Friday, January 28, 2022

Fumbling Through Fantasy: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (2016)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
is a middle grade fantasy novel set in a world where people believe there is a witch lurking in the woods who must be appeased each year by bringing her the youngest resident of the village for her to kill. The villagers don't know that their government has invented this story, and in fact their babies are rescued each year by Xan, who is a witch, but who is not evil, and who, not understanding the reason the children are abandoned, helps the babies find adoptive families on the other side of the forest. One year, a baby is left who accidentally becomes enmagicked. Xan decides to raise her as her own grandchild, and names her Luna. Over the years, Xan keeps Luna's magical abilities a secret from the child, but as Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, it begins to emerge anyway, and suddenly everything begins to change. 

I've had essentially the same complaints about every Newbery winner since 2016. The books chosen in 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 seem like obvious political choices, selected for their diversity and agendas rather than because of distinctive writing or storytelling. In some cases, these books subtly attack boys, or mothers, or white people; in others, they are just middling stories elevated only because they check a series of woke boxes. 

This book, which received the award in 2017, is an exception to this trend. This is a story told for its own sake, to entertain children and to emphasize light, hope, and love over darkness, hatred, and sorrow. The characters are diverse in their species, perhaps, but there is no overt effort to teach any Very Special Lessons about race or any other politically charged topic. It is in every way appropriate for its audience, and it upholds rather than subverts the importance of family ties, protecting the vulnerable, combating evil, and maintaining hope. It is so tempting, given how different The Girl Who Drank the Moon is from these other books, to shout its praises from the rooftops. And I really wish I could, but it's just not in the cards. 

I will admit that part of the problem is my inherent dislike of fantasy. I struggle with any book not set in the real world, and I don't adapt well to stories where characters have strange names and magical powers. For me to enjoy fantasy, the book has to really be special. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Dark is Rising - these are books I have loved despite their genre, because the writing and world-building have been done so spectacularly well.  The Girl Who Drank the Moon, though, just struck me as okay. It was a fine story. I was vaguely interested in what was going to happen. I was not, however, blown away by the writing, or by the characterization, and rather than feeling satisfied by the ending, I felt like I'd seen it coming all along. It makes more sense for The Inquisitor's Tale, which I excoriated for its moral relativism, to be an honor book than it does for this one to be the medal winner. I also do not understand how Wolf Hollow was given only an honor when this book was its main competition. 

Kids who like fantasy will enjoy this book, and it will not introduce them to anything inappropriate or  damaging. There are many other titles I would prioritize before this one, but I don't recommend against reading it. I just wanted it to be more than it is. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Joining the Back to the Classics 2022 Challenge

I thought I was done choosing challenges for this year when my husband showed me this post from Books and Chocolate. Since I'm already planning to read some classics as part of my 40 Rereads Before 40 project and for a challenge on Instagram, this seems like a perfect fit for my reading plans this year.

Here are the 12 categories for the Back to Classics challenge: 

  1. A 19th century classic.
  2. A 20th century classic. (1900-1972)
  3. A classic by a woman author.
  4. A classic in translation. 
  5. A classic by BIPOC author.
  6. Mystery/Detective/Crime classic.
  7. A classic short story collection. 
  8. Pre-1800 classic.
  9. A nonfiction classic.
  10. Classic that's been on your TBR list the longest.
  11. Classic set in a place you'd like to visit.
  12. Wild card classic. 
I think I will be able to cross off two or three from my reading so far in January, but I haven't reviewed them yet, so I'm not quite ready to link up. Hopefully soon!  

Homeschool Update: Week of 1/17/22

Morning Time 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "The Fairies" by William Allingham and "Stately Verse" by Anonymous. In honor of St. Agnes's feast day on Friday, we read "The Lamb" by William Blake from the Poetry Foundation website. 

Music: We read chapter 4 in Mozart the Wonder Boy by Opal Wheeler and listened to these pieces: 

As they listened the girls colored some pictures of composers from (Note: This site has many errors and is really only useful for coloring pages.)

The girls practiced singing Mozart's Lullaby from The Fireside Book of Children's Songs. 

