Tag Archives: adventure

Two Inches of Determination: A Review of ‘Stuart Little’

“It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.”–J.R.R. Tolkein

 

Reading Level

AR 6.0 [3.0 points]

4.25 [Leveled Books Database]

Interest Level  

Grades 3-5 [Scholastic]

Review and Comment

E.B. White’s classic tale Stuart Little is about an extraordinary, diminutive mouse. Stuart has a tenacious spirit that emboldens him to confront all the challenges a two-inch mouse naturally faces and some very surprising adventures.

Stuart’s human family loves and accepts every inch of him.  His size allows him to help his family in a number of ways.  He is able to recover stray ping pong balls that roll under the furniture, assist with a sticking piano key from inside the piano, and he even recovers his mother’s ring that accidentally goes down the drain.  Of course his size naturally presents challenges as well.  Simply washing up in the morning is impossible without improvising some clever devices.  One day he is unintentionally closed up in the refrigerator for a time because no one notices him. Then there is Margalo, the family cat, that instigates other problems and complicates a few serious episodes for Stuart, but he seems to patiently deal with some of these issues.  He is so adventurous he has no problem leaving the house and facing the world. He even participates in and wins an exciting boat race in Central Park.

Stuart’s last adventure is a mixture of loyal friendship, secrets, danger, and new beginnings.  Soon after his time in the refrigerator, the family finds a very sick bird named Margalo and nurses her back to health.  She and Stuart become wonderful friends.  She even saves Stuart’s life when he is accidentally picked up by the garbage man and almost dumped into the East River.  It does not take long for Stuart to begin to see Snowball as a threat to Margalo’s safety.  One night he actually saves her life from the cat.  Then Margalo is told about a conversation between Snowball and another cat and their scheme to harm her.  She decides the best plan is to leave, and so she does.  Stuart is heartbroken and decides to abandon the life he knows with his loving family and find her – quite a feat for such a small mouse.  While constantly traveling north, Stuart encounters helpful people and experiences new situations.  His determination does not waver even though he realizes the chances of finding Margalo are nearly impossible.  The story ends with Stuart continuing his quest because the journey’s experiences are just as important to him as the goal of finding his dear friend.

Through all of Stuart’s adventures, he definitely does not let his size or the world stop him.  He is loyal to his family and Margalo and friendly and open to everyone he meets. Stuart willingly embraces novelty and the promise of future experiences unfolding naturally.

His many adventures are interesting, but personally I cannot get past the idea that a mouse is born to a human family even though I know this is fiction.

Possible Concerns

[The Little family is unusual, but everyone seems to take it in stride.] A woman named Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son was a mouse.

[A man talked to Stuart in Central Park about a boat race.]  “That’s her, Lillian B. Womrath,” said the man, “and I hate her with all my heart.”

Further Discussion

  • The article “Reading to Kids” includes discussion topics for this book before, during, and after reading and it also includes two craft ideas. You can read it here.

 

  • Make a diorama of a scene from the book. [Examples:  the inside of the refrigerator,  the sailboat race or sailing the canoe, Margalo sitting in the fern and Snowball spying on her, or driving through the countryside]

 

  • Map work: Locate New York City and the East River.

 

  • Make a comparison chart. Stuart lives in an urban setting but searches for Margalo in a rural area.  Divide a chart in half.  Label one column Urban and the other Rural. Find pictures of urban and rural areas and glue the pictures under the correct headings.

 

Catholic Resources

 

  • Stuart definitely looks different. This excerpt from an examination of conscience helps children reflect on how they treat others.
  1. You shall not kill.
    Do I beat up others or hurt their bodies?
    Do I say cruel things, or make fun of others to hurt their feelings?

Are there kids I will not play with or be mean to because they look different?

Do I say mean things about others behind their backs?
Have I stopped speaking to anyone?
Do I encourage others to do bad things?
Do I try to love all people, born and unborn?

 

  • Saints who faced hardships with determination:

Saint Patrick

Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

Saint Therese de Lisieux

Saint Josephine Bakhita

Saint Martin de Porres

Saint Monica

Saint Francis de Sales

 

  • Stuart was a faithful friend to Margalo. Bible quotes about loyalty.

