Tuesday, September 17, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Half-Blood Prince, Chapters 1-4

At the beginning of the month, I started book six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I read the first four chapters: "The Other Minister," "Spinner's End," "Will and Won't," and "Horace Slughorn." There are spoilers in this post for this book as well as book 7.

I remember really liking the way Rowling starts this book the first time I read it. Introducing the Muggle Prime Minister is a great way to show the way Voldemort's return is impacting the "real" world  and to give new information, such as the fact that Fudge has been replaced by Scrimgeour. I also love the fact that Kingsley Shacklebolt has been working for the Prime Minister!

I also love the way Rowling sets up one of the main storylines of the book - Snape's eventual killing of Dumbledore. The first time I read this book, the scene where Snape agrees to do what Draco has been asked to do in the event that Draco cannot just read as suspicious. This time, it's much more poignant, and even sad, because I know what that task is.

Also emotional is seeing Harry and Dumbledore spending so much time together after not communicating very much at all in book five. I don't know if Rowling intended this, but knowing how things end for Dumbledore, and that he himself knows what Snape must do, it feels like Dumbledore is already planning for life after his death: putting the Dursleys in their place, instructing Harry to tell Ron and Hermione about the prophecy, and giving Harry private lessons, as though he needs to impart a lifetime of wisdom as soon as possible.

Finally, the chapter where Harry and Dumbledore go to persuade Professor Slughorn to return to Hogwarts was not as exciting as I remembered. I do love the elaborate scene Slughorn stages in case it is Death Eaters knocking at his door, but somehow the rest of the chapter wasn't as brilliant as I remembered.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Read-at-Home Kids Report: August 2019

The End of Summer Reading 

We finished tracking our summer reading on September 2nd, meaning that our summer reading logs (which I printed out from RealLifeAtHome.com) covered a full three months. We didn't have a specific goal other than keeping track of the books the girls read (or heard read aloud by a parent and/or in audiobook format), and I was amazed at how many books we went through. Miss Muffet reached 260 books, a good number of which she read independently. Little Bo Peep hit 201, with her last book being a phonics reader she read aloud using her newly acquired knowledge of letter sounds. And Jumping Joan heard 108 books. We didn't count repeat reads of any books, so each number represents a unique title. We've decided to track again this fall and see how our numbers compare!

Family Read-Alouds

We started out the month of August reading Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, which I chose because Miss Muffet was really interested in Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, both Miss Muffet and Bo Peep found the book boring and getting to the end was a struggle. (I have to admit to not liking it that much myself.)

After that, we borrowed the first two books in the Cobble Street Cousins series from the library and read them back to back. Both Miss Muffet and Bo Peep loved the characters and the essentially conflict-free plot of each book, and we definitely plan to get the rest of them from the library in the near future.

We finished out the month with The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin. The nice thing is that both Miss Muffet and Bo Peep loved the story and begged for just one more chapter each day. We've already started book two.

Little Miss Muffet (5 years, 9 months)

My mom rescued a discarded library copy of a book called Getting to Know the Hudson River, which I read aloud to Miss Muffet largely against her will. I was excited to show her all the landmarks near where I grew up, but she didn't really have the context to appreciate it. She did enjoy the sections about the Erie canal, though, mostly because we sang canal boat songs after we finished reading.

Independently, she read a whole bunch of different things, including The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill, Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charley? by Rebecca Caudill (on OpenLibrary), Stella Batts Needs a New Name (on Hoopla), The Lost Umbrella of Kim Chu by Eleanor Estes, and By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Little Bo Peep (3 years, 11 months)

Bo Peep has been listening to a lot of picture books on audio, including some Amelia Bedelia books, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, A Bad Case of Stripes, and Corduroy. In response to her recent request for funny books, I went on Open Library and found The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli (which she loved) and A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker (which I love, and of which she was skeptical, until the end when she asked to read it again.) She has also become quite fond of wordless books, including the Carl books by Alexandra Day and the Flora books by Molly Idle.

In terms of reading independently, she read her first phonics reader, Rag, just as the summer ended, and she is working on sounding out more consonant-vowel-consonant words so she can work up to reading more!

Jumping Joan (22 months)


One of Jumping Joan's favorite books lately has been her biggest sister's book about the U.S. presidents. She especially loves the page about Ronald Reagan because it has a picture of jelly beans on it. She was calling him "jelly bean" but now she knows his name is Reagan.  She's also been listening to audiobooks with Bo Peep in the mornings, and she frequently asks for me to read What a Wonderful World illustrated by Tim Hopgood and Gossie (and sequels) by Olivier Dunrea aloud to her. She's also enjoyed acting out From Head to Toe by Eric Carle and flipping through B is for Baby by Atinuke. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Read-at-Home Mom Report: August 2019

I'm late getting this post written in part because I have been dealing with first trimester symptoms. We thought we were expecting just one baby in March, but we found out this past week that it's twins, so at least there is a reason I feel so tired and nauseous! Fatigue is also the reason there are no pictures in this post - I need to conserve my energy for other tasks right now, but I didn't want to delay posting any longer! In any case, here is my August reading report.


Books Read


The Remains of the Day

by Kazuo Ishiguro
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library (Libby app)
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Good Riddance

by Elinor Lipman
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Realistic fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)

Save Me the Plums 

by Ruth Reichl
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Memoir
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Not Becoming My Mother

by Ruth Reichl
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Memoir
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)

Real Music:  A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church

by Anthony Esolen
Format: Ebook
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Classic
Source: Home library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐)

Never Have I Ever

by Joshilyn Jackson
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Thriller
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Listening

by Kate Seredy
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Realistic fiction
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Evvie Drake Starts Over

by Linda Holmes
Format: Ebook
Genre: Romance
Source: Public library (Cloud Library app)
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Ask Again, Yes

by Mary Beth Keane
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Ben and Me 

by Robert Lawson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fantasy/historical fiction (middle grade)
Source: Home library
Review: Coming soon on the blog (⭐⭐⭐)

The Journey of the Eldest Son

by J.G. Fyson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Historical fiction (middle grade)
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Anne's House of Dreams

