Heroes at Home: Help and Hope for America’s Military Families

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Heroes at Home: Help and Hope for America’s Military Families

Author: Ellie Kay

Cover Illustrator: Bill Chiaravalle

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers, 3rd edition 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0739429822 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0739429822 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0764209819 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0764209817 Paperback

Related website(s): http://www.elliekay.com (author), http://www.officeofbc.com (illustrator), http://www.bethanyhouse.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: Of interest primarily to spouses and families of military personel

Rating: **** 4 stars

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

Category: Non-fiction

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

     Kay, Ellie.  Heroes at Home: Help and Hope for America’s Military Families (Published in 2002 by Bethany House Publishers, 11400 Hampshire Ave. S., Bloomington, MN  55438; a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI).  The purpose of this book is to provide practical and inspiring help for every family facing the challenges of military life.  Off hand, I do not recall exactly why and how I ended up having this book.  It probably came as a free gift with another order.  Author and popular speaker Ellie Kay, a veteran military wife of Bob Kay, a former Stealth fighter pilot, and proud mother of seven, of whom one graduated from the United States Naval Academy and another is attending the United States Air Force Academy, addresses concerns about preparing for and enduring separations, making family moves, stretching a dollar, communicating long distance, and so much more, including today’s reality of dangerous missions, deployments, reentry into family life, and long work hours–whether active duty, reserve, or National Guard.

      I am not really qualified to assess the value of this book because I have never been in the military nor do I have family who are in the military.  One person definitely didn’t like it and wrote, “I am a Navy Wife of four years facing my first deployment as a wife and I found this book to be the corniest thing I’ve ever read. EVER….I didn’t find the book to be informative and I found the definition section of the book to be incredibly trite and boring….I didn’t learn ANYTHING from this book and would NOT recommend this to anyone SERIOUSLY looking for information or advice about military life or deployments.”  However, another said, “I have been ‘married to the Marine Corps’ for 12 years and still found this book to be helpful.”  And Command Chief Master Sergeant Vance M. Clarke, U.S.A.F., noted, “This encouraging book is more than just a helpful guide for families on active duty. Ellie offers today’s generation of families the encouragement they need as they encounter the challenges military families face, whether they’re Reserves, National Guard, or full-time active duty….Her sage advice and witty humor give families some sense of comfort when military life seems chaotic.”

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Saint Isaac Jogues: With Burning Heart

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Saint Isaac Jogues: With Burning Heart

Authors: Christine Virginia Orfeo and Mary Elizabeth Tebo

Illustrator: Barbara Kiwak

Publisher: Pauline Books and Media, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0819870636

ISBN-10: 0819870633

Related website(s): http://www.pauline.org (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 9 – 12

Rating: **** 4 stars

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

Category: Biography

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

     Orfeo, Christine Virginia, and Tebo, Mary Ellizabeth.  Saint Isaac Jogues: With Burning Heart (Published in 2002 by Pauline Books and Media, an arm of the Daughters of St. Paul, 50 St. Pauls Ave., Boston, MA  02130). Isaac Jogues (1607 –1646) was a French missionary who traveled and worked among the Iroquois, Huron, and other Native populations in North America. Jogues was born to Laurent and Françoise (de Sainte-Mesmin) Jogues on January 10, 1607, in Orléans, France, where he was the fifth of nine children of a bourgeois family.  He was educated at home until the age of ten, at which point he began attending Jesuit schools. In 1624, at the age of seventeen, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Rouen in Northern France. Jesuit missionaries inspired Jogues, and he aspired to follow in their footsteps.  Jogues professed simple vows in 1626, and went to study philosophy at the royal college of La Flèche. In 1629, he taught humanities to boys in Rouen. In 1633, Jogues was sent to the Collège de Clermont in Paris to pursue his studies in Theology. In 1636, he was ordained a priest at Clermont.

