Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 2011: What I've Been Reading This Past Week (or so)

A book blog was supposed to be my "Proficiency" for 2011 . . . but it has proven to be a more daunting task than I anticipated. Sometimes my proficiency chooses me, sometimes I choose it, but  maybe this year, my proficiency was just keeping up with my life. I'm almost doing that!

Sometimes when I'm behind in our family journal (which happens more often than naught!) I just spend some time writing everything we did the previous day. Whew! That is insightful into our family dynamic, and those entries become a treasure to read. 

So, I'm doing the same thing, but focusing on what we are reading. There is really no rhyme or reason, but a quick look at what we have been reading this past week or so. 

Morning Reading:

Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
The Boy and I are still reading A Sea of Trolls. It is taking forever because I'm able to read to him only once in a blue moon. Literally. He has early morning seminary every other day, and doesn't want me to read to him when he is out of bed. The morning often gets away from when I'm reading to the girls (who are more excited to listen to me read, and thus a more compelling audience!) and practicing with them. I like the fantasy and historical fiction blend of this book. (And so does The Boy. Most of the books he is "authoring" at this time have a blend of fantasy and history.) 
We are at the part where Jack and Lucy have arrived at Olaf Long Bow's home and Jack is gaining insight into the reasons for Thorgill's mean behavior.  

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Cupcake and I are reading this in anticipation of a Scholar's Book Club on November 4. I really like this book. I love the writing (especially the vocabulary), I love the "pirate and a good man theme" and the leadership qualities that can be learned, and I love the Cupcake likes reading this with me (and is happy to wait for me to read it aloud and finish it and talk about it together.) 
We are at the exciting part of the love story, where Arabella realizes she loves Captain Blood, but he thinks she is lost to him forever . . . . 

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Lala and I are reading this to get ready for an author visit to our homeschool writing group. This isn't really a book for five year olds, but she is loving it. When we read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by the same author, Lala adored it, so I thought she might like Dragon Slippers. All three of the older girls have read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. She likes it so much, she frets when we only read one chapter, and last night, she read an entire chapter to me, just so we could keep reading. 
We are also at an exciting part when we learn what the blue slippers actually do, and war is on the horizon for Creel's country.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Coconut and I are almost finished. Coconut loves this book and is always coming up with book club party ideas for it, but I'm not so sure. I just don't love it enough. It is a great vocabulary builder, but it is too much like Alice in Wonderland for my taste. (Simply a matter of opinion. I know many people who like Alice in Wonderland and will probably also like this book.)  I'm waiting until I finish to pass full judgement, but it's not a book I will read again (and I almost always re read books to prepare for our book club parties). 

Alas, Dancegirl doesn't want me to read to her in the mornings anymore . . . even if it means 15 or 20 more minutes of time to be in bed. Sob!!

The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Christ
For family scripture study, we have been reading by subject matter or topic, but this week we started reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning. During personal scripture study time, I have been reading the Doctrine and Covenants with a focus on motherhood as a missionary experience, but now I switched to reading a chapter ahead of the family and using the book Scripture Study for Latter Day Saint Families: The Book of Mormon to  get ideas for discussion points. We are on chapter 4, it's been great so far. 

What I've been reading:
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
I like it (not love it).  As a religious person myself, I can relate to how the Hmong people cling to their religion and roots when facing emotional and physical problems. 

Teaching the Classics in the Inclusive Classroom: Reader Response Activities to Engage All Learners by Katherine S. McKnight and Bradley P. Berlage
I'm only through the first section, but I'm liking it so far. Many of my educational philosophies coincide with the authors (even though they are public school teachers and I'm a homeschooler). I haven't gotten to any actual practices the authors have used, but the foundation is laid, and my interest in piqued. 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
One woman's descent into Alzheimer's disease--from her perspective. I had to stay up until 2:00 a.m. to finish this book. It was like a Stephen King horror novel, but without the grisly horror.  Yet, it was just as horrifying to me. (My mother's side of the family . . . both my grandparents . . . have a history of Alzheimers)  My sister said she couldn't read it, it was too much of a "wrist slitter" for her.  It made me think about suicide in a new light and taught me about the kind of relationships I want to work on NOW with my children and husband. I woke up the next morning and couldn't stop thinking about the story. Well written and thought provoking. Although slowing losing her mind, Alice gained things -- such as a relationship with her youngest daughter- -  that wouldn't have happened without the disease. Good things and sad things and hard things and real things happened in this book.  I think I will suggest it for either my homeschool mothers' or neighborhood book club next time it's my turn to choose. 

Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly
I'm getting ready for the Scholar Book Group at my house the first week of November. (We are reading Captain Blood) This book gives fun insights into the reality of Pirates. 

Teach the Children by Neil Flinders
This is my Sunday afternoon before I take my nap read. It's slow going, I typically get in only three or four pages until I'm out. But, I enjoy what I'm learning. 

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham
I read this to help prepare for a presentation I gave last Saturday at a Mother's Retreat. I enjoyed the insights and information, but I read several blogs and reviews on the book before I read the book, and then discovered that I really didn't need to read the book after all, the information on the blogs was enough. There is a test you can take if you buy the book brand new to help you discover your personal strengths, but I bought the book used, so the test was unavailable to me. 
I also read Emma and Company by Ralph Moody for this retreat, but I finished the book more than a week ago, so I didn't include it. Excellent read! 

