The Guns of August

august

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Guns of August

Author: Barbara W. Tuchman

Publisher: Presidio Press, republished 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0345476098

ISBN-10: 0345476093

Related website: http://www.presidiopress.com (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: Ages 16 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

Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August (originally published in 1962 by The Macmillan Publishing Company; republished in 2004 by Presidio Press, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY).  This Pulitzer Prize–winning account covers the opening days of World War I.  Starting with the funeral of King Edward VII of England, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman traces each step in the month that led to the inevitable clash, with Germany on one side and France, Britain, and Russia on the other, and re-creates the first month of the war, from the German invasion of Belgium to the famous Battle of the Marne.  She describes in great detail those thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world.  Who wins?

To a lot of people, World War I seems like ancient history.  It’s now been over 100 years since it started.  And there is not nearly so much literature on it, especially as compared to the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, or even World War II.  Yet, as Tuchman argues, World War I was when the nineteenth century actually ended and when the modern world began.  This book was recommended to me back in 2003 when a question was asked about good books for sixteen year old boys and someone responded, “I checked with my sixteen year old for suggestions.  He suggests The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman—it is about the beginning of World War I—as an excellent choice.”

The book is very detailed, with a lengthy list of sources, several pages of notes, and a complete index.  Yet, it is so masterfully written that more than one person noted how the author manages to make the story utterly suspenseful when we already know the outcome.  The “d” and “h” words appear in a few quotations.  It will be especially appreciated by history fanatics, people interested in World War I, and those who like to read about war in general.  The Proud Tower, The Zimmerman Telegram, and The Guns of August, which was selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, comprise Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic histories of the First World War era.

Posted in Uncategorized, youth nonfiction | Leave a comment

Calico Bush

calicobush

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Calico Bush

Author: Rachel Field

Illustrator: Allen Lewis

Publisher: Aladdin, republished 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0689822858

ISBN-10: 0689822855

Related website: http://www.SimonSaysKids.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

Field, Rachel.  Calico Bush (published in 1931 by Simon and Schuster Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY  10020).  It is 1743, and twelve year old Marguerite Ledoux, whose parents are both dead, is emigrating from La Harve, France, to Louisiana in New France, with her Grandmere and Oncle Pierre.  However, Oncle Pierre dies on the ship, and when they land in Marblehead, MA, there is not enough money to go on.  Then when Grandmere dies, Marguerite must be “bound out” or become an indentured servant for the next six years to the Sargent family consisting of Joel (Joe), his wife Dolly, and their six children, thirteen year old Caleb, six year old twins Becky and Susan, four year old Patty, three year old Jacob, and one year old baby Deborah.  But the Sargents are moving to northern Maine to settle a claim that Joel had bought.

When they arrive in Maine, they find that the previous cabin had been burnt by Indians.   With the help of neighbors, they rebuild, but there is the constant threat of further Indian attacks, and the harsh winter is coming on soon.  Furthermore to the Sargents, Marguerite is “Maggie,” and they think of her as little better than the Indians who threaten them. Can Marguerite and the Sargents survive?  How does Marguerite react when their cabin is surrounded by Indians?  And what will she decide to do when offered the chance to leave for Quebec?  Calico Bush was a Newbery Honor Book in 1932.  Aside from a few colloquial euphemisms (e.g., “dad blast ye”) and instances of dancing and tobacco use, there is nothing much to which one might object.  The biggest complaint is the supposed pejorative references to “Injuns,” but the attitudes of the English people in the book toward the Indians are probably fairly accurate.

Also, with a couple of scenes where Marguerite finds a child’s scalp in a cave and where a baby is burned to death in a fire, the book might not be appropriate for sensitive younger children, but generally it is an interesting story of early settlers on the Atlantic Coast.  It includes snippets of history about the French and Indian War, Protestant-Catholic tensions, and pre-Revolutionary War life including roof-raising festivities, corn-shucking bees, and other daily trials and tribulations of pioneers in the New World.  The plot is quick-paced and engaging, and Marguerite is a well-developed, likable character who shows much grit in a harsh, often hostile environment.  Apparently, author Rachel Field, whose Hitty: Her First Hundred Years won the Newbery Medal in 1930, may have been working from a local legend when she wrote this book.  There is a grave in one of the old cemeteries of a woman named Marguerite LaCroix, “the French wife of one of the early settlers.”  She and her husband, John Stanley, moved from Marblehead after 1767 with their many children and became the first permanent residents of Little Cranberry Island.  Field did not try to tell the woman’s story exactly, but used her as inspiration for her book.