Format: Hardcover
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Home library
Review: Coming soon to the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen

by Cynthia Rylant
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Realistic fiction (beginning chapter book)
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

A Little Shopping

by Cynthia Rylant
Format: Paperback
Genre: Realistic fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

The Accidental Beauty Queen

by Teri Wilson
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)

Dough Boys

by Paula Chase
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Realistic fiction
Source: Edelweiss+
Review: Scheduled on the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

American Fried

by Calvin Trillin
Genre: Memoir
Source: Open Library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Getting to Know the Hudson River

by William B. Fink
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction (children's chapter book)
Source: A gift from my mom
Review: Coming soon on the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by J.K. Rowling
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Home library
Review: On Instagram (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

How to Raise a Reader

by Pamela Paul & Maria Russo
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: NetGalley
Review: Coming soon on the blog (⭐⭐)

W;t 

by Margaret Edson
Format: Paperback
Genre: Play
Source: Used bookstore
Review: Coming soon on Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Picture Books (with links to Goodreads reviews)


  • Electric Ben by Robert Byrd (⭐⭐⭐⭐)
  • Alfie and Dad by Shirley Hughes (⭐⭐⭐)
  • Kittens Are Like That! by Jan Pfloog (⭐⭐⭐)
  • Rapunzel by Barbara Rogasky, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (⭐⭐⭐⭐)
  • Spencer's New Pet by Jessie Sima (⭐⭐)
  • The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill, illustrated by Elliott Gilbert (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)
  • Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman, illustrated by Bob Kolar (⭐⭐⭐⭐)
  • A Birthday for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (⭐⭐⭐)

Challenge Progress

  • Alphabet Soup: 0 read in August, 22 of 26 read total
  • Alphabet Soup Author Edition: 1 read in August, 24 of 26 read total
  • #CathLit: 1 read in August, 14 of 19 read total
  • Cloak and Dagger: 1 read in August, 35 of 55 read total
  • Craving for Cozies: 0 read in August, 26 of 51 read total
  • Library Love: 4 read in August, 53 of 60 read total
  • RMFAO Audiobooks: 4 read in August, 44 of 25 read total
  • 2020 Classics: 1 read in August, 4 of 20 read total
  • Goodreads Goal: 30 read in August, 338 of 425 read total
I'll be linking up this post for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? with The Book Date and Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and for the August 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up Link-Up at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

Friday, September 6, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 36-38

Last week, I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with Chapter 36 ("The Only One He Ever Feared"), Chapter 37 ("The Lost Prophecy"), and Chapter 38 ("The Second War Begins.")

As is always the case with this series, my favorite part of these final chapters is Harry's debriefing with Dumbledore about the events of the school year. There is something so comforting about finally hearing Dumbledore's take on things, even when he has clearly made some big mistakes, as he did during Harry's fifth year.

There is also a great sense of relief as Dumbledore resumes his rightful place at Hogwarts. One of the most distressing parts of this book is the role of the Ministry at Hogwarts, and though Sirius had to die for it to happen, there is a sense of vindication in seeing the Ministry realize its error.

I have always said that this book is my favorite of the series, and I think that's because of the sheer number of plotlines going on, and because of all the important details that are revealed after so much being kept from the reader for so many books. This time around, though, I'm not sure I liked this book as much as Goblet of Fire. It still ranks higher than books one and two, and I definitely enjoyed it, but I think I was more engrossed in re-reading book four, possibly because I had only ever read it once.

In any case, I'm really looking forward to Half-Blood Prince, which I remember being totally shocking to me on my first reading, and which I don't think I've ever re-read.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Book Review: Listening by Kate Seredy (1936)

When a bus stops in Hopkins Corners, New Jersey, the whole town wonders who has arrived. It turns out to be young Eleanor Abigail, better known as Gail, who has come to visit her uncle George. Over the course of her week-long stay, Gail listens to old family stories about the history of Uncle George's old Dutch house and how it was built.

Though this is definitely not Kate Seredy's best-written or most sophisticated book, it is still quite charming. The story shows a strong appreciation for American history and family ancestry as well as the value of passing stories down from one generation to the next. I can imagine this book inspiring young readers to ask questions about the history of their own homes, or of old houses that have been in their families. The title of the book also has a double meaning. It's not just about listening to an older relative telling tales of the past; it's also about keeping an ear out for the stories held by old houses, trees, rivers, and the world around us.

Though this book is difficult to find (I only had it in my house for one night, and that was thanks to inter-library loan), it would make a great introduction to the idea of history for an early elementary school student. I wish I had been able to read it to my own 5-year-old before it had to be returned. This is also an enjoyable read for fans of Seredy, as it is only her second book, but it seems to predict the themes of history, family, heritage, and storytelling that are important to her later titles.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Rescuers by Margery Sharp (1959)

In this first book of a series, a group of mice known as the Prisoners' Aid Society wishes to help a Norwegian poet escape from the Black Castle. The group sends Bernard, a pantry mouse, to find Miss Bianca, a privileged mouse who lives in a porcelain pagoda in the home of the Norwegian ambassador, in order that she might help him locate the bravest mouse in Norway and send him to the Black Castle. In the end, Bernard, Bianca, and a Norwegian mouse named Nils make the journey to the castle together and endure many dangers and encounters with a cat before they can even begin to carry out their task.

This book is almost nothing like the Disney movie of the same name, which is a definite good thing. Margery Sharp's writing is clever and quirky, and the adventures of the three mice are entertaining and exciting. I read the book aloud to my older two girls who are going on 4 and 6, and they were completely invested in the success of the mice's mission, especially when it came to fending off the unpleasant cat that so often thwarted their plans. The illustrations by Garth Williams also perfectly suit the story, and my girls pored over every detail.

Though the language was a bit sophisticated in parts, this was a successful read-aloud for us, and I'm hoping I'll be able to track down some of the later books of the series as well so we can continue reading about Miss Bianca's adventures. For kids who love talking animals and adventure stories, this is a guaranteed hit.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 32-35

Last week, I read my second-to-last set of chapters in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Chapter 32 ("Out of the Fire"), Chapter 33 ("Fight and Flight"), Chapter 34 ("The Department of Mysteries"), and Chapter 35 ("Beyond the Veil").

