Tag Archives: Catholic home school

Venturing Home: A Review of ‘Stickman’

“There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world until we come back to the same place. ” – G. K. Chesterton

Reading Level

Pre-K – Grade 5 [Scholastic]

AR 2.8 [0.5 points]                

Review and Comments

Poor Stick Man is just trying to get home to his family after a morning jog but one difficult situation after another block any progress. He is mistakenly used as a stick in a game of fetch, material for a swan’s nest, a flag pole on a sand castle, a sword, a hook, a pen, a bat, a boomerang, and an arm for a snowman! Each time he is used for a different purpose, he announces:

“I’m not a stick! Why can’t you see,

I’m Stick Man, I’m Stick Man,

I’M STICK MAN, that’s me,

And I want to go home to the family tree!”

 His family patiently watches for his return, but after some time they are discouraged and wonder if he will ever come home.

The final problem for Stick Man is the most serious. He is added to a pile of kindling for an inevitable Christmas fire.  Just when the situation seems dire, he is discovered by Santa. Well, actually Stick Man rescues Santa who is stuck in the chimney.  He not only rescues Santa, he helps Santa deliver Christmas presents.  His good deeds are rewarded when Santa brings him home after his busiest night, and Stick Man is finally reunited with his family.

Continue reading Venturing Home: A Review of ‘Stickman’

25 of Our Favorite Christmas picture Books

I know it’s early, but I just wanted to make sure we shared with you some of our favorites!  We have classic books, new books, secular, and Catholic books all wrapped into one amazing list. You can read one each night in the month of December ending on Christmas Day!  Click on the pictures below for our affiliate link.  Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

The classic poem republished with beautiful new illustrations. The kids will love it.
Tomie dePaola never fails to tell a captivating story that reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. (Warning/Spoiler: Old Befana dies so it may be sad for more sensitive kids.
Though this book may be hard to find, it’s worth it. The illustrations show the nativity, but the words are a love song from mother to child that could apply to any mother awaiting the birth of her child.
Another wonderful tale by Tomie dePaola that shares the tradition of Las Posadas and finishes with the his gift of faith. This is one of my kids’ favorite books.
A Christmas classic that both adults and kids will love. It demonstrates how kindness can create miracles.
The nativity story told from the perspective of Saint Joseph is a viewpoint we rarely see. It is so well told in this book.
This is one of my absolute favorite stories. I love the way Tomie dePaola includes the miraculous in so many of his stories, but this is always one of my favorites.
There are few storytellers as wonderful as Kate DiCamillo. This one is perfect for Christmas.
Such a perfect story of family and Christmas miracles. This lyrical story is perfect for younger kids who will love the repetition. (Our review will be out soon)
Continue reading 25 of Our Favorite Christmas picture Books

Modern and Traditional: A Review of ‘Anna Hibiscus’

“Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living.” – Pope Francis

Reading Level

AR 4.1 (1.0 point)

Independent readers ages 9-12

Interest Level

K-4

Review and Comments

Anna Hibiscus is a delightful story about a little girl and her devoted family. Each chapter begins with the same words, “Anna lives in Africa with a very large extended family.”  Their bond is undeniably strong throughout the stories she relates to the reader. Her parents freely share their love with their children.  Her grandparents, the elders in the family, express their wisdom not only in oral lessons but in their exemplary daily living. Anna learns a very important lesson about charity with her grandparents’ guidance.  Their sacrifice is truly inspiring.  The support of the aunts, uncles, and cousins is also obvious and emphasizes their attitude that “It’s not good to be alone.  We have to help each other.”  The family believes in “proper African ways,” but they also embrace modern ways.  It is obvious that Anna is very happy to belong to this family where love and support are given every day.

There are many comparisons made throughout the stories that call attention to interesting differences yet none are labeled right or wrong. Anna gives a very good description of her home compound and the exciting city right outside her gate.  She loves them both.  Her mother grew up in a small family in Canada while her father grew up in Africa in this large family, and Anna finds the differences very interesting.  And when they travel in a boat for a family vacation, Anna notes details as they pass a large city and then a rainforest.  She sees beauty in it all.  While on vacation, her family enjoys their alone time away from the larger family group but by the end of the vacation everyone has joined them.  It is obvious the larger family unit has benefits for everyone.  Then, Anna meets an aunt who left home long ago and it is undoubtedly a very happy occasion for everyone.  The aunt shows the family that she still joyfully embraces family traditions and also exhibits a few adopted “modern” ways.

