Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Land of Oz

by L. Frank Baum

I felt guilty reading this book. Well, not the book, really, but the advertising in the front of the book. In it, the Oz books are touted as nigh a foundational work of fantasy literature. Me, I've only seen the movie. I feel so... inferior. Anyway, I then read the book. This is the sequel to The Wizard of Oz. Apparently a large enough number of people nagged Mr. Baum to write it. The story follows a young boy named Tip who runs away from his guardian, a cranky old lady who dabbles in magic and has threatened to turn him into a marble statue in punishment for trying to scare her. He travels to the Emerald City and meets up with the Scarecrow, who is the current ruler, just in time to help the latter escape from an invasion by General Jinjur and her army. The two join up with an unusual assortment of companions and together they seek to restore the rightful ruler to the ol' green burg. It's an enjoyable book--quite imaginative, really. I really couldn't rave on about it like the advertising blurbs, but it's certainly worth checking out. Maybe if I read a greater number of the books, I'll be able to join the chorus of praise.
LibraryThing link

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Catherine, Called Birdy

by Karen Cushman

Corpus bones! Sonlight curriculum expects me to allow my impressionable young daughters to read this book?! It is a vivid picture of the middle ages, filled with dirt and dung, fleas and flatulence. Quite inappropriate for modern sensibilities. But, in all seriousness, definitely worth checking out for a picture of our cultural past. The fact that it is quite amusing doesn't hurt either. The book itself is the diary of a young teenage girl, Catherine, the daughter of a minor knight in the 13th Century. She details her life in her home and village, set against the backdrop of her father's desire to obtain a profitable marriage for her. Catherine, of course, doesn't meekly submit to the plan and the reader is privy to her thoughts and shenanigans while events unfold. Truly an enjoyable read.
LibraryThing link


The Stars

by H. A. Ray

Years ago my eldest child was on an astronomy kick. She loved looking up at the stars and picking out constellations. Supportive parents that we were, we encouraged her interest, taking her to astronomy club star parties and buying her a few (affordable) astronomy things, including this book. The Stars is a beginner's guide to astronomy, explaining in simple terms the basics of watching the skies and illustrating the constellations in a simple fashion to help a budding astronomer learn to pick them out. There's also a section which gets a bit more technical, talking about meridians and declinations and all those things that made me avoid astronomy magazines even though I love science fiction. But since the whole book is illustrated by H. A. Ray, the creator of Curious George, even those pages are worth reading. Or trying to read, at least. Anyway, this one is worth checking out if for no other reason than to learn your basic astronomy.
LibraryThing link


Friday, September 22, 2006

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver

by E. L. Konigsburg

For the most part, I've enjoyed reading my kid's history books, be they factual or historical fiction. It's really become quite a pleasant routine. But there's still room for surprises, as I found out reading this one. A Proud Taste is a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who is known for being the wife of King Henry II of England and mother to King Richard the Lion-heart. (At least I'm assuming that's her claim to fame--I really hadn't taken note of her before reading this book.) She's an interesting lady, but even more interesting is how Konigsburg tells her tale. Eleanor's life is told in flashback. The book starts out in heaven, or at least heaven according to Roman Catholic theology. Eleanor is waiting for the imminent release of King Henry from Purgatory. She's waiting with three friends, and to bide the time, they discuss her life. It's an enjoyable dramatization, one I'd advise checking out for the story as much as the historical information.
LibraryThing link


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Chief Joseph

by Candy Moulton

One of the problems I have homeschooling here in China is when the curriculum says something like, "Go to the library with your child and find a good book on..." If we were studying literature, I might be able to find some of the classics. But find a book on Washington State history? Not in these parts. Anyway, when we were home this summer I tried to pick up a few kids' books that might enrich the curriculum. I took my wife's advice and rather than physically browse the bookstore shelves myself, I asked one of the salespeople for book advice. In the past, she's had great luck with knowledgable salespeople who were eager to help. Me, I didn't fare so well. They only found a few useful books, and this one, upon further perusal, turned out to be for grown-ups. Or at least high-schoolers. Anyway, I didn't discover this until after I purchased it and shlepped it to China. But that's a good thing because instead of returning it, I put it on my shelf and took the time to read it. Ms. Moulton has written an extremely engaging biography of Chief Joseph. All I knew about him last week was that, back in the 19th Century, he led the Nez Perce tribe in their attempt to evade the U.S. Army and flee to Canada rather than be shipped off to the reservation assigned to them. This book gave me an education, not only about that famous trek in 1877, but also about the changes in native life during Joseph's lifetime, from 1840 to 1904. It's an important look at our American heritage--both the injustices of our ancestors and the nobility and determination of those who took a stand for what's right.
LibraryThing link


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Master Cornhill

by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

This here's the story of a boy, one Michael Cornhill, who was sent out of London to escape the great plague of 1665. He returns to London only to find himself an orphan, his step-family and close neighbors all having died. So the eleven-and-a-half year old lad is on his own in the great city, trying to find a way to survive. How he does is an intriguing and enjoyable tale. Ms. McGraw does an exceptional job of describing the city of London in 1666. She has either done a painstaking job of research or she is a great liar. It seems like she's describing her own hometown. All in all, 'tis a good book. Check it out.
LibraryThing link


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