In these chapters, things are looking pretty dire. McGonagall is in the hospital after she was injured trying to help Hagrid during his removal from school grounds. Therefore, when Harry has a vision of Sirius and Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries, he can't go to her with his concerns. He tries to check on Sirius using the fireplace in Umbridge's office, and is caught. Only after he and Ron and Hermione lead Umbridge into the forest to be dealt with by the centaurs can Harry even consider pursuing a rescue mission, and of course when he does, Sirius ends up coming to rescue him and losing his life in the process.

Unfortunately, because I didn't read this book right when it came out, a kid at the summer program where I worked at the time told me about Sirius's death before I got to read it for myself, so I've never had a truly unspoiled reading of this book. Even so, I can tell by the way it is written that it was a real shock to those who were unspoiled. There is no preparation at all, aside from one little line of foreshadowing where Harry says he hopes Ron won't be able to see a thestral. Otherwise, the moment of his death is so sudden and out-of-the-blue that it takes a moment for the shock to set in.

A few other things caught my attention as I re-read. For one thing, Umbridge's encounter with the centaurs was a lot darker than I remembered, and I felt very uneasy during that scene. I had also forgotten about the fact that Voldemort was trying to use Harry to get a prophecy from the Department of Mysteries, and that struck me as pretty lame, considering all the danger and high drama involved in getting Harry there. I was also really irritated by Rowling's use of Ron as comic relief during the battle. I mentioned this when I reviewed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Ron is my favorite character, and he deserves to have serious moments. (I look forward to re-reading his destruction of the locket in book 7.) Finally, I really felt for Hermione, who basically told Harry his dreams were leading him into a trap. How awful it must be for her to know she was right and couldn't convince anyone else.

Only three chapters to go. I'll finish the book this week, and then on to book 6!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 28-31


Last week I read Chapter 28 ("Snape's Worst Memory"),  Chapter 29 ("Careers Advice"), Chapter 30 ("Grawp"), and Chapter 31 (" O.W.L.s").

The highlights for me this week mostly involved Snape and McGonagall.

Presumably in preparation for the rest of the series, where Snape's role begins to appear really ambiguous, Rowling has finally let us in on the reason Snape dislikes Harry so strongly. Not only does this help us make sense of why Snape is so over-the-top nasty to Harry, but it also builds up a little bit of sympathy for him that makes it possible to see a bit more to him than just blatant cruelty. I still think he should have been mature enough to continue with the occlumency lessons, because Harry's safety should take priority over any feuds he may have had with the deceased Potters, but Harry probably also shouldn't have gone poking around in his memories either, so neither of them is blameless.

McGonagall continues to be so protective of Harry that she can't help but show her contempt for Dolores Umbridge and the involvement of the Ministry at Hogwarts. I especially love the moment in Harry's career consultation where she becomes to irritated with Umbridge, she announces that she will do whatever it takes to make sure Harry becomes an Auror. I also appreciated her coming to the defense of Hagrid when he is forcibly removed from the Hogwarts grounds. I think she might be my favorite of the female characters in this series.

It was also fun to see Ron finally have some success on the Quidditch pitch, even if most of it happens "off-screen" while Harry and Hermione are being instructed on how to care for Grawp. Again, Hagrid is ridiculous to place the responsibility of caring for a giant in the hands of three kids who already have way too much going on, and I really wanted Harry and Hermione to say no to him this time. For teachers who want to keep their students safe, some of these professors have interesting ways of showing it.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Reading Through History: The Three Brothers of Ur (1964) and The Journey of the Eldest Son (1965) by J.G Fyson

In the city of Ur in Ancient Mesopotamia, a successful and well-known merchant named Teresh the Stern has three sons: Shamashazir, Naychor, and Haran. Haran is a bit of a trouble-maker, and The Three Brothers of Ur opens with him leaving school early for the day without permission in order to see his father's caravan return from its recent journey. Realizing he will need to appease the schoolmaster, Haran gets the idea to give him a nugget of gold, which he sets out to obtain by way of a trade with his father's camel master. When Uz, the camel master's son, brings the gold, however, he is spotted trying to make the delivery, and the secret bargain is found out. Though Uz receives an unexpected apprenticeship to an artist who makes clay images as a result of his role in the transaction, Haran does not have the same good fortune. While his father is away, he accidentally destroys the image of his family's teraphim (or god), bringing what he believes will be terrible misfortune to the household. Haran must rely upon the kindness and talent of Uz once more in order to make things right.

Throughout the first book, the eldest brother, Shamashazir, longs to journey with his father's caravan, but he must first prove to Teresh that he is trustworthy. When Haran breaks the teraphim while he is in charge of the household, he becomes concerned that he will never be given the opportunity. At the start of The Journey of the Eldest Son, however, Shamashazir has been granted his father's permission and is off on a trek over the mountains with the caravan. Unfortunately, a nasty fall from a mountain ledge soon leaves him injured and presumed dead. When he finally regains consciousness, he has been rescued by members of the tribe of Enoch, including Enoch Son of Enoch. Among the tribe, Shamashazir first learns of the Lord of All the Earth, the one God who rules over everything, and soon accepts that faith in one God makes much more sense than faith in teraphim and dingirs (spirits).  When Shamashazir and Enoch encounter a tribe that uses human sacrifice to appease the Corn Dingir, they are both deeply disturbed by this misguided tradition, and they immediately come up with a plan to rescue the two young boys who will be sacrificed next. If they can avoid having the entire tribe hunt them down, they might just be able to bring these boys back to Ur to start their lives anew.

These two books bring Ancient Mesopotamia to life in a way nothing else can. Though the author has obviously invented many of the details surrounding daily life in this time and place, she bases the story - which is really one coherent unit, despite being divided into two books - on Biblical stories from the book of Genesis and ancient religious history, giving it the ring of truth. I was fascinated by the way various characters came to accept monotheism, and equally delighted by the way the second book, in particular, gives voices and faces to figures known in the Bible only by name and brief description.