Posted in historical fiction, Newbery Honor Books, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Up a Road Slowly

uparoad

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Up a Road Slowly

Author: Irene Hunt

Original cover illustrator: Don Bolognese

Publisher: Berkley, republished 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0425188170

ISBN-10: 0425188175

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: For ages 12 and up, but I would say more like 14 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 .

Hunt, Irene.  Up a Road Slowly (published in 1966 by Follett Publishing Company, 1010 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL  60607).  Seven year old Julie Trelling, her nine year old brother Christopher, and her teenage sister Laura have just lost their mother.  Their father Adam, a college professor, thinks that it is best for Julie and Chris to go and live five miles out in the country with their mother’s sister, Aunt Cordelia Bishop.  Julie is so traumatized by her mother’s death that she has to be sedated on the way. The book follows Julie from the age of seven through her high school graduation.  The never married Aunt Cordelia, who also teaches the local one room school, is not unkind, but she is firm and strict.  There are happy days at Aunt Cordelia’s, playing with her brother in the big old family house, riding in the woods on her horse named Peter the Great, and her friendship with neighbor Danny Trevort.

However, there were sad times too—Chris’s going away to boarding school, the pain and jealousy which Julie felt after Laura’s marriage, the tragic death of a schoolmate, her father’s remarriage, and the bitter disappointment of her first love.  How will the sensitive Julie respond to such problems as she comes of age?  Can she and her aunt learn to get along?  And what will become of the girl’s hopes and dreams?  By the author of Across Five Aprils and No Promises in the Wind, this book won the Newbery award in 1967.  There is no distasteful language or objectionable incidents besides references to the prom and the hint of a pregnant high school girl.  One may not always appreciate Julie’s attitude, but she learns a lot from straight-laced Aunt Cordelia, including how to deal with the alcoholism of her Uncle Haskell and the mental illness of both a schoolmate and a neighbor’s wife.

One complaint was that the characterization of the young girl with intellectual disabilities is unfortunately dated so that some might now find it offensive, but there are some important underlying lessons taught by that episode.  A second criticism was that the ending felt a bit rushed and forced, as all of a sudden Julie seems to jump in maturity, but still another reviewer noted that while it doesn’t have a lot of action or earth-shattering consequences, as most current novels seem to, it nonetheless holds interest well.  Hunt does a wonderful job of detailing the ins and outs of complex human relationships with a great description of the maturating process of a girl. Many of Julie’s experiences are universal, but her advantage is that she is under the guidance of various understanding adults who deal with her patiently, compassionately, and honestly.  The author also make a strong case for the importance of family and the continuity of life.  The story would likely appeal mostly to teenage girls.

Posted in general youth fiction, Newbery Award Winners, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jane’s Island

janesisl

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Book: Jane’s Island

Author: Marjorie Hill Allee

Illustrator: Maitland De Gogorza

Publisher: Woods Hole Historical College, republished 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0961137427

ISBN-10: 0961137428

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 12-16

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 .

Allee, Marjorie Hill.  Jane’s Island (published in 1931 by The Junior Literary Guild, New York City, NY).  Seventeen year old Ellen McNeill from Chicago, IL, has just finished her freshman year at university and is hired for the summer as a governess for twelve-year-old Jane Thomas who lives with her parents and brother Walter, also around seventeen, at Woods Hole, MA, where her father is a scientist studying marine organisms known as planaria in the laboratory there.  Also at the institute is Dr. Fritz von Bergen, Dr. Thomas’s college friend who has become embittered through the years due to various problems and is there to prove Jane’s father wrong, and Jim Harrison, a research assistant from the same university that Ellen attends.  Although the book doesn’t actually take place on an island, there’s still a lot of coastal boating around islands and poking about on islands so that Jane imagines living on her own private island when she grows up.

Over the course of the summer, Jane and her temporary nanny explore the area and cause a fair share of trouble, while Dr. Thomas comes down with a case of appendicitis. Will Ellen find romance at Woods Hole?  What happens between Jane’s father and Dr. von Bergen?  And does Dr. Thomas survive his attack?   This novel about children’s summer activities and the scientific laboratories in Woods Hole, MA, written by the wife of a marine biologist working at a research facility at Woods Hole, was a runner-up in the Newbery Awards for 1932.   There are a few common euphemisms (e.g., heck and gosh), but the biggest complaints that I saw from critics are that the characters are boring and the story is so dated as to be painful.  One reviewer said, “It’s an easy-to-read story and I did enjoy Jane quite a bit. But I wouldn’t call this book especially exceptional.”

