Category Archives: books

Bessie’s Pillow ~ a Crew review

Bessie's Pillow review

History came to life. It truly did, when we were reading Bessie’s Pillow. This story, from Linda Bress Silbert and Strong Learning, Inc., is about a young lady who immigrates to America just after 1900.

For our family, that is very personal. My husband’s great-grandmother immigrated to America, through Ellis Island, just before 1900. So this story became something that we could easily relate to and brought us a greater understanding of all that their family would have gone through. This ability to relate so personally to the story made this true story of Bessie very real and very alive.

with the drawing of the shipby the passenger list

The main character in the story is Boshka Markman and her story begins in Vilna, Lithuania in 1906. 18 year old Boshka is leaving Vilna because it has become so dangerous there. The progroms and war have invaded their lives but far away, America beckons. Boshka begins her immigration journey to America. But before she boards the train, an older lady from the village asks her to deliver a special pillow to a son in America.

“May this pillow bring you peace.”

This story is not just a story. It is history. The history of a family, the history of nations, the history of the world at that time. And it pulls the reader deep into it all.

Bessie's Pillow cover

We are engaged in the story and through it we see the dangers of the world. The difficulty of a young girl traveling by herself, bravely facing all that comes her way. We walk with her through the invasive medical exams she was forced to endure in order to board the ship and the nervousness of waiting to see if she is allowed to live in America. Though her name is changed (she becomes Elizabeth Markman at Ellis Island), she boldly moves forward to live a new life in America.

She faces the dangers of a young lady in New York but finds employment and a safe place to live. Through her, we see the horrible working and living conditions but we also see the unconquerable human spirit and the will to push through towards a dream. Finding a way to deliver the pillow entrusted to her back in Vilna, she travels to New Rochelle and encounters a new life. The story of her life, lived with the same boldness she came to America with, is what this book is about.

Bessie’s Pillow touched me a lot. The true story of someone who would have been so like my husband’s great-grandmother was intriguing to read, to experience. Written by the granddaughter of Bessie Dreizen (the married name of the main character), this story has the twists and turns of the most creative novel yet is history, family history. And while this story is personal for her, it is one that most everyone in America should be able to relate to in some way.

exploring Bessie's America

Found online and in the back of the book, Bessie’s America is a collection of short articles and websites full of historical tidbits, links, and videos to help us get an more complete look at the life Bessie would have lived and the world she lived in. From the progression of film (from a silent movie that was shown in the theater in New Rochelle to early cartoons and talking movies) to music and dancing (we watched a video of Nellie Melba and looked at images of Carnegie Hall), from news of the day to famous people of the day, from housework to health and hygiene – Bessie’s America was very different from what we know today and this look back at the time in history of this story gives the story even more context and gives us even more understanding.

Bessie’s America really enhanced the book and we found a number of interesting things to read about and websites to visit. This is not a necessity for reading the book but it definitely gives extension to the book and understanding to the reader who takes the time to read and visit the website.

Bessie’s Pillow  is a wonderful, engaging read that is so full of history – our history – that I highly recommend it to everyone. I will note that there are some discussions early on in the book about incidents that caused Vilna to be unsafe for her, as well as New York to be unsafe (mention of attacks on girls and women), working conditions and the dangers that were faced, as well as some undesirable locations that people frequented. I would not just hand this book to anyone under the age of about 12 but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good books for them to read. I suggest reading it yourself first and deciding if it is right for your child and/or doing it as a read-aloud so that you can edit the parts that may not be right for your family.

My 12 year old read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. She read it quickly (perhaps a day) and wanted to talk about it. We had talked about our family history and that made this book even more desirable for her. There is much to be gained from reading history that comes alive as Bessie’s Pillow does.

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Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews} 

Crew Disclaimer

Susan K Marlow’s New Andi books ~ a Crew review

Circle C Stepping Stones series

Circle C Stepping Stones is a new series from author Susan K. Marlow and published by Kregel Publications. The first two books in the series, Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top, continue to sage of Andrea Carter, affectionately known as Andi.

