SPECIAL EDITION: Saturday Review of Books, January 2, 2016

I can’t wait to get started on my annual collection of book lists for 2015/2016. So, this post is the Saturday Review of Books getting a head start on Wednesday evening, December 30, 2015. Link to your book list(s) anytime between now and next Saturday, the 9th, when we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.

SATURDAY January 2nd, is the annual special edition of the Saturday Review of Books especially for book lists. You can link to a list of your favorite books read in 2015, a list of all the books you read in 2015, a list of the books you plan to read in 2016, or any other end of the year or beginning of the year list of books. Whatever your list, it’s time for book lists. (Links to regular reviews are also welcome, and you can certainly link to more than one review or more than one list.)

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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.

This week only if you link to your book list and if you leave a comment asking for book recommendations for 2016, I’ll try to suggest some books that you might enjoy for future reading adventures.

Baker’s Dozen: 13 Upcoming Children’s Books I Want to Read in 2016

Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson. “Audacity Jones is an eleven-year-old orphan who aches for adventure, a challenge to break up the monotony of her life at Miss Maisie’s School for Wayward Girls. Life as a wayward girl isn’t so bad; Audie has the best of friends, a clever cat companion, and plenty of books to read. Still, she longs for some excitement, like the characters in the novels she so loves encounter.” (Amazon blurb)

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan. Three children, enslaved in a cocoa plantation in modern-day Ivory Coast, attempt escape. This book is by the same author who wrote Golden Boy about an albino boy in Tanzania.

The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew Chilton.

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Gjertsen Malone. One boy is stuck in a girls’ school and decides to get himself expelled.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker, wonderful author of the Clementine books and of this book for adults. I’m sure this new book will be good, too.

Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart. Boy goes after his stolen horse.

The Turn of the Tide by Roseanne Parry. Earthquake, tsunami, and second chances.

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad. Set in Denmark.

A Week Without Tuesday by Angelica Banks. Fantasy about a fairy tale world which collides with ours.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and a two-time Newbery Medalist. ‘Nuff said.

Booked by Kwame Alexander. A new sports (soccer) verse novel by the Newbery author of The Crossover.

The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. An art mystery set in the roaring twenties.

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner. “Unsure of how to get her family’s attention, Charlie comes across the surprise of her life one day while ice-fishing . . . in the form of a floppy, scaly fish offering to grant her a wish in exchange for its freedom. Charlie can’t believe her luck until she realizes that this fish has a funny way of granting wishes.” (Amazon blurb)

If any publishers want to send me an ARC of any of these, I won’t turn it down.

Baker’s Dozen: 13 Books I Got for Christmas

All I really wanted for Christmas was books, books for my library and for my personal reading. So that’s what I got, and a lovely set of books they are:

1. The Father Brown Reader II: More Stories from Chesterton, adapted by Nancy Carpentier Brown. Doesn’t this sound delicious? Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, adapted for middle grade readers.

2. Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle. The edition I got is a small, child-sized book. Just lovely.

3. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.

4. Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace. We’re big Betsy-Tacy fans here, but I somehow lost my copy of this book in the series.

5. How To See an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman.

6. The Gardener by Sarah Stewart. A Caldecott Honor book.

7. The Child’s Gifts: A Twelfth Night Tale by Tomas Blanco.

8. The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith. Prequel to The Green Ember.

9. Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria.

10. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski.

11. Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass.

12. Our Island Story: A History of Britain for Boys and Girls, from the Romans to Queen Victoria by H.E.Marshall.

13. Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon.

I’m looking forward to reading the books that are new to me and placing the picture books in my library.

Baker’s Dozen: The Best Middle Grade Fiction I Read in 2015

1. Mennyms Under Siege by Sylvia Waugh. Greenwillow, 1996. This doll story is not a new book, and it won’t appeal to all readers, even those who like stories of dolls and the creatures living hidden lives alongside human beings (The Borrowers? The Doll People series by Ann Martin?). Mennyms Under Siege is much darker and more philosophical than most doll books, and its concern with the themes of death and thwarted love and over-protection feels almost young adult rather than middle grade. Anyway, it’s a good book, and I look forward to reading the first two books in the series and the last two.

2. I Don’t Know How the Story Ends by J.B. Cheaney. (2015)

3. Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. (2015)

4. Down Ryton Water by Eva Roe Gaggin. Another oldie, published in 1941, and winner of a Newbery honor in 1942.

5. Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. (2015)

6. Twelve Bright Trumpets by Margaret Leighton.

7. The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville. (2015)

8. The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall. (2015)

9. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith. (2015) Rabbits with swords, and very popular in my library and among homeschoolers that I know.

10. Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.

11. Mikis and the Donkey by Bib Dumon Tak. (2015)

12. Walking Home by Eric Walters. (2015)

13. Take Wing by Jean Little.

Baker’s Dozen: Books to Read for my Around the World Project

I’m planning a new project for 2016, an expansion of my Africa Project. This one is an around the world project in which I hope to read at least one children’s book from or related to each nation of the world. Some countries are easier than others to find books, available in English and written by a citizen of that country. I may have to settle for folktales retold by American or Births authors from some countries or even for books that are simply set in the target country, preferably written by someone who has at least visited the particular setting in the book.

So, here is the page for my Around the World Reading Project. Do you have any suggestions to add to my project list, especially for those countries for which I have no books listed? The books must be for children, available in English (translation or original) in the United States, and preferably written in and popular in the country of origin.

