Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Summer Reading’ Category

Dear Readers,
My daughter Rebecca recently sent me the following link regarding how educational paradigms are being challenged across the globe.  This is due to countless factors, but for those who have chosen to depart from institutionalized education, to create their own educational experience, I think you’ll find this talk by Sir Ken Robinson inspiring, challenging, and motivational.  Robinson is the author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, which is on my book list for summer reading. His talk on new educational paradigms seems timely for me personally, as I have determined to devote this summer to a neglected pursuit of the arts in our home.  I intend to intentionally pursue music, drawing, art history, and literature in a new and fresh way.  Robinson’s presentation has further convinced me of the importance of the arts and I think you’ll see why.  One thing he notes is that children are being anesthetized in unprecedented numbers through the overuse of Ritalin; this presumably to enable them “to learn.”  But Robinson notes that the opposite of anesthetization is aesthetic experience.  This occurs through the arts (and even through science and math) when the human faculties are totally engaged, “senses are operating at their peak  . . . when you’re resonating with the excitement of the thing you’re experiencing . . . when you’re fully alive.” This is what art, drama, music, and literature can do for us, and should do for us.  So by way of encouragement, consider how you might devote this summer to a pursuit of the kinds of engagement that Robinson advocates here.  Remember that the parts of the brain  developed through engagement with the arts, can eventually help to build the capacity for those lagging academic connections.  And even if that were not true, the emotional and spiritual connection provided by  times of renewal, reflection, and refreshment through art, will be a beautiful end in and of itself.  Here is the link.  Let me know what you think!

Read Full Post »

While summer is so stealthily slipping away, I had to do yet one more summer read to encourage you to maybe slip this one in just before the last warm days of sun, surf, and sand are gone!  This title is not as widely known as Wilson Rawls’ other beloved classic, Where the Red Fern Grows, but ranks as one of our family’s fondest read-aloud moments, which if you’ve been following this post, you’ll find are not so rare. But honestly, Summer of the Monkeys would definitely rank in the top ten (if you pressed me to list the top ten, which I hope you won’t!).

The beauty of Summer of the Monkeys lies in the novel’s humor mixed with the tender pathos of a coming-of-age story about young Jay Berry, who is crazy nuts about horses and can think of nothing but the ability to one day buy his very own.  When a circus train collides with a railroad car near his Ozark home, a number of performing monkeys escape and resume life in the wild.  The circus owners offer a reward to capture and return them to the circus and Jay Berry has his opportunity to earn the money that will make his equine dream come true.  Jay’s raucous adventures with the irascible monkeys makes an entertaining family read-aloud and the heartwarming and inspiring ending had each of us choked up enough that we were having to keep passing the book from one to another in order to get through it!  In a day when our children suffer little from wrenching poverty, and seldom have to be truly sacrificial in their daily lives, Jay Berry’s example becomes a poignant lesson about what is truly important in life.  If you’ve read this beautifully crafted and heartfelt tale post a comment and tell us how your family responded!

Read Full Post »

Our youngest daughter recently had a friend for a summer sleep over and before I tucked the two little ones into bed (knowing it would probably be some time before they actually slept) I read them some family favorites hoping to encourage some sleepiness.  One of my all time best loved children’s books is The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris VanAllsburg.  While VanAllsburg is most popularly know for The Polar Express, it is my humble opinion that his previous works surpass his Christmas tale in both substance and artistic richness.  If you’ve never read this gem, check it out of the library soon, or find a used copy online.  The artwork alone is stunning, and the story is subtle and clever for the close reader.  It involves a young aspiring sailor (in a gorgeous, but simple New England seaside town) who has quite an amazing adventure which I won’t spoil for you.  The other VanAllsburg title that we’ve loved forever is Jumanji.  Both these stories have great twists at the end that will intrigue the young reader.

We also pulled out Madeline, as our little friend had never heard of the precocious French orphan who has captured the hearts of little girls for over half a century! Each book of the series begins with, “In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines . . . the smallest one was Madeline.” The author, Ludwig Bemelmans had a life as colorful as his protagonist, and incidentally, his wife’s name was Madeleine.  Madeline’s Rescue, the second book in the series won the Caldecott Medal in 1954.  For those who live near New York City or visit it regularly, one of the city’s most famous hotels, The Carlyle has a mural painted by Bemelmans in its Bemelman’s Bar.  It is the artists seasonal depiction of New York’s Central Park and includes the characters from his delightful stories.  Fortunately, when the hotel was planning to remodel and forever lose Bemelman’s work, it was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that came to the rescue of this delightful work of art.

