My Book Bag: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken has been my favorite novel of the year (so far). I was able to borrow the audio version through my library and stream it through our van’s Bluetooth feature on our vacation several weeks ago. The book is read by Lizza Aiken, Joan Aiken’s daughter. In the introduction, she shares how her mother came to write the story and the adventure that the manuscript itself had before finally being published in 1962.

There are wolves that roam the moors in England. They travel in packs and threaten all who travel by train or carriage. And there are even wolves at Willoughby Chase! This is a moving story about two orphans, Bonnie and Sylvia, who are mistreated by their evil governess, Miss Slighcarp. The orphans bravely face many discouraging situations, but their pluck and resourcefulness aid them through one obstacle after another. They are also helped along by a faithful nanny, Patton, and a loyal friend named Simon, and of course, Providence. The girls survive and even thrive through heartache and disappointment. I enjoyed the plot twists and turns.

We enjoyed listening to this as a family while we traveled on our own adventure. I highly recommend it as a family read aloud or just for personal enjoyment. It’s appropriate for ages 9 – 99, so why not give it a try? It is well deserving of its “classic” status.

My Book Bag: A Dog of Flanders

A Dog of Flanders by Marie Louise de la Ramée is a very short book that is listed in my daughter’s reading curriculum for next year. I had heard of it but never read it. It is a considered a classic, so many of you have probably read it. Since I had never read it, I thought I’d take a look.

It is a moving story of a young boy, a rescued dog, and a loving grandfather. The boy, Nello, is orphaned and taken in by his poor grandfather. Together, they rescue a dog. The dog, whom they name Patrasche, shows almost human-like appreciation for their love by serving willingly to help them earn a living. Patrasche faithfully pulls a cart loaded with milk, as this is how they eek by. Nello has a great talent for art and longs to be as great as the painter, Peter Paul Rubens. Nello grows up, falls in love and seems to be making his way as an artist when he is falsely accused of starting a fire.

It’s a moving story of loyalty, devotion, and respect. In case you haven’t read it, or would like to read it again, I will not divulge the ending. I will say, however, it was a surprise.

I am glad I took the time (a few minutes, really) to read this book. I was brought to tears and educated on Flanders. I did not know it was part of Belguim until I read this book!

I think my fifth grader will enjoy it next year, as she is an enthusiastic animal lover.

Thanks for reading about what I’m reading.

My Book Bag: Homer Price

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It’s hard to believe, but we just completed the last book for our Notgrass History literature course. The book, Homer Price, by Robert McCloskey, was a great one with which to end the year. It’s a look at life in the mid-west in the 1950’s, the era we were studying.

Homer, who is based on the author, is a teenager who spends his spare time inventing things. He helps his Uncle Ulysses and Aunt Aggy in their lunchroom, meets a “super hero”, eats lots of donuts and even watches an entire subdivision get built! But of course, there are some snags along the way.

This cute book is made even better with Mr. McCloskey’s fine artwork. 

We give it five stars!

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My Book Bag: Misty of Chincoteague

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Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry has been on my “to-read” list for a long time. I like to use the Newbery Award and Honor books as a starting place when I’m looking for wholesome children’s books. And yes, I still read children’s books myself. I once worried to my mother that this meant that I was still at a child’s level of reading. She replied, “Good literature is good literature, age doesn’t matter.” Ah, that made me feel better. But you know, when it comes to books, there really is no “read-by” expiration date.

Misty of Chincoteague is definitely “good literature”. It’s the sweet story of a brother and sister who dream of capturing the mysterious horse they call “Phantom” on Assateague Island, off the coast of Virginia and Maryland. Together, they labor long and hard at odd jobs to save up the money to buy Phantom and train her themselves. When the long-awaited “Pony Penning Day” arrives, they are surprised when they see that Phantom is not alone – she has a beautiful colt with her. They name the little one, “Misty”. The story of Phantom and Misty is an engaging read, and the ending is just the way all books should end: just right.

Your children, grandchildren, and even you, will greatly benefit from this lovely addition to your reading list.

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My Book Bag: The Wind in the Willows

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I wrote a review of Honey for a Child’s Heart, by Gladys Hunt a few months ago. In that book, Mrs. Hunt mentions the book The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame about a half-dozen times. It was one of her family’s favorite read aloud selections and her children made connections to that book throughout their lives. I had purchased that book about eight years ago, with the purpose of reading it aloud to my daughter. It didn’t take long to see that it was over the head of an eight year old, so I shelved it.

When I was reminded of it by Mrs. Hunt, I decided to give it a second try. The chapters are quite long, so we had to read them in halves. We got to chapter four before I quit reading it aloud. My oldest daughter did, in fact, enjoy it, but the rest, well, not so much. My five year old could barely stay awake for it. I did finish it myself and I must say, it is an adorable book.

Even though I’m adult, I fancied (as the British would say) visiting the charming, cozy, and cute world created by Kenneth Grahame. I guess I’m not yet too old to believe that animals can talk. I liked Mr. Badger the best, with Mr. Mole coming in as second favorite. I don’t believe that I would have enjoyed the book as a child, knowing my tastes back then. This gives me hope that one day, when my children are quite grown up, they will stumble upon this classic and find that maybe Mom was onto something after all.

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Books to Warm Your Heart

One of the many things I’d planned to do on the blog this summer was to write several book reviews and host a book giveaway. I know that the summer is not over, but it’s rapidly passing. I cannot believe that June has almost bid adieu. I have several tasks beckoning me to come hither and brand new books calling me to sit with them, but I have set aside everything in order to get back on track with my blogging. That’s not a sacrifice, because if I could, I would write all. day. long.

Today I wanted to share some books that have delighted me this summer. I try to stay ahead of my children’s reading, but that hasn’t gone too well. I hate to read science fiction or fantasy, which my older ones love. Terry and I have set some guidelines for their reading, and so far, they have kept them. I know this because they’ve turned in books to me, unfinished, because they have fallen short of those guidelines. While I don’t read sci-fi or fantasy, I  am always seeking out books for them that I’ve heard are good, or that I’ve enjoyed myself. I offer a few of these to you today. These are sure to put a smile on your face. Yes, they are children’s books, but with books, the saying “Age doesn’t matter.” is actually true.

128048Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

I had seen this title several times on book lists and  library shelves, but assumed it was a tale of adventure at sea- which is not my thing. How wrong was I! It does have its share of seafaring adventure, but it also has much more! It’s a biography of the young man who wrote what is commonly known as “The Navigator’s Bible”. The American Practical Navigator, by Nathaniel Bowditch, has saved countless lives due to the accurate calculations which he painstakingly worked. He had a very difficult childhood, but rose above it all to become a pioneer on the high seas. This book will encourage your child to work hard and overcome obstacles and to always hope for the best.

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One Morning in Maine

Would you like to have clam chowder for lunch? If so, I have the book for you!

I have read several books by Robert McCloskey, but this one was new to me. I have always been fascinated with New England, so I picked it up to read to my younger ones. It’s a delightful little story, but  Mr. McCloskey’s signature drawings set it apart. They make you feel as though you’re actually visiting the sea shore, the wooded hills and eating clam chowder for lunch.

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Freaky Friday

This book had us laughing on page one! It’s a crazy story with no basis in reality, but it’s a hoot. I read this book aloud to the children and was bit surprised that there were a few curse words and several crude words, which I skipped or changed as I went along. The main character, Annabel, is a rather rebellious young girl who dislikes herself, her brother and disrespects her mother. Through this one “freaky Friday”, she comes to appreciate her mother and her younger brother for the first time. She also comes to see she a bit of her own value, too. Just be prepared to alter the language or warn your young readers about it ahead of time.

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Miracles on Maple Hill

Nine year old Marly needs a miracle. Her father has come home from the war (WWII) after being imprisoned and assumed dead. It’s not the happy homecoming that Marly thought it would be, though. The war has changed her father. When her family gets the opportunity to move to Maple Hill – a house owned by Marly’s deceased grandmother – Marly is given hope. It is there that she and her brother, Joe, get to meet Mr. Chris, Harry the Hermit and see the miracles that occur on Maple Hill every day. But will she get the miracle she needs most of all, a healthy daddy? Read and find out!

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Peppermints in the Parlor

There’s something fishy going on at Sugar Hill Hall. Emily Luccock is supposed to move in with her Aunt and Uncle Twice after her parents’ death, but she is shocked to learn that it’s been taken over by the evil Mrs. Meeching. Why is the house full of old people staring at a bowl of delicious peppermints, but are never allowed to taste any?  And what happened to Uncle Twice? One mystery seems to lead to another, but  Emily is determined to get answers, no matter the cost! Join her for the adventure and have some laughs along the way.  Barbara Brooks Wallace has written several books of this type, but I have only read this one. We plan to read more of her books in the future.

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It’s amazing how that, even though I only read these books a few months ago (or even more recently than that!), some of the names and other details have escaped me. I suppose I’m always reading with one eye on the “next great book”. I know, shame on me. I should slow down and enjoy the stories more. I’ll work harder on that in the future. Anyway, I hope this meager information is helpful to someone. 🙂

Happy reading!

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