Category Archives: Book Club

Circus Mirandus – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Welcome to the Book Club for July, hosted by myself and Wendy over at Ladybug Daydreams. The book selection for this month was Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. The back cover of this book says it all

Circus Mirandus back cover

If you do not like to include magic in your book reading, stop here. This book is all about magic. But it is not magic like anything you can imagine. Fanciful, imaginative, full of power and might – all good.

Many people have the idea of “seeing is believing.” But with Circus Mirandus, you will not see if you do not believe. This is the story of Micah and the amazing stories his grandfather Ephraim has told him regarding the Circus Mirandus. Micah loves to hear the stories of the magical circus his grandfather would tell him. However, those stories are few and far between now because his grandfather is very ill; he is dying.

Micah believes what his grandfather has told him and wishes more than anything to be able to call in the miracle that is owed to his grandfather from many, many years before. But can Micah ever visit Circus Mirandus? If he does, can he convince the Lightbender that his grandfather’s miracle is still viable and that it is time, now, to call it in? Micah must succeed. His grandfather’s life may well depend on it.

Cassie Beasley has written a wonderfully magical book that stretches the imagination and helps us to see what life is really worth. And, surprisingly, it may be exactly what we are expecting. Friendships formed over school assignments, struggling to help others really see, knowing just what someone needs and fighting hard to get it for them, finding forgiveness and getting your heart’s desire – these themes are found in the storyline and really endure Micah to the reader, as these are things the reader can relate to.

Circus Mirandus front cover

Discussion Questions (found on the Texas Bluebonnet Award 2016-2017 site)

  • The Lightbender owes Grandpa Ephraim a miracle. If you were promised a miracle, would you take it right then or ask to save it for later? Explain.
    I think I would take it right then. It would be incredibly hard to have such power at my fingertips and not use it. So many good things could be accomplished. Then again, I might ask to save it for later precisely because so many good things could be accomplished that I would want to think about them first and be a good steward of the opportunity.
  • Chintzy thinks there is a serious failing of character because she is not offered a snack. Of Jenny, Micah and Chintzy, which do you believe has the failure of character? Defend your answer.
    I think Chintzy has the failing of character. It is very selfish to expect to be offered a treat, a refreshment, or anything. Expecting to be treated the way you want to be treated is not very considerate. Now, at the same time, Jenny and Micah should have thought to be hospitable and offer some refreshment but I think their negligence can be overlooked in the circumstances.
  • Ephraim had to choose between the miracle of having his father home from the war or doing the right thing and have him stay and save lives. What would you have chosen? What does this tell you about Ephraim?
    I believe that I would have chosen as Ephraim did and have him stay and help many others, though that decision would be extremely difficult. This choice in the young Ephraim tells us that he is capable of seeing the greater good and has the character to understand it and desire others to be helped. He is generous and considerate and benevolent.
  • Why does the ticket taker say the quipu is not a ticket but an invitation? Which is better.
    The invitation is definitely better, though I am not sure why the ticket taker was able to differentiate. An invitation is better because you are offered the opportunity to join something, someone wants you there, while a ticket is you saying you desire to be there.
  • Would you have brought Jenny to the circus if you were Micah? Explain.
    Yes. Micah wanted Jenny there. She was his support and his confidence provider. She believed in Micah, even if she didn’t believe in the circus. Micah needed that support that she provided. And Jenny needed to be there for Micah so that she could have her mind stretched.
  • Ephraim says some of us aren’t brave enough to find our specialness and some of us make mistakes along the way. Explain.
    It takes a great amount of courage to be different, to be special, and to try the necessary new things to find just where that lies. In the process of trying new things, we will make mistakes. But eventually, we all find our uniqueness if we continue to search for it.

Circus Mirandus is a wonderful book that I definitely recommend. If you are looking for activities and discussion questions, here are some resources for you. We will be using this book as a read-aloud in a couple of months and I will definitely be using some of these resources and ideas.

