Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 2017 Reads ... or Lack Thereof

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Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

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El Morro National Monument, New Mexico

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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

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Hoover Dam, Nevada

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Hollywood

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Ventura, California

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Malibu, California

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Santa Barbara, California

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Arches National Park, Utah

And that is the reason I have little to no reading to post this month! We were either frantically wrapping up school, packing or preparing for the trip, or traveling across the United States over the past two weeks. It was all sorts of fun, but left little time for reading. A grand total of two things were read this month:

  • one was a read aloud that the boy and I finished at bedtime, Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary. It has been a LONG time since I have read Henry and Ethan and I promptly went to the library and checked out some more books about him. 
  • I also finished Outlaws of Time #2: The Song of Glory and Ghost by N.D. Wilson. This is the second book in N.D. Wilson's Outlaws of Time series. While I am a big fan of his 100 Cupboards books, and enjoyed one of his stand-alone mysteries, this series continues to baffle me a bit and I seem to have a hard time keeping up. However, I don't mind adding his books to his library because I have a fantasy-loving girl that will enjoy them, and I feel sure the boy will down the road. 
This week is our Classical Conversations practicum (3 days of a mini classical homeschool convention and training for next year) and then I'm hoping there is much pool and reading time in the near future!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What She Read in April 2017

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Squeaking in on the last day of the month to report on April's reading. Such a good month for read-alouds in this house. I'm not saying it's because we are thisclose to the end of the school year, and right now reading aloud is about all we feel like doing! (Math and a few other things are still in the loop, but the end is in sight.) We finished four read-alouds this month, and I read three books - two in the last week ... another sign that I'm about to get a small reprieve from school stuff for some fun reading downtime. :)

Our read-alouds that we finished were:

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  • Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. The boy and I read this at bedtime over the last month and as I mentioned in March's post, I really enjoyed reading it this time around. The stories are just so clever and funny. I know some of the humor went over Ethan's head, but they were animal stories which automatically makes it a hit with him. 
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  • The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. This was such a great book. We were totally sucked into the story of the school children in this small Dutch town. The towns surrounding their small area all have storks that come and nest on the roofs of the houses - why doesn't their town have storks? A simple question asked leads to this small town on a quest and several unexpected friendships to bring the storks back to Shora. Loved this one!
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  • Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton. This book is such a gem. The story of Henry who loves to draw. But one day one of his drawings escapes and comes to life and, as expected, mayhem ensues. Lots of big thoughts about how it can be scary to be an artist and let your work out so others can see it ... and comment on it! My books is littered with little post-its of great quotes and turns of phrases that I wanted to remember:
Quest. It was probably the best word of all the words ever made up. It meant going on a really long journey to find something you want a whole lot.
Henry was telling the truth. Dragons aren't scary - well, they are, but they're a good kind of scary. They're the kind of scary you want to be scared of. People are the bad kind of scary, he thought. Dragons can only eat you, but people can laugh at you, and that is like being chewed to death with a smile.
It is a dangerous thing to open a door. But that, after all, is the only way to find an adventure.
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Of note: we got to meet the author at a book signing for Henry, and she was delightful. :)
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      • Stuart Little by E.B. White. This is the first time that I have ever read this one which surprises even myself, considering I'm such a fan of Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan (review). We enjoyed it - I do have a soft spot for mouse tales - but I also found this book a little on the odd side. It was a nice short read-aloud, but Stuart is no Wilbur. 
      The books that I read this month:
      • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. I picked this one up for Amy's Newbery Challenge. I'm just sure that I read this at some point as a child, but it has been a while! It's the story of young Kit who must move to colonial Connecticut to live with her extremely strict relatives. The religious liberty that these colonists came to America to find have them extremely suspicious of anything that doesn't fit into their mold, and Kit finds herself very lonely until she meets a women who most of the village suspects is a witch. Fascinating read about early America and one that I think I'll pass on to N2 this next year when we return to American history in our studies.
      • The Unbreakable Code by Jennifer Chambliss Bertram. This is fun literary mystery set in San Francisco. I read Bertram's Book Scavenger last year enough to make sure that the sequel was on our shelves when it came out last week. If you liked Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library or books with lots of literary references sprinkled throughout, I recommend this one!
      • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. This book was recommended to me by Nicole on Instagram. I enjoy mysteries (can't get the Nancy Drew out of a girl once she's hooked) and when she said this was a YA series based on the descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, I decided to give it a try. This was a great mystery and I definitely liked the premise of the Watson and Holmes descendants always finding each other. That said, I didn't care for some of the language in the book, but that is my only quibble with this. 
      And with that we are on to May. :) With the prospect of school ending, a family road-trip, and the pool opening in the next several weeks, I have high hopes for more reading time to come. Which means a summer reading list, naturally!

