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. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977)

Jess Aarons, the only boy sandwiched between two pairs of sisters, is about to start fifth grade, and, after training all summer, he hopes to be the fastest runner at Lark Creek Elementary School. When Leslie Burke moves in, however, she quickly proves that she is the fastest - and also that she is the ideal best friend for Jess. Though Leslie is different in many ways - she doesn't have a television, she calls her parents by their first names, she doesn't have to worry about money - she has a wonderful imagination, and together, she and Jess create the fantastical kingdom of Terabithia. Jess and Leslie spend hours in the woods imagining their lives as king and queen of their magical land and talking over the events of their lives at home and school. One day, though, after a lot of rain, Jess is not really interested in going to Terabithia, and when he gets an offer to do something else, he jumps on it. While he is gone, a tragedy strikes that guarantees Jess - and Terabithia - will never be the same.

I can't remember a time when I didn't know of this as a sad book, so I never read it as a kid, and I only got brave enough to finally power through it for the first time in 2013. During that reading, I was focused solely on getting through the moments of tragedy as quickly as possible. When I re-read the book this month for a Newbery read-along on Instagram, I was finally able to focus more on the details of the story as a whole, and on the way Paterson crafts a tale not just of loss and sadness, but also of friendship, imagination, and coming of age.

Paterson is one of my favorite middle grade authors, largely because of the economy of her writing. This novel is only 128 pages, but it covers a lot of emotional and thematic ground in just thirteen chapters, and yet never feels rushed or incomplete. Paterson knows how to get many miles out of a few words. Though the tragic event at the novel's climax is in many ways a shock on the first reading, this re-reading helped me to see the little details that foreshadow what happens. Snippets of dialogue and seemingly throw-away lines of description read more like sign posts once you know what's coming, and the arc of the story has an effortless beauty to it that makes it feel satisfying even as it brings the reader to tears.

I stand by my decision not to read this book as a kid. I was definitely too sensitive to handle the sadness of the tragedy, and I needed much more life experience before I was ready to take on the subject matter. That said, it is a wonderfully written book for helping young people to understand and work through grief, and based on her temperament so far, I think at least one of my daughters will probably be able to handle it as she approaches the upper elementary years.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Review: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery (1909)

In this second novel of the Anne Shirley series, Anne is set to begin teaching at Avonlea School. At the same time, an ornery neighbor moves in next door and Marilla unexpectedly takes in a pair of orphaned twins, one of whom (Dora) is extremely well-behaved and the other of whom (Davy) has trouble controlling his impulses. As she settles into her new role in the classroom, Anne also joins with her friends Diana, Gilbert, and Fred to form a society dedicated to making improvements to the community, which leads her to meet Miss Lavender and learn of the lonely woman's long-lost romance with the father of one of her students.

This book was just delightful from beginning to end. Switching back and forth between the audiobook and the hardcover, I read the entire novel in a single afternoon. Anne is as charming as ever, and the entire story has a refreshingly innocent feel to it, even during moments of difficulty and conflict. The anecdotes of Anne's interactions with her students, as well as her dealings with the twins, were especially fun to read, along with Anne's usual comical missteps and mistakes. The warmth of Anne's relationship with Marilla is also very sweet, as is the hopeful note on which the book leaves Marilla after Anne takes the first step toward leaving home.

As the mother of a very early reader who is already zipping through middle grade novels before the age of 6, I am so thankful for the works of L.M. Montgomery which, because of their tame content and hopeful outlook, will give my daughter something to read in her tween years. I'm also excited to be participating in a challenge on Instagram for which I will be reading four more Anne books. Watch for my reviews of Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Poplars in July, and Anne's House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside in August.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Goblet of Fire, Chapters 35-37

I have finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire! The final three chapters were Chapter 35 ("Veritaserum"), Chapter 36 ("The Parting of the Ways"), and Chapter 37 ("The Beginning).  Spoilers beyond this point.

I don't know why I have never re-read this book until now because as it went on, it became my clear favorite of the books I've re-read so far this year, and I am skeptical that another book is going to surpass it before this project ends.

The writing seems much stronger and deeper than in the first three books. I read one review that said this book needed a lot more editing than it received, but I actually liked that it was so thick and covered so much ground. There really is a lot going on plot-wise, but all of it is interesting and highly engaging and comes together so well.

This book runs the emotional gamut, too, from fear, to sadness, to anger, to indignation, to hope. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione enter further into their teen years, new aspects and layers of their personalities are revealed which also helped me invest further into this book than I did the ones preceding it.