Do not let love and fidelity forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. – Proverbs 3:3-4

A friend is a friend at all times, and a brother is born for the time of adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

 

 

 

Nothing is Hopeless: A Review of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

“All darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one single candle.”  – St.  Francis of Assisi

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” – Mrs. Whatsit from A Wrinkle in Time

 

Reading level    

Grades 3-8

AR 4.7

Interest level     

Grades 5-9

Review and Comments

A Wrinkle in Time is an absolutely captivating and complex adventure.   The peculiar and diverse characters and their incredible experiences will prompt quite a range of emotions for the reader:  empathy, anger, sadness, wonder, confusion, fear, and finally joy.

The story centers on a young girl named Meg Murry.  Her background story is difficult and at times even harsh.  The emptiness and yearning for her mysteriously missing father is compounded by conflicts at school and her self-esteem.  It has been a very long year wondering where her father is and if he will ever return.  Her mother, also a scientist like her husband, is trying to hold the family together while researching her husband’s disappearance and continuing the tesseract research they started. Meg has three brothers, but her relationship with her younger brother, Charles, is very special.  He is a unique boy with exceptional gifts that are revealed as the story progresses. Charles and Meg become friends with a lonely boy named Calvin O’Keefe. Calvin finally feels he belongs somewhere after he meets them and becomes their constant and faithful companion. Charles also introduces Meg to three curious characters named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. These three know it is time to help “a very good man who needs help.”  And so the partnership to save Meg’s father begins. Continue reading Nothing is Hopeless: A Review of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Inner Beauty is God’s Delight: A Review of ‘The Sign of the Carved Cross’ (Chime Travelers #2)

“I am not my own, I have given myself to Jesus.  He must be my only love.” – Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Reading Level

Grade 2-5

Review and Comments

The Sign of the Carved Cross is the second book in the Chime Travelers series.  It is about a girl named Katie who travels through time to the year 1675. Katie’s story begins at school where she faces a challenging dilemma involving her longtime friends and their obvious disapproval of a new girl. As Katie contends with her mixed feelings of loyalty, jealousy, and then guilt, she becomes more confused and moody.  Her twin brother, Patrick, councils her about the way she is acting and encourage her to be friendly towards the girl.  His wisdom comes from his own experience with time travel and the lessons he learned. Continue reading Inner Beauty is God’s Delight: A Review of ‘The Sign of the Carved Cross’ (Chime Travelers #2)

Know That You Are Not Alone: A Review Of ‘The Secret of the Shamrock’ (Chime Travelers #1)

“I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me.” – St. Patrick

Reading Level

Grades 2-5

Review and Comments

The Secret of the Shamrock is about a boy named Patrick and his amazing experience with time travel to the year 395.   The story begins with a humorous incident (for the reader but not so much for Patrick) at his newly adopted sister’s baptism. He secretly brings his pet frog, Francis, to the baptism where Francis jumps into the baptismal font.  Naturally, Patrick’s parents are not amused.  They decide their children need to learn more about the church so they volunteer the family’s service to the cleaning ministry at their parish. Continue reading Know That You Are Not Alone: A Review Of ‘The Secret of the Shamrock’ (Chime Travelers #1)

A Beautiful Adventure: A Review of ‘An Unexpected Role’

“The most beautiful and stirring adventure that can happen to you is the personal meeting with Jesus, who is the only one who gives meaning to our lives.”–St. John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 7-12

Review and Comments

Sixteen-year old-Josie has left her family to spend the summer with her Aunt Lily after some embarrassment and bullying at her high school.  Since, in her mind, her mother has caused the bullying, Josie is happy to get away.

Josie loves the small island where her aunt lives and she is able to quickly make friends with people while there including an incredibly handsome and exotic guy  named Niko. Unfortunately, someone from her high school is also there, Ryan McNaulty.  She is afraid he is there to continue the bullying begun by his friends at school, and is shocked to find that he wants to be her friend. Continue reading A Beautiful Adventure: A Review of ‘An Unexpected Role’

Run and Find Out!: A Review of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

“To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.” – St. Teresa of Avila

Reading Level

Grades 3-5    [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently.]

