Friday, December 3, 2021

New Picture Books for Christmas 2021

It's December, which means the Christmas books are out on our shelves, just waiting to be read! We have several new additions to our collection this year, which I will highlight today.  Every title mentioned in this post was sent to me for review from the publisher, except the Tomie dePaola titles and Jan Brett's The Nutcracker, which were purchased by my mom. 

First up is a book I received for review over at Catholic Mom, where it will be the subject of my December article. It's called The Night the Saints Saved Christmas, written by Gracie Jagla and illustrated by Michael Corsini (Our Sunday Visitor). I'll save most of my thoughts for that piece, but I will say that the idea of saints jumping in to help Saint Nicholas deliver gifts on Christmas Eve is a really clever concept, and it's the best approach to the "Santa has a crisis and can't deliver the gifts" trope that I've ever read. 

Another book I received for review is a cute interactive pull-tab book called Deer Santa, which is written by Hannah Eliot and illustrated by Kathryn Selbert (Little Simon). On each page a different sweet little animal asks for a special gift. Each one holds an envelope with a tab that can be pulled out to reveal a message to Santa that matches the qualities of that animal. (The skunk's message, for example, reads, "Jingle smells!") Because of the delicate tabs, I'm not giving this to my toddlers; my four-year-old will enjoy it, and she will be much more careful with it! 


We have several different versions of Twas the Night Before Christmas, but I couldn't resist this one illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick). The soft, dark pictures create the perfect Christmas Eve ambiance, filled with a hushed anticipation as we await the arrival of Santa. Santa himself has an ethereal quality that is very appealing. His expression as he eyes the narrator just before filling the stockings is one of the best single images of Santa Claus I have ever seen. It infuses him with such personality and impishness, turning him into the "right jolly old elf" described in the text. This is a beautiful book worth owning even if you already have several versions.


We also have a lot of versions of the Biblical Christmas story on our shelves, but The First Christmas illustrated by Will Moses (Paula Wiseman Books) is different because the text is the lyrics to O Little Town of Bethlehem. I love a good singable Christmas book and this one just jumped to the top of my list for a Christmas story time. The folk art style illustrations are also unique in our collection, and I love that Moses's paint strokes are visible, and that there is so much to look at on each page. I also like the realistic Middle Eastern setting that is the backdrop to each painting, and the joy the artist depicts on the face of each figure in his illustrations. This is just a lovely book. 

We also have two new Jan Brett books on our shelves.  In The Animals' Santa (Penguin Young Readers), a young snowshoe hare is excited to learn that, on Christmas Eve, the Animals' Santa will leave presents for him and his all his woodland neighbors. But who is the Animals' Santa? All the creatures speculate, imagining which species would be best suited to the job - in the end, they witness a special delivery and learn who truly has the task of  delivering their gifts. I love the way this story parallels the experience of real preschool kids at Christmastime - the anticipation, the questions about how exactly the magic works, and the joy of discovering their gifts on Christmas morning. I also love the idea of animals having their own Santa and their own Christmas traditions. 

The Nutcracker is a retelling of the beloved holiday ballet in which the dancers Marie and the Nutcracker encounter on their sleigh ride are portrayed as animals. Every spread is a feast for the eyes, with many details to pore over, including clothes, festive decorations, the features of various creatures, and a host of musical instruments. There are some problems with the way certain figures hold and play their instruments - something we are sensitive to with a former music teacher in the family - but this is somewhat forgivable given the fact that animals in the illustrations would not even have opposable thumbs in real life. 

The Cat on the Dovrefell by Tomie de Paola has been re-released this year with the 1979 illustrations and brand-new text. This is a Scandinavian folk tale about Halvor, who tricks the trolls into staying away from his house at Christmas by scaring them with his "cat," which is really a polar bear. The most entertaining part of the book is the wordless spread of the trolls wreaking havoc. The original text, which I listened to on YouTube, seems to have been more wordy and complex; the new text isn't necessarily bad, it's just simpler and probably easier to read aloud to younger audiences. Depending on how things work out for my Christmas-themed story time this year, I may add this to the repertoire. 

