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the way Voldemort's return is impacting the "real" world  and to give new information, such as the fact that Fudge has been replaced by Scrimgeour.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.