Tag Archives: family

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’

Fill Us With Joy: A Review of ‘The Most Beautiful Christmas Story’

 “And in the end, everything else will turn out to be unimportant and inessential; except for this: Father, Child, and Love.” – Pope Saint John Paul II

Interest Level

3 years+

Review and Comments

The Most Beautiful Christmas Story is a wonderful book for young children about Jesus’ birth beginning with the Annunciation and ending with the Holy Family in Nazareth after their time in Egypt.  I was struck by two things while reading this book.  First, the large illustrations, each covering two pages, are filled with wonderful details that truly enhance the story. The second thing that stands out for me is the words and phrases interwoven throughout the story that express the miracle of Christmas.   The first sentence proclaims beautifully that “God sent the Angel Gabriel…”  What a wonderful way to introduce the story of God’s amazing plan.  Then, Mary waits for the Savior with hope,  St. Joseph tenderly whispers to Jesus that their hearts are full of love, the shepherds are filled with peace and joy, the Wise Men feel the light of the star as a sign, and when the Holy Family travels to Egypt, Mary declares that God is with us.  All of these expressions of God’s beautiful love truly convey the Christmas message. Continue reading Fill Us With Joy: A Review of ‘The Most Beautiful Christmas Story’

An Interview with Catholic Author, Leslea Wahl

I’m so excited to get to share my interview with Leslea Wahl with you all today!  I am a little star struck, I have to admit, whenever I get talk to someone I really admire.  Ms. Wahl is one of those people!  Not only is she a great young adult author, but she tells her story and shares her faith with such entertainment!  Her books are great adventures and mysteries and I, for one, am so glad she has decided to start writing.

We are so blessed to have her books entering the Catholic fiction genre.  Check out my interview…I think you will love her as much as I do!

Can you tell us a bit about you and your family?

I live in beautiful Colorado with my husband and three children. Although “children” doesn’t really describe our kids anymore. Our oldest just graduated college, our middle child is currently in college and our “baby” will be a senior in high school. As a family, we love to travel and try new adventures like zip-lining, jet skiing and scuba diving.

What made you decide to start writing and why did you chose to write for a young adult audience?

I’ve always been creative but never thought about writing a novel, especially for teens. But when  my older children were preteens and began searching for YA books to read, I was having a really hard time finding books that they wanted to read that also reflected our values. I wondered why no one was writing these kinds of books. Then one day I woke up and the story of my first novel, The Perfect Blindside, just came to me. The characters and scenes kept flooding my mind until I finally started to write them down. I definitely felt God called me to write that book. Since then my passion has been to write Young Adult fiction and to encourage teens in their faith. Continue reading An Interview with Catholic Author, Leslea Wahl

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’

Revisiting Childhood Memories: A Review of ‘No, David!’

“It’s not enough to love children, it is necessary that they are aware they are loved.”–  St. John Bosco

Reading Level

K-1                        [common core]

Pre-K – Grade 3 [David Shannon website]

Pre-K – 1              [Scholastic]

Review and Comments

David Shannon’s book, No, David!, is modeled after a book he wrote and illustrated as a child.  The pictures are colorful, and the vocabulary is limited because at the time he only knew how to spell no and David.  His story allows a small glimpse into the animated life of a very active, little boy named…… David.

This version highlights familiar childhood situations like sneaking cookies and jumping on the bed during imaginative play.  While David is enthusiastically charging through his day, his mother is trying to teach him important lessons: taking care of toys, respecting the property of others, and listening to and obeying his mother. David ultimately faces consequences after his serious infraction of breaking his mother’s vase.  The main lesson he does learn is that his mother’s love is unconditional. She assures him on the last page that she still loves him even after all the challenges of the day. Continue reading Revisiting Childhood Memories: A Review of ‘No, David!’

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’

God With Us: A Review of ‘God Gave Us Christmas’

“The Word who found a dwelling in Mary’s womb comes to knock on the heart of every person with singular intensity this Christmas.” – St. John Paul II

Reading Level: 2.7 [according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Interest Level: PreK – 2

Review and Comments:

“Where does Christmas come from?” Little Cub asks her mother.  Mama Bear could answer her question easily, but Mama wants her child to understand deep in her heart exactly what Christmas really means.  She wants to transport Little Cub to the first Christmas so she explains the scene in Bethlehem and the true meaning of the gift of Jesus.  Then Mama takes her out into the world to find God in the most unusual places.  Little Cub learns that God is the Light of the World. He is powerful and mighty.  And God is so generous He gave Jesus to all of us – “the best present of all.”  Little Cub thanks her Mama for “showing her God” and prepares for Christmas with a spirit filled with joy. Continue reading God With Us: A Review of ‘God Gave Us Christmas’

So Wonderfully You Made Me: A Review of ‘Miraculous Me’

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13-16

Interest Level

2-7 years

Review and Comments

Miraculous Me is a story told from the perspective of an unborn child who knows it is cherished even in its mother’s womb.  The child describes itself as “a hidden miracle, a gift from above, and a treasure.”  The child listens to its parents’ musings about their baby’s future. What will their child be like?  What will their child like to do?  The message the parents want their child to know is that he or she is precious, and God will guide the way throughout his or her life.  They know for sure their child will have a beautiful life. Now they wait patiently for the joyous day of their child’s birth when they will see the infinite love of God in the gift of their child. Continue reading So Wonderfully You Made Me: A Review of ‘Miraculous Me’

A Gift From the Creator: A Review of ‘God Gave Us Two’

“The joy of children makes their parents’ hearts throb and reopens the future.” – Pope Francis

Interest Level:  PreK – K

Reading Level:

Grade 2  [according to Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

2.8         [AR reading level]

Review and Comments:

The joyful anticipation of the birth of a new baby is always exciting for a family.  For Little Cub, the soon-to-be big sister, there are also a lot of questions about her new brother or sister. Mama and Papa lovingly answer all her questions and teach her about God’s plan for families.  When they say, “God gave us two,” it expresses to Little Cub that she and the new baby are beautiful and individual creations of God.  They are precious gifts to Mama and Papa.  They also explain all the wonderful things she will experience as a big sister.  The reader sees time pass when Little Cub finds it harder and harder to sit on her mother’s lap because there is less room.  Finally, the day of the birth arrives and Little Cub is very excited to learn she has a brother and a sister.  She proclaims, “God actually ‘gave us three!’” Continue reading A Gift From the Creator: A Review of ‘God Gave Us Two’