Plutarch's Lives: Cato the Younger
I haven't actually read this book in the last week, but it is on my list of things to do. I'm trying to spend 15 minutes every day in the Great Books. But, I didn't even crack it open this past month. So, I'm writing it here to inspire me (okay, to shame myself into making it a priority if you want to know the truth!) I've read Alexander the Great and now it's on to Cato. I actually quite enjoy reading Plutarch, but it isn't quick reading, and you could probably get the same information about these historical figures in a more accessible book. But, it makes me think and ponder, so I like it. (Maybe I should read Plutarch's Julius Caesar and compare it to How They Croaked's Julius Caesar!) 

Tuesday's at the Castle by Jessica Day George
We finished it up this week. (We are on a Jessica Day George binge.) Clever and cute. It reminded me of Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke. A fun premise . . . the castle "recreates" itself regularly, usually on Tuesdays. If the castle likes you (and thinks you are good for the kingdom . . . you get bigger rooms) if the castle doesn't like you, your rooms shrink and begin to resemble dungeons. The traitorous Emissary and gullible King's Council wasn't believable to me, but my girls enjoyed the story. 

We started reading The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Deedy. But the illustrations and fun text make it a better one on one read aloud than a family read aloud. I'm going to read it with Coconut and Lala when they are next to me and can enjoy the pictures and find a different bedtime story for family read aloud. (I'm thinking of The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson .. . it's a Christmasy story and a Newbery winner) In the meantime, we have been finishing up The Light Princess by George MacDonald.  

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
This came from Amazon this week. I don't know how I discovered it, but when I read the reviews, I knew my children would love it. It came yesterday, and I think we have read it ten times in two days. Coconut has read it twice aloud to me, I've read it aloud, Lala has read it aloud, and the Boy and Dancegirl have each picked it up, read it and giggled, Brent laughed as I read it to the children, and Coconut and Cupcake have been bantering the text back and forth all morning while I've been writing these book reviews. The snarky humor just grabs us, I guess! 

Quick List Books:
Wonton . . . A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw... loved it. If I liked cats, I would definitely buy this book. Very cute.

Hook by Ed Young. Not my favorite Ed Young Book (Lon Po Po and Cat and Rat are much better)

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio . .  . I think I will get this for our Halloween book collection or maybe Valentines Day. Funny and clever. 

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell. I liked it more than my children. A great first look into Dr. Jane Goodall's dreams of helping animals in Africa.

Ten Big Toes and a Princess Nose by Nancy Gow
I didn't really like this. The message is good and the illustrations are good, but the poetry seems a bit forced, the phrasing and writing didn't work well with the illustrations (the guy with the schnoz). A much better book with a similar message is Ms. Rubinstein's Beauty by Pep Montserrat. 

Where's Walrus by Stephen Sage

Too juvenile for the children at my house, but a clever idea. The girls laughed out loud at the walrus' antics. 

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg
Lover read this on the couch after the children went to bed, and when I saw him reading I snuggled up next to him and we read side by side, so my opinion might be a little colored by that happy experience! I really liked it. (It kind of reminded me of Uncle Johns Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History with a bit more detail on specific people. Same snarky humor, same focus on outrageous/scandalous information) It's on my "to buy" list. (Partly because I didn't get a chance to read about the first three "personalities". I'll have to read them quick before I turn the book back in, but it is one I think will spark interest in learning more about famous people. (King Tut, Julius Caeser, Cleopatra, Christopher Columbus through Albert Einstein) A bit like Kathleen Krull's Lives of ----- People and What the Neighbor's Thought series, but with more detail. 

Flora's Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall 
I like Matt Phelan's illustrations. Mostly because they remind me of Trisa Tusa (a very very favorite). A sweet story about a sister deciding to "keep" her little brother. I'm thinking this would make a great gift for my little brother! 

Perfect Square by Michael Hall
I read this book, then ordered it from Amazon that same day. It just spoke to me. I have recently been learning that the way I deal with my problems is much more important than the actual problems. My attitude affects my future even more so than the particular problem (big or small). This book embodied this lesson I have been learning over the past several months. 

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently
A cute and sweet story about a little boy and his friends pretending to be dragon fighters during the day and then going home to bed. Too predictable and a bit on the boring side to be a keeper (and too young for my crew). Darling illustrations, though. I like Helen Oxenbury. 

Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo Willems
Cute, but not my favorite Mo Willems. Great lessons in reading (Amanda has a different library book in each little story) and in finding friends in unexpected places)
I did enjoy the quote: "Well, what do you know, thought Alligator. Books DO beat boredom." 

The Boy and Dancegirl are reading a ton of stuff for their scholar class, including The Scarlet Pimpernel, Man of the Family, and Up From Slavery. The Boy has been listening to Fires of Heaven (for the 5th time) by Robert Jordan. Dancegirl is about 80 pages into The Three Musketeers, because she wants to go to the movie, but I think she is going to throw in the towel (she says it is too boring). Cupcake has been reading magazines (Ask, Odyssey and Cricket) in bed and the Word Eater by Mary Amato and The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, Coconut is finishing up the Fablehaven series and also read the Word Eater by Mary Amato. (We started the Word Eater as a morning read aloud to the both of them, but lost it in the middle, so when we found it this week, they were excited to read it and find out what happens. (... hmmm, maybe that will become a new strategy, lose the book midway, then they will read it on their own when it is rediscovered!). Lala has been reading the Disney Fairy books (She loves all things Vidia), and she enjoys reading books to me that I've already read to her, so this week she has been reading the Doll People and BFG to me. 

So that's a good look at the past week or so through a literary lens. Whew!  

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