Thursday, February 25, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/15/21

Lenten Activities

Lent started on Wednesday. This year, we are praying a decade of the Rosary every school morning, and counting to 40 before we eat dinner. On Wednesday, the girls also did an Ash Wednesday coloring page. On Friday, we watched a full children's rosary from EWTN at breakfast, and in the afternoon, M. and C. watched a livestreamed Stations of the Cross from last year on YouTube. 

Morning Time 

  • Poems 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): "Owl" by Anonymous, "Winter Scene" by Archie Randolph Ammons, "Night of Wind" by Frances M. Frost, "Shiny" by James Reeves," "Afterpeace" by Patrick McDonough, "Winter Morning" by Ogden Nash, "Thaw" by Eunice Tietjens 
  • Articles from Vol. 17 No. 7 of National Geographic Explorer (Pathfinder edition): "Sailing with the Blue Fleet" by Brenna Maloney, "In Search of the Lost City" by Douglas Preston, "The Ups and Downs of Ramps" by Glen Phelan 
  • Art appreciation: Bull Jumping from Come Look with Me: World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: "Old Folks at Home" by Stephen Foster
  • Music Appreciation: Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Catechism: Lesson 18, "The Second and Third Commandments of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Memory Work: 
    • C.: "The Tiger" by William Blake, planets, four directions, marks of the church, oceans, continents, days of the week, months of the year, addition and subtraction flashcards
    • M.: "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, seven sacraments, monarchs of England, Great Lakes, books of the Bible, countries of Europe, address, phone number, multiplication and division flashcards
    • E.: "Portrait" by Marchette Chute, alphabet flashcards, number flashcards 


M. is continuing to manage life with a cast. This week, we figured out how to bathe her without getting it wet. She and C. also watched some Operation Ouch videos about sprains and strains and about our sense of taste. 


We focused on muscles this week. We read Muscles by Jane P. Gardner on Hoopla, and watched Muscles Experiments from Operation Ouch and How Muscles Work from Kids Health. M. and C. each labeled the major muscles on a worksheet as well.

On the weekend, M. and C. watched the Perseverance rover land on Mars. 


M. studied Renaissance Art this week. She read Leonardo, Beautiful Dreamer by Robert Byrd and Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley with my husband. They also watched some snippets of BBC art history shows together. 

C. continued reading in History Can Be Fun (we are almost done), and she watched the Weston Woods video adaptation of Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus? by Jean Fritz. 


C. did another worksheet of double-digit addition with the soroban. She finished Life of Fred: Butterflies and we have decided to take a break from Fred, probably until the fall when she starts her first official year of school.

M. did some more work in Singapore 3B, finishing Review 5 and starting Review 6. She also did a chapter in Life of Fred: Honey.

Reading and Writing

We finished our lunchtime read-aloud of Islands of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson and started a new read-aloud, The Green Poodles by Charlotte Baker.

C. continued reading Betsy- Tacy and Tib. M. continued reading Dr. Dolittle's Return and she read several books from the Encyclopedia Brown series. 

Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder each weekday. M. still can't practice because of her arm.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Catholic Book Review: Treasures: Visible and Invisible by (2021)

