Here’s what I read in May and June. (January through April can be found here.)
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
The fourth book in this series. I personally really enjoy the Penderwick books (light, clean fun and well written), but there’s too much teen boyfriend/girlfriend stuff for me to give these to my kids. This particular book, especially, hinges on teen romance. There’s no kissing or anything like that, but I just don’t need my kids to be thinking along these lines.
The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer
Like The Well-Trained Mind, this book isn’t one that you necessarily read straight through. You read Part I, and then you start in on her recommended book lists and her suggestions on how to read the books effectively. I’ve read many of the novels already, so I’m actually skipping to the poetry part. (She says you can do that.) I read a bunch of the poetry recommendations as well in college (The Illiad and The Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, The Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare, etc.), but it’s been awhile for most of those, and my kids are reading abridgments of the epics this year as we study ancient Greece and Rome. Plus, I’ve been wanting to read Seamus Heaney’s [SHAY-mus HEE-nee; I finally looked that up one year] Beowulf for a long time, so this gives me an excuse/push to actually pick it up. I’ll probably go through the novels next, replacing some that I’ve read several times with others by the same author. (She also says you can do that.) Her recommended translations/editions are very helpful.
Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell
This is the first book in Susan’s poetry list. Here’s an instance where I didn’t follow her recommended translation–BIG MISTAKE. I got this one instead because it was published after The Well-Educated Mind, so she wouldn’t have known about it, and the reviews said that it was akin to Heaney’s translation of Beowulf in its clarity/ease of reading. Well…it was clear alright–and extremely sexually explicit. If you want clarity/ease of reading, get the children’s Gilgamesh series by Ludmila Zeman! Otherwise, stick to a different translation. (Maybe they are all sexually explicit. I couldn’t say. But this one definitely was.)
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Like thousands of others, I’m guessing, I re-read this in anticipation of Go Set a Watchman, the newly discovered novel by Harper Lee to be released July 14th. Love this book so much!
If I Have to Tell You One More Time by Amy McCready
A Christian friend asked me what I thought of Amy McCready’s methods as it’s recommended on all kinds of Christian blogs. I didn’t want to pay for a class to find out, so I checked out this book. The glaring problem/caveat is that I don’t buy into any method or psychology that ignores God’s perspective on human nature, the fallenness of mankind, the image of God in man, or God’s instructions on child-rearing/discipline. Amy openly bases her method on Adlerian Psychology, which is a problem since it ignores God and the Bible, as far as I can tell from what she’s saying. She doesn’t consider punishment an option, with which I disagree. However, I wouldn’t say that Amy’s specific “toolbox solutions” for parenting are directly contrary to the Bible. They’re more like common sense with some “helpful hints.” I just don’t buy all of her argumentation of why parents should do these things (like, kids need to feel empowered, etc.). But, saying that parents need to spend dedicated and consistent time with their children, need to use a calm voice rather than yelling, need to encourage rather than giving empty praise or being constantly judgy, need to take time to train their children, need to help their kids practice making choices, need to let children feel the fruit of their laziness, need to arrange their home environment in such a way that allows their children to learn responsibility, etc. isn’t anti-biblical. I’d say, if you absolutely feel the need to read or listen to Amy, do so with extreme discernment–because, remember, even if everything she says isn’t necessarily wrong, as Christians, we need to be asking what’s right about it too. Amy’s “positive parenting solutions” aren’t designed to point children to Christ and the Kingdom.
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
I’m not sure if I ever read this as a child (I know I saw the movie), but it’s so lovely. My six-year-old daughter is reading this series right now.
As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust by Alan Bradley
This is the seventh in this series. I like these Flavia de Luce mysteries for myself. They’re well-written and actually make me a little bit interested in chemistry. Unfortunately, Flavia (a pre-teen girl in 1950’s England) curses and lies and is rather a poor role model for children, even though she’s painted in a good light. I wish I could let my kids read these, but I won’t.
“The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse” by Alan Bradley
This is a short story about Flavia de Luce.
The second and third/final books in the 100 Cupboards series. I liked these two better than the first one. Children’s fantasy written by a Christian but not explicitly Christian. They’re a little bit dark, but not so much that I wouldn’t let my son read them. Not my absolute favorite, but I liked them nonetheless.
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
A murder mystery based on Pride and Prejudice. James also manages to weave in some characters from Emma and Persuasion. Would be helpful to have read at least Pride and Prejudice before reading this, but not completely necessary. Not the most thrilling mystery I’ve read, but interesting because of what it is. I think James manages to maintain the integrity of Austen. I usually don’t like books by authors about other people’s characters, but I enjoyed this.
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
Of all the children’s fantasy fiction that I’ve been reading recently, I think these might be my favorite so far. Again, it’s no Narnia, but they’re still well done. Definitely get all four at once, because you’ll want to move right into the next book. Peterson’s writing got better with each book, I thought, and you can definitely see a more sophisticated structure in the last two books. My husband and eight-year-old son also read these in June, after I finished, and they both enjoyed them as well. Don’t skip the history at the beginning of the first book, and do read the appendices. You’ll enjoy the story more for having done so.