Sunday, October 20, 2013

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. 

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