There are two more recently released Christmas-themed Tomie dePaola titles as well : a new edition of Jingle the Christmas Clown, in which a circus clown provides a holiday performance for a town that is too poor to have Christmas and Christina's Carol, the text of which is the words of "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rossetti. 

Finally, Nosy Crow has two new board books. Jingle Bells  by Nicola Slater is a vibrantly illustrated version of the popular song featuring woodland animals in winter clothes. The last page of the book has buttons to press, one of which plays music, and the other of which lights a yellow star atop a Christmas tree. Where's the Polar Bear? by Ingela P. Arrhenius is a lift-the-flap book where the flaps are made of durable felt. The imagery in the illustrations is generically wintry, but the color scheme and the presence of pine trees gives it a strong Christmas mood. 


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Homeschool Update: Weeks of 11/15/21 and 11/22/21

I fell a bit behind on taking homeschool notes, so for this one I've combined two weeks. 

Morning Time

Music: We watched performances and visual interpretations of several Bach pieces: 

Singing: We learned to sing "All the Pretty Little Horses" and "Over the River and Through the Woods."

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "A Song of Sherwood" by Alfred Noyes, "Come, Little Leaves" by George Cooper, "The Fairies" by Rose Fyleman, "The Modern Hiawatha" by George A. Strong,  "First Thanksgiving of All" by Nancy Byrd Turner,  "The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet" by Guy Wetmore Carryl, and "When Young Melissa Sweeps" by Nancy Byrd Turner.

Art Appreciation: In 100 Masterpieces in Color (Hamlyn, 1972), we studied The Annunciation by Simone Martini, Les Tres Riches Heures: April by Pol, Hennequin, and Herman de Limbourg, and The Merode Altarpiece by Robert Campin. We watched Smarthistory videos about the Martini and Campin works. 

History

First Grade: C. and I read some of Life Long Ago: Ancient Egypt, but it was way more detailed than what we need at this stage. We switched to Life in the Ancient World by Bart Winer, (Random House, 1961) and read about daily life in Ancient Egypt instead. C. completed this worksheet about the Nile and she watched a BBC video entitled Egypt from 2006. 

Third Grade: M. finished The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster after reading these sections: 
  • Enter Cardinal Richelieu
  • Broken Promises
  • La Rochelle and the Huguenots
  • New France Again
  • On the Way to China
  • Inside the Great Wall
  • Japan's Closing Door 
  • In and Out for Christian IV
  • John Winthrop of Groton Manor
  • Neighbors, New Amsterdam and Plymouth
  • Velazquez
  • Velazquez Sees Rome
  • Galileo's Final Visit to Rome
  • Gustav Adolf 
  • Plans for Massachusetts
  • John Smith Is Not Invited
  • Governor Winthrop
  • Pilgrims and Puritans
  • The Bell Tolls 
Then she started The Puritan Revolution by Walter Hodges (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1972). She is also reading Puritan Adventure by Lois Lenski. 

Science

First and Third Grade: We worked on BFSU Lesson A-9: Matter IV - Dissolving, Solutions, and Crystallization. We added various substances to water to see if they were or were not soluble. We also left some salt water out so the water could evaporate, but it took several days for it to evaporate and leave salt crystals behind. We also watched some YouTube videos: 

Preschool: E. and I read a few pages from the National Geographic Little Kids' First Big Book of Animals. Afterwards, she asked to see some real animals, so she watched Cheetahs 101  and Zebras Risk Their Lives to Reach This Place Every Year from Nat Geo Wild. 


English 

C. read The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum. To Gran she read Three Boys and a Lighthouse by Nan Agle and Ellen Wilson. 

E. read Pop Fox, The Fog, Pom Pom, The Big Log, and Tub Fun. She started working on reading words with a silent E in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading

M. read This New Land by G. Clifton Wisler. 

We started reading aloud the final play in Three Children and Shakespeare, which is The Taming of the Shrew. We finished A Light in the Forest on audio and I started reading aloud The Genie of Sutton Place by George Selden. At dinner, Daddy finished reading Polly and the Wolf

M. and C. worked in their Mad Libs grammar workbooks. 


Typing and Handwriting 

C. did typing daily. M. has completed all of the typing exercises she can do with a Chromebook keyboard. C. practiced cursive daily. M. needs to get back to cursive.


