Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Incredible Journey

While waiting for the final book in the Rick Riordan Heroes of Olympus series, we delved into another classic that has been hanging around in our bookcase - The Incredible Journey.  I don't think I've ever read it, but I had seen the movie as a child.

The Story:  A young lab, an old bull terrier, and a Siamese cat are being watched by a friend of their family, while their family is off in England for months and months.  While they like their temporary master, when he goes away on a hunting trip, the lab takes the initiative in heading westward towards their original home, miles and miles across the forbidding Canadian wilderness.  Through a series of unlikely circumstances, no one knows that they are gone for weeks, not even the kindly lady who was watching over the house (and them, too, supposedly), while their temporary master is gone.  The going is not easy, and the old dog especially has a hard time with it, especially in the beginning, but the intrepid trio doesn't give up, and look after and encourage each other through it all.

The Good:   This is not your typical "the animals start talking as soon as their owners leave the room" kind of story.  The story is all told as if you were watching the animals, and it is very exciting.  You really get the feel of each animal through their actions and the way the author writes them.  The cat is loyal to his friends (particularly the old bull terrier, whom he hunts for occasionally), but is also a typical cat, disappearing to go stalk something, fiercely independent, smart as a whip.  The bull terrier is a sweet old thing, who doesn't understand when people they meet don't automatically fall in love with him all the time, and who is determined to keep up with his friends, even when his old body is having troubles with it.  The lab is wary of people who are not his beloved family, and is single-minded about his westward journey. Their way is not without significant troubles, but some of the people they meet along the way are kind and wonderful, and in the end (spoiler!), they all make it home!

The Bad:  There are parts when each animal is injured and you aren't entirely sure they are going to make it.  The bull terrier has his troubles because he is so old and unused to such effort, and he has a run in with a bear cub that ends with some injuries.  The cat is convinced to cross a river and a dam bursts, sweeping him away and nearly drowning him.  The lab has a run-in with a porcupine that ends with him severely quilled.  They are hungry, and it isn't easy going.  Some people are not kind to them, especially when the bull terrier kills some chickens, and they get shot at for stealing garbage.  The more sensitive child might be put off by these troubles.

The Verdict:  Totally worth being the classic it is.  I hope we can get our hands on the movie, to see how it holds up (I haven't seen it since I was a kid).  It is recommended for ages 8+, and I think that's about right.  It was captivating and you really root for the animal trio. It was not a very long read, which is nice after some of the beasts we've been tackling.  Overall, I can recommend this highly.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel

Finally, her first Heinlein!  I am a complete Heinlein fan (I've read most of his books, juvenille and adult fiction), and love all of them.  I started when I was 9 years old, when my dad brought me into a used book store, found Red Planet, and started my obsession.

I decided Evalina was ready.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel is a classic, and for good reason.  A problem with many Heinlein novels is that they seem to be discontinued, so it can be trickier finding them, but I got my hot little hands on a couple, joyfully.

The Story:  Kip, like many regular teenage boys, dreams of going to the moon.  His chance comes in the form of a contest from the SkyWay Soap company - come up with a winning slogan, and get a trip to the moon base!  He is obsessed, and enters the contest methodically countless times.  The day finally comes and... he doesn't win.  As a consolation prize, he gets a used spacesuit.  It's a total fixer-upper, and instead of just let it sit as a curiousity, Kip restores it.  He names the suit Oscar, and learns to work in it, buys parts from all over, wanders around his family farm in it.. and gets kidnapped by a passing alien spaceship!  There, he meets a spunky young girl named Peewee, who has also been kidnapped, and he gets his wish - they go to the moon!  However, it isn't all that he could ever want, because he gets to go to the moon as a hostage of the evil alien "wormfaces," who operate from a hidden base on the moon and are about to try to take over the world.  He manages to free his spacesuit, Oscar, from the clutches of the aliens, and get Peewee and her friendly alien companion, The Mother Thing, free, but they are still not out of harm's way.  Still they have to traverse treacherous lunar terrain with less air than they need, towards the lunar station, and that's only the beginning of their adventures.