      Saturday, April 01, 2017

      March 2017 Reads

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      March has come in like a lion and is going out like a lion! It has been a full month as we are about one week away from winding up our Classical Conversations work for the little folk in this house. (N1 still has about a month left of her Challenge A class). Thus, it has been a light month for personal reading around here. We did just come off of a week of spring break, but there wasn't much downtime for reading as I was on a decluttering mission, as you do when the weather starts to warm up and you want to shed all your winter fluff in all areas! We have been reading aloud a ton and that is the sum of most of what I have to report this month.

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      The boy and I have been in a fantastic night time reading routine and finished two bedtime books this month. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - that book just gets better with each read through! We also finished Akimbo and the Lions by Alexander McCall Smith. This was one of N1's favorite series when she was reading small chapter books and it was a winner with Ethan as well. Really, anything with animals is a winner with him. Right now he and I are about half way through Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, another one that I am enjoying immensely more this time through. Maybe it's because I just came off a year of teaching grammar in our homeschool co-op but Kipling has such great plays on words, alliteration, and clever turns of phrases that it's just been a delight to read. And the stories themselves are fun, too.

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      Our school time read-aloud for most of March was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I remember seeing the old movie as a child (and was slightly traumatized by the shipwreck portion at the beginning of it!) but had never read the book. It was mentioned in Sally Clarkson's recent book Different as one that really resonated with her wild boy she was trying to tame ... off I went to the library for our own copy to hopefully inspire a couple of mine, likewise. :) This was was actually first published in 1941 (I also didn't realize it was so old) and tells the story of how Alec and the Black were the only survivors of a tragic shipwreck. They learn to depend on one another and Alec becomes the only person able to tame the savage horse. They make it back home and the book culminates in a fantastic horse race - I'll save the spoilers of who won, but I bet you can guess. :) This was a GREAT read-aloud and one I'll pull back out in a few years when Ethan is ready to read it on his own. I could see him getting lost in this whole series.

      Personally, I read three books (I guess I did read a little more than I thought!) but one definitely took the a huge chunk of my month. Johnny Tremain was my pick for Amy @ Hope is the Word's Newbery challenge for March. I had never read this one (shock!). Set during the Revolutionary War against England, this is one I am considering revisiting next year when we work through American history.

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      I also read The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill and Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs (both on Kindle). Pekoe Most Poison is a light mystery in Laura Childs' tea shop mystery series. A nice clean mystery series sometimes is hard to come by and this is perfect for someone who was a die-hard fan of Murder, She Wrote when she was in junior high, a-hem. :) The Girl Who Drank the Moon was the 2017 Newbery winner and I loved this one. So much that I went in search of more Kelly Barnhill books from my library. On its surface it is a simple tale of magic and love and protection, but through out the story we are unraveling the little lies that the main characters have told to "protect" each other. But were those lies really worth it for all the heartbreak and misdirection they caused? It was one that I picked up for a song on Kindle last year, and it was well worth the couple of dollars I spent on it.

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      It's almost time to start thinking about SUMMER READING. :) (I'm eyeing my Mitford stack and wishing I could while away the hours rereading those favorites - there is new one coming in September and I am ready!) I'm hoping to start pulling together a summer to-read list for myself and thinking of what would make a good evening family read-aloud with our whole crew. Book lists are definitely some of my favorite things.