Languages 

C. continued to practice Over the River and Through the Wood in ASL and started learning Jingle Bells. She also watched the We Play Along ASL letter videos for I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, and S. 


Math 

M. continued working on Challenging Word Problems 3. C. finished the another review section in Singapore 2A. C. also worked on addition and subtraction with renaming on the soroban. Both girls did chapters from Life of Fred. 


Physical Education 

All the girls rode bikes on several of the warmer days. They also did some dancing. 


Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily. 


Art

All three girls made homemade birthday cards for me. They also glued felt turkeys, made Thanksgiving sticker collages, and colored some Thanksgiving coloring sheets.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Reading Through History: Away Goes Sally by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1934)

Away Goes Sally
is a vintage children's historical fiction novel about a New England family living just before the War of 1812. Sally's home is filled with relatives: some of whom, like her Uncle Joseph, want to accept Uncle Ephraim's invitation to settle in Maine and some of whom, like Nannie, would prefer to stay in their own home. When Uncle Joseph finds a way to transport the entire house to Maine in order to satisfy everyone's wishes, Sally is along for an exciting ride through wilderness and harsh wintry conditions. 

I read this short novel aloud to my kids this past spring, and it was a pleasant and enjoyable story. My girls really enjoyed the story of the journey, and the logistics of moving a house during this time period. I found myself wishing for a little less exposition at the start of the book and more time spent on the actual travel, but that was really just a matter of personal preference. 

The really nice thing is that this story reveals a lot of details about what it might have been like to live during this time period, not against the backdrop of a major historical event, but in the context of one family's major decision to move to a new place. The reader is pleasantly immersed in the world of the early 1800s without being bogged down by the political, military and social concerns that often dominate historical fiction.

We read this book for fun, and not to accompany a specific lesson, and it worked perfectly for us. Kids who are reluctant to read historical fiction (as I was as a child) might be persuaded to look upon it more kindly after reading a light and entertaining story like this one.  Elizabeth Coatsworth is, in general, the perfect author to turn to for historical stories filled with believable everyday people and their experiences.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 11/8/21

Weekend Activities, 11/6/21-11/7/21 

On Saturday, we went to a couple of used bookstores and ate McDonald's hamburgers in the car for lunch. On Sunday, we went to the Latin Mass as usual. 


Morning Time

Music: I finished reading aloud Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher, and we listened to the remaining pieces referenced in the text: 

Singing: We continued working on "Praise My Soul the King of Heaven." 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "When Mother Reads Aloud," "Little Charlie Chipmunk" by Helen Cowles LeCron, "The Deer" by Mary Austin, and "Pocahontas" by William Makepeace Thackeray. C. recorded her video recitation of "My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson and is now memorizing "First Thanksgiving Of All" by Nancy Byrd Turner. E. recorded her recitation of "If I Had a Cardboard Box" by Aileen Fisher, and is now going to learn "November" by John Clare.

Art Appreciation: In 100 Masterpieces in Color (Hamlyn, 1972), we studied Entry in Jerusalem from Duccio's Maesta, and then we watched the Smarthistory video about the back of the Maesta, where Entry in Jerusalem is located.

Catechism: We finished reading I Believe in God. M. and C. have both memorized the Apostle's Creed. We also practiced singing Ave Maria in Gregorian chant. 


History

First Grade: C. continues to love Ancient Egypt. We caught up on our reading in Builders of the Old World, and she did a few pages in her Sticker History book. She also watched Tutankhamun's Treasures and Ancient Egypt 101 from National Geographic and  Ancient Egyptian Boat Museum - The Khufu Solar Ship from Prowalk Tours, and I read aloud Muti's Necklace by Louise Hawes.

