Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge 2015

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

If you can believe it, it's time for the SIXTH annual Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

I look forward to this reading challenge every year. I know many of you feel the same in that if it wasn't arranged on the calendar you might not get back to these books. For me, Narnia is an important enough series for me to want to read at least one title every year. Now that my kids are old enough to track with the stories and engage with them, I'm making sure that they are included in this. I'd love for them to have a reading heritage which is chalk full of Narnia.

Admittedly, we did read ahead and we already have one book under our belt. We'll talk about that in a separate post. But for now, let's get down to the dirty details of how this challenge works, shall we?

First, this challenge lasts for the entirety of July. You have one entire month to revel in the individual stories in The Chronicles of Narnia. You can watch the movies (if you can stomach them), listen to audio books/dramatizations, or read books about Narnia or C.S. Lewis. I give you full permission (should you need it from me).

As you proceed through this challenge, write up various posts about what you have read, sharing your thoughts and impressions of the stories. On Friday, July 31st we will conclude the challenge and, at that time, I will invite you to share your posts with us.

If you are participating in this, please leave a comment below stating as much, and then feel free to add my Reading Challenge badge to your own post or blog sidebar with the following code:

<a href=""><img alt="Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge" border="0" src="" /></a>

I really love the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge and I hope that you will read along. If you need some inspiration check out some of my previous posts on the topic:

I hope you will consider joining in and I hope to hear from you if you do!

To Narnia and the North!

The Little Prince :: Reading to Know Classic Book Club DISCUSSION post

This month for the Reading to Know Book Club we read The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This title was selected for us by Amy at Hope is the Word.

Normally it would be Amy who is wrapping up this book club discussion but if you've paid attention to her life over at Hope is the Word, you know that she is in the process of moving. Things are a little hectic and crazy over at her place at the moment and so I told her not to worry about writing up a blog post!

Instead of Amy you get me. I'm sorry for that too. Ha.

I read The Little Prince this past week. I found it be bizarre and confusing. I can't say that I got a whole lot of out if it and I can't in good conscious admit to enjoying it. Yet, there are those out there who absolutely love this book! I decided to spend my time in this post trying to find out why it came to be.

First, I went to and found this desscription of the book:

The author, an aviator, crashes with his aeroplane in the middle of the Sahara desert. While he is trying to repair his aeroplane, a little boy appears and asks him to draw a sheep. The author learns that The Little Prince comes from asteroid B-612 where he has left behind three volcanoes and a rose.

Before reaching Earth, he has visited other planets and met some very odd people: a king, a conceited man, a drunkard, a lamplighter, a geographer. . . .

In order to return to his planet and his rose, The Little Prince allows himself to be bitten by a poisonous snake. . . .

The aviator, who has succeeded in repairing his plane, also quits the desert. He still hopes The Little Prince will return one day and asks us to write and tell him if ever we should meet his friend.

In my online research I discovered that each planet that The Little Prince has visited is supposed to describe a different aspect of human nature. As I was reading the book I suspected that the planets each represented something but frankly I couldn't imagine what and I wasn't sure that I necessarily cared. As I mentioned, the book read off as a very odd little story to me and I like my stories to, well, make instant sense.

The Little Prince was published in 1943. After the outbreak of World War II, Saint-Exupéry was exiled to North America and during this period of upheaval in his life, alongside poor health, he wrote the majority of this book. It's meant as a children's book but there are apparently so many undertones and subjects for adult readers to dive into that it's enjoyed by people of all ages.

It is suspected that the character of the Little Prince was based on himself. The rose is thought to be his wife, Consuelo.

There is a great deal of information about Saint-Exupéry on Wikipedia and while I might normally copy more from the website to share with you all, in this case I'd just suggest going to reading through the page for yourself. There is a lot to learn about the man and this book.

I can't say that I'll be wanting to read this book again, but I can say that I appreciate it a little better knowing more about the personal history of the author.

Did you read along this month? We'd love to know about it if you did. Please let us know in the comment section below.


Reading to Know - Book Club

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

Next month begins the Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge here at Reading to Know. This will be held in conjunction with the book club. You've got a couple of days left to gear up for it. Looking forward to the challenge and the fun!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ranger in Time : Danger in Ancient Rome, by Kate Messner

Some of you may recall that we had received the first Ranger in Time book (linked to review) earlier this year. I did a quick flip through of that book and decided it looked good enough to pass along to my oldest, Bookworm1, age 8. I also mentioned at that time that there would be a second book released in the series entitled Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome. I made mentioned of the fact that I would likely want to read that one before handing it over to Bookworm1 to ensure that it wasn't too, well, descriptively gory. It being about Roman gladiators, I knew I'd want to check it out first.

Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome arrived and I absolutely did decide to read it before allowing Bookworm1 to. It's not that I don't trust him or that I'm trying to shelter him unnecessarily. In fact, I do not want to shelter him unnecessarily! I do want to make wise decisions in protecting him from things which he might find presently disturbing with the idea in mind of exposing him to certain aspects of history when he's a little older. No need to rush him too quickly, in my opinion. So many kids these days are exposed to violence early and often and frankly we don't want that for our own kids. We want them to know what happens in the world (and why) but we don't feel like they always need to see or experience something for themselves to know that it is true or wicked or evil.

I wish to quickly add that I absolutely love this idea for a book series. I think Kate Messner is onto something here in making history more appealing to children through the idea of a rescue dog experiencing time travel. It's an engaging plot. I do think Bookworm1 would enjoy it in all of the right ways. However, We The Parents have talked about it and decided to hold off on giving him this title for one year. Reason? He is a more cautious person by nature and disturbs easy. (e.g., He loves Harry Potter, but can't bring himself to watch the movie yet  - even though it has been offered - because of viewing Voldemort. Voldemort is just the right scary in his mind. He doesn't want to see him pictured on screen.) Simply put, Bookworm1 has a great imagination and he knows it. He disciplines himself well enough for me to know that he'll agree with waiting on this particular Ranger in Time title.

You should know that given the subject matter, I think Messner did a fantastic job at describing life in Ancient Rome and talking about what being a gladiator really meant. I was not left with the impression that it's a fun life. Messner does not try to glorify the life of gladiator. She's horrified by the games herself and wants to tell kids about what they were like without making something of them that they were not. She writes this series for ages 7 to 10 and I think she handled her material in a very appropriate way. The story is tense (because, come on!) with lions attacking and gladiators fighting. This is to be expected; she paints the scene well. She's not trying to frighten her readers, just educate. It's not over the top.

So, then why are we holding back with our son? There is one fight scene between two gladiators that we felt was just a little on the edge. One young man is fighting another, more experienced, gladiator. In the process his arm is slashed with his opponent's sword. Blood and sand are mingling. Then in the struggle his arm is slashed again, deeper still. More blood mentioned. Again, it is not unnecessarily gory. But it does bring the imagination fully to life! Due to the fact that scary images (either on a screen or in his own mind) disturb my oldest, I'm not going to set this before him just yet.

I am, however, going to keep this on the shelf and after some time has gone by. When he shows that he can handle more intensity, I'll give this over no question. But for now, we'll take a pass. If you are curious about the book, know that the most tense scenes are a lion which begins to attack a boy (but who is distracted away by Ranger) and the gladiator fight scene. Everything else is pretty low key. Just like in the first book, there are historical notes written by Messner at the conclusion giving the reader more information about Ancient Rome and Rome as it looks today.

While I'm not handing this one over to Bookworm1 immediately, we will look forward to the third book in the series, Ranger in Time: Long Road to Freedom about the Underground Railroad. I can't think of a single reason I'll need to preview that one before giving it to him. Long Road to Freedom is due out December 2015.

Other posts of interest:

* Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail
* Viking Tales, by Jennie Hall
* Books About the Titanic (for kids)

Many thanks to Scholastic Books who sent a copy of the above title my direction in order to facilitate this review. I have received no additional compensation and all opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What's On My Nightstand- July

What's On Your Nightstand

Hello hello! Nightstand time again. We're just rushing right along through 2015 here, aren't we?

Well, last month I knew we had some travels coming up and I wasn't going to be able to get very much reading in. I mentioned that I wanted to re-read the Anne of Green Gables books and that was due in great part to the fact that we had plans to visit Prince Edward Island as a delayed 10th anniversary celebration. Visit the Island we did! (You can see where we stayed for part of our trip if you like.) Before leaving I managed to read Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea. As our plane was landing in Charlottetown I finished the last two pages of Anne of the Island (which I'll review shortly). It was a perfect, thrilling trip. We loved it. And I was personally glad to have visited with Anne again before going.

Last month I committed to reading Hutterite Diaries and did so. The title is linked to my review.

