Category Archives: books

The Journey That Saved Curious George – book

Y’all, I was at the library yesterday (our weekly event, you know) and found this fantastic book for children while browsing their NEW section.

The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey

Written by Louisa Borden and illustrated by Allan Drummond, this is the story of Margret and H.A. Rey. I knew a smidgeon about their background but not much so this title really caught my eye. 

The Reys were both German Jews. You know where this is going right away don’t you? Partly. Their background actually has them travelling all over the world, it seems. They actually re-met and married in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They had evidently known each other from Hamburg, Germany, before they each left to pursue opportunities. 

While in Brazil, they became citizens and then, after a while, they returned to Europe. While not planning to, they ended up settling in Paris. While there, Hitler continued to gain power. Eventually, war began. And, like many others throughout Europe, they worried about safety. 

Eventually, they had to flee Paris. They had no idea when they began preparing to leave that they would just miss disaster multiple times but the slimmest of margins. Getting themselves bicycles, they literally pedaled out of Paris in the nick of time, heading south. They carried the barest of possession with them, some of which included the manuscripts for several children’s books they were working on. 

They were able to get our of France, just barely and with almost no money left. They were able to get a bit more money and get on a boat out of Portugal after making their way through Spain. After arriving in Brazil, they were able to find passage on a ship to America. Safe arrival in America came four months after pedaling out of Paris. What a journey. 

And through it all, they carried with them the manuscript for the children’s book we now know as Curious George. 

This fantastic children’s biography is written with simple text that is easy to understand, though still interesting for someone like me. It is about 70 pages long and presented as a children’s picture book, though it is broken up into sections like a chapter book. Each set of pages is wonderfully illustrated. Some are original for this book but many are the Rey’s drawings for some of their children’s books. There are also quite a few pictures of the Rey’s at different times in their journeys and life. Another inclusion that is really interesting are images of many of the documents of the Rey’s lives – letters, journal pages, stamps, and more.

This is a well-written biography that children will be able to understand. It gives a solid understanding of some of the fear that people would have faced during the German invasions of WWII, as well as the advantage some folks had over others in cases where money made the difference. 

If you are doing an author study, this would be a great addition. It is also a good addition to a WWII study. A neat find!

Blessings,
At Home.

Preparing for Christmas ~ book reviews

Both of these books are available from New Growth Press.

A Better December: Proverbs to Brighten Christmas by Steven Estes

Many of us know just how insightful the book of Proverbs in the Bible is to our daily lives. But have you ever thought about how much it applies to the holiday season? to Christmas time? 

Me, either. But Steven Estes did. And his humorous application of the Proverbs to the holidays is a joyous read. This is a short 80-ish page read and is broken into chapters focusing on things like gifts, children, longings, others, and disappointment. Each of the chapters seems to be right on target for so many of us as the holidays can 

If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the holidays, the commercialism, and the “stuff”, take a peek at this book. The insights will help you grab hold of what is important, what is necessary, and the joy that should be fueling our holidays. As we are brought into “Someone greater than Solomon is here”, the beauty of the plan of God is revealed and Jesus is introduced. This easy to understand transition is the perfect way to introduce Jesus to those who don’t yet know him. 

The pen-and-ink drawings that add whimsicality to the book. This neat little book would be a great one to share with others this holiday season.

Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski

Are you looking for a series of family devotionals to guide you through the season approaching Christmas? Some folks call this time Advent. I didn’t grow up using that term and we don’t use it with the girls but the time approaching Christmas is still a time that hearts tend to be open to hearing more about our Savior. This book is a series of family devotionals for the 4 weeks of Advent to celebrate the birth of Jesus. 

Broken into 4 weeks, this series of studies looks at the prophecies the foretold Christ’s coming and the fulfillment of those prophecies. Each week has three family devotionals and a chapter of a Bartimaeus story that unfolds one week at a time, concluding in week 4. Each family devotional includes a list of supplies needed (so you can be prepared ahead of time), a warm-up activity, reading the prophecy scripture, and a written out series of thoughts about the prophecy. Another section is titled Talk About It and it related to the scripture read. There is at least one carol included in each devotional for some singing and you can get a companion CD if you wish. Then there is a family activity to close the devotional. 

The time required for each devotional will vary depending on if you choose to use all of the activities and how much discussion you include. You may even wish to include a significant amount more scripture to really bring the impact of the message home to your family. In this case, you will need to go digging and that will take some additional time but I find that when we open up that kind of discussion with the girls, we all learn a whole lot more and can understand scripture more. 

This is a simple way to add some meaningful Bible time to you holidays.

Blessings,
At Home.

The Watch That Ends The Night: Voices From the Titanic ~ Book Club

The Watch That Ends The Night

I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. It is historical fiction with a poetic twist. Anyone who enjoys reading about the Titanic will thoroughly enjoy this book.

