The War That Saved My Life

warsaved

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The War That Saved My Life

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Publisher: Puffin Books, reprinted 2016

ISBN-13: 978-0147510488

ISBN-10: 0147510481

Related website: http://www.penguin.com/youngreaders (publisher)

Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Said to be for ages 9 – 12, but I would say ages 12 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker.  The War That Saved My Life (published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group USA LLC, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 375 Hudson St., New York City, NY  10014).  It is 1939, and ten-year-old Ada Smith, whose was born with a twisted foot, lives with her Mam and her six-year-old little brother Jamie in a one-room apartment in London, England.  Ada has never left the apartment because her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s club foot to let her outside and beats her unmercifully.  With World War II starting up and people fearing German bombs on London, Jamie, along with other children, is shipped out of London to escape the war, and Ada sneaks out to join him.  They are evacuated to a small coastal town in Kent where a woman named Susan Smith, who is mourning the recent death of her long-time housemate named Becky, is forced to take the two kids in.  What will happen to Ada and Jamie?  Will Susan and the children ever learn to get along and be happy with each other?  Or will Ada and her brother be forced back into the cruel hands of their mother?

The War That Saved My Life was a 2016 Newbery Honor book and was also the Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award (Middle School).  It is said to be for ages 9-12, but some on the younger end of that scale might find the abuse which Ada’s mother heaps upon the child a little intense.  I would say that it is more suitable for ages 12 and up.  Some common euphemisms (heck, drat) occur, the term “Good Lord” is used as an interjection, and Mam utters the Cockney curse word “‘ell” a few times.  There are also references to drinking wine.  However, the most serious issue is that one reviewer wrote, “Elements of sexuality in this book may be problematic for many parents.”  Having read the book, I found no sexual activity mentioned and not even any talk about sexual things.   I suspect that this reviewer was referring to some other reviews which said things like, “A secondary theme of lesbianism mentioned nowhere on the book summary or description,” and “This book has a character that is a lesbian,” or “Unbelievable that only two of the 400 plus reviews mentioned the subtle lesbianism content of this book.”

Now, I am very sensitive to such charges as these because I know how easy it is for a modern writer to slip unbiblical concepts into an entertaining story.  And I can see how some might interpret the relationship between Susan and Becky as lesbian.  Susan never wanted to marry and shared a home with Becky.  Her clergyman father doesn’t think that she can be redeemed from her evil ways.  The women of the village have never liked her.  And Ada’s mom called her a slut.  At the same time, all of these statements can be explained and understood in a way that is entirely without any connection to      sexuality, and to be honest, unless I missed something, I found nothing which necessitated a conclusion of lesbianism.  In fact, Becky and Susan had their own rooms.  I mean, can’t two good friends of the same gender share a home without being accused of homosexuality—especially in 1939? The story has some disturbing elements to it but ends up with a satisfactory conclusion.

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The Night Crossing

nightcrossHOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Night Crossing

Author: Karen Ackerman

Illustrator: Elizabeth Sayles

Publisher: Yearling, reprinted 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0679870401

ISBN-10: 0679870407

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 7-11

Rating: ***** Five stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

     Ackerman, Karen.  The Night Crossing (published in 1994 by Alfred A Knopf Inc., 201 E. 50th St., New York City, NY  10016; republished in 1995 by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY  10012).  It is 1938, and Clara lives with her parents, Albert and Helen, and her older sister Marta, in Innsbruck, Austria.  They are Jewish.  Many years before, Clara’s grandmother had made a night crossing from Russia over the Carpathian Mountains into Austria to escape persecution.  But now Adolph Hitler and his Nazis have taken over in Austria.  They are taking Jews, such as the Jewish baker Mr. Duessel, away to prison camps, so Clara’s family must make a night crossing from Austria over the Alps into Switzerland to escape the Nazis.  They will be using false papers and pretending to be Swiss citizens who had gone to Innsbruck to visit relatives but were now returning home.

However, they can take only so many things with them because they must look like casual travelers.  Clara wants to take her dolls, Gittel and Lotte, which had made the earlier night crossing with Grandma and had then been to her by Grandma.  Can they get away before the Nazis take them?  Will they make it to Switzerland, or will they be caught?  And what will happen to Gittel and Lotte?  This story, now a First Bullseye Book, is an excellent fictional introduction to the Holocaust for young children. It has plenty of drama and suspense, and the danger is clearly portrayed, but there is no overly descriptive gore that can be scary.  With its directness and simplicity, it is easy to digest by transitional readers.  As one reviewer noted, this is a difficult story that must be told to children of this generation and future generations.