      Tuesday, February 28, 2017

      February Reads for 2017

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      Last day of February ... sneaking in here at the last moment to catalog what has been read around these parts this month. My stack is still on the smallish side, but there has been lots of reading-aloud done and I've checked a couple books off my list that I've been wanting to get to so it's a win for me.

      As far as read-alouds, we finished three this month, though only two are pictured above. One was the bedtime book for me and the boy - we are working our way through his sister's Roald Dahl collection and it has been such fun to read these again with him. The nice thing about Roald Dahl, besides his fantastic writing, is that his chapters are just the right length for a little boy winding down at night and on a good evening we can get through two during a reading sessions. Fantastic Mr. Fox was the recent read and enjoyed by both of us. We have since moved on to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which is always an excellent read-aloud. However, as I read, I go back and forth in my head between the Gene Wilder version and the Johnny Depp version of the movie, depending on which part of the book I am in. So confusing! And don't ask me to pick a favorite because I love them both! :)

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      As a collective bunch, we read aloud Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. This is the second time that I've read this one aloud - the last time was in 2010, before the boy was born. At that time, I had one 7 year old girl hanging in there with me while I read it (and two tag along little sisters) and it was a new book to both of us. This time, I just didn't love it as much. Peter and Tink really aren't very nice people! I think I prefer the polished up Walt Disney version.

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      Working on our review crossword from our apologia science workbook. I do this along with the little girls and it's very interesting to see what I am able to remember from the lesson vs. them!

      The last read-aloud (not pictured) that we checked off this month was our science text, Apologia's Land Animals of the 6th Day. We started this "text" in the Fall of 2016 and it has taken us about a year and half (minus summer) to work our way through it. We have learned so many things about mammals and I'm so thankful that I got to read this along with the kids as part of our schooling. And now, I see the fruit as the three younger will spout out random and interesting animal facts that they have retained at different moments, ie., when the boy and I were emptying the dust canister from the vacuum and he comment that there were probably a lot of dust mites in there that we just swept up. Um, yes, there probably were! Ick. :)

      That strong willed child, that one that process information differently than I do ... such a radical change of perspective to think those are the very things God will use instead of things I need to fix. Very much looking forward to @sally.clarkson new bo

      Personal reads for me were all over the board this month! I finished Sally Clarkson's newest book Different, which was written with her son Nathan. This book probably deserves more discussion than I have room and time for here, but this is different than many of Sally's other books that she has written. This was a book written for the mama who is parenting that child at home that is what she calls an "out of the box kid." They don't fit the mold or expectation of how a child should learn and behave whether it is because of a larger than life personality, a learning struggle, clinical diagnoses of some kind, or a combination of any and/or all of the above. It was an encouraging read for me as we navigate different scenarios with a couple of our own and I need to go back and make note of some of those things that I marked the first time through. Highly recommend this one.

      I read Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer as part of Amy's (@ Hope is the Word) Newbery Challenge. I'm two for two so far for 2017! Roller Skates is a story set in New York in the late 1800s. And, as always when I read books set in a time since past, I am amazed at the freedom given to children in that day and age. (A similar feeling struck me as I read the All of a Kind Family books and The Saturdays, and its sequels by Elizabeth Enright). You can read Amy's review of Roller Skates here - this could be a great read aloud as you study America during this time period, but might need a parental pre-read if you have super sensitive little ones.

      Another one that I finished, not pictured in the photo was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This was the 2010 Newbery winner - and again, recommended by Amy - and it was good. There was mystery, fantasy, and lots of literary tie-in's to A Wrinkle in Time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      The last book that I read this month was one that I picked up on a whim at the library and read over our winter break. The After-room by Maile Meloy is the third book in the Apothecary series. I had read the first two books quite some time ago. Long enough that I was VERY fuzzy on characters and story line and pretty much everything going into the third book. That probably should have been a clue that I didn't love them enough to spend the time reading the third book, but I did anyway if just to see the series wrap up and move on.

      And there's February and it's on to March. I realize that February is the shortest month, but it seemed to FLY by this year. If you read anything amazing and wonderful in the last while, do share. I am realizing that my books seem to be junior and YA lit heavy lately, but that is where I'm finding all sorts of reading gems so I'm unapologetic about it. :)