Art appreciation: We started using Tell Me a Picture by Quentin Blake and we looked at the first three paintings, A Winter Scene with Skaters Near a Castle by Hendrick Avercamp, an illustration by John Burningham from Oi! Get Off Our Train, and A Love Affair by Emma Chichester Clark. 

Catechism: On St. Agnes's feast day, C., who has a special devotion to her, watched Story of St. Agnes


First Grade: C. and I switched to In Bible Days to begin our study of the Hebrews. We read the sections entitled: "Abraham, the Great Forefather," "The Children of Israel," "Joseph and his Brothers," and "Seven Years of Famine." 

Third Grade: M. read these sections from George Washington's World

  • Ch'ien Lung and the Barbarians
  • India and the European Traders
  • France and England in America
  • French and Indian War Begins
  • Seven Years War Begins
  • The Empire Builder
  • Pontiac, the Patriot
  • George III
She also read a Landmark book about Catherine the Great. 


We did BFSU Lesson D-7: Gravity II: Rate of Fall, Weightlessness in Space, and Distinction between Mass & Weight. We read Weight and Weightlessness by Franklyn M. Branley and watched these videos: 


In Grammarland, C. worked on Chapter 3, Mr. Pronoun.  

In Rex Barks, M. worked on Exercise 1-3, about verbs. We supplemented with some exercises from Simply Grammar.
We finished our read-aloud of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and started reading Miss Plunkett to the Rescue. My husband continued reading aloud The Blue Cat of Castle Town by Catherine Coblentz. In the car, we listened to My Side of the Mountain.
C. continued reading The Adventures of Dr. Dolittle. M. started reading The Flight and Adventures of Charles II

E. finished reading the Adventures of Little Bear. She also read Come and Have Fun, Thunderhoof, Chester, and Piggle


C. worked on multiplication and division in Singapore 2A and did some soroban practice. M. worked in Challenging Word Problems. Both girls did Khan Academy almost daily. Both girls also did chapters from Life of Fred on Wednesday. E. started to work with little friends and the two times table. 

Preschool Skills

E. continued doing some exercises in her cutting workbook. 


C. continued her sign language course on Udemy through the local public library.

Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder every day. E. started piano lessons with Daddy.


M. and C. received their first doses of the Covid vaccine on Thursday.  

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Homeschool Update: Week of 1/10/22

Morning Time 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "The Bear Hunt" by Margaret Widdemer, "Night" by William Blake, and "The Rainbow" by David McCord.

Music: We started reading aloud Mozart the Wonder Boy by Opal Wheeler and listened to these pieces: 
Our hymn for the week was "For the Beauty of the Earth."  

Art appreciation: On Monday and Tuesday we looked at The Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano and watched two videos. On Friday we looked at the first painting in Tell Me a Painting by Quentin Blake, which was A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle by Hendrick Avercamp. 


First Grade: C. finished her month-long study of Mesopotamia. We read The Warrior Nation and King Nebuchadnezzar from Builders of the Old World and she watched The Rise and Fall of the Assyrian Empire and The Great Ziggurat of Ur. She did coloring pages of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Ziggurat of Ur. 

Third Grade: M. read these sections from George Washington's World

  • Catherine, Her Journey to Russia
  • The King of France and His Subjects
  • Pierre Caron, Born a Bourgeois
  • The Great Voltaire
  • James Cook, A Boy Who Went to Sea
  • James Watt, A Clever Lad of Scotland
  • A King, But Not a Ruler
  • Benjamin Franklin Looks and Learns


We continued our lesson on friction and watched videos about how ball bearings work, the tablecloth trick, wind tunnels, and how to make a fire by rubbing sticks together.

C did her Disk Launchers Kiwi Crate, which helped review inertia. 


C. continued reading The Adventures of Dr. Dolittle. M. started reading Catherine the Great by Katharine Scherman. E. read some more from The Adventures of Little Bear

C. worked on articles in Grammarland. M. worked on pronouns in Rex Barks and Simply Grammar. Both girls finished and mailed their thank you letters. 

I continued reading aloud The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. My husband finished reading aloud The Tale of Despereaux and started The Blue Cat of Castle Town by Catherine Coblentz.