The Good: This is sci-fi gold.  It is chock full of real facts and figures (which sometimes can get overwhelming, but it's still nice to have them there), and Kip's plight is something you can relate to.  He has a dream and he sets about making it happen.  That's commendable.  Though the outcome is not what he might have expected, the journey is certainly exciting, and what teenaged kid from a small town wouldn't want to save the entirety of humanity, all before figuring out where he is going to go to college, and how he's going to pay for it?  Peewee is lively and likeable, though sometimes she can be a brat, but you still root for her.  The Wormfaces are as despicable and terrifying as The Mother Thing and her kind are fair and just (at least to their own thinking), and Kip is not without flaws.  His trusty space suit, Oscar, is with him through thick and thin, and is essentially another character.  I remember liking this book when I was 9 or 10, and I certainly enjoyed it the second time around!

The Bad:  Sometimes the technical details get a bit dense.  Heinlein doesn't shy away from math and physics, and trying to explain that to a 9-year old can sometimes get a bit challenging, but that's a minor complaint.  If nothing else, it reaffirmed how math is important, and could even save your life (!) if you get into a desperate situation.  The writing holds up surprisingly well for something written in 1958, though there are certainly parts which could be a bit more modern.  Minor complaint.

The Verdict: Evalina was begging for more Heinlein!  (That's my girl)  She loved it all.  It was a relatively quick read, and I loved reading it with her about as much as she liked reading it (and sometimes, Philip was listening from his bed, having finished his own reading...)  Read this.  Classic sci-fi, made none the worse for it's age.  Amazon has it recommended for grades 7+, which is a possibility if you are trying to understand all the math and such, but the rest of the subject matter was not too much over Evalina's 4th grade head (as a read-together book).  Can't wait to get her some more Heinlein!

Heroes of Olympus: Son of Neptune

We finished Son of Neptune a while back, but I just haven't had a chance to blog about it until now.  Evalina is chomping at the bit to finish this series, and we just got the final book (Mark of Athena) last night, so I thought I would try to play catch up and get the books we have read in between written up.

The Story:  Percy Jackson has no memory.  He woke after sleeping for months, with a wolf, Lupa, telling him that he was a demigod, and told him his name, but not much more. He has memories of his girlfriend, Annabeth, but not much else, and he sets off for the demigod encampment that Lupa sent him to, but nothing seemed familiar.  When he gets there, he meets Hazel, daughter of Pluto, who was dead but came back to life (this is not a widely known fact), and Frank, who has not yet been claimed by his Godly father.  Percy joins the legion with the other sons and daughters of the Roman gods at Camp Jupiter, but is not widely accepted, as he is unknown and has strange ways.  Frank and Hazel are some of the only ones to accept him, and together they embark on a quest to free Thanatos (the God of Death) from the hands of an ice giant in Alaska, beyond the realm of the Gods, in an attempt to defeat Gaia, in her attempts to waken and overthrow all the Gods.  The Prophecy of Seven is close to coming to pass.

The Good:  Evalina was thrilled to see Percy back, after his disappearance in the last book.  It was interesting to get to know the Roman aspects of the Gods, and Frank and Hazel are totally likeable characters.  The growing threat from Gaia was nerve-wracking, and there were some close calls and nights when we "had" to read more than one chapter because the cliff-hanger was just too big.  I'd call that a good.  Frank and Hazel both go through some serious transformative moments and they both grow from slightly timid, unsure newbies to strong and confident heroes.  There were times when we grabbed out the Mythology book to get some background on the Roman mythology.  That's a good.

The Bad:  At times, it seems like the odds are just too much against Percy and the crew.  It's nerve-wracking at times.  And also bad? When we finished this, the final book in the series hadn't been released yet!  Neither of us is much good at waiting for books.  There is more overt romance in this book, I think, than in the others, which is ok, but something to be noted.   It is also hard to read the book, knowing that Annabeth and Tyson and the others from Camp Half-Blood are looking for Percy, and fighting the same enemy, but not knowing what they are doing!  I know that this is not really a bad, but something to think about.