Third Grade: M. covered these sections in The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster: 

  • The Mayflower Sails 
  • Anchored at Plymouth
  • Indians and Thanksgiving
  • Trouble in Bohemia
  • Of Kings and Brides
  • Massacres, Indian and White
  • Hugo Grotius
  • A Painter Goes to Paris
  • Buckingham Finds a Bride for Charles


Science

First and third grade: The girls watched two more vintage Disney nature films: White Wilderness and Perri: The Youth of a Squirrel


English

C. finished Runaway Ralph. M. continued reading The Man Who Was Don Quixote by Rafaello Busoni and finished The Adventures of Don Quixote by Leighton Barret and illustrated by Warren Chappell. She started reading This New Land by G. Clifton Wisler. E. read Pop Fox. 

E. worked on words beginning and ending with SH in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading and also read some Dick and Jane. 

We finished the Julius Caesar portion of Three Children and Shakespeare

We continued listening to A Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter during lunch. 

M. and C. did a few pages in their Mad Libs grammar books.


Typing and Handwriting 

Both girls did typing and practiced cursive most days.


Languages

C. continued to practice Over the River and Through the Wood in ASL. She also watched the We Play Along ASL letter videos for D, E, F, G, and H. 


Math 

M. continued working on Challenging Word Problems 3. C. finished the Weight unit in Singapore 2A and started another review section. C. also worked on addition and subtraction with renaming on the soroban. Both girls did a chapter from Life of Fred. 


Physical Education

The girls rode their bikes several times. We had an afternoon playdate on Friday at the Adventure Playground. 

Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 11/1/21

Weekend Activities, 10/30/21-10/31/21 

This weekend was Halloween, and we did our usual traditional Halloween activities. On Saturday, the girls gutted a pumpkin, and my husband carved a face in it. On Sunday, we went to Mass, and afterwards, we dressed up all the kids. M. was an evil queen, C. was a magician, E. was a clown, R. wore an owl mask, and A. wore a witch hat. We also ate donuts and some candy and drank apple cider.  


Morning Time

Music: I continued reading aloud from Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher, and we listened to these pieces referenced in the text:  

Singing: Our hymn for this week was Praise My Soul the King of Heaven. 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats, "Hiawatha's Childhood" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and "A Little Song of Life" by Lizette Woodworth Reese. 

Art Appreciation: In 100 Masterpieces in Color (Hamlyn, 1972),  we looked at The Lamentation Over the Dead Body of Christ by Giotto. We compared it to Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Niccolò dell'Arca. We also watched the Smarthistory video about the Giotto painting.

Catechism: We continued learning to understand the Apostle's Creed using I Believe in God by Lawrence Lovasik.  On Monday, we prayed the Litany of Saints. On Tuesday, we prayed the Litany for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and the prayers for All Souls Day from The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion. We also watched the All Saints Day and All Souls Day videos from Brother Francis on Formed.


History

First Grade: C. continued learning about Egypt. We started reading aloud Pharaoh's Boat by David Weitzman. Independently, she read Tutankhamun's Gift by Robert Sabuda. She also watched the video adaptation of Pyramid by David Macaulay and then spent some time looking at the book. She watched a Pyramids of Giza Walking Tour on YouTube as well. 

Third Grade: M. covered these sections in The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster. 

  • In Memory of Shakespeare
  • Pocahontas in England
  • The Law vs. the King?
  • Raleigh's Last Adventure
  • The House of Burgesses
  • Servants and Slaves
  • They Knew That They Were Pilgrims
  • John Smith, Unhappy Admiral


Science

First and third grade: This week's BFSU lesson was supposed to be D-6 Seasonal Changes and Earth's Orbit, for which we were meant to be doing data collection since last fall. The level of data analysis the curriculum calls for is far beyond anything that would interest either M. or C. so it ended up being a good thing that we didn't really keep up with the record keeping. Instead of doing what the lesson prescribes, we watched Seasons from Earth Rocks and Earth's Orbit, Rotation, Seasons and Moon from High School Science 101. Then M. and C. watched two Disney productions: The Living Desert and The Vanishing Prairie, to review the last few lessons we have covered.


English

C. finished King Oberon's Forest and started reading Runaway Ralph. M. continued reading The Man Who Was Don Quixote by Rafaello Busoni and The Adventures of Don Quixote by Leighton Barret and illustrated by Warren Chappell. E. started working on sounding out the words in Sam and the Mitt.  