I guess that this depends upon one’s definition of “exceptional.”  The Newbery committee apparently felt otherwise.  In the process, young readers can learn a little about the scientific method, grants, research, and sea life.  And in addition to the historical depiction of the Woods Hole area from a time that’s mostly disappeared from recent memory as well as the scientific information, a very important message about not judging people and their actions before all the  facts are fully known is skillfully embedded in the plot.  In spite of the charge of the book’s being dated, another reviewer wrote, “This book has aged extremely well. It was, in fact, re-released in the late 1980s by the Woods Hole Historical Collection.”  I would agree that the action moves along rather leisurely without a great deal of excitement, but for those who are willing to invest the time and effort it is a pleasant read.

Posted in Newbery Honor Books, period fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christ and His Church

christchurch

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Christ and His Church

Author: J. C. Roady

Publisher: Rush Printing Company, revised edition 1957

ISBN-13: none

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 .

Roady, J. C.  Christ and His Church (original edition published in 1948 and revised edition published in 1957 by Rush Printing Company, Maryville, MO  64468).  According to an article entitled “How Are the Mighty Fallen” by Loren N. Raines of Bedford, IN, in Truth Magazine, June 10, 1976 (Vol. XX, No., 24, p. 7), John C. Roady was born near Hamburg, IL, on September 4, 1887. He began preaching when quite young and preached the gospel for seventy years. He gave his entire life to the church, and spent all his life in the evangelistic field. He preached in most every state in the Union. He preached every day in the year unless he was traveling. He spent but very few days in his home. He sometimes preached as many as four sermons in one day. He kept accurate records of all his baptisms, funerals, and weddings. He baptized a total of 15,039 people, besides restoring thousands to the church.

Roady lived for over fifty years at Sullivan, IN.  During the last year of his life he gave up preaching due to failing health. He had a cancerous kidney removed. The doctors said he would have recovered had it not been for complications.  He spent most of seven weeks in intensive care and was in the hospital at Terre Haute, IN, when he passed away from time into eternity on April 8, 1976.  One of his lasting legacies is a small, 78-page booklet entitled Christ and His Church.  The thirty article-like chapters discuss various aspects of the church established by Christ as it is revealed in the pages of the New Testament Scriptures and as it is contrasted to various denominational misconceptions, including the gospel, faith, baptism, conversion, the new birth, worship, officers, mission work, the kingdom, the second coming, eternal torment, and church history.

It is a simple but effective explanation of the Lord’s church suited for handing out to the general public.  Many churches of Christ throughout the Midwest section of our nation have copies of this in their tract racks.  It may be an enlargement of a 32 page tract entitled “The Plea of the Church of Christ” published in 1930 by Roady.  I normally do not review purely religious works on this book review blog, unless specifically asked to do so.  I have had a copy of Roady’s booklet in my library for years, but I recently decided to go back and take a second look at it because I just purchased another book, To Sum the Whole Thing Up: A Collection of Writings by J. C. Roady edited by my good friend Mike Davis.  Raines wrote of Roady, “Few people knew the Bible better, and none could defend the faith more effectively. He was blessed with a strong body, a keen mind, a good memory, and a forceful delivery.”

Posted in Bible study, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Jack of Hearts

jackheart

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Jack of Hearts

Author: Chris Collins

Publisher: WestBowPress, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-1490844626

ISBN-10: 1490844627

Related website: http://www.westbowpress.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 .

Collins, ChrisJack of Hearts (published in 2014 by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 1663 Liberty Dr., Bloomington, IN  47403).  It is sometime in the middle part of the first half of the nineteenth century, and five year old Elizabeth Walden is on a ship with her parents Jacob and Rachel, her four older brothers Luke, Lance, Lewis, and Levi, her baby sister Ella, and her Granna and Grandad, emigrating from Ireland to Virginia.  Many of her uncles, aunts, and cousins from both of her parents’ families, including her other grandparents, are already there.  However, there is a storm, and the ship is wrecked just off the coast.   Elizabeth and Ella are saved by a nine year old orphan boy, Alex Jack who is working for the ship’s captain, and the remainder of the family also survives.  They all land in Charlestown, and Alex goes with the Waldens to western Virginia where they settle with the rest of the relatives and Alex is adopted by Dr. and Mrs. Stickle.  What will happen to Elizabeth as she grows up in her new home?

