Spook House

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

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Book: Spook House

Author: Mary Claire Helldorfer

Publisher: Aladdin, republished 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0027435146 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0027435148 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0671723262 Paperback

ISBN-10: 067172326X Paperback

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 10 and up

Rating: *** 3 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, 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

Website: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com

Helldorfer, Mary Claire.  Spook House (Published in 1989 by Bradbury Press, an affiliate of Macmillan Inc., 866 Third Ave., New York City, NY  10022).  Twelve-year-old William (Will) Hanson lives in the small Eastern Shore Maryland town of Paradise with his parents, Bill and Barbara, who own the local diner.  His best friend Randy has moved away to Washington, DC, and Will, a long-time resident, thinks that he is going to dislike the boy, Sam MacDowell, and his sister, Loretta Rose but known as Toes, who move in next door, where their parents run a grocery store.  However, he and the two newcomers to the seaside community get together to make something extraordinary out of the deserted old May estate. Together the three children create a haunted house and conduct tours for Will’s classmates Jenko, Al, Neal, and Ray, and others.

However, some strange things start happening.  Who’s behind these unexplained occurrences?  And what’s the motive?  Are the kids safe?  Or will someone get seriously hurt?  I suppose that the basic theme of this middle-grade mystery is change in various guises, and it displays some major tensions between those who want to see change and those who don’t.  Concerning the abandoned mansion, Jenko talks about wanting to “have a chance to get some girls there” and once even lured pink-nailed Sheila to it.  Previously, Will and Randy had gone there and “walked in on four older teenagers passing around a pipe.”  The kids actually find some marijuana in the house which was obviously put there to implicate them.  There are also some references to smoking cigarettes.

When Al talks to Will about his new friendship with Sam, he asks, “You two sweet on each other?” (“Will knew the s-word was carefully chosen”), and says, “I think you’re pink.”  Al also curses a couple of times.  Once it is spelled “Sh—!”, and the other is the “h” word.  Aside from these objectionable items, probably thrown in to make it seem realistic and relevant to modern pre-teens, there might have been an interesting story here, but I found the plot somewhat confusing.  It was difficult at times to figure out what was going on.  And I wasn’t the only one.  Publishers Weekly said that dangling plot lines may make it “difficult for some readers to enjoy or even become involved in. At times, characters and their actions are difficult to tell apart.”  And School Library Journal said, “The number of minor characters sometimes makes the story confusing. The writing is also unclear at times in terms of who said or did what.”  Bottom line—fair.

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Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

lincoln

Book: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer

Author: James L. Swanson

Cover Illustrator: Phil Falco

Publisher: Scholastic Press Books, republished 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0439903547 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0439903547 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0545220910 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0545220912 Paperback

Related website(s): http://www.scholastic.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 12 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, 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

Website: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com

Swanson, James L.   Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (Published in 2009 by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY  10012).  Nearly everyone knows that President Abraham was killed in 1865 shortly after his second inauguration and the end of the War Between the States.  And most can identify the assassin as actor John Wilkes Booth.  But what were the events that led up to the murder?  Was anyone else besides Booth involved?  And what happened to Booth?  Did he escape, or was he brought to trial, or what?  Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, New York Times bestselling author James Swanson delivers a fast-paced historical thriller with a riveting day-by-day account of the wild twelve-day chase, through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, for and capture of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln’s killer.

Swanson begins “This story is true. All the characters are real and were alive during the great manhunt of April 1865. Their words are authentic and come from original sources: letters, manuscripts, trial transcripts, newspapers, government reports, pamphlets, books and other documents. What happened in Washington, D.C., that spring, and in the swamps and rivers, forests and fields of Maryland and Virginia during the next twelve days, is far too incredible to have been made up.”  This volume is an adaptation of Swanson’s bestselling adult book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (HarperCollins, 2006). It is divided into fourteen chapters and an epilogue.  The sentences are shorter and chapters are condensed from the original, but the rich details and suspense are still present. Lacking are a bibliography and a notes section. Excellent black-and-white illustrations complement the text.

