Saturday, September 18, 2021

ARC Review: The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin (10/5/2021)

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain is a memoir for middle grade readers written by Eugene Yelchin, the Newbery Honor author of 2011's Breaking Stalin's Nose. This heavily illustrated first-person account relates the experiences of young Eugene, then called Yevgeny, as he uncovers his talent as an artist while living under communist rule in the USSR. 

This is a fascinating read. Yelchin easily brings the reader into the world of his childhood, where his neighbor is a spy for the KGB, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov is a national treasure soon to escape to North America, and his mother worries he will never find the gift that will guarantee his safety when he reaches adulthood. Yelchin manages to drive home the oppression of Communism while also maintaining a levity that makes this book fun to read and very difficult to put down. (I picked it up to check out a few pages and an hour later came up for air, having finished the entire thing.) Young Yevgeny comes across as a kid just like the child reading the book, and because of this relatability I think young American readers will be better able to empathize with the parts of his life they have, thankfully, never experienced themselves. 

I learned very little about Communism in school. A book like this makes it possible to introduce the subject at an age appropriate level that doesn't overwhelm kids but also helps them to understand the seriousness of the dangers and problems experienced by families in Communist countries. Eugene Yelchin is an incredibly talented writer and artist, and this book is basically flawless. 

I received an ARC of this book from Candlewick in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/13/21

Weekend Activities (9/11/21 - 9/12/21) 

On Saturday, C. and E. practiced riding their balance bikes around the playground while M. helped me with the babies on the playground slides. Then all three girls played together on the playground. On Sunday, we attended an outdoor Mass for homeschoolers followed by some outdoor playtime with friends old and new.


Morning Time 

Music: I read aloud the rest of Chapter 2 and beginning of Chapter 3 of Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1942), and played recordings of the following pieces mentioned in the book: 

Singing: The girls learned to sing "Lift High the Cross." We concluded morning time each day with Salve Regina. On Friday, we practiced their previously learned songs in a family sing-along. 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "Me" by Walter de la Mare, "Song for a Little House" by Christopher Morley, "Frolic" by A.E. (G.W. Russell), "Feather or Fur" by John Becker and "Puppy and I" by A.A. Milne. 

Art appreciation: Using questions from TeacherVision.com and MasterpieceSociety.com, we discussed The Marriage at Cana by Veronese found in The Louvre Art Deck: 100 Masterpieces from the World's Most Popular Museum by Anja Grebe and Erich Lessing. Late in the week, we compared it to The Marriage Feast at Cana by Juan de Flandes. . We also watched a YouTube video showing the painting hanging in the Louvre

Catechism: We reviewed the first seven lessons in The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism. On Tuesday, we prayed the Collect Prayer and the Holy Cross Prayer for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, found in The Catholic All Year Prayer Companion by Kendra Tierney (Ignatius, 2021). On Wednesday we used the same book to review the Scripture readings for the seven sorrows of Mary and to pray the Collect Prayer and "To Mary in Honor of her Seven Sorrows" for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. On Friday, we listened to the episode of Saint Stories for Kids about St. Hildegard of Bingen. 


History

First Grade: C. learned about the importance of the discovery of fire, and about the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. We read the sections of Builders of the Old World called "The Fire Makers" and "Buried Treasures." On Thursday, she filled out a short timeline of Early Human History, showing the progression from Old Stone Age to Iron Age. On Friday, we read the first few pages of They Lived Like This in the Old Stone Age by Marie Neurath, stopping before the section on cave paintings, which we'll cover next week. She also watched When We Tamed Fired from PBS Eons.

Third Grade: M. read (with Daddy) these sections from The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster: 

  • Little John Smith
  • To and From Holland
  • Mary Stuart and the Honest Man 
  • James
  • Lord Roanoke and Virginia Dare
  • Spanish Armada 
  • War of the Three Henrys
  • The Lost Colony 

On Friday, they read The Lost Colony of Roanoke by Jean Fritz, and M. wrote a narration about John White. 


Science 

First and Third Grade: This week, we worked through Lesson A-6 in Building Foundations for Scientific Understanding Vol. 1: Matter II: Air Pressure, Vacuums, and Earth's Atmosphere. My husband demonstrated how to use a pressure gauge using a tire pump and a rubber playground ball. The girls also puffed up their cheeks to feel how air pressure increases inside their mouths. 

From Fun Science Demos, I showed the girls Exploring Air and Air Pressure, Weather: Measuring Air Pressure, and What is Air Pressure - Egg Demonstration. We also watched Air Exerts Pressure ExperimentWeather Barometers: How Does a Barometer Work?Weather Maps (Isobar Fronts); and How a Vacuum Cleaner Works

Pre-K: E. and I read about animals in The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why. She fell in love with the photo of an axolotl, so I showed her a YouTube video of axolotls yawning


English 

M. and C. love their Mad Libs workbooks. This week, C. worked on pronouns, adjectives, conjunctions, and prepositions. I went to explain prepositions to her, and she immediately started singing Busy Prepositions, which we then watched together. M. worked on adverbs, abstract nouns, conjunctions, and irregular past tense verbs. 

 On Tuesday and Thursday, I read aloud to M. and C. from Three Children and Shakespeare. We are well into The Merchant of Venice now, and the girls beg me to read more each time we finish a chapter. At lunch we're still listening to Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. At dinner, my husband is still reading aloud Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr. Grandma started reading aloud Hickory by Palmer Brown over Skype on Thursday. 

E. recorded her video reading of Ann's Hat. She needs some more instruction before the next book we have for her, so now she's just working out of The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. This week, she learned to read words ending in -ck, -lk, and -nk. 

M. read I Will Adventure by Elizabeth Vining Gray and started Alfred Hitchcock's Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries. C. finished The Mouse and the Motorcycle, then read The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting and Jenny's Moonlight Adventure by Esther Averill. To Gran over Skype, M. is still reading Ol' Paul by Glen Rounds and C. is still reading A Brother for the Orphelines by Natalie Savage Carlson. 

I read aloud a bunch of picture books to the babies too: In the Diner by Christine Loomis, Mama Cat Has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming, Bruno Munari's Zoo, Some Dinosaurs Are Small by Charlotte Voake, One-o-Saurus, Two-o-Saurus by Kim Norman, B is for Baby by Atinuke, Stanley's Fire Engine by William Bee, and Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle.