Treasures: Visible and Invisible
is a brand-new collection of Catholic short stories from a variety of authors and genres, all centering on St. Patrick. In each story, regardless of setting, a shamrock-shaped stone plays an important role. Included here are eight stories, presented in chronological order based on setting:
  • "Treasure in the Bogs" by Theresa Linden tells of the spiritual coming of age of a young man named Magonus Saccatus in 4th century Ireland, and how Magonus comes to use the shamrock as a symbol of the trinity when explaining his faith to others.
  • "A Single Day... Or Not" by Susan Peek follows Brother Dearmad, a 16-year-old monk living several centuries after St. Patrick who wishes he could speed up his path to holiness.
  • "Lucy and the Hidden Clover" by Antony Barone Kolenc is set in 12th century England, where a young girl works to unearth the treasure that will fulfill an elderly nun's dying wish in a surprising way.
  • "Lucky and Blessed" by Amanda Lauer takes place in 1540 in England and brings together Honora, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a baron who finds herself in desperate circumstances and 18-year-old Ambrose, who has recently fled during the dissolution of the monastery where he lived. 
  • "Danke" by Carolyn Astfalk jumps ahead to 19th century Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where we meet William and his large Irish Catholic family, the youngest member of which is very ill with scarlet fever. William needs a miracle for his family, but he's not sure his weekend job at a lake club will be enough help. 
  • "Grace Among Gangsters" by Leslea Wahl is set in the Midwest in the present day, when three teens visit their grandmother and hear for the first time a story from her childhood about a close encounter with mobsters and a surprising source of help.  
  • "In Mouth of Friend and Stranger" by T.M. Gaouette takes place around the year 2000 in London. When Hannah runs away from a dangerous family situation and finds herself on the street, she is befriended by a kind young man named Pat who makes it his mission to see that she finds a safe place to stay. 
  • "The Underappreciated Virtues of Green-Fingered Monsters" by Corinna Turner follows Kyle through a futuristic England in which faith is outlawed and to practice Catholicism or consider the priesthood is a matter of life and death. 

Each story is accompanied by an author's note and a brief author bio. Several of the stories feature characters who appear in full-length works of their own. 

I was completely blown away by how good every single one of these stories is. Most of the time, collections of stories will have highs and lows, stories that work really well and others that don't quite accomplish their goals. This collection, however, is consistently excellent from beginning to end. Every story is engaging. Genres that I typically don't enjoy drew me in anyway, and each of the characters is so memorable I'm still thinking about them weeks later. I loved that each story had the common element of the stone, and of St. Patrick's presence either physically or spiritually, but that each author did such different things with these central themes. 

There is also something so comforting about reading an entire book that aligns with Catholic teaching. I didn't really appreciate how much my guard is often up when I'm reading mainstream fiction until I felt myself relax into the world of these stories. It was so rewarding to be able to settle in fully and trust that the authors were never going to lead me into offensive or blatantly anti-Catholic content. I had a personal affinity for this collection, too, I think, because my father's family is Irish and many of these characters had experiences similar to those I imagine my ancestors must have gone through.

I loved this book so much that I immediately went on Amazon and downloaded the Kindle editions of the two previous collections Catholic Teen Books has published: Secrets: Visible and Invisible and Gifts: Visible and Invisible. I also started making a list of other titles I want to read by these authors. I have mistakenly been of the opinion that Catholic fiction would somehow be boringly pious or otherwise saccharine, and this collection has opened my eyes to all that I have been missing in the world of YA Catholic writing.  I also feel like I want to take another crack at Catholic fiction writing myself and see if there might be room for me in that world. 

All Catholic readers, adults and teens, and even younger kids who are ready for a bit more sophisticated content, need books like this one on their shelves and in their reading lives. I truly cannot say enough good things about this book. There are not many new books I would allow my kids to read because either the content is objectionable or the quality is poor. This book I will absolutely allow - and definitely even encourage - my kids to read when they reach the target age range. 

I was sent a .PDF review copy of this book by one of the authors, Carolyn Astfalk, in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster (2014)

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster was originally published in 2003. I read the revised edition, issued in 2014.  This book teaches the reader how to look for symbols, themes, and patterns in works of literature in the way that is expected by English professors. Using widely read examples by authors such as James Joyce, Toni Morrison, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Flannery O'Connor, and Katherine Mansfield, Foster highlights the meaning hidden between the lines of literary works and explains the commonly understood significance of everything from heart disease to highways. 

I have long wondered why so many of my college classmates seemed to get such wildly different things out of reading assignments than I did, and I suspected this book held a lot of the answers. I was not wrong. This book does indeed unlock a secret code that true English majors seem to know and happily follow. If I had read this book before applying to college, I would have done things very differently because there is one thing I now know for sure: I never want to read literature like a professor. 

I think one of the most irritating aspects of my college English classes was the obsession with sexual imagery. I started college at 17, coming from a (happily) sheltered background and honestly I don't think I fully realized that an author would put sexual content into a book on purpose. Even now, 20 years later, I think there was still a part of me that felt the same way the author of this book says many people feel: that English professors just have dirty minds. This book, however, makes it pretty clear that 20th century writers, at least, were writing about sex whenever they mentioned bowls, keys, waves, and/or staircases, and that a part of the job of the reader is to find these subtle cues and make sense of them. I don't like the idea of spending my time that way, and if my ignorance of sexual innuendo is a reason that I wasn't a better English major, that is fine by me. 

Another thing that struck me was in Foster's chapter on Christ figures. He writes: "[I]f you want to read literature like a professor, you need to put aside your belief system, at least for the period during which you read, so you can see what the writer is trying to say." For better or for worse, when I was in college, I did not do this. Refusing to set aside my beliefs while I read was not a conscious decision, but I think my established worldview was such that it would never occur to me to assume anyone thought certain topics were appropriate to include in books, or that it was appropriate for me to discuss those topics with other people in front of a professor. Obviously, we need to be able to empathize with points of view other than our own to make sense of certain books, and I think I am better at that now, but I definitely was not about to go looking for immoral subject matter in my homework assignments.

This book also disagrees with me about authors as authorities. When I wrote my thesis on Flannery O'Connor, my chief argument was that she wrote her stories to fulfill a particular mission which she stated over and over again in her lifetime. I was specifically refuting a collection of essays which argued that her book could be read without a religious lens. Foster, though, argues that what an author intends isn't relevant and that if we see something in a text, that means it's probably there. This way of thinking opens the Pandora's box for every self-important undergraduate to rewrite texts in their own image, and I hate that. What the author means matters. If he hasn't conveyed it well, so be it, but to use the author's words to tell whatever story you wish to read is obnoxiously narcissistic and represents everything I hated about majoring in English. 

Obviously, I have a big chip on my shoulder about academia, so I went into this book with negative preconceptions and that colors my reading of it quite a bit. Just to counteract my criticisms, I do want to mention the positive aspects I saw in the book. I really appreciated Foster's willingness to consider books through the lens of the time period in which they were published. Too often nowadays books fall out of favor because they don't express contemporary beliefs on a given topic. But a book is a product of its time and to understand it, we have to stand in the shoes of the characters in the story and/or the reader of that time period. I also loved the way he used "The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield as a case study. The analyses of the story were so interesting, and though I could never have come up with them on my own in a thousand years, I enjoyed them. Really, though, the moments I enjoyed most in this book involved Foster's thoughts on Ulysses. He says two things that validated my experience with that monster of a novel: 

  1. "The only thing that can really prepare you to read Ulysses is reading Ulysses."
  2. "Ulysses is not for beginners. When you feel you've become a graduate reader, go there. My undergraduates get through it, but they struggle, even with a good deal of help."
Last year, I concluded that it would be impossible for an undergraduate to really get Ulysses and it does make me feel better to realize that I'm not alone in this opinion.

Ultimately, I think this is a great book to read for high school juniors or seniors who are considering majoring in English because it will help them decide whether they'll be able to stomach it or not. This book accurately represents the kinds of things that were discussed regularly in my college-level English classes, and had this book been available prior to my applying to college, I might have made a different decision. I despise the kind of literary analysis that attaches symbolic meaning to everything and insists that what the author is "really" saying is never on the surface and has to be coaxed out through endless debate and argument, and that any reading is valid so the author doesn't actually matter anyway. I learned that about myself during a very expensive four years. Even in hardcover, this book would have been a much cheaper investment.