Read Full Post »

I told you we were reading the Little Britches series with our girls for summer reading.  We are currently reading Man of the Family and last night was the chapter, “We Really Spill the Beans.”  We had just had an incident at dinner with a broken dish due to a lackadaisical attitude and then a refusal to take responsibility.  Little did we know what a good chapter our nightly reading would be to carry home a life lesson for all of us!  For those unfamiliar with the story, Ma has started a cooking business in order to support the family.  The family depends greatly on the income they can make selling Ma’s home baked apple pies, lemon meringue pies, doughnuts, bean pots and Injun pudding. Ralph (Little Britches) then delivers (on a rickety homemade handcart) his mother’s wonders to the neighbors who’ve placed orders.  During one of Colorado’s hottest summers on record Ma and Grace have spent over 48 hours straight, cooking over a hot wood stove a total of 26 lemon pies, 22 dozen doughnuts, 16 apple pies, brown bread, beans, and 4 pots of Injun pudding. Ralph, Grace, and Philip set out to deliver the valuable labor intensive goods to their neighbors (I’m remembering the time it took me four hours to make 2 lemon meringue pies!).  Unfortunately, due to a rickety wagon, not fit to carry such a load, “that load went over in such a way that it spilled every single thing on the wagon–about half of it on Grace and me.” The destruction is complete.  The beauty of the story is Ralph’s quick and noble willingness to take responsibility for the accident, “I know it’s all my fault, [he] said.  If I’d had sense enough to soak the wheels, it wouldn’t have happened.”  His humility is startling and refreshing and begins an outflow of grace that is so sweet and clear. Ralph recalls,

“I don’t know when I ever hated to do anything as badly as I hated to go home and tell Mother what had happened to the cookery.” “She must have seen my face the minute I came through the door, “What’s the matter Son? Did the wagon break down?” she said.  She wasn’t cross, and she said it as quietly as she’d have said, “Is it cloudy?”  “I don’t think I’d have cried if she’d been cross, but to have her be so gentle when I felt so bad was what did it.  I don’t remember kneeling down by her, but I do remember her brushing my hair back with her hand and saying, “Now, now Son.”

Well, I got quite choked up reading this and once again, my kids were puzzled by my tears.  “Mom, it’s just food!  For heaven’s sake!”  Well, you and I know it’s much bigger than that, but some understandings only come with time and maturity.

The story convicts me on a number of levels.  Ma’s gracious reaction is humbling, convicting and inspiring.  How much I long to be more like her that way!  Especially when it comes to broken dishes!  How unimportant the dish, how fragile the little psyche that we damage by our anger!  The other part I find convicting is the way in which Ma and Pa parented to inspire such honesty and quick willingness to take responsibility for their actions.  It reminds me of a time my very young nephew Greg broke a riding toy, ran into our house immediately and proclaimed, “Mom, I broke the buggy (remember those riding toys that looked like little VWs?), it’s all my fault.” How sweet the grace that follows the quick willingness to take ownership of our own brokenness and propensity to error.  We all need it, and so we all need to learn to give it freely and without hesitation. “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”–Anne Lamott

Read Full Post »

For those of you who love the D’Aulaire biographies I think you’ll be interested to read the following article which concerns the New York Public Librarian who first established the children’s library in America–Anne Carroll Moore. While she was the inspiration for Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire to first write and illustrate children’s books, her relationship with another beloved author–E.B. White was less than amiable. After having urged him for years to write a children’s book, she became his most stalwart critic and literally banned Stuart Little from the NY Public Library. Interesting and distressing, but true. E.B. White’s ability to stand in the face of her unremitting resistance to his work is a lesson for all of us in staying true to your mission and vision. If he hadn’t, one of the world’s most priceless and beloved children’s tales–Charlotte’s Web, would never have been written. Here is the link:
The Lion and the Mouse (more…)

Read Full Post »

I’ve just returned from CHEA–which for those readers outside of California is the California Home Educators annual conference held in Pasadena.  I spoke there a number of times and had the delightful opportunity to connect with many of you and I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog so we can continue to keep in touch!  We talked and talked and talked some more about good books and it was wonderful to hear your stories about how good books have changed your lives!  One beautiful young mother came up and shared how hearing me talk about the power of good books a few years ago had totally changed the direction of her family’s home schooling journey and delightfully so.  They decided to scrap the textbooks and entered on the wonderful journey of literature!  Thank you, Monica for sharing!  Loretta persevered in her commitment to the power of literature over a traditional academic approach despite the often disparaging comments of friends–you know, the “What do you actually do for school?” “Well, we read great literature.”  “Oh . . . really–is that all?”  Loretta’s disparaging friends were quite surprised to find her literature rich son accepted to West Point where he is currently in his third year.  Many testimonials like this encouraged us to continue to press on sharing our passion and commitment to the canon of literature for its own sake.