Texas Bluebonnet Awards 2016-2016 – discussion questions, resource link list for many topics included in the book (war, knot tying, breathing difficulties, etc.), and a list of other books that might be enjoyed

Penguin Books – educator’s guide with lesson plans, ideas, and discussion questions

Storypath – a faith-based site that looks to connect faith to the book; includes some interesting questions and discussions

Circus Mirandus Ideas – not exactly sure where this one is from but this came up in a Google search; has some good ideas and is in PDF format

WILD(er) About Reading – links to the discussion questions that were used for their book club

This was a fun book. I hope you choose to read it. It was definitely enjoyable.

Please visit Wendy to see what she thought about Circus Mirandus.

Dragon of Lonely Island

Next month we will be discussing The Dragon of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp. I think I will be using the discussion questions found on the blog Sweet On Books.

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Women Heroes of World War II – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

This month’s selection is Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. It is written by Kathryn J. Atwood. These stories all have one thing in common – concern/love for  others who are not being treated right. Each of the 26 women in this book stood up when there was evil being done and said, in her own ways big and small, “I will not take this.” And then she did something about it.

Many of these women joined others in formal resistance organizations, but not all. Most of these women lost their lives for standing up for what is right, but not all. All are heroes and all are being remembered for staying the course, even in the face of things I cannot fathom.

I was to highlight just a few, though I encourage you to read all of their stories. It will bring both delight and encouragement to you. And, if you want to read more, each individual has a small box at the end that tells you about other books and articles that have been written about them.

Women Heroes of WWII

Sophie Scholl from Germany – Sophie was involved with an underground publishing group sharing leaflets in Germany and encouraging students to not tolerate the Nazi beliefs that were being forced on them. She is quoted in the book as saying “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!” What bravery and courage it must have taken to state that. Having seen the growth of the German forces, she knew that it was not right and determined to make a stand. She was executed after a trial in which she was found guilty of possessing The White Rose pamphlets and distributing them. A tribute to her and others from The White Rose came when Allied forces reprinted some of The White Rose pamphlets and dropped them from the air over Germany.

Noor Inayat Khan from Great Britain – Noor was a gentle, quiet spirit who enjoyed writing and illustrating, especially children’s stories. When the war began, she joined the WAAF and became a radio operator. This was the beginning of her quiet, unsuspected assistance in the resistance movements. Her special training allowed her to join the SOE (Special Operations Executive) which sent agents into Nazi-occupied countries to fight secretly. She was a radio operator for this, sending messages from other agents back to London from France. She was a very successful radio operator but was betrayed and arrested. She was eventually executed at Dachau but not before she sent additional encouragement to others who were in the prisons with her.

Fernande Keufgens from Belgium – This was a teenager who did might work and kept her cool in many close situations. One of my favorite related in the book is when she was able to get a five year old child to safety, even after being directly questioned by the Gestapo. She evaded capture very narrowly several times but always continued helping the Resistance. She survived the war and her story lives on.

Josephine Baker from France – Josephine was an elegant singer who entertained many. What they didn’t know was that was also a spy for the Deuxieme Bureau, a military intelligence group. She was able to move about from place to place and no one would suspect an African-American-turned-Frenchwoman to be gathering intelligence to pass along to the military while she was singing and dancing. She was able to gather many important bits of information and often knew more about the war than the servicemen she was performing for. She was an encouragement and help to many in the war efforts.

Without these and many, many others, the war could have drug on more many more years. I am so inspired by those who stepped up when they could have just turned away. They didn’t ignore; they didn’t hide their faces; they didn’t walk away. The said “not on my watch” and did something. Every little thing helped.

What lessons there are in that for me today. I need to look around for ways to assist and then to boldly do so. I challenge you to do the same as these women.

Head over to Ladybug Daydreams to see which women Wendy chose to highlight. We’ll see if any caught both of our attentions. So many to choose from, each very special.

Join us next month for the book club selection of Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. It will post on  July 6.

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Book Club for June – update

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If you are looking for the Book Club post for June, well, it isn’t here. Yet.

The selection is Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue and it is written by Kathryn J. Atwood. The discussion will post next Thursday, June 8, due to life happening for both Wendy and me.