     In 1636 missionary fathers Jean de Brébeuf, Charles Lallemant, and Enemond Massé returned from New France. Their accounts increased Jogues’ desire to devote himself to the conversion and welfare of the natives, and he was assigned as a missionary to the Huron and Algonquian peoples; both were allies of the French in Quebec.  For six years, Jogues lived in the village of St-Joseph and learned the Hurons’ ways and language.  On August 3, 1642, Jogues, Guillaume Couture, René Goupil, and a group of Christian Hurons were heading back from Quebec City when they were waylaid by a war party of the Mohawk Nation, part of the Iroquois Confederacy.  The Mohawk beat Jogues with sticks, tore out his fingernails, then gnawed the ends of his fingers until finger bones were visible. The war party then took their captives on a journey to a Mohawk village.  What happened to Jogues?   Did he manage to escape captivity?  Was he ever able to see his family again?  Saint Isaac Jogues: With Burning Heart is Book 12 of some 25 in the “Encounter the Saints Series.” 

     The book does give a look at the cruelty and torture practiced by the Indians on the missionaries, members of other tribes, and even people of their own tribe.  In fact, this was the biggest complaint.  One person wrote, “It has a lot of *detailed* descriptions of the torture inflicted on others by certain Indian tribes.”  Another said, “This was supposed to be for children but very, very graphic details about torture and scalpings.”  However, I agree with the one who noted, “One thing – the book deals with some semi-violent themes (nothing graphic, just the nature of the story of this particular saint).”  Parents of younger children or sensitive children may wish to pre-read this one before giving it to their child, and if they want to do this as a read-aloud they should probably wait until their kids are 8+.  As one might imagine there are lots of references to specific Roman Catholic beliefs and practices.  However, one doesn’t have to be a Catholic or agree with the Catholic Church to appreciate the fact that many of the early New World explorers were men of sincere faith or to admire their courage in living by and even dying for their beliefs.

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And One for All

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: And One for All

Author: Theresa Nelson 

Cover Illustrator: Linda Benson

Publisher: Yearling, republished 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0440404569

ISBN-10: 0440404568

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 ages 9 – 12, but I’d say 13-17

Rating: *** 3 stars

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

Category: Historical fiction

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

     Nelson, Theresa.  And One for All (Published in 1989 by Orchard Books, a division of Franklin Watts Inc., New York City, NY  10016; republished in 1991 by Yearling Books, an imprint of Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY  10036).  It is 1967, and twelve year old Geraldine Brennan lives in the reservoir country north of New York City, NY, with her father Arthur, mother Eleanor, seventeen year old brother Arthur Jr. (known as Wing), and five year old younger brother Dub (short for W.W.—Wallace Wayne).  She is a seventh grader at St. Mary’s School.  Wing is a senior at St. Anthony’s High School where his best friend is Sam Daily who lives with his mother Mary Louise; Sam’s father was killed in the Korean War.

     Years before, in 1960, Geraldine, Wing, and Sam, had sworn eternal friendship and everlasting loyalty to each other like the Three Musketeers—“All for one, and one for all.”  But now Wing thinks the Marines and Vietnam have more to offer than school, while Sam would rather join anti-war protest marches for peace.  How does this difference affect their friendship?  Is there anything that Geraldine can do to help them keep their pledge alive?  And what will happen to Wing in Vietnam?   As this tense story is set during the Vietnam War, the author tries to present both sides of the issue, although it seems to me that it tends to come down a little more on the anti-war side.

      In addition to some common euphemisms (e.g., gosh, heck), the “h” word is found a couple of times, and terms like “My God” and “Good Lord” are frequently used  as interjections.  Also, there are references to Wing’s smoking cigarettes, drinking beer (in the school parking lot no less), and even coming home drunk, and to Geraldine’s first period.  While the book ends on a conciliatory and hopeful note, there is a sadness which pervades the plot, but I am sure that it accurately portrays the reality that was experienced by many families during that time period.

