The Hooks Files: Murder, Arson, Robbery, Amnesia

hooksfiles1

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Hooks Files: Murder, Arson, Robbery, Amnesia

Author: Paul Boyce

Cover Designer: Blake Brasor

Publisher: Tate Publishing, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1618621306

ISBN-10: 1618621300

Related website: http://www.tatepublishing.com (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 10-14

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

Boyce, Paul.  The Hooks Files: Murder, Arson, Robbery, Amnesia (published in 2012 by Tate Publishing and Enterprises LLC, 127 E. Trade Center Terr., Mustang, OK  73064).  As the book opens, William Coupes is sitting in a coffee shop with his fourteen year old grandson Jeff, waiting for Jeff’s father to pick them up.  To pass the time away, Mr. Coupes tells Jeff stories from his childhood.  It is the summer of 1936, and eleven year old Billy Coupes, who lives in Zenith, PA, a small town west of Pittsburgh, with his father Jason, a builder, and his mother Annie, a homemaker, has just finished sixth grade in the local two room school.  His cousin Jessica Sinclair, also eleven, who lives in Pittsburgh, is coming to spend the summer with the Coupes family.

The two youngsters help their friend Elias Hooks, a retired civil engineer and the local coroner, to solve several mysteries.  Who murdered well-liked farm woman Esther McPherson, and what happened to her husband Lloyd?  How did the Parker Saloon catch fire?  Where did the young man, “David,” who got off a train in Zenith and has amnesia, come from?  And why is there a human skeleton buried in Millie Doggett’s pig pen where Billy’s dad is building an addition on her barn?  Author Paul Boyce, a retired aerospace engineer, was looking for wholesome books to give teenagers, but all he could find were wild tales of vampires, witches, and young people with supernatural abilities.  So he decided to write stories about life the way regular folks lived it, where people believe that honesty is the best policy, neighbors care for one another, parents spend time with their children, and children like being part of a family.

A few common euphemisms (dang it, heck, darn) occur, but no cursing or profanity is found.  There are a couple of references to folks who drink alcohol, but it is definitely not encouraged.  Elias rolls and smokes cigarettes, but Jessica tells him that tobacco is bad for him, and he agrees.  At the same time, positive mention is made of church going and prayer.  With its danger, questions of ethics, attention to authentic detail of life before technology, and even humor, I had a hard time putting The Hooks Files down and found it refreshing, and even instructional, to read about the simpler way of life in the 1930s.  Both young and adult readers will be entertained by these cases which will keep them interested right up to the end.  There are two sequels, The Hooks Files II and The Hooks Files III, and Boyce is working on a fourth.

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Winter Cottage

winter cottage

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Winter Cottage

Author: Carol Ryrie Brink

Illustrator: Fermin Rocker

Publisher: Atheneum, republished 1974

ISBN-13: 978-0020419709

ISBN-10: 0020419708

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 10-14

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

Brink, Carol RyrieWinter Cottage (published in 1968 by The Macmillan Company, 866 Third Ave., New York City, NY  10022).  It is October of 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, and thirteen year old Araminta (Minty) Sparkes is travelling with her Pop Charley, ten year old younger sister Eglantine (Eggs), and dog Buster from their old home in Chicago to live with their less-than-welcoming Aunt Amy in Minneapolis, MN.  The girls’ mother Mabel has died, and Pop, who has been a plumber, a carpenter, and a printer, recently failed as a groceryman.  He is a thin, dreamy little man who likes to quote poetry—such as that by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Browning, Shelley, and Byron.  While in a very lonely, wooded area of northern Wisconsin, near the town of Scandian Corners, their car breaks down on a seldom traveled country road.  Unable to fix it or to pay someone else to do the repairs, they need a place to stay.