Continue reading Modern and Traditional: A Review of ‘Anna Hibiscus’

Augusta: A Review of ‘The Queen and the Cats: A Story of Saint Helen’

“What we can learn from Helena is something about the workings of God, that He wants a different thing from each of us, laborious or easy, conspicuous or quite private, but something which only we can do and for which we were each created.” – Evelyn Waugh

Reading/Interest Level

Ages 3-7

Grades P-K – 5

Review and Comments

Queen Helena arrives on the island of Cyprus, and everyone is excited to get a glimpse of “the queen, the royal empress of the whole world.”  A small, young girl is able to get very close to the Queen and the very first thing she witnesses is the Queen’s anger.  Helena exclaims that she is bringing precious relics to be displayed in the churches for the faithful, but now she finds out that the churches are unsafe for the people because of poisonous snakes!  This is not acceptable. 

Then, Helena reverently presents a small piece of the cross “where our Lord died and defeated death” for everyone to see and again inquires if there is even one church in all of Cyprus where the people can safely venerate the Lord’s cross.  Finally, a solution to the problem is accomplished for one special service.  The snakes are “held at bay by sticks dipped in oil and lit on fire.” The queen continues to agonize over the very serious snake crisis. Continue reading Augusta: A Review of ‘The Queen and the Cats: A Story of Saint Helen’

Choices: A Review of ‘Perfect Gifts’ (from THe Adventures of Nick and Sam, Book 1)

“The cost of obedience is small compared with the cost of disobedience.” – Saint Augustine

Reading Level

Ages 5-8

Review and Comments

Perfect Gifts is an excellent story about the virtue of obedience and the promblematic consequences  of disobedience.  The story revolves around a devoted family that includes twins, Samantha and Nicholas.  Their eighth birthday approaches and as with all soon-to-be eight year olds, excitement is at a peak.  The children wonder if they will receive the gifts they long for, and Nick cannot wait to see what his parents bought him.  He and Samantha sneak a peek at their wrapped gifts, but nothing goes as planned.  There are regrets and consequences for their actions.  Nick just doesn’t understand why his parents are so upset or that their disobedience has created a broken trust.

A.A. Milne once wrote “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience – well, that comes from poor judgment.”   The twins certainly rack up a lot of experience in this story!  While at a public pool, Samantha’s father actually has to save her life because of her disobedience.  On the twins’ actual birthday, the family plans a special family hike.  Before they begin, both Samantha and Nicholas ignore their parents’ advice to be better prepared and suffer the consequences.  Then, impatient Nicholas ignores his dad and goes to an abandoned barn. Let’s just say a run in with a family of skunks is a very powerful lesson! Yet even after suffering all those very tough consequences, Nick chooses to ignore his parents one last time. He secretly takes all the money from his bank and buys some so called amazing items from an older nieghborhood boy.  On the way home he falls and all his items break.  He is alone with the damage of his disobedience once again.  This time he fully examines his actions over the last few days and it’s not a proud moment for him.  Then who should come looking for him but his father! Nick asks for forgiveness and understands that he is able to start over because of the love and forgiveness he receives.

Continue reading Choices: A Review of ‘Perfect Gifts’ (from THe Adventures of Nick and Sam, Book 1)

Demonstrating Character: A Review of ‘Prince Martin Wins his Sword’

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” – C. S. Lewis

Reading Level

Ages 6-9

Review and Comments

If you are looking for a book full of action, Prince Martin Wins His Sword by Brandon Hale is a good choice. It is a story of courage, friendship, and the strength and faithfulness of a father.   

Prince Martin lives in a castle surrounded by knights, their code of behavior, and their amazing weapons.  Martin aspires to have his very own sword one day.  He also has an undisclosed dream to own a faithful and brave dog, but the sword is his great desire.  His father, the King, wisely makes the judgment that Martin is much too young for a sword and that his staff and sling is enough for him at this point in his life. He explains that when Martin demonstrates that he is brave, loyal, and true, he will be deemed worthy to own a sword.  This is a goal Martin hopes to reach, but he has no idea how he will achieve those very lofty traits.

