Friday, April 3, 2009

For the Record: March 2009:

I was convinced that I hadn't read very many books in March. First, I had I Know This Much is True hanging over my head all month. I had to read it before my book club meeting on March 30, and each day I pulled out my calculator to figure out how long I could procrastinate reading it. Second, the power supply for my laptop went kaput so I'd been using my hunny's pc...which worked perfectly except for the fact that I didn't have access to my Word doc where I keep track of the books I'd read. So you see, I had very little idea that I'd read more than 10 books. It actually looks as if I've read 13 books in March (that puts me at 38 for the first quarter). That's what homeschooling will do to you (9 of them were related to school somehow). You'll have no doubts about what we've been studying in history this month. Here they are:

The Winged Watchman, Hilda VanStockum. This book is scheduled as a read-aloud in Sonlight's Core 4. It takes place in Holland during WWII, and gives a vivid picture of what life was like for these brave people during those hard years. Not only is this book an introduction to life in Holland, but it fully examines the quality of one's character, and has a great story to tie it all together. It was thoroughly satisfying to read.

A Letter to Mrs. RooseveltA Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt, C. Coco De Young. I read this aloud to my kiddos, and it was one that they begged to hear more of each day. It is included in Sonlight Core 4 as well as WinterPromise American Story 2. It gives a example of a family trying to make it through the Great Depression, introduces all the work Mrs. Roosevelt did during that time, and manages to make this hard time feel uplifting. One of my son's complaints when learning about the Great Depression was that it was too depressing! Not so with this book. This book is engaging and relevant, and uplifting at the same time.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Judith Kerr. I didn't even realize that this book was included in Sonlight's Core 100. It was recommended, I think, in the activity guide for The Story of the World Vol. 4. I enjoyed the autobiographical nature of the book, although I have to admit that I kept waiting for some action. If I'd had some idea beforehand that this book held it's value mostly in the little parts remembered from childhood, I would probably have thought more highly of it. It follows Anna's family as they remove themselves from Germany to Switzerland, then further on to France, and ultimately in England. The majority of the book relates the difficulty the children had learning new languages and cultures.

One Eye Laughing, The Other Weeping, Barry Denenberg. My apologies to Mr. Denenberg, but this book is the worst I've read to date on any historical matter whatsoever. I'm pretty sure. Yeah, I'm sure. This is part of the Dear America series published by Scholastic. I'm completely unfamiliar with this series, but I figured that a junior historical fiction series such as this warranted looking at. I've no idea why it has such great reviews on Amazon. I'm baffled. I'd say that the book was written on about an early 4th grade reading level, and yet the content is questionable for even my 7th grader. Not that it was graphic, and understanding that I very well may be more picky than most, but the insinuations were enough for me. Comments about how "making whoopee" was the girl's favorite American phrase, and the fact that her mother committed suicide after Nazi soldiers had basically ravaged her (made her dress in an evening gown, took off with her, and returned her beaten, sullied, and sullen...she wouldn't tell anyone what happened, and they all wondered). I could understand mentioning some general injustices of the time, it wouldn't be much of a book about WWII without something. But theses things, combined with the overall attitude of the main character felt contrived at best, and like a completely rewritten history at worst.

Number the StarsNumber the Stars, Lois Lowry. Now this is a beautiful book about WWII. Age appropriate in writing style and content, and seemingly historically acurate, it was also engaging, informative, suspenseful. This is a book I'd hand to my kids and recommend to others any day.

Children of the Dust Bowl, Jerry Stanley. As enrichment for our 1930's studies, I gave a "good parts version" to the kids. I found it very interesting, and so did everyone else for the first few sentences. But after that I'd look over at my children and they'd be looking at me like "yeah. we get it. it was dry. really, really, dry."

Children of the Great Depression (Golden Kite Awards (Awards))Children of the Great Depression, Russell Freedman. Ditto the above review, Great Depression style. I like it, it was a little much for the kiddos. It was condensed, and they are glad it's done.

The Gadget, Paul Zindel. This is a perspective that you don't often see in junior historical fiction about WWII. It primarily takes place in New Mexico, and revolves around the development of the atomic bomb. It is a boy book, in that it is filled with adventure, spies, bombs, and intrigue. It's a fairly quick and easy read, too. An easy way to get a taste of the other side of the apple...done in what seemed to be an objective way.

Journey to America, Sonia Levitin. I read this aloud for school, as it was part of WinterPromise's American Story 2 program. It very similar to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit in plot, yet was more engaging for a younger audience. It did a great job at giving a gentle look at the Holocaust.

Canterbury Quintet : The General Prologue & Four Tales : A Reader-Friendly EditionThe Canterbury Quintet, Geoffrey Chaucer. This is part of Sonlight Core 530. Let's get one thing straight: this version was not a translation, it was simply spelling corrected. And lest you think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, let me just tell you that the translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was so much easier to read than this original version (both written around the same time--Middle English). From this I have realized that I am by no means a purist. Give me the translation any day--that I might enjoy it, not labor over it. I was dreaming in iambic pentameter.

I Know This Much is True, Wally Lamb. I did it! I finished it by March 30, and with days to spare. It was not a difficult read, although it was emotionally involved. I'm definitely (in case you hadn't noticed) more into historical fiction and 19th century British Literature, and the language and subject matter of this book just about did me in a couple of times. The book had a good message, if you can either convince yourself that someone with the worst life imaginable can end up with a happily-ever-after due to a great psychiatrist, or just not care that it's not realistic. There are very realistic portions: the character development was amazing, the setting was done great, the emotional responses were right on for the characters. I'm just not used to reading about all that crummy stuff. But what did I expect? It was an Oprah book after all.

The Secret, Beverly Lewis. I received and Advance Reading copy of this book free through LibraryThing.com (yay!). Reading this directly after I Know This Much is True was probably not the best idea. I was struck by how opposite they were. The Secret was fairly short, the first in a planned series, filled with wholesome people, and light on the character development. Like most of Beverly Lewis' books, this took place in Amish Pennsylvania. I'm not planning on reading the others in the series, but it sure was awfully fun to get a free advanced copy of a book!

The Importance Of Being EarnestThe Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde. Another from Sonlight Core 530, this was an absolute delight. I'm smitten--it was so funny! I actually watched the screen version with Colin Firth the night before reading the play, which definitely did not do any harm. I do often like to watch the film version of a book/play before reading it, because the book is typically so much better. This was really great. I might start collecting multiple copies.

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