So here’s another all-time favorite for summer reading, family read-aloud, character building books.  This one is particularly dear to my heart because it offers fathers a sure bet for a read-aloud experience they will look forward to each night!  Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers is the powerful true story of young Ralph Moody, who in 1906 moves from New Hampshire to Colorado with his family.  Through young Ralph’s eyes we experience the hair-raising adventures of a passionate, impetuous young boy as he and his father attempt to carve out a ranching life amidst the perils of tornadoes, water wars, flash floods, and grinding poverty.  Ralph’s perspective offers a lens into the character of a father committed to raising Ralph to be honest at his core. The tender pathos of their conversations, the father’s profound strength when faced with overwhelming difficulties and his devotion to his son all offer lessons rare in our day.

The sequel to Little Britches is Man of the Family.  Following this there are 5 more titles in the series.  Every family should experience the wonder of these books at some time in the life of their family.  We are currently reading Man of the Family to our daughters aged 10 and 15.  They love them and beg for more most nights (excepting the ones where we don’t get to read-aloud time till after 9 or 10 pm!  Well, it is summer after all!).  For our family, this is probably the third time over the years reading this series and repeated readings only increases our devotion. If you’ve enjoyed these books with your family, please let us know your thoughts and how these books impacted you.

Read Full Post »

My favorite way to pass the long hot summer afternoons of a northern California childhood was with a good book.  While the local public pool provided hours of respite there were times when you could just not take the sun anymore and needed to retreat to the shade and what better way to while away those hot hours than by transporting your imagination to another time and place?

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

This book took me far back to the cool woods and dusty villages of medieval England.  Adventures galore await the reader who jumps into the lives of a young spoiled prince and his whipping boy.  I remember being thoroughly confused that there was such a provision made for princes – the punishment for their misdeeds would be placed on another boy?  My sense of justice could not reconcile this but as the story progressed I came to see beyond the simplistic preconceptions of rich and poor, privileged and not.  There are very funny scenes in this book coupled with adventures and great life-lessons. Reading level: middle school.

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

This well-loved classic is a must for summer reading.  The salt breezes of Chincoteague island, the wildness of its ponies, the adventures of Paul and Maureen, the elements are all there and Henry creates a beautiful story that will capture your child’s imagination.  Once your child has read one of Marguerite Henry’s books, you’ll find yourself trolling used book stores in search of others to quench your child’s new found appetite for all Henry’s “horse” stories.  Reading level: middle school.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

When I was about 12 or 13 I went through a serious Elizabeth George Speare phase.  I could not get enough of her stories.  I must have read Calico CaptiveThe Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sign of the Beaver, and The Bronze Bow a dozen times each and remember being so disappointed when I realized I had read everything she’d ever written – it was almost like being let down by a very good friend.  Didn’t she know I needed more of her stories? Four was not nearly enough.  Until her death in 1994, I kept hoping that she’d write more.  That was not to be the case but in the mean time, I read and re-read The Bronze Bow.  Daniel bar Jamin, the story’s main protagonist is a young Jewish boy living at the time of Christ.  Fired by zealots angry at Roman rule, Daniel is a young man full of anger and living only to avenge his father’s murder.  Set in the volatile first Century, there are so many facets to this story and there are wonderful characters; the Pharisee’s family, the kind Roman soldier, a new preacher from Nazareth.  Really a must-read along with any of Speare’s other titles. Reading level: jr. high.


Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Talk about transporting one’s mind to another time and place – this is such an adventure classic.  Fastidious Englishman, Phileas Fogg and his faithful manservant, Jean Passepartout, embark on the unthinkable-at-the-time task of traveling around the world in a record-breaking 80 days.  Such a world apart from our current ability to circle the globe in a matter of hours stuffed inside a sterile metal tube, Fogg’s journey is colorful, exciting, dangerous, and funny. Reading level: jr. high.

Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier

Set in Warsaw, Poland in 1942 this story is based on true accounts of a young family trying to escape Nazi occupation. When the children are separated from their parents it seems impossible that they will survive.  Grit and determination coupled with great courage drive them onward as the three young children fight against all odds.  A brilliantly told story, this one isn’t your classic feel-good summer read, but it’s a great adventure story.

Well, there’s some suggestions for books that will transport your children to distant lands and times.  I would love to hear about some of your favorites!

Happy Reading,

Rebecca

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: