Sunday, October 20, 2013

10/20/13 Eye-Popping Books


This is the coolest book! I am so thrilled to have found this! You will pore over every page, admiring the detailed artistry of each and every sword and weapon. My boys have always been into weapons and this gives us lots to talk about on our homeschooling mornings and definitely makes running to the homeschooling closet a regular event. I am learning about ninjas and sillas and shurikens. Not stuff I ever thought I would care to know, but since my kids are interested, I will bond over it with them.


This is a fun book to stick in your homeschooling closet  and then bring out and exclaim over the cleverly photoshopped pictures. It can inspire interest in geography and science with the kids and can give you several days worth of homeschooling discussions, especially if you ask questions about what the kids notice about the pictures. I will be checking out more of Hillman's books!

10/20/13 What We've Been Reading Lately

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)
The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) 

I didn't read these books but my 15 year old son did. He actually listened to them on CD, and the third one too. In 6 days! He had a discussion coming up about the Lord of the Rings trilogy in his homeschool leadership class at our commonwealth school. He insisted that he finish all three because he really, really wanted to participate in the discussion and know what everyone was talking about. My husband has read all three and read them aloud to my 7 and 9 year olds this past year. Maybe some day I will read them, just to say I did and be part of the inner circle that has read them. I have a hard time reading fantasy with names I can't remember, much less pronounce.

Johnny Tremain

 My 12 year old son L. read this book for his Key of Liberty homeschool class. I read it aloud a few years ago to him and the younger ones. It is full of a lot of discussion starters about character, patience, and kindness. I just wish the story were true.

Sorry for the blank cover. This picture stands for a book that L. read last month that is out of print, called John Adams: Reluctant Patriot of the Revolution. He liked it. I haven't read it yet.


 I read the bestseller three years ago by McCullough and loved it. OK, so I didn't read it recently but October always makes me think of John Adams because that's when I read his famous bio by McCullough. And because his birthday and wedding anniversary with marvelous Abigail are in October.  I am almost ready to give this book five stars. I am holding back because I am thinking maybe the author was slightly biased against Thomas Jefferson. I am going to have to read maybe at least two more bios of Jefferson so I know more about his life from other sources. After reading this book, my opinion of John Adams went up and my opinion of Jefferson went down. McCullough shows that Adams was a very principled man. The biggest character flaw he presents of Adams is his irritability. He tells of Jefferson's mistake of bribing a man named James Callendar to leak the story of Alexander Hamilton's extramarital affair. He seems to have done it to show Hamilton's bad character and bring down the reputation of the Federalists, which Adams belonged to.

I love all the letters that McCullough quotes, especially all the ones between Abigail and John, those between Abigail and Jefferson, and then those between Jefferson and Adams. The ones between Abigail and Jefferson were especially interesting. Abigail chastised Jefferson severely for his bribery. She did not mince words. I am wondering if she was the only person in his time who was willing to call him to the carpet for his sin. Abigail is definitely one of my feminine heroes!

This book has so many gems. I liked that the author brought up Adams belief in God and Jesus. He says that Adams did not believe in the perfectibility of man apart from divine authority. I liked that he showed the personal side of Adams with his intense interest in Abigail and his children. Here are all the important things that John did which I learned from this book:

-he organized the Committees of Correspondence, among the colonies. This helped to coordinate the colonies efforts to fight against the British when they felt their
freedoms were being abrogated by the taxes.

-he defended the British soldiers who were accused in the Boston Massacre. This allowed him to demonstrate his integrity, no matter what side he was on.

-he and Richard Henry Lee were the two members of the Continental Congress in 1776 most dedicated to the idea of independence from Great Britain. He had the vision of it and
was the one who argued most passionately for it. RHL proposed it
formally, but Adams argued the most for it.

-he was the one who nominated George Washington to be the commander of the army.

-he kept the nation out of war with France because he knew it was better to make peace. If war had happened, McCullough says that our fragile young nation likely would
have had disaster. I am wondering if that means destroyed. Also, if
it hadn't been for this, it's likely that France would not have sold
the land to Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase.

-he greatly influenced the writing of the Constitution, not because he was there at the convention, but because he had written a book explaining the importance of mixed
government. This influenced the Massachusetts constitution as well as
the U.S. Constitution. He knew a mixed government was important in
order to have checks and balances.

-he was one of the few, maybe the only one of the Founders, who could see that the French Revolution would lead to disaster. Jefferson admired it. Adams could see that it would
show that a mob unchecked is just as bad, if not more bad, than a
tyrannical despot.