The Verdict:  Another really fun read from Rick Riordan!  Can't wait to read the last one in the series, and then on to the Red Pyramid series, about Egyptian mythology.  The recommended reading level is age 10 and up, and although she has since re-read it, Evalina (age 9) was probably better off reading it with me first, so I'd call that about right.  It was on the longer side, so that's something to be aware of.  Overall, thumbs up, for sure!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Heroes of Olympus Series: The Lost Hero

When we finished the original Percy Jackson series, we immediately went on to the next part of the series, The Heroes of Olympus trilogy.

The first book in the series is The Lost Hero, and like the Percy Jackson series, Evalina simply gobbled it up.

The Story:  Piper and Leo attend a kind of school for delinquents, called The Wilderness School, with their friend (and Piper's boyfriend), Jason.  At least, they think they do.  The problem is, Jason doesn't remember ever having seen them before he wakes up on the bus to the Grand Canyon field trip.  And then, at the field trip, things start going even worse.  The bully jock in the class turns out to be a crazy storm spirit out to kill all of them, and their coach is actually a satyr who gets kidnapped trying to protect the kids.  On top of that, Piper falls into the canyon... and Jason jumps in, and flies to her rescue.  Yes, he flies.  And that's just the beginning.  As fans of the Percy Jackson series might suspect, these kids are demigods, but somehow they weren't brought to Camp Half-Blood before the story starts, and they are older than the normal age of being claimed by their godly parents.  Bad things are rising - worse than the Titans which Percy and the other demigods defeated recently.  Jason's memory has been taken by Hera, who is the prisoner of a force so strong that no one wants to name it.  Camp Half-Blood is in turmoil because Percy Jackson has disappeared without a trace.  The three newcomers are finally claimed by their godly parents - Leo is the son of Haephestus, Piper is the daughter of Aphrodite, and Jason... he seems to be the son of Zeus, but something is off... pieces of the puzzle don't quite fit, and he can speak Latin.  His memory is still gone, but he starts to suspect he is not the son of Zeus after all, but instead the son of Jupiter, Zeus' Roman aspect.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg...

The Good:  It's neat how the new characters are definitely the center of this story, but the older characters aren't forgotten, and are interwoven into the new line of story.  As in the Percy Jackson series, the writing is exciting and the mythology behind it seems pretty true to the original stories.  The reasons for the strife between the Greek and Roman gods and their children seem to make sense.  The Big Bad is really well done, and we both loved the new central trio. 

The Bad:  There is more teenage angst in this one than in previous books by the same author, and I know it is simply because this trio is older to start with - I think 16 in the beginning, whereas Percy started somewhat younger.  The book was also really long - nearly 400 pages, so it took us a while to get through.  The previous books by the same author were maybe 300 tops.  Some chapter cliffhangers were simply too much to put the book down... not that that's necessarily a bad thing...

The Verdict:  We can't wait to start the next book in the series!  Read this if you have read the Percy Jackson series.  It is really really well done and a great read.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Titan's Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian

I am SO behind on blogging these books!

I wanted to note that we had, in fact, read them, and that I am, in fact, still doing this blog... it's been a crazy summer so far, though, so let me apologize ahead of time for the fact that this post is going to cover three books, and that it might not be the format I like to do...

I promise to do better in the future.

Titan's Curse: In this book, Percy and his friends have to help rescue the goddess Artemis from her prison as a stand in for Atlas, holding up the earth, as the Titans strengthen their forces and ready for battle with the Gods.  Along the way, they meet a couple mysterious demigods, and the future of the world, mortal and immortal, hangs in the balance.

