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Spring Reading Thing 2010

I need another reading challenge about like I needed to eat all of those Girl Scouts Thin Mints last week, but I’ve eyed Katrina’s reading challenges over the past couple of years, and this year, I’m joining in.  However, due to a plethora of things I have on my plate right now, I really want this to be as low-stress as possible.  I’ve decided to challenge myself to read one book from my official (and recently begun) TBR list.  That’s it.  These are books I’ve read reviews of online and thought to myself, “I’d like to read this some day.”  Well, some day has come.  I have until June 20 to read and post my thoughts about the book.  I haven’t decided which book I’ll read yet, but when I do, I’ll let you know.


Carnival of Homeschooling

This week’s Carnival of Homeschooling has been published at Beverly’s Homeschool Blog.  Check out this wonderful carnival if you’re in the middle of your homeschooling journey, just beginning, or just considering it.  To learn how to submit an entry for a future edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, visit Why Homeschool.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen


It’s usually challenging for me to write a monthly Kids’ Picks post, mainly because I’m the main book picker here at the House of Hope.  Oh, my girls have plenty of opportunity to choose books for our read-alouds times or for their own perusal, but ultimately, I control what comes into the house.  I do let them pick a couple of books each time we go to the library, but I limit it to two or three each because if I didn’t, we’d end checking out the entire Arthur or Franklin collection.  😉  Please don’t revoke my Kids’ Picks button!  🙂

This month, though, I have a genuine Kids’ Pick, and one that reaches back a couple of years, at that.  Louise requested We’re Going on a Bear Hunt last week.  This is one of those books that my girls loved, loved, loved when they were younger.  However, as they’ve gotten older (after all, they’re very mature 5 and 4 year olds now! 😉 ), I regret to say that I’ve let quite a few of these classics fall by the wayside.  In fact, we have one whole long shelf of boardbooks that were once beloved favorites but that we never look at now.  We own We’re Going on a Bearhunt in paperback, and after Louise repeatedly requested that we read it, it took a little searching on our full-to-overflowing shelves, but we found it.  There are several lessons in this for me:

  • Just because my children are capable of and willing to listen to long chapter books doesn’t mean we need to abandon picture books (even “babyish” ones). 
  • Children love repetition and familiar stories, even after we are sick of them.
  • I shouldn’t get so wrapped up in my latest library finds that I neglect my own home library.  I’m very guilty of this.
  • Louise is my little songbird:  she is forever making up songs and rhymes.  I really need to indulge and encourage this, especially through the books we read. 

I actually can’t believe I haven’t included this particular story on my Best Picture Books list before now.  (I’ll attribute it to the fact that I really have neglected our home library.)  This is such a great toddler and preschool picture book–it’s very repetitive and just begs to be acted out.  It is my go-to rhyme when we keep the nursery at church and the natives begin to get restless.  Helen Oxenbury‘s illustrations are very expressive; my girls have always been concerned about the rather dejected-looking bear at the end of the story.  In short, this is one that’s too good to be missed.  You can visit the author’s website here.  I even found a video of him performing We’re Going on a Bearhunt.  Enjoy!

As if all of this is not enough, I have photographic evidence that this book is indeed a genuine Kids’ Pick here at the House of Hope.  The photographs here were snapped back about two years ago, and they are of Louise with her favorite book.  Seeing these pictures makes me almost teary-eyed, but it also gives me another reason to look forward to the new addition to our family who will be here faster than we can get ready for him!

For more Kids’ Picks, visit 5 Minutes for Books!

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

We just finished reading The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner yesterday.  This was the first time I’d ever read it, and I confess I picked it up because I assumed it was a mystery (based on the word mystery being appended to “Boxcar Children” in the series that grew out of it).  Since I had never read it, I thought it would be perfect for this month’s Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge.  Too, we had just finished Farmer Boy (read my thoughts here), and I was ready to read something shorter. 

Although I was a little surprised that The Boxcar Children contains very little of what I call mystery, it was a rousing success with my girls.  It is very simply written.  One thing I noticed is that Gertrude Chandler Warner used absolutely no contractions in the writing of this story.   I find it difficult to read a story without using contractions, so it seemed a little bit stilted and “Dick and Jane-ish” to me.  Of course, this didn’t bother my girls in the least–they loved this story.  In fact, Louise wants to re-check it from the library! 

