Tag Archives: bravery

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’

Redemption Through Suffering: A Review of ‘Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy’

“Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance: through its crystal the world should see God.”–St. Gianna Molla

Reading Level:

Grade 11+

Review and Comments:

I’ve always been fascinated by the lives of the saints.  Their ability to see God through suffering, their bravery in evangelization, their relationship to Jesus and His mother, and their willingness to face death and persecution for Him are awe=inspiring.  As a cradle Catholic, I have read many of their stories and wished to be closer to them and learn more about them.  They have been the celebrities I have looked up to, and though my favorite saint has changed with my season of life, I have found that often I feel as though their stories are unrealistic in this day and age.  I can’t see myself being like them and I feel that their virtue is unattainable.

It is for this reason I enjoy reading about more modern people who may not be saints (yet) but nevertheless they have lived holy and virtuous lives.  A few years ago I read about Immaculee Ilibagiza and her suffering through the Rwandan genocide.  Her joy and faith  amidst terrible suffering have been a beautiful witness of God’s forgiveness and love for those involved.  She became someone I aspired to be for a long time, but her suffering was extreme, and often times I could not fully relate.  (You can read more about her here.)  

My newest role model is Chiara Corbella Petrillo. I saw Chiara’s story make the rounds in the Catholic blogosphere a year or so ago.  I read a bit about her and thought it was a sad story, but moved on as people do when they read something online.  Then her book popped up as a recommendation for me.  I couldn’t put it down. Continue reading Redemption Through Suffering: A Review of ‘Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy’

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”

Fight Courageously: A Review of ‘The Shadow of His Wings: A Graphic Biography of Fr. Gereon Goldmann’

And of what should we be afraid? Our captain on this battlefield is Christ Jesus. We have discovered what we have to do. Christ has bound our enemies for us and weakened them that they cannot overcome us unless we so choose to let them. So we must fight courageously and mark ourselves with the sign of the most Holy Cross.”–Saint Catherine of Sienna

Interest Level

Grades 7+

Review and Comments

If there was ever a story of courage, faith, and commitment, it is the story of Father Gereon Goldmann.  His story begins with him being drafted into the loathsome SS during WWII.  As a strong German Catholic who had been in the seminary, this is a great struggle.  Father Goldmann is strong, however, and remains committed to our Lord through it all and because of this, he is able to minister to so many. Continue reading Fight Courageously: A Review of ‘The Shadow of His Wings: A Graphic Biography of Fr. Gereon Goldmann’

Finding Greatness: A Review of ‘Wonder’

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” –from Wonder

Grade Level:

Grades 5-8

Review and Thoughts

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is one of those great middle elementary books that teaches everyone the struggles and beauties of life and how sometimes they become entwined and we can’t have one without the other.

The story begins with our introduction to August Pullman who has been born with a terrible facial deformity.  In fact, when he is first born, he tells us that the nurses took him away so that his mother couldn’t see him.  He goes on to explain how everyone is so shocked and flustered in the hospital, but when his mother sees him, she notices how beautiful his eyes are and loves him the way any mother would.  And so the book begins with that combination of struggle and beauty and continues throughout. Continue reading Finding Greatness: A Review of ‘Wonder’

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’

Bearing the Burden of Another: A Review of ‘Number the Stars’

“We must stand up for the rights of our neighbor who is suffering from injustice; we must defend them all the more vigorously because we see Jesus present in them. Surely this is our duty because of our love for others for his sake. We have no right to be ‘sleeping watchmen’ or dumb watch-dogs. Whenever we see evil we must sound the alarm.” — Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Reading Level:   5.2 [according to Scholastic which reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

4.5 [AR level]

Interest Level:  Grades 3 – 6

Review and Comments:

Number the Stars is a historical fiction that takes place during WWII in Denmark.  The danger and turmoil in Copenhagen at the time are seen through the eyes of a ten year old girl named Annemarie. She witnesses cruelty and personally experiences fear amidst the bravery and heroic sacrifices of many who “honor the humanity of others.” Continue reading Bearing the Burden of Another: A Review of ‘Number the Stars’

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’

A Determined Spirit: A Review of ‘Stone Fox’

“A small body of determined spirits fired by unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

Reading Level: 

Grade 4-5 [according to common core]

Grade 3.2 [according to Scholastic]

Grade 4    [AR level]

Interest Level:

Grades 3-5

Review and Comments:

Stone Fox is a story about courage and determination.  It is a story about a young boy’s love for his grandfather and his dog that will touch the heart of the reader. Continue reading A Determined Spirit: A Review of ‘Stone Fox’