Sunday, July 27, 2008

Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink

My 8 year old niece and I have started a book club. The first book we read was Sarah, Plain and Tall. Review to come later. The book for August is Baby Island. This has a silly title, but don't let that fool you. It is a cute and adventurous story. It takes place in the pacific ocean where Jean and Mary 10 and 12 find themselves in charge of 4 little children after a shipwreck. Their life boat was let down before it should have been, without any adult on board. They hope to find an island so that they can find food and shelter, Jean starts to doubt that they ever will. After being questioned on her knowledge that they will run into an island Mary responds "because shipwrecked people always do, why, the public library at home is just full of books about shipwrecked people who landed on tropical islands. And did you ever see a book written by a person who was drowned at sea? I never did...You can't expect everything to happen at once. Why we just got wrecked last night. If Mr. Snodgrass said there were lots of little islands around here, there must be...I'm sure we're due at one of those islands right now. Of course, we might be a little late, like the Interurban cars used to be at home."

I rather enjoyed this story. I appreciated the courage of these girls and how they said their prayers even though their parents were not around. I have to admit at one point in the story that tears started to form in my eyes. It has been a long time since a book has done that to me. This is a fabulous book for children ages 4-10. I am already excited about the discussions that I hope to have with my daughter when we read it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Twenty-One Ballons by William Pene du Bois

The Twenty-One Balloons is a winner of the Newbery Medal and an interesting story about Professor William Waterman Sherman and his idea to live for 1 year in a hot air balloon. You see "there are two kinds of travel. The usual way is to take the fastest imaginable conveyance along the shortest road. The other way is not to care particularly where you are going or how long it will take you, or whether you will get there or not." Sherman uses the second type of travel. His travel takes him around the whole world with a rather long stop off on the island of Krakatoa, Indonesia. I thought the book was rather slow, but it was an easy fun read with a fun ending. This is a great book for kids and interesting topics to discuss. There are numerous inventions that could start fun discussions with children.

Monday, July 21, 2008

There are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith

Rafe Esquith is an absolutely amazing teacher. In his book There are No Shortcuts, he talks about how he took his inner city fifth graders from being poor/mediocre students to being great and above average. He adopted the theme There are No Shortcuts for his class to teach them that learning takes work. He gives some ideas to teachers and parents on how to foster the love of learning in the students. He also gives a list of his favorite books, as he explains :"Let's face it: reading is the most important subject in school. It's more important than all other other subjects combined. If a child can't learn to read well and love to read, the chances of that kid finding success and happiness on any level are low." I enjoyed reading this book although the attitude in the book is one of anger towards the administrators, government, co-workers and sometimes even the parents of his students. He repeats himself many times throughout the book. If you are going to be a teacher of any kind you may want to check this book out, but I don't recommend this to everyone.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

The Trumpet of the Swan is an absolutely fabulous book. All children, and parents of children should read it. Louis, a swan, was born without a voice. After becoming aware of this his father said: "Do not let an unnatural sadness settle over you, Louis. Swans must be cheerful, not sad; graceful, not awkward; brave, not cowardly. Remember that the world is full of youngsters who have some sort of handicap that they must overcome. You apparently have a speech defect. I am sure you will overcome it, in time. There may even be some slight advantage, at your age, in not being able to say anything. It compels you to be a good listener. The world is full of talkers, but it is rare to find anyone who listens. And I assure you that you can pick up more information when you are listening than when you are talking."

This is the story of how Louis finds his voice. The characters in this book are lovable. The plot line is intriguing. The climax fascinating. There are many parallels to real life that can stir up great conversations with children. (overcoming hardship, finding what you really want to do in life, taking care of nature, accepting others, kindness) I recommend reading this book to your kids.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth

Nate Twitchell and his family are rather surprised when their hen lays an enormous egg. The hen faithfully incubates the egg with some help from Nate on the turning of it and the egg hatches. The egg contains a dinosaur. The plot thickens as Senator in Washington D.C. makes this speech:

"Do we want our children to grow up to be forward-looking citizens of our forward looking country? Then we must not let them dwell on the useless creatures of the past, the foolish mistakes of Nature discarded long before Columbus planted the American flag on our beautiful shores. No, gentlemen, there must be no living in the past for us, but rather we must bravely face the future, and march on together, hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder, to that glorious destiny that lies before us."
Obviously there were some people in the story who did not want to have the dinosaur around. Nate and his paleontologist friend need to find some way to save the dinosaur, before it is too late. I really enjoyed the characters and this story. I recommend this as a book to read aloud to your children.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Sort of "Dead Poet's Society", mixed with "Harry Potter", and a tiny bit of "A Little Princess" "A Great and Terrible Beauty" is an entertaining and intense mystery. The story begins in India with Gemma, a 16 year old, who wants to be sent to London for schooling. She finds herself there about 1 year later with these thoughts. "My mother had wanted me to stay in India. I had wanted to come to London, and now that I'm here, I couldn't be more miserable." Throughout the story she finds three other girls to befriend and share her innermost feelings with, things that she has kept from everyone. This is a coming of age tale, cute and insightful. Although I truly enjoyed this book, I cannot fully recommend it, since there are a couple of scandalous scenes, which, some might find offensive. Here are a few quotes from Gemma as she learns more about herself:

"But forgiveness…I’ll hold on to that fragile slice of hope and keep it close, remembering that in each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We’re each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real. We’ve got to forgive ourselves that. I must remember to forgive myself. Because there is a lot of grey to work with. No one can live in the light all the time."

"I changed the world; the world changed me.
Everything you do comes back to you. When you affect a situation, you are also affected."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Talk about a depressing civilization. The people in this book are sheep, they do whatever they are told. The government told them that books were bad and created a fire department to dispose of all the books. Most of the people complied. But there were a few that knew the worth of the written word. I enjoyed this book. I found myself thinking, what would I do if I found myself in a situation where I did not agree with the rules. Would I fight, would I silently obey? Would I comply and wait for an opportunity to speak my mind.

"Let you alone! That's all very well, but how can I leave myself alone? We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real? "
This book gave me the feeling like I can change things that I see wrong in the world. I have that power. It is not always easy, but it is usually worth it.