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The Missing Head Mystery

misshead

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Missing Head Mystery

Author: Carole Marsh

Publisher: Gallopade International, republished 1980

ISBN-13: 978-0935326017

ISBN-10: 0935326014

Related websites: http://www.carolemarshblog.com/childrens-mystery-books/ (author), http://www.gallopade.com/Default.aspx (publisher)

Language level: 2

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

Marsh, Carole.  The Missing Head Mystery (published in 1979 by Gallopade Publishing Group, 108 N. Pearl St., Rocky Mount, NC  27801).  Michele and her younger brother Michael live in Raleigh, NC, with their mother who is a writer.  While Mom is away doing research, Michele and Michael are to spend the summer in the old port town of Bath, NC, with Mom’s friend John and his two children Brian and Jo Dee.  They expect to be bored.  However, Michele wants to be an actress, and they learn that Bath has an outdoor drama based on the life of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate, who lived nearby.  Maybe Michele can get a part in it.  And maybe Michael can hunt for buried treasure.  But then they find out that someone has stolen the elaborate and expensive false head of Blackbeard used in the play, and Mom says that the kids cannot go near the drama as long as there is any threat of crime.

Besides, without the head, the show might have to close.  So Michele’s solution is to hunt for the missing head that the show might go on.  Can the head be found or will the play be cancelled?  Who stole it and why?  And will Michele be able to get on stage?  I have previously read and reviewed three other Carole Marsh mysteries, The Mystery at Disney World (#11), The Mystery at the Kentucky Derby (#15), and The Mystery in Chocolate Town: Hershey, Pennsylvania (#18).  These are all part of the “Real Kids Real Places” Series in which Carole, as Mimi, and her grandchildren, Christina and Grant, solve various mysteries in different places.  However, Marsh had written an earlier “Historic Albemarle Tour Mystery Series,” starring her own children, Michele and Michael, as characters, which apparently are now out of print.  In fact, The Missing Head Mystery was her very first book.

There are a couple of common euphemisms, and one character likes to drink his beer.  Also, Mom and Dad are divorced.  However, the book weaves into the mystery plot a great deal of geographical information about the Bath area and a lot of historical background concerning Blackbeard.  Unfortunately, the used copy which I picked up was missing chapters 12 through 14 and part of 15 (pp. 96-128), so I missed a little bit of the action but was still able to follow the plot all right.  David Brock, age 12, said, “The best mystery I’ve ever read!”  I might not go that far, but it is pretty good.  The next book in this earlier series is entitled The Secret of Somerset Place.  The Gallopade website is currently announcing book #51 in the Real Kids, Real Places Series entitled The Mystery at Hilton Head Island.   There are also 14 International Mysteries now available in which Christina and Grant take their adventures around the world.

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A Single Light

single light

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: A Single Light

Author: Maia Wojciechowska

Illustrator: Seymour Leichman

Publisher: Bantam, republished 1976

ISBN-13: 9780553103595

ISBN-10: 0553103598

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

Wojciechowska, Maia.  A Single Light (published in 1968 by Harper and Row Publishers Inc., 49 E. 33rd St., New York City, NY  10016). Shortly after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Ramon de Prada, who was from the village of Almas in Andalucia, Spain, but had gone to Madrid to seek his fortune, returns to Almas, marries, and has a daughter. The girl turns out to be deaf and mute, and the mother dies six months afterward.   A kindly neighbor, Flora Garcia, names the girl Anna and takes care of her until she turns five, when she comes back to her father’s house to tend her grandfather’s goats.  When the girl is fifteen, Senora Garcia, whose husband has just died, has a sickly child but must go to work in her late husband’s place, so she hires the girl to tend the child.  Unfortunately, the child dies.  The girl tries to return home, but her father rejects her, so the village priest invites her to live in the parish house and work in the church.

While cleaning, the girl finds a marble sculpture of the Christ child hidden in the church.  Having been disowned by her father, having lost the child for which she cared, and finding no affection from either the priest or his housekeeper, the girl adopts the sculpture for her own to love.  Then an American art expert, Larry Katchen, comes to town and determines that the sculpture is a long missing piece by a famous Italian artist named Angelini, for which Katchen has spent his entire career looking.  The townspeople are overjoyed at the prospect of the fame and fortune the sculpture might bring to Almas and build a special case in which to secure it.  However, the girl steals it and runs away into the forest.  The townspeople, urged on by a hunchback who also works in the church but has a secret longing to be a leader, go to track her down with murderous threats.  The priest and Katchen take the latter’s car in an attempt to locate her also.  Will they find her?  What will happen to the statue?  And more importantly, what will become of the girl?