Andrea Carter, or Andi, begins the Circle C Stepping Stones series on her 9th birthday. This scene is one that just about every little girl (and boy) can relate to: hoping beyond hope for a long desired gift. This quickly endears the reader to Andi and her plight of trying to grow up strong and independent with a mind of her own while obeying and honoring her mother and her older brothers, who are in charge of the ranch.

Andi Saddles Up

Andi Saddles Up –

Andi gets a wonderful birthday breakfast and lovely gifts from her family. But when she is followed by the whole family out to the barn, she begins to wonder what’s up. She finds out that she does, after all, get a brand new saddle for Taffy, her horse. After saddling up, her big brother takes her out for a ride to try it out and to discuss new privileges – Andi can now ride Taffy when she wants! She also gets shown a special place that almost no one else knows about.

One day while at this special place, Andi meets a new friend, Sadie. The girls quickly become good friends, swapping stories and trading rides for fishing bait. Andi and Sadie enjoy their new friendship, even after they find out that their families are disagreeing about a property boundary. When something happens and help is needed quickly, can the families be calm and kind? And can Andi and Sadie’s friendship survive the family struggles?

Andi Under the Big TopAndi Under the Big Top –

The circus is coming to town and Andi is terribly excited. Getting to see exotic animals and bareback riders and acrobats are the things Andi’s dreams are made of. Watching the circus parade is such a joy for Andi, especially seeing the world champion bareback rider!

Then Andi meets Henry. Henry is a little boy who works for the circus. Only, Andi notices he doesn’t seem very happy and Andi begins to wonder, for the first time, if maybe the circus is not as glamorous as it seems from the outside. After an altercation in which Andi’s big brother helps Henry avoid undeserved punishment, Henry is able to take Andi behind the scenes of the circus. This adventure is such a joy for Andi and her big sister Melinda.

But, Henry is still on Andi’s mind. She has realized that he ran away from home to join the circus and is now unable to get away; he is trapped. She wants to help him but after she finds out what he has done, can she?

What We Thought –

Miss L, age 10, read these books through the day we received them. She has enjoyed the Circle C Beginnings series and was ready to continue reading about Andi’s adventures. She wrote the following summaries about the books:

Andi Saddles Up is a fun book. It is about Andi, of course, and her family when a river that divides her family’s property and their neighbor’s, the Hollisters, property changes its course during a flood. Meanwhile, Andi makes a new friend with Sadie Hollister and she then wants to hang onto their friendship, even while their families fight. I love the way the book ends and I really liked the part about the hoof picks! Susan K Marlow is so talented! I think that I would recommend this book for ages 7 + up, maybe a year or two younger if it is a read-aloud.

Andi Under the Big Top is a nice book, too. All the details made me feel like I was really at the circus with her, and yet, reading. And the thick plots! I was really impressed that Marlow was able to get as much good plot and details in as she was without just dragging the story along with it. I think that I would recommend this one for ages 7 + up as well. Again, maybe a little younger for a read-aloud.using the study guide

Miss J (just turned 8) is reading the books at a slower pace. She is also working on the Study Guides that are provided to go along with the books. You can find the Study Guides on the webpages for the books, both at Kregel Publications and on the Circle C Stepping Stonespage (where they are called activity pages; you can also find coloring pages). These Study Guides provide a nice supplement to the books. They contain comprehension questions and activities. They cover subjects such as vocabulary, poetry, history, character study, Bible, music, and more. It is recommended that the guides take 21 days to complete but they are pretty easy to speed up or slow down as your family needs. We have really enjoyed adding these Study Guides to our reading and making this a more complete literature study.

Overall –

The Circle C Ranch books are wholesome, with good, solid ideas and themes, as well as Biblical ideas and character building opportunities. The new Circle C Stepping Stones series is no different. Andi is growing and some of my favorite parts in these books are where she remembers to go to God when she sees something that He can help with or when she is suddenly thankful. (Thank you, God, for giving me a brave sister! p. 76 Andi Under the Big Top)  I thoroughly enjoy those little moments of showing God in the everyday.