Battle of the Labyrinth:  When it is discovered that Daedelus' labyrinth really does exist, and that it has actually expanded over time, and like Olympus, has shifted to lie under the US.  With the Titan army rising, it could be disastrous if they gain control of the labyrinth, with access to anywhere - including Camp Half-Blood!  Percy and his friends need to prevail if the world as they know it is going to survive.

The Last Olympian: The Titan War is at hand!  This is a nearly non-stop action-packed book, full of battles, betrayals, monsters, friends, enemies, and seemingly insurmountable difficulties.  The Titans are strong, and it doesn't seem like the Olympians and the demi-gods will be able to defeat them... Percy and his friends go through much to try to save the world.

So that's that.  I can honestly say that Evalina is completely obsessed with these books.  She's read the Battle of the Labyrinth three times by herself, after we read it together.  She has proclaimed herself a "Greek God Geek," and knows more about some of them than I do..

Next - the Heroes of Olympus series!!  Halfway through The Lost Hero already... I will do a better post on it, promise!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters

I've fallen behind in blogging Percy Jackson books - we finished the second book, The Sea of Monsters, a few weeks ago (and dove right into the third one, and now the fourth one!)

The Story: Percy has been having nightmares about his best friend, the satyr Grover, in trouble, stuck in a cave by a cyclops... he is stunned when he finds out that his dreams are in fact caused by an empathy link to Grover.  He and his friend Annabeth and his newly discovered half brother, a young cyclops named Tyson, set out to try to save Grover, and to do so, they have to travel through The Sea of Monsters, which is (currently) located in the Bermuda Triangle - like all mythological places, it travels around with the center of Western Civilization.  Along the way, they have to battle Luke, the half-blood who abandoned Camp Half-Blood the previous summer to serve and try to ressurect the titan lord, Kronos.  Meanwhile, at Camp, the tree that protects the camp from magical attacks, and is the embodiment of Zeus' daughter, Thalia, has been poisoned.  When it is discovered that the cyclops who is holding Grover prisoner also holds the mythological Golden Fleece, which holds powers that could heal the tree and save camp, the quest becomes even more dire.  Can they save camp, stop Luke, and rescue Grover in the end?

The Good:  As in the first book, the characters in this are compelling and you really root for Percy to save Grover.  The mythology is great - Evalina has been reading her Greek Mythology reference book right along with it, and she is now calling herself a "Greek Mythology Geek." I love it.  Tyson is sweet and a wonderful friend, even though Percy was initially put off by his cyclops nature.  We couldn't read it fast enough!  What a great story.

The Bad:  Nothing much I can think of.. sometimes it was scary, but she's doing well with the scary parts.   Much like Voldemort in Harry Potter (which I have not read with Evalina yet), Kronos is an evil not to be trifled with.  That can be difficult to take, but she's mostly good with it.  Harder was the fact that Luke has turned so completely to the side of evil... but again, this was nothing to turn us off!

The Verdict:  Another winner!  I adore how Evalina is delving into the mythology and the history.  Again, I think it might be a bit much for her to read on her own, but she loves having me read it aloud!  Another great thing about reading aloud is that I can help her understand the context of some things when needed.  We are adoring this series!  (I'll blog #3 soon!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

A friend has lent us the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series, and so far, we've finished the first one - amazing!! A while back, I bought Evalina Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters, which she has been poring through and memorizing, so I knew that the Percy Jackson series would be right up her alley - and how right I was!
Image courtesy Amazon.com