C. worked on multiplication and division in Singapore 2A and did some soroban practice. M. worked in Challenging Word Problems. Both girls did Khan Academy almost daily. Both girls also did chapters from Life of Fred on Wednesdays. E. did some soroban work as well. 

Preschool Skills

E. started learning to cut with scissors. 


C. continued her sign language course on Udemy through the local public library.

Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder every day. 

Homeschool Update: Week of 1/3/22

Weekend Activities

The kids had Skype calls with both grandmothers. We went to the Latin Mass on Sunday and ran into some friends from the summer and visited a bit. C. learned to tie her shoes. Monday was a snow day, and the girls played in the snow with the twins and watched The Snowman. 

Morning Time 

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "White Fields" by James Stephens, "Velvet Shoes" by Elinor Wylie, "Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, and "The Duel" by Eugene Field 

Catechism: The girls colored pictures of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for her feast day on Tuesday and watched an episode of Stories of Saints about her.

Music: We read Amahl and the Night Visitors and listened to the soundtrack. Then the girls watched the 1978 TV version of the opera. We sang Gaudete along with the King's Singers. 

Art Appreciation: We studied Giotto's Adoration of the Magi and read Madeleine L'Engle's accompanying reflection in The Glorious Impossible.


First Grade: C. looked through Mesopotamia by Lorna Oakes. I read aloud the sections from Builders of the Old World called "Tower-Temples," "The Laws of Hammurabi," "Books of Clay," and "School Days in Babylon." She colored a picture of Hammurabi, then watched a video about writing in cuneiform and attempted to write in cuneiform herself using modeling clay and a wooden stylus. 

Third Grade: M. read these sections from George Washington's World

  • A Boy of Virginia
  • Daniel Boone, A Boy of the Backwods
  • John Adams, A Farmer Boy
  • John Hancock, A Boy of Boston
  • Benjamin West
  • The Friendly Printer 
  • England vs. Spain in the New World
  • Fray Junipero Serra
  • Frederick, Soldier King of Prussia
  • Johannes Sebastian Bach


We started BFSU Lesson C-6: Friction and watched several video demonstrations:  


E. read The Whales Go By and Love is in the Air by Jonathan Fenske, as well as some selections from The Adventures of Little Bear, including A Kiss for Little Bear and Birthday Soup.  

C. finished The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum and the first three books in the Stella Batts series. She continued reading The Adventures of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting. To Gran, she finished reading aloud  Philomena by Kate Seredy and started to read Sarah Somebody. In the evening with me, she started reading The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth. 

M. read the second Tumtum and Nutmeg book, as well as Isaac Newton: The True Story of His Life as Inventor, Scientist, & Teacher by John Hudson Tiner, Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness by John Mason Brown, and The Witchcraft of Salem Village by Shirley Jackson. She started reading Fire on the Wind by Geoffrey Trease. 

At lunch, we continued reading aloud/listening to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. After dinner, my husband continued reading The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. In the car we listened to My Side of the Mountain Jean Craighead George. 

C. began listening to Grammarland, and she did the first worksheet, about nouns. M. started working in Rex Barks by Phyllis Davenport, and we're supplementing with exercises from Simply Grammar: An Illustrated Primer by Karen Andreola.  

C. wrote some poems on her own, and M. worked on finishing birthday and Christmas thank you letters.


C. worked on multiplication and division in Singapore 2A and did some soroban practice. M. worked in Challenging Word Problems. Both girls did Khan Academy almost daily. Both girls also did chapters from Life of Fred on Wednesdays.


C. started a sign language course on Udemy through the local public library.

Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder every day.

Friday, January 7, 2022

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

 My Month in Books

I wanted to get all my 2021 reading wrapped up before the new year, so I wound up posting my 2021 in review post, my top 21 books of 2021, and my 2022 reading plans before I got around to wrapping up December. So that's what I'm doing today for An Open Book at .   

I read 16 books in December, bringing my total for the year to exactly 200. Here is the list: 

I read aloud When Molly was Six by Eliza Orne White to my six-year-old daughter. Each chapter covers a month in the life of a little girl named Molly, beginning with her sixth birthday on New Year's Day and following through until December. This book was originally published in 1894, and it's completely charming. We read it on 

A Cliche Christmas by Nicole Deese was the first of several holiday reads I chose for the #WorldFullofBooks book club on Instagram. While All That Really Matters is still my favorite of her books, this was a really sweet Hallmark-esque story to kick off the festive season.

Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne was my next read-aloud with my six-year-old. We zipped through it in a few nights, and she really enjoyed the rhyming poetry. She also started writing poetry herself not long after we finished this; perhaps she was inspired.

A Christmas in the Alps by Melody Carlson was my third book by this author in 2021,  and I expect I'll be reading more from her in 2022. I liked the European setting of this one, and the role that family ties played in the story. 

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien was my book club book for December. We met in person for the first time since late 2019/early 2020 and it was lovely. The book sparked lots of discussion about how we do (or don't do) Santa with our kids. (For the record, I do.)

Three Children and Shakespeare
by Anne Terry White
was a reread for me, but this time I read it aloud to my older two girls, ages 8 and 6. We had been reading it for a few months, but finished it before the end of the year. It's the best book I can think of to introduce Shakespeare to young kids. We were able to find a copy on inter-library loan. 

The Galleon by Ronald Welch was the next book in the Carey family series, which my husband and I are reading with a friend from Goodreads. I found I liked this one a bit more than Bowman of Crecy, because the main character had more of an interior life. Interior lives are important to me in fiction, it turns out. 

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer was a total cover borrow for me. I saw it on Hoopla, read that it was about a Jewish woman who writes Christmas books in secret, and tried it on a whim. It ended up being one of my top books of the year. I loved the way it portrayed the main character's chronic illness, I loved all the details of New York City Jewish culture, and I loved the dialogue. This was a debut novel; I am eagerly awaiting Meltzer's 2022 book, Mr. Perfect on Paper.

The Genie of Sutton Place by George Selden was a read-aloud with all my big girls during lunch. It's a bizarre New York City based story about a boy and his dog and a genie and lots of unlikely and strange fantastical happenings. It reminded me a lot of the work of E.L. Konigsburg. My kids seemed to like it; I found it quirky and a little unsettling.

The Gift Counselor by Sheila Cronin was sent to me by the author earlier this year, and I waited to read it during the holiday season. I really loved it. The premise - that psychological principles can be applied to help gift-givers - was so intriguing, and I really liked all of the characters and the ups and downs of the story. I don't often keep physical books after I finish them, but I'm not parting with this one.  

Silver Bells by Fern Michaels, JoAnn Ross, Mary Burton and Emily Duarte is a collection of Christmas novellas that I listened to on audio. It was kind of an odd mix of things. The first novella, Silver Bells by Fern Michaels, was a very sweet romance about an actress returning to her hometown and reconnecting with a high school love interest who has been left to babysit his twin nephews unexpectedly. This was the best-written of the bunch. The second one, Dear Santa by JoAnn Ross was really sentimental, but in a way that was forgivable because of the Christmas theme. I liked this one, but the graphic sex scenes were jarring and I could not fast-forward fast enough. Christmas Past by Mary Burton involved domestic abuse and a murder, and it just didn't match the mood set by the first two stories, and it also had a lot of graphic sex that was pretty gross. I would have DNF'd had it been a full-length novel on its own. Finally, A Mulberry Park Christmas by Emily Duarte was fine. It was a bit more like the first novella in tone, but my mind wandered a lot during this section of the audio. 

Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet by Opal Wheeler was our music read-aloud for the month. It's a great overview of Tchaikovsky's career and it provides some good insight into what he was like as a person, but it only talks about The Nutcracker for about two pages. That's not a problem, as we are quite familiar with the story, and the girls watched two versions of the ballet after we finished the book, along with a production of Sleeping Beauty.

A Season to Celebrate is another set of novellas by Fern Michaels and three other authors. Christmas Homecoming by Fern Michaels is the love story of a retired Air Force Pararescueman and a doctor. It was really fun seeing the missteps the characters made on their way to forming a relationship. Again, in this collection, Fern Michaels was the strongest writer. An Unexpected Gift by Kate Pearce was hard for me to follow. I couldn't keep the characters straight, and I couldn't always tell how old they were supposed to be. I realize they were meant to be older, which I appreciated, but they didn't sound their age. Christmas in Blue Hollow Falls by Donna Kauffman is apparently part of this author's larger series, but I don't know if knowing the series would have changed my reading experience. The reason I struggled with this one is that one of the characters is Ausftralian and the audiobook narrator tried badly to perform with an Australian accent. It was too distracting. Finally, Holiday Homerun by Priscilla Oliveras is about an event planner and a former baseball player who fall in love. There are lots of Spanish language phrases and references to Puerto Rican culture that really made this book stand out. I also love a good baseball book. 

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk is a Catholic novel in which Dan Malone, who is recovering from a bad relationship, meets Emily and her brother at his Christmas tree lot. Dan and Emily's brother become good friends right away, but it takes much longer - and many ups and downs - for Dan and Emily to get together. This book went to really some difficult emotional places, and it didn't shy away from the realities of how love stories can be complicated by our fallen nature as human beings, but it also provides so much hope for redemption. I absolutely loved this book, and I wish I could have read it when I was single in my 20s.

To Sir Phillip, with Love by Julia Quinn was my least favorite of the Bridgerton books I read this year. It just didn't have the same charm, and I didn't love the characters the same way. It was fine, but not a favorite.

Finally, A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy was our Christmas read-aloud. It's a lovely story about the transformation of a shantytown. It's definitely sentimental, but not in a negative way. 

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

My husband read: Beyond the Weir Bridge by Hester Burton, The Hawk by Ronald Welch, and A Grass Rope by William Mayne.

M., (8 years, 1 month) read Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn, William Penn: Quaker Hero by Hildegarde Dolson, The Explorations of Pere Marquette by Jim Kjelgard, and Isaac Newton: The True Story of His Life as Inventor, Scientist, & Teacher by John Hudson Tiner.

C. (6 years, 3 months) read Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary and started The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum and The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting.

E. (4 years, 2 months) read Gus Gets Scared by Frank Remkiewicz, Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman, Cat and Dog by Else Holmelund Minarik, Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman, and Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. 

R. (boy twin, 21 months) is currently very into transportation and construction books, especially Green Tractor by Kersten Hamilton and Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker. 

A. (girl twin, 21 months) has been enjoying On Noah's Ark by Jan Brett. She also likes to build towers with board books. 

Up Next for Me

On my list for January are Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin (for #WorldFullofBooks), The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher (for book club), Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson (for the Bardalong book club) and The Other Side of Silence by Margaret Mahy (for the Read Your Bookshelves challenge prompt of "quiet.")

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Homeschool Update: Weeks of 12/13/21, 12/20/21, and 12/27/21

Advent Activities

For the rest of Advent, we continued with our Jesse Tree, Advent calendar, and Advent wreath, as well as the St. Andrew Novena, the Christmas Novena, and prayers appropriate for saint days falling within Advent.  We went to a hymn sing at our church and had a wonderful time meeting some new people and reconnecting with summer friends. We also prayed the O Antiphons. 

Christmas Activities

We attended Mass on Christmas Eve, and the girls wore fancy dresses and looked at the Nativity scene. On Christmas Day, we opened presents, ate houska for breakfast and roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and chocolate pie for dinner. We're continuing the Christmas celebration throughout the twelve days with crafts (finger puppets, sticker collages, pom pom reindeer, etc.), and Christmas music. Our tree is still up. 

Morning Time

Poems: From Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris (Doubleday Books, 1957), I read aloud: "All Things Bright and Beautiful" by Cecil Frances Alexander and "Lone Dog" by Irene McLeod. 

Music: We finished reading Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet by Opal Wheeler. The girls also watched a production of The Nutcracker on YouTube, as well as my elementary school chorus rendition of the ballet in which I played a flower. We listened to the Coventry Carol and All Glory Laud and Honor on the feast of the Holy Innocents  As part of our Advent prayers, we sang O Come O Come Emmanuel, The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, O Come Divine Messiah, and Comfort, O My People. 

Art Appreciation: We looked at several paintings by Giotto in The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L'Engle, and read her accompanying reflections. 


First Grade: C. finished with Egypt and moved on to Mesopotamia. She colored a MapTrek map of Mesopotamia and labeled some key cities as well as the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. She read the Gilgamesh trilogy by Ludmila Zeman, City of Rainbows by Karen Foster, and we started reading aloud Lugalbanda by Kathy Henderson. In Builders of the Old World, she listened to me read the sections called "The Fertile Crescent" and "Life in Babylonia." She also read a little bit from National Geographic Investigates Ancient Iraq

Third Grade: M. read these sections from The World of William Penn by Genevieve Foster, which finished the book: 

  • Three French Explorers
  • Louis XIV, 1643-1715
  • Two Moghul Emperors
  • Sir Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley
  • William Penn, 1684-1699
  • James II
  • William and Mary, 1688
  • K'Ang-Hsi, 1662-1722
She also watched Versailles Rediscovered and The Last Magician


We finished BFSU Lesson B-9, How Animals Move IV - Energy to Run the Body, and watched these videos: 

The week of December 20th, we took a break from science and resumed on the 27th with Lesson C-5, Inertia, and watched these videos: 


M. finished writing thank you letters for her birthday presents. C. became interested in writing poetry and started scribbling down rhyming poems. 

At lunch, we read aloud A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy and started The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. At dinner, our read-aloud has been The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. In the evening, I've been reading The Family Under the Bridge to C. and my husband has been reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone aloud to M. 

E. finished the last of the Hooked on Phonics readers and has moved on to real easy readers, such as Gus Gets Scared by Frank Remkiewicz, Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman, Cat and Dog by Else Holmelund Minarik, Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman, and Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. She continues to read the exercises in The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading

Independently C. read Ralph S. Mouse and started The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum and The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting. 

M. read the first Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall. She also read two Landmark books, William Penn: Quaker Hero and The Explorations of Pere Marquette, as well as Isaac Newton: The True Story of His Life as Inventor, Scientist, & Teacher by John Hudson Tiner.


C. worked on multiplication and division in Singapore 2A and did some soroban practice. M. worked in Challenging Word Problems. Both girls did Khan Academy almost daily. Both girls also did chapters from Life of Fred on Wednesdays.

Instrumental Music

M. and C. both practiced piano and recorder every day. 

Physical Education

The girls rode bikes on warm days. One morning, we walked to the high school to run on the track while the public schools were out for Christmas break. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Reading Through History: The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park (2002)

In 1473 Seoul, brothers Young-sup and Kee-sup love kites, and together, with Young-sup's flying capabilities and Kee-sup's design skills, they are a great kite fighting team. When the king (a boy himself) commissions them to build and fly a kite on his behalf in the upcoming New Year competition, they are deeply honored and very excited. Their father, however, will only allow Kee-sup to participate, as tradition dictates that all privileges are given to first-born sons. The brothers must find a way to honor their cultural tradition while also preserving their own relationship and pleasing their king. 

I had no expectations at all for this book when I borrowed the audiobook from the library, and I was totally blown away by how good it is. It's a short book, but the beautiful writing brings to life Ancient Korean culture in full color and detail. The characters, too, are well-developed, and I really enjoyed the interactions between the two brothers and the king. It was so interesting to see young boys from very different backgrounds coming together over a common interest in kites. All the details of kite fighting were also fascinating, and even though I've never seen a kite fight, I can picture one thanks to Park's lovely descriptions.

I look forward to reading this book aloud to my kids at some point. The language and story both will be such a pleasure to share with them. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

2022 Reading & Writing Plans

I think I had a pretty good reading year in 2021, and there probably aren't a whole lot of changes I need to make to my reading life to have another good year in 2022. So my goals this year are really centered on fun little ways to get through some of my TBR, to revisit some old favorites, and to enjoy some books I might otherwise overlook. 

In terms of writing, this was also a surprisingly good year, though not in the way I expected. I didn't write a single word until November, but then won NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row and continued writing regularly into December. So the one writing goal on my list is designed to keep that momentum going. 

Reading and Writing Goals 

My Goodreads goal for the year is going to be 52 books. There is no doubt that I will read at least one book a week, and lowballing this number will make it easier for me to just read however many books I want. Last year was about limits; this year is about freedom. 

This year, in addition to Goodreads, I'll be using The Bookworm Life planner from Peanut Butter Taco on Etsy to track my reading. The planner's "Goal Setting" page has space for 6 goals, so that's how many I have chosen. 

Goal #1: Re-read 40 books before I turn 40.  
My 40th birthday is in the middle of November. I thought it would be fun to do a sort of retrospective project and revisit books from the past that I either really enjoyed or just can't remember well. I made a tentative list of what the titles will be, but I'm not going to post it because I want to have the freedom to change my mind. But I plan to have 40 re-reads done by November 19th. 

Goal #2: Read 22 classics.
My Instagram friend Helena is hosting this challenge, and I'm excited to get back into classics. I plan to read some titles that are on my shelves, as well as some of the books the Close Reads podcast is reading, and some Shakespeare. 

Goal #3: Read 6 historical fiction books.
I have hardly read any commercial historical fiction novels. I've read plenty of classics and literary fiction (not to mention middle grade) with historical settings, but with the exception of The Gown, I can't remember reading just a regular novel in the historical fiction genre. I know this is because I tend to assume that all historical fiction involves death, destruction, and World War II, but I think there has to be more to the genre than that. Two books I definitely want to read for this goal are The Gilded Years by Karen Tanabe and City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. 

Goal #4: Try 12 new-to-me authors.
I have been building a mental list of authors I really want to try out, so this goal is about finally making room for those. I have written down the names of a whole bunch of authors, but again, I'm going to keep it to myself in case I want to make changes. Two authors I am considering, though, are Georgette Heyer and Amor Towles. 

Goal #5: Finish 2 series.
I have several series that I've been reading for years now, and I want to start wrapping some of them up. Candidates for fulfilling this goal include the Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny, the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell, and the Mitford series by Jan Karon. 
Goal #6: Write something 4 days per week. 
I have created a set of writing prompts for myself to use in January. I don't necessarily plan to use all of them, but having a source of inspiration for every day is really helpful. Hopefully I'll be able to respond to four prompts a week, or at least work on a piece a little bit four days out of the week. 

Book Clubs 

In addition to my in-person/Zoom Catholic book club which is starting the year with The Benedict Option, I'm also in a couple of virtual book clubs. 

I've joined the Bardalong Book Club on Instagram. They're reading several Shakespeare plays and several books inspired by or about Shakespeare himself. The first book of the year is Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson.  

I'm also continuing on in the #WorldFullofBooks group, where the January theme is memoirs. I believe February is modern classics and March is Ireland; we'll vote on the other months as the year goes on. 

I've also decided to read along with the Close Reads podcast for at least some of their reading list, which starts with Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. 

Reading Challenges 

Modern Mrs. Darcy insists that we don't need reading challenges, but I beg to differ. Reading challenges are fun, and I like having some lists to check off. So I'm participating in two this year.

The first is a challenge of my own making. I plan to read 22 books as follows: 
  • 3 Book of the Month books (I don't subscribe to BOTM, but I like to get the books from the library.)
  • 3 books about reading and/or writing
  • 3 Catholic books
  • 3 books in the same series 
  • 3 Newbery medal winners
  • 3 books under 200 pages.
  • 3 books published in 2022
  • 1 book over 500 pages 

The other challenge I'm joining is the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge hosted by Chantel Reads All Day on YouTube. These are the monthly prompts: 
  • January: quiet
  • February: "love" in the title
  • March: growth
  • April: your initials in the title
  • May: new-to-you-author
  • June: book on the cover
  • July: one you've been avoiding, but actually want to read
  • August: body part in title
  • September: a collection
  • October: "secret" in title
  • November: cozy/nostalgic
  • December: mostly white cover 
I plan to check in on my plans quarterly this year. Hopefully by the end of March, I'll have lots of progress to report!