Read Alouds – May 2008

May 31, 2008 Categories: Books , Homeschooling | Comments Off  

Fly by Night by Francis Hardinge
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
Brother Sun, Sister Moon: The Life and Stories of St. Francis by Margaret Mayo
Archers, Alchemists, and 98 Other Medieval Jobs You Might Have Loved or Loathed by Priscilla Galloway
Magyk (Septimus Heap, Book 1) by Angie Sage

Josiah’s Reading – May 2008

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Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne
Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner

Noah’s Reading – May 2008

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How to Speak Dragonese (Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III) by Cressida Cowell
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Natalie’s Reading – May 2008

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The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen – Natalie’s Review
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis – Natalie’s Review


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There is nothing better than a weekend with lots of reading time, especially when the books you spend your time reading turn out to be terrific. I don’t give out 5 stars to books very often. I’ve read 54 books this year, and Tigerheart by Peter David is the 5th book I consider a 5-star read. It is based on Barrie’s Peter Pan, but it’s not a sequel or a prequel – more of Peter Pan in an alternate universe. A re-telling of the story. David was gutsy to take on one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time – it could have failed in a big, big way. Fotunately for him, it works, and works brilliantly.

This book is everything you could possibly want in a novel: adventure, magic, love, danger, truth, tragedy, and triumph. The best thing is that this is a children’s novel in the same way that the Harry Potter books are “children’s books.” By which I mean that anyone who loves a good story will appreciate this book.

Tigerheart is the story of Paul Dear. Paul’s father has regaled him with stories about The Boy and his magical land, Anyplace, where The Boy fights pirates and saves Indian princesses and has a pixie for a sidekick. When Paul’s new baby sister dies, his mother changes, and Paul is determined to find a new baby sister for her – in Anyplace. His adventures with The Boy, Fiddlefix, Gwenny, the White Tiger, and the Vagabonds demand more of him than he ever imagined, and make more of him than he ever thought he could be.

After reading the first chapter, I knew I wanted to read this aloud to the kids, but I needed to read it quickly so I could comment on the book’s forum for Del Rey Books. I will definitely be coming back to it in the next few months so that I can share it with the kids. The author’s style is not as much narrator as it is storyteller, complete with asides and advice to the readers. This is all done delightfully tongue-in-cheek, and makes for many laugh-out-loud moments. For example, here is Paul’s first meeting with the pixie, Fiddlefix:

She was clad in a skeleton leaf, or at least the remains of one, and she was a bit rounder in the hips than most women preferred – which was not something Paul noticed, being a boy and not understanding women.

But take heart! If he is fortunate enough to survive all that is going to happen to him before we take our leave of him – and we must tell you that his survival is not remotely guaranteed – then his reward, such as it is, will be to become an adult man and still not understand women. ~p. 38

Here are the storyteller’s words during a scene where The Boy is battling a fierce storm:

The Boy was helpless.

We must now take the briefest of side steps to address what we’re sure has just occurred to you, in order to make clear that certain apparent inconsistencies are, in fact, not. And if these have not occurred to you, be not angry with us that we are interrupting our narrative for a short time to deal with them, but rather focus your ire on the quality of your education that you didn’t notice what we are about to tell you. ~ p. 188

Tigerheart is due to be released on June 17th. I hope that this won’t be Peter David’s only adventure in Anyplace.

Jonathan’s Reading – May 2008

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Some Fine Dog by Patti Sherlock
Horrible Harry and the Green Slime by Suzy Kline
Horrible Harry and the Ant Invasion by Suzy Kline
In the Garden (Andrew Lost #4) by J.C. Greenburg
Under Water (Andrew Lost #5) by J.C. Greenburg

Review of Gone

May 30, 2008 Categories: Books , Reviews | 3 Comments  

(Gone was provided to me by Special Ops Media for the purpose of review.)


In the blink of an eye, everyone disappears. Gone. Except for anyone young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents – unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers – that grow stronger by the day.

It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: on your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else did.

When I agreed to read and review an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Michael Grant’s Gone, I thought the premise sounded fascinating, and that it would be an interesting read. I had no idea that it would be so enthralling that I would spend most of a day reading from page 285 until the thrilling ending on page 558. All I did this afternoon was finish this book. Only to discover that, even though there is an ending of sorts, the story is not over. After some research online, I found out that this is the first in a planned six-book series from Michael Grant. And, since Gone isn’t even being released until June 24th, I wonder how long I’ll have to wait for the sequel!

I read one review that likened this to Lord of the Flies a la Stephen King plus a little X-Men. I couldn’t have described it better myself. First of all, really try to imagine what it would be like if, one day, everyone in your town aged 14 or over disappeared. Poof. Completely gone.

Stay-at-home moms disappear, leaving their toddlers and babies alone, unattended. Teachers, day care workers, doctors and nurses. Policemen, firefighters.

The young kids look to the older kids for answers, for protection. But the oldest one is only 13 years old. I wouldn’t even let a 13-year-old babysit my kids.

Grant does a good job of showing the horror without going overboard. I’m pretty sure this book is being called Young Adult, and it should be. While some tweens and young teens could handle the book, those with a strong sense of empathy might be disturbed by the predicaments in which these kids find themselves. A 13-year-old girl taking over at the daycare, trying to take care of all the babies and toddlers, with help from her 10-year-old brother. Searching a house and finding a baby that had starved to death. Bullies taking over as the self-proclaimed leadership, and ruling with baseball bats.

That sounds awful enough, doesn’t it? Then add the fact that there is some sort of weird membrane-like dome-shaped barrier encasing the entire area. And animals are mutating. And, kids are starting to develop powers. Some of the good kids, but some of the bullies, too. Oh, and on your 14th birthday, at the very minute of your birth, you disappear. Poof. Gone.

This book is extremely well-written, with the right amount of description to put the reader right into the action – smelling the smells, seeing the sights, feeling the fear and anxiety – but not to slow the pace. It kept me turning page after page. And I will definitely be picking up book two in the series to see what happens next. Don’t let the YA label keep any of you grown-ups from picking this up! If you love a good story, this book delivers.

Links for Friday

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Michelle’s two boys, Jacob and Nicholas, are here for the weekend, which means many Orcs will be killed, Pokemon battles fought, Nascar races won, and Madden NFL games played. The boys are ODing on gaming this weekend before we have our 2nd Annual Two-Month Game Free Break. That’s right – June and July will be game-free at our house. At least for the kids. And me, but I don’t game anyway. I don’t think it’s likely Kevin will completely give up Call of Duty 4, but he limits his gaming to evenings anyway. The kids and I will be spending lots of time at the park and the pool, and enjoying the good weather before the unbearable hotness known as August in Eastern Washington descends upon us.

So, anyone watch the Lost finale? Man, that was good.

While the boys are gaming this weekend, I plan to finish Gone and Tigerheart and then start and make a good dent in New Moon (the sequel to Twilight), which came yesterday.

Here are a few links for your weekend surfing:

~ Volumes to Go Before You Die – the NYT on 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that a reasonably well-educated person will have read a third of them. (My own score, tallied after I made this estimate, was 303.) That leaves 668 titles. An ambitious reader might finish off one a month without disrupting a personal reading program already in place. That means he or she would cross the finish line in the year 2063. At that point, upon reaching the last page of title No. 1,001, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, death might come as a relief.

~ In case you’re curious about which books are actually on the list, you can find all 1001 of them listed here. The above quote says that a “reasonably well-educated person will have read a third of them.” I am definitely not “reasonably well-educated.” I counted 39 that I’ve read, 29 that are on my to-read list, and 2 that I started, hated, and didn’t finish.

~ Spunky has blogged about the embarrassment that is being called Subwaygate. She sums up my feelings nicely. Here’s a snippet:

Let’s be a bit more adult about it, accept their decision, and if you must quietly remind them that you exist too, but then it’s time to move on. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot clamoring for a boycott. Marketing expert, Ned Barnett said that Subway made a marketing blunder with this contest, but this outcry makes us appear arrogant and immature. Do we really want to cultivate that image?

I’m actually surprised that Tennesse state officials can tell homeschoolers in that state that they need not apply to any government job and there is nary a peep from the homeschool community, but let a company exclude homeschoolers from an essay contest and the homeschool community cries foul, demands their right to enter, and starts eating at Quiznos!

I say, let Subway exercise their right to hold a contest and allow the entrants to be of their choosing not ours. It’s not fun to be excluded from a contest, but the alternative is to limit their freedom based on our choices. As homeschoolers, is that the message you want to send out to the watching world?

~ Our worship leader showed this video at church on Sunday – pretty wonderful stuff. I love to see creative ways to express worship.

~ I’ve decided to give Twitter a try.

What will you be doing this weekend?

The two-hour Lost finale

May 29, 2008 Categories: Television | Comments Off  

I’m blogging about it at Books and Movies. (9 pm to 11pm PST) Update: Oh. my. gosh. What a finale!

Talking TV

May 28, 2008 Categories: Television | 2 Comments  

Which cancelled programs do you miss the most? That’s what I’m talking about here today.