This book by Maia Wojciechowska, who won the 1965 Newbery Medal for Shadow of a Bull, was a Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee in 1970.  It has a slow, thoughtful plot with a rather abrupt ending, but other than a few references to drinking wine, there is nothing objectionable.  Of course, a lot of Roman Catholic beliefs and practices are mentioned. The themes of the novel include despair, hatred, love, and understanding.  The characterization of the girl is well done, and the frustration that she feels is portrayed clearly.  The story contains powerful lessons on the ability of genuine empathy for another to change people’s minds and the dangers of mob mentality. And it has an interesting look at people with disabilities.  One might even see a spiritual side to the story as it pertains to believing in God.

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Gist’s Promised Land: The Little-known Story of the Largest Relocation of Freed Slaves in U. S. History

 

gist

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Gist’s Promised Land: The Little-known Story of the Largest Relocation of Freed Slaves in U. S. History

Author: Paula Kitty Wright

Publisher: Sugar Tree Ridge Publishing, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0615886480

ISBN-10: 0615886485

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Teens and adults

Rating: ***** Five stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

Wright, Paula Kitty.  Gist’s Promised Land: The Little-known Story of the Largest Relocation of Freed Slaves in U. S. History (published in 2013 by Sugar Tree Ridge Publishing, 7190 Pondlick Rd., Seaman, OH  45679).  As I was growing up in Highland County, OH, I recall hearing the old timers talk about “Gist Settlement” and even remembered seeing road signs pointing to it as we travelled in that area from time to time.  The Gist Settlements were African-American communities that former slaves of Samuel Gist established in Ohio during the early nineteenth century. Samuel Gist (c.1723-1815) lived in Gloucester County, England, during the early 1800s. Gist was a very wealthy man, owning an expanse of land in England and in the Southern United States.  In 1808, Gist drafted his final will. He ordered that all of his slaves in Virginia were to gain their freedom upon his death, be resettled, and be provided with schooling and Protestant religious instruction, and that all of his possessions in the United States be sold to form a large trust to care for these freed men and women.  After Gist’s death in 1815, the executors freed Gist’s slaves.  The exact number of people that the executors freed remains unclear, but a reasonable estimate appears to be five hundred. The executors began to send letters north to find land on which these freed slaves could settle. Multiple plots of land were found in Ohio, and the former slaves moved to Ohio, where they established several communities.

These communities were commonly known as Gist Settlements. The first of these settlements was located in Erie County. The first Gist slaves may have arrived here in the late 1820s or early 1830s. After several years, they abandoned this settlement, probably due to the poor quality of land. The executors eventually purchased approximately two thousand acres of land in Adams, Brown, and Highland Counties.  Thus, a portion of the newly freed slaves were sent to Penn Township in Highland County, to the future Gist Settlement. The Gist Settlements in these three counties survived into the twentieth century, but the ones in Brown and Adams Counties were eventually sold off. However, at the start of the twenty-first century, descendents of the former Gist slaves still occupied part of the land in Highland County, the last to be purchased and settled (1831 and 1835).  Trustees were appointed in each new settlement to handle the funds allotted from Gist’s trust. The trustees set about building cabins, a school house, and a cemetery to get the new settlement started. One of their first acts in the Highland County settlement was to build a church known as Carthagenia Baptist Church.

Unfortunately, by 1850, it is likely that the trust funding the Gist Settlement was being mismanaged.  Thus in the 1850s, the Ohio General Assembly passed a law declaring that the Highland County Court of Common Pleas was to have jurisdiction over the trust fund. What became of the freed slaves of Samuel Gist who settled in Highland County, OH?  And what happened to their descendants?  This book, which I purchased at the Highland House Museum of the Highland County Historical Society in Hillsboro, OH, when we visited there last year, tells the story of these several hundred slaves that were given their freedom in 1815. Author Paula Kitty Wright lives in Highland County, and her passion for researching local history and genealogy led her to write her first book about Gist Settlement. The book very likely would have an extremely limited appeal that would include primarily those who have some connection to Highland County or have a special interest in the plight of freed slaves in this country.  However, it is a well written account of a fascinating but long-overlooked little slice of American history.

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The Christmas Secret: Will an 1880 Christmas Eve Wedding Be Cancelled by Revelations in an Old Diary?

christmas secret

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Christmas Secret: Will an 1880 Christmas Eve Wedding Be Cancelled by Revelations in an Old Diary?

