Hope Is the Word http://hopeisthewordblog.com books, reading, & home education Fri, 12 Jan 2018 01:25:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://hopeisthewordblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/cropped-Hope-Is-the-Word-Logo-LARGE-PNG-1-32x32.png Hope Is the Word http://hopeisthewordblog.com 32 32 Straw Into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2018/01/11/straw-into-gold-by-gary-d-schmidt/ http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2018/01/11/straw-into-gold-by-gary-d-schmidt/#comments Fri, 12 Jan 2018 01:25:11 +0000 http://hopeisthewordblog.com/?p=24002 [Read more...]]]> Apparently I have reached the venerable age described by C.S. Lewis in his Wardrobe dedication:

 But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

I am filling an intellectual and emotional pull to revisit these old stories.  What better way to do it this new year than with Gary D. Schmidt, one of my very-most-favorite-authors-of-all-time?  I was compelled to read Straw Into Gold, one of his earliest books, because I was considering it as a bookclub pick for my upper elementary/middle school bookclub at our homeschool co-op.  It’s a rewriting of the fairytale “Rumpelstiltskin.”  Actually, it picks up where the fairytale ends, more or less.

The story opens with a boy named Tousle on the morning of a long-awaited day:  the day his Da will take him to the village of Wolversham to see the king and queen on parade.  Tousle lives alone with his Da, an odd little fellow with magical powers, and has never been away from their home.  Their trip to Wolversham sets in motion a series of events which leads Tousle away from his home and the life he has known on a quest to save the lives of a downtrodden people (“rebels”) by the answering of a riddle.  His companion on the quest, a blind boy named Innes, is connected to him in ways he cannot even imagine at the outset of the story.  There is adventure, even violence, a-plenty in this tale, and it ends satisfyingly, if a bit surprisingly.

I am amazed by how Schmidt can ply his craft in so many genre and still come through with both the same tone and themes time and time again.  Straw into Gold is one of Schmidt’s earliest novels, but it “feels” the same as his later books in many ways.  In it we have flawed parents and parenting, difficulties galore, and a resolution that requires loving sacrifice.  While I can definitely see growth in his writing (this one is maybe a wee bit over-eager, trying-too-hard-to-be-beautifully-written), I adore it.  This little bit of description encapsulates why:

And there was no doubt that she was the queen. All day we had tramped through the snow, with only a single break to eat.  Her robe and skirts hung wet and heavy, the bottoms stiffened with frost.  She had pushed back her hood, and her hair that had begun so tightly tied back had fanned out and flattened against her cheeks and forehead. Her breathing came loudly.

But there was no doubt that she would go on and on, that if she must, she would pick both of us up in her arms and carry us on her shoulders.  (136)

If you’ve never read Gary D. Schmidt, this one is a good one to start on.  Or any of the rest of them.  You just can’t go wrong.


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L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge 2018 http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2018/01/07/l-m-montgomery-reading-challenge-2018/ http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2018/01/07/l-m-montgomery-reading-challenge-2018/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 00:21:54 +0000 http://hopeisthewordblog.com/?p=24004 [Read more...]]]> L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeJanuary means a lot of things, but one of the best things it means to me is time to hunker down with a L.M. Montgomery on the nightstand or in the read-aloud basket (or both!).  Carrie has been hosting this challenge since 2009 (!), and I have been with her since the beginning (!!).     The moment I knew it was on again for 2018, I began making plans.  Image result for golden road cover lm montgomeryThis afternoon my girls and I had a bit of time after dinner, so we took up the thread of the Sarah Stanley and friends again in The Golden Road, the sequel to The Story Girl, which we read before our Year of Anne (it stretched into more than a year).  We weren’t twenty pages in before we read this Christmas-time exchange:

The Story Girl also got a present from the Awkward Man–a little, shabby, worn volume with a great many marks on the leaves.

“Why, it isn’t new–it’s an old book!” exclaimed Felicity.  “I didn’t think the Awkward Man was mean, whatever else he was.