M. recorded her video recitation of Oberon's Speech from A Midsummer Night's Dream Act II Scene 1. C. is still working on memorizing "My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson and E. is working on memorizing "If I Had A Cardboard Box" by Aileen Fisher. 


Math 

M. spent most of the week working on an algebra test on Khan Academy. It was very challenging for her, but a good challenge. She will go back and work through the algebra unit tests in the coming weeks and then attempt to take it again. M. also worked on Review 2 in the Singapore 4A workbook, but she will need to revisit some of the word problems to correct her mistakes. 

C. has been struggling to add and subtract with renaming on the soroban. My husband made her some "cheat sheets" to help her stop panicking at every step of the process. She now says the problems in Singapore 2A are fun. She especially likes the exercises where the answers help decode a secret message. 

E. learned to count to nine on the soroban, and she continued to work on moving the beads up and down with the correct fingers. She did some simple addition and subtraction up to 4 to help her practice. 

M. drilled multiplication and division and C. drilled addition and subtraction using the Flashmaster app. 


Physical Education

M. and C. did their morning exercise routine daily. They were also taken out to ride their bikes on Monday afternoon. 


Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily.


Handwriting 

M. copied a question and answer from her Catechism in cursive each day. C. worked on cursive each day.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 9/6/21 (First Week of 2021-2022)

We have shifted gears and we're in full school mode once again. This year, M. (8 in November) is in third grade, C. (6 later this month) is in first grade, and E. (4 next month) is in Pre-K. R. and A. (17 mos.) are along for the ride. We have made some changes to the schedule, but most of our curriculum remains the same.  


Morning Time 

Music:  I read aloud Chapters 1 and 2 of Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1942), and played recordings of the following pieces mentioned in the book: 

  • Piano Sonata no. 19 in G minor, Op. 49, no. 1, mvt. 2 Rondo. Allegro
  • Sonatina in G Major, Anh. 5 
  • Ecossaise I in E-flat Major, WoO 86
  • Ecossaise II in G Major, WoO 23
  • Sonatina in G Major, Anh. 5, mvt. 2 Romance 

Singing: M. C., and E. took turns singing the call and reponse parts in "I Met a Bear". We concluded morning time each day with Salve Regina

Poems: from Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957): School-Bell by Eleanor Farjeon, "Arithmetic" by Carl Sandburg, "September" by Helen Hunt Jackson, and "Geography" by Eleanor Farjeon.  

Art Appreciation: Using questions from TeacherVision.com and MasterpieceSociety.com, we discussed Woman with a Mirror by Titian, found in The Louvre Art Deck: 100 Masterpieces from the World's Most Popular Museum by Anja Grebe and Erich Lessing. At the end of the week, we compared this painting with Conversation in a Park by Thomas Gainsborough. 

Catechism: We reviewed the first seven lessons in The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism. On Wednesday, we read about St. Peter Claver in Picture Book of Saints by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SV.D. (Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1979). 


History 

First Grade: C. has begun the first year of the classical Trivium. We are using Builders of the Old World by Gertrude Hartman (D.C. Heath and Company, 1946) as our spine, and this week we read "How the First People Lived" and "Sticks and Stones," which primarily focused on the tools of the Old Stone Age and New Stone Age. 

C. watched several videos about archaeology and prehistoric life: 

On Friday, she made paper replicas of stone-age tools using a printable from Zing-Zoom.com and dictated a narration to me, which I typed up and had her illustrate. She also used some items in the dress-up box to dress herself up like a caveman. 

Third Grade: For this segment of the year, M.'s spine is The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster. This week, she and my husband read these sections together: 

  • The Queen's Little Pirate
  • Queen Elizabeth
  • Philip II
  • A Declaration of Independence
  • The Virgin Queen and Her Frog Prince
  • Mary Stuart
  • The Three Henrys and the Queen Mother of France
  • Young Walter Raleigh and Virginia
  • No Gold - But Tobacco
They also went over a chart in the book called "Royal Relatives" which shows the successions in England and Scotland that explain how the same person was both King James I of England and King James VI of Scotland. 


Science 

First and Third Grade: We are still in Volume 1 of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding and using Early Elementary Science Education by Shannon Jordan as a guide. This week, we started the year with Lesson C-3a,  "Energy and Force." As an introduction, we read Move It! Movement, Forces, and You by Adrienne Mason, and did  a demonstration from the book showing how more force is needed to move heavier objects. M. and C. each lifted a 5 lb. back of flour to show what 5 lbs. of force feels like, and they each completed a worksheet identifying whether the force in a particular action is  push or pull.  

In the second half of the week, we watched videos demonstrating how water wheels use the force of gravity, how engineers protect buildings against wind, gravity, and earthquakes, and how wind farms generate electricity: 

On Wednesday, C. did the Push-and-Pull Toys Kiwi Crate.  

Pre-K: E. and I read the first section of The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why (Amazing Me) and some of the second section (How Things Work).


English 


I happened to receive some Mad Libs Reading workbooks for review from Penguin Random House, so I decided we would start the year using those to review parts of speech, spelling rules, etc. C. is working in the first grade book, and M. is working in the third grade book. I had them skip the phonics sections because they were too easy, but I will probably have them do everything else. I had also have the books for 2nd and 4th grade for whenever they finish these. 

With M. and C., I am reading aloud Three Children and Shakespeare. With C. in the evenings I'm reading aloud from My Bookhouse. To give me voice something of a break, our lunchtime book is now on audio. We're currently listening to Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright. At dinner, my husband is reading aloud Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr. 

E. is continuing to work through The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading. This week she started the section on consonant blends and learned how to sound out double letters. She also practiced with a Hooked on Phonics reader called Ann's Hat and her three-letter word flashcards. M. listens to her reading once a day after she receives instruction from me.  

M. read Valley of the Smallest: The Life of the Shrew by Aileen Fisher and The Marvelous Invention of Alvin Fernald by Clifford B. Hicks. C. read Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill and started The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. To Gran over Skype, M. is reading Ol' Paul by Glen Rounds and C. is reading A Brother for the Orphelines by Natalie Savage Carlson. 


Math 


M. has been doing math at a 6th grade level on Khan Academy, so we're starting the year having her do all the review sections in Singapore 4A. We'll review the weak spots as needed and then move forward until we reach material she doesn't know yet. This week, she did Review 1, and she got some questions about rounding and timelines incorrect, so she went back and did the practice problems on those topics. M. is more than halfway through Life of Fred: Jellybeans.  

C. resumed working in Singapore 2B, using the soroban to assist her with multi-digit addition and subtraction. In the evenings with me, she is also doing additional soroban practice with multi-digit addition and subtraction, and using the Cuisenaire rods to review the numbers that add up to equal 5 (little friends) and 10 (big friends). She started Life of Fred: Cats this week. 

E. is beginning to use the soroban. I'm teaching her from the Learning Mathematics with the Abacus Year 1 textbook. This week, we focused on Unit 1, which teaches the parts of the soroban, and which fingers to use to move which beads. We also practiced clearing it and counting up to five. 

M. and C. started using an app called Flashmaster to drill their math facts. It's a free app for the Kindle Fire and it delivers their results to my husband's Evernote account by email. 


Physical Education 

I  borrowed some of the exercises from the Ten Thousand Method YouTube videos we used the past two years and wrote out a routine for the girls to do on their own before breakfast. This is what they're doing: 

  • 15 little arm circles
  • 15 big arm circles
  • 25 punches
  • 20 marches 
  • balance flamingo (count to 20)
  • 15 kangaroo jumps
  • 15 bird wings
  • 15 monkey walks 
  • 15 windmills
  • balance flamingo (count to 20)
  • 15 rabbit jumps
  • bear crawl (count to 20)
  • 20 seal claps
  • balance flamingo (count to 20)
  • 15 frog jumps 
  • 20 horse gallops
  • 20 lizard runs
  • balance flamingo (count to 20) 
  • 20 marches  
  • 25 punches
  • 15 big arm circles
  • 15 little arm circles 

Currently, they're doing their workout on the deck, but they'll move to the basement once it gets too cold.

The girls also went for one last swim on Labor Day, and they also had an unexpected playdate on our first day of school because our public school friends had a day off for Rosh Hashanah.  


Instrumental Music

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily.


Handwriting 

M. copied a question and answer from her Catechism in cursive each day. C. worked on cursive each day.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Book Review: Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children's Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls by Mitali Perkins (2021)

I borrowed Steeped in Stories by Mitali Perkins from Hoopla for a few reasons. One was that I had a goal to read three books about books in 2021 and I needed one more. Another was that I had just DNFed a 55-hour audiobook (The Source by James Michener) after 17 grueling hours and this audiobook was much shorter. Another was that my husband and I had just been talking with a friend about how to handle "problematic" children's books of the past, and the topic was on my mind. I was also intrigued by the negative Goodreads reviews complaining that the book was religious. I would never have guessed it had religious content based on the description I read, and I wanted to know more.

The structure of the book is based on the seven virtues and their corresponding vices, and the author selected one book per virtue. The titles she covers are Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. For each, Perkins makes the case for why adults should continue to read these books and share them with their kids, even if they include flawed characters or outdated ideologies. She also makes references to the writings of saints, Pope Francis, and even the Catechism of the Catholic Church to point out how reading these books can enrich a reader's spiritual life as well. 

Though I think her comments on potential racial issues in Tolkien and Lewis revealed a lack of knowledge of the fantasy genre more than any problems with the books themselves, Perkins's analyses of the other titles were interesting and compelling even when I disagreed with portions of them. I appreciated that she showed obvious affection for each author (though calling each of them "aunt" and "uncle" was a shade too cutesy for my taste) and that she imagined herself posing questions to them about why they chose to write the things they did, rather than just outright condemning them all.  Her thoughts on how to think about race in children's literature on a broader scale are also interesting and far less accusatory and nasty than a lot of the rhetoric I've seen surrounding this topic. I'm a little disappointed that our culture feels so guilty for reading its classic literature, but I think this book does a good job of combatting those feelings of discomfort or shame and makes a great case for keeping those classics around. I also liked the questions provided at the end of each chapter, which would make great jumping-off points for book club discussions or prompts for journaling.

If you're a parent or just a children's literature enthusiast wondering how to deal with the problems of racism and other forms of bias in older books, this book is a very gentle and inviting way to enter the conversation. Perkins strikes a nice balance between research, personal anecdotes about reading with her own children, and thoughtful literary analysis. I listened to the entire book in two days, and I could not stop talking about it when I was done. I don't think it's a perfect book, but I'm thrilled that a Christian (and Catholic, I think?) take on children's literature is out there in the world, and I definitely think it's worth a read. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

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

My Month in Books

Despite getting off to a slow start due to my inability to get any reading done at the beach, August was another great reading month once I got going. I read a bunch of middle grade ARCs, several nonfiction titles, two Regency romances (a new genre for me!), a YA fantasy (generally not my genre) and a Pulitzer prize winner. There was definitely a very broad range. Here are the 17 books I read in August:



Soccer Trophy Mystery by Fred Bowen (3 stars)
[Reviewed on the blog]
Fred Bowen is one of my favorite living middle grade authors (which is saying a lot because there is a lot of contemporary middle grade that I don't like), and this book marks his 25th anniversary writing sports stories. This title is his first mystery, and as such, it wasn't his strongest, but it provided a great lesson about girls' sports history and the main characters are twins, which we always appreciate in my family. 

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin (5 stars)
I requested an ARC of this book based on how much I loved Breaking Stalin's Nose by the same author. Breaking Stalin's Nose is a novel about childhood behind the Iron Curtain, and this book is a memoir of the author's childhood and how his art was a source of joy and hope for him. I read this book in one sitting - it manages to get across the difficulties of life in Communist Russia while still keeping the hopeful outlook that middle grade books typically offer. I absolutely loved it. 


Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton (2 stars)
The good news is I finished the series. The bad news is this book was pretty disappointing. I just found it boring, and it made me sad that one of my favorite characters had to go out on such a low note. 


Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (5 stars)
I read this YA fantasy novel based on the ballad of Tam Lin (among other things) for a new book group I joined on Instagram where there is a monthly theme and everyone in the group reads whatever they want within that theme. The theme for August was Mythology, which is not my favorite, but this book ended up being really intriguing. My husband recommended it to me after reading it himself, so I went into it with high expectations, and it definitely met them.  I would need to read this book many more times before I could even begin to understand all that takes place in it, but I loved its complexity. It reminded me a little bit of The Dark is Rising - it has the same mix of magic and reality, and it gave me the same feelings of being satisfied at the end but also knowing there depths I have yet to understand.


Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (3 stars)
I intended to read this aloud to the girls at the beach, but we ended up not reading aloud at all until we got home, so we did it the week after we came home from the beach. It's such a gentle story about two sisters spending a week at the beach. It was a nice way to look back on our own beach memories and my girls all said it was "the best book ever." It was my second time reading it, and I stand by my original 3-star review, but I did think it was slightly better than I remembered. 


Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson (4 stars)
This was the last book I read from this year's Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading guide. While I don't think I'm at a point where I'm ready to overhaul how we do laundry, I was totally fascinated by all the information given in this book  and the little tidbits of laundry history it mentioned.


The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop by Steve Osborne (4 stars)
I chose this audiobook on Libby at random because I was looking for essays, and it wound up being a great choice. These recollections from the career of an NYPD cop were equal parts funny and touching. The stories were originally written to be performed on stage, so audio is definitely the best way to enjoy them. 


The Happy Hollisters at Pony Hill Farm by Jerry West (2 stars)
I read this aloud to C., who is almost 6. I've read a few of these aloud, and this one was my least favorite. It was disorganized and predictable, and it seemed to go on forever. 


The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (4 stars)
This was the book I started at the beach and didn't finish. It's a nice, leisurely family story that jumps around in time and centers on the descendants of a painter who are trying to decide whether and when to sell his work. I didn't like it as much as Winter Solstice, but it was still good. 

I Was Told There'd Be Cake: Essays by Sloane Crosley (4 stars)
This was part of my essay kick this month. The author has a different worldview than I do on many things, but on others, I could completely relate to her. The highlight of the book was the essay about being asked to be in an old friend's wedding despite not having much in common with her anymore. 



The Duke and I by Julia Quinn (4 stars)
The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn (5 stars)
Based on the Netflix show (which I have no plans at all to watch), I never would have guessed that I would like the Bridgerton series, but Krista from Books and Jams on YouTube mentioned how fun they were on audio, and I know she's not big into books with a lot of sex, so I decided to try them based on her recommendation. I'm so glad I did! The first book totally surprised me by having a very Catholic-friendly view of sex, and the second book, too, only had sex between married characters and not that much of it. I'm into the third book now, and it is a bit more explicit, but the quality of the writing is good enough that I will endure the inconvenience of having to skip through scenes I don't want to hear. Rosalyn Landor, who narrates the audiobooks, is also excellent. 


Crashing in Love by Jennifer Richards Jacobson (3 stars)
This was a quick middle grade read about a girl named Peyton who finds an accident victim on the road and begins to develop a crush on him while he is comatose. The character's mother is an investigative journalist so Peyton has access to information about his case, and she keeps involving herself in the search for whoever hit the boy and ran away. I figured out who did it pretty early on, but it was a satisfying ending. The content was 95% appropriate, but this isn't one my kids will be likely to read. 


The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate diCamillo (4 stars)
I was so worried about this new Kate DiCamillo book because I kept seeing it compared to The Inquisitor's Tale, which I recommend Catholic families avoid because it's so grossly anti-Catholic. Thankfully, this book is not very much like The Inquisitor's Tale at all. It's a little light on religion, which is a little disappointing in a book that includes characters who are a monk and a priest, but it's not antagonistic to faith in general. 

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (4 stars)
I listened to this on audio with my kids and eventually realized that the audio, which was the British version and our physical copy, which is the U.S. edition, have hundreds of tiny differences between them. I prefer the original UK version personally. I'm not sure what the changes for the U.S. edition were meant to accomplish - most of them were really strange choices.


Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels (4 stars)
I was a bit misled about this book. Someone in a Catholic Facebook group asked for romances that she could read without feeling she had to go to Confession and a commenter suggested this one. I had been planning to read it anyway, but after hearing that it was Catholic-friendly, I bumped it up on my list. It was a good book in many ways, but not in any way in line with Church teaching. There are sex scenes in the book, references to artificial birth control and other things that I was not expecting based on how the book had been described. I did like the way it handled the premise, of people from opposite ends of the political spectrum falling in love. It was just so reasonable and sane, and it promotes the kind of bridge-building we should all be focused on. I also loved the characters.  But this is not a Catholic romance novel, it's just a regular romance novel. 


Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (5 stars)
Finally, my last read of the month was this lengthy Pulitzer prize winner. I loved it, and I'm so thankful to my library for finally getting it on audio because it was taking me forever in print, and I zipped right through it once I could listen to it. I'm finding that I have a real love for books about the American West besides never having been West of Pennsylvania. 


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

My husband finished The Flood at Reedsmere by Hester Burton and he is now reading The Night of the Comet by Leon Garfield. 

M., (7 years, 9 months) read The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye and The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. She read A Book for Jennifer by Alice Dalgliesh aloud to my mother-in-law on Skype as well. 

C. (5 years, 11 months) finished The Folk of the Far Away Tree by Enid Blyton, then  zipped through The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in two days. She also read The Happy Orpheline by Natalie Savage Carlson and is now reading A Brother for the Orphelines. I've been reading to her from My Bookhouse Vol. 3: Through Fairy Halls and she is really enjoying it. 

E. (3 years, 10 months) mastered two more Hooked on Phonics readers: Pig Wig Can Hit and Tag. Her next book is Ann's Hat

R. (17 months) is really into Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo, Helen Oxenbury's Big Baby Book, and Winter Babies by Kathryn O. Galbraith. He says "book" all the time. 

A. (17 months) likes our big colorful word books by Roger Priddy and Animal Sounds by Aurelius Battaglia (especially the sheep page). 


Up Next For Me

My big undertaking for the month of September is to listen to The Source by James Michener, which is 55 hours on audio. This is my selection for that Instagram book group where the theme is The Middle East. I'm also participating in Series September, hosted by Sarah's Nightstand and Krista's Books and Jams on YouTube and in a fall reading challenge hosted by another group of booktubers. Right now I'm listening to An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn and I'm reading The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear in the Kindle app. 

Linking Up 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Homeschool Update: Weeks of 8/23/21 and 8/30/21

As summer comes to an end, we have slowly been winding down our summer studies in preparation for starting the new school year after Labor Day. Here is the last of our summer work. 

Morning Read-Alouds 

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters,  illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018) we read "The Eagle" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Hurricane" by Dionne Brand, and "I Went Up the High Hill" by Anonymous. 

For the week of 8/23 our author/illustrator was Leo Lionni. I read aloud Swimmy, Fish is Fish, Frederick, and Inch by Inch,  and Grandma read Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, The Biggest House in the World, The Alphabet Tree, and Theodore and the Talking Mushroom, all from Frederick's Fables.

For the week of 8/30 our author/illustrator was Maurice Sendak. I read aloud I'll Be You and You Be Me by Ruth Krauss, A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss, Outside Over There, In the Night Kitchen, and The Sign on Rosie's Door, and Grandma read Where the Wild Things Are. The girls also watched Really Rosie on YouTube. 


Music

We reviewed the songs we learned this year and tested to see which the girls had memorized.  They practiced piano and recorder daily. 


Art

The girls made birthday cards for a friend who turned 4. M and C painted with watercolors on the easel, and C. and E. drew with chalk in the driveway. 


Catechism

M. is scheduled to receive her first Communion in October. We had a meeting at church to practice and we have been preparing for her first Confession. 


History 

From The Golden Book of America adapted for young readers by Irwin Shapiro (Simon & Schuster, 1957), we read the chapter entitled " It Happens Every Four Years" about the history of presidential campaigns. From Yankee Doodle's Cousins by Anne Malcolmson (Houghton Mifflin, 1941), we read "Pecos Bill," "Pecos Bill and his Bouncing Bride" and "John Darling." From American Adventures by Elizabeth Coatsworth (Macmillan, 1968). we read "The Sod House" and "Cherry Ann and the Dragon Horse." From The Great Heritage by Katherine B. Shippen (Viking Press, 1947), we read "The Long Trail." We finished the month with two chapters about WWII from The Landmark History of the American People from Appomattox to the Moon by Daniel J. Boorstein (Random House, 1968). 


Math

Both girls continued working in Khan Academy. C. worked on quadrilaterals and area. M. worked on data and statistics along with algebra basics. 


Reading and Writing

M. read Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye and The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger,and finished reading A Book for Jennifer by Alice Dalgliesh to Gran. C. started reading the Orphelines series by Natalie Savage Carlson. 


Physical Education

The girls did three trips the pool during these two weeks. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Big Book Summer Wrap-Up

Big Book Summer ended up being a great success for me. When the summer began, I expected that between Memorial Day and Labor Day I might read 2 or 3 books with more than 400 pages. I am amazed to look back and realize that I read 7! 

Here are the big books I read, from shortest to longest: 


Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton (audio)
483 pages
Finished 8/11/21

This is the final book of Sue Grafton's series about private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Unfortunately, it was only a two-star read for me, but now that I've finished the series, I'm looking forward to going back and re-reading my favorite books from the beginning of the series. 


The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

485 pages 
Finished 6/14/21 

At the last minute, I joined a read-along for this book on Instagram back in June. The rest of the members of the group seemed to really like it, but I thought it was just okay. 


The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (audio)
516 pages
Finished 7/7/21 

This science fiction novel about a Jesuit priest who travels through time and space to meet an alien race from another planet was brutal at some points, but so fascinating. The story raised a lot of important questions about the purpose of human suffering. 


Fox's Earth by Anne Rivers Siddons (audio)
546 pages
Finished 6/17/21
I love to read Siddons in the summer. I didn't love this one as much as Colony, but Sally Darling is the narrator of both books and she is fantastic. It was pretty dark and depressing for much of the book, but I ended up giving it four stars because of how much I loved Rip, the black woman who works for the family at the center of the story who is the only truly sympathetic character in the book.
 

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (audio)
569 pages
Finished 8/31/21
I am reading this with a local friend, but we've had a few false starts. For months it wasn't available on audio at our libraries, but then it suddenly appeared in both Libby and Hoopla and it was much easier to get into it by listening. I am finding more and more that I really enjoy books set in the American West.  


The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
582 pages
Finished 8/20/21
I took this to the beach and then didn't have much time to read it and wound up finishing it at home. It was an enjoyable family saga, but maybe not quite as good as this author's Winter Solstice.
 

Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer - America's Deadliest Serial Murderer by Anne Rule (audio)
665 pages 
Finished reading 7/11/21
My biggest book was this true crime book by Anne Rule. This was a great follow-up to The Stranger Beside Me. I really like her books that focus on crimes to which she has had a personal connection. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 8/16/21

Morning Read-Alouds

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters,  illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018) we read "The Pike" by Amy Lowell, "Brown-river Brown-river" by Anonymous, "Row Row Row Your Boat" by Anonymous, "The Last Rose of Summer (Extract)" by Thomas Moore, "What is Pink?" by Christina Rossetti, "The Secret Song" by Margaret Wise Brown 

We finished the remaining poems in A Book of Americans by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1933).

This week Grandma read an apple picture book to accompany our Johnny Appleseed readings for history. She picked Apples Apples Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. 


Music

We learned to sing "Goodnight Irene" as performed by The Weavers. M. and C. practiced piano and recorder every day.


Art

The girls made birthday cards for my husband's birthday as well as a place card they gave him as a gift. 


Catechism

We started reviewing what M. needs to know to receive first Communion in preparation for a meeting at church next week. She worked on memorizing the Act of Contrition. 


History

This week we read "The Old Country Store" from The Golden Book of America adapted for young readers by Irwin Shapiro (Simon & Schuster, 1957), "Johnny Appleseed" from Yankee Doodle's Cousins by Anne Malcolmson (Houghton Mifflin, 1941), and "The League of the Iroquois" and "Indian Versus Indian" from The American Indian adapted for children by Anne Terry White (Random House, 1963). 


Math

M. and C. did some work in Singapore Math and Khan Academy every day.


Reading and Writing 

At lunch, we started listening to the audiobook of The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. C. started working on her cursive again. 


Physical Education

The girls went to the pool on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 8/9/21

The first week in August, we spent at the beach in the Southern Outer Banks. We had planned to do some reading aloud and some nature study, but we mostly ended up taking a very leisurely week. The girls enjoyed building sandcastles, collecting shells, and swimming in the pool, and they had a fun visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. We arrived home on Saturday and used this week to slowly return to our normal routine.


Morning Read-Alouds 

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters,  illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018), we read "If All the Seas Were One Sea" by Anonymous, "Until I Saw the Sea" by Lilian Moore, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats, "Squishy Words (To Be Said When Wet)" by Alastair Reid, "At the Seaside" by Robert Louis Stevenson, "Sea Shell" by Amy Lowell, "The Shell" by John Foster, "Days" by Brian Moses, "August Heat" by Anonymous, "The Mockingbird's Song" Tigua song translated by John Comfort Fillmore, "I am the Rain" by Grace Nichols, "Little Fish" by D.H. Lawrence, and "There Was an Old Man in a Tree" by Edward Lear. 