Here are thirteen of the books I already chose that I am planning to read this year:

Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall. (Australia)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. (Canada)

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. (Finland)

The Horse Without a Head by Paul Berna. (France)

The Adventures of Maya the Bee by Waldemar Bonsels, 1912. (Germany)

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. (India)

The Shadow of Ghadames by Joelle Stolz. (Libya)

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. (American author) (Mozambique)

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt. (Netherlands)

Platero y yo by Juan Jimenez. (Spain)

The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren. (Sweden)

Go Ahead, Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. (England)

Jamela’s Dress by Niki Daly. (South Africa)

I chose these particular books from the list mostly because I have them or have access to them. Have you read any of them? Any recommended or not?

Baker’s Dozen: The Best Adult and YA Fiction I Read in 2015

1. The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge.

2. The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge.

3. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge.

4. Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge.

5. The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge.

It was obviously the Year of Elizabeth Goudge, for me. If you’ve never read one of her books, I would highly recommend that you try The Dean’s Watch or The Bird in the Tree.

6. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon.

7. We Never Stood Alone by Bob DeGray.

8. Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein.

9. The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland. YA Arthurian fiction.

10. Diamond Boy by Michael Williams. YA fiction set in the diamond fields of Zimbabwe and in Kenya.

11. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

12. Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes. Although I never got around to reviewing this book, I enjoyed very much this fictionalized memoir of a family of Norwegian immigrants in the early twentieth century. The stories were sweet and illuminating in the vein of Life With Father or Cheaper by the Dozen.

13. Pirate Royal by John and Patricia Beatty.

Saturday Review of Books: December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas to all, and a very Happy New Year. No Saturday Review of Books this week—I’m busy celebrating my wonderful Savior’s birth. However, next week is the Annual Saturday Review of Books for Book Lists.

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Saturday, January 2, 2016 will be a special edition of the Saturday Review of Books, reserved especially for book lists. Link to your end of the year favorites list or your planning to read in 2016 list or any other book list that you want to share. All book list posts are welcome to ring in the new year.

And I’ll start posting my own Baker’s Dozen of Lists for 2015 and for beginning the new year, 2016. I love lists, especially book lists. I hope you all have had a good Christmas, full of books and family and most of all, full of Jesus. Tell everybody to stop by next Friday night/Saturday to participate in the Saturday Review of Books and Book Lists.

Saturday Review of Books: December 19, 2015

“The best of a book is not the thought which it contains,
but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

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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.

Saturday, January 2, 2016 will be a special edition of the Saturday Review of Books, reserved especially for book lists. Link to your end of the year favorites list or your planning to read in 2016 list or any other book list that you want to share. All book list posts are welcome to ring in the new year.

Venture at Midsummer by Eva-Lis Wuorio

I picked this book out of a bunch of ex-library discards because I had heard of the author somewhere. In fact, I have one of Ms. Wuorio’s books, To Fight in Silence, a fictional World War II story based on interviews with “hundreds of Norwegians who were training in Canada for the war, and dozens of Danish officials who were trying to explain their country’s predicament to the outside world,” on my To-Be-Read list. Someone, somewhere recommended the book to me, and I thought it sounded good.

So, Venture at Midsummer is set after World War II, maybe in the 1960’s; it was published in 1967. Lisa, a Finnish girl, has invited two boarding school friends, Gavin and Jordain, to spend the summer with her family in Finland, near the border with Russia, or the Soviet Union as it was called back then. The young people experience traditional Finnish customs such as a sauna bath and the celebration of Juhannis, Midsummer’s Day, and then they become involved in a dangerous journey across the border into Soviet Russia to help a new friend, Kai, pay a “debt of honor” to his guardian. The four teens kayak into a part of the country that used to be part of Finland, but was given to the Russians after World War II. There they find, of course, much more than they were looking for, and they learn to trust one another and work together as a team.

The setting in the borderlands of eastern Finland is particularly vivid and interesting since I didn’t know much about post-war Finland. I didn’t know that part of Finland was turned over to the Russians after the war or that thousands of Finns, given the option to swear allegiance to the Communist government of Soviet Russia, instead decided to leave their homes and make new lives within the new borders of Finland. In fact, I didn’t know much about Finland at all before reading this book, and now I know a little more.

I’m planning an around the world reading project, and I just realized that this book can be my first one for that project. I found this blog post about author Eva-Lis Wuorio and learned that she was a Finnish Canadian, having emigrated to Canada with her family when she was thirteen years old. I picked up another book by the same author from the same discard pile, Return of the Viking, and I’m looking forward to reading it. According to what I read, it’s a time travel book about some children who meet Norse explorer Leif Erickson.

Christmas in Leipzig, Germany, c. 1735

The Twenty Children of Johann Sebastian Bach by David Arkin.

As a part of a large donation to my library of ex-library books, I found this wonderful book about Bach and his family. The author says that of the twenty children (by two successive wives), seven did not live. So, that leaves thirteen little Bachs to learn to sing and play music and compose music. It must have been a delightful household.

The book mentions Christmas:

“Most wonderful of all were the times when the family gathered together at holidays with their friends. Then the immortal music of all the Bachs would ring out for the earth and heavens to hear. Perhaps they would sing the Christmas Oratorio, or a cantata, or maybe they would just make up music as they went along.”

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was composed in 1734, so that’s why I dated this Christmas post 1735. I think this celebration of music and Bach and his family would be a great read at any time of the year. The illustrations by author David Arkin are lovely and detailed pencil drawings of all the Bachs and their musical activities. David Arkin, by the way, was the father of actor Alan Arkin, and he wrote the lyrics to Black and White, a hit pop song recorded most successfully by Three Dog Night in 1972.

(So after writing this post, I went over to youtube and listened to some Three Dog Night: Black and White, The Road to Shambhala, Old Fashioned Love Song, Never Been to Spain, Joy to the World. Funny how a book about Bach can lead to a 70’s pop binge listen.)