E. continued to practice beginning blends in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. This week she focused specifically on words beginning and ending with SH. 

We continued reading the section Three Children and Shakespeare about Julius Caesar. 

We began listening to A Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter during lunch. 


Typing and Handwriting 

Both girls did typing and practiced cursive most days.


Languages

C. started learning Over the River and Through the Wood in ASL. She also started working on the letters of the alphabet in ASL as well, also using videos from We Play Along. She covered letters A, B, and C

Math 

M. continued working on Challenging Word Problems 3. C. worked on the Weight unit in Singapore 2A. C. also worked on addition and subtraction with renaming on the soroban. Both girls did a chapter from Life of Fred. 


Physical Education

The girls rode their bikes daily. 

Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily. 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 10/25/21

Weekend Activities, 10/23/21-10/24/21 

On Saturday, the girls rode bicycles and M. went on a bike ride with Daddy. We made a birthday video for Grandpa's sister Aunt V. and attended the Latin Mass on Sunday. 


Morning Time 

Music: I continued reading aloud from Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher, and we listened to these pieces referenced in the text:  

Singing: We practiced singing When the Saints Go Marching In.  

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "There Are So Many Ways of Going Places" by Leslie Thompson, "Autumn Fancies" by Anonymous, "Vegetables" by Eleanor Farjeon, and "The Wonderful World" by William Brighty Rands, 

Art Appreciation: In 100 Masterpieces in Color (Hamlyn, 1972), we looked at Saint Mark from the Cathedral Treasury, Trier, and The Crucifixion (unknown painter, before 1339) from the British Museum.  

Catechism: We continued learning to understand the Apostle's Creed using I Believe in God by Lawrence Lovasik.  Saint Stories for Kids put out a week of episodes featuring "spooky" saint stories, and we listened to all of those as well.  


History 

First Grade: C. and I read most of The Great Pyramid by Elizabeth Mann and all of Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki. She also watched the Reading Rainbow episode featuring the Aliki book, and did some coloring pages of Khufu and Osiris and Set. On Friday, C. decorated a Kiwi Crate box covered in paper to use as a sarcophagus. She wrapped one her dolls in a white scarf like a mummy and colored a paper mask to put over her face. Then she dressed up in a costume and black wig and she and her sisters processed through the house, taking the mummy to her tomb. 

Third Grade: With Daddy, M. read these sections from The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster:  

  • A Synagogue in Amsterdam
  • At Home in Leyden
  • (The Telescope (1608))
  • Galileo and the Planets
  • Henry IV is Dead
  • Galileo in Rome (1611)
  • French Missionaries in Canada
  • Pocahontas Is Married
  • The Royal Couple
  • King Gustav Adolf
  • Russia's New Tsar, Michael Romanov (1613)
  • The Naming of New England 


Science

First and Third Grade: We finished BFSU Lesson B-7: How Animals Move II: Different Body Designs; Major Animal Phyla. I showed M. and C. video from the library's website called  Animals 101: Animal Atlas and Invertebrates - Sponges, Worms, Mollusks, Arthropods, Echinoderms. 

Pre-K: E. and I read about weather phenomena in National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of How. 

C. also did her Mirror Illusions Kiwi Crate.   


English 

M. and C. finished all their thank you notes. 

C. continued reading King Oberon's Forest. She also read the first two books in the Lulu series by Hilary McKay. M. continued reading The Man Who Was Don Quixote by Rafaello Busoni and The Adventures of Don Quixote by Leighton Barret and illustrated by Warren Chappell. She also read Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb. We finished our read-aloud of Anna Witch. 

E. continued to practice beginning blends in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading

We started reading the section Three Children and Shakespeare about Julius Caesar. 


Typing and Handwriting 

M. and C. wrote their thank you notes in cursive. Both girls did typing most days. 

Languages 

C. continued working on learning two Halloween songs in ASL from We Play Along: It's Halloween and 10 Little Jack-o'lanterns. She also watched a series on the same channel of signs for household objects.


Art 

The girls made Halloween decorations from foam shapes and we hung them in the front window. 