5.0    [AR]

Review and Comments

Rikki-tikki-tavi is a young mongoose who is welcomed into an English family after being separated from his own family during a terrible storm.  The father seems to know a lot about mongooses, and he assures his wife and son that it is a good thing to have a mongoose close by because they kill snakes.  This proves true when Rikki-tikki saves the young son from a deadly snake soon after he arrives.  The danger for the family is not over however. Rikki-tikki e and his adopted family soon experience life-threatening encounters with a pair of deadly adversaries. Continue reading Run and Find Out!: A Review of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

Sacred Touchstones: A Review of ‘Will Rider, The Relic of Perilous Falls’

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:13

Reading Level: 3.7; grade 7 [There are two very different suggestions for the reading level.]
Interest Level: Ages 8-12; Ages 10+

Review and Comments:
The Relic of Perilous Falls is a powerful story of good and evil, truth and deceit, belief and skepticism. The confrontation between these forces centers on the relic of St. Thomas the Apostle. The more recent history of the relic begins during WWII when a brave young man named Jacob Wilder undertakes a daring mission to rescue the bones of St. Thomas. He is not the only one who desires the relic however. It is evident from the very beginning of the story that evil has manifested itself and will do anything to possess the precious bones. Jacob takes intricate measures to protect the relic and its power. He builds Peniel as a sanctuary to safeguard relics in the town of Perilous Falls, “the last stronghold against the dark madness of the world.” Continue reading Sacred Touchstones: A Review of ‘Will Rider, The Relic of Perilous Falls’

Into the Wild: A Review of ‘The Wild Robot’

“A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God.”—Alan Perlis

Reading Level

Grades 5-8

Review

The draw of The Wild Robot is definitely its premise.  We’ve all read stories of characters trying to survive in the wilderness in books like Hatchet and Robinson Crusoe.  We’ve also read futuristic stories of robots who have evolved to act more and more like humans.  Rarely, however, are the two instances put together as they are in this novel. Peter Brown brings us this intriguing situation and, I admit, this is what drew me to the book. Continue reading Into the Wild: A Review of ‘The Wild Robot’

The Greatest Pursuit: A Review of ‘The Perfect Blindside’

“Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable of pursuits becomes tedious.”—Thomas Aquinas

Interest Level:

Grades 7-12

Review and Thoughts

I am often hesitant when it comes to reading Catholic young adult literature, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with The Perfect Blindside.  Not only does it tell a good story, but it brings aspects of the faith into the story without beating the reader over the head.  I appreciate the effort by Leslea Wahl to appeal to her young adult readers that way. Continue reading The Greatest Pursuit: A Review of ‘The Perfect Blindside’

Venture Forth: A Review of ‘The Wishing Spell’ (Land of Stories #1)

 “Every person’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers.” –Hans Christian Anderson

Reading Level:

Grade 5 [The text could likely be read independently by a student whose reading skills are at the level of a typical fifth grader.]

Interest Level: 

Grades of 3-8

Review and Comments:

The Wishing Spell is a story about a brother and sister named Alex and Connor Bailey, twins who are individually quite unique.  Alex is an intelligent and resourceful girl who spends a great deal of time reading alone and isolating herself from those who consider her different.  Connor, on the other hand, is a very popular boy who finds school a challenge and sometimes feels that no matter how hard he tries he just doesn’t measure up. He has trouble staying awake in school because, well, most lessons are just not interesting or relevant. The twins do share two very important things in common however.  They love fairy tales.  Their father and grandmother have been telling them fairy tales since they were very young.  Those family times are some of their best memories.  Alex even wonders what it would be like to live in a fairy tale of her imagination. The twins also share a great sorrow.  Their dad was killed in an accident and even though it was a year ago they still grieve so much that “sometimes they expect their sadness to swell out of their bodies”. Continue reading Venture Forth: A Review of ‘The Wishing Spell’ (Land of Stories #1)