The Story:  Percy Jackson has always been considered a "troubled" child.  He has dyslexia and ADHD, and gets kicked out of every school he attends.  He loves his mother dearly, but never knew his father.  His stepfather (Percy refers to him as Smelly Gabe) is unloving and unlovable, and wants to just play poker and drink beer while ordering Percy's mom around... Percy runs into trouble during his sixth grade year of a kind he never expected.  His math teacher turns into some kind of monster on a field trip and tries to kill him, and his favorite teacher gives him a pen that turns into a sword with which he saves himself.  And then no one else remembers it at all.  They don't even remember the monster math teacher *before* she turned into a monster.  And that's not even the strangest thing... his aforementioned favorite teacher turns out not to be a wheelchair bound man at all, but in fact, a centaur - and  Percy's best friend, Grover turns out to be a satyr!  Percy himself finds out that he is much more than a normal, if troubled, kid... he's a half-blood, and his father is a god!  Chased by monsters, his mother brings him to Camp Half-Blood, where other demi-gods live and train (at least in summers), and while Percy makes it, his mom has a run-in with a minotaur, and is not so lucky.  At Camp Half-Blood, Percy works on coming to terms with his new life, figures out which god is his father, and then finds himself given a quest in which he must succeed, or there will be a war between the gods on Olympus the likes of which the world may not survive.

The Good:  The storytelling in this book is wonderful, and we are looking forward to the rest of the series very much.  Percy is a likable hero, and isn't perfect, so he's easy to relate to.  His friends Grover and Annabeth (a daughter of Athena), who accompany him on his quest, are great characters in their own rights.  The gods are portrayed in ways that mesh with classic stories, but also make them fit into our modern world.   It's very clever and compelling storytelling.

The Bad: Sometimes, it was rough for Evalina to take.  Percy lost his mom in the run in with the minotaur (is she dead?  Is she trapped in Hades?  Can he get her back?) was the source of many tears... we kept reading, and she got over it, but it is jarring.  The story is action packed, and that is mostly a good thing, but the more sensitive child might have problems with it.

The Verdict:  Excellent.  We are already several chapters into the second book, and would recommend this series to others.  It does help to have a reference book of Greek mythology handy, and I think that Evalina (at 9) might be a bit young to read it on her own yet - but it was a great read-aloud!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Series: Chronicles of Narnia

There are so many reasons that The Chronicles of Narnia are such classics.  We love them!  Can't wait for Philip to read them with The Hubby..

The Magician's Nephew

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Horse and His Boy

Prince Caspian

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Silver Chair

The Last Battle

Book Series: Pippi Longstocking

How much do we love Pippi?  Ever so much!!

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Goes On Board

Pippi in the South Seas

Book Series: The Mysterious Benedict Society

I have heard rumors that there may be more books in the Mysterious Benedict Society coming... I sure hope so!

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma

Book Series: Edward Eager's Half Magic

The Half Magic series by Edward Eager is totally one of my favorites, and I can't wait to read it with Philip (or have The Hubby read it with him, so that they both get to experience it!!)

Half Magic

Magic By the Lake

Magic or Not?

The Well Wishers

Knight's Castle

The Time Garden

Seven Day Magic

Book Series: Little House Series

I thought it might be nice to gather together some of our favorite series, in easy to find posts.

The Little House Series was a HUGE hit.

Little House in the Big Woods

Farmer Boy

Little House on the Prairie

On the Banks of Plum Creek

By the Shores of Silver Lake

The Long Winter

Little Town on the Prairie

These Happy Golden Years

** We chose not to read The First Four Years at this time

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Surviving the Applewhites

My dear friend Lisa, of Explayration, brought a bag of books for the kids a while back.  She was particularly excited to read Surviving the Applewhites, one of her childhood favorites.  I can see why she liked it so much!