We will each discuss a couple of the ladies from the book who were inspirational for one reason or another. Join us next week for the discussion on Women Heroes of WWII.

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Book Club update and next selection

Life happens, doesn’t it? Sometimes things just move at the speed we think they should or that we plan on and sometimes they move so fast we are holding on for dear life! It just happens. But we do have the next selection for you!Women Heroes of WWII

We are reading Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J Atwood. I am about halfway through and have found these stories inspiring and fascinating.

I don’t have the book in front of me but I believe that there are discussion questions in the back of the book, which is good since I cannot find any online.

We will be posting a bit later than normal for June, posting on the second Thursday (June 8) instead of the first.

Wendy and I are also excited about the books we have lined up for July and August! Things just march right along sometimes. Enjoy reading and I’ll meet up with you in a couple of weeks to discuss these heroes!

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The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion ~ Book Club

All Girl Filling Station Book Club

At the end of the last Book Club post, I mentioned the book we expected to be discussing this month. It was a very obscure one and I don’t think we realized just how obscure until we tried to get our hands on it. So, we made the decision to change and I neglected to let you all know. I apologize for that!!

We jumped over to The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg. Most people are at least a little bit familiar with Fannie Flagg’s work but don’t know it. Fannie Flagg also wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. Yes, the book on which the movie was based. Anyhow, The All-Girl Filling Station was a wonderful read. I highly suggest that you take a day or two and enjoy the fun read.

Before you move on to my summary and questions, I wanted to update this with Wendy’s link. She had some very good thoughts so please head over to Ladybug Daydreams and read her post about the book.

SUMMARY: Sookie has finally married off the last of her girls and feels like, other than her aging, somewhat-exuberant, always in the middle of something mother, she is finally free to relax. Sookie’s husband is a local dentist so she is very conscious of who she is at all times and who she represents when out and about. In addition to that, her mother has always insisted that Sookie be dressed well and, well, just insisted. About everything.

One day, though, Sookie finds out that there is a secret in her past. As she begins looking into that hint of something different, she finds a big twist that she never expected or saw coming. So much for relaxing with an empty nest! She finds herself looking far back – 1909 to be exact – and off in Poland. That is where Sookie’s story began.

Stanislaw Ludic Judabralinski left the dangerous life of Poland and headed to Chicago at the age of 14. There he lived, worked, fell in love, and married. With his wife Linka their family began. They worked hard and owned a filling station (here is where the title begins to make some sense). After having a gaggle of girls, war came, death came, and the girls had to step up to help the family. In order to attract customers to their filling station during the war (we are in WWII now), the girls advertised the all-girl filling station. They worked hard for their family and kept them together during the rough times.

But, even rougher times were ahead and one of the girls, Fritzi, decided she needed to do something more. She joined the WASP and moved to Texas to train. The WASP training was interesting and challenging and do we ever get to see a big bit of Fritzi’s character! It is fun.

All of this jumps back and forth from present day, with Sookie searching out all of this information, to the past to help us learn Sookie’s history. As we near the end of the book, the history is all making sense and well, there are still plenty of surprises for you to find out.

This is a terribly fun, interesting, and engaging story. I had such joy reading it. (I had also read another Fannie Flagg book earlier so I kind of knew what to expect with her jumps from time to time and character to character.) A definitely recommendation.

All-Girl Filling Station

Questions come from LitLovers:

1. A lot of Southern identity is wrapped up in one’s family history. “Now, just who are your people?” is an oft-quoted phrase around the region. Sookie’s biggest crisis comes when she realizes that her “people” aren’t actually who she thought they were. How does Sookie’s discovery of her true family affect her identity?

Sookie’s discovery was a shock. She felt she was an imposter, a big fake. Even a liar. She wasn’t but that is how much it impacted her. You can be an imposter or a fake or a liar when you didn’t know that what you were purporting was incorrect.

2. Though Sookie tells us that Lenore’s nickname, “Winged Victory,” came from the way she entered a room—as if she were the statuesque piece on the hood of a car rushing in—how might “Winged Victory” reflect Lenore’s personality in other ways? Does her representation as a classical goddess serve to heighten the air of history and tradition that surrounds her? How might the image of a winged woman tie Lenore in with the ladies of the WASPs?