Math 

M. continued working on Challenging Word Problems 3. C. worked on a review in Singapore 2A. C. also worked on addition and subtraction with renaming on the soroban. Both girls did a chapter from Life of Fred. 


Physical Education

Almost every weekday, the three girls rode their bikes before dinner. 


Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily. 


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: October 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

October was my best reading month of 2021 so far. I read 20 books, and the vast majority of them were four or five star reads. 

Here's the full list: 

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazlewood (4 stars)
I listened to this STEM-themed romantic comedy on Scribd, and truly fell in love with the characters. I also enjoyed the academic setting, and I appreciated how angry the author was able to make me with the behavior of her antagonist. I was a bit troubled by the explicit nature of the sex scenes, but I was able to skip past them on the audiobook without really sacrificing any of the plot. I would have given this five stars had there not been so much sex. 

The Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink (4 stars)
The book club that I participate in on Instagram chose Spooky as its October theme, and this was the first spooky title I read. I had a physical ARC from the publisher, but also listened to part of it on audio. It's about a girl whose parents think she is too old to trick or treat. She sneaks out anyway, but then becomes involved in saving her entire town from the queen of Halloween. It was an entertaining story and there was nothing objectionable in it at all. 

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey (5 stars)
It's extremely rare for me to select one title as my favorite book of the year, but it's happening with this adorable contemporary romance. The main characters are a woman who works in a toy store and a man who hosts a children's television show a la Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and the plot has a similar feel to You've Got Mail. I can't remember the last time a book made me so happy. Even before the library ebook expired, I had ordered myself a copy in paperback. I will absolutely be reading this book again.

Tatsinda by Elizabeth Enright (3 stars)
This fairy tale was a read-aloud with my kids. I read a few chapters, my husband read a couple, and then we finished it on audio. It was fine, but I didn't love it like I love this author's realistic fiction. 

Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher (3 stars)
This vintage middle grade book was the spine for our homeschool music appreciation for this month. It's a solid introduction to the life and music of Beethoven.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (5 stars)
This was my second spooky read of the month, and I absolutely loved it. It's suspenseful and intriguing, but not truly scary, at least for me. The writing was fantastic, and I'm definitely going to pick up more books by this author.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (5 stars)
A few of my friends from my Catholic women's book club are also in a Well Read Mom book club, so they were reading Jayber Crow and suggested it for our group as well. It took me longer to get into this one than Hannah Coulter, which I loved, but the ending was really powerful and well done. I think this is the kind of book that requires a re-read, and I will most likely read it again someday. 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (4 stars)
This is the first book in the Dresden files series, and I have read it before, but it was years ago. I picked it up this month as my third spooky read, just to see if I still liked it and wanted to try the series again. It was great, and I do plan to continue and hopefully catch up at some point. 

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (4 stars)
It just felt like the right time to read another Louise Penny. I listened to this one on audio because I didn't have a copy, and it was more enjoyable than the previous Gamache title, though I still have some issues with some of the characters' behavior. I'm still not sick of the series, though, and it seems likely that I will get caught up by the end of 2022. 

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (4 stars)
My fourth spooky read was this fun witchy romance novel that again could have been five stars if not for the sex scenes. I understand that the sex scenes are a convention of the genre, and I have adapted to just skipping them in order to enjoy the rest of the story. What bothered me in this book was that there was frank discussion of male and female anatomy throughout the book, even when there was nothing sexual happening in the story. It was just too much, even though I loved the fall atmosphere and the two main characters.


 Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (4 stars)
I enjoyed this collection of chapters about the women of a small Victorian English village. It was equal parts funny and poignant and I found it much easier to read than Jane Austen, even though I have heard this book recommended to Austen fans. I am realizing that while I don't like Austen herself, I do like the things that other people who like Austen enjoy. Though I never actually posted about it anywhere, this was intended to be my pick for Victober.

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder (4 stars)
I was doing some preparation for NaNoWriMo and I saw this recommended as the best way to learn about story beats. The idea of hitting certain beats in a work of fiction really makes sense to me, and it helped me figure out what I wanted to write this November. Even though this book is about screen writing, it really is applicable to all forms of fiction that involve plot. 

