Saturday Review of Books: July 11, 2015

“My television fed me visions, but I never created my own until I became a reader.” ~Barry Lane

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Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Arcady’s Goal by Eugene Yelchin

Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote the essay “Live Not By Lies” in 1974, just before he was arrested by the Soviet police and exiled from his country. My Saturday Review friend Glynn led me to the essay in a review he wrote.

Arcady’s Goal is the story of a boy in Stalinist Russia who has been raised on lies. Arcady lives in an orphanage. The director of the orphanage lies about how the boys are treated and skims the provisions from the government, meant for the orphans, to feather his own nest. The inspectors of orphanages go along with the lies. Everyone is complicit, even the boys themselves, who show off their soccer skills to earn a bit of favored treatment. When Ivan Ivanych comes to the orphanage, disguised as an inspector, but really a bereft father looking for an orphan to adopt, Arcady makes an impression. But can Arcady and Ivan break through all the lies, the ones they have been told by the government, the ones they have told to survive, and even the lies they have told themselves, to make a real family built on trust?

Born and educated in Russia, author Eugene Yeltsin left the former Soviet Union when he was twenty-seven years old. His other children’s novel set in Communist Soviet Union, Breaking Stalin’s Nose, won a Newbery Honor. His writing style in this book is stark and unadorned, like the subject. The descriptions, like the illustrations, are gray and without much hope, although Arcady’s courage and tenacity shine through even in the soccer games he plays so well. And yet the book has an almost implausible happy ending as Arcady and his adoptive father do manage to form a connection.

Perhaps I am a pessimist, but I don’t know if I can believe that it so easy to change from believing and participating in The Lie to confronting lies with the truth. Easy or not, I do believe that I and especially my children are going to find out very soon what it is like to live in a culture permeated and ultimately ruled by lies and half-truths. In fact, we are already faced with the choice of whether to participate in the lies our society is telling or to stand up and declare the truth. There will be a cost for the latter decision, and there may not be a happy ending in this life.

“And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me. . . . So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood—of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one’s family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies—or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one’s children and contemporaries.”

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

Captivated by His Beauty

The sermon at my church this morning was a Biblical exposition of this hymn, Hast Thou Heard Him, Seen Him, Known Him?

My pastor spoke of the worth of knowing Jesus, of the worthlessness of idols, and of our joy and responsibility to “crown Him (our) unrivaled King.” I was reminded of this poem, Barter by Sara Teasdale:

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Of course, it’s not for the creation that I am willing to give all that I “have been or could be.” Those intimations of joy found in the appreciation of the Creator’s handiwork are only shadows of the Creator Himself. It’s Jesus himself who is worth all that I am.

“But what, in conclusion, of Joy? To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian….It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the point naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods, the sight of a signpost is a great matter….But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. ‘We would be at Jerusalem.'” ~C.S. Lewis

I am also reminded of Jesus’ parables: ““Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:44-46 (NKJV)

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One gliimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
~Esther Kerr Rusthoi

Saturday Review of Books: July 4, 2015

“What do we, as a nation, care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses?” ~John Ruskin

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Biographies for the Fourth of July

I have always enjoyed the Childhood of Famous Americans series of biographies of great Americans. These stories are somewhat fictionalized and usually focus on the childhood and young adult years of the well known person who is being written about. I found a few of these (ex-library copies) at a recent book sale:

Tom Jefferson, Boy in Colonial Days by Helen Albee Monsell. Tom’s father tells him, “Just to be strong is not enough. You must also have a trained mind in your strong body.”
Stephen Foster, Boy Minstrel by Helen Boyd Higgins. Did you know that Stephen Foster was born on the Fourth of July?
Walter Reed, Boy Who Wanted to Know by Helen Boyd Higgins. Walter Reed is inspired by the long illness and slow recovery of a friend to become a doctor and help others who have yellow fever and other diseases.
Woodrow Wilson, Boy President by Helen Albee Monsell. There’s an encouraging story in this book about young Tommy Wilson, age nine, struggling to learn to read.
Noah Webster, Boy of Words by Helen Boyd Higgins. “The day Noah was accepted at Yale College, the Websters were the proudest family in the whole of Connecticut.”
Nathan Hale, Puritan Boy by Augusta Stevenson. Nathan Hale was one of seven boys in the Hale family with only one sister, Elizabeth.

Interesting facts and stories like these are embedded in a narrative that engages young readers and inspires them to emulate the heroes’ good qualities while also reading about the youthful mischief and mistakes that even heroes can make.