I finished reading aloud this classic to two of my littles, the 7 and 9 year olds. It has so much symbolism! We read it every morning while they did the breakfast dishes. Sometimes they acted like the didn't like it but whenever I finished a chapter and said it was time to be done for the day, they would cry for more. It has some weird scenarios but overall I like it. I have my own ideas of what the Good Fairy, the cricket, Lamp Wick, and Geppetto all symbolize, but I will let you decide what they mean for you! This story was great to read and talk about with these kids because sometimes they don't want to work hard at school and obey. From now on I can always remind them of Pinocchio's fate.


This picture book plays up the gardening metaphor in George Washington's life. If this book was all your read about his life you would think of him first and foremost as a farmer. I read it to my kids as a bedtime story. It's too wordy for under 7s, my 4 year old guy had a hard time paying attention but the 7 and 9 year olds liked it. 

The Quilting Bee 

This book is perfect to read when the months get colder and kids want to get cozy under blankets. You can ask them how they think quilts are made and then pop out this book to answer the question. You can find out about quilting bees and quilt blocks. I loved seeing the different patterns that date back to colonial times. I give it 4 out 5 stars because I wish the illustrations weren't quite so cartoony.


The ripening apples and getting the last of the harvest in October reminds me of how much I love the seasons of the earth. I love reading books like this one that focus on how the seasons turn the year. This book follows a family on a farm and all the communal activities surrounding an agrarian life, both chores and fun times. It makes me want to go live on a farm. I have seen the works of the illustrator, Mary Azarian, in some of my other favorite picture books, like Snowflake Bentley, and love her wood cut pictures. I give it five stars! I don't think I'll read it to the 12 year old, then he will pester me about skiing off the roof!


My 17 year old daughter has been studying this book for her online world lit class. She enjoys it. I love reading her papers and seeing her insights. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Books for 8/18/13

This is the best book to read for Pioneer Day! I am sorry I didn't post a review in June or July so you could find it before the holiday. Hopefully you will get it for next year! It is a touching, tear-jerker of a story that can open up many discussions, such as, what is a real man? what does it mean to honor a name? how do you deal when you lose something? What does it mean to be part of a family with grandparents? I lucked out and brought it with me to a family reunion where we were staying for a few nights at a lodge, all 8 of us sleeping in one room with two sets of bunk beds. Can you say, "jungle-gym time at night for 4 little children?" It was a great bedtime story to forget about climbing and settle my littles down to sleep. 5 out of 5 stars.

Another lucky find at the library. This is story based on a real person, Wu Daozi, China's most famous painter, who lived during the Tang Dynasty. The ending is not real of course and it may confuse some children. You might want to point out that the story is not real but it is fun to think about being able to paint images that are so lifelike. 4 out of 5 stars, just because I think the ending maybe should have been different. It's a calming bedtime story, and I am always on the look-out for those.

I might have already reviewed this previous summers. I can't remember, it's just such a beautiful book that it keeps grabbing me at the library. I think I will be getting it every summer. It follows the life cycle of plants from seed to harvest. I love the gorgeous illustrations. 5 out of 5 stars.

Now that I have two children who I am encouraging to be independent readers in the past year I go to the Beginner Reader section a lot at the library. I have found the above author to dependably provide me with engaging stories set in American history, loosely or completely based on real people. The author has a series of beginning readers that tells of a Swedish family immigrating to America. I really liked those stories and now I feel equally delighted to find another of her books. This story is based on a true story about a man who takes a letter through a snowstorm to deliver it to the father of a little boy he knows, through the Sierra Nevada mountains, to get the dad home for Christmas. 5 out of 5 stars!

This one was definitely fun to read! I love finding picture books about real people. This tells the story of the friendship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. They started out as friends, then had a falling out and didn't speak to each other for 12 years, then forgave each other and became pen pals, ultimately dying on the same day, which in case you aren't up on your American history, was the 50th anniversary of the first Independence Day. Charming story! 5 out of 5 stars!

I met the author of this one at the recent Moms' Retreat held in Utah annually. My friends have raved about this book. It's Carol Tuttle's energy typing system applied to kids. My friends have said it helped them parent their kids better. So I bought it for only $10 on sale at the Retreat and have started in. Although I don't like to categorize people into neat boxes, if it helps me avert some tantrums and get more cooperation, I am all for it. We'll see how it works soon!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Books for 4/21/13

In my quest to find meaningful picture books to read aloud to my littles at bedtime I found this treasure at my local public library. I love stories like this that involve some tension, but turn out peacefully. A family with two boys on a ship encounter a storm. They get rescued and it's fun to see how the proto-type of the Coast Guard save them with a contraption that is probably not used today. I love the illustrations! 5 out of 5 stars! I will be definitely looking for more of Carbone's books.

 I have loved other books by John Pontius so I am working on this one, one of his latest works. You can read some of his books for free over here at  I got to hear him speak shortly before he passed away. He is such a gifted, wonderful man. This is his account of one man's story, as told to him. It's about the man's many NDEs and his visions of the last days. Very fascinating! I haven't finished it yet, so I will hold back on my rating.

This is a sweet story, although maybe a little too wordy to hold all three of my little children's attention. It's about friendship and reaching out to those who are different and how to be unselfish. 4 out of 5 stars!

I remember this one from my childhood, although I had forgotten the ending. Or maybe I remember other books in the series. I like the surprise ending. It was maybe a little too long...some of my littles were losing interest, and then the twist of events lured them back in. 4 out of 5 stars.

I also remember this one from my childhood. I love how Frances figures out how to work out her problem with her friend without being mean. I love the soft illustrations too. 5 out of 5 stars!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Books for 2/26/13

This book is delightful! Lots of fun words to build your child's vocabulary and a surprise ending where the main character is surprised! It shows the power of a feminine heart who believes everyone is good. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

I just discovered Robert San Souci's works. This one by him is a little bit strange. Good gets good in the end and evil is rewarded with evil, but one of the scenes is a little disturbing, where the old lady takes her head off and combs her hair. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

This is a charming story about a brother/sister pair. I loved it how they learn to appreciate each other's interests and learn to get along better. 5 out of 5 stars!

I finally got this book! I am having a hard time making the time to read it though. Now that my youngest is weaned I just don't sit down much to read to myself. Maybe I can get it in audio?

I read this to my older kids when they were young and now I am reading it to the littles, especially in the morning when they do dishes. It is a thrilling adventure during World War II. We have so much snow this winter I figured it would be fun to read about a snow story.

Ooooh, I love this story! It is a true story about a family who lived on a ship, and did ship-schooling (homeschooling on a ship). They had a bunch of children and the dad was the captain so they lived with him on the ship. I love the little scenario about celebrating Christmas. A heart-warming story! 5 out of 5 stars!

Every morning I have the littles read aloud to me as part of our homeschool. This is the first "chapter book" they have read! They are 18 months apart and on the same beginning reading level so we are having fun exploring I Can Read books. I loved this story! It's about a Swedish family who settles in Minnesota and their first winter. I love that it mentions God and shows the family praying to him. It made me wonder about my own Swedish ancestors. My maternal grandfather's mother's both lines are all from Sweden. Did they come during the massive wave of Swedish immigrants during the late 1800s? I don't know, but I am excited to find out. I love simple books like this that connect to me and get me thinking about my own life. 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Books for 2/9/13

I read this book and enjoyed it. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I like the premise, it's basically the law of the harvest: you reap what you sow, or what you put out comes back to you. It's a business book but you can also apply it to relationships.

This book tells of some odd adventures of a brother and sister bear. It's rather far-fetched, but it's a good way to explore the idea of what the whole truth is versus the technical truth. The sister bear gets into trouble for not following the whole truth. Brother bear gets into trouble for being irresponsible. I like that it shows the two recognizing their mistakes and fixing them, This would be a great story to read to kids to talk about honesty and responsibility.

I love picture books like this that are based on true stories of bravery, with beautiful illustrations. This is a great story of a young girl living in Iowa in the 1800s who saves many lives. I love it already, even though I haven't finished reading it to the littles. 

This one is really fun. A great lesson in superlatives that will also make you laugh out loud. I love the illustrations with the little jokes based on the pets in the background. I had fun doing different voices with this one as I read it aloud to the littles. It's great to find light-hearted books that just make you laugh!

Dear husband finished reading this one to the littles (7 yog and 8 yob) last night. They loved it! I haven't read any of them but everybody I respect loves Tolkien. Except for me. I just can't read books where I can't pronounce the character names easily. But I wholeheartedly support these books because it seems like he was a great guy, a great influence on his buddy C.S. Lewis, and a good Christian and put Christian symbolism in his books. So go for it if you like his books!