Monday, May 06, 2013

March/April book list

Favorite Picture Books

Ella Takes the Cake by Carmela and Steven D'amico
I picked this bright, green hardcover book up at a used book sale back at the end of February totally unfamiliar with the series. We read it aloud together and enjoyed the character of Ella the elephant who eager to help her mother, volunteers to transport a birthday cake in her bike trailer to one of her mother's bakery customers, Captain Kernal. The soft and colorful illustrations show the tall three-tiered cake on the cover, traversing downhill, over a bridge and through the market square with alarming speed and the various events that happen along the way to the lighthouse for Captain Kernal's birthday celebration. Ella and her mother enjoy a sweet relationship that brings a happy ending but not contrived. There are at least three other titles in series: Ella the Elegant Elephant, Ella Sets the Stage, and Ella Sets Sail.

Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand
A few books from these past two months are books we read to supplement our history lessons. They are wonderful books to enjoy even without studying this period in history.  Longfellow is a poet that I have taken to and enjoyed more than others, so this edition with its full page illustrations showing the landscape, harbor and historical buildings of the Boston area gives much to context to the words of the poem which famously starts :
"Listen my children and you shall hear 
    Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, 
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five, 
    Hardly a man is now alive, 
Who remembers that famous day and year."

The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle by Barbara McClintock
In the early 19th century, a young Parisian daughter eager to imitate her father's eye for beauty and art in photography, struggles to capture his enthusiasm in her more imaginative drawings of well-dressed animals walking large pet goldfish.  He becomes ill and Danielle looks for a way to help provide their daily crossiant and baguette.  She is encouraged in her artwork when a wealthy women who paints in her art studio takes an interest in her and her situation.  We enjoyed her artwork as flying frogs and birds with top hats are what kids are really interested in. It has a pleasant ending but not too sappy.

Chapter Books

The Saturdays and Then There Were Five, by Elizabeth Enright,
I mentioned in my previous book list that I started a series of books called The Melendy Quartet because of a post by Mama Squirrel that quoted from the second book which I read out of order.  I moved back to read the first book, The Saturdays which details the adventures of each the four Melendy children as they spend a Saturday pursing their own interests and hobbies.  The third book, Then There Were Five was an absolute delight, filled with details about various wild plants and flowers, insects and Oliver's wonderful caterpillar collection.  The children revel in the outdoors while making new friends and coming alongside an orphaned friend. This is an excellent series and I am currently on the last title, Spiderweb for Two. 

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
This series of books is on almost every homeschool list of good books that I have ever seen and having finally finished this first book and now working on the second, Swallowdale, I can heartily concur. If you are not familiar with boat jargon, find some good boat diagrams, because there is a lot sailing terminology that may tempt you to quit the book, but stick with it and you will enjoy a wonderful story of children enjoying being children.  Siblings and crew members, four young residents of Holly Howe sail their vessel, Swallow to Wild Cat Island only to meet two other adventurous sailors who also lay claim to the island under their sailing mast, Amazon.  Imaginations fueled by Robinson Crusoe, Blackbeard and many others make for some wild adventures and wonderful stories  We very much enjoy reading these together and we are looking forward to reading all twelve in the series which is listed here.

Classics and Other Such Books

Emma by Jane Austen
Having enjoyed Pride and Prejudice so very much, it was with reluctancy that I turned my attention to her other novels, starting with Emma.  One chapter into the book and I was not impressed with the character of Emma who appears needy and controlling, although she appears devoted to her nervous, aging father.  Her attempts at matchmaking left me feeling quite cold about her ability to care for others around her.  By the middle of the book when a newcomer dashes into her community of friends and family, I began to see Emma as a young woman showing glimpses of maturity and found it hard to put the book down. Her own unexpected romance and blossoming into a true lady capable of loving fully and without reserve made her quite heart-warming to me in the end.  I loved her and found myself being reminded of my own fumbling years as a young woman, learning with each new life experience what my role should be as Emma did in her life.  Another wonderful story for me from Jane Austen.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
With two Austen novels now under my belt, I moved onto Mansfield Park and the story of Fanny Price, who as a young poor girl leaves her dirty crowded home and is brought to her wealthy and titled relatives to be given a more affluent upbringing in the name of charity.  Her daily provisions are fully met by her new surroundings, but she is easily unnerved by her aloof uncle and her two aunts leave her little time to truly enjoy herself.  Her only true enjoyment comes from her companionship with one of her older cousins and in her younger brother who is occasionally brought to see her.  As her other cousins and nearby friends each appear to attempt to out do one another in foolish and thoughtless behaviors, Fanny remains faithful in her devotion to her small circle of loved ones.  An unexpected and unwanted marriage proposal turns her world upside down as her relatives cannot understand her refusal.  Her only comfort is the advancing military career of her beloved brother and his well-being.  Sent back to her dysfunctional family for a visit, she finds a younger sister who needs her guidance and friendship amidst a continuing drama with her relatives and her unrelenting suitor.  Fanny's steadfast character and loving heart is finally rewarded with the love and respect showered upon her as she and her sister return to live at the only place that truly can be called home, Mansfield Park.

And having been consumed with these two Austen novels in March, I have now forced myself to read other neglected books before getting into the other Austen books waiting their turn.


  1. Anonymous11:07 AM

    You know that your book lists just go straight onto my library request list... you should set up an app for that or something...

    I do love that Ella book - except that her portly little bossy friend reminds me of me as a girl... yikes.

    love - kath

  2. Hmm, now I have to go back and find which portly little bossy friend you mean and see if I recognize you...haha.
    I wouldn't know an app if it smacked me upside the head, I keep my techno life simple, just like my mind. lol
    Glad to know you like some of the books.

  3. I picked up Swallows and Amazons because it was on all the lists, but got bogged down with the sailing details. Thanks for your suggestion, I think I'll give it another try.


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