Circle C Stepping Stones books

We adore Mrs. Marlow. Her writing has been a joy to read since we were first introduced to her stories. We have told tons of people about them and encouraged our library to order the books. (They did! All of them! And they have ordered these new ones, too, since we told them they were out!) Miss E is waiting (im)patiently for me to get the newest one of the Circle C Milestones series. We highly recommend these books.

At Home.

We have previously reviewed these other books by Susan K. Marlow:
The Last Ride
Tales From the Circle C Ranch
Thick as Thieves

There are other Homeschool Review Crew families who have been reading these books, as well. Please click on the banner below to read what they thought of Circle C Stepping Stones.

Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews} 

Find out more on social media:

Twitter (Kregel Books): https://twitter.com/KregelBooks
Twitter (Susan K Marlow): https://twitter.com/SuzyScribbles
Facebook (Kregel Books): https://www.facebook.com/KregelBooks/
Facebook (Susan K Marlow): https://www.facebook.com/SusanKMarlow?fref=ts

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By The Way Book Series (Colorado) ~ a Crew review

colorado-by-the-way-review

By the Way Book Series is not new to us but we were still really excited to get to read and review one of their newest books: Colorado ~ By the Way.

By The Way came about due to a sad statistical fact. The author, Joy Budensiek, was sitting in church when she heard the statistic that 19 out of 20 Christian families are not talking about God in their day-to-day lives, noticing Him and His work in all that surrounds them and the things they do. This shocking statistic jolted her into creating a series of books that models for parents not only how to see God and His majesty in creation but how to then discuss that and talk about that with their children. Mrs. Budensiek has a goal of 100 books to help facilitate ideas and examples for parents.

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series }

Colorado ~ By the Way is a story that brings us tidbits of the history of the state of Colorado, mixed in with a lot of geography, science, animal observation, and God’s scripture.

Meet Alex and Lexi. These two young folks are getting to spend a week with a friend, Jose, in Colorado (they met this friend in the book Washington ~ Here We Come!, which our family has also had the pleasure of reading). Jose’s family owns a ranch and is more than happy to help Alex and Lexi learn all that can about the state of Colorado while they are visiting. From the varied landscapes (mountains, sand dunes, and the Royal Gorge) to the many different animals (wild horses, cougars, cutthroat trout, big horn sheep, beavers, and more), Alex and Lexi get to experience wonder after wonder.

great-read-aloud

As fantastic as all this is, one of the best parts of the story is the many ways in which Jose’s parents, as well as the others around them, model for Alex and Lexi how to see God. From noting the wonder of God creating a way for fresh water to be kept close to animals that need it (thanks to the beaver building dams) to the marvelous ways God protects His creations (such as clothing the snowshoe hare white for winter and brown for summer), everyday things are seen through the lens of the amazing ways God shows His handiwork.

Other ways in which God is taught through the Colorado book includes the discussion about some of the first churches founded in Denver and the beautiful chapel at the United States Air Force Academy. With a discussion of the Continental Divide, the effects of choices upon our character is taught. In talking about the juniper tree, the beauty of everything God makes is discussed. Scripture references are found often throughout the book, as well.

Our family has used this book in two different ways. I have read it aloud with Miss J, who just turned 8. She could have probably read it by herself but in my reading it aloud with her, we were able to stop and discuss some of the points that are made in the book. We were able to talk about the different ways we see God around us and apply the things from the book to our daily lives. Also, the print is fairly small and some pages have two columns that start at different heights on the page. These would have made for some possible confusion in where and how to read the story.

miss-j-reading-by-the-way

Miss L, age 10, grabbed the book the minute it arrived and sat down with it. She read it straight through and came to me to tell me about what she had read. We talked about things that she found interesting. She then asked if she could do a notebooking project to go along with it. She chose 10 of the animals from the book and wrote about them in some notebooking pages that we printed off. She was thrilled with the information she found in the book and was very pleased with the outcome of her project.

animal-notebooking-page

The book will be a jumping off point for additional activities, I think. I would like to have the girls read a book about one of the historical people mentioned, as there is not a whole lot of information about them. I also think it would be fun to do some additional reading or website visiting about some of the landscapes and destinations visited in the book. These are just a couple of examples of how easily this series can be expanded into additional learning.