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The Ballad of Huck and Miguel

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Ballad of Huck and Miguel

Author: Tim DeRoche 

Illustrator: Daniel Gonzalez

Publisher: Redtail Press, 2018

ISBN-13: 978-0999277676

ISBN-10: 0999277677

Related website(s): http://www.redtailpress.com

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: My recommendation is ages 16 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)

Category: General fiction

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

     DeRoche, Tim.  The Ballad of Huck and Miguel (Published in 2018 by Redtail Press, Los Angeles, CA).  It is past the year 2000, and almost nine year old Huckleberry (Huck) Finn lives in St. Petersburg, MO, with his alcoholic, abusive Pap; Huck’s Mama “went away” a long time ago.  At the urging of his friend Alfonse, Pap decides to drive his camper all the way to California where Alfonse says that he can get rich quick by doing a little job for him.  Once they get there, Huck escapes and meets a boy named Tom Sawyer in Compton, CA, where the two witness a drug deal—Pap’s job for Alfonse.  The police arrive just after Pap flees with his life. Huck testifies against the drug dealer, is given a reward, and goes to live with Ms. Douglas and Miss Watson.  He befriends their “Mexigrant” (illegal immigrant) cowboy Miguel. However, Huck’s new life is disrupted when Pap returns to steal back his son and savagely attacks the two women.

    Unfortunately, Miguel is falsely accused of the attack, so, chased by both Huck’s vengeful and psychotic father and the police, Miguel and Huck escape on a raft down the concrete gash that is the Los Angeles River where, riding the dangerous waters of a rainstorm, the two fugitives meet a strange cast of Angelenos.  Will they be able to escape from Pap?  What happens with Ms. Douglas and Miss Watson?  And does Huck ever find out where his Mama actually went?  I don’t know what the intended age range for this book is, but I could not conscientiously recommend it for younger children (unless read aloud with some judicious editing).  A small amount of cursing (the “d” and “h” words) occur, and one character calls Huck a “sonofabi*ch.”  Also there are references to smoking cigarettes, selling drugs, shootings, drinking “licker,” and “homersexuals.”

     In fact, this exchange takes place.  Huck asks Ms. Douglas if she’s a “thespian.”  When she wonders what he means, he replies, “Well, my Pap says that a lady who marries a lady is a thespian.”  She smiles and answers, “Why, yes, Huckleberry.  Why then I suppose I am a thespian.”   I can just imagine some innocent little boy or girl asking, “Mommy, are ‘thespians’ really women who marry women?”  And not everyone may agree with all of the political assumptions which seem to underlie the story.  Some may even find the plot a little “pro-illegal immigrant.”  Each person will have to make up his or her own mind on that issue.  Otherwise, for older teens and adults, The Ballad of Huck and Miguel is an interesting and somewhat humorous retelling of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, set in modern times.

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Speechless

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Speechless

Author: Jennifer Mook-Sang

Cover Illustrator: Michela Sabine Fierro

Publisher: Scholastic Canada, 2015

ISBN-13: 978-1443142670

ISBN-10: 1443142670

Related website(s): http://www.scholastic.ca (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 9-13

Rating: ***** 5 stars

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

Category: General youth fiction

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

     Mook-Sang, Jennifer.  Speechless (Published in 2015 by Scholastic Canada Ltd., 604 King St. West, Toronto, ON  M5V 1E1, Canada).  Eleven year old Joseph (Joe) Alton Miles, nicknamed Jelly because his initials are J. A. M., lives with his father David who owns an electronics store, and his mother Gracie, and is a sixth-grader at Sherwood Forest Public School, where his best friends are twin brother and sister Parker and Sam Brown.  Jelly would rather be playing video games with P.B. than preparing for the school’s speech contest.  Besides, his nemesis and the class know it all, Victoria, has always won previous contests.  But this year’s awesome prize, a brand new tablet computer with accessories including a gaming controller, attract his attention.  And if he wins, he’ll finally have the last word with Victoria.  But then everything seems to start going horribly wrong.