Some cursing (the “d” word) and profanity (“by God” and “for God’s sake”) occur in quotations, but the book does a good job of giving young people an accessible look at the assassination of a president, showing readers Abraham Lincoln the man, the father, the husband, and the friend, and explaining how his death impacted those closest to him.  I was familiar with much of this lesser-known information because Dale Carnegie covers in his biography Lincoln the Unknown.  Publishers Weekly says, “Every bit of dialogue is said to come from original sources, adding a chill to the already disturbing conspiracy that Swanson unfolds in detail as Booth persuades friends and sympathizers to join his plot and later, to give him shelter….The author reveals the depth of divisions in the nation just after the war, the disorder within the government and the challenges ahead.”  And School Library Journal says, “Readers will be engrossed by the almost hour-by-hour search and by the many people who encountered the killer as he tried to escape. It is a tale of intrigue and an engrossing mystery.”

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Float: A Guide to Letting Go

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

float

Book: Float: A Guide to Letting Go

Author: Aimee L. Ruland

Illustrator: Carl R. Anderson

Publisher: Loving Healing Press, 2019

ISBN-13: 978-1615994601 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 1615994602 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-1615994595 Paperback

ISBN-10: 1615994599 Paperback

Related website(s): http://www.LHPress.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 5 – 8

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, 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

Website: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com

Ruland, Aimee L.  Float: A Guide to Letting Go (Published in 2019 by Loving Healing Press, 5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI  48105).   Sometimes when people go to bed at night, there may be things, like anger, guilt, doubt, envy, fear, confusion, and selfishness, which linger in their minds and keep them from relaxing.  In Float: A Guide to Letting Go, author Aimee L. Ruland, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, with degree concentrations in Psychology and Philosophy, who is an Applied Metapsychology facilitator, Certified Yoga Instructor, Usui Reiki practitioner, meditation guide, and mother, seeks to encourage children to process their emotions gently and in a way that allows them purposeful ownership of what they think and how they feel through the thoughtful use of different colors and releasing balloons as symbols.

The playful rhyming text encourages readers to maintain a broad focus as they become more grounded and aware.  It can aid them in identifying the root of their feelings, help them to examine their reactions to emotions, and enable them to decide for themselves what they may be ready to release.  One reviewer wrote, “Aimee Ruland is the Dr. Seuss of children’s therapy books.”  I am not qualified by either training or any experience in my background to judge how this book might relate to children’s therapy.  However, even I can see that Float could be useful for youngsters who are having various kinds of issues that interfere with their normal lives.  The illustrations are by Carl R. Anderson.   Aimee and Carl are husband and wife team.

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Obion Summer

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

obion

Book: Obion Summer

Author: Stephen Manley

Publisher: Outskirts Press, 2019

ISBN-13: 978-1977208347

ISBN-10: 1977208347

Related website(s): https://obionsummer.com/ (book), http://www.outskirtspress.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

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, 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

Website: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com

Manley, Stephen.  Obion Summer (Published in 2019 by Outskirts Press Inc.).  Thirteen year old Pamela Arlene (Pam) Ackerman lives in Jackson, a small town in southern Alabama, with her father Samuel or Sam, a lawyer who runs the Jackson office of his family’s Mobile, AL, law firm known as Ackerman, Tate and Prince (AT&P), and her mother Linda, who works in the same law office as a receptionist and secretary.  Pam is looking forward to the promising life she sees before her, but then the unthinkable happens as her father abandons the family for another woman and has his wife fired in the process.  Her mother must work the whole summer going back to school so that she can get a good job, and Pam is sent to spend the summer with her mother’s widowed sister, Aunt Susan, who is a schoolteacher living in the tiny northwest Tennessee town of Obion.  The girl is heartbroken and feels uncertain in this new environment.  She doesn’t know how she’ll survive till fall when she can see her mother and friends again.

