Monday, July 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Read-at-Home Mom Report, June 2019

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


Books Read


Famous Paintings: An Introduction to Art

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

Death by Minivan

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

Middlemarch

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

Anne of Avonlea

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

The Rest of the Story

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

Babe The Gallant Pig

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

The Pumpkin War

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

Katie John and Heathcliff

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

Clause and Effect

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

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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

By the Book

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

The Red Pony

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

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

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

My Life in Middlemarch

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

The Battered Body

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

Waiting for Tom Hanks

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

The Wishing Thread

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

Bridge to Terabithia

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

Picture Books (with links to Goodreads reviews)

Challenge Progress

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

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Read-at-Home Kids Report, June 2019


Summer Reading So Far 

Though we no longer participate in the public library's summer reading program, I still wanted to keep track of what the girls are reading this summer. So I printed out a bunch of copies of this reading log from Real Life at Home, and I've been keeping a list for each of them since June 3rd. As June winds down, Little Miss Muffet (age 5 years, 7 months) has read or listened to about 80 different books (including audiobooks and books we're using for homeschool), Little Bo Peep (3 years, 9 months) has heard around 50, and Little Jumping Joan (20 months) is approaching 40. Considering the public library's "bonus level" asks for kids to read 12 books for the entire summer,  it's clear that doing our own thing is definitely the right choice. Miss Muffet and Bo Peep are also rating their books with stars on a scale from 1 to 5, which has been really fun. It's especially interesting to see which books they give one or two stars. 

The other thing we're doing this summer is hosting some friends for a story time in our living room on Friday mornings. The girls are enjoying have friends around to listen to books with them, and it's been fun for me to get back into performing story time after a 2-year hiatus.

Family Read-Alouds

Our first lunchtime read-aloud this month was Babe The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith. This was an excellent choice for both of the older two girls, and it was a pleasure to read aloud. I even got a little choked up at the end! I'm planning to find some more Dick King-Smith books at the library for Miss Muffet to read on her own, since she is a big fan of talking animal stories. My husband also finished reading aloud The Little Circus by Jeanette C. Shirk, and then proposed that we get rid of the book, as it was not that impressive. He also selected the audiobooks for our road trip to North Carolina: Heidi (which I did not enjoy, but which the girls seemed to like) and Mary Poppins (which I enjoyed, but most of which the girls slept through.) At lunch, we are now reading The Happy Hollisters and the Sea Turtle Mystery, and my husband just started reading Wolf Story by William McCleery at dinner.

Little Miss Muffet (5 years, 7 months)

This month, Miss Muffet has gotten really into the Something Queer series by Elizabeth Levy and Mordecai Gerstein. These are mysteries in picture book format for early elementary readers that I loved when I was just a little bit older than she is now, and I'm thrilled to see her enjoying them. She also liked reading Two Times the Fun by Beverly Cleary on Open Library, 

During school time, we've been reading ebooks about materials and their properties as well as How to Build a House and How to Build a Car by Martin Sodomka and Saskia Lacey. We also finally finished reading about all the paintings in Famous Paintings: An Introduction to Art by Alice Elizabeth Chase and now we're working on finishing up The Caves of the Great Hunters and Grammarland. Her assigned independent read at the moment is The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit, and on deck is Schoolhouse in the Woods by Rebecca Caudill. She also read a biography of Nathan Hale, and, of her own volition, researched cannibalism (of all things) in the Golden Encyclopedia. 

Little Bo Peep (3 years, 9 months)

Bo Peep continues to make progress on her letter sounds, and she even read a couple of words ("bad" and "mad") the other day!  She's enjoying her first foray into The Happy Hollisters series, and she's also enjoyed listening to the entire Beatrix Potter collection on audio (though she did make me skip any stories that mentioned Peter Rabbit for some unknown reason). I also introduced her to a few of the Mr. Putter and Tabby books (also on audio) and I'm hoping to get a few of those from the library for her. There were also a couple of Alfie books by Shirley Hughes on Open Library that she hadn't heard, so we read through those, and she loves our unbound review copy of One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller by Kate Read, which comes out in October. 

Little Jumping Joan (20 months)

The closer she gets to her second birthday, the more Jumping Joan loves books. Now that she's really starting to talk, she frequently says, "Books. Read." and then plops down and waits for a story. I've started introducing her to the Gossie series, and she's also been interested in B is for Baby by Atinuke and in our collection of Babylit books. Other favorites this month were the Hairy Maclary books by Lynley Dodd and the Big Box of Books by Natalie Marshall.