I started reading this novel to my daughters last week, and I raved about it. I’m withdrawing my rave. In fact, I’m discontinuing it as a read-aloud. Normally I don’t write about either unfinished or abandoned books. But since I foolishly wrote about this one before I finished it and would feel bad if anyone else picked it up based on my premature enthusiasm, I feel the need for a second post. The opening chapters have the Elizabeth Goudge trademark of wonderful place descriptions, as…Continue Reading “Linnets and Valerians (Revised)”

It’s that time again — the What’s On Your Nightstand carnival at 5 Minutes for Books, where we’re invited to share what we’ve been reading, or what we plan to read. Click the button to find out the details, and join in. I missed the last Nightstand, but here’s what I’ve read over the last month: A.A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, reviewed here. This was a page turner in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle and a fun glimpse of the Milne beyond Pooh. Sherry…Continue Reading “On the Nightstand, March 2011”

Over the last year I discovered Elizabeth Goudge, a 20th century Christian author with a remarkable gift for capturing the beauty and sense of place in the English countryside that forms the setting for many of her books. Readers of Goudge will be familiar with her trilogy about the Eliot family, their indomitable matriarch Lucilla Eliot, and their country estate Damerosehay, a 16th-century mansion patterned after the the one to which Goudge herself retreated to face her own inner demons. The real Damerosehay is demolished,…Continue Reading “The Heart of the Family”

It might not look like much to you. Dirt, with bits of feeble green poking through. But a week and two days ago, it looked like this: and this: and this: A few weeks ago the cardinals, who are here all winter but silent, began singing again in the morning. Then the robins came back. I’ve been hearing their song in the early mornings and it’s been wonderful. But this. THIS means spring is here. February feels like I’m hanging from a cliff, grasping with…Continue Reading “Look…”

I don’t think I normally begin thinking beyond our current schoolyear this early. But yesterday the less-than-perfect aspects of my fourth-grader’s experience this year spurred me online to investigate some materials, and I found myself laying an entire tentative plan for next year. Both girls will be doing earth science and astronomy next year, at second and fifth grade levels. The astronomy decision is easy: Real Science-4-Kids. Our experiences with pre-level 1 chemistry and level 1 physics have been quite positive — even though not…Continue Reading “Looking Ahead: Curriculum Musings”

The Everlasting Man (1925) is G.K. Chesterton’s response to H.G. Wells’ Outline of History. Chesterton took issue with Wells’ evolutionary interpretation and his ensuing book is one of the ten C.S. Lewis credited as most influential in his intellectual life, spiritual history and vocation. What comes to mind first is a question: what would Chesterton think of one such as I “reviewing” his book? I feel completely inadequate. His learning is immense in both breadth and depth, his wit superlative, his good nature and brilliance…Continue Reading “The Everlasting Man”

*Edited to add: See my revised view of this book. It’s Read-Aloud Thursday, and none of the shorter books we’ve read this week seem post-worthy. But we’re a few chapters into Elizabeth Goudge’s Linnets and Valerians, an ALA Notable Book for Children published in 1964. We are having a blast with it. For one thing, I’m getting a chance to introduce the girls to a recently-discovered author, my favorite discovery from 2010. Elizabeth Goudge has a knack for writing descriptions that capture the essence of…Continue Reading “Linnets and Valerians”

As my youngest read to me today, I found myself reflecting on reading styles — and wondering how much they are a function of maturity, or personality, or ? My youngest is a chatty reader. Every page or two, she stops reading the text to offer commentary, study the pictures, ask questions, or flip back a few pages to check on a detail. “I like this book! You know I think I’ll read all the way through right now.” “Who are those children, Mommy? Are…Continue Reading “Chatty reading”

Do we think of democracy as the pinnacle — the culmination of long striving toward a fuller expression of human ideals — the summit of human progress? G.K. Chesterton, writing in 1925, points out that such a view may have it backwards: If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A…Continue Reading “G.K. Chesterton on “tired democracy””

M.I.T. professor Sherry Turkle has written two previous books on the subject of technology and its effects on humanity. Apparently The Second Self, published 26 years ago, presents a more sunny thesis that online exploration is beneficial to self-development. But Turkle’s new book, Alone Together, is a fascinating and at times devastating exploration of the question posed in its subtitle: “Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.” The first half of the book describes our interaction with robots: robotic toys like…Continue Reading “Alone Together”