This book is really the turning point in this series, and though some series drag in the middle, this one really just seems to come into its own as this fourth volume progresses. The ending, especially, sets up the main conflicts that inform the rest of Harry's story: the division between those who believe Voldemort is back and those who don't, the parting of the ways of Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic, the question of who might be a Death Eater, and the problem of how Voldemort is to be defeated.

I have always said that book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is my favorite of the series. I'm looking forward to revisiting it and finding out if that is still true!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

My Most-Anticipated New Releases, July-December 2019

I've read all but one of the books I put on my list of most-anticipated releases for the first half of this year, so I'm ready to make my list for the second half for today's Top Ten Tuesday topic. 

Clause and Effect

by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Publication date: 6/25/19
[Add this book on Goodreads.]
I loved the first book in this series, and I'm thrilled that the publisher was willing to send me an ARC. The spine of the copy they sent me says the book is released in July, so even though the official release date is June 25th, I'm including it here. 

Let's Fake a Deal 

by Sherry Harris
Publication date: 7/30/19
I started this cozy series in the middle, but haven't had any trouble keeping up with it. Kensington also sent me an ARC of this one, and I'm excited to check in on Sarah and my other favorite characters.  

Dwell 

by Hallie Lord
Publication date: 8/6/19
Hallie Lord is a Catholic author and radio personality, and she is good friends with one of my favorite Catholic authors, Jennifer Fulwiler. This book explores the concept of home from a Christian perspective, and I'm curious to see what her writing is like. 

Wonton Terror 

by Vivien Chien
Publication date: 8/27/19
Another favorite cozy series is getting a new installment at the end of the summer. This is the fourth book in the Noodle Shop Mysteries series. 


How to Raise a Reader

by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo
Publication date: 9/3/19
I have been making it a point to read every book on this subject, so I requested this from NetGalley. I hope it offers something new to this genre. 
 

Anthem

by Deborah Wiles
Publication date: 9/3/19
I was starting to wonder whether this conclusion to the Sixties Trilogy was ever going to be written. I loved the first two books, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the series to the end.

Word to the Wise

by Jenn McKinlay 
Publication date:  9/3/19
When my mom asks me what I want for my birthday (in November), I will be mentioning this book. It's become kind of a tradition that she gets me a book from this series at the end of each year, and I usually read it near the beginning of the new year. I'm always excited to read more about the happenings at the Briar Creek Public Library. 

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue

by Karina Yan Glaser 
Publication date: 9/17/19
I'm glad to see this series continue. I don't know much about this one, but I have enjoyed the previous titles and plan to read the new one as soon as I can!

Beverly, Right Here 

by Kate DiCamillo
Publication date: 9/24/19
[Add this book on Goodreads.]
I didn't care for Raymie Nightingale, but I loved Louisiana's Way Home, and I'm hoping maybe this final book in the trilogy will be the best of the three. Candlewick generously sent me an ARC, which I'm saving to read near the end of the summer.   

Karen's Witch

by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina
Publication date: 12/26/19
Graphic novel adaptations of Baby-sitters Club books are a guilty pleasure for me. I loved this book when I was six, and I'm excited to see how the artist portrays each of the characters. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Goblet of Fire, Chapters 31-34

This week's chapters (Chapter 31, "The Third Task," Chapter 32, "Flesh, Blood and Bone," Chapter 33, "The Death Eaters," and Chapter 34, "Priori Incantatem") represent the turning point in this series where things begin to get dark, sad, and scary. (Spoilers begin in the next sentence.) Unforgivable curses are performed, Cedric Diggory is killed, and Voldemort rises once more. From here on, the series shifts from enjoying the novelties of the magical world to fighting the dangers dark magic represents, and the suspense and drama will only increase in the last three books.

My big issue with the way the third task ends is that the whole thing seems like way too much of an elaborate set-up. Voldemort doesn't strike me as particularly patient, and I can't imagine he couldn't have come up with some other way to get to Harry without having to wait for the entire tri-wizard tournament to be completed. Surely, "Moody" (whose true identity will be revealed in the final installment next week) could have turned anything into a portkey and sent Harry to the graveyard on any night of the week without having to involve any of the other champions. I've also always felt that Voldemort's victims coming out of his wand to protect Harry is too easy a way for Harry to escape death. I'll be curious to see whether Dumbledore's explanation at the end of the book makes better sense to me on this reading.

