Tag Archives: books

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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Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women In Their Own Words ~ a book review

Homespun

How pleasant it is to just wile away the hours with a friend, chatting, enjoying, sharing. Editor Lorilee Craker has brought us just that joy in this book, a collection of true stories – Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women In Their Own Words.

Inside the covers of this soft back book, you will find the writings of a number of women who share the nitty-gritty, downhome honesty of their lives. Some of it is humorous. Some of it is rough. It will surprise you with hope and joy and laughter and tears. It is life – out in the open – for you to relate to and sympathize with.

Within six different areas, these 28 women share life with their readers These six areas – Welcome, Abide, Testimony, Wonder, Kindred, and Beloved – are parts of each of our lives. We live these things, too. Because of their backgrounds, their stories are rooted in truth and God and love. Each of these articles will encourage you to step out in faith and act on the impulses of your heart. To understand that life isn’t all roses but that roses can come from the hardships that come your way.

Some of my favorite stories were about the hospitality. I struggle with this area since it is so often expected to be a big, fancy invited thing. But I found hope for my struggle in the stories found in the section titled Welcome. I was reminded to “offer generously what you have” (p. 18), that a kitchen isn’t made up of appliances and tables but rather the love and welcome shared, and tips on cultivating the art of conversation. These were helpful articles for me to read and encouraging to me on just stepping forward to be a part of sharing a meal with others, no matter what it looks like or where it is held. Stepping out in courage is sometimes required and I found some of the necessary courage in these stories.

Lorilee CrakerAbout the Editor

Lorilee Craker is the editor of Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women in Their Own Words. She describes herself as a simple Mennonite girl from the prairies and didn’t know there was anything “peculiar” about being Mennonite until she moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Chicago, Illinois for college. It was then that she realized most people outside of Mennonite communities assumed she had come from buggy-driving, bonnet-wearing, butter-churning folk. Everyone seemed to think that being Amish or Old Order Mennonite and being her kind of Mennonite were one and the same. The experience of explaining the differences led her to writing the book, Money Secrets of the Amish (an Audie Awards finalist which she also narrated). A freelance journalist, blogger and speaker, Craker was an entertainment writer for The Grand Rapids Press for seventeen years. She has been featured in many media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Time and People. She is the author of fifteen books, including Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me, My Journey to Heaven with Marv Besteman, and the New York Times bestseller Through the Story with Lynne Spears. The proud founder of a writing day camp for middle schoolers, Craker lives in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband and their three children.
Learn more about Lorilee Craker online at lorileecraker.com. You can also find her on Facebook (@LorileeCraker), Twitter (@lorileecraker) and Instagram (@thebooksellersdaughter).

An Interview With The Editor

Q: You describe yourself as a simple Mennonite girl from the prairies. Can you share a little bit about your childhood?
My childhood was deeply rooted in the Mennonite culture. Growing up, I witnessed my two grandmothers with their hair in a bun and always wearing dresses or skirts. I thought this was normal! None of my grandparents spoke English—all four of them spoke German or Low German. At family gatherings we would eat Mennonite food such as borscht, varaneki (pierogies), platz (fruit strudel), and pluma moos (cold plum soup). We also ate those things in my home, so again, this was all very normal. We were also bound by similar values of faith and peace, and by stories of where we had come from.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your new book, Homespun? How did you collect the stories included in the book?
Herald Press approached me about being the general editor of a collection of writings from Amish and Mennonite women. I collected the stories from mainly two sources, Daughters of Promise magazine, a beautiful and beautifully written literary journal done by conservative Mennonite women, and Ladies Journal, a much more spare periodical by Amish women. It was thrilling for me to discover new writers and incredible writing from mostly unknown writers! These women have a lot to say and I was fascinated by their take on modern life. To hear from women specifically appealed to me, as a feminist. Sometimes in conservative subcultures, their voices are silenced or muted. This book gives them space and grace to speak.

Q: What themes did you notice emerging as started compiling the stories? How is Homespun organized?
As I read stories for the book, a number of themes arose, so I arranged the stories by those topics and wrote a brief introduction tying them together.
Welcome. A deep sense of hospitality is fundamental to these women. Yet it’s not hospitality in the HGTV, your-house-needs-to-be-perfect kind of way. As one of the writers shares, it is easy to overthink hosting, but Jesus made it look quite simple, and
his hosting style can be described in one word: love. 
Abide. Hospitality is sacred and spiritual, but it doesn’t mean these writers don’t want to have an appealing home space in which to dwell. They want to abide in an abode, if you will, that nurtures them and feeds their spirit. The writers here expound beautifully on what home means to them.
Testimony. Story makes the world go round. When we hear the stories—the testimonies—of others, we are better able to understand our own story and our place in the world. These narratives stirred different emotions in me.
Wonder. The blazing faith of early Anabaptists is evident in the openness of these writers to all things wondrous. These are true stories of miracles, phenomenal happenings that don’t make sense from a human perspective. They highlight the possibility of the miraculous happening all around us, in big ways and small.
Kindred. A core value of both Mennonites and Amish is the preeminence of family—kinfolk, whether they be kindred or not. Our kin shape us in ways both known and unknown, good and bad. These essays and stories speak to the tremendous
influence of family.
Beloved. These essays enthused my soul, and I came away feeling as if I had just been to church. My cup had been filled. There is something wonderfully elemental and childlike about the devotion expressed here, devotion even in doubt. These pieces
drew me closer to the One who calls all his daughters “beloved.”