The Story:  Jake Semple has been kicked out of every school he has ever been in, and is suspected of burning down one of them.  His last chance before juvenile hall is the unorthodox unschooling at Wit's End, the domain of the Applewhite family.  The Applewhites are, as a whole, a very artistic and free-spirited family.  They are comprised of a famous author, a poet, modern furniture makers, a dancer, a theatre director, an inquisitive little boy, a mysterious and rarely seen teenaged hermit, and... E.D, the grounded, organized, and more conventional one.  She is saddled with Jake, because everyone else is doing their own thing, and they are not in the least able to handle an unruly teenaged boy.  E.D. isn't really, either, but at least her schooling is more structured than any of the others, and he certainly isn't able to be left to himself yet.  She is not happy about this responsibility, but begrudgingly takes it on.  He is no happier, but he figures it is better than juvie.  Slowly, something begins to happen to Jake.  He begins to care.  He gets a part in Randolph Applewhite's grandiose production of The Sound of Music.  He is basically adopted by both the family's Bassett hound, and the youngest, non-stop talking youngest Applewhite, Destiny.  When the production of The Sound of Music is moved to the Applewhite estate, the whole family bands together to make it happen, with E.D. as the ever capable stage manager.   They pull off what no one thought was possible - a multi-cultural rendition of The Sound of Music, in a barn at Wit's End, accompanied by an accordion playing over-zealous would be television producer who has moved in with the Applewhites, along with the "kitchen guru," Gavindaswami, who makes refreshments for the whole clan, whilst imparting wisdom along with his spicy curries.  The other impossible thing they pull off is that Jake Semple becomes more than the teenaged delinquent ne'rdowell that everyone assumed him to be.

The Good:  The chapters rotate perspective between Jake and E.D. and it is very well done.  The characters are believable, and you find yourself rooting for Jake's transformation.  Evalina and I particularly enjoyed her search for the great spangled fritillary, the last butterfly needed to finish her self-imposed butterfly curriculum, along with Jake's hatching of black swallowtails, partially for Destiny's benefit.  The growth seen in Jake doesn't seem forced, but very organic and natural.  I wish that I could have seen their production of The Sound of Music! 

The Bad:  Some of the things Jake says and does (especially at the beginning of the book) may be a bit shocking.. but it's worth it to see where he ends up.  The Applewhites are a scattered bunch, and they often leave Jake or E.D. in charge of the 4-year old Destiny, which is a bit disconcerting!

The Verdict:  Absolutely worth a read.  It didn't win the Newberry Prize for nothing!  It is recommended for grades 5-8, but as a read-along, it was fine for Evalina, who is in 3rd grade.  It was funny and touching and exciting and just all around a great book.  I had never heard of it before, so I am very grateful to Lisa for bringing it to my attention!  And now, I'm bringing it to your attention... so don't miss it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Book of Three

When I was a child, I had seen The Black Cauldron in my brother's bookshelf.  I thought I had read it.  I don't think I ever did.  I definitely wanted to read it with Evalina, and when I decided to find it, I realized it was a series!  I am a bad geek, because I didn't know that.  Oops.  So - first things first, this is the first book in the series, and it's (somewhat ironically) called The Book of Three.

The Story:  Taran is an assistant pig keeper, caring for a prophetic pig, Hen Wen.  When Hen Wen escapes, and Taran goes after her, a whole new adventure enters his life in ways that he didn't expect.  He meets Gwydion, a fabled hero, who doesn't quite live up to his expectations on first meeting.  Evil forces, led by the menacing Horned King, are gathering to overtake the neighboring kingdom, and from there the entire kingdom.  When he and Gwydion are captured, Taran meets a strange young girl named Eilonwy, a curious creature named Gurgi, and a host of others, who join on the quest to save the realm.

The Good:  Taran is a realistically flawed hero.  He doesn't set out to be a savior.  He wants a little more excitement than he gets in his normal pig-keeper life, but he certainly doesn't plan on the kind of adventure he gets.  He is a kind and true friend.  Evalina's favorite part of the whole book was Gurgi.  Though he starts out as less than admirable, he grows wonderfully throughout the story, and he has a different way of speaking, which Evalina loved.  The characters in the book are really appealing and I can't wait to find out more about them with Evalina.

The Bad:  Some of the names are ridiculously hard to pronounce, seemingly for no reason except to make them hard to pronounce.  Tripping over my tongue is not fun when reading aloud.  There are some moments of real suspense, and The Horned King is really terrifying, along with the Cauldron Born warriors.  This just makes for good story telling, for the most part, though.  The names are the only thing I can think of that are really bad about this book.

