

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure is a meandering book of the author's fascination with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I thought it would be interesting as we've been listening to the books again ourselves. While it does give some information about what life was really like for Laura, it's more a book about the people who become obsessed with the stories. I listened to the audio book and quickly tired of the performer's rendition of the people in Kansas and Missouri; I found it quite demeaning. I was also frustrated at the condescending attitude toward those who might want to learn how to make something from scratch or be self-sufficient for their own sakes, while the author could do those things just because she read them in the book. She equates everyone who wants to make their own butter, for example, with those who anticipate the end of civilization as we know it. I'm sure there are some crazy people out there and the author probably met a lot of them, but I was pretty offended by her attitude by the end of the book. (playaway from the library)

Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter's Uncommon Year by Laura Brodie (library copy)

Books in Progress (and date started)

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