I already had several of these biographies in my home library:
Lucretia Mott, Girl of Old Nantucket By Constance Burnett.
Thomas Edison: Young Inventor by Sue Gutheridge
Robert Fulton: Boy Craftsman by Marguerite Henry.
Oliver Hazard Perry, Boy of the Sea by Laura Long.
Jim Thorpe, Olympic Champion by Guernsey Van Riper.
Davy Crockett, Young Rifleman by Aileen Wells Parks.
Benjamin Franklin, Young Printer by Augusta Stevenson.
George Washington, Young Leader by Augusta Stevenson.
Molly Pitcher, Young Patriot by Augusta Stevenson.
Myles Standish, Adventurous Boy by Augusta Stevenson.
Will Rogers, Young Cowboy by Guernsey Van Riper.
Martha Washington, America’s First Lady by Jean Brown Wagoner.
Betsy Ross, Designer of our Flag by Ann Weil.
Annie Oakley, Little Sure Shot by Ellen Wilson.

I’ve read most of these, and I find them delightful. The reading level and the content are appropriate for ages seven through eleven. If a child prefers books about “real people”, these stories would be great beginning chapter books to steer them towards.

A lot of these old biographical stories have been weeded out of the public libraries, but you can still find some of them in paperback reprint editions at the bookstore or in the old hardcover editions at library book sales. I think they stand the test of time for a young reader’s introduction to historical heroes. Even as an adult, I can read them with enjoyment, and they make me curious to read more about the subject of the biography. What more can one ask from a junior biography?

Happy Canada Day!

July 1 is Canada Day. Here are some suggestions, mostly fiction, if you’re ready to celebrate with a good book:

Picture Books:

Bannatyne-Cugnet, Jo. A Prairie Alphabet. Illustrated by Yvette Moore.
Carney, Margaret. At Grandpa’s Sugar Bush. Illustrated by Janet Wilson.
Carrier, Roch. The Hockey Sweater. Illustrated by Sheldon Cohen.
Gay, Marie-Louise. Stella, Queen of the Snow. Illus. Groundwood, 2000.
Ellis, Sarah. Next Stop! Illus. by Ruth Ohi. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2000.
Harrison, Ted. A Northern Alphabet.
Kurelek, William. A Prairie Boy’s Winter.
Kurelek, William. A Prairie Boy’s Summer.
McFarlane, Sheryl. Jessie’s Island. Illustrated by Sheena Lott. Orca Book Publishers, 2005.
Service, Robert. The Cremation of Sam McGee. Illustrated by Ted Harrison.

Children’s Fiction:

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, of course and all its sequels. Essential Canadiana.
Our Canadian Girl and Dear Canada series.
Burnford, Sheila. The Incredible Journey.
Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton.
Semicolon review here.
Hobbs, Will. Far North.
Mowat, Farley. Lost in the Barrens.
Mowat, Farley. Owls in the Family.
Stanbridge, Joanne. The Leftover Kid. Northern Lights, 1997.

YA and Adult Fiction:

Craven, Margaret. I Heard the Owl Call My Name.
Freedman, Benedict and Nancy. Mrs. Mike.
Mitchell, W.O. Who Has Seen the Wind?
Paulsen, Gary. Hatchet.

Nonfiction:
Evangeline and the Acadians by Robert Tallant.
Canadian history series by Thomas Costain. Although I haven’t read this series of books, Costain is one of my favorite authors of narrative nonfiction. There are six books in the series, and the first is called The White and the Gold.

I haven’t read all of the books on this list, but I plan to, whenever I can manage to find time for a Canada Project. Titles in bold print are available from Meriadoc Homeschool Library.

More Canadian books, mostly for kids by Becky at Farm School.

Celebrating Literary Canada at Chasing Ray in 2008.

Any more Canadian book suggestions?

Question of the Week and Reading Slump

I posted this question on Facebook, but I thought I’d try it here on the blog as well. What is your favorite Bible verse or your “life verse(s)”? Has God given you a verse or passage that is especially meaningful to you? If you comment and tell me, I will mark your verse in my Bible as a reminder to pray for you.

I’ve already enjoyed marking several verses for friends who commented on Facebook. I shaded the verses and wrote the person’s name beside the verse. That way whenever I read that particular verse, I will pray for that person. So far the verses that people have shared are: Jeremiah 29:11, John 1:4-5, Psalm 1, Isaiah 41:10, Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 91:4, I Peter 4:10, Philippians 4:8, Philippians 4:13, Psalm 121:1-2, Colossians 3:23-24, Job 13:15 (mine) and John 6:68 (mine, too).

As for reading and blogging, I’m in something of a slump. I’ve pushed my way through several books in the last couple of weeks, but nothing has really grabbed me. I have been reading a lot in my Bible: Philippians, Nehemiah, and Numbers. Now that’s an interesting combination.

I have stacks and lists of books that I want to read or plan to read or need to read, but everything feels disconnected and a bit dull. Any suggestions? Have you ever dealt with a reading slump? What did you read or what did you do to reignite your interest in books and reading?

I have been watching the K-drama Heirs. It’s rather soap opera-ish, and I’m not sure it’s doing my reading blahs any good.

Saturday Review of Books: June 27, 2015


“A college – or a church – committed to the supremacy of God in the life of the mind will cultivate many fertile, and a few great, imaginations. And O how the world needs God-besotted minds that can say the great things of God and sing the great things of God and play the great things of God in ways that have never been said or sung or played before.” ~John Piper

SatReviewbutton

Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

You can go to this post for over 100 links to book lists for the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. Feel free to add a link to your own list.

If you enjoy the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon, please invite your friends to stop by and check out the review links here each Saturday.

Finishing Stats for 48-hour Book Challenge

So, I read for a total of 14.5 hours.

I blogged (wrote reviews) for a total of 3 hours. It takes me a long time to write a simple review/reaction to what I read.

I read five books and reviewed four of the five.

I read a total of 1211 pages of children’s and young adult fiction.

My fifth book for the reading challenge was The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland. I think I have something to say about that book, but right now I can’t remember what I wanted to write.

Anyway, thanks, Mother Reader, for hosting the challenge. It was real. It was fun. Real fun.

Can you tell I’m a little fried right now for some reason? It wasn’t the reading challenge. Life keeps happening while I’m trying to read.

Some Kind of Magic by Adrian Fogelin

Book #4 for the 48-hour Book Challenge
223 pages, 3 hours

The last summer before high school. Things are changing for Cass, Jemmie, Justin, and Ben, and some of them are ready for a change while others just want to keep things the way they have always been.

The four friends, plus Ben’s almost seven year old little brother Cody, discover an old hat that might be magical and an old abandoned building that seems to be just the right place to spend their summer before high school. As relationships between the four friends and others in the neighborhood shift and change, Cody has to figure out what the hat is telling him and whether to listen. And Justin must decide whether to try to think and speak for himself or give up before he ever gets started. Cass has to learn to accept the changes that are inevitable. Ben needs to deal with the restlessness inside him. Jemmie just wants to enjoy the summer and then head for high school, new people, and new adventures.

I liked this book a lot. I’m not sure the pacing is just right for some readers. The book sort of moseys along like a long, hot summer. And the way it’s arranged in chapters from different characters’ viewpoints made it hard at first for me to keep the characters straight. The chapters from the point of view of the teens–Cass, Jemmie, Justin, and Ben—are written in first person, and the chapters told from Cody’s vantage point are all in third person. Because Cody’s so young, only six years old, and couldn’t really “tell” his parts of the story in a mature voice? Anyway, the shifting voices and the slow pace might throw some readers off, but I didn’t have any trouble sticking with it and becoming engrossed.

Ben is reading To Kill a Mockingbird for summer reading, and there’s a bit of a TKAM feeling to this story: a neighborhood story with kids trying to figure out an old mystery from way back, family history, serious stuff going on under the surface of a summer’s recreation. The neighborhood setting is in Tallahassee, Florida, where the author herself resides. And although one of the young people in the story, Jemmie, is black, there’s not really a hint of racial tension in the story, unlike TKAM.

However, I looked up the author, and learned that Some Kind of Magic is the sixth and final book in a series of books about the same neighborhood, called appropriately enough, The Neighborhood Novels. And the first book in the series, Crossing Jordan, is about Cass and Jemmie when they first met, and it definitely deals with racial tension and bridging the gap between white and black residents of this multi-racial neighborhood. I am really interested in reading the first five books in this series so that I can get the backstory of these characters and of other residents of The Neighborhood. Maybe that backstory would have helped me keep the characters straight as I began to read Some Kind of Magic. Still, I recommend this book on its own, and on the basis of having read this one, I also recommend that you look up the other books in the Neighborhood Novels series:

Crossing Jordan
Anna Casey’s Place in the World “Anna Casey must deal with the loss of her family and adjust to living in a foster home. Feeling abandoned and alone, Anna turns to her closest companion, her explorer journal.”
My Brother’s Hero “When his aunt and uncle win a Christmas cruise Ben and his family are off to watch their marina in the Florida Keys. This is Ben’s chance to live aboard a boat, swim and snorkel, fish for the big ones, and have some adventures for a change.”
The Big Nothing “When everyone in his life lets him down, Justin Riggs discovers something inside himself—a hidden talent that helps him survive.”
The Sorta Sisters “Anna and Mica have the same problem. They’re both lonely. Although separated by the entire state of Florida, they keep each other company through the exchange of letters and strange and sometimes mystifying objects.”
Some Kind of Magic

Yep. Gotta add these to the TBR list.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.