     First, Jelly is accused of bullying when he accidentally hits a bratty boy named Spencer on the bus.  Then Victoria spreads a rumor around the school that Jelly’s first round speech was plagiarized.  And worse yet, Parker, who is now hanging around with one of Victoria’s friends named Elsa, appears to believe the rumor.   What can Joe do to regain his reputation as a nice kid?  Is there any way that his friendship with P. B. can be salvaged?  And who will win the final round of the speech contest?  The childish slang term “butt” is used for the human posterior several times.  Otherwise, this humorous, well written story that touches on the problem of school bullying has a believable plot with real-life characters.  It is both entertaining and inspirational.

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The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Sod Schoolhouse

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Sod Schoolhouse

Author: Miriam Jones Bradley 

Cover Illustrator: Hannah Nichols

Publisher: Emerald House Group Incorporated, 2020

ISBN-13: 978-1649600059

ISBN-10: 1649600054

Related website(s): http://www.ambassadlor-international.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 5-12

Rating: ***** 5 stars

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

Category: Mystery

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

     Bradley, Miriam Jones.   The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Sod Schoolhouse (Published in 2020 by Ambassador Books International, a division of Emerald House, 411 University Ridge, Suite B14, Greenville, SC  29601).  It has been only been a year since the Double Cousins—Dorie (fourteen), Max (eleven), and Chad Rawson and Carly and Mollie (nine) Johnson— solved their first mystery.  Since then, they’ve had five more.  Now back at Grandpa and Grandma Johnson’s ranch near Berwyn in Custer County, NE, for their annual summer visit, they wonder what will happen now.  Then out of the blue, strangers arrive at the ranch.  Bob Miller and his grandson Joey from Gregory, SD, tell a story from Mr. Miller’s nearly 100-year-old grandmother, Rhoda Babs Miller, that her grandfather Howard Coen had settled on property that was originally part of Grandpa’s land and that Howard’s son Joseph and his friend Jules Samuels had helped to build a sod schoolhouse there and decided to put a time capsule between two sod bricks. 

     Mrs. Miller would like to know if the stories told by her father, Joseph Coen, were true.  Is there any evidence that the first Happy Hollow schoolhouse had been a sod building?  If so, where was it and what happened to it?  And can they fulfill the dream of a centenarian by recovering its history and, against all odds, finding the tiny time capsule hidden by two young boys over 120 years ago?  In this Book 7 of 7 in the “Double Cousins Mysteries” series, the cousins, including their other cousin Brandon, must use all their previously learned sleuthing skills—along with some new ones—to help the Miller family to find the answer to their mystery; and in the process, they all learn that mysteries truly are a part of history.  This is a great set of books that emphasize family values, hard work, and logical thinking.  Plus the kids are homeschooled.

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The Freedom Stairs: The Story of Adam Lowry Rankin, Underground Railroad Conductor

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Freedom Stairs: The Story of Adam Lowry Rankin, Underground Railroad Conductor

Author: Marilyn Weymouth Seguin

Publisher: Branden Books, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0828320849

ISBN-10: 0828320845

Related website(s): http://www.marilynseguin.com (author), http://www.branden.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: Said to be for ages 8 – 12

Rating: **** 4 stars

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

Category: Historical fiction

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

     Seguin, Marilyn Weymouth. The Freedom Stairs: The Story of Adam Lowry Rankin, Underground Railroad Conductor (Published in 2014 by Branden Books, a division of Branden Publishing Company, P. O. Box 812094, Wellesley, MA  02482).  It is 1832, and sixteen year old Adam Lowry Rankin, the oldest of thirteen children, lives with his Presbyterian minister father John Rankin, his mother Jean Lowry Rankin, and his siblings, in a house called Liberty Hill on a high bluff overlooking Ripley, OH, the Ohio River, and the opposite shore of slave state Kentucky.  John is a fiery anti-slavery preacher, and Lowry, as he is called, along with his two oldest brothers Calvin and David, help his parents hide and transport fugitive slaves on the “Underground Railroad.”  They even build a set of stone steps leading up the steep slope to their home for escaping slaves to use, which becomes known as “the freedom stairs.”

     However, it is against the law to help runaway slaves.  Do the Rankins ever get caught?  If they are found out, what will happen to them?  And how can Lowry respond when he is asked by pursuing slave catchers why he is out alone in the dark while driving a wagon that is hiding several souls in it?  When I was an eighth grader (1967-1968), we studied about John Rankin in Ohio History.  Then, when we were homeschooling our boys, we visited the John Rankin House in Ripley, OH, and walked on the freedom stairs.  My only complaint with this book is that once each an escaping slave uses the “h” word, a slave catcher uses the “d” word, and a slave trader calls his slaves “black sons of bit*hes.”  I don’t know if Lowry recorded any kind of conversation like this in his memoirs or not.

     That may not seem like too much bad language to many folks, but I question the wisdom of having any kind of language like that in a story intended for 8-12 year olds.  However, I guess that I’m not really surprised that an author who is a teacher in the English Department at Kent State University considers it appropriate in something marketed to middle grade school students.  Otherwise, it is a great book that tells an important story. Seguin relied on Lowry Rankin’s autobiography to relay the account of this Ohio family’s role in the Underground Railroad as they helped more than 2,000 slaves to freedom.  One of their fugitives was the inspiration for Eliza in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Another really good historical fiction novel based on the life of Lowry Rankin is Across the Wide River by Stephanie Reed.

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The Great Ideas of Lila Fenwick

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Great Ideas of Lila Fenwick

Author: Kate McMullan 

Illustrator: Diane de Groat

Publisher: Puffin, republished 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0803703162 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0803703162 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0140324990 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0140324992 Paperback

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 9-12 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)

Category: General youth fiction

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

     McMullan, Kate.  The Great Ideas of Lila Fenwick (Published in 1986 by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of E. P. Dutton, a division of New American Library, 2 Park Ave., New York City, NY  10016; republished in 1987 by Weekly Reader Books, a division of Field Publications, 4343 Equity Dr., Columbus, OH  43228).  Lila Fenwick, who lives with her dad and mom, is a fifth grader in Mr. Sherman’s room at Price School.  Her best friend since second grade is Gayle Deckert.  The two girls and their fellow students are typical middle – class school children, but Lila is known for having some truly amazing “Great Ideas.”   Unfortunately, Lila’s ideas don’t always turn out as well as she had hoped.  They get her sometimes out of and other times into all kinds of trouble, but through it all, the heroine always manages to stir up plenty of fun.

     In a series of five episodes, the creative Lila comes up with a host of ingenious solutions to problems, including finding a missing Guinea pig named Chocolate, creating a unique Halloween costume, making the money she needs to pay for a window broken at camp, and  finding the perfect farewell present for their beloved teacher.  There are a few common euphemisms (e.g., gosh) but also a great deal of humor here.  Lila is loyal to her friends and quick to use her brand of sarcasm against herself when warranted.  The sequel is entitled Great Advice From Lila Fenwick (1988).

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Ghost Lights of Dry Brook: MotoMysteries Book 2

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: Ghost Lights of Dry Brook: MotoMysteries Book 2

Author: Sherri Kukla 

Publisher: S&S Publishing, Inc., 2020

ISBN-13: 978-1734948424

ISBN-10: 1734948426

Related website(s): http://www.sherrikukla.com (author), http://www.ssorm.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 9 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)

Category: Mystery

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

     Kukla, Sherri.  Ghost Lights of Dry Brook: MotoMysteries Book 2 (Published in 2020 by S&S Publishing Inc.). Jeremiah and Millie Anderson live with their father and mother on a ranch in the desert where they can ride their dirt bikes all around.  Their closest neighbors are the Morgans who run the Ridge Riders Lodge about fifteen minutes away and have two children, Paisley and Donovan.  All the youngsters are being homeschooled by their parents. The Andersons are also providing foster care for a little boy named Caleb whose mother is in prison.  When they see some mysterious lights at night, they learn about old rumors of ghost lights in nearby Dry Brook.  Also, while out on their off road adventures, the brother and sister see some strange activities at an old abandoned store.  Then all of a sudden, Caleb starts saying that the lights mean that his “sissy” is out there.

    What is causing the lights?  Is there any connection between them and whatever is going on at the vacant trading post?  And does Caleb really have a previously unknown sister somewhere in the desert?  Pre-teen and early teen fans of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew will love reading the MotoMysteries series which incorporates faith, dirt bikes, and mystery.  There are a few common euphemisms (e.g., gee and gosh), but Ghost Lights of Dry Brook has a family friendly theme full of life lessons and the importance of making good choices. The author sprinkles in references to and about God with an underlying message of wholesome values, such as having love for others, friendship, kindness, and honesty.  Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger encouraging the reader to continue, which makes this a great read for even the reluctant reader with its fast paced and action packed plot.  The next book in the series is Phantom Ship in the Desert.  There is also a “Christmas Mini-Mystery” entitled The Christmas Miracle.

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The Breaker Boys

HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW

Book: The Breaker Boys

Author: Pat Hughes 

Jacket Illustrator: Michael Hays

Publisher: Backshore Books, republished 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0374309565 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0374309566 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0615881676 Paperback

ISBN-10: 061588167X Paperback

Related website(s): http://www.fsgkidsbooks.com (publisher)

Language level: 3 (almost 4)

(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 ages 8 – 12; I say 13 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)

Category: Historical fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Hughes, Pat.  The Breaker Boys (Published in 2004 by Farrar Straus and Giroux, 19 Union Square West, New York City, NY  10003).  It is the spring of 1897, and twelve year old Nathan (Nate) Tanner, the son of a wealthy coal mine operator in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is kicked out Brock boarding school in New Jersey and sent home to his father Thomas, step-mother Anna, older brothers Tom and Fred, older sister Tory, younger sisters Millie and Winnie, and little half-brothers Martin and James, along with a house full of servants such as driver Patrick, cook Mary, groundskeeper Harry, governess Lucy, and maid Fiona.  Nate has everything a kid could want or need except a friend. He is to have morning sessions all summer with tutor Mr. Hawthorne, but will be free in the afternoons, so to avoid his family, Nate disappears on his bicycle every day.  In this way he meets the breaker boys, who do dangerous, dirty work in his father’s mines, separating coal from debris in a filthy, dark building called a breaker.

     Nate comes to admire these Polish immigrants, especially Johnny Bartelak, and longs to become his friend.   But the only way is for Nate to hide that he is the boss’s son. Unaware of Nate’s real identity, Johnny invites him to play baseball with the breaker boys. As the summer of 1897 progresses, Nate finds himself piling lie on top of lie to keep his identity secret from Johnny, and the friendship secret from his family.  But as Nate and Johnny’s friendship marches toward the moment of truth, Nate discovers that the mine workers are plotting a strike, while back at home, he learns of his family’s fears about the future.  What should Nate do?  Will he warn his family?   Or does he decide to protect his friend?  The Breaker Boys does a good job of exploring both sides of a painful but timeless issue through sympathetic portrayals of both immigrant laborers and the coal-mine owners who employed them. 

     There are references to drinking whiskey and beer, smoking cigarettes, and spitting tobacco juice.  Also, a fairly sizeable amount of bad language occurs.   It is somewhat disconcerting to read about eleven and twelve year old boys hurling the “d” and “h” words around at each other.  And the name of God is taken in vain through various exclamatory constructions.  The book is said to be for ages 8-12, but I would say that unless one wants his preteens encouraged to spout off profanities, ages 13 and up would be better.  At the same time, there is a good story here.  While Nate, his family, and his friends are all fictional, an author’s note discusses the historical events on which this novel is based.  Readers will learn a lot about coal production and the everyday life of both workers and owners.

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