It did strike me, though, how scary Voldemort is. Rowling really does a nice job creating a believably terrifying villain. I always forget that he's supposed to have red eyes, and something about that just makes him really intimidating. Until this book, we have only had vague notions of the evilness of this character, but now he comes fully into focus as a truly formidable bad guy. There is something to be said for Harry standing up to face him.  I was pretty sure Harry was going to die in the graveyard scene, despite the fact that I've read the book before and knew he would survive! Voldemort's long rambling speech explaining to the Death Eaters where he's been all this time felt a little bit like an awkward info dump, but we needed to get that information somehow, and overall, even with that speech, he's scary to read about alone at night.

Despite the darkness, there are some really nice and fun moments in these chapters: Mrs. Weasley and Bill coming to stand in for Harry's family before the third task; Mrs. Weasley recalling her days at Hogwarts; Harry and Cedric setting aside their differences to claim victory for Hogwarts together; Harry laughing off Rita Skeeter's latest article about him, and Mrs. Weasley warming to Hermione only after confirming that she wasn't dating Harry. (Does she want Hermione for Ron, or Harry for Ginny? I wonder what her objection was...)

Chapter 34 ends on a cliffhanger (complete with an ellipsis!) and it's somewhat unsettling to know I'll have to wait a week for everyone to find out what has happened to Cedric. I'm not looking forward to Amos Diggory's reaction of grief, but I am eagerly anticipating Hermione's big reveal about Rita Skeeter and the unveiling of Barty Crouch, Jr. as the impostor masquerading as Alastor Moody. And then it's on to book five already!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Goblet of Fire, Chapters 28-30

I read three chapters last week: Chapter 28 ("The Madness of Mr Crouch"), Chapter 29 ("The Dream"), and Chapter 30 ("The Pensieve"). There are spoilers in this post for this book and the entire series.

These chapters were completely lost to my memory, and I may as well have been reading them for the first time. I had no recollection whatsoever of the hate mail Hermione receives after Rita Skeeter publishes lies about her in the newspaper. I had also forgotten the mystery surrounding Skeeter's ability to gain access to inside information at Hogwarts. I remember, of course, that she is an animagus, and I know that comes out before the end of this book. I just didn't remember that the question of how she got into Hogwarts went unanswered for so long. I also find myself really appreciating the role of poor journalism in this story. It resonates with a lot of what happens with the media in our current culture, and it also sets us up for the questions about who to trust and when that will come up in the last three books of the series. 

I also didn't remember Krum and Harry coming upon a deranged Barty Crouch, nor did I remember Harry letting himself into Dumbledore's office by guessing the password. I did remember Harry using the Pensieve, but what was in my mind was the movie version of events which somehow seemed more dramatic than the memories he experiences in the book, and I'd also forgotten that this is when we first learn exactly what has happened to Neville's parents. Similarly, I remembered Harry's vision of Voldemort and Wormtail, but not the fact that he passed out during Divination class. I was surprised too, that Harry actually did what an adult told him to do when he had this vision; so many times in this series, Harry does not go to Dumbledore when he should, so the fact that he heeds Sirius's warnings is encouraging.

The one plot line I am finding really superfluous at this point is the question of whether house elves should be freed. I recall liking Dobby well enough on my first read through the series, but this time, he is annoying to me in a very Jar Jar Binks-esque way. It definitely makes sense for Hermione to take up such a cause; it's just not that interesting to read about anymore, and it seems like the elves are mostly being used as a narrative device to add more tension and suspicion surrounding Barty Crouch.

Only two more sets of chapters before the end of this book! Though I definitely remember what happens in broad strokes, I'm really looking forward to discovering all the little details that have escaped me over the last 15+ years.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Unpopular Bookish Opinions

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is unpopular bookish opinions. I probably have more, but I stopped at ten for the purposes of this post.

I don't like fantasy.

There are a lot of fantasy books I have liked (Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Tom's Midnight Garden, The Little White Horse, The Owl Service, The Dark is Rising, etc.), so this is not true in all cases, but in general, given a choice between fantasy and any other genre, I will take the other genre. It takes me a lot of time to settle into a fantasy world, and often I have to read and re-read world-building details before they sink in. I feel much more comfortable in reality-based stories.

I'm not interested in the Read-Aloud Revival.

I think I might be the only homeschooling mom in America who doesn't think this podcast/brand has anything to offer. My review of The Read-Aloud Family pretty much explains why.