Even if kids don't recognize all of the Biblical references (they are quite subtle), these books are also wonderfully written page-turners full of adventure and suspense. Despite living 4000 years ago, the three sons of Teresh are the kind of very real and relatable boys that young readers gravitate toward, and the human flaws of these characters easily transcends time and space. These books are also excellent resources for understanding what family life, education, clothing, travel, trade, and living arrangements might have been like during ancient times. These will be absolutely perfect additions to our homeschool curriculum when we cover the ancients the second time around, probably in 5th grade.

Monday, August 12, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 24-27

Last week's chapters were: Chapter 24 ("Occlumency,"), Chapter 25 ("The Beetle at Bay"), Chapter 26 ("Seen and Unforeseen"), and Chapter 27 ("The Centaur and the Sneak"). Spoilers ahead.

In this section of the book, I find myself empathizing with the adults who want to keep Harry safe by seeing that he is taught Occlumency. It drove me nuts every time he didn't clear his mind before going to sleep and continued to willingly indulge in visions similar to the one he had about Arthur Weasley. It probably would have helped Harry realize the importance of practicing occlumency if the instructions had come from someone more appealing to him than Snape, but at the same time he's old enough to understand the danger and it annoyed me that he was so reckless.

I had totally forgotten Rita Skeeter was even in this book, and did not at all remember that she was the author of the article about Harry that was published in The Quibbler. I also forgot about Harry and Cho's awkward first date, which occurs just before Harry meets with Hermione and Skeeter, but I did remember, and very much enjoyed revisiting, the scene in which Hermione tells Ron he has the emotional depth of a teaspoon. It's funny because, at this stage at least, it's true.

My hate for Umbridge is at an all-time high at this point in the book. What she does to Trelawney is horrible, as is her use of Marietta to find out about Dumbledore's Army. It is such a moment of triumph, though, when Dumbledore takes credit for the group. I feel a little bit icky about Marietta's memory being modified, but overall, this scene redeems of a lot of Dumbledore's behavior in this book for me. I also love Phineas Nigellus's line: "You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts … but you cannot deny he’s got style …" No, you cannot.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 20-23

My latest reading assignment in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix included Chapter 20 ("Hagrid's Tale"), Chapter 21 ("The Eye of the Snake"), Chapter 22 ("St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries"), and Chapter 23 ("Christmas on the Closed Ward").

There is lots of great stuff packed into these four chapters, a good portion of which I had forgotten since my last reading of this book. First, there is all the background about giants. I did remember that Hagrid's mother was a giant, but not any of the other details about where they lived, how they decided not to help Dumbledore, etc. I also didn't remember how awful Dolores Umbridge was during her evaluation of Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures lesson. I think that scene actually made me angrier than the one with Trelawney.

This section of the book is also a huge emotional rollercoaster for Harry, which is in keeping with the overall angst readers often complain about in this book. Cho kisses him, which prompts Hermione to inform Harry of all the complicated feelings his crush is likely experiencing as she grieves Cedric and thinks about dating Harry at the same time. Then Harry has a vision of Arthur Weasley being attacked wherein Harry sees the attack happen as though he himself is participating in it. This experience, along with some comments he overhears from Order members, causes him to wonder whether he is the weapon Voldemort is hoping to use to aid his rise to power. Dumbledore continuing to avoid looking at him or talking to him only makes this belief seem more plausible.

These chapters also introduce the wizarding hospital and Healers, which, Ron is quick to point out, are nothing like doctors. It's interesting to see how Rowling sets up the medical world within her universe, and the scenes set at St. Mungo's also allow us to see both Lockhart, which is kind of funny, and Neville's parents, which of course is much more somber.

The one bright spot in these chapters is Sirius's enthusiasm for the Christmas celebration. Knowing as all re-readers do that this is his last Christmas makes this especially bittersweet. I also really love Ron's immaturity about Harry's crush on Cho, and his utter lack of subtlety in all things. He's such a realistic fifteen-year-old boy, and thankfully, he's not nearly as angsty as his best friend (at least not in this book...)

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Read-at-Home Mom Report, July 2019

Thanks in large part to The Reading Rush read-a-thon, I got a lot of reading done in July and made some big strides on some of the reading challenges I'd been neglecting. A bunch of the books I chose to read were suggested in some way by Anne Bogel, either on What Should I Read Next?, or in the Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading guide. The only book I had planned to read this month and didn't finish was Pride & Prejudice, which is proving to be a much bigger struggle than I anticipated. Hopefully, it will appear in my wrap-up post for August. Here is everything I did read in July.


Books Read



Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon

by Donna Andrews
Format: Paperback
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Used bookstore
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


The Caves of the Great Hunters

by Hans Baumann
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Home library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


A Literal Mess

by J.C. Kenney
Format: Ebook
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Personal Kindle collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting

by Anna Quindlen
Format: Ebook
Genre: Memoir
Source: Public library via Libby
Review: On Goodreads ()


Let's Fake a Deal

by Sherry Harris
Format: Paperback ARC
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Kensington Books
Review: On Instagram (⭐)


The Spice of America

by June Swanson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction (children's)
Source: Home library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

by Molly Wizenberg
Format: Audiobook read by Mia Barron
Genre: Memoir
Source: Public library via RB Digital
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


Leisure, the Basis of Culture

by Josef Pieper
Format: Paperback
Genre: Philosophy
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

by Avi
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Historical fiction (middle grade)
Source: Home library
Review: On the blog (⭐)


Back Stabbers 

by Julie Mulhern
Format: Audiobook read by Callie Beaulieu
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Public library via Hoopla
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


Anne of the Island 

by L.M. Montgomery
Format: Audiobook read by Barbara Caruso
Genre: Realistic fiction (YA)
Source: Public library via RB Digital
Review: On the blog (⭐)


The Happy Hollisters and the Sea Turtle Mystery

by Jerry West
Format: Ebook
Genre: Mystery (children's)
Source: Personal Kindle collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


A Murder for the Books 

by Victoria Gilbert
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


Gunnar's Daughter 

by Sigrid Undset
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Review: On Instagram (⭐)


The Three Brothers of Ur

by J.G. Fyson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: Will be posted after I read the sequel. (⭐)