It so happens that nearby there is a vacant summer cottage belonging to a family named Vincent, so the Sparkeses decide to appropriate it and spend the winter there.  They are joined by a sixteen year old boy, Joe Boles, who has run away from home, and later by two strangers calling themselves Mr. John Smith and his son Topper.  Unfortunately, Minty hears rumors that Chicago gangsters like to hide out in the area. Just who are these strangers anyway?  Can they all survive the brutal winter weather?  And will the sheriff come and arrest them for breaking and entering someone else’s house?  Author Carol Ryrie Brink won the Newbery Medal for her 1935 book Caddie Woodlawn. Like that book, Winter Cottage  depicts a loving, if quirky, family whose members are devoted to one another.

Some people might question the whole morality of the story.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend just up and moving into an empty home without the owner’s permission or knowledge.  However, it is interesting and even entertaining to read about a struggling family forced by circumstances beyond their control to do so back in a simpler time.  Remember after all, this was during the Great Depression.  The responsible, conscientious Minty determines that they will “rent” the cottage, to which Pop agrees, saying, “We’ll pay them whenever we get money.”  And there is a satisfactory conclusion.  As Pop might have quoted Shakespeare, “All’s well that ends well.”  Quite a few common euphemisms (gee, golly, gosh, darn, and tarnation) are used, and Pop smokes a pipe.  But generally it is a wholesome book that I enjoyed reading.

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Illuminate: An Advent Experience

illuminate

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Illuminate: An Advent Experience

Author: Paul Sheneman

Cover Illustrator: Lindsey McCormack

Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0834127722

ISBN-10: 0834127725

Related website: http://www.AdventExperience.com (series), http://www.DiscipleshipRemix.com (author)

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: Suitable for everyone

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

Sheneman, Paul.  Illuminate: An Advent Experience (published in 2011 by Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City).  This is a book of daily devotions to be used by a family or small group during the Advent Season, i.e., the four weeks before Christmas, and then the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Someone gave me this book because, I assume, it is a religious book and this person knew that I am a preacher.  Let me point out that, while we believe everything the Bible says about the birth of Jesus Christ and we do celebrate Christmas simply as a traditional holiday, our family does not acknowledge Advent as a religious festival or observe Christmas as a holy day to commemorate Christ’s birth.  Those who do follow the “Christian Calendar” will probably find this book very useful in doing so, and even those who don’t still might come across some interesting information.

Author Paul Sheneman is a veteran “youth pastor” with the United Methodist Church.  I thought that the following admission is noteworthy.  “It is still the custom in the Judean hill country to keep the flocks out on the ranges until bad weather sets in—usually from the middle of March until the middle of October.  At twenty-five hundred feet above sea level, Bethlehem can experience cold rains and winds, sometimes even snow flurries, by the middle or end of October.  When the weather gets too cold for the flocks, the  shepherds bring them in close to town….Because the shepherds were ‘keeping watch over their flocks at night’ (Luke 2:8), we can be fairly certain that the nativity occurred sometime between those months of March and October.”

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A Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic

skates

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: A Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic

Author and Illustrator: Hilda van Stockum

Publisher: Bethlehem Books, republished in 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1932350180 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 1932350187 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-1883937027 Paperback

ISBN-10: 1883937027 Paperback

Related website: http://www.bethlehembooks.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 6 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

Van Stockum, HildaA Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic (published in 1934 by Harper and Brothers; republished in 2007 by Bethlehem Books, a division of Ignatius Press, 10194 Garfield St., Bathgate, ND  58216).  The nine year old Jansen twins, Evert, a boy, and Afke, a girl, live with their father and mother in the village of Elst in the province of Friesland, Holland, where they go to school and enjoy skating on the canals. One cold winter, their teacher announces that on Friday the class will go on a    skating picnic to the city of Snaek for the entire day.  Afke, Evert, and Evert’s best friends Jan, the burgomaster’s son, and Okke are all overjoyed.  However, there is a new boy at school who is very shy and not looking forward to the trip.  Simon Smit is an orphan who had lived with a sour old aunt until she sent him to stay with an uncle at Elst.  He has never had any friends.