I hate sexual content in books.

Basically, if there are a lot of sex scenes in a book, I will either a) not pick it up (if I can find out ahead of time), b) skip over those scenes, or c) abandon the book. I especially hate sex in YA because a lot of adults read it, and adults reading about kids in sexual situations is just plain creepy. I wrote a more in-depth post about this last year.

Wonder undermines its own message. 

It's hard to explain why I hate Wonder without spoiling the ending of the book. But if the point of the story is that Auggie is a human being with inherit dignity despite his atypical outward appearance, then it is just as patronizing to be kind to him solely because he has some differences as it is to be cruel to him for that reason.

I don't think kids should just read whatever they want. 

This is the popular opinion among librarians and many parents, but it is not the policy in my household. My kids are still little, but they don't read anything that I haven't approved. They read whatever they want from the shelves to which they have access, and from among the library titles I borrow for them, but they do not blindly select their own reading materials. I largely read whatever I wanted as a kid, and that meant I got to college with a brain equipped for reading the Baby-sitters Club and not much else. 

I don't care for (most of) Brian Selznick's books.

I think Brian Selznick's illustrations for The Doll People series are brilliant, and I loved Baby Monkey, Private Eye. But I was not at all impressed by The Invention of Hugo Cabret or Wonderstruck. After a while, his technique of dramatically zooming in on scenes, characters, and objects just gets repetitive.

The Inquisitor's Tale is offensive. 

Every time I see a glowing review of this book, I have to hold myself back from writing a comment ranting about how grossly offensive it is to Catholics. I'm still so disappointed in the Newbery committee for giving it an honor. My essay-length review of the book is here.

I don't think it matters if you read to your kids every single day.

There are many memes and infographics out there about the benefits of reading to your kids for at least 20 minutes every single day, and I ignore every single one. I read to my kids when it suits us. Some weeks that's every day. Some weeks it's every other day. Some weeks it might be once. And all three of my kids love books, and the oldest one was a very early reader. It matters that you read to your kids regularly but there is no magic schedule that makes it more beneficial.

I enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye

I read this in college for an Independent Study course on young adult literature, and I really liked it. I didn't always like Holden, but Salinger is such a distinctive writer and his style really appealed to me. I think I like his works about the Glass family better than this book, but I don't have the deep-seated feelings of hatred toward it that I see a lot of people expressing online.

It doesn't bother me to own unread books.

The concept of trying to read everything I own would never have crossed my mind if not for seeing so many other people posting their goals related to getting through their unread stacks. I have read a good number of the books we own, but I love that I am also forever surrounded by unread options. Having too many unread books will never be a reason that I don't buy more.

Do you share any of my unpopular opinions?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

#YearOfHarryPotter: Goblet of Fire, Chapters 24-27


For this week's reading assignment, I read Chapter 24 ("Rita Skeeter's Scoop"), Chapter 25 ("The Egg and the Eye"), Chapter 26 ("The Second Task") and Chapter 27 ("Padfoot Returns") . This section of the book continues to solidify my estimation that this is the best book of the series so far. There are so many important things going on in these chapters.

First, everyone is still trying to help Harry cheat. While Harry rejects assistance from Bagman, however, his desire not to receive help comes from an aversion to taking help from Bagman specifically, not an aversion to cheating in general. Most of the people helping him cheat are doing it because they fear for his life, which does make sense, but the fact that Harry doesn't categorically oppose cheating bothers me a little bit. Personally, I still think the best way to help Harry is for the adults to figure out a way to get him out of the magical contract he didn't choose to enter into in the first place. But what kind of story would that be? There's a reason I'm not the author of this series.

I really love the scene where everyone tries to cheer up Hagrid after Rita Skeeter outs him as a giant. I especially enjoyed Dumbledore's line: "Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time." I love how loyal Dumbledore is to all the unusual people he allows to teach at Hogwarts, and his little one-liners of wisdom always contain such truth. For all the flaws in his actions surrounding Harry throughout the series, Dumbledore does understand a lot about life.

Another thing that caught my attention and surprised me was that a scene I remembered from the movie - Neville giving Harry the gillyweed - does not appear in the book. It is Dobby, not Neville, who provides the gillyweed, and he does so at the absolute last minute. I think I actually like the movie's approach better in this instance, but because of Hermione's interest in justice for the house elves, it does make sense to involve Dobby.