The nickname certainly gives a larger-than-life expectation and Lenore lived up to that. She brought all eyes to her and she was the center of attention. This is the type of expectation that goddesses had in their stories – center of attention and the expectation of complete obedience and service from all. Lenore had that same personality.

I don’t know if the image of the winged woman was intentional to tie in the WASP but it certainly does. Especially when you know that the mascot of the WASP was actually a winged girl. And the WASP were women who flew, helping provide victory during the war in every way they were allowed.

3. Sookie’s best friend, Marvaleen, is constantly trying different suggestions from her life coach, Edna Yorba Zorbra. From journaling to yoga to the Goddess Within group, which meets in a yurt, Marvaleen tries every method possible to get over her divorce. How does Sookie’s approach to dealing with her problems differ from Marvaleen’s? Do you think her friendship with Marvaleen might have helped push her to confront the question of her mother?

Marvaleen was quite a character. She never really faces her problems; she just searches for another magical fix. This is where her crazy life coach comes in. I think Marvaleen was a good balance for Sookie, helping her recognize over-the-top when it showed up.

4. In The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, we learn about a mostly unknown part of American history—the WASPs of World War II. These women went for thirty-five years without recognition because their records of service were sealed and classified. Were you surprised to learn about this? What parts of the WASPs’ story spoke to you?

Actually, not at all surprised. We have studied this recently and we were able to visit the WASP Museum in Sweetwater, TX, not too long ago. The WASP stories are amazing and the women are quite inspiring. They definitely faced things head-on!
Want to read about our visit to the museum? We’d love to share it with you!

5. “Blue Jay Away,” Sookie’s brand-new invention, keeps Sookie’s house finches and chickadees fed, while also making Sookie famous. Who do you think have been the blue jays in Sookie’s own life? Has she learned to manage them successfully?

I don’t know that we ever are able to “manage” the blue jays in our lives. We manage ourselves around them and become more confident in who we are. I think that is what happened with her mother, in particular. Sookie became more confident once she understood more about her background and was able to be more herself, rather than fitting into what someone else expected of her. That is a very freeing thing.

6. A major theme in this book is accepting your home. Sookie experiences a homecoming many times—after she first meets Fritzi and returns to Point Clear, when she goes to Lenore’s bedside at Westminster Village, and when she flies to Pulaski for the All-Girl Filling Station’s last reunion. What is your favorite part about going home? Who are the people who make home a home for you?

Home is where comfort abides. Family makes a place home. So do friends.

I truly enjoyed this read and will be reading more of Fannie Flagg’s writing. It was a joy. Watch for Wendy’s post to come up. I’ll try to remember to share it with you when it becomes available. Also, once we have decided what we will read for the coming month, I will share that, too. Thanks for joining me again for Book Club.

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Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

GIANTS : The Dwarfs of Auschwitz – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

This month, Wendy and I decided to read separate books to share about. We have very different tastes, which is really good. However, she had one she really wanted to read and I did, as well. So, we each read our own and are sharing about them today. Wendy wrote about The Girl On The Train.giants-the-dwarfs-of-auschwitz

GIANTS: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz – The Extraordinary Story of the Lilliput Troupe
by Yehuda Koren & Eilat Negev

In most books, I don’t read the Foreword or the Introduction. This one, however, was filled with fantastic information. Telling the background of how this story came about was fascinating. So, I start out by saying, “Don’t skip this.”

Meet the Ovitz family. Meet each of the interesting people, these unique souls. It begins in 1866, long before the horrors of the story come about. We meet the ancestors who formed the character of the Ovitz family and the fortitude with which they faced life.

The Ovitz family was made up of seven dwarfs and their tall family members. They are an all-dwarf performance group during the 1930s and 1940s in Eastern Europe (Transylvania, specifically the town of Rozavlea). They traveled all over and we very well known.