Then something special happens.  Pam sees fourteen year old Anthony Joseph (Tony) Hill, the handsome boy who lives with his family in the house across the street from Aunt Susan’s, and falls in love with him.  Will he return her affections?  What do they have in common?  And how will she cope with having to leave him in the fall when she must return to Alabama?  Set in the more innocent time of the very early 1980s before social media and cell phones, Obion Summer is a delightful romance that is age-appropriate for teen readers.  There are a few references to drinking alcohol and a couple descriptive scenes of pool parties where the girls wear bikinis.  Some parents may wonder if thirteen and fourteen year olds are really quite ready for the kind of situation that develops between Pam and Tony.

However, everything is kept innocent and pure.  Pam tells Aunt Susan that she and Tony talked about sex but both agreed that it should wait until marriage.  References to Pam’s growing womanhood (breasts and periods) do occur, so this aspect of the plot may seem “mushy” to preteen boys.  The book is characterized as a Young Adult (YA)/Coming of Age novel.  However, many adults have read it and liked it.  It is not “Christian” per se, but definitely focuses on traditional values such as family, community, and abstinence.  One reviewer said that it “represents an underserved space in YA literature, a wholesome alternative in an often overly scandalized genre” and called it “a perfect summer reading novel.” Tony and Pam learn how to work together to overcome doubts and challenges to their relationship, all while making each other better people in the process.

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Carly’s Buck

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

9780899194806.OL.0.m

Book: Carly’s Buck

Author: Carole S. Adler

Cover Illustrator: Eric Velasquez

Publisher: Clarion Books, 1987

ISBN-13: 978-0899194806

ISBN-10: 089919480X

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: Ages13 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, 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

Website: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com

Adler, Carole S.  Carly’s Buck (Published in 1987 by Clarion Books, an imprint of Ticknor and Fields, a Houghton Mifflin Company, 52 Vanderbilt Ave., New York City, NY  10017).  Thirteen year old Carly Alinsky feels that she is rightly angry with her father, who is in the record busineses, because she thinks he had been irresponsible and uncaring when her mother was dying of cancer, so she flees her dad in Los Angeles, CA, to take refuge with her young Aunt Lu and Uncle Ben Weibel in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York where they teach at the Environmental Education Center.  While there, she has trouble making friends but begins to like the neighbor boy Chet Graham, also thirteen, who has some family issues of his own.  They will be in eighth grade together.

In addition, Carly becomes fascinated by the deer populating the surrounding forests and fastens her emotions on the deer, especially a beautiful young buck, to help her deal with her mother’s death,.  However, she is horrified to learn that Chet and his family are hunters who plan to track and kill deer during hunting season.  Will Carly ever make any friends at school?  Can she and Chet overcome their differences?  Does she reconcile with her father?  And what happens to her deer?  Carly’s Buck is an interesting, if occasionally frustrating, story.  The possible negatives are that there is a junior high school dance to which the eighth graders had sneaked in liquor the previous year.  Also Chet’s older brother Joe smells of beer, even though he is only in high school, and uses the near-vulgar euphemism “crap.”

However, there are also some positives.  As a result of a tragic accident, Carly is forced to reconsider the rage and bitterness that she feels toward her father and her new boyfriend while acknowledging that she herself is not without guilt.  At the close, Carly learns to forgive people’s weaknesses, both others’ and her own.  Information about the habits of whitetail deer is interwoven through the action. Through the heated arguments of both the ardent hunters and Carly, Adler fairly presents both the pros and cons of hunting.  Also, with the underlying issue of how to cope with grief, Adler handles well the strong emotional content of an adolescent adjusting to a parent’s death honest.   But the two most interesting issues treated here are forgiveness and the eternal quarrel between hunter and non-hunter.

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The Christmas Pony

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

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Book: The Christmas Pony

Author: Sylvia Green

Illustrator: Sharon Scotland

Publisher: Scholastic, republished in 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0439449281

ISBN-10: 0439449286

Related website(s): http://www.scholastic.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 7-12

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, 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

Website: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com

Green, Sylvia.  The Christmas Pony (Published in 2001 by Commonwealth House, 1-19 New Oxford St., London, WC1A 1NU, UK; republished in 2002 by Scholastic Children’s Books, a division of Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY  10012).  Laura lives out in the country with her dad, who was laid off and is trying to start his own automobile mechanic shop, her mom, who is a seamstress, and her older brother Ben.  Their neighbor on one side, Mrs. Cox, has been ill and is selling her farm to move to Australia to be near her daughter.   Her old pony, Mr. Crumbs, so named because he is the golden color of toast crumbs, is going to a far away horse sanctuary.  However, Laura wants to keep him nearby, so she, Ben, her friend Emily, and Ben’s friend Sanjay form “The Mr. Crumbs Committee” to raise the money to maintain the horse and to find a place for him to stay.

Laura and Ben’s dad says no because ponies are very expensive to look after.  And their other neighbor, Mr. Jakes who has plenty of land, seems especially unfriendly.  Worst of all, it’s the end of November, and they’ve only got until just a few days after Christmas.  Can they locate a suitable stable for Mr. Crumbs?  If so, how do they obtain the necessary funds to maintain him?  Or will he have to be sent away after all?  This is a very cute story.  There is a reference to wine, but the book illustrates the value of hard work and cooperation, the importance of not prejudging others, and the joys of friendship.  It is especially recommended for those who like horses.

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Celia and the Glue Man: A Girl’s Journey to Becoming Gluten-Free and Happy

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

celia

Book: Celia and the Glue Man: A Girl’s Journey to Becoming Gluten-Free and Happy

Author: Maggy Williams

Illustrator: Elizabeth Hasegawa Agresta

Publisher: Loving Healing Press, 2018

ISBN-13: 978-1615993918 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 1615993916 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-1615993901 Paperback

ISBN-10: 1615993908 Paperback

Related website(s): http://www.MaggyWilliamsAuthor.com (author), http://www.Agresta.us (illustrator), http://www.LHPress.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 5 – 8

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, 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

Website: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com

Williams, Maggy.  Celia and the Glue Man: A Girl’s Journey to Becoming Gluten-Free and Happy (Published in 2018 by Loving Healing Press, 5145 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI  48105).  Celia isn’t like the other kids in class. She can’t eat pizza, cookies, cake, donuts, or even sandwiches.  Why?  Celia has a gluten allergy.  “It’s unfair!” she laments.  So one day Celia decides to break the rules and eat a couple of cupcakes during a birthday party at school.  As a result she gets sick—really sick, has to go home, and misses three days of school.  Celia hates being sick but also hates her condition.  Does she get any better?  Will she understand the need to give up gluten for good?  What might help her to change her perspective?

Gluten (from Latin for “glue”) is a group of proteins which occur in the various cereal grains, such as wheat and related hybrid species (such as spelt, khorasan, emmer, einkorn, and triticale), barley, rye, and oats, as well as products derived from these grains, such as breads and malts. True gluten is limited to these four grains.  The storage proteins in maize (corn) and rice are sometimes called glutens, but they differ from true gluten.  Glutens have unique viscoelastic and adhesive properties, which give dough its elasticity, helping it rise and keep its shape and often leaving the final product with a chewy texture. The complex comprises 75–85% of the total protein in bread wheat.  However, gluten can trigger adverse inflammatory, immunological, and autoimmune reactions in some people, producing a broad spectrum of gluten-related disorders, including coeliac (or celiac) disease, in 1-2% of the general population. These disorders are treated by a gluten-free diet.

Through the rhyming text, author Maggy Williams, who herself has celiac disease, provides comfort and an explanation that will help kids who have gluten allergies to understand how the disease works and what it means at school, and also gives information to their friends who may not fully comprehend why they can’t eat certain foods.  Another reviewer noted, “The biggest challenge to following any special diet is the emotional component, rather than a lack of knowledge. Maggy finds a creative way to guide kids who are struggling with dietary restrictions to reach a place of acceptance.”  I am certainly not qualified to express an opinion on gluten sensitivity, but for those having to deal with such problems, Celia and the Glue Man should prove useful.

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