Likewise, I also committed to reading The Accidental Feminist for review purposes. (And then too, quite frankly, simply because I am extremely curious about it.) I took this book along with us on our vacation and made it about half way through. I hope to finish it by the end of this week and have a review up the next.

So what's up for next month? Well....

In July I'll be hosting the SIXTH annual Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge

I'll be hosting this in conjunction with our classic book club so that at least my kids and I can focus pretty much exclusively on Narnia. We, of course, hope that many of you will choose to join in and pick up a Narnia book (or two?) this next month. You can find out more about that by clicking on the button above. I'll have a post to kick us off on Wednesday, July 1st.

As you regular readers/friends around here know, I'm basically dabbling in my favorite books during the month of July. I'd like to finish the Anne series and read Narnia. The combination makes me happy and I anticipate the fun.

Now off to find out what's on YOUR nightstand....

Monday, June 22, 2015

Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery

Wrapped up another reading of Anne of Avonlea. Looking back at my "records" around here, I haven't read this title (or any of the Anne books passed Anne of Green Gables) since 2010. FIVE YEARS AGO!? How is that even possible? No wonder I'm craving Anne like nobody's business. It has been far too long.

I mentioned last week that I loved re-reading Anne of Green Gables but I was mostly interested in visiting with the adult Anne. Not being able to pick up a book mid-series, I had to start at the beginning again and I've no complaints about that. That said, I really did enjoy Anne of Avonlea more than Green Gables because Anne is "aging up" in the world. In case anyone out there is unfamiliar with this title (there are always a few people . . . and I feel sorry for them) I'll steal from Amazon:

At sixteen Anne is grown up. . . almost. Her gray eyes shine like evening stars, but her red hair is still as peppery as her temper. In the years since she arrived at Green Gables as a freckle-faced orphan, she has earned the love of the people of Avonlea and a reputation for getting into scrapes. But when Anne begins her job as the new schoolteacher, the real test of her character begins. Along with teaching the three Rs, she is learning how complicated life can be when she meddles in someone else's romance, finds two new orphans at Green Gables, and wonders about the strange behavior of the very handsome Gilbert Blythe. As Anne enters womanhood, her adventures touch the heart and the funny bone.

I hate the above description. Let's try this again . . .

The book opens with Anne at age 16, about to launch into her teaching career at the local Avonlea school house. She is full of vim and vigor and glorious plans for how she will go about teaching. Anne always has high ideals. This is something that I can appreciate in her because whenever I start a new project, I usually have a lot of high ideals to go along with it. I've learned to reign in my enthusiasm (a little bit) and I do strive to look at things practically but sometimes my imagination and excitement for something just gets the better of me and I want to soar with all of my many and bright ideas. She enters her classroom and certainly has some class management skills to learn, but learn them she does.

The majority of the book is not really about her classroom antics but about life as a whole. We are none of us one-dimensional creatures and thankfully Montgomery didn't write one-dimensional characters. The readers watch as Marilla takes in two additional orphans, Davy and Dora Keith. We witness Marilla and Anne working together to train Davy, in particular, as to how to behave and be a young gentleman. Anne has plenty of responsibilities between helping Marilla with chores, tending to kids, and teaching school, and yet she still finds plenty of moments to take off exploring around the Island. As a result of her affinity for the natural world, she stumbles into some right interesting characters who she begins to share life with. Chiefly, she meets Mr. Harrison, an apparent bachelor with a foul-mouthed parrot and Miss Lavender Lewis who is an imaginative older lady. Through Anne's interactions with both of them we see their lives and stories unfold in ways pleasing to the reader.

My favorite character in this book is Miss Lavender. (I'm going to assume that my liking of her doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I'm loving all lavender flavored anythings these days.) I love how she and Anne connect and share the magic of an imagination. Their age gap does affect Anne's ability to understand Miss Lavender completely and yet the two of them overlook their differences in age and life experience and treat each other with the utmost care and respect. They genuinely love one another and I enjoyed every minute of the time they spent together, gathering wild strawberries or dressing up for tea, or enjoying the garden. When two people get along well - despite differences and ages - that just speaks to me somehow. We tend to put people in boxes and request and even require that people always interact with their own peers. All of my life I've made friends with people who are significantly older and sometimes significantly younger than myself. Of course, I do have friends that are my same age but I find that to be very rare and so perhaps that's why Miss Lavender's and Anne's friendship tickles me so.