When I think about it, maybe it is a mystery, still.  There are mysterious elements (i.e. unidentified noises, etc.), and it is about four children who are running away from a grandfather whom they don’t like.  There is nothing at all scary in the story, so it is a great way to introduce a few of the elements of mystery, though.  Its resolution is pleasant for everyone involved, including their maligned grandfather.  It is a very gentle story, and I would think that children even younger than mine (currently 5 1/2 and 4) would enjoy it.  In fact, in terms of simplicity (‘though not of genre or storyline) it reminds me a little of the My Father’s Dragon series (read my thoughts on this series here and here and here). 

Despite the fact that The Boxcar Children did not exactly meet my expectations, it was not a disappointment.  I can see why it’s a classic, and I’m glad to have met Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny.  I look forward to sharing more of these stories with my girls.

If you’d like to read about what other bloggers are reading for this month’s Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge, be sure to check out 5 Minutes for Books!

The Week in Words


I’ve been enjoying Leaving Gee’s Bend, a juvenile fiction selection by Irene Latham.   For the past several days, it has been my “recreational” read while I work through Mornings on Horseback for March’s Semicolon Book Club.  I’m enjoying both books, but today I wanted to share a little portion from Leaving Gee’s Bend.  It is a lovely, lovely story, and while this little snippet doesn’t really communicate exactly why I like the book so much, it’s a word picture I want to remember. 

I reckon Mama had been saving them potatoes to pay Teacher on the first day of school.  With the cotton harvest almost all done, school would be starting early next week.

I sighed as I put ’em in my pocket.  Now there wouldn’t be nothing to give Teacher for coming all the way from Camden.

Then again, could be Mama had something else stored up that nobody knew about.  Something else that would be just right for Teacher.  Like last Thanksgiving when the food was all set out and we was just about to say the blessing and Mama said, “Wait.  Everybody close your eyes.”  When we opened ’em, there was a fat, ripe tomato sitting in Mama’s hand!  Like it was August instead of November.

She’d wrapped that tomato in newspaper and buried it in the dirt behind the barn.  Not a one of us knew about it till she held it out, then sliced it up and put it on the table.  Didn’t matter that it was soft and a little mealy.  It was a fresh tomato when everything else had long since been blanched and preserved, then stored in jars on a shelf in the barn.  (53)

For more Week in Words posts, visit Breath of Life.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

*Warning:  This post likely contains spoilers!  Beware if you’ve never read this book!*

I did it!  I finally finished A Tale of Two Cities!  This book has been on my “need to read” list since I was in high school.  Somehow I missed the class in which it was required reading, so I never read it.  I’m making up for lost time.  I have two regrets about this book: 

  1. that I didn’t read it sooner.
  2. that I didn’t read it faster. 

First, I took a whole semester of French Revolution/Napoleonic period history in college, and much of this novel would’ve made even more sense to me then.  Of course, I had other books to read then, so I never even thought about it.  Second, if I had only managed to read this one in a week instead of several weeks, I wouldn’t have forgotten the identity of some of the minor (but major in their contributions to the plot) characters.  Such is life.  I feel like I slogged through the first two-thirds of the book, and then, when most of the major characters are once again in Paris, I picked up speed.  It got good then. 

Ah, Sydney Carton.  Sydney Carton.  Sydney Carton.  He surprised me.  Way back when I posted these quotes from the novel, I had nothing more than a mere inkling of an idea of how it would all work out.  I have to say that this novel has one of the most satisfying (‘though heart-wrenching) conclusions I’ve read.  What better theme than redemption?  This exchange got me:

‘Are you dying for them?  she whispered.

‘And his wife and child.  Hush!  Yes.’

‘Oh, you will let me hold your brave hand, stranger?’

‘Hush!  Yes, my poor sister; to the last.’

I’ve never written much about the name of my blog before, but Victor Hugo wrote somewhere in Les Miserables (another classic I’ve yet to complete) that “hope is the word God has written on the brow of every man.”  I love the idea that as long as we have hope (and we do), we have no reason to despair.  I like to see the theme of hope played out in literature, and if Sydney Carton is not a seemingly hopeless character who ultimately provides the greatest gift to his friends, I don’t know who is. 

Strangely, I thought of To Kill a Mockingbird while I was reading of Sydney Carton’s sacrifice, and it wasn’t Atticus Finch or Tom Robinson who came to mind.  It was Ms. Dubose.  I always loved that little vignette–how Atticus makes Jem go and read to her, a very crochety old lady.  Later, Jem finds out the reason for his father’s insistence that he help her.  In my opinion, she is a noble character because of her steely determination to die a free woman, even in the midst of her pain.  (I don’t want to provide too many details–I don’t want to turn this into a post which provides spoilers for two books.  If you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, please do yourself a favor and read it.  Thank you.)  Sydney Carton’s decision to finally do this one thing right reminds me of her.

Of course, there’s the other part of A Tale of Two Cities that I love so much:  the humor.  Jerry Cruncher and Miss Pross provide just the comic relief needed in a heartbreaking story.  I’ve quoted the novel extensively in my Week in Words posts, and most of the quotes pertain to these two characters.  For a sampling of Dickens’ humor, you can read these posts here and here and here.   

I love this book, and I’m really glad I finally read it.  Now I want to watch a screen version.  Does anyone have any recommendations?  Any to avoid?

I Read It!–March

This month’s edition of I Read It! is up over at 5 Minutes for Books.  Here’s how it works:

We invite you to share a review that you read at anyone’s recommendation.  You can link up any review from the previous month that shares that information. If you don’t share that information in your reviews, then write a new post for I Read It! and link back to the reviews as you add in the information.

I Read It! is a great way to find even more good books to read!  🙂  This month, I’m linking up my review of The Hunger Games

Check it out!

Carnival of Homeschooling

This week’s Carnival of Homeschooling has been published at Homeschool Buzz.com.  Check out this wonderful carnival if you’re in the middle of your homeschooling journey, just beginning, or just considering it.  To learn how to submit an entry for a future edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, visit Why Homeschool.

The Week in Words


I did it!  I finished A Tale of Two Cities!  I’ll save my thoughts, such as they are, for another post, but I can’t resist sharing a few quotes from this fabulous story one last time. 

I like all the descriptions of Jerry Cruncher because I like Dickens’ brand of comic relief.  Here’s one more:

. . . Mr. Lorry looked at Jerry in considerable doubt and mistrust.  The honest tradesman’s manner of receiving the look did not inspire confidence; he changed the leg on which he rested, as often as if he had fifty of those limbs, and were trying them all; he examined his finger-nails with a very questionable closeness of attention; and whenever Mr. Lorry’s eye caught his, he was taken with that peculiar kind of short cough requiring the hollow of a hand before it, which is seldom, if ever, known to be an infirmity attendant on perfect openness of character.  (301)

Can’t you just picture this?

My favorite scene in the whole book, though, is when Miss Pross and Madame Defarge face off.  I positively laughed out loud at this, even though I know Madame Defarge to be a seriously evil character.  I love Miss Pross in this episode!

‘You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer,’ said Miss Pross, in her breathing.  ‘Nevertheless, you shall not get the better of me.  I am an Englishwoman.’  (358)

Will you indulge me for just one more from Miss Pross?

‘If those eyes of yours were bed-winches,’ returned Miss Pross, ‘and I was an English four-poster, they shouldn’t loose a splinter of me.  No, you wicked foreign woman; I am your match.’ (358)

One more time:  I love Miss Pross.  🙂

To read more quotations collected by bloggers  for The Week in Words, visit Breath of Life.  Oh, and stay tuned for my thoughts on A Tale of Two Cities!

Friday Felicities

I didn’t get to share any Friday Felicities last week, so I’m thinking back over a couple of weeks to come up with my happies for this week. 

  • Even though it’s still cold, some signs of spring are beginning to appear.  I particularly like the punch of red that greets me in the school room thanks to the sweet little pot of tulips my dear husband and precious children gave me for Valentine’s Day.  

  • After celebrating the Chinese New Year last Monday, Steady Eddie reminded the girls that they could’ve told their grandmother and great grandmother “Happy New Year” when they saw them earlier in the afternoon.  Louise’s response?  “I did.  In French.  Very quietly.”  🙂  That girl.
  • The church Bible quiz team which Steady Eddie and I coach together won in their division at last Saturday’s competition.  It was a long day (with a gaggle of rambunctious elementary-aged boys, including my nephews, as well as a few girls), but it was so worth it to know they’re hiding God’s Word in their hearts!
  • Our school room in the afternoon is a bright and cheery place as the sunlight streams through the windows.  It’s so good to see the sun!
  • It’s easier and easier to snap a “Caught Reading” picture these days!

Thank you, Lord, for these blessings!

For more Friday Felicities, check out  Becky’s blog!