But, truly, the best feature is how simply and easily the By the Way Book Series incorporates the discussion of God and His might into every day lives and activities. What a great model for us all.

At Home.

Check out all of the By the Way Book Series being reviewed by families of the Homeschool Review Crew:
Florida’s Treasure Coast ~ Here We Come!
Smoky Mountains ~ Here We Come!
Pennsylvania ~ Here We Come!
Ohio ~ Here We Come!
Washington ~ Here We Come!
Colorado ~ By the Way

Nature Books With A Biblical Worldview {By the Way Book Series Reviews}Crew Disclaimer 

A Little House on the Prairie study ~ a review

little-house-title

The youngest giggly girl, Miss J, has just turned 8 and while she likes books, she does not have the huge enjoyment of books that the other two giggly girls have. So, when I heard that In the Hands of a Child was looking for families to try out some of their project packs, I sent them a message and told them I was definitely willing and would love something for Miss J. After a short email discussion to decide on a title, they gave us their A Little House on the Prairie curriculum download to try.

project-pack-cover-little-house

Miss J saw me downloading it and printing it off, just before bedtime, and came over to see what I was doing. When she realized it was a “Laura book” study, she got kind of excited. When I showed her what it was, she got really excited and wanted to start right away, regardless of the fact that it was bedtime. So, when you are homeschooling and you find something that excites the learning in your child, what do you do? You start right away.

lapbook-pieces-little-house

We began reading the first chapter that night and doing the corresponding activities. We marked a map and wrote some of the biographical highlights of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life. After the first night of excitement, I kind of expected there to be a tapering off of the joy of reading the book and working on the corresponding lapbook parts. But there has not been. Miss J has enjoyed working on this every time and it is the first school work she wants to do each day.

Well, except for the chapter summaries. She is getting tired of those but I don’t really blame her. She was doing a summary per chapter but we have moved to a summary for every couple of chapters or just a sentence about the chapter. Twenty-six summaries is quite a few. 🙂

folder-2-little-house

The variety of activities included in this lapbook keeps the interest level high. From learning vocabulary words (which Miss J begged to do as often as possible, including writing the definitions) to summarizing a how-to from the story to thinking about all the daily chores required for a pioneer family, the activities have been interesting and exciting for Miss J. She has learned a lot and enjoyed it.

The activities included by In The Hands of a Child do a great job of extending the learning to parts of a story, character and setting, writing, history, geography, and other skills. We have been very pleased with the activities and learning, especially for our child that doesn’t just jump for joy every time we mention reading time. Now, she asks to do her literature study more often than almost any other part of her school work. That is a great move forward for her.

There is a suggested schedule but we found that, in addition to our other schoolwork, this schedule was just too rigorous. So, we pulled it back to reading one chapter a day and completing one or two activities a day. This made the Project Pack much more manageable for our 2nd grader. I also found that if Miss J dictated and I wrote some for her, she got much more informative in her narratives and summaries. So, we did quite a bit of that, as well.

keeping-track-little-house

We definitely can recommend checking out In The Hands of a Child and their lapbooks. The digital download via CurrClick was simple and gives me easy access to the instructions without having to print them out. I can print out the parts we need to create the lapbook and leave the others stored electronically. We actually moved the download onto the Kindle to make it easier to access while the other giggly girls needed the computer.

Lots of fun is to be found in the use of a lapbook and In The Hands of a Child has done a nice job of including a variety of activities. Please visit their site to learn more and see their many, many options.

At Home.

Disclaimer
I received a FREE copy of this product from In The Hands of a Child in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

When We Last Spoke – Flyby book review

Charming. Down-home. Small-town. Close-knit.

This is Fireside, Texas. Nestled in the hill country of central Texas, this little town is full of all the quirky, fun-loving, interesting friends and neighbors that make life just a tad bit more fun.

 photo When We Last Spoke_zpsmrdy08yg.jpg

Living in Fireside, we find Walt and Ruby, Juliet and Evangeline. Walt and Ruby are raising their granddaughters Juliet and Evangeline when their father is called to war and their mother decides her calling is on the stage. While Juliet and Evangeline find love, care, and warmth with their grandparents, there is an ever-nagging feeling of something missing.