The River

by Peter Heller
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Adventure/thriller
Source: Public library via Libby
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


The Unhoneymooners

by Christina Lauren
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


The Gown

by Jennifer Robson
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Instagram giveaway
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


The Secret Life of Bees

by Sue Monk Kidd
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


Anne of Windy Poplars

by L.M. Montgomery
Format: Audiobook read by Tara Ward
Genre: Realistic fiction (YA)
Source: Public library via RB Digital
Review: On the blog (⭐)


The Same Stuff as Stars

by Katherine Paterson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Realistic fiction
Source: Home library
Review: On Instagram (⭐)


The Rescuers

by Margery Sharp
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Home library
Review: Coming soon (⭐)


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

by C.S. Lewis
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Home library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


A Genuine Fix

by J.C. Kenney
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: NetGalley
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)


Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

by Ruth Reichl
Format: Paperback
Genre: Memoir
Source: Instagram giveaway
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

by Dani Shapiro
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Memoir
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Picture Books (with links to Goodreads reviews)


Challenge Progress

  • Alphabet Soup: 0 read in July, 22 of 26 read total
  • Alphabet Soup Author Edition: 2 read in July, 23 of 26 read total
  • #CathLit: 1 read in July, 13 of 19 read total
  • Cloak and Dagger: 6 read in July, 34 of 55 read total
  • Craving for Cozies: 6 read in July, 26 of 51 read total
  • Library Love: 7 read in July, 49 of 60 read total
  • RMFAO Audiobooks: 8 read in July, 40 of 25 read total
  • 2020 Classics: 1 read in July, 3 of 20 read total 
  • Goodreads Goal: 60 read in July, 308 of 425 read total
I'll be linking up this post for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? with The Book Date and Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and for the July 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up Link-Up at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Read-at-Home Kids Report: July 2019

The Read-at-Home Kids have been reading up a storm this summer far beyond what I expected. As I sit down to write this, Miss Muffet (age 5 years, 8 months) has read or listened to more than 150 books since the beginning of June, and her sisters, Bo Peep (3 years, 10 months) and Jumping Joan (21 months), have listened to more than 100 and nearly 70, respectively. And this doesn't include any re-reads.

Family Read-Alouds

During July, we finished reading The Happy Hollisters and the Sea Turtle Mystery, after taking a short break to read The Spice of America by June Swanson around the fourth of July. The Happy Hollisters book inspired lots of research into the Everglades, air boats, snoring frogs, Seminole Indian culture, the construction of chickees and much more. After we had exhausted all those rabbit trails, then we picked up The Rescuers, the New York Review of Books edition of which Bo Peep selected at the used bookstore based on its resemblance to our copy of Jenny and the Cat Club. It was much, much different than the Disney version I knew as a kid, but very good, and both Miss Muffet and Bo Peep gave it a five-star rating.

Miss Muffet (5 years, 8 months)

School continues year-round here, and Miss Muffet has been totally obsessed with learning about Benjamin Franklin. I read What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin by Jean Fritz aloud to her, and that wasn't enough, so then my husband started reading her Poor Richard by James Daugherty in the evenings, along with A Bird in the Hand by Maud and Miska Petersham. I am now reading Electric Ben by Robert Byrd aloud during school time, and our lunch-time read-aloud is Ben and Me by Robert Lawson. When we're not reading about Benjamin Franklin, we're studying paintings in The Story of Paintings by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom and we're reading Planet Earth by Gerald Ames for science.

For fun, Miss Muffet has been reading the Wayside school series by Louis Sachar, the Lulu series by Hilary McKay (which we borrowed from the library) and Henry and Ribsy. I introduced her to the First Grade Friends series by Miriam Cohen as well. She also recently finished another of the Little House on the Prairie spin-off books, Beyond the Heather Hills by Melissa Wiley, and she's been revisiting lots of favorite picture books and Boxcar Children audiobooks.

Little Bo Peep (3 years, 10 months)

Little Bo Peep and I have started having some school time together in the mornings which typically consists of read-alouds. We've read some library books: a couple of Alfie books by Shirley Hughes , two nonfiction titles she selected about bones and the sun, and one book each from the Annie and Snowball and Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa series. She also loves to read nonfiction books about community helpers, of which there are many on Open Library, and we've also been borrowing other miscellaneous picture books from there based on whatever topics she gives me. As she's starting to give up her nap, Bo Peep has also felt the need to take many books to bed with her after lunch, and often she gets through the whole stack.

Little Jumping Joan (21 months)

Finally, this little one's love of books has taken off. We have read Summer Babies by Kathryn Galbraith dozens of times, and typically, when we get to the end, she hands it to me and says, "Read. Again!" She's also starting to get interested in actual picture books, including the Stanley series by William Bee and pretty much any book that one of her sisters has in her hand and would prefer that she not touch. She's still destroying our board books because she just loves them so much she can't be gentle, but she also spends a fair amount of time pointing to objects in them and calling them by name. Other new favorites for Jumping Joan are Hello Lamb and Goodnight Bear, both by Jane Cabrera.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Book Review: Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery (1936)

Chronologically, Anne of Windy Poplars is the fourth book of the Anne Shirley series, but it was actually published much later than most of the other titles, in 1936. Told mostly in letters from Anne, now a school principal and teacher at a high school, to Gilbert, who is in medical school, it relates the events of the three years between Anne's graduation from college and her marriage to Gilbert. 

Though this book is fun to read, the things that happen to Anne and the people she meets seem to be repeats of events and characters already encountered in Avonlea. The children she meets are like the ones she knew at home, the ladies she stays with are much like ladies in Avonlea (and like the ones she rented from at Redmond), etc. Anne is also almost obnoxiously meddlesome in other people's business, and yet manages to resolve every young couple's romantic problems by failing to mind her own business. It's also tedious to hear these things in Anne's voice through the conceit of these letters to Gilbert, from whom we never get to read even one reply. I have nothing against first person in general, but I prefer these books in the third.