The Verdict:  This would not be really easy for Evalina to read by herself, though Amazon lists it for 8 and up.  She really loved it, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series with her!   I can absolutely recommend it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ramona's World

Evalina got Ramona's World for Christmas, because it was the only book in the series we hadn't yet read.  It is always a delight to read a "new" book in a favorite series.

The Story:  Ramona is entering the fourth grade.  She has a new baby sister, Roberta, and she is back to sharing a room with Beezus (so that the baby can have her old room).  She has a new best friend, Daisy, and calluses from swinging and playing on monkey bars and rings that any active fourth grader would be envious of.  She also has her challenges, like any other fourth grader - trying to prove that she is worthy of more responsibility, dealing with spelling, embarrassing moments, and a bad school picture.  In other words, this is a realistic story about a girl who is, in many ways, very much like Evalina.

The Good:  As always, I love how realistic and timeless the Ramona stories are.  They are quick reads, and funny.  Evalina had several laugh out loud moments.  The characters come alive on the page and you can picture any slightly quirky, exuberant 9 year old in Ramona's place... including when she becomes what she calls a teenager on her "zero-teenth" birthday.  Since my own girl has been planning her own 9th birthday party for months (and it is not until March...), I can relate (and so can she).

The Bad:  The only bad thing I can think of is that now we have read all the books in the Ramona series... sometimes Ramona does things that are not the best choices, but what 9 year old doesn't?

The Verdict:  Absolutely read.  It was the perfect reading level for Evalina, though she could have read it last year even without difficulty.  I cannot say enough about this series.  Quick and funny, I'm sure she'll revisit them in the future.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Evalina and I finished reading Heidi last week, and what a lovely book it was!

The Story:  This classic story is about Heidi, a little girl with a wonderful spunk and spirit, who brings joy to the lives of many around her.  She lives in a cottage on the Alm, in Switzerland, with her grandfather.  She spends time with goats (and the young goatherd), among the wildflowers and the majestic mountains.  When she is brought to live with an invalid girl in Germany, she learns just how much the Alm means to her.  Though she misses her home terribly (in fact, getting literally homesick, unable to eat because she longs for her mountain home so...), she makes friends with the young girl of the household, Klara, and when she has returned to the mountain hut, Klara and her family visits and learns to understand Heidi so much more.

The Good:  I would love to be friends with Heidi.  She is truly caring, always looking out for Peter the Goatherd's grandmother, and her friend, Klara, and her grandfather ... she has a wonderful light that just shines.  She helped to turn her grandfather from (what some saw as) a crotchety old man to be frightened of into a pillar of the community.  She helps Klara see herself as more than a poor girl, stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.  She makes sure that the Grandmother has soft rolls and cakes and a soft bed to keep her comfortable in her house - and helps to motivate her Grandfather to fix up the Grandmother's drafty house.  She brings happiness into the life of the kind doctor, who lost his own daughter.  She is also clever as a whip, and loves the beauty around her in the Swiss mountains.

The Bad:  I found the religious aspects of the book to be a bit heavy handed sometimes (but, I am not religious).  Klara's grandmother teaches Heidi to read, and basically converts her to Christianity.  Thereafter, every time something wonderful happens, it is all very religiously leaning... which, again, is not something I generally enjoy.  Interestingly, and this is not bad, just interesting... Heidi is not the "Heidi" you might think of from the old movie.  She has short black, curly hair, not long blonde hair done up in a braided crown.  Just funny, that's all.  Thank you, Shirley Temple!

The Verdict:  This is a true classic and I cannot believe that I never read it as a child... it's one of those books that you think you've read until you start reading it.  Absolutely recommended.  If you are not religious, you might have to have some conversations about the religious aspects of this book (which Evalina and I have already had, while reading the Little House series in particular).  I totally loved this book.  It had humor and heart and wonderful descriptions.  I want to go to Switzerland now.  I can't find recommended reading level on Amazon for it, but I don't know that Evalina would have read it all on her own ... particularly, some of the names are more difficult for the non-German speaking reader.  Still, she truly enjoyed it.