Walt and Ruby are the perfect example of long-lasting love and marriage and the girls realize just how blessed they are to have such a family. Busy days on the farm are followed by cozy nights in the farmhouse. Both are full of family and love. Each week the girls do many things that help them learn to be a part of the community and to help those that can’t help themselves, even when it is hard. One example is helping an older lady by taking her meals each week. The girls find out that Ruby has been doing this since she graduated high school. This, the girls discover, is what neighbors do for each other.

Most of the book takes place when the girls are young, though it opens and closes in the present. This flashback setup does leave bits of the story that you have to be patient for. For example, we find out right away in the opening of the book that Juliet and Evangeline are estranged. The reason for that does not come out until the book is almost over and the setting is once again in the present. The closing of the book brings some answers and encouragement for families to live and love and forgive, though it wasn’t as smooth flowing and comfortable to read as the majority of the story.

This was an easy read, with plenty to make you smile and laugh and wish for those carefree days, sitting in the shade of a tree in a small town sipping lemonade and wondering what  photo When We Last Spoke author Marci Henna_zps2knyhfko.jpgyour neighbor is doing. Marci Henna wrote a winner with this one.

Henna was born in Austin, Texas, but spent many years growing up in Kenya where her family worked at a medical research station. She moved back to the Texas Hill Country as an adult, living on a ranch that has been in the family since the 1800s. She currently lives in Austin.

 

If you enjoy easy to read stories that remind you of a simpler time, then this is a story for you.

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Find out more about the book and author Marci Henna on these social media platforms:

Facebook        Twitter        GoodReads

        FiresideTexas.com (http://bit.ly/FiresideTexas_URL)

You can purchase a copy of the book:

Softcover or in Kindle format

From February 20-24, Henna will be giving away a FREE Kindle version on Amazon.

Please enter the giveaway for a single copy of this book by Marci Henna by filling out the Rafflecopter giveaway. Just click the link to be taken to the form. This is open to US residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

D – Degas books

d-degas-books

Since we had visited the Degas exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in late December, I have kept a few books on the artist in our book basket. I have often noticed the girls reading through them or thumbing through and looking at the pictures. Both indicate learning is going on and that they were interested, at least a little bit.

The books that I have had are the following three:

  • Dancing with Degas by Julie Merberg
  • Degas and the Dance: the painter and the petits rats, perfecting their art by Susan Goldman Rubin
  • Degas and the Little Dancer: a story about Edgar Degas by Laurence Anholt

All three of the books are interesting, and while not all are non-fiction, the information is well researched so that the fictional story still imparts a large amount of knowledge to the reader.d-dancing-with-degas

Dancing with Degas by Julie Merberg

This board book has the lovely paintings of Degas couple with rhyming text for little ones. This is a simple introduction to the world of art and the world where Degas went to get inspiration for his art.

d-degas-and-the-danceDegas and the Dance: the painter and the petits rats, perfecting their art by Susan Goldman Rubin

This is an interesting book that focuses on Degas and his inspiration for the dance paintings and statues he created. This picture book biography of Degas includes about 30 of his works from the early stages of a ballerina’s training to the final curtain call. Showcasing the ballerinas that so many have come to love in Degas’ work, this book teaches us much about Degas’ himself and the works of beauty he created.

d-degas-and-the-little-dancerDegas and the Little Dancer: a story about Edgar Degas by Laurence Anholt

This is a picture book story based on true life. Focusing on the story of the young lady who posed for Degas’ famous statue “The Little Dancer”, Marie is touching as a young woman who comes to know so much about the artist who sculpts her image. This biography of Degas teaches us about the artist through the eyes of a young girl whose greatest desire is to be a famous ballerina.

All three of these books are interesting and have lovely pictures. They all share some about the artist, who is a very interesting man. Having seen the paintings and sculptures and sketches in person makes these books even more alive. And isn’t that what learning is all about?

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Join the ABC blogging group hosted by A Net In Time and Hopkins Homeschool and link up your ABC posts.

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D – Degas books
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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.

At Home.

 

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