“Oh, you don’t understand, Felicity,” said the Story Girl patiently.  “And I don’t suppose I can make you understand.  But I’ll try.  I’d ten times rather have this than a new book.  It’s one of his own, don’t you see–one that he has read a hundred times and loved and made a friend of.  A new book, just out of a shop, wouldn’t be the same thing at all.  It wouldn’t mean anything.  I consider it a great compliment that he has given me this book.  I’m prouder of it than of anything else I’ve got.” (16)

When I read this I was struck by how similar the Story Girl’s feelings are to mine.  My girls and I have read a lot of books together.  Hundreds of them.  Read-aloud time has grown exceedingly precious, especially with these two.  They’re growing up.  If I only have a few more years to read aloud to them (and that’s the realization that is dawning on me), I want to spend most of those years with Old Friends.

I’ve written a lot about L.M. Montgomery’s books over the last decade.  Here’s a master list with links of all of my L.M. Montgomery-related posts.

The Story Girl review

Emily of New Moon review

Emily Climbs review

Jane of Lantern Hill review

The Blue Castle review

Pat of Silver Bush review

Mistress Pat review

Magic for Marigold review

Kilmeny of the Orchard review

A Tangled Web review

L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, adapted by M.C. Helldorfer review (also thoughts on what makes a good adaptation)

PEI Reminscences, a post in which I share pictures and memories of mine and Steady Eddie’s honeymoon on the Island*****My favorite post!

L.M. Montgomery Meanderings, a post in which I reminisce about how I became such a fan

Goodbye, Gil

The right book at the right time–on introducing my pre-teen to Anne

The Year of Anne (including some thoughts on Anne of Green Gables)

Anne of Avonlea mini-review

Anne of Windy Poplars review

Anne’s House of Dreams review 

Anne of the Island review 

Rainbow Valley review 

Rilla of Ingleside (made our best of 2017 list)





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The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2018/01/05/the-purloining-of-prince-oleomargarine-by-mark-twain-and-philip-stead/ http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2018/01/05/the-purloining-of-prince-oleomargarine-by-mark-twain-and-philip-stead/#comments Sat, 06 Jan 2018 02:27:03 +0000 http://hopeisthewordblog.com/?p=23998 [Read more...]]]> The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead was a Christmas gift from my family, received after hinting to anyone within earshot that I’d like a copy for my library.  When I learned that my favorites, Phillip and Erin Stead, were collaborating together again, and this time on a book based on an unfinished Mark Twain tale, well, that fact lodged pretty tight in my book-hungry brain.  I picked it up this week after making a modest start on it Christmas Day, and this time I decided to use it as a vehicle to bring all of my children, ages thirteen down to four, into the read-aloud fold all together once again.  We read it in two installments, starting on the day Steady Eddie returned to work after a long and busy Christmas break (sob!), and finishing this morning as a part of our first Fun Friday of the new year.  Its long-ish picture book format makes it ideal for a range of ages and stages.

Let me qualify my review by saying this:  I love Mark Twain, and as I’ve already confessed, I love the Steads.  Thus, I can’t say anything bad about this book at all.  I found it completely delightful, if completely nonsensical.   One has to skip ahead and read the editor’s note at the end of the book to know how the book came to be, ensconced as it was in the Mark Twain Papers archive at the University of California, Berkeley. No spoilers here, but I will say that it comes as a surprise to me that every single solitary word that an author as famous as Mark Twain ever wrote hasn’t already been analyzed to death.  Of course, Twain never actually wrote this story.  He actually just jotted down part of a rough outline of a story he told his daughters.  (His outline is reproduced on the book’s endpapers.)  Philip Stead took the story and fleshed it out, interrupting the story itself with an imagined conversation between him and Twain in his writing cabin on Beaver Island, Michigan.  I love this aspect of the story–imagining a curmudgeonly Twain arguing with Stead over some finer detail is quite amusing to me.

The story itself is about a meek and sort of sad boy named Johnny.  Johnny lives with his scoundrel of a grandfather, about which the Twain/Stead duo has this to say:

Johnny had no other family.  And to say he knew his grandfather would be an optimism at best.  And since a great many of the world’s tragedies, big and small, were first thunk up in the minds of optimists, we will do humanity a favor now and stick to the cold facts:

Johnny’s grandfather was a bad man.  (16)