I usually love a good book about books, but I didn't love this one at all. If anything, it made me want to stop reading altogether because there is no hope of my ever getting it "right." Readers who genuinely enjoy dissecting the books they read will probably love this book, but if that's not your thing, there isn't much this book can do other than rain on your reading parade.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/8/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems 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): "Winter Morning" by Angela Topping, "Icy Morning Haiku" by James Carter, "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost, "When" by Dorothy Aldis, "White Sheep" by W.H. Davies
  • Articles from Vol. 18 No. 2 of National Geographic Explorer (Trailblazer edition): "Why Birds Matter" by Jonathan Franzen, "Out of Eden" by Paul Salopek, "The Magic Behind Their Movement" by Brenna Maloney
  • Art appreciation: Michigan Avenue with View of the Art Institute by Richard Estes from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard (This was the last painting in this book. The girls loved that it looked so real that it could be mistaken for a photograph. We also reviewed all the previous paintings.) 
  • Singing: "Old Folks at Home" by Stephen Foster, Ave Regina Caelorum, Gloria from Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis)
  • Music Appreciation: William Tell Overture: "Finale" by Gioachino Rossini
  • Catechism: Lesson 17, "Honoring the Saints, Relics, and Images" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • From Picture Book of Saints by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SV.D. (Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1979): St Bernadette (for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on 2/11)


This was our main subject this week, as M. got her cast on Monday morning and had her regular check-up at the pediatrician on Tuesday. She told the whole story of her injury and treatment to us, and to Gran, and then we recorded a more formal narration for school. 


We were meant to discuss muscles and tendons this week, but we missed a couple of days and only really started at the end of the week with a few notes from EESE. We also read aloud You Can't Make a Move Without Your Muscles by Paul Showers and watched a video from Operation Ouch

C has been reading Sea Creatures Do Amazing Things by Arthur Myers, and she developed an interest in coral reefs. She did a coral reef coloring page and watched a National Geographic video about the Great Barrier Reef.


M. finished A Picturesque Tale of Progress: New Nations II with chapter VIII "Italian City-States and the Renaissance." She watched some related art history lessons on Khan Academy. She also learned about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and about perspective. 

C. read up to the time of Columbus in History Can Be Fun. She watched Marco Polo from PBS World Explorers. 


C. is practicing double-digit addition on the soroban with worksheets from She also completed Life of Fred: Butterflies Chapter 18 and worked on Khan Academy every day. 

M. didn't do much math in her Singapore book because she was out and about for medical appointments, but she did Khan Academy every day and flashcards drill of multiplication and division on Friday. 

Reading and Writing 

C. finished Betsy-Tacy and moved onto the second book. She also read Birds Do the Strangest Things and Jenny's in the Hospital,  a book from my childhood about a girl who breaks her arm and hits her head and has to stay overnight in the hospital for observation. 

M. read The Valentine Party by Pamela Bianco to Gran on Sunday. She's still reading Dr. Dolittle's Return by Hugh Lofting and Ereth's Birthday by Avi. She also read Stella Batts: Broken Birthday by Courtney Sheinmel, which was a get-well gift from my mom.  

Instrumental Music

C. practiced piano and recorder, though not as often as she was supposed to. M. didn't practice because of her cast.

Other Activities

On Tuesday, we had lunch over Skype with Aunt B. On Thursday, all three girls made valentines for each other and for friends with whom we had a quick exchange on Friday. On Saturday, we had our annual Valentine tea party. On Sunday, we attended the Latin Mass. We also got to Zoom with my brother- and sister-in-law so we could see their new baby. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 2/1/21

Morning Time

  • Poems 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): "When Skies Are Low and Days are Dark" by N.M. Bodecker, "Snow Toward Evening" by Melville Cane, "Red Fox" by Coral Rumble, "February Twilight" by Sara Teasdale, "Spellbound" by Emily Bronte 
  • Articles from National Geographic Explorer magazine (Trailblazer edition): Vol. 18. No. 3: "Extreme Plants" by Lynn Brunelle, "Living with Lava Domes," "Something Screwy Going On" by Glen Phelan 
  • Art appreciation: Mountains and Sea by Helen Frankenthaler from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: Simple Gifts, Gloria from Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis)
  • Memory work: C.: continents, directions, planets, months, days of the week, "The Tiger" by William Blake; M: marks of the church, 7 sacraments, oceans, Great Lakes, 50 states, 13 colonies, first 16 books of the Bible, "A Christmas Carol" by Kenneth Grahame, countries of Europe; E: numbers 1-10, letters of the alphabet
  • Catechism: Lesson 16, "The First Commandment of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism
  • Music Appreciation: Orpheus in the Underworld: "Can-Can" by Jacques Offenbach  



This week, we did the first two sections of BFSU lesson B-6: "How Animals Move I: The Skeleton and Muscle System" using EESE as a guide. On Monday, we labeled the bones of the human skeleton using a blank labeling sheet from (The answer key they provided didn't use scientific names so I didn't bother printing it out.) I modified this game so that all the bones were included. Drawing one card at a time, I had M. and C. take turns pointing to the bones on their own bodies. On Tuesday,we read Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman and again had the girls point to the bones as they were named, and we also read Skulls by Blair Thornburg. 

I also showed these videos: 

E. did her next Koala Crate, Glowing Nature, which involved making a mushroom lantern, a stuffed firefly, and a jelly fish game. 


M. read about the Holy Roman Empire in Germany from A Picturesque Tale of Progress.  She has also started The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff. C. watched National Geographic videos about Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Ancient Egypt 101, Ancient Greece 101, Ancient Rome 101. She also watched Castles for Kids: What is a Castle?


M. and C. continued working in their respective Singapore books. Both did review sections with word problems, and C. finished Singapore 1B. M. completed Life of Fred: Honey Chapter 12 and C. did Life of Fred: Butterflies Chapter 17.

Reading and Writing 

M. read aloud to Gran from Cricket magazine over Skype. She also practiced putting words into alphabetical order. She also read a few books in the Poppy series by Avi, a few chapters in Schoolhouse in the Woods by Rebecca Caudill and a few chapters in Dr. Dolittle's Return.

C. read The Rackety Packety House by Frances Hodgson Burnett, then attempted to read a book called Angela, Private Citizen but it was a little bit too hard so she has switched over to Betsy-Tacy.

E. is still on an Ezra Jack Keats kick, but she also asked to hear The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Alfie Gives a Hand by Shirley Hughes. 

Instrumental Music

Both girls practiced piano and recorder.

Other Activities

The girls played in the snow on our deck on Monday and Tuesday. On Friday, they worked with geoboards. 


On Sunday morning, M. was "planning a jump" from the bunk bed, and she fell and fractured her arm above the elbow. She had x-rays at urgent care, and learned some new vocabulary, including "supracondylar" and "humerus." This happened on the heels of me saying to my husband that I should probably just go ahead and publish this post because "What could possibly happen on Sunday?" Famous last words. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Homeschool Update: Week of 1/25/21

Morning Time 

  • Poems 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): "Star Wish" by Anonymous, "The Star (Extract)" by Jane Taylor, "January" by John Updike, "Winter Time" by Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Furry Ones" by Aileen Fisher, "Maggie" by Anonymous 
  • Articles from National Geographic Explorer magazine (Trailblazer edition) Vol. 17 No. 4: "Turned to Stone" by Michael Greshko, "Mineral Mania" by Beth Geiger, "Frozen...Again!" by Cynthia Overbeck Bix  
  • Art appreciation: Red Hills and Bones by Georgia O'Keeffe from Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard 
  • Singing: Simple Gifts, Gloria from Mass VIII (Missa de Angelis)
  • Memory work: C.: continents, directions, planets, months, days of the week, "The Tiger" by William Blake; M: marks of the church, 7 sacraments, oceans, Great Lakes, 50 states, 13 colonies, first 16 books of the Bible, "A Christmas Carol" by Kenneth Grahame, countries of Europe; E: numbers 1-10, letters of the alphabet 
  • Catechism: Lesson 16, "The First Commandment of God" from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism.  
  • Music Appreciation: "Appalachian Spring: Variations on a Shaker Tune" by Aaron Copland 


This week's section of BFSU was "C-4: Concepts of Energy III: Distinguishing Between Matter and Energy." Using EESE as our guide, we compared matter and energy.  We read Matter: See It, Touch It, Taste It, Smell It by Darlene R. Stille and  Heat by Sally M. Walker and the girls watched Science Video for Kids: What is Energy? We had scheduled two weeks for this topic, but we didn't even need one full week to cover everything. 


M. read about medieval France in A Picturesque Tale of Progress. C. continued reading History Can Be Fun, covering Ancient Greece and the beginnings of Ancient Rome. 


M. and C. both worked in their respective Singapore books. Both did review sections with word problems. M. completed Life of Fred: Honey Chapter 11 and C. did Life of Fred: Butterflies Chapter 16. 

Reading and Writing 

M. finished reading Our Little Crusader Cousin of Long Ago to Gran on Skype. She also composed a thank you note to my sister-in-law without help and then we corrected her spelling and punctuation. 

C. read Beezus and Ramona

E. discovered A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and started looking for other books about Peter on our shelves. 

Instrumental Music

Both girls practiced piano and recorder.

Other Activities

We had a masked outdoor playdate with our neighbors' grandkids on Friday. On Sunday, the girls played out on the deck in the snow. We also made Valentines for our long-distance relatives to they would get in the mail early enough to arrive on time. We used construction paper, crayons, and heart stickers from Dollar Tree. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

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

My Month in Books

January was a great reading month for me. I read 17 books, of which 10 were books for adults and 7 were kids' books. Here's a quick run-down: 

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (5 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
This middle grade novel is set in the same universe as The Wednesday Wars and deals with Meryl Lee Kowalski's grief following the death of a beloved character from that earlier book. It was tough getting past the death but Schmidt's writing is impeccable as always. 

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
The memoirs discussed in this book are more literary than what I typically like to read, but I enjoyed reading the author's thoughts on honesty in memoir writing and on the impact of writing down difficult memories on the family members who share them. 

The End of Her by Shari Lapena (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This author's books are always quick reads, and this was no exception. I didn't think this one was quite as good as some of her previous titles, but I still mostly enjoyed all its twists and turns. I just didn't love the ending.

Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald (4 stars)
[reviewed on the blog in 2016]
This middle grade book was a re-read for me, but this time I read it aloud to my oldest two girls. They loved it and they are still talking about the adventures Nancy and Plum had at the boarding house run by the horrible Mrs. Monday.

The Bookish Holidays of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I meant to read this short story during Christmas and forgot, so I decided to just read it instead of hoping to remember next year. It was a nice follow-up to The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and a very cozy winter read. 

The Late Show by Michael Connelly (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I loved this police procedural book which is the first in a series that is connected to the author's long-running Bosch series. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the straightforward writing style and the interesting main character. 

Felicia the Critic by Ellen Conford (4 stars) 
[reviewed on the blog in 2020]
This short middle grade novel was our other January read-aloud. Unfortunately, I think the lesson - that criticism is not always welcome or necessary - was lost on the child who needed to hear it most. 

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
After enjoying The Late Show, I went back and read this first Bosch book. Though I liked it, it took me a while to get into it, and I actually abandoned the second  book of the series at 60% when I realized I was bored and not retaining any details. In the future, I plan to skip around among this author's books and just read the ones that grab my interest. 

A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This adorable middle grade novel is a love letter to public libraries. Though there is a bit too much young teen dating and use of the Lord's name in vain for me to want to hand it to my kids at this stage, it was otherwise the perfect book for me and it made me completely nostalgic for my old library job in New York. 

The Love of Friends by Nancy Bond (3 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
This was a disappointing third book in a trilogy that started with The Best of Enemies in 1978. I had been hoping that this book would redeem some of what happens in book two, A Place To Come Back To, but the first book turned out to be the only one worth reading. The writing was great, but the story left a lot to be desired.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I first read this trilogy 20 years ago and I'm re-reading it via audiobook over the first three months of 2021. I loved it just as much this time as the first time, but I was a little surprised that it wasn't the intimidating tome I imagined it to be as a college student. 

The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was a fitting ending to a wonderful trilogy about family, faith, home, and so much more. I'd love to own these books.  

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. It was more like a romantic comedy than I think is typical for this author, and the best parts of it were about the daily lives of the characters rather than the central relationship. 

The Professor's House by Willa Cather (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads
I have learned to go into Cather books with no expectations, and this one was a very pleasant surprise. It was a bit melancholy, but the characters were very well-drawn and I zipped through the whole thing in just a few days. 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (5 stars)
[review on Goodreads coming soon]
I listened to this one on audio, and it was beautiful from start to finish. I can't wait to read the companion novels. 

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (5 stars)
[review on the blog coming soon]
I borrowed this young adult graphic novel about basketball at a Catholic high school from Libby on a whim after seeing two positive reviews on Instagram, and I could not put it down. I'll save the details for my review, but this is absolutely deserving of all the praise it's getting. 

Over the Blue Mountain by Conrad Richter (4 stars)
[review on the blog coming soon]
My husband read this story about what happens to two Pennsylvania Dutch boys on the day when it is said  that "Mary goes over the mountain," and he loved it and insisted that I read it immediately. There are lots of parallels to the story of the Visitation, but I felt like something was missing to really connect the dots, so I only gave it 4 stars.  

The Best of the Bunch

This year I've decided to join the link-up hosted by A Cocoon of Books and share my favorite titles of each month. I had seven 5-star reads in January, but  of all of them, the ones I enjoyed the most were The Professor's House by Willa Cather and Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang.

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

In addiiton to Over the Blue Mountain, my husband read Ezra Jack Keats: A Biography with Illustrations, which he also wants me to read ASAP. (I am counting on it to be a much better representation of Keats's life than A Poem for Peter.) 

M., age 7, finished the Ramona series and has now moved on to Avi's Dimwood Forest series. She got three of the books for Christmas, but we didn't realize we didn't have book one, so she started with Poppy rather than Ragweed. Grandma ordered the rest of the books, though, and they'll be here in a few days! 

C., age 5, finished Henry Huggins and Henry and Beezus and started Beezus and Ramona. (Beverly Cleary is extremely popular here right now.) She is also reading History Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf as part of her homeschool work, and she is really loving all the information about ancient civilizations that she has gathered from it so far. 

M. and C. are also both enjoying our read-aloud of Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson, but I'm finding it kind of a let-down. 

E., age 3, discovered The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, as well as The Summer Snowman by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham and White Snow Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin. She is also still really into Mercy Watson and quotes entire passages from the books all the time. Another current favorite of hers is Little Sleepyhead by Elizabeth McPike and Patrice Barton. 

Baby girl A. and baby boy R., age 10 months, received new books from Grandma in the mail. Two of them were three-in-one books from Cottage Door Press showing what you can see if you Look Up!, Look Around! and Look Down! on the farm and in the forest. The others were Melissa and Doug EZ Page Turners board books to help them practice turning pages.  

Up Next for Me

I actually made a to-read list for February because there are so many things I'm interested in reading.  Among the titles on my list are The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, Motherhood Redeemed by Kimberly Cook, Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy, Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather, Mother Angelica by Raymond Arroyo, and How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster.  

Linking Up

I'm sharing this post to four link-ups: