Monday, May 4, 2015

April 2015 Book Reports

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is the tragic story of a family devastated by the Revolutionary War. I appreciated the attempt to show the Tory side of the war and how families were divided. I felt like the end was unnecessarily hopeless. It would be much too violent to read aloud to my younger children (who will be 9, 7, and 5 next year), but I think I'll even look for something else for my 11 year old son to read. (library copy)

Bright April by Marguerite De Angeli is the endearing story of a young black girl. Her Brownie troop is a prominent part of her life so nature study forms a background for much of her education. On a special trip, she suffers discrimination and prejudice but with some wise advice and comfort endures to develop a friendship instead. I plan to read this aloud to the family next year. I think Second Daughter (who will be 7) will particularly enjoy it. (library copy)

Mysteries of Life in Children's Literature by Mitchell Kalpakgian - my review. (inter-library loan)

Cinnabar, the One O'Clock Fox by Marguerite Henry was recommended by someone in the Read-Aloud Revival facebook group. As we're just approaching the beginning of the Revolutionary War in our American history, I thought we could give it a try even though I hadn't read it myself. I thought it was a fine book, but my children all loved it. They begged for me to read from it first every day. It's not particularly historical and, I think, made fox hunting out to be a bit less cruel than it really is, but it was fun. (library copy)

The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket. We listened to this book on audio CD. I was pleased to point out the reference to Damocles to my daughter since we had read that myth earlier this year. We also had a good discussion about how authors choose names for characters that tell us more about them (like Captain Sham). The author reads this one, and he's a better author than narrator. (library copy)

Anna and the Baby Buzzard by Helga Sandburg with fantastic illustrations by Brinton Turkle is a book I found while searching the library catalog for something else. I just love Turkle's illustrations. Anna steals a baby buzzard from a nest (the saddest part of the book) and raises it as her own, learning to let him grow up and be a buzzard. Second Daughter is fascinated by birds and will just love this book. I intend to read it aloud next year. It's a bit long to consider it a picture book, but it is not a chapter book either. (library copy)

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean is the story of a girl who stops talking about a year after her mother's death, the blind-deaf boy who befriends her, and the dog who attaches himself to them both. Somehow it all comes together. Cally sees her dead mother, which is a little weird. I can't decide if she's supposed to be a ghost or if Cally is imagining her; the text isn't definitive. This is a middle grade book, touching on themes of loss, family, loving parents who might not know the best thing to do, and being comforted. This will be an option for First Daughter next year in third grade. (library copy)

El Deafo by Cece Bell is a graphic novel based on the author's life after she becomes deaf as a young child. She invents a alter-ego superhero to help her navigate elementary school. My children love this book, especially my 8 year old daughter. I think some of the references to a crush in fifth grade were unnecessary, but generally liked the way the tale is accesible to those who are not deaf, giving some insight into what it is like to be deaf and how important friendships and honesty are, especially when someone's life is so different from your own. As a interesting side note, one of our librarians is deaf. She used an aid like the one in the book but didn't have as good an experience with it and eventually stopped using it. (library copy)

King David and His Songs by Mary Fabyan Windeatt is a biography of King David in which the author imagines him singing one of his psalms throughout his life, with one psalm in each chapter. David's sins are appropriately presented for kids of all ages (as well as his penintence), but this isn't the kind of book that explores his life in great depth. My children enjoyed listening to this biography, recommended for Volume 1 of Connecting with History. (purchased copy)

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes - my review. (library copy) 

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo was recommended on a facebook thread for the Read Aloud Revival group. Our library had an audio copy available and we needed something for the van, so I requested it...and absolutely loved it. This book may be one of my favorites of all time. There's courage, goodness, honesty, and kindness, in a world that's a little bit silly. Don't watch the movie. (library copy)

Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization by Scott Hahn was the book selected for the adult education class at our parish. Overall, I'd have to say I don't recommend it. Though I don't think it was intentional, the depiction of Protestants seemed more negative than positive (or even neutral). I felt like Dr. Hahn wrote this book really quickly off the top of his head in order to have a book on the shelves focused on the New Evangelization and I think he probably has better books, though I haven't read anything else he's written. (borrowed from the parish)

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry is another book set in Port William. This one tells the life of Jayber Crow, a bachelor barber who falls in love with a woman married to another man and remains faithful to her in secret until her death while her unfaithful husband ruins her family's land in a quest for a bigger and more industrialized farm of modern America. It's not quite as grim as it sounds, but was not as near lovely as Hannah Coulter. (library copy)

I also finished Minn of the Mississippi, Galen and the Gateway to Medicine, and Our Lady's Book. I read these just ahead of First Son, who read them independently in school this year (fifth grade). I may write homeschool review posts of them at some point. (all purchased copies)


Books in Progress (and date started)
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These reports are my honest opinions.

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