All that said, I don't think L.M. Montgomery could ever write a truly bad book. This is decidedly not her best, but it's still a solid three-star read filled with moments of great beauty and great humor. (My favorite is the moment when Aunt Mouser says, "What’s the matter with Mercy Daniels? I met her on the stairs and her complexion has got terrible muddy.” and the response is:  “‘The quality of mercy is not strained,’” giggled Sally, wriggling into her dinner dress." I actually laughed out loud and I don't do that very often with books.) I'm not sorry I read it, but I'm also eager to get on to Anne's House of Dreams, which is next on my to-read list.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Reading Through History: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (1990)

In the summer of 1832, Charlotte Doyle is 13 years old. She has just left her boarding school for the summer, and is due to join some other families on a ship crossing from England to Rhode Island. When she arrives at the Seahawk, however, the others have all changed their plans, and she finds herself sailing unchaperoned, alone on a ship full of men. Charlotte is warned that undertaking this voyage unaccompanied is a bad idea, but she and her escort agree that she should not go against the plans her father has made and she embarks on the journey anyway. At first, she becomes friendly with the captain, assuming based on his appearance that he is someone she can trust, who shares her values. When it becomes clear that perhaps she has been too quick to rely on the captain, however, her presence on the ship feels more perilous. As the story progresses, Charlotte's naivete about the world is lost, and she begins taking actions that would ordinarily seem unladylike to her in order to survive.

I appreciated the suspenseful writing in this book. I could easily imagine each scene as it was happening, and despite only knowing a little bit of sailing jargon (thank you, Swallows and Amazons!) I had no trouble at all keeping track of the action. I felt less sure about the characters. I was sympathetic to Charlotte out of concern for her safety, but I can't say that I got close enough to her to feel what she was feeling. I did like the way Avi withheld and revealed certain details at certain times in order to make us feel dubious about some of the less forthcoming characters, but I still felt very much like I was watching the action at a distance.

My biggest issue of all with the book, though, is the taste of "anachronistic feminism" that it left in my mouth. I am already biased against "girl power" books because they tend to feel condescending and artificial, and this one seemed to apply contemporary feminist values to a time and place where they simply do not fit. Charlotte's reaction to her experience at the end of the book is completely far-fetched, and not at all true to her circumstances. It also sends a message that the best way to reach fulfillment as a woman is to behave more like a man. I own this book because it was a Newbery honor book in 1991, and because I remember all my classmates reading it when I was in middle school and refusing to read it myself. I'm on the fence right now about when (or whether) I will suggest it to my girls.

Monday, July 29, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 17-19

Last week, I read Chapter 17 ("Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four"), Chapter 18 ("Dumbledore's Army"), and Chapter 19 ("The Lion and the Serpent"). My comments contain spoilers.

In these three chapters, Umbridge's war against Harry and the Hogwarts students who support him continues as she introduces a new decree disallowing all student groups of which she does not approve. This, of course, should foil the plans to form a secret Defense Against the Dark Arts group, but, thankfully, it doesn't. The scenes where Harry shares his expertise with his friends provide a much-needed glimmer of light and hope in a book otherwise fraught with frustration for the main characters.

I was also pleased to finally reach the first iteration of "Weasley is our King." I love Ron, so of course I feel terrible about his failure on the Quidditch pitch, and the way he lets the Slytherin players shake his confidence, but I crack up every time I read those lyrics. (It also helps that I know how the song will eventually become an anthem in praise of Ron.)

The other thing I loved in these chapters is Umbridge's interactions with Snape and McGonagall. They both go back at her in a way the other professors don't, and McGonagall's disgust, especially, makes me happy, if for no other reason than the feeling that there is an adult on Harry's side even if Dumbledore has to remain at a distance. Of course, it infuriates me that Umbridge has gotten the upper hand again by banning half the Gryffindor  team from playing Quidditch, but I take comfort in the fact that her comeuppance is still ahead. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 13-16

This week's chapters were another fun set: Chapter 13 ("Detention with Dolores"), Chapter 14 ("Percy and Padfoot"), Chapter 15 ("The Hogwarts High Inquisitor"), and Chapter 16 ("In the Hog's Head"). Spoilers beyond this point.

I've read a few reviews that criticize the high level of teen angst Harry experiences in this book. I was thinking about that as I read this section, and I noticed it, but I have to say he comes by it honestly enough.  Umbridge is physically injuring him during detention and he can't tell anyone for fear she will make the punishment worse. His best friends are fulfilling prefect duties and trying out for the Quidditch team and otherwise being normal teenagers, while he has to listen to people who used to be his friends spouting the lies about him that they read in the newspaper. On top of that, Percy writes to Ron to warn him away from Harry, and Dumbledore hasn't said a word to him all year so far. He is in touch with Sirius, but of course even that is frustrating because Sirius can't seem to see Harry as a separate person from his dad. Wizard or not, that's a lot for any fifteen-year-old to handle!

I'm really looking forward to reading about Dumbledore's Army getting organized. There was something gratifying about seeing all of Harry's and Dumbledore's supporters come together to make plans to work around Umbridge's ridiculous rules. I also felt so angry on behalf of all the professors when she made her evaluations of their classes. Professor McGonagall's unwillingness to play her game was great, but I feel terrible for Trelawney, especially knowing what is to come for her. (Then again, I'm also looking forward to Umbridge's ride on a centaur...)

Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery (1915)

Anne of the Island follows Anne Shirley through her four years at Redmond College, during which she pursues her BA degree, befriends a girl from her own birthplace, rejects several marriage proposals, experiences the death of a friend, and slowly sorts out her true feelings for Gilbert Blythe. During visits home, Anne also observes the goings-on in Avonlea.

As was the case with the first two books of the series, this is another wholesome and innocent story, told in beautifully written prose. Though there is real sadness here (including a death), and some bittersweetness as Anne returns for the first time to the home of her childhood, these troubling times are always somehow infused with the light of hope. Montgomery resists darkness in these books at every opportunity, and I so appreciate that.

I really enjoyed the way this book related the events of four years in Anne's life without feeling rushed or abbreviated. Montgomery did a nice job of choosing important moments to include in the story, and she handled the passage of time quite well. I also enjoyed all the quirks of the newly-introduced characters, especially Redmond classmate Philippa Gordon, and even though Anne drove me nuts for rejecting Gilbert early on in the story, the rollercoaster of her feelings for him made for an enjoyable reading experience.