The Light of Caliburn by Jake Frost (4 stars)
Barb from Franciscan Mom recommended this to me, and even arranged for me to receive a review copy. It's a fantasy story involving Merlin, written from a Catholic perspective. I am not a fantasy person in general, but I devoured this book. It was just so intriguing and such a quick read.

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons (5 stars)
Abbie Emmons has a YouTube channel where she gives writing advice, and after watching a bunch of her videos, I decided to actually read her book. It's a YA romance about a boy who is a double-amputee and a girl who has gone temporarily blind. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author, and I was really impressed with the character development and structure. I'm looking forward to the Christmas-themed sequel that just came out. 

Predator by Patricia Cornwell (3 stars)
I'm back in the saddle with the Scarpetta series. I've decided the easiest way to read them is to switch back and forth between print and audio. This one was more interesting than the last two or three books of the series have been, and I feel a renewed motivation to catch up on the series now that a new book is being released for the first time in five years. 


The Ex Talk
by Rachel Lynn Solomon (5 stars)
I listened to this romantic comedy set in the world of public radio, and I loved it. I wasn't even bothered by the subtle digs the author made toward white men because the particular white male antagonist in this story was a true villain. I loved the two main characters and the fresh take on the fake relationship trope. There was sex in this, but it was easily skippable and didn't slide into other areas of the book, which is why I still gave it 5 stars.

Long Road to the Circus by Betsy Bird (5 stars)
I don't read a lot of new middle grade because I'm sick of politics in kids' books, but this historical fiction novel set in the 1920s had such a great voice and made me laugh quite a bit. If all things were fair, this book would win the 2022 Newbery. I will have a review of this one coming soon. 

Anna Witch by Madeleine Edmondson (2 stars)
This short vintage middle grade book was my Halloween read-aloud with my girls. It was cute, but there wasn't a lot of substance to it, and I think it's probably better for the kids to just read it on their own in the future. 

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (5 stars)
I've never read a Ray Bradbury book I didn't love, and this one was so perfect for the end of October. It's a fantasy tale about a group of boys traveling through the history of Halloween in order to save the life of their friend, Pipkin. It was so atmospheric and I think it would make a great read-aloud for grades 6-9. 

Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell (4 stars)
This Cornwell was better than Predator, and it's the reason I'm going to continue on with the series. 


As for the rest of the family's reading...

My husband finished The Bowman of Crecy by Ronald Welch and is almost finished with Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. 

M. (7 years, 11 months) read Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb, which I borrowed from the library for her, and she started reading two children's versions of Don Quixote: The Man Who Was Don Quixote by Rafaello Busoni and The Adventures of Don Quixote by Leighton Barret and illustrated by Warren Chappell. (The latter of those she is reading aloud to my mother-in-law during Skype calls.)

C. (6 years, 1 month) finished reading 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola to my mother-in-law and started Three Boys and a Lighthouse by Nan Hayden Agle and Ellen Wilson. She also read the first two titles in the Lulu series by Hilary McKay and is now reading King Oberon's Forest by Hilda van Stockum. 

E. (4 years) has been listening to me read More Milly Molly Mandy Stories. She also enjoyed paging through our stash of Halloween books, and she especially loved Pumpkin Jack, which I borrowed from the library.  

R. and A. (19 months) have been fighting constantly over First 100 Trucks by Roger Priddy. They also like our new board books: Here Comes Fall! written by Susan Kantor and illustrated by Katya Longhi and Boo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton. 


Up Next For Me

I'm doing NaNoWriMo this month, so I'm not sure yet what my reading is going to look like. My in-person book club is reading Our Lady of Fatima by William Walsh for our discussion on the 11th, and I'm listening to Killers of the Flower Moon by Daniel Grann for #WorldFullofBooks on Instagram, the theme of which is Indigenous People for this month. I'm also listening to Vision in White by Nora Roberts, which is a re-read and I have three library books coming due soon: The Happy Camper by Melody Carlson, To Sir Philip, with Love by Julia Quinn and Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter. I also have a lot of Christmas reading planned and might think about getting a head start on that in the latter part of the month. 

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