Moon Over Manifest

I was looking for a great book to read this summer to my kids and I started to scour the internet for great recommendations. I decided to start reading reviews on books that have won a Newberry Award. After sifting through a lot of them I decided to go with Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

It's the story of a 12 year old girl named Abilene. Her father sent her to live in Manifest while he went to work on the railroad. She lives with the Pastor and while she is in her room she finds a box of mementos and letters hidden in the floorboard. She goes on to start finding out the stories of each memento and also to discover the spy in the town.

The stories switches back and forth between 1936 and 1918. As it it progresses you start to find out more about the town and the people. One of my sons said it was like Encyclopedia Brown where you had to piece together the clues from the past stories to figure out what the girls were trying to discover.

To say we loved this book is an understatement, we LOVED this book. The day we finished it we read for over three hours because everyone had to find out what was going to happen. They begged for me to read it right through lunch.

I cried through the ending, none of my kids did, apparently I'm just getting old. It was an amazing book and I've been recommending it to everyone. Both my girls and boys liked it, which is always a huge bonus in our home.

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Teaching From Rest

I have decided that if you're going to only read one book on homeschooling that Teaching From Rest by Sara Mackenzie is it. It is short, simple, and beautifully written. When I first heard the title I assumed that the book was about something along the lines of sitting in bed and teaching school, but it's not.

Teaching from rest is being understanding and staying calm when things don't go the way you think they should go. It also goes into what is more important, that you were a task master and made your kids plow through a bunch of math problems or that maybe you only got through a few math problems, but your kid really understands division?

It also helped remind me about what is most important which is my relationship with my kids. In 10 years from now when my big kids are all out of the house, what do I want them to remember and what do I want our relationship to be?

It is a very Christ centered book and she quotes a lot of scripture throughout. My favorite comparison is Peter walking on the water. He is scared and starts to sink, but Jesus takes his hand and helps him. He is there for us too. Especially when you're just starting homeschool and it can feel like such a daunting task, even like you've been asked to walk on water, but with His help anything is possible.

She also gives ideas on how she runs her day. These didn't apply to me as much because I've been doing it for so long, but it would be very helpful to someone just starting out.

The book is so good that it's one that I will read again to help me to remember to relax and take it one day at a time.

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Big Life Journal

Not too long ago I read the Mindset. I really enjoyed the book and I was trying to teach the idea to my kids as much as possible. I was very excited when I found a book for kids to teach them how to have a growth mindset.

It’s called Big Life Journal. It is designed for younger kids and their “journal buddy”. You go through 13 different topics over 26 weeks. Some of the ideas are: dream big, believe in yourself, and failure is learning. You take two weeks for each topic.

We have been using the journal for a little over a month now and LOVE it! It asks your kid questions that really make them think. Who is someone you can help? How did you feel when you helped someone? Name something that you would want to invent and how would it help the world?

The book is colorful and has poems and stories throughout. My kids really like it and remind me to do the book with them if I forget. I would suggest that the book is best for kids 6-12 years old. Next year they are coming out with a journal for teens and adults.

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Mindset

My husband and I each just read the book Mindset by Carol S. Dweck and it has rocked our world. It has been one of those books that makes you really look at who you are and what you can become.

The book basically splits people into two different types of thinking, either the fixed mindset or the growth mindset. The fixed mindset says that I am this way and there is no changing it. Other people are talented or successful because they were just born that way. The growth mindset looks at someone successful and thinks how could they do that too? They know they have weaknesses and shortcomings but work hard to overcome them.

One example she gave in the book was about a girl who was a very talented musician. She was giving concerts at a young age and eventually went to Julliard. When she attended the school she didn't think she could learn anything else because she was already so amazing. Eventually, students who weren't as talented ended up surpassing her because they were teachable and practiced. She was about to get kicked out the school before a teacher was able to help her change her mindset. 

Another great thing about the book is it gives you help on how to have a growth mindset and more importantly, how to help your kids have a growth mindset too. One of the recommendations is: at dinner ask your kids what mistakes did they have that day or failures, and how did they overcome them? We have been trying to do this with our kids. The first time we did it only a few kids could even think of anything, but as we keep doing it my kids who think that they never make mistakes were able to start recognizing them, realize they're not that big of a deal, and then try to think of possible solutions in a safe environment. 

She gives a lot examples of famous people that have the different mindsets. It really helped me to better understand the difference between a growth and fixed mindset. I didn't always agree with the author that some of her examples had a growth mindset, but overall I thought she did a great job.

I haven't had my kids read the book, yet, but I talk about the book so much to my kids it's like they've already read it. :) I actually plan on having my older boys read the book sometime this school year. Any mature reader could easily read and understand the book.

Hands down, this is one of the best books I've read this year. I highly recommend it!

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Peter and the Starcatchers

As I was looking through my posts on book review I noticed that I’m just gushing over a lot of them. They are usually ones that I have absolutely loved and can’t help but share them. I thought I should probably be posting about some of the books that aren’t as high on my list too.

Do you feel like you hear too often that you should read classic books? From someone who grew up not reading at all I couldn’t have cared less if a book was a classic or not; I was just happy to be reading a book. But, as I’ve grown and matured so have my tastes in books and I’m finding the beauty that comes with good, classic literature. I love the way the author writes, the vocabulary they use, and the lessons you learn through the story. There is so much depth to the book.

Most everyday I read to my kids. Most have been amazing books that we have loved. I wanted to try something new and I decided to read Peter and the Starcatchers. I actually thought it was the original story that inspired Peter Pan, but because I get lazy I didn’t even check to see if my hypothesis was right. This book came out in 2004.

Peter and the Starcatchers is the first book in a series of five. It is a really fun book. It gives the reasons why Peter Pan can fly, how Tinkerbell came about, why nobody ages on Neverland and so on. It is told in a fun and exciting way that makes the book hard to put down. My kids and I plowed through the book and then they finished the whole series on their own within a few days. 

I have no personal beef with this series and I obviously am I OK with my kids reading them, however, because there is not a lot of depth to book I got really bored with it, and I wouldn't let my kids read it for school. I have no desire to read past the first book. The book didn’t leave me feeling inspired or wanting to change for the better. It was just a fun story. 

I think it is fun every now and then to read a book or series like this, however, I can’t do it very often. I love a good book that makes you think, makes you cry, or inspires you to be a better person. I recommend this book if you are looking for a fun and easy read. It is also a great book for a hesitant reader. Whenever I have a hesitant read who claims that they just don't like to read I have them get into a fun series, and then I have tricked them into loving reading. It has worked every time. :) 

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How Green Was My Valley

My husband will often give suggestions for books for the the kids or me to read. We were looking for a good literature book and he highly recommended, How Green Was My Valley. I do my best to pre read as many books as possible, but it isn't always feasible. So my oldest two boys read this book before I had a chance to dive in.

Whatever the kids are reading they have to narrate it back to me. When my oldest read the book I honestly don't remember ANY of his narrations. I was super pregnant at the time so I'm going to blame it on that. My second son read the book this summer for his literature. He had a really hard time in the beginning of figuring out the book. The characters speak in broken Welsh. Once he figured out their speech he was able to get more into the book. I actually didn't have him narrate the ending to me because I hate having books spoiled.

I just finished reading this book a few days ago and it is amazing!!! The broken Welsh does take a few pages to grasp, but as soon as you do, you will completely love how they are speaking. This book is based in Wales. It is centered around the Morgan family. Their youngest son, Huw, is narrating the book.

The Morgan family lives in a mining community. The book is really just telling about their life. The struggles and the beauty that comes with family. I think what I love about the book so much is the way the author writes. He does such an amazing job at describing the beauty of the valley or how someone feels about another person.

I love the Morgan family. Is it weird to love a fictional family? They always have an open door and always have tea ready for anyone coming by. They truly care about others and it is described so beautifully. The way the author writes is completely intoxicating. I love it.

My husband and I were discussing the book last night and we were both in awe of it. The more we spoke of the book the more our sons, who read it, understood. We looked like a bunch of nerds gushing over the book.

Alright, here is the parental advisory. There is a little bit of language throughout the book. A few crude words and a little bit of swearing. I obviously let my teenagers read it, and I will let my other kids read it too when they're old enough. 

There was also a love scene, but it's not told in a sexual way. It was told in metaphors and my boys had no idea that it was in there. I actually wasn't sure myself, but it alluded to it later in the book, so eventually I figured it out. :)

This book is definitely a more mature book. I would highly recommend it for mature teens and adults. 

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Call It Courage

When I was a kid I only read a few books. The two I remember reading were Ramona and Megan the Klutz. Those are some pretty high quality books. I honestly don't even remember what they were about. 

I married a sexy nerd who read for fun. He helped me get into the habit of reading, but most importantly, helping me read books that are a little higher caliber than Ramona and Megan the Klutz.

When I was reading reviews for Call It Courage, many people shared how this book really impacted them as a kid and how much they still love it. It also had the fancy gold circle on it, The John Newbery Medal, and usually that means it will be an excellent book.

Call It Courage is based in ancient Polynesian times. The story is centered around Mafatu, a 15 year old boy who is afraid of the ocean. The book is his journey of overcoming his fear and venturing out into the sea. He becomes stranded on an uninhabited island and has to figure out how to survive.

It's a quick read. It's only 95 pages and some of the pages have pictures on them. It would be perfect for an elementary aged child. There are Polynesian names throughout that are tricky, well for me, to pronounce.  It was kind of fun that two of the Gods he mentions are Maui and Moana. I think that will be exciting to someone reading the book because of the movie.

One disclaimer. He talks about "eaters of men". It doesn't describe them eating men, but they are mentioned a few times throughout. 

Overall, I liked the book. I'm having my 10 yr old son read it this year in school. I really think he will like the adventure. It also teaches about courage and getting over your fears, which surprisingly I didn't learn in Megan the Klutz.

Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows

Have you been thinking to yourself that maybe it's been a while since you made your kids cry? Well, if you have, then this is the book for you! :) We just finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows and my kids and I cried our way through the ending. 

I don't know if I'm one of the few people who didn't read this book as a kid, but this was my first time reading the book and I LOVED it. My boys and my girls loved it too. It is so great when we find a book that we all like.

The book is about Billy who lives in the Ozark Mountains and wants nothing more than some coon hounds. The dogs are expensive, so he comes up with a plan to earn the money to buy his dogs. It takes him two years to save up enough money. 

Most of the book is about the adventures he and his dogs have. It is beautifully written and we were completely hooked the whole time. 

Even though I had never read the book I knew what the sad part was at the ending. And even though I knew what was going to happen I still cried through it. All my younger kids cried through the last two chapters too. Even though it is a bit sad it is so beautifully written that I would highly recommend this book. I would like to add that if you have a super sensitive child I would suggest reading together, just in case they need a shoulder to cry on.

Hatchet

This was a fantastic book! Both my sons and daughters really enjoyed this book.

Hatchet is the story of Brian Robeson. His parents recently divorced and he is traveling to Canada to spend some time with his father. He is in a small plane traveling over Canada when the plane crashes in the wilderness of Canada. He barely escapes from the plane with only his hatchet.

The story is absolutely fantastic as Brian tries to figure out how to survive in the wilderness. He has to figure out his shelter, how to get food, and especially figuring out the wild animals in the forest.

The only thing we didn't like about this book was that the ending was too quick. The author spent so much time going into his survival and the change that took place within Brian; then quickly it was all wrapped up and the book was over. My kids and I would have loved a longer ending.

I have a child who is darn near impossible to please, especially when it comes to reading aloud, and he absolutely loved the book. If you knew how difficult my young friend can be to please you would understand what a great endorsement that is for the book.

My favorite thing about this book was that my nine year old daughter found her own hatchet out in the yard and recreated parts of the book. Thank goodness I just happened to have random hatchets just lying around in the yard. :)

Understood Betsy

My friend recommended this book to me months ago. We were in the middle of another book, so as soon as we finished the other one we started Understood Betsy.

I absolutely LOVED this book. My daughters LOVED this book, my sons endured this book, until the end, then they really liked it. The girls and I are so outnumbered with the boys that a lot of our books tend to be more masculine, so it was a nice change to have a more feminine book.

This book was written in 1916 by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It tells the story of the nine year old orphan, Elizabeth Ann. She lives with two of her aunts who are very protective. She is a small and scared child. 

One of her aunts becomes ill and she has to go live with the Putney cousins on their farm. It is a very different lifestyle from what she was used to in the city. Her aunts have told her how horrible the Putneys are. Elizabeth is very apprehensive to go and stay with them.

From her first encounter with the Putneys she is already becoming a different person. Uncle Henry had her take the reins to the horses while he had some "figgering" to do, a skill Elizabeth didn't have. She was terrified and made a mistake, Uncle Henry did nothing. She quickly learned from it, and figured out how to drive the horses. I love this quote from the book, "It is possible that what stirred inside her head at that moment was her brain, waking up. She was nine years old, and she was in the third A grade at school, but that was the first time she had ever had a whole thought of her very own."

Like I said, my daughters and I instantly loved the book from the first chapter. My boys didn't warm up to the book until 3/4 of the way through. Then they plead for me to finish it because they needed to know what happens. 

Growing Up Duggar

My older kids each read a different book that helps them develop character. I had my daughter read, Growing Up Duggar. I know who the family the Duggars are, but I honestly have never watched their show. My friend is a die hard Duggar fan. She took a road trip and she was hoping somehow they would run into them and become best friends. Any who, she highly recommended this book.

