Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Big Book Review, Vol. 4

It's that time again...time when I sit down and record what I've read over the past six months or so. Once again, the actual number of books is much lower than I feel like it should be. Part of that is because I've got so many periodicals that I read, part because I've been totally into listening to the "Stuff You Missed In History Class" podcast (both current and past podcasts), part because I have a newborn for crying out loud, and part because the first book I worked on was a total monster of a book.

Here's the list:

Building Christian Character: A Devotional Guidebook through the Elements of Christian Character for Children and Adults by Blair Adams (image from first edition)

This was a heavy book, and I'm not just talking about weight. It was over 350 pages full of elements that make up Christian character, their polar opposites, and Bible verses pertaining to each. I understand there is a system available to use it in schooling that I'd really like to get my hands on. I often found myself thinking, "wow, I'd really like to have the kids memorize this list of verses," about a whole variety of character issues that still need polishing. Of course, I need my own bit of polishing as well...

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel

A very informative book. Our new root cellar going in made it so that I needed to learn something about cold storage...Stat. I appreciated the logical layout of the book. I even got a good pumpkin pie recipe (using honey in the filling and butter in the crust) that everyone here enjoyed.

I also read the following books as a preview for Caleb, whose insatiable appetite for books has left me scrambling to find good books for him:

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

Really enjoyable. It's about a Finnish family, a girl with 7 older brothers whose desperately hoping for a baby sister, and life on the Nasel River at the turn of the century. May Amelia is constantly getting into trouble, but she really has a heart of gold. I passed it along to Caleb.

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss

The book must be out of print because I couldn't find it listed, except for used copies, on Amazon. It is about a Dutch Jewish family forced into hiding in WWII. The book focuses on the youngest daughter who, along with her middle sister, must stay in the upstairs room of a farm house. You do really get a sense of how maddening it would have been to be, essentially, prisoners. And once free, how awkward it would be to rejoin the world. I haven't passed it on to Caleb for one reason: language. The farmer they live with lets a few words fly that are unacceptable in our house. As far as exposure to Nazis go, the book is actually quite a gentle introduction to the atrocities. It is a shame that it is ruined by language.

The Fire Pony by Rodman Philbrick

I liked it. It totally made me want to ride horses. There is some intrigue in it...a past that haunts the main character's older brother. You never know exactly what happened, but you know that they have to keep moving to stay ahead of his past. The ending is good. I won't spoil it, but I felt it was a great ending to a kid's book. I did pass this one along to Caleb as well.

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman

I must admit I was drawn to this one because of my fondness for midwifery. The description on the back wasn't too enticing, but I read it anyway. I really liked it. It reminded me somewhat of The Tale of Despereaux in that it is a simple story with deep underlying emotional growth for the characters. However, it is crass in places. True to the medieval time period in which it is set, there are several (maybe 4?) references to someone being caught with their breeches down, pinches, warm & sticky kisses, and the like. Nothing overly vulgar, but I will wait a few years before letting Caleb read this one if he gets it at all. I haven't decided that one yet. Does it pass the "Whatever is good, whatever is noble..." test? Hmmm.

Books we read for school:
  • Walk the World's Rim by Betty Baker - Good story that inserts a fictional character into real history. When we went to learn the real story behind the book, we were amazed at how true to life it actually stayed. A hard look, also, at slavery and honor.
  • Pedro's Journal by Pam Conrad - Diary of a boy on Columbus' ship. Great way to learn about life on a ship during that time and about Columbus specifically.
  • Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark - Honestly, I had to trudge through this one. It doesn't happen often, but occasionally, I just can't figure out why Sonlight picked a certain book. This is my core 3 question mark.
  • Incans, Aztecs, and Mayans by John Holzmann - We really enjoyed learning through this book. And, I've been amazed at what the kids have retained. In fact, Meagan often writes a number in the base-20 Mayan way after learning about it in the book.
  • Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare - We all really enjoyed this one about a boy who is left to care for the home while his father is gone for months to bring the rest of the family back.
  • Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare - Another wonderful book...one of those that the kids are chanting "One more chapter!" after each reading. The main character is 16, so I was a little concerned that it would be too mature for them, but they loved it. It is about a girl of privilege from Barbados who loses everything and is forced to turn to relatives in colonial Connecticut. She is accused of witchcraft and discovers who really loves her through it.
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes - We aren't finished yet, but it looks like it'll be a winner.
That's all for this year! Happy reading!


Red Gate said...

Root Cellaring is what my hubby got for Christmas!! :)

OurCrazyFarm said...

What a list! All that, and a baby! Sounds like a lot of great reads! If Caleb likes animals the Living Forest Series by Sam Campbell is a great one for this age group. We had a hard time finding anything that Trent was interested in until we found this series. Of course there's Narnia which is a favorite around here. Our older kids have also been enjoying many Great Illustrated Classics series, too. We loved Summer of the Monkeys (but don't bother with the movie, it was not good or true to the book. Where the Red Fern Grows is a good boys book. Happy reading! You have inspired me! Great new pictures on the blog! I really like the family one!

Becky said...

I am SO glad that we are not the only family that has a hard time with Secret of the Andes!! We are doing core 3 for the 3rd time (child #3!) and I just can't do it! Love all the others you mentioned from core 3 and will be checking out a couple of the others you mentioned!