I'm due to read three more Anne books before the summer ends. Next up: Anne of Windy Poplars!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (and 15 More Picture Books About the Moon)

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Brian Floca has expanded his 2009 picture book, Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11. This beautifully illustrated picture book follows Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin as they travel to the moon, land, explore, sleep, and return home. Floca used the opportunity to expand the book in order to spend a bit more time on the astronauts' time in space, and to shine a brighter spotlight on the thousands of lesser-known and unknown individuals who contributed their expertise to the success of the moon landing.

I don't believe I ever read the original edition of this book, but this new version is completely enthralling for early elementary kids who are interested in space. The illustrations provide a lot of detail, and though there is a lot of text for this format, it reads aloud very smoothly. The book is also a good size, and the illustrations really fill up the large spreads. Floca's use of space on each page helps the reader to really feel the vastness of space, the smallness of Earth when viewed from the moon, and the close quarters inside the small ships.

Along with Moonshot, which is a perfect book to read this weekend, here are 15 other moon-related picture books that I personally recommend.

  • The Moon by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Tracey Campbell Pearson
    A poem about the moon is paired with illustrations of a father and son taking a moonlit walk.
  • The Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
    A group of siblings dance, climb, and play in the moonlight outside their front door.
  • How to Be on the Moon by Viviane Schwarz
    Anna and Crocodile use their imaginations to travel to the moon.
  • The Moon Was the Best by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Tana Hoban
    A mother recounts the adventures she had on a recent trip, noting that she loved the moon the best because she and her child could see it at the same time.
  • The Moon is Going to Addy's House by Ida Pearle
    A beautifully illustrated reflection on how the moon seems to follow a little girl named Addy home.
  • Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
    Kitten thinks the moon is a bowl of milk, leading to a bewildering night.
  • Regards to the Man in the Moon by Ezra Jack Keats
    Louie learns not to be ashamed that his father is the "junk man" after he uses his imagination to build a spaceship out of junk.
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
    A young girl and her father go out looking for owls under a winter moon. 
  • Moonlight by Helen V. Griffith
    A rabbit bathes in the moonlight.
  • One Lighthouse, One Moon by Anita Lobel
    Nini the cat explores various concepts. The final section of the book focuses on counting and is the source of the book's title.
  • Dance by the Light of the Moon by Joanne Ryder, illustrate by Guy Francis
    A group of anthropomorphic cows attend a barn dance.
  • When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James
    A group of children play hockey by the light of the moon.
  • A Moon of My Own by Jennifer Rustgi, illustrated by Ashley White
    A young girl befriends the moon and accompanies it on a journey to all 7 continents.
  • Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle
    Monica wants the moon for a playmate, so her father climbs up to get it for her.
  • Luna: The Science and Stories of Our Moon by David A. Aguilar
    Geared toward older readers, this book is a collection of scientific information and fanciful folklore about the moon. 

These titles are also printed on this .pdf list, which you can save and/or print to take along with you to the library or bookstore.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 9-12


Last week, I read Chapter 9 ("The Woes of Mrs. Weasley"), Chapter 10 ("Luna Lovegood"), Chapter 11 ("The Sorting Hat's New Song"), and Chapter 12 ("Professor Umbridge"). I will spoil the ending of this book in this post.

The scenes that stood out to me most in these chapters are the ones that help the reader appreciate the weight of the losses of friends and family experienced by the members of the Order of the Phoenix during Voldemort's first rise to power. When Moody shows Harry the old photo of the Order and talks about the various ways those pictured lost their lives, it really puts Harry's own quest to defeat Voldemort into an important larger context. Likewise, the scene in which Molly faces a boggart which appears to her in the form of the dead bodies of her children drives home the long-lasting emotional effects fighting Voldemort has had on those who lived through it the last time.

I was also surprised by the fact that Ron was made a prefect. I remembered that Hermione was one, but had totally forgotten about Ron. He's my favorite character, so it will be interesting to see what other details about him have slipped from my memory. (I'm also really looking forward to "Weasley is Our King."

I also totally forgot that the reason Harry can see the thestrals is Cedric's death, and not Sirius's. Obviously I knew that Luna is in Dumbledore's Army, though, so I really should have realized that it would have to be this book that introduces her (and the thestrals), and not book 6. I've also always felt that it was a little far-fetched that Harry's parents' death wouldn't make them visible; it makes it feel like the thestrals were an afterthought and Rowling had to make up an explanation (see it here on Pottermore) about why the rules wouldn't apply the same to babies (and apparently also about why Harry couldn't see the thestrals right away after Cedric died, which really seems like a reach.) I like it better when the details feel like they'd been in place from the start of the series, and we just didn't know their significance yet.

Umbridge hasn't even done much yet, but at the first "hem hem" I felt my entire body tensing up in response. I absolutely love how effectively Rowling writes her, because I think she is the fictional villain I hate the most, and there is a certain amount of fun in hating her. I am preparing myself for the next set of chapters, in which Harry has his first detention with her. I can already feel myself becoming indignant on his behalf. Also, I love that McGonagall clearly disapproves of her. Any time McGonagall "breaks character" and sets aside her professorial persona, I eat it up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 5-8

My second assignment in Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix was to read Chapter 5 ("The Order of the Phoenix"), Chapter 6 ("The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black"), Chapter 7 ("The Ministry of Magic"), and Chapter 8 ("The Hearing.") Spoilers for the entire series will appear in this post.

What struck me immediately in these chapters is how good it was to see so many of these characters alive and well again. There is such a warmth to these early scenes at 12 Grimmauld Place, as the sense of camaraderie among the members of the Order (and the kids) is juxtaposed against the darkness of the Black family home and the dangers that lie beyond its walls. Every character is much more fully realized than I appreciated on my first reading, and there is a lot more going on than I remembered. There is tension between Molly and Sirius, as they disagree about how much to involve the younger generation, and especially Harry, in their fight against Voldemort. There is also tension between Percy and the rest of the Weasleys, as he has taken the Ministry's side against Harry's claim that Voldemort has returned. And then there is Harry's own personal concern, first over the possibility of being expelled from Hogwarts for performing illegal underage magic, and later over the fact that Dumbledore doesn't seem to be speaking to him. But there is also this wonderful feeling of people coming together to take on a common enemy that gives Chapters 5 and 6 a surprisingly cozy quality.

Another important scene at 12 Grimmauld Place is Sirius's explanation of the relationships between all of the pureblood wizarding families. I doubt I thought much about this during my first reading, but given the roles Bellatrix and Regulus Black play in upcoming events gives it a significance that made me better attention this time. The family tree also helps to highlight the different ways pureblood families have treated non-purebloods, and to contrast families like the Malfoys and the Weasleys. 

After her brief appearance at Harry's hearing, I'm both dreading and eagerly anticipating seeing Dolores Umbridge appear at Hogwarts. So far, the character I've loved to hate is Rita Skeeter, but even she is no match for Umbridge, who is possibly the best villain in this series, making me angrier and more disgusted even than Voldemort. Harry's arrival at the Ministry for the hearing also made me think about Harry, Ron, and Hermione infiltrating the Ministry using polyjuice potion later on in book 7. Rowling does a great job of establishing this setting not just for the purpose of this one occasion in Harry's life, but also as a means of laying the groundwork for things to come.  

So far, I'm enjoying this book just as much as book four. The writing is just so much better than in the first three books, and so much has happened before Harry even leaves for Hogwarts! He'll get there - and meet Luna Lovegood - in the next set of chapters, and I'm eager to join him. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Order of the Phoenix, Chapters 1-4

This past week, I started Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with the first four chapters: "Dudley Demented," "A Peck of Owls," "The Advance Guard," and "Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place." (Spoilers  ahead for this book and the series as a whole.)

The mood at the start of this fifth book is one of frustration, as Harry is left in misery at the Dursleys (intentionally, on Dumbledore's orders) without an inkling of what is going on in the wizarding world.  Rowling does a really good job of conveying Harry's very specific brand of teen angst, and his all-caps ranting at his best friends once he arrives at Grimmauld Place helps the reader to empathize with him and also to understand some of the feelings (including resentment and anger) that have been building in him over the past several books. Though not everything Harry says about Ron and Hermione is accurate, Rowling really gets at the heart of his emotional state in that scene. 

Also handled well is Petunia Dursley's relationship to the wizarding world. Seeing her clear comprehension of the implications of the return of Voldemort adds a sense of foreboding to the opening of this novel, and also raises a lot of questions. I honestly don't remember the exact significance of the Howler she receives, and I'm looking forward to revisiting that. 

The other thing I really love is the introduction of Harry to some of the members of the Order of the Phoenix. The dialogue among characters like Moody, Lupin, and Tonks is really fun and witty, despite the seriousness of their errand in collecting Harry from Privet Drive. I also found myself comparing this departure from the Dursleys with the one that occurs in book 7, during which, of course, Moody is killed.  The knowledge that these beloved characters don't survive the series does make these introductions bittersweet in a way they weren't on my earlier readings of this book, all of which took place before the series was finished.

I'm really excited to spend the rest of my summer with this book.  So far, it's every bit as good as I remembered! 

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Read-at-Home Mom Report, June 2019

June was really heavy on the picture books and a bit lighter on other books, but I'm pleased with the mix of titles I read. In July, I'm hoping to go a bit easier on the audiobooks and get some more e-books and paperbacks read. I also didn't finish my June book club book (The World's First Love by Fulton Sheen), nor did I attend the book club, so at some point I want to finish that, especially now that Bishop Sheen's cause for sainthood has been reopened. But here are the books I did manage to read in June.


Books Read


Famous Paintings: An Introduction to Art

by Alice Elizabeth Chase
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

Death by Minivan

by Heather Anderson Renshaw
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Nonfiction/Catholic parenting
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

Middlemarch

by George Eliot
Format: Paperback
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

Anne of Avonlea

by L.M. Montgomery
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Personal collection
Review: On the blog (⭐)

The Rest of the Story

by Sarah Dessen
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Contemporary romance (YA)
Source: Edelweiss+
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

Babe The Gallant Pig

by Dick King-Smith
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

The Pumpkin War

by Cathleen Young
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Realistic fiction (middle grade)
Source: NetGalley
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

Katie John and Heathcliff

by Mary Calhoun
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Realistic fiction (middle grade)
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Instagram (⭐)

Clause and Effect

by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Format: Paperback ARC
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Kensington Books
Review: On Instagram (⭐)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J.K. Rowling
Format: Hardcover (U.K. Edition)
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Personal collection
Follow my #YearOfHarryPotter on the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)

By the Book

by Julia Sonneborn
Format: Paperback
Genre: Women's fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

The Red Pony

by John Steinbeck, illustrated by Wesley Dennis
Format: Hardcover (illustrated edition)
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy

by Jamie C. Martin
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Christian nonfiction
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

My Life in Middlemarch

by Rachel Mead
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

The Battered Body

by Ellery Adams
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

Waiting for Tom Hanks

by Kerry Winfrey
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

The Wishing Thread

by Lisa Van Allen
Format: Paperback
Genre: Magical realism
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)

Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Realistic fiction
Source: Personal collection
Review: On the blog ()

Picture Books (with links to Goodreads reviews)

Challenge Progress

  • Alphabet Soup: 1 read in June, 21 of 26 read total
  • Alphabet Soup Author Edition: 0 read in June, 21 of 26 read total
  • #CathLit: 0 read in June, 11 of 19 read total
  • Cloak and Dagger: 2 read in June, 28 of 55 read total
  • Craving for Cozies: 2 read in June, 20 of 51 read total
  • Library Love: 3 read in June, 42 of 60 read total
  • RMFAO Audiobooks: 4 read in May, 32 of 25 read total
  • 2020 Classics: 2 read in June, 2 of 20 read total 
  • Goodreads Goal: 46 read in June, 248 of 425 read total
I'll be linking up this post for It's Monday! What Are You Reading? with The Book Date and Unleashing Readers/Teach Mentor Texts and for the June 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up Link-Up at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.