Author Chris Collins lives in rural Highland County, Ohio, with her husband and three dogs.  I was raised in Highland County and picked this book up in the local historical society museum when back there on a recent visit.  What attracted me to it was the statement about Collins on the back flap that said, “Her faith in God and Jesus Christ is the most important thing in her life, and her family comes in a close second.”  The flap also said, “Her family history originates from Ireland and later the hills of West Virginia.”   It would be interesting to know if there are specific people and events in her family’s background which gave rise to and are depicted in the book or whether it is a purely fictional story that is just set in that time and place.  In any event, it is a heartwarming and sometimes tear-provoking account of Elizabeth’s life from early childhood through the beginnings of “old age.”  Jack of Hearts is not written for children, but it has nothing unsuitable for youngsters so that it could well be done as a family read aloud.

Sometimes the plot moves rather fast as time passes by quickly while at other times it slows down to focus on certain happenings, but it is usually quite easy to follow.  Certainly there are scenes of sadness.  Elizabeth’s best childhood friend, Bessie Lawson, perishes in a flood.  Grandparents and then parents grow old and pass on.  Her father and one brother are killed while fighting for the Union in the Civil War.  Elizabeth loses her firstborn child.  Other loved ones die in a fever epidemic.  But there are also occasions of great joy—marriages, births of children and grandchildren, graduations, etc.  And through it all Elizabeth and her family approach whatever happens with a deep faith in God.  Numerous references to prayer, church attendance, and baptism occur, and a beautiful picture is drawn of the love that can exist in a multi-generational, extended family.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical romance.

Posted in historical fiction, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Bears of Blue River

bearblud

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Bears of Blue River

Author: Charles Major

Illustrator: A. B. Frost

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, republished 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1448632695

ISBN-10: 1448632692

Related website: http://www.abpub.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 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 .

Major, Charles.  The Bears of Blue River (originally published in 1901; republished in 2004 by A. B. Publishing Inc., Ithica, MI  48847).  It is the 1820s, and thirteen or fourteen year old Balser Brent Jr., called “Little Balser” to distinguish him from his father, lives with his parents, nine year old younger brother Jim, one year old baby sister, and dogs Tige and Prince, in a cozy cabin of two rooms on the east bank of the Big Blue River a mile or two from the Michigan Road in rural southern Indiana, then a baby state.  Their closest neighbors are Mr. and Mrs. Fox, with their son Tom or “Limpy” and daughter Liney, who are Balser’s best friends. Balser is a very brave young man who has many exciting and sometimes frightening encounters with bears and other wildlife and becomes a fearless hunter.  How does Balser earn his first gun?  What happens when Liney is captured by an Indian?  And with all those ferocious bears around, will Balser even survive adolescence?

This book may not be considered politically correct by some, such as gun-hating, PETA-loving animal rights activists, because Little Balser does shoot bears and other animals.  However, we must understand that especially in the 1800s killing was a necessary way of life, for food, clothing, shelter, and protection.  Balser and his friends did just that.  Bears, deer, wolves, fox, and beaver all had their purpose.  No part of creatures thus killed was wasted.  The meat was eaten, the hides were used for clothes and coverings, and pelts were sold for other necessities that could not be grown or hunted.  Basically, the situation was    to kill or be killed.  At the same time, with one scene where a male wolf, looking after two cubs, is killed, and then the mother is subsequently lured out of the den, and shot, too, another where a fawn is shot in order to lure the mother to its side which is also shot, still another where a fox is trapped, and especially one where a friend of Balser’s is burned alive along with a bear, it is perhaps not a good choice for youngsters who are squeamish or particularly sensitive.  Also, there are a few euphemisms (golly, durned) and some colloquial near profanity (Lordy, Lord knows, for the Lord’s sake, etc.)

However, for those readers who are comfortable with the killing and the raw brutality of living in the wilds of a Southern Indiana woods, the book is a fairly accurate, though perhaps somewhat exaggerated, portrayal of pioneer life in the American Midwest.  Also, in addition to the wonderful history involved, The Bears of Blue River will keep those who love nature and tales of early settlers on the edge of their seats as they read the exciting experiences of “Little Balser.”  Charles Major (1856-1913) was an American lawyer and novelist.  In 1898, he published his first and probably his best known novel, When Knighthood Was in Flower, about England during the reign of King Henry VIII.  The biggest complaint about the CreateSpace version of The Bears of Blue River currently available is that it is filled with misspellings, improper wording due to Spell Check, paragraph repetition, and other typographical errors.  That comports with my experiences, so I avoid CreateSpace books if at all possible.  Fortunately, I had a different edition of this one.

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