Speaking of friendships despite age gaps, Marilla definitely views Anne as more of an adult and more of an equal in this story. The way they help each other through life is also pleasing. My favorite interchange between these two ladies happens near the end of the book. They are discussing a romance that has blossomed for Miss Lavender and Anne is sighing poetical sighs about how storybook perfect the romance is. Marilla rewords Anne and describes Miss Lavender's situation in what you might call a "more plain and sensible manner" which just so happened to remove the flowery speech from the equation. Anne sighs and says,

"I suppose that's how it looks in prose. But it's very different if you look at it through poetry . . . and I think it's nicer . . . " Anne recovered herself and her eyes shone and her cheeks flushed . . . "to look at it through poetry."
- Poetry and Prose

I definitely lean towards the "poetical" speech when I'm describing something that I'm really excited about so I sympathize with Anne.

I have always loved the conclusion of this particular book. Although the Amazon description makes you think that things are heating up nicely between Gilbert and Anne, that is simply not the case. It is clear to the reader that Gilbert is interested in Anne but it's also clear that she is not thinking of him in "that way." Romantic tension between them is lacking at this point. Gilbert is showing his cards slowly, wisely. Only on the last page does Anne begin to get a clue about what Gilbert might be thinking.

"Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps . . . perhaps . . . love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath." (Chapter 25)

When I was younger I always hoped that would be how love would unfold in my own life. Slowly. Born from friendship. And then I met Jonathan. First we harbored a (mutual) dislike of one another. We slowly became friends. Friendship, of course, turned to love but that also took a little time. In the end, I got my wish! I just didn't anticipate the dislike which started everything off. No complaints though. All's well that end's well as they say.

I'm loving spending time with Anne again, if you couldn't tell. I'm glad to take a little bit of time to enjoy her all over again. Reading the Anne series is just pure bliss for me, that's what!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Caught My Eye

Here are a few articles and whatnot that have caught my attention on the world wide web within the past few weeks:


13 Reasons Moms Never Get Haircuts. All of which are true. This article made me laugh.

Martin Sheen will be starring as Matthew Cuthbert in a new tv adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. This article did not make me laugh. I find this horrifying, not because of Martin Sheen but because someone thought it was a good idea to remake Anne. Megan Follows for me. Forever.

Disney is producing a Tangled cartoon series, telling us what Rapunzel's life was like after being restored to her family. I'll just have to watch it, that's what!

On a serious note: Surgical Sex: Why We Stopped Doing Sex Change Operations, by Paul R. McHugh of John Hopkins University. It's a relatively long article but one which offers a position that is worthy of some great consideration.

For home school moms out there check out Joy is Like a Whale. A what? Read it and see. I found it greatly encouraging.

A couple of things which made me laugh:

Some bookish things:

For the LEGO fans among us:

Leaving you in song:

I used to listen to this album all. the. time. I hadn't heard it in years when I discovered the entire album available on Youtube. If you like accapella and hymns, check this out. (The first song is my absolute favorite.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Secrets at Sea, by Richard Peck

I arrived at a place that I never thought I would be. I'm a decent reader. I can read fast. I've amassed a good reading library for my kids. I've always anticipated that they would never be able to out read me and I'd have a chance to preview what they read. (Who among you is laughing at me now?) You know what I'm about to say now, don't you?

Bookworm1 is a fast reader. He's read almost everything I've collected for him so far. Of course, he hasn't read everything because, um, there are a lot of books in our house. (wink) But when he starts to re-read just about every title he's already read, I find myself in a position of needing to find something new and interesting for him. Suffering from the lack of time to preview, I'm relying on my reading friends now to point me to good authors and good stories. Amy from Hope is the Word mentioned that Richard Peck is one of her favorite children's authors and since I trust Amy I decided to keep an eye out for Peck titles.

A month or so ago I found a copy of Secrets at Sea at our local used bookstore. Bookworm1 said it looked like an interesting read so I picked it up. As is the case with any book that he reads before I do, I request a little report of the book post-reading. This won't be a requirement forever (no way) but it gives me a bit of calm as he branches out on his own in the reading world. Bonus: he's learning how to write more succinctly!

Now, I haven't read Secrets at Sea so I'll give you the Amazon description and then Bookworm1's.

From Amazon:

"In the beloved tradition of The Borrowers, The Tale of Despereaux, and The Cricket in Times Square, here is an irresistible adventure story about the tiny creatures who secretly live among us humans, as only Newbery Medal winner Richard Peck could imagine it. Set on a grand cruise ship to England in 1887, this beautifully illustrated tale of a charming family of mice is full of laughs, near misses, and surprises."


