Tag Archives: Catholic home school

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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A TESTED FRIENDSHIP: A REVIEW OF ‘THE MINIATURE WORLD OF MARVIN AND JAMES’

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.” –  Winnie the Pooh [A. A. Milne]

Reading Level

Ages 8-10

Grade 2 [Scholastic]

AR 2.6

Review and Comments

 James Pompaday and Marvin are the best of friends even though James is a boy and Marvin is a beetle.  They truly enjoy each other’s company and devotedly support one another.  Their friendship is tested when James spends a week at a summer camp and Marvin has to stay home. Marvin is troubled and wonders if James will think about him while he’s gone or even find a new friend to replace him, which would be the worst outcome.

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A PROACTIVE PLAN: A REVIEW OF ‘GOOD PICTURES BAD PICTURES JR.’

“God desires from you the least degree of purity of conscience more than all the works you can perform.”
–St. John of the Cross

Interest Level

3-6 years

Review and Comments

Reviewing Good Pictures Bad Pictures was challenging because of the subject matter.  The message is meant to introduce children to a “safe and healthy media experience.”  I feel the book handles this very serious topic with simple honesty and an effective, valuable plan. We want our children to be safe especially in today’s world, but this grandma’s heart is ever so sad and troubled that very young children must be armed against such an evil reality.

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THe Strength of Young People: A Review of ‘Secrets: Visible and Invisible’

” We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.” –Saint Pope John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 7-12+

Review and Contents

I was so excited when this book first came out. First of all, I am a HUGE fan of the short story genre. It was my favorite thing to read in school and my favorite to teach to my freshmen in high school. Truly great writers can tell such a good story with only a few pages.

It’s also no secret that I’m a fan of Catholic fiction for young readers. Most YA literature is full of vices of the modern world. Sex, drugs, violence….the list goes on and on. It feels so safe to have Catholic writers compile good stories for teens to read.

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TREASURED MEMORIES: A REVIEW OF ‘NANA UPSTAIRS AND NANA DOWNSTAIRS’

“You have taught me, O God, from my youth, and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds. And now that I am old and grey, O God, forsake me not, till I proclaim your strength to every generation that is to come.” – Psalm 71:17-18

Reading Level

3.4 AR [0.5 points]

Grade 3

Interest Level

Pre-K – Grade 2

Review and Comments

Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs is a true story based on Tomie dePaola’s early life.  His close relationship with his grandmothers is very touching.  Besides the obvious love Tommy has for his grandmothers, he also experiences the sad reality of grief from their deaths, which may be difficult for sensitive children.  During his healing however, he begins to understand that the love of his grandmothers is never lost or forgotten.  It will always be a cherished memory in his heart. 

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