Tag Archives: home school literature

An Idea Put to the Test: A Review of ‘Frindle’

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.” – Emily Dickinson

Reading Level

Grades 3-5, 6-8 [Scholastic]

AR 5.4 [2 points]

Interest Level

Grades 4-8

Review and Comments

This story is about Nicholas Allen’s successful campaign to use his newly invented word, frindle.

Nick has a reputation for having very creative, original ideas – ideas that often push the limits of his teachers’ patience.  Children, on the other hand, seem drawn to his plans.  One of his fool proof ideas is the “teacher-stopper.”  So, Nick tests his new fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Granger, with his tried and true routine of asking a question to take up class time. This plan never fails. He asks, “Why do words mean what they mean?”  She explains that “a word means something because he, Nick, says it does.”  Now that is food for thought.  So, when he finds a pen on the way home from school, he decides to call it a different name.  He calls it a frindle.  And that simple decision begins Nick’s greatest scheme.  He decides to call a pen a frindle while at home, at school, and he even asks his friends to join him. Continue reading An Idea Put to the Test: A Review of ‘Frindle’

Only the Truth: A Review of ‘The Empty Pot’

 “To be honest as this world goes is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.” —William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Reading Level

AR 3.8 [0.5 points]

3.0-3.9 ATOS Book Level [ATOS readability formula represents the difficulty of the text]

Interest Level

Pre-K – Grade 5

Review and Comments

The Empty Pot is an inspirational Chinese folk tale about honesty and honor, bravely demonstrated by a little boy named Ping.

The Emperor is getting older and realizes he must find someone to take his place – someone who will be an honorable leader.  Since he has no children, he looks to all the children in his kingdom to find that one exceptional child.  His plan will surely reveal someone who is worthy.  He invites all the children of his kingdom to his palace and gives each child flower seeds to plant and nurture for the next year.  Then, they are to return and present their best flowers to the Emperor, and he will make his decision. Continue reading Only the Truth: A Review of ‘The Empty Pot’

The Earth Provides: A Review of ‘How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World’

“God created the universe in such a manner that all in common might derive their food from it, and that the Earth should also be a property common to all.” – St. Ambrose

Reading Level

AR 3.1 [0.5 points]

Interest Level

Pre-K – Grade 2

Review and Comments

A plan to make an apple pie seems rather straightforward.   After all, it’s only a matter of following a few important steps beginning with a trip to the grocery store. If the store is closed, however, how does one get all the necessary ingredients?  Well, you just travel around the world and gather the best and freshest items on your list. And a bonus to the trip is the experience of traveling on different modes of transportation from a steamer to a parachute.  The shopping list takes the reader to Italy for semolina, France for the best possible eggs, Sri Lanka for the amazing spice of cinnamon, England for the freshest milk, Jamaica for sweet sugar cane, and crisp apples from Vermont. Continue reading The Earth Provides: A Review of ‘How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World’

A Complicated War: A Review of ‘A Long Walk to Water’

“I didn’t understand this complicated war, how it mortally devoured the land and left it so full of skeletons.”– Benson Deng, They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky 

Reading Levels

Interest Level: 6-9

Reading Level: 3-8

Review and Comments

When I was teaching high school, I taught the book They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky.  This was my first real introduction to the Lost Boys and the war in Sudan.  I’d heard mention of it on the news and in conversation, but had no real personal connection.  You see, I live half-way around the world, and at the time it had  no real significance to my day-to-day life.  But this is the beauty of what books can do.  When I read They Poured Fire… I was given a personal, first-hand account of the absolute horrors of the war that occurred and the devastation of the people (mostly young boys) who were left behind.  The book gave me insight, connection, and a desire to help, to know more, and to be more aware…more prayerful…for the people suffering every day in other parts of the world.  Books can make that happen, they connect history and news to our hearts and help us see the pain and suffering of others. Continue reading A Complicated War: A Review of ‘A Long Walk to Water’

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. Continue reading Two Inches of Determination: A Review of ‘Stuart Little’

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’

A Boy and His Dog: A Review of ‘The Boy Who Ate Dog Biscuits’

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”–Charles Schulz

Reading Level   

AR 2.6

Grades 3-5 [Scholastic]

Interest Level

Ages 6-9

Review and Comments

“A boy and his dog make a glorious pair: No better friendship is found anywhere.”  And that is why Billy Getten yearns for a dog of his own.  He wants that special relationship.  The problem is that Billy and his parents have different ideas about the whole ownership plan.  Billy tries to convince his parents he would be a “better Billy” if he owned a dog, but his parents want to see a better Billy before he owns a dog.  It is a tough argument.  Then things get a bit more complicated when Billy’s friend, Howard, accuses him of initiating a plan that endangers his little brother. Billy feels betrayed and cannot convince his parents he isn’t guilty.  The consequences of this episode with Howard push dog ownership even further in the future.  His allowance is taken away and that means he cannot afford to buy the dog treats he needs when training six stray dogs at the vet’s or nibble on his favorite snack! Billy faithfully continues his work with the dogs sans dog biscuits.  Then he meets a beautiful stray and their connection is immediate and undeniable.  He secretly hopes that this particular dog will one day be his. Continue reading A Boy and His Dog: A Review of ‘The Boy Who Ate Dog Biscuits’

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’

Pray and Hope: A Review of ‘Padre Pio: Saint Pius of Pietrelcina’

“Pray and hope.  God is merciful and He will hear your prayer.”–Padre Pio

Reading Level:

To be read with children at 5 years old.  To be read independently at 8 years and up.

Review and Comments:

As All Saint’s Day approaches, we are reminded of the great opportunity to learn about all of the holy men and women who have modeled their lives after Christ and show us the amazing possibilities in store when we do the same.  The really amazing part is that there are all different kinds of saints.  Saints who lived quietly, saints who were martyred, and saints who fought in wars are all with Jesus.  They simply listened to His call.

My hope is that my young children will find friends in the saints as I did growing up.  This is why I am so glad to have found the CTS Children’s Book series on saints for kids. Continue reading Pray and Hope: A Review of ‘Padre Pio: Saint Pius of Pietrelcina’

A Possibility for Something Good: A Review of ‘What Do You Do With a Problem?’

“It is not that they cannot see the solution.  It is they cannot see the problem.”  – G. K. Chesterton

Reading Level   

P – Grade 3

Review and Comments

What to do with a problem?  Now that is a dilemma we have all encountered.  The little boy in this story faces a problem he absolutely does not want.  His problem is not specifically defined, but it is extremely unsettling to him.  As the story unfolds his questions and emotional responses together with the expressive illustrations show how small he feels while confronting his ever-expanding problem.

When the boy first becomes aware of the problem, he immediately wants nothing to do with it.  He does everything he can to make it go away.  He even tries to ignore it but that does not help at all.  It first appears as a small cloud above his head and then begins to expand until “it looked as if it would swallow him up.”  And at the peak of his distress, the cloud is swirling around him. Continue reading A Possibility for Something Good: A Review of ‘What Do You Do With a Problem?’