Homespun tour stop

In Closing

I have really enjoyed sitting down with this book, early in the morning after my Bible reading, enjoying a cup of hot tea and the stories of these women with the sunrise and cool morning air. As I read through these true stories, I found myself identifying with so many of the emotions shared and hopes spoken of, the heartaches and sadnesses, the difficulties and joys. But through it all, the hope that comes from a deep, abiding faith shines through and each woman writes of continuing forward to what comes next.

If you are looking for your next enjoyable read that will offer hope and encouragements, take a look at Homespun, edited by Lorilee Craker. It will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face.

Blessings,
At Home.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through I Read With Audra and the publisher Herald Press 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 FTC regulations.

 

Paddington Bear from Branch Out World ~ a Crew review

paddington-

Branch Out World is a company that we were gifted a study from several years ago. So when the chance to review their Paddington Bear – a literature based unit study in their Picture Book Explorers series – came available, I was very happy to volunteer.

Miss J may be in 4th grade now but we never out grow picture books, especially of beloved characters such as Paddington Bear. When we can connect that book to learning across several disciplines, it becomes an even more treasured experience. Branch Out World makes this possible through the studies they create.

Branch Out World is a company that is run by a home educating family. Their studies grew out of their own experiences in teaching and their love of books. Each of their literature based studies has a connection to the UK – author, setting or illustrator – as that is where the company is based. It is fun seeing those connections. They offer the Picture Book Explorer series but they have additional products in their online catalog. From the literature studies to lapbooks, they have much to offer.

Paddington Bear study

About Paddington Bear 

We received a PDF download of the Paddington study and got a copy of the book from the library. I thought we had the book but when it came time to pull it off the shelf, we had a different one. The one from the library worked just fine.

The study is written to cover all subjects in five days. Each day, were you to do all of the activities, would take a couple of hours. The study covers the following topics:

  1. Exploring the Setting – London, Peru, maps, flags and more
  2. Exploring the Words – author, vocabulary, some grammar work, and more
  3. Exploring the Pictures – illustrator, design, architecture, and more
  4. Exploring Science – bears, steam, foam, and more
  5. Exploring Math, Crafts, & More – activities, recipes, numbers, lines, and more

There are multiple activities in each of the sections and it is very easy to pick and choose what works for your learners. This study makes it easy to work with multiple levels of learners, as well. Adaptations occur easily.

For instance, we were working through the part on immigration, doing the work and talking about what one might take with them. Miss J took a look at me and asked if we could make a suitcase for Paddington and keep all the pieces in it instead of making a traditional lapbook with folders. Worked for me so we detoured (or rabbit trailed) and created a bright red suitcase, just like Paddington carried with him to London. Some of our papers had to fold to go into the suitcase but it is now a nice compact record of this study, keeping all of the papers and booklets in one place.

suitcase

After that detour, we popped right back into what we had just finished talking about and continued on.

Each day, we did several activities but we never completed an entire day’s work in a single day. We were doing other things and this was a large chunk of time. However, if this was the entirety or majority of the school work we were doing, I would have completed a full set of activities. Again, though, there is no need to complete every single activity, nor will ever single activity fit every child. So pick and choose and make it fit your learner’s needs.

maps and Paddington Bear

What I Think

I really enjoy this series of literature studies. As I mentioned before, we have done the working on a mini bookstudy on I Took The Moon For A Walk. It was a fun read and study and I was very pleased with it. These are great for learners from very early elementary up through middle school, though you might need to add some difficulty or research to it for the upper end of that. It would be easy though – the middle school student could do the research for steam, for example, and then make a presentation to younger learners.

Paddington Bear was a fun study and we were able to make so many connections – immigrants and stories we had read, London and maps we had done before, bears and comparing with Smokey Bear, and lots more.

It is easy to forget how adaptable these types of units are but I was reminded again how much I enjoy doing them.

Blessings,
At Home.

Other families with learners of different ages also reviewed Paddington Bear. Visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read about their experiences.

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