The children, led by Teacher, start out on their journey with Simon lagging behind the others.  Suddenly Evert stumbles on some rough ice and falls into a fishing hole.  He splashes about trying to grab the edges of the broken ice, but they only crumble further.   What will happen to Evert?  Is there anyone who is able to save him?  Does their picnic turn out to be a time of pleasure or of tragedy?  Author Hilda van Stockum Marlin (1908-2006) also wrote books for young adults including one of her best known works, The Winged WatchmanA Day on Skates was a Newbery Honor Book in 1935.  It is called a “picture book,” but unlike most other such works, it is divided into six somewhat lengthy chapters and would probably be a bit beyond the normal picture book age range.  However, it would make a wonderful family or classroom read aloud story.

One reviewer said, “This is an outing that modern kids can only drool over, a dream field trip from another era.”  The teacher does smoke a pipe.  However, in addition to the book’s being an adventurous tale, loving family relationships are portrayed, and there are several acts of kindness demonstrated, such as when Evert begs the burgomaster to let Jan, who has been grounded for a bad report card, to go on the picnic, and when the boys ask the lonely Simon to be part of their secret club of explorers.  The children aren’t always perfect little angels on their outing, but they have obviously been brought up to be generally respectful and obedient.  In fact, van Stockum’s more than thirty books are known for their warm and vivid but realistic depictions of family life, often in the face of difficulty or danger.

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The ABC Bunny

abcbunny

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The ABC Bunny

Author: Wanda Gag

Illustrator: Howard Gag

Publisher: University Of Minnesota Press, republished 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0816644162 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0816644160 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0590442008 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0590442007 Paperback

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 5 – 6

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

Gag, Wanda.  The ABC Bunny (published in 1933 by Coward McCann Inc., an imprint of Putnam and Grosset Group, 200 Madison Ave., New York City, NY 10016; republished in 1990 by Scholastic Inc., 730 Broadway, New York City, NY  10003).   This is a very fun alphabet book which follows the story of a little bunny and his bunny-like ABC adventures as he runs about during his day, scampers through the alphabet, and encounters other animals as well.  “A for Apple, big and red.  B for Bunny, snug a-bed.”  What will Q and X and Z bring?  Author Wanda Gag (1893-1946) was born in New Ulm, MN.  Originally published in 1933 and winning a Newbery Honor status in 1934, this book was republished in 2004 as part of the Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Series.  It is much more enticing than the dreary old Puritan primers.  “In Adam’s fall, We sinned all.”

Created for Gag’s small nephew Gary, The ABC Bunny was a family affair with charming black-and-white illustrations hand lettered by the author’s brother, Howard Gag.  The end pages of the book also include sheet music for a song based on the words, with the tune composed by Flavia Gág, Wanda’s youngest sister.  By today’s standards the book would never be given Newbery consideration because it’s a picture book, the kind for which the Caldecott Medal was later created. However, it is quite similar in nature and appeal to Gag’s other Newbery honor book, Millions of Cats (1928).

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Sam And The Colonels

samcolonel

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Sam And The Colonels

Author: Bianca Bradbury

Illustrator: Charles Greer

Publisher: Macrae Smith Company, 1966

ASIN: B000ELDAMK

ASIN: B000NP1IYO

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 10-14

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

Bradbury, Bianca.  Sam And The Colonels (published in 1966 by Macrae Smith Company, Philadelphia, PA).  It is 1661, and thirteen year old Sam Goode, an orphan, lives in the colony of New Haven, later to be part of Connecticut, with the Puritan minister, John Davenport, and his family. Sam’s father, who had been the town’s harness maker, had died when Sam was young.  Then when his mother also died, the Davenports took Sam into their home. On March 7 of that year, two Colonels rode into town.  They were Edward Whalley and William Goffe, two of the Puritan judges who had tried Charles I and condemned him to death. After the collapse of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, they came to America to escape their prosecution by the new king, Charles II, son of Charles I.

The two men were tracked down in Boston and fled to the then small New Haven Colony, where the Sam joined with all the townspeople to cooperate in sheltering the “regicides” and in distracting the King’s agents sent to find them.  But will their efforts be enough?  Can the good folks of New Haven be successful in concealing the Colonels and smuggling them to safety?  Or do the King’s spies find out where they are hidden and capture them?  Author Bianca Bradbury (1908-1982) lived in Connecticut, and as a young wife, her writing took the form of verse, articles, and short stories, which found their way into such magazines as Family Circle and McCall’s. Once she had two children, she began writing, first picture books, and then longer books.

This tale from the history of the author’s home town is filled with excitement and suspense that will hold the attention of readers.  A couple instances occur of drinking ale or wine, though Mr. Davenport disapproved of it, and smoking tobacco in a pipe.  However, there is much factual information about the founding of New Haven and other events of that time.  All the major events mentioned actually happened, and all the main characters were real people.  Sam Goode is the exception.  The snobs at Kirkus Reviews said, “To be overlooked is the fictional embroidery about the young orphan boy Sam Goode who is the charge of the minister and his confidante, and who appears to engineer most of the narrow escapes.”  Well, duh!  That’s what historical fiction is all about—weaving the life of a fictional character into a historical setting.   I really liked the story.

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Swift Rivers

swiftr2

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Swift Rivers

Author: Cornelia Meigs

Cover Illustrator: Tim Tanner

Publisher: Walker, republished 2004)

ISBN-13: 978-0802777034

ISBN-10: 0802777031

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 10 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

Meigs, Cornelia.  Swift Rivers (published in 1932 by Little Brown and Company; republished in 1994 by Walker Publishing Company Inc., 104 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY  10014).  It is 1835, Andrew Jackson is President, and seventeen to eighteen year old Christian (Chris) Dahlberg lives in the Goose Wing River Valley in the upper portion of the Louisiana Purchase in what will become the state of Minnesota.  Chris is an orphan who, after his parents died when he was little, has grown up living and working on the farm of his mother’s brother, his mean-spirited Uncle Nels Anderson.  Chris’s grandfather, Alexis Dahlberg, lives further up the valley in an old cabin.  When winter comes, Chris goes to check on Alexis against his uncle’s wishes and is barred from his family’s homestead by Nels, so the boy weathers the winter with his grandfather. They live in near poverty.

A passing Easterner named Stuart Hale, two or three years older than Chris, suggests that he could make money for his education and provide for his grandfather’s golden years by harvesting the trees on his grandfather’s land and floating the logs down the spring floodwaters of the Mississippi to the lumber mills in Saint Louis, so with the help of river raftsman Pierre Dumenille, he decides to try it and has many adventures along the way.  Will Chris be successful in his undertaking?  With all the dangers from rapids, thieves, and Indians along the way, can he even make it to St. Louis?  And if he gets there, does he receive honest treatment?  Author Cornelia Meigs was a Newbery Honor recipient for this book in 1933 and then won the Newbery Medal in 1934 for Invincible Louisa, her biography of Louisa May Alcott.

Swift Rivers is great historical fiction filled with exciting stories of raft hands and river pilots. There is almost nothing objectionable.  Pipe smoking is mentioned, and it is occasionally said that someone swore, but no actual swear words are used.  On the positive side, it is noted that various characters thanked God from time to time for their blessings.  As he headed for a church service, Pierre said, “That Good Friend…must not go unthanked.”  Because he is earnest and honest, young Chris is a good role model of perseverance and devotion who overcomes many hardships, and readers get a glimpse of life along the Mississippi in our nation’s early years. The original book was illustrated by Forrest W. Orr, but the copy I read had no illustrations.  This is the kind of story that truly deserves to be a Newbery Honor Book.

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