The Watch That Ends The Night is written by Allan Wolf. We all know the story but Mr. Wolf takes the information, the facts, and uses them to create a whole new story – to bring the people to life, so to speak. He gives them character, family, emotion, hope, fear, and dreams.

Each page, sometimes two, is a new speaker. These are the thoughts and actions and emotions of each of the people who were on board this magnificent ship when she floundered and failed. The speaker has a way with words that varies from person to person, just like in life. Each person speaks a different way, using a different type of poetry.

These voices tell us the story of the Titanic from a unique perspective. Meet the voices of this disaster:

Olaus Abelseth – the immigrant
Thomas Andres – the shipbuilder
John Jacob Astor – the millionaire
Joseph Boxhall – the navigator
Harold Bride – the spark (wireless operator)
E.J. Smith – the captain
Jamila Nicola-Yarred – the refugee
The Iceberg
The Ship Rat
. . . and more.

p. 7 – The Iceberg

I am the ice. I see the tides ebb and flow.
I’ve watched civilizations come and go,
give birth, destroy, restore, be gone, begin.
My blink of an eye is humankind’s tortoise slow. . .

p. 175 – The First-Class Promenade

Like figures on a crousel,
around the upper-crust rondelle,
they swagger, sway, sashay, glissade;
Titanic‘s first-class promenade. . .

These are just a couple of examples of the differences in the poetic voices used to tell the story of the ship building, the launch, the sailing, the disaster, the rescue.

Mr. Wolf has done an incredible amount of research and used this information to put together this new and interesting vision of the Titanic. It is a fascinating and interesting read. There is much information that I had not heard before or a new take on it that helps me see the people on board the ship as real.

As with all historical fiction, there is some information that is included from lore and legend, some that is changed or unverifiable. However, Mr. Wolf does a complete job of trying to make the reader aware of where those changes or legends occur by include a as-true-as-is-known biography of each of the voices in the story. This final closure is a wonderful ending to this unique story.

This is one to add to your list. No doubt about it. You can find a partial preview and read some of the story online.

Blessings,
At Home.

As always, please visit Wendy’s Ladybug Daydreams blog to see what she read this month and is up to now. Thanks for reading along!

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

 

Gathering of Sisters ~ book review

Gathering of Sisters

Interest in family, in life, in day-to-day activity – it is what keeps us all moving forward and finding meaning in life, isn’t it?

Gathering of Sisters: A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family by Darla Weaver is a book that records a year’s worth of family time between Darla and her sisters, their mom and their children. Each Tuesday, the girls gather at Mom’s house to spend time with each other, in work, in play, in helping, and in relaxing. They cook and eat. They read and discuss. They encourage and challenge. They even ridicule and tease a bit. After all, isn’t that what life is about?

Darla grew up the oldest of nine children, five of which were girls. When she married and moved to her own home a few miles away, she ended up making a weekly trek home to visit with her mother and family. This grew into a tradition, not by choice but by enjoyment. As her sisters also grew up and began their own families, they all acquired the habit of visiting home on Tuesdays. This “family check-in” became a time of joy and renewal for all of them.Gathering of Sisters cover

Darla allows us to see glimpses of her family, of her life, and of who they are. And that includes their intentional and purposeful following of Christ. Their religion is an inherent part of who they are and how their lives are lived and that comes across neatly in this book. Life is filled with joy, fellowship, and lots of food. Everyone has to eat, right? So each week we hear a bit about all of these things, including whether or not they can get the intense writing habit Darla has to ease a bit and be replaced with coloring and card-making. (This was a fun aspect of the story for me, as I enjoy writing and crafting.) Spoiler – at the end, we do see Darla pick up a colored pencil. 🙂

Family is of utmost importance and life revolves around that. From helping younger nieces and nephews in daily moments (tumbles, desires, upsets, and laughter) to helping a sister after the premature birth of a child, we watch this family live and grow as they serve God in their homes and lives.

Many of us look at the Mennonite community and wonder. This book opens up a lot of that community to me (at least from this central Texas perspective I have) and I can now relate more to their lives. I strive to put God first and serve my family as homemaker. This is what these sister do, too. I have dreams and desires and have to make concessions about what I can or cannot purchase. These sisters do, also. (I was very much able to relate to the worn-out shoe story where Darla talks about not purchasing a pair of shoes for herself so she can get something her family needs.) Church and God come first for the sisters and I am striving for that, too. Struggles, failures, successes and growth – all of this is something we all have and this book shows these parts of life in living color and in all their glory. Yes, glory. For without a few struggles, the hopefulness is not as sweet. Without a failure, we don’t understand and celebrate success. Gathering of Sisters gives up a glimpse of this in the life of this family and shows us that it is common among us all.

