Wednesday, February 04, 2015

January Book List

Favorite Chapter Books

The Shepherd Boy by Kim Lewis
Since we like her other book about a shepherd dog named Floss, I thought I would check to see what else Kim Lewis has written. I think I like this one better than Floss because it centers on a young boy and his hopes of being a shepherd just like his father. It is a sweet story and models hard work and determination in the context of family.

Alvah and Arvilla by Mary Lyn Ray
A fanciful story of a husband and wife who travel to the sea bringing the farm with them. It's a fun story with lovely illustrations and a memorable ending. Mary Lyn Ray's stories capture ordinary folks carrying out hard work with a side of adventure.

Lightship and Locomotive by Brian Floca
I stumbled onto these books by happily scrolling and clicking through amazon's eye candy of what other customers have liked or bought. Truly one of my favorite internet activities if truth be told. I picked a few to borrow from our library to see for myself what his books are like.  They are wonderful. I was intrigued by Lightship because they are mentioned several times in Arthur Ransome's Peter Duck which is part of the Swallow and Amazon series. I didn't have a good understanding of what they do until I read Floca's book. And he even slips in some tribute to Edward Ardizzone to the delight of observant fans.

I especially liked his Locomotive book which includes more of his gorgeous and detailed artwork. Authors who include hand-drawn maps, diagrams and natural history content score high in my opinion. Floca provides the reader with a clear and memorable idea of what the beginning of train travel was like for those heading to the new frontier of the West. I actually spent quite a bit of time looking carefully at each page and his handwritten notes included with each illustrated page. Did I mention he is one of my new favorite children's authors? Surely just a little gushing is allowed.

Flotsam by David Wiesner
Wiesner is a popular children's author whose books I never personally found appealing until this one. There are no story words to read in this book, instead Wiesner uses illustrated sequential pictures to convey the action of his story. There is a lot to look at and imagine what is being said and done in the images and that makes it fun. I don't want to spoil it so let's just say a boy spending time at the seashore with his parents makes a discovery which prompts him to participate in an ongoing adventure with other children. I'll say no more, but this book would make a good gift for someone who loves the beach and classic literature. <secretive smile>


Mrs. Mike: The Story of Katherine Mary Flannigan by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
My dear Vanessa, a fellow vintage book-loving friend gave me this copy of Mrs. Mike which she found at a used book sale and thought I would like. Yes, I have wonderful friends like that. The cover doesn't have the title and author imprinted on it, so I'm showing you the title page and spine. If you've ever read Janette Oke's Canadian series, When Calls the Heart, you may find a few similarities with this story. But since this series was written first, perhaps Oke was familiar with and inspired by it. Anyways, this is the first book in the series and is the most well known. The follow-up books do not seem to fare as well in the reviews. But nonetheless, I have requested them from the library so I can see for myself. You can read the gist of the plot on the Goodreads page, so I'll just add that I enjoyed the story and would have likely read it nonstop if it wasn't for my other responsibilities.  It does show the precariousness of life and the resiliency of people to continue on despite hard circumstances, but there is no reference to a reliance or hope in God. It is not a forgettable story though and offers an interesting look at life for other people groups.

Chapter Books

Mr. Pipes Comes to America by Douglas Bond

This is our third Mr. Pipes book that we have read aloud together and we have one more in the series to read.  This one takes place in and around Boston around Christmas time. I didn't find the hymnwriter content as interesting as the other books, but maybe that says something about American hymnwriters and not Douglas Bond's writing. There are many times where the dialogue seems a bit contrived, even a bit preachy, although I have no issue with the hymnology ideas presented by Douglas Bond through the character of Mr. Pipes. I understand the problems with modern worship music, it just doesn't always work for me as an adult. But these books aren't for adults and Seth seems to be interested in finishing the series, so we will be reading The Accidental Voyage later this year.


Howard's End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill
So true confession time. I never heard of Susan Hill until I saw a few mentions of this book floating around the internet. She is a well known UK author of many books among other things. Most of the chapters are very short centering on a writer and their books, including her personal encounters with them. While I did find about some writers to check into,  I mostly was lost in the torrent of books and authors she writes about. Her Christian writer recommendations seemed to fall flat when she described their actual lives. They didn't sound like people I would ever want to read for spiritual insights. Anyways, I was glad to race through the last chapters and say I finished the book. Oh well, I'm sure many bookish people like the book and that's who she is writing for. I did research some of the writers mentioned and found many rabbit trails to follow which can be fun, but in the end, her book didn't inspire me to read the books she found in her house. I take full responsibility for that, I'm picky about whose recommendations I take.  A few photos of her bookshelves, landing and other book-covered surfaces would have been lovely too.

Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass
I have to say I needed this book although her views on learning Latin made my heart sink and feel terrible that I don't have the truly classical reasons for studying Latin in our home,  but Karen Glass gave me insight into other CM points that I had not understood before like the functions of the will and of reason. And for that I am very grateful and will be thinking about for the rest of my life.  
I'm still not sure what falls into analytical thinking as it applies to literature, but I do know that reading good literature together in our home remains at the top in my priorities and taking time to have grand conversations about what we read is a must. I cannot say we have read these books if we have not had some good and real conversations about them that goes beyond narration.
I think that no matter where you are on your educating journey, this book should likely be read. It will help clear up misconceptions about the purpose of education, accomplishing character development in our children(and us), and what other people are promoting as classical education. 
Those are my initial thoughts after only reading it once and lightly re-reading a few select parts. I plan to reread most of the book again and likely order another copy to loan out. 

I like Louisa May Alcott's books, so when I spotted this biography on my bookish friend, Kathleen's shelves I thought I would sneak it home to read. I really like how the biography starts with Ms. Alcott's family history, especially her father and then later her parent's romance and marriage. It helps set the stage for what motivated Louisa to write. I also like that true to the sub-title, the book delves into the world of the Alcotts, who their friends were, the cultural and societal events that they were part of . It provides an interesting look at people, places and ideas that later would be very well known. Despite having read many of Alcott's books, I found a couple that I haven't read yet. Perhaps I will find them on other people's bookshelves. 

The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne
I also borrowed this from my friend Kathleen as I hadn't realized that this Milne had written some books as well. This is the first in a trilogy of memoirs written by the only child of A.A. Milne of Winnie-the-Pooh fame. I liked the way the chapters went tripping along through his childhood covering topics like his Nanny and their homes and gardens. He also spends time describing his upbringing and his parents relationship with each other and with him. I found it humorous and witty in many places even if he has grievances about the type of fame and spotlight his father's books brought him. I have borrowed the next memoir in the series, The Path Through the Trees from the library but have not started it yet. 

The Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander (and other authors listed on cover)

I've never read a book about building design before and I still know very little about any of it, so my remarks are basically: this is interesting stuff to read, think about and then observe on your own. My library turn with the second book, A Pattern Language came to end way too quickly and I haven't requested it again because I'm trying to finish the first book. You may not agree with all of ideas, like bed alcoves and such but he at least will make you consider things about your home and surroundings that you may not have thought about before. Isn't that what makes books good? They give you things to think about, to plan for, to reconsider your views and to converse with others. Anyways, I hope to be able to spend more time with both of these books and be better informed as we look to move to another home, whenever that actually happens.


  1. The Enchanted Places sounds good, among others. :)

    I always love your picture book lists. :)

  2. Picture books are pretty wonderful, well some of them. :)
    Thanks for the encouragement, Catie.

  3. I remember Mrs Mike! I haven't read it in ages and should do so again. Thanks also for the information about Karen Glass's book.


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