From A Book of Americans by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1933) we read poems entitled: "Daniel Drew" and "Jesse James." 

Our author/illustrator for this week was Wanda Gag. We read Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw by Deborah Kogan Ray, Millions of Cats, and Nothing-at-All. On Skype, Grandma read Gag's version of Snow White.


Music

We learned to sing "The Titanic (When That Great Ship Went Down)" as recorded by Pete Seeger.  

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily.


History 

Our readings for the week were "Old Whirlwind" from American Adventures by Elizabeth Coatsworth (Macmillan, 1968), and "Davy Crockett" and "Mike Fink" from Yankee Doodle's Cousins by Anne Malcolmson (Houghton Mifflin, 1941). 


Math 

M. worked on algebra basics and C. worked on addition with renaming using the soroban. They both did Khan Academy every day.


Reading and Writing

We read aloud Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins at lunch. In the evening, I started reading The Happy Hollisters at Pony Hill Farm with C. 


Physical Education

The girls went swimming twice this week.

Friday, August 20, 2021

A Year of CatholicMom.com Articles

Last September, I started volunteering as a monthly contributor at CatholicMom.com. I have loved being a part of the team for the past year, and though I haven't been sharing my articles here regularly, I wanted to share a quick retrospective as I complete my first year. Because of my background, my primary focus in my articles is on books, but I also occasionally shift to a different topic. 

If you haven't seen them yet, visit the links below to read my pieces: 

September 2020: Picture Books for Teaching Kids to be Stewards of Creation 
I recommended several picture books that help kids care for and delight in the world God has given us. 

October 2020:  Children's Books That Promote Empathy for the Elderly 
I created a short list of books that help kids understand the intrinsic value of all human beings regardless of age. 

November 2020: Discussing Death with Catholic Kids 
I reflected on how we discuss death with our young children in order to minimize their fear.

December 2020: Advent Read-Alouds for Families
I shared some of my family's favorite books to read aloud leading up to Christmas.

January 2021: Favorite Fiction for Catholic Book Clubs
I made a list of some of my favorite books that I've read with my local Catholic book clubs.

February 2021: Books to Help Kids Use Their Gifts from God 
I selected a few picture books that help kids understand that God has given each of us our own unique gifts to use for His glory. 

March 2021: A Beginner's Guide to Flannery O'Connor
I revamped a post I previously wrote here on the blog to help others appreciate Flannery O'Connor's writing. 

April 2021: Books for the #girlmom: On Being Yourself
I reflected on how Be Bold in the Broken by Mary Lenaburg helps me think about the messages I want to send to my daughters when adolescence arrives. 

May 2021: Books for the #girlmom: On Motherhood
For Mother's Day, I read Motherhood Redeemed by Kimberly Cook and wrote a reflection. 

June 2021: Book Notes: A Holy Hour with Mother Angelica 
I reviewed A Holy Hour with Mother Angelica, published by EWTN. 

July 2021: Books for the #girlmom: On Yelling 
I explained why Harriet You'll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox and Marla Frazee is the perfect picture book for moms who sometimes yell at their kids. 

August 2021: The Blessings of Catholic Social Media
I shared how social media, though negative in some respects, has enriched my spiritual life. 

Catholic Mom publishes new articles every day on all aspects of the faith. To receive them in your inbox, sign up at CatholicMom.com. You can see all my articles together on my contributor page

Thursday, August 19, 2021

ARC Review: Soccer Trophy Mystery by Fred Bowen (9/1/2021)

Fred Bowen's Sports Story Series is celebrating 25 years in 2021 with a brand-new title in a brand-new genre: Soccer Trophy Mystery! Aiden and Ava, twins who both play soccer, are hoping their respective teams will make it into the upcoming championships. When they visit the library one afternoon, they learn that the trophy they both hope their teams will win is not the town's original soccer prize; rather, the original was stolen 40 years ago and never turned up. Intrigued, Aiden and Ava and their friend Daniel decide to investigate. To their surprise, their quest for a suspect with both motive and opportunity leads them very close to home.

This is the first book in this series with a mystery plot, and as such, it wasn't the strongest mystery novel I've ever read. It could have used more suspense and less predictability. The strengths of Bowen's other books are present in this one, too, however, and they mostly make up for the weakness of the mystery. There are plenty of scenes of sports action on the soccer field, lots of connections to sports history, including the history of women's sports, and the adult characters are supportive, interesting, and involved. The transitions back and forth between the sports scenes and the sleuthing felt a bit awkward at times, and the resolution of the mystery felt a bit forced, but neither of these things should be enough to turn off fans of the series. I also love that this book stars boy/girl twins! Since my twins were born, I've discovered that books about twins are harder to find than I would have expected.

Fred Bowen is an author I trust implicitly. He's never published a book I would call inappropriate and every story combines subtle opportunities for character education with strong writing and engaging storylines. Though the characters in this book are thirteen, I wouldn't hesitate to hand this to a strong reader as young as 7 or 8. All young readers can learn something from this and each of Fred Bowen's books.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

New Nonfiction For Our Homeschool Library

I often tell people that I feel justified in owning a lot of books because as a homeschooler, our home library is also our school library. Over the past few weeks, I've received review copies of a bunch of new books to support our homeschooling endeavors, and I'm excited to start the new school year with them on our shelves. Here's a list of what we have recently acquired. 


The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry and Finn Dean (Prestel Publishing,  9/14/2021) is a visually beautiful exploration of mazes from a variety of viewpoints. From the figurative mazes of internet searches and virus contact tracing, to real historical labyrinths and mazes in the real world today, to instructions for creating mazes, this book is about as comprehensive a title on this subject as any child could hope to find. My 5-year-old will be learning about Theseus and the Minotaur this coming school year, so this is a definite potential tie-in for her, but I actually think my 7-year-old, who loves puzzles and challenges, is going to love this book the most. It has beautiful pictures and lots of detailed information - a perfect combination.


Fourteen Monkeys by Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins (Beach Lane Books, 7/6/2021) arrived on the same day that my 3-year-old worked on her rainforest themed Koala Crate so that was an unexpectedly nice tie-in. Monkeys are also a favorite of our whole family so a book that introduces fourteen different species is the perfect fit for us. This book also appeals to me as a mom who frequently reads aloud to multiple ages. The main rhyming text of the story is quick and short for my little ones, but there are tons of facts about each monkey to satisfy the curiosity of my older kids. We also love Steve Jenkins and my oldest daughter immediately recognized him as "the same guy who did Actual Size." For some people, this might be too much information about monkeys; not so for the Fitzgeralds.