Continue reading Demonstrating Character: A Review of ‘Prince Martin Wins his Sword’

The Power of Words: A Review of ‘Seeds and Trees’

The babble of some people is like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise is healing. – Proverbs 12:18

Reading/Interest Level

Grades 1-6 [Ages 6-12]

Review and Comments

Seeds of words spoken, some green and others black, are given to a young prince every day.  The green seeds are gentle while the black seeds contain only hostility and misery. The prince accepts both seeds and plants them all.  As the prince watches his trees grow he observes that all the trees are powerful but very different.  The green trees are life giving.  The black trees create such darkness that the green trees eventually suffer and become weakened right down to their roots.

The prince meets an extraordinary, sincere friend who only gives him green seeds.  She is wise and very brave in the face of the darkness of the forest.  The green trees seem to “come alive” when she is near, but the dark trees seem to amplify their negativity.  The prince’s new friend has a challenging solution for the tragedy of the weakening green trees.  He recognizes her insight and agrees to accept the challenge.  Using her old tools, she and the prince cut down one dark tree. Then, they carefully cut down more and more until not one dark tree or any fragment of a root is left.  Following his friend’s advice, the prince never plants dark seeds again.  He carefully watches over his grove of green trees and continues to plant the green seeds that produce “new life.”

Continue reading The Power of Words: A Review of ‘Seeds and Trees’

Emptying Oneself: A Review of ‘The Legend of Bluebonnet’

“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving.  Without sacrifice, there is no love.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

Reading Level

AR4.2 [0.5 points]

Interest Level

Grades 1-3

Review and Comments

The Legend of the Bluebonnet is definitely my favorite Tomie dePaola book.  This beautiful story shows how the selfless giving of an ordinary, little Comanche girl accomplishes something quite extraordinary and saves her people.

The Comanche people, especially the young and old, are suffering greatly during what seems like an endless drought.  They pray to the Great Spirits and ask what they must do to end this devastating trial.  The shaman also prays to the Great Spirits, and when he returns from his private prayer time, he tells them the drought is a result of their selfishness. They must sacrifice their most valued possessions as an offering, and then spread the ashes to the points of the earth.  If they do this, the drought and famine will end.  The People are relieved they have an answer.  They acknowledge their most prized possessions and talk about why each article is special, but in the end each person decides that the Great Spirits surely isn’t asking forhis or her particular item.

Continue reading Emptying Oneself: A Review of ‘The Legend of Bluebonnet’

A Restless Imagination: A Review of ‘My Life in Pictures (Bea Garcia)’

“Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.” – St. John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 1-4, Ages 6-9

Review and Comments

Beatrice Holmes Garcia is a budding artist who illustrates her actual life experiences along with some very original daydreams.  Her drawings are not always restricted to her trusty journal however.  She has been known to draw on her little brother, the walls, and even the television.  Her family is usually very supportive of her enthusiasm unless her art extends beyond her notebook. 

It is obvious that Bea’s family and home are very important to her – the center of her world. That expands a bit when she happily meets her first best friend on her 5th birthday. The girls are kindred spirits from their first introduction.  They do everything together: draw, learn new things, and even share a magic tree in the backyard where their imaginations are truly free. 

Continue reading A Restless Imagination: A Review of ‘My Life in Pictures (Bea Garcia)’

Enchanted Summer: A Review of ‘Half Magic’ (Tales of Magic, #1)

 “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

Reading Level

AR:  5.0 (0.5 points)

Grade 6-8 (According to Scholastic)

Interest Level

Grades 4-8

Review and Comments

Summers are always very special for Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha, but everything changes after their father dies. They attempt to fill their summer days by playing with one another and going to the library often, which is the high point of their week. Each child searches for books in different genres, but they all love to read stories that inspire creative discussions about magical events.  However, these exchanges tend to leave them yearning for something extraordinary in their own lives. Little do they know that their summer is about to transform into something quite enchanted when Jane finds a shiny coin stuck in the sidewalk.

Continue reading Enchanted Summer: A Review of ‘Half Magic’ (Tales of Magic, #1)