I also really appreciate the way Rowling sets us up to feel deeply betrayed when Moody turns out to be an imposter. Throughout this series, it always feels safer for Harry when powerful and brave wizards are around. I always breathe a sigh of relief when Dumbledore appears, for example, and I have been having that same feeling about "Moody" in this book. The fact that I feel this way even knowing who he turns out to be really drives home just how shocking it is when his true identity is revealed. I had also forgotten that "Moody" managed to get the Marauders Map away from Harry, but that does make it more plausible for Harry not to realize that the Barty Crouch on the map is actually the man he knows as Moody.

Another little detail I noted struck me as a bit of subtle foreshadowing. When Ron suggests that Snape might be the one who put Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire, Hermione says, "we thought Snape was trying to kill Harry before, and it turns out he was saving Harry's life, remember?" This seems to be a reminder from Rowling not to over-simplify Snape's character and not to take his behavior at face value all the time. This mindset becomes very important in the last two books of the series. I like that Rowling is starting to set up the ambiguity surrounding him by having Hermione voice the possibility that he isn't purely evil.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Read-at-Home-Mom Report: May 2019

May went by so quickly, but I did squeeze in quite a bit of reading. In addition to all the books listed below, I also read half of Middlemarch by George Eliot, which I'm looking forward to finishing in June, along with my re-read of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I slowed down quite a bit on picture books this month, too, which was a nice change of pace. Here's my report.


Books Read 

A Dream Within a Dream

by Patricia Maclachlan
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Realistic fiction (middle grade)
Source: Edelweiss+
Review: On Goodreads ()


A Is for Elizabeth

by Rachel Vail
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Realistic fiction (beginning chapter book)
Source: Edelweiss+
Review: On Goodreads (⭐)


The Doll People

by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Gift from my mom
Review: On the blog (⭐)


The Last Cruise

by Kate Christensen
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Instagram (⭐)


The Meanest Doll in the World

by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Gift from my mom
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It

by Jennifer Fulwiler
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Catholic memoir
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Vile Bodies

by Evelyn Waugh
Format: Paperback
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)


Q's Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books

by Helene Hanff
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Memoir
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Be Brave in the Scared: How I Learned to Trust God during the Most Difficult Days of My Life

by Mary Lenaburg
Format: Paperback
Genre: Catholic memoir
Source: Purchased from Amazon
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

by Maxwell King
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Biography
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐)


The Nest

by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library (Libby app)
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Deadly Vows

by Jody Holford
Format: Digital ARC
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Netgalley
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)


Life of Fred: Butterflies

by Stanley F. Schmidt
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Math textbook
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The World We Live In

by Lincoln Barnett
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonficton
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Meet Me at the Museum

by Anne Youngson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)


The Runaway Dolls

by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Gift from my mom
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Doll People Set Sail

by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brett Helquist 
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy (middle grade)
Source: Gift from my mom
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐)


Filippo's Dome

by Anne Rockwell
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Nonfiction (juvenile chapter book)
Source: Personal collection
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street

by Helene Hanff
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Memoir/diary
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐) 


Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos

by Donna Andrews
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cozy mystery
Source: Scribd
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Scent of Water

by Elizabeth Goudge
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Friday's Tunnel

by John Verney
Format: Paperback review copy
Genre: Mystery/adventure
Source: Paul Dry Books, Inc.
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Literary fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads  (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


The Master Puppeteer

by Katherine Paterson
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Historical fiction (middle grade)
Source: Personal collection
Review: On the blog (⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Inside the Ark

by Caryll Houselander
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Catholic short stories for kids
Source: Inter-library loan
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)


Crazy Rich Asians

Format: Paperback
Genre: Realistic fiction
Source: Public library
Review: On Goodreads (⭐⭐⭐)

Picture Books (with links to Goodreads reviews)


Blog Posts Published



Challenge Progress

  • Alphabet Soup: 2 read in May, 21 of 26 read total
  • Alphabet Soup Author Edition: 2 read in May, 21 of 26 read total
  • #CathLit: 0 read in May, 11 of 19 read total
  • Cloak and Dagger: 2 read in May, 26 of 55 read total
  • Craving for Cozies: 2 read in May, 18 of 51 read total
  • Library Love: 7 read in May, 39 of 60 read total
  • RMFAO Audiobooks: 3 read in May, 28 of 25 read total
  • Goodreads Goal: 39 read in May, 202 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 May 2019 Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up Link-Up at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.