Darla Weaver wears many hats. In addition to a members of the Old Order Mennonite community living in the hills of southern Ohio, she is a wife, mother, homemaker, gardener, and writer. She has written other books in addition to Gathering of Sisters, including Water My Soul and Many Lighted Windows. At the end of the book, there is an interview with Darla that sheds even more light on the community she lives in and their beliefs, as well as a “Day In The Life” feature that shows what one day looks like for her.

Herald Press (www.heraldpress.com) is the publisher of Gathering of Sisters. Gathering of Sisters is the sixth book in the Plainspoken series from Herald Press. Each Plainspoken book is written by Amish and Mennonite people about their daily lives and deeply rooted faith. Each book includes “A Day in the Life of the Author” and the author’s answers to FAQs about the Amish and Mennonites. The book has a cover price of $14.99 and is a softback book of about 265 pages.

There is an excerpt available for you to read if you are interested in learning more.

Blessings,
At Home.

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Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One ~ Book Club

You Second Life

This is a compelling little book that was handed to me by my MIL the other day. She just said “Do you want to read this? It looks neat but it is way down in my pile and I can’t read it yet.” So I did. It grabbed me from the beginning and I was riveted.

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One

Written by Raphaelle Giordano, this book has been translated into English. I believe it was originally written in French. It does take place in Paris, I believe. (I am guessing a little but the places mentioned all seem to fit Paris.)

We meet Camille at the beginning of the book and are quickly introduced to her hectic, busy, unfulfilling, unhappy/happy life. She is married to one she loves and has a little boy. They have a good place to live and she has a solid job. But she is feeling out-of-sorts, discontented, and unhappy. Which doesn’t make sense to her with such a “good” life. On the day we meet her, she has an accident with her tire and ends up in the middle of nowhere knocking on a stranger’s door. And with all that has happened, she ends up pouring out her story and discontent to him.

And he responds incredibly – I can help.

He listens and offers her his card. From there, he tells her that he understands (sometimes that is the most powerful part, isn’t it?) and that she can change her life. She is intrigued and contact him for help after she gets back to the city. What she finds is someone who wants her to success, to have a “happy” life, and a listening ear. She also finds significant encouragement and unusual tactics that help her focus, change, and redirect her thoughts and her life.

By the end of the story, we find a new Camille – happier, directed, focused, healthy, and energetic. She knows who she is and what she wants.

So many of the ideas and life changes are things that the reader can relate to. They can be addressed and changed in the reader’s life, as well. I find that fascinating. Yes, this is a novel but there is much to be learned from the approaches and the ideas in this book. If you are feeling rooted in discontent and want to find a way to redirect your life, pick this book up and give it a read. The ideas just might help you challenge your status quo and become someone you really admire and want to be. You just might end up following your dream.

Blessings,
At Home.

Visit Ladybug Daydreams, if you have a moment. I don’t know if Wendy is able to post for the Book Club this month or not but I’d love it if you would visit her blog for a moment or two.

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Indiana – By The Way ~ a Crew review

Indiana cover

By the Way is a fun and fact-filled series of books written by author Joy Budensiek. We have been enjoying one of the four newest books in the By the Way Book Series as we think about planning a trip before too long. Indiana ~ By The Way is the book we have been enjoying. The other new ones include New York City, Alaska, and Ireland. There are currently 10 books in this series.

Joy Budensiek began writing these books to help families have an interesting and fun way to discuss spiritual truths in everyday life. After hearing the startling fact that most Christian families do not intentionally discuss God’s hand in every day life, she created this series to lend a hand and lead the way for families. These geographically based books help parents teach a Christian worldview through a bright and exciting children’s book.

reading in the tent

Each of the books in the series is a hard-back book that is printed in full color. It contains pictures of the actual places and animals discussed, as well as drawings and other images to illustrate other ideas or things. The reading level is upper elementary and the book is about 50 page long. Each page is packed and we would read about 6 or 8 pages in a sitting. This allowed us to discuss ideas and talk about things that interested us. More than once, while I was reading aloud to Miss J (age 9), one or both of the older girls would come look at what we were reading about. Often, we ended up at the computer, looking at the places on a map or reading more about the place mentioned.

By the Way tells the stories of two children who explore the world around them, wherever they end up. Alex and Lexi find themselves immersed in the beauty of God’s creation and seeing God’s hand in the world around them. In the book about Indiana, they are visiting family at Thanksgiving. Their family explores the state and finds a lot of interesting places to visit, things to learn, and animals to see.

reading with kitty

Some of the fun facts that we learned while reading this book:

  • There are quite a few covered bridges in Indiana. And, we hope to see some when we end up visiting that state.
  • There is a lot of wildlife, including Monarch butterflies (Miss L’s favorite), cardinals (Miss J’s favorite), bats (reminding Miss E of a visit to a cave a year or so ago), deer, lots of other birds (more of Miss J’s favorites), bears, rabbits, and many, many more.
  • There are sand dunes! We know sand dunes from White Sands so it was interesting to learn more.
  • This state borders Lake Michigan and is MUCH smaller than Texas.
  • There are large Amish communities in the state. This was really appealing to Miss E and Miss J since it relates so well to another book series they are reading about a young Amish girl.

These are just the tip of the iceberg with what you will learn about Indiana in this book. It is so easy to extend this type of learning. Marking a map, adding additional animal research or sketching, creating artwork related to themes and ideas, looking up more on the plants mentioned (orchids!) and trying to grow them – the possibilities are as varied as your own imagination.

holding book

As wonderful as all of this learning about Indiana is, there is something much better woven throughout the story and the pages of this book – God’s hand in nature and life. Intentionally looking for ways to help the reader see God’s hand, Bible verses are woven into the story and into the lives of the characters. One of these places is when talking about the beauty of the changing leaves in fall and Psalm 90:2 is quoted. Another example is when they are talking about caves and bats. I John 1:5 is brought up. In the discussion about Thanksgiving and its history, James 1:17 is quoted to remind us that God gives so many good gifts.

By The Way pictures of book

In addition to this, the discussion between the adults and the children in the story models well how to intentionally bring up God’s plan, His hand, and His wonderful creation in every day discussions. Finding life lessons from God is modeled well in this series of books. In Indiana, we see this when having a thankful heart is taught. We see it when they are teaching about the Amish and they mention “Family and faith are most important to them. Anything which threatens these is rejected.” (p. 35) Billy Sunday is discussed and the adults teach the children about the worth of salvation in contrast to the salary he gave up. They also model this idea with nature – the animals are so perfectly created that the butterflies know exactly when to migrate, the bats know how to hunt, the farms are blessed by the rain and sunshine, and the variety of trees that exist.

By The Way books

This modeling is wonderful and reminds us of the important things in life. The By the Way series is fantastic at not only teaching about interesting places but in teaching about God’s perfect creation and our lives in it. Indiana is another fun book in this series. Want to know about more? We reviewed Colorado previously on the blog and have read the Washington book, also.

Blessings,
At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about the other books in the series that are being reviewed this time around: Alaska, Ireland, and New York City.

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A Tree for Peter ~ Book Club

A Tree for Peter

Kate Seredy is a newly discovered writer that I have fallen in love with. Her writing is joyful and exciting. It draws you in and brings you into the deepest parts of the story. Her writing allows you to feel what the characters feels and to move through the story with them. It is rich and deep and engulfing.

A Tree for Peter is a book that I got for a review for The Old Schoolhouse website. (Check them out if you are looking for, well, anything related to educational resources. There are thousands of reviews there.) It came from the publisher Purple House Press. This company is resurrecting wholesome, solid, well-written stories that teach character, value, and understanding. A Tree for Peter was originally written in 1941. The language is engaging and thoughtful and rich. Even if I didn’t like the story, I would love the language and writing.

Summary:
Shantytown is a dark, dingy, scary, shadowy place and Small Peter feels it. Lame and alone, since his mother is working hard to pay off debts and his father died, Small Peter is scared and lonely in this place where each person looks after their own self and no one else. One of his favorite things, though, is to watch the train that goes by Shantytown. During one of these times, he catches the eye of another young lad who shares a smile with him. That smile brightens his life and things begin to change when combined with the arrival of King Peter.

Not really a King, this other Peter teaches Small Peter how to face life and to face his fears and to dream. Small Peter takes a hold of these lessons with both hands and dives into his life, resurrecting life and hope among many.

This story of Small Peter and his changing life will bring hope and joy to your world as you watch it grow and bloom in his.

Thoughts:

I have now read this book about four times. Once by myself and another time to write the original review for TOS, once to my youngest, and once as a read aloud. Each time, I find myself smiling in the hope that grows in the darkness of the world of Shantytown. Each time, I revel in the joy of the language and the way Kate Seredy has put words together to bring to life the world of the story.

I have shared about this book with a number of people and wanted you to know about it as well. I highly recommend this story and the hope that will come through it.

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Book Club Update:

I would really enjoy it if you all would visit Wendy’s blog, Ladybug Dreams. She will likely not have a Book Club post as they have had some wonderful things happening in their family, lately. Perhaps she will have shared about it on her blog. Either way, I know she would appreciate some love on her blog. And hopefully, she will be back in a situation where we can begin working on the same book again before too many months go by.

Blessings,
At Home.

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