My daughter, who is 11, read this book and really liked it. I don't think she let anything sink in because she continually makes her siblings cry on a daily basis. I'm not trying to be funny, she really does. She is seeing if she can go more than two days without making anyone cry. So far, she hasn't been able to reach her goal. Apparently, I need her to read this book again.

I think there are a lot of good things you can take from this book. It delves into appropriate ways to have relationships with yourself, your family, people in your community, and God. One of things that I really did like about this book was their section on dating. They recommend getting to know someone's character. Instead of just always going out on a date, where the both of you can be on your best behavior, have opportunities to see how they handle real life situations. If they are at your house and a younger sibling spills on your date, does your date freak out? Or, is he calm and patient? 

I also thought this book was a little cheesy. To me, these girls are looking at the world with rose colored goggles. They have had a pretty good life, not perfect, but a reasonably good life. I think they are naive to suggest that if you just pray really hard, everything will work out. They are out trying to talk to girls who have been abused and/or have had horrible upbringings. It's like trying to take diet advice from someone who has never had to diet, and I had hard time believing what they were selling. 

I know, I'm cynical. I'm working on that. Just kidding, I'm totally not. 

So, overall I would recommend this book. Just know that I found it a tad cheesy.

The Hiding Place

I had the great idea of having my kids write a book review of all the books that they read. It would take care of two things. 1st, I would have a killer blog post completely done and 2nd, it would give my kids a chance to do a book report. Win, win, right? Nope, I couldn't have been more wrong. My daughter read The Hiding Place, a book that luckily I have read before, and wrote me her book review. "The Hiding Place is a really good book." Seriously?!? That was it. The funny thing is that she really loved the book and she is great with details and writing, so I think I had unrealistic expectations when I asked her to whip out a book review with little, ok let's be honest, no instruction.

Have you read The Hiding Place? You should. It is heartbreaking and it is beautiful. It is one of those books that has the ability to change you; to make you want to be a better person, to love more, to forgive more. It made me feel like my little problems are not that big compared to what others have gone through.

The Hiding Place is the story of Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was a watch maker living in Holland. The story starts in 1937 where the family was getting ready to celebrate the 100th birthday of the family shop and a lot of the conversation revolves around the Jews that are fleeing to Holland.

Corrie and her family were not Jewish, they were Christian, but they knew that no one should be treated the way the Jewish people were being treated. They became involved in an underground movement during WWII. They risked their lives to help these people. Her sister, Betsie, had the most positive attitude about having faith and moving forward. I would love to have her courage.

The sisters eventually get sent to a concentration camp for their involvement. Their train ride still haunts me. When you sit and think about the logistics of being shoved in a train with so many people for so many hours. I honestly get a little choked up when I think how those people were treated like they weren't people at all. 

After the war Corrie went around and spoke to several groups of people. One of them happened to be a German who had persecuted the people in the camp. Can you imagine the hate you would probably feel when you saw someone who had been so cruel? This is what Corrie thought as she had to talk to this man:

“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him....Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.” 

I can't recommend this book enough. My kids have read it when they have been in 5th or 6th grade. It has given us some great discussions! It is probably too deep of a topic for anyone under the 5th, 6th grade level, but if you feel like your kid is more mature then don't delay and have them read this!

Penrod

I just finished reading Penrod to my kids. To say that we loved this book is an understatement, we LOVED this book!! It is so odd and so funny.

Penrod is written by Booth Tarkington, published in 1914. Penrod is an 11 year old boy, living in Indiana, who gets into a lot of trouble. It is seriously hilarious with some of his misfortunes. 

My husband remembered this book when he was kid, so I tried to read it to our kids years ago, but I felt like I was reading a foreign language and decided not to read it. My husband kept telling me how much he loved this book, so I decided to try it again. I am so glad that I did!

 My sister in law said they read it with a dictionary to look up some of the big words he used. Once you start reading it, it becomes easier and easier to get through. Here is an example of some of his writing: "Penrod sat morosely upon the back fence and gazed with envy at Duke, his wistful dog. A bitter soul dominated the various curved and angular surfaces known by a careless world as the face of Penrod Schofield."

Here are my disclaimers: Penrod writes a story, and in his story he uses curse words. Except he doesn't dare write them so he puts in a dash. Here is an example (he spells the words incorrectly while Penrod is writing), "Mr. Wilson stagerd back vile oaths soilin his lips for he was in pain Why you --- --- you sneered he I will get you yet --- --- you Harold Ramorez" I would say "bleep" when I read it to the kids, they thought it was very comical. Also, an African American family move in by them. Penrod really likes the kids and they are friends, but they use the "N" word a few times in the book. I simply skipped over that.

There are a few more books in the series, but I heard they weren't as good. I am still on the fence whether or not to read the other ones.