Barn at Night by Michelle Houts and Jen Betton (Feeding Minds Press, 9/14/2021) is a beautifully illustrated real-life look at what goes on in a barn in the middle of the night. The setting is winter and the illustrations do a wonderful job of making the reader really feel the cold and understand the feeling of being up long before everyone else in order to look after farm animals. We have quite a few books for introducing farm animals and the sounds they make, but this one adds some new layers of understanding to my city kids' image of what farm life is like. The rhyming text is perfect for my 3-year-old but I suspect everyone will want to hear it. 


Australian Baby Animals by Frané Lessac (Candlewick, 8/17/2021) is another preschool-friendly animal-centric title. The cover put all of us immediately in mind of Can You Cuddle Like a Koala? by John Butler, but this book has much more of a focus on the true behaviors of these creatures. Bold colors on solid backgrounds bring each animal to life in a visually engaging way and by selecting just one or two facts per page the author has made the book accessible to even the youngest picture book listeners. We haven't done any in-depth study on Australia yet, but if and when interest arises, we're ready.


North and South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres by Sandra Morris (Candlewick, 7/6/2021) not only demonstrates the opposite seasons of the two halves of our world, but it really gets into the details of how things are different in the northern and southern hemispheres. This book is just teeming with information: maps, plant life, animals, weather details, information about the conservation of threatened species and their most significant dangers, lifelike illustrations of each species mentioned, and even a list for further reading. The seasons and rotation of the earth are a key topic in our science curriculum, and this book will be a great resource for diving into that subject beyond just the basics.


Is There Life on Your Nose? Meet the Microbes by Christian Bortslap (Prestel Publishing, 9/7/2021) is another in-depth look at a subject of much interest to my kids: those invisible creatures that can do everything from digest our food to infect us with a virus. This book does a great job of making sure not to suggest that all microbes cause problems. Instead the focus is mainly on the fascination one might feel about these microscopic organisms. The main text of the book is pretty straightforward and easy to grasp but I love that there is also some back matter to elaborate on any questions that might arise. This will be a really fun addition to our health curriculum.


Finally, The Weather Pop-Up Book by Maike Biederstaedt (Prestel Publishing, 9/7/2021) is a gorgeous book to look at, and it also helps to explain different weather phenomenon that occur in our world. Each of the pop-up illustrations is a unique and eye-catching depiction of a type of weather and the text does a great job of condensing the important information about each type into just a few clear sentences. The last section of the book talks a lot about climate change, which isn't a topic my kids are really studying at this point, but what is included here is not as biased and alarmist as it might be, and I'm thankful for that.  


Bonus! We were also fortunate enough to receive a set of Mad Libs Reading workbooks. Despite the reputation of Mad Libs for silliness, these workbooks are actually pretty serious about teaching phonics, grammar, spelling, comprehension and vocabulary. We were sent books for Grades 1, 2, 3, and 4, and I think I'll be using grades 1 and 2 with my 5-year-old and 3 and 4 with my 7-year-old to review things we've covered in the past and to fill in any gaps where we haven't discusses a particular aspect of the English language yet. Each page at each level provides a fill-in story and a chart of parts of speech to choose from in order to reinforce the concept being taught. These exercises are interactive and low-pressure, which will hopefully make it easy for the girls to have fun with language. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 7/26/21

Morning Read-Alouds 

From Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year selected by Fiona Waters,  illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (Nosy Crow, 2018), we read: "Thistles" by Karla Kuskin, "Cow" by Ted Hughes, "The Pasture" by Robert Frost, "Littlemouse" by Richard Edwards, and "The Falling Star" by Sara Teasdale. 

From A Book of Americans by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1933) we read poems entitled: "David Farragut" and "Clara Barton." 

Instead of an author, this week we did a theme: the beach. I read The Beach Before Breakfast by Maxine Kumin, A Jellyfish is not a Fish by John Frederick Waters, Shimmer and Splash by Jim Arnosky, Houses from the Sea by Alice Goudey, and An Octopus is Amazing by Patricia Lauber. On Skype, Grandma read some seashore poems and Chirri and Chirra Under the Sea by Kaya Doi.


Music 

We continued singing "The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" as performed by The Corries. We listened to Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Johannes Brahms, Dance of the Reed Pipes from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, The Firebird: Infernal Dance by Igor Stravinsky, and Piano Sonata No. 11 in A: Turkish Rondo by Mozart. 

M. and C. practiced piano and recorder daily.


Art 

We studied The Edge of the Forest of Fontainbleau, Setting Sun by Theodore Rousseau from the Louvre Art Deck: 100 Masterpieces from the World's Most Popular Museum by Anja Grebe and Erich Lessing. 

C. followed the instructions on two how-to-draw videos from Art for Kids Hub: How to Draw a Playground Slide and How to Draw a Fishbowl. M followed the instructions in How to Draw a Coral Reef.


Catechism 

We continued working on Lesson 7: "Jesus Opens Heaven For Us" in The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism. 


History 

This week's readings were "Highwaymen of the Seas" and  "The New World Changes Warfare" from The Golden Book of America adapted for Young Readers by Irwin Shapiro (Simon & Schuster, 1957) and "Aunt Flora" from American Adventures by Elizabeth Coatsworth (Macmillan, 1968).  


Science 

The girls watched Mr. Wizard's World and finished the series. 

Math 

M. worked on algebra basics and C. worked on addition with renaming using the soroban. They both did Khan Academy every day.


Reading and Writing 

We finished our read-aloud of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street and my husband finished reading aloud Serendipity Tales. M. continued to read A Book for Jennifer to Gran on Skype, and C. read a Houndsley and Catina book to Gran as well. 

Physical Education

We went to the pool with friends. 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

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

My Month in Books

July has officially been my biggest reading month of 2021 so far! I finished 19 books total! Here is the full list: 


Eleven Kids One Summer by Ann M. Martin (5 stars)
My 5-star rating of this book is my original Goodreads rating based solely on feelings of chuldhood nostalgia. I had re-read this book as an adult and it seemed to hold up, but when I started reading it to my kids, I saw it in a different light. There was a lot more about dating in it than I realized and I ended up breaking my own policy of never editing what an author has written. I just couldn't bring myself to introduce my 7-year-old to the world of middle school dating, especially since there will be no middle school dating for her. 


The Sparrow
by Mary Doria Russell (5 stars)
This 5-star rating was 100% earned. This book is brutal in some parts, but it is a beautiful exploration of human suffering and hope. I listened to the audio and read along in the book at some points, and it was just a beautifully written story all the way through. This will be on my list of favorites at the end of the year.

Letters to Myself from the End of the World by Emily Stimpson Chapman (5 stars)
Another five-star book! Emily Stimpson Chapman is one of my favorite Catholic writers, and I absolutely had to own a copy of her new book. It is beautifully written and every time I thought one of the letters in it was my favorite, I'd turn the page and read one that I liked even more. I just love everything she writes. 


Church of Cowards by Matt Walsh (4 stars)
I opened this book on Scribd out of curiosity and I was so pleasantly surprised to discover that Matt Walsh's narrative voice in this book is much less acerbic than his social media voice. It was a quick read, but its reminders about our purpose on Earth as Catholics were valuable. 

Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule (5 stars)
I really enjoyed The Stranger Beside Me and decided to listen to this, the author's other major true crime book, on audio. It was really interesting and I liked that Rule had some personal connections to the events detailed in the book.

 
The Fox Hole by Ivan Southall (3 stars)
This is a vintage Australian children's novel about a young boy who falls in a fox hole while visiting relatives and makes a discovery that threatens his chances of being rescued. I read it because I needed a book set in Australia for a challenge and I was running out of time. I ended up really enjoying the writing style and I plan to read some of the other books by this author that we have on our shelves.


Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter (3 stars)
This Christian romance novel was a bit of a palate cleanser amidst these other, more serious and intense titles. I really enjoy Denise Hunter's writing and plan to read more from her.


Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger (4 stars)
My sister lent me this book when we were in New York and I zipped right through it. It's not quite a thriller - more of a police procedural - but I loved it. I'm looking for more just like it. 


We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange (4 stars)
This is a debut novel which I received on Netgalley in audio format. I loved all of the characters and their family dynamics, and aside from a slightly over-written, overly neat ending it was a really enjoyable read. 


Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes (5 stars)
We listened to this on audio in the car. I have read this book twice before but never added it on Goodreads or reviewed it. I decided to count it this time since I paid attention to most of the audiobook and I needed to cross it off my Newbery TBR.

 
Well Played by Jen Deluca (2 stars)
In the first book of this series, I had to skip chapter 16 because of graphic sex, but the rest of the story was so well written it was worth it. This time I think it was chapters 17 and 18, but the surrounding chapters weren't that good. I think the main issue was the nature of the plot, which involved something of a catfishing scheme and prevented me from getting to know the characters well enough. I'm still planning to read book 3, but I will go in fully prepared to skip multiple chapters again.


Let Them Be Kids by Jessica Smartt (4 stars)
My husband suggested this parenting book, and I enjoyed it even if I didn't necessarily want to implement everything she suggests. (Every family needs a pet? Nope, not this family.) This would be good for a new mom to read. It helps you think about a lot of important aspects of family life.


This Time Around by Denise Hunter, Melissa Ferguson, and Kathleen Fuller (3 stars)
This collection of novellas was a quick and fun summer read. Hunter and Fuller are both new favorite Christian romance writers I have discovered this year. This was my first time reading Ferguson, but based on this experience I'd be interested in more. 


8 Notes to a Nobody by Cynthia Toney (4 stars)
Barb from Franciscan Mom suggested this book to me on Instagram and I snuck it in before my Kindle Unlimited trial expired. I kept thinking that it was like Catholic Judy Blume. The story deals with very serious issues that kids can face during adolescence, but the approach is very gentle and very Christian. I will probably buy the whole series for Kindle. 


Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (5 stars)
I read this in 2019 but the edition I had was revised, whereas everyone else in my book club had the original. I bought a copy of the original and finally got around to reading it this month. It was even better the second time, and it's still my favorite book. 


One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street
by Joanne Rocklin (5 stars)
This 5-star rating was also my original Goodreads rating from when I first read this book as a new release in 2011. Reading it aloud to my kids this time it seemed to lose some of its magic. They enjoyed it, and I didn't dislike it, but it did not wow me the way it did a decade ago. 


The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park (5 star)
This was a totally unexpected 5-star read! I chose it as a book set in Asia for a challenge on Instagram because the audio was only 3 hours. But what a great story! I want to buy a copy for my kids. 


Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (4 stars)
I read this old Newbery winner aloud to my second daughter, just as I did to my oldest when she was 5 going on 6. It is difficult to read aloud because the chapters are long, but she really loved this story of 100 years of adventures in the life an antique doll. Four stars is my original rating from when I first read it, and I think it's still an accurate rating. 


Plymouth Undercover by Pamela Kelley (3 stars)
I read some of this author's Nantucket series in 2020, and jumped at the chance to request this new mystery title from Netgalley. It's not quite a cozy mystery and definitely not a thriller, but it hits a sweet spot somewhere in between. 


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

My husband recently finished reading Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones and he gave it four stars. Now he's reading The White Twilight by Madeleine A. Polland. 

M. (7 years, 8 months) finished reading the second book in the Borrowers series, and she is now reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

C. (5 years, 10 months) was reading the first book in the Heartwood Hotel series by Kallie George, but she wasn't enjoying it, so she has moved on to The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. She is also on her third reading of my review copy of Ivy Lost and Found by Cynthia Lord which is the first book in a forthcoming chapter book series about the lives of stuffed animals and dolls who can be checked out of a public library. 

E. (3 years, 9 months) has started sounding out words! She has read three of our little Hooked on Phonics readers: Rag, Dad and Sam, and Pig Wig, and now she is working on Pig Wig Can Hit.

R. (16 months) has been very into books lately. He likes to point at different objects on the pages of books like First 100 Words by Roger Priddy.

A. (also 16 months) loves to read My First Prayers with Mary by Maite Roche during Mass. There is a particular illustration of the Madonna and child that she absolutely loves. She also loves Peekaboo by Taro Gomi.  


Up Next For Me 


I had high hopes of being able to read when we were at the beach all last week, but that didn't happen, so I have yet to finish a book in August. I'm currently reading The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher and listening to Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton. I'm also planning to read Fred Bowen's forthcoming new book (Soccer Trophy Mystery) and Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. 


Linking Up