However, one major problem arose for this well-known and loved group – they were Jewish and they didn’t fit the Nazi German idea for a normal person. This family was rounded up with so many millions of others and sent to a concentration camp – Auschwitz to be specific. They stayed together, as their mother so often had reminded them to do before passing on from this life. And that probably saved their lives. Seven dwarfs in a single family arrived together and caught the attention of those who were told to watch for twins for Dr. Mengele.

Dr. Mengele was very happy to have a group of so many dwarfs, along with their tall siblings, to add to his medical experiments. While the dwarfs lives were spared for these experiments rather than being sent to the gas chambers or the incenerators like 9 out of every 10 who arrived at  Auschwitz, their lives were made absolutely miserable (not a good word but no other word comes to mind) by this doctor. They were poked, proded, injected, had specimens taken from them, and a million other variations of private invasion to see if the doctor could determine just what he wanted to know.

This family survived and were able to leave the concentration camps but they still had a long road ahead of them. These who were so well-off before the Nazi invasions were now destitute. And in a world where everything they needed had to be specially made, this was a great hard-ship, even with their able bodied siblings alongside. Moving to Israel, the family begins the slow process of rebuilding their lives.

My thoughts:
This story was absolutely fascinating, though incredibly difficult to read at points. I still struggle to understand how the world had something like the Nazi regime occur and how the atrocities that went on were approved of by men who thought themselves right. The awful, disgusting experiments that were done on the Ovitz family and so many, many others are unbelievable. But this story is one that will touch you deeply.

The love of the family for each other and for their heritage and religion is beautiful to read. I enjoyed reading about the Ovitz family because it brought another layer of understanding to my knowledge of WWII. To read about the world this family came from and the one they died in and all that was between is to read and feel the human story of life in some of the brightest days and some of the darkest of humanity.

I highly recommend this book to adults. There is certainly too much in it for most teenagers to be reading when it comes to the detail of the experiments that were performed. But it is a good book to read and see the resilience of humanity and the neighborliness that can exist, even when things are dark.the-whistler

Next Month:
In April, we will posting about the book The Whistler by John Grisham. This will be interesting. I used to love to read John Grisham so we’ll see if I still enjoy it. 🙂

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Beric The Briton – Book Club

This is going to be pretty short. I have not finished Beric The Briton so I don’t have tons to say about it. Two reasons I didn’t finish: 1) life and 2) Henty gets kind of wordy sometimes. 🙂

beric-the-briton
Beric is really quite interesting but the first 150 pages of the book (PDF format that I have) took quite a bit of work to get through. Interesting and informative and necessary to understand the rest of the book but difficult, none-the-less. There are lots of names, many unusual, in this story and Henty doesn’t clearly identify who is who and how they are related or which group of people they belong with. Once I got past that and understood who all of the people were, I have really started to enjoy the story.

Beric takes place in England (Briton) when Rome was taking over the world. The native peoples of Briton had been beaten previously in battle and Beric, the son of one of the chiefs, was taken prisoner. As a prisoner of Rome, he was treated really well. He was educated with a Roman tutor and taught Latin and their beliefs and understandings. He grew to understand them very well. After several years, he was released to his people.

Several actions on the part of Rome happen that cause the Britons to rise up against Rome. Many battles take place and the Britons are eventually beaten pretty severely. Beric is taken prisoner again but this time, he is going to be transported to Rome.

The point I am at in the story is where Beric is being taken to Rome. They are not there yet.

I find that I really enjoy the Henty novels because they are laden with history, viewpoints you don’t get from history books, and perspectives that help you view others differently. They are so full of learning and ideas. But, they can be difficult to really get into. Once you do though, they are very much worth the effort of having pushed on.

I would really enjoy hearing from you if you have read any Henty novels. Which have you read and which was your favorite?

The book club had some hiccups this month so I don’t believe that Wendy got a post up but I do believe that next month we will be reading The Whistler but John Grisham.

EDIT: We will post about The Whistler on April 6. The March post (March 2) will be whatever you want. I’ll have to decide what I am going to read and share. I’ll throw up a quick post soon in case someone wants to read along with me.

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