Author: Wanda E. Brunstetter

Publisher: Shiloh Run Press, republished 2016

ISBN-13: 978-1634096751

ISBN-10: 1634096754

Related website: http://wandabrunstetter.com/ (author), http://www.barbourbooks.com (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 13 and up

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

Brunstetter, Wanda E.  The Christmas Secret: Will an 1880 Christmas Eve Wedding Be Cancelled by Revelations in an Old Diary? (originally published in 2011, republished in 2016 by Shiloh Run Press, a division of Barbour Publishing Inc., P. O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH  44683).  It is 1880, and Elizabeth Canning lives in Allentown, PA, with her father Charles and her stepmother Abigail.  Her mother had died when she was eight. Elizabeth is engaged to David Stinner, whose own father is dead, so he lives with his mother and grandfather.  The young couple plans to be married on Elizabeth’s birthday, which is Christmas Eve, and start life in the same little cabin where her maternal grandparents had lived before moving to Easton and where her own parents had lived prior to her mother’s death.

Then one day in early November, while cleaning the cabin to prepare for the wedding, Elizabeth finds a diary written by her mother’s sister, Aunt Lovina Hess from whom no one has heard in years, and discovers in it a horrible family secret which leads her to conclude that she can never marry David.  So she leaves him a letter cancelling their engagement without explaining why and runs off to stay with her paternal grandparents in Cooperstown.  David is confused by this letter and does not understand why Elizabeth called off their wedding. What is this secret?  Can David find the truth about the past?  And what will Elizabeth do?

My wife first read this story in a larger book, A Log Cabin Christmas Collection, published in 2011, and really liked it, so I decided to read it.  The Christmas Secret has now been republished as a separate book, although it is more like a novella than a full length novel.  There are references to a possible out of wedlock pregnancy.  It is all handled very discreetly and tastefully, but parents might not want to do this as a family read aloud with small children.  However, it is a sweet tale that is easy to read and contains nice messages about trust in God, the importance of prayer, good family relationships, the need for forgiveness, and the power of true love.

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A Song Is Born: A Collection of Inspiring Hymn Stories

song3

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: A Song Is Born: A Collection of Inspiring Hymn Stories

Author: Robert J. Taylor Jr.

Publisher: Taylor Publications, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-1932711004

ISBN-10: 1932711007

Related website: http://www.taylorpublications.com (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Teens and adults

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

For more information e-mail homeschoolbookreview@gmail.com

Taylor, Robert J. Jr.  A Song Is Born: A Collection of Inspiring Hymn Stories (published in 2004 by Taylor Publications, 20171 Hilltop Ranch Rd., Montgomery, TX  77316).  I adore the study of hymns.  I have preached lessons on them for years, post a weekly hymn study on a Yahoogroup, maintain a hymn studies blog on Word Press, and have even written a book of hymn stories entitled Songs of Zion.  In addition, I have a whole library of hymnbooks and other books about hymns, perhaps some of the best known of which are 101 Hymn Stories and 101 More Hymn Stories, both by Kenneth W. Osbeck.  One of the newer books in my collection is A Song Is Born by Robert J. Taylor Jr., who obviously adores the study of hymns as much as I do.

Taylor has been active in church music for many years. I believe that he set the type for the original Hymns for Worship edited by Dane K. Shepard and R. J. Stevens.  Also I know that he assisted with the research that went into Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, and perhaps other recent hymnbooks as well.  And he has published three major hymnbooks of his own, Favorite Songs of the Church (2009), the Praise Hymnal (2010), and Songs for Worship and Praise (2010).  It has never been my privilege to meet Taylor, but I have corresponded with him frequently, and he has been very helpful in sharing the results of his research with me to fill some of the gaps in my own research into the backgrounds of the hymns that we sing, their authors, and their composers.

This book is the result of years of research by Taylor in searching records, visiting graveyards, and interviewing authors or their descendants. It contains 100 stories behind what inspired many favorite songs, some older and some more recent popular ones, with stories for many well-known songs not found in 101 Hymn Stories or 101 More Hymn Stories. Included are classic hymns like “Sun of My Soul” (1820), standard American gospel songs like “Trust and Obey” (1886), Southern favorites like “An Empty Mansion” (1939), and contemporary praise choruses like “More Precious Than Silver” (1982), as well as those by people associated with churches of Christ like “I’ll Fly Away” (1932) and “No Tears in Heaven” (1934).  A full, shape-note copy of each song is presented. This is not a devotional book but will be of interest to readers who enjoy reading about the origins and history of some of our familiar songs.

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