"Secrets at Sea is about four mice named Helena, Beatrice, Louise, and Lamont. These mice live in a house with a family named the Cranstons. When the Cranstons want to get their daughter, Olive, married, they board a ship for England. Wanting to see what happens, Helena, Beatrice, Louise, and Lamont then meet a mouse named Nigel. He takes Lamont away to live with him.

In the end, Olive gets married, and Beatrice gets married to Nigel!"

When asked if he enjoyed the book, Bookworm1 replied that he did. I asked him if he would like to read another book written by Richard Peck and he said he would. I asked him if we should keep the book for his siblings to read and he thought that was a good idea.

Amy, I'm trusting you! (Ha!! No pressure, no pressure....!) Truly though, I've really come to appreciate the honest reviews and hard thoughts about books which come out of other people's corners so that I can pick and choose as wisely as possible for my children. I find that reading the blogs of others is a valuable service because I'm now finding myself in a position that many of you have already expressed yourselves to be in: being behind my children who are zooming along faster than I can keep up with! So thank you to Amy today for providing another title for him to read. I really do hope I get a chance to read it myself. It looks cute.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Anne and Beauty in the Natural World

I really can't tell you how many times I've read Anne of Green Gables. I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I had forgotten that I read this story back in February . . . of this year. But I'm not ashamed to say that I enjoyed it all over again.

In my nightstand post last month I said that I was really hoping to spend some time with Anne in June if I could. Now, I'm the type of person who has to read a series in. order. Even if I'm really interested in only reading Book 3, I feel compelled to start back at the beginning and work my way through. (I find this fact irritating myself, in case you wondered.) What I most want is to jump ahead a little and re-familiarize myself with the adult Anne. Like I said though, no complaints about having re-read the first title in the Anne series. I mean, it just has to be done.

I've said a lot about Anne in the past. In some ways it feels like there really can't be much more to say about her. However, any book that you love will continue to speak to you and such is the case with Anne for me. Once upon a time I listed The Top 10 Reasons I Like Anne of Green Gables and all of those remains much true.

For purposes of this post, I'll focus on #8:

#8 - Beauty takes her breath away. She is constantly in a state of utter, complete and total 'enrapturement' (if she can make up words for herself, so can I!) whenever she sees something that she thinks is beautiful.

Recently Jonathan and I were out on a date night and were exploring an area which is on the other side of a nearby mountain. We were trying to find a garden which we had heard about but failed in that mission. What we did find, however, was a little creek that looked adorable. (Can you call a creek adorable? I guess I just did.) We thought that we'd take the kids there once the weather warmed up. Within these past two weeks we've been experiencing nice hot and toasty weather which gave us the perfect opportunity to take the kids over.

This creek has become my very happy place. I love it like the Lake of Shining Waters or The White Way of Delight. I find it altogether beautiful and when I look at the whole setting, it sometimes takes my breath away. I have loved locations and places for any variety of reasons in the past but there is something about this creek which captures every bit of my imagination and fills me with complete delight. It's my little Prince Edward Island, if you like.

We visited it at the time I was reading Anne of Green Gables and perhaps that linked the two things together in my mind, but I'll show you some pictures and you can judge for yourself. Each bend in the creek is a whole new world and presents a whole new landscape. Every green fern, every bit of Queen Anne's Lace which is scattered about, with the tweeting of the birds overhead combine together in such a way that make me want to, well, live at the creek. (Ha!)

Lucy Maud Montgomery loved nature and her love for the natural world is scattered all throughout her books. For the remainder of this post, I'll share quotes that stood out to me as I read along and pictures from my own little Wonderland. I hope you'll enjoy.

"Oh, pretty doesn't seem the right word to use. Nor beautiful, either. They don't go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful - wonderful. It's the first thing I ever saw that couldn't be improved upon by imagination."
- Matthew Cuthbert is Surprised

The shore road was "woodsy and wild and lonesome."
- Anne's History

This next quote isn't relating to nature but it's still my very favorite sentence in the entire book. I think it describes so much, so simply.

And it's what I think whenever I look at this next photo I took of my boys playing in the creek:

"She thought in exclamation points."
- Mrs. Rachel Lynde is Surprised

Do you have a spot that you just love? Is there some place that you find so beautiful as to be overwhelming? Is there a place you like to explore and/or just drink in? In the words of Davy Keith, "I wanna know!"
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