(This tickled me so much, and it really further blurred the authorial attribution for me:  this sounds so Twain-ish!)  Poor Johnny’s only consolation in life is his chicken, Pestilence and Famine (yes, one chicken with two names).  Then his grandfather sends him to town to sell Pestilence and Famine, which he does, only he sells her to a mysterious old woman for some equally mysterious seeds.  This exchange leads to a string of crazy nonsense, including talking animals, a diminutive king with an ego disproportionate to his size, argumentative dragons, and a man-eating tiger.  Whew.  The cherry on top of this imaginative mishmash are Erin Stead’s illustrations.  If you’ve read A Sick Day for Amos McGee (my review here), you know just the sort of illustrations that carry this crazy-but-somehow-gentle story along.  (If you haven’t read it, DO!)  The whole thing is both a wonder and a curiosity.  In my mind’s eye I can absolutely see Twain concocting this crazy tale for his daughters, inspired by a page ripped from a magazine.  The Steads were the right team for the job.  I’m glad to have it in my library.  (Doubleday, 2017)

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What we read aloud in 2017 and top picks http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2017/12/27/what-we-read-aloud-in-2017-and-top-picks/ http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2017/12/27/what-we-read-aloud-in-2017-and-top-picks/#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 03:04:45 +0000 http://hopeisthewordblog.com/?p=23988 [Read more...]]]> It has been a curious year of reading aloud.  My little family is growing up, and it is more obvious to me in this arena of our family life than almost anywhere else.  Also, the fact that I have four children in four distinct phases of development has never been more apparent to me.  With all of those disclaimers, I still want to note that we have had a really good year of reading aloud.  Here’s our 2017 list:

  1. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (started in 2016; original review here); girls only
  2. Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery ; girls only
  3. Jenny Goes to Sea by Esther Averill; boys only
  4. The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas; everyone
  5. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (audiobook); girls only
  6. Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton; boys only
  7. Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech; everyone
  8. Watership Down by Richard Adams; girls only
  9. Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery; girls only
  10. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo; everyone
  11.  Lady Lollipop by Dick King-Smith; boys only
  12. Clever Lollipop by Dick King-Smith; boys only
  13. The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White ; boys only
  14. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson; girls only
  15. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery; girls only
  16. Leif the Lucky by the D’Aulaires; DLM only
  17. Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary; DLM only
  18. Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye; girls only
  19. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (audiobook); girls only
  20. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; boys only
  21. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden; boys only
  22. Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla; DLM only
  23. Homeless Bird by Gloria Whalen; girls only
  24. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis; boys only
  25. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis; boys only
  26.  The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (audiobook); girls only
  27. This Way to Christmas by Ruth Sawyer; everyone
  28. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis; boys only

As is our tradition, I polled the three oldest children separately for their favorites.  I didn’t include Benny because he still greatly prefers picture books over novels, though he has listened in a good bit this year–probably more than I even know.

Lulu’s favorites–age 13:

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson–quotes shared here and here

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare–This is one I never blogged.  However, I read it for the first time myself a few decades ago now and it left such an impression on me that I definitely didn’t want to miss it with my girls.  It’s a little old-fashioned in tone and style but its major theme has worn well.  Obviously, Lulu thinks so. (We listened to the audiobook, linked above.  The reading was a little stilted for my taste, but again, that must’ve been my issue instead of my girls’.)

Although it pains my greatly that I never blogged the last book in our Year of Anne, which just happens to be one of my Very Most Favorite Books of All Time, I am equally as thrilled that Lulu chose it has one of her top picks of 2017.  Rilla of Ingleside.  {happy sigh}

Louise’s favorites–age 12:

 This was a very enjoyable re-read for me–my original review of Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool is here.

Here it is again!  If this isn’t a Highly Recommended for The Bronze Bow, I don’t know what is.  

I first read Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird way back in library school and loved it, so it was such a pleasure to share this little novel with my girls.  Gloria Whelan remains one of my favorite novelists.

The DLM’s favorites–age 7:

He loved this one so much we read it twice.  Again (and to mis-quote Sheriff Andy Taylor), if that’s not a Highly Recommended, I don’t know what is.  Read my review of Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton here.  

Obviously, we love Narnia around here.  I guess this must be the third time through for me as read-alouds, maybe?  The DLM couldn’t choose just one Narnia story; he picked the four we’ve read over the past several months as his top picks.  Steady Eddie and I both read these, with Steady Eddie doing most of the reading of the last two.  I have to admit that it’s hard for me to share the read-aloud duties, but I try to be generous.  🙂

My favorite read-alouds of 2017:

I’m not sure exactly what it is abut Richard Adams’ Watership Down, but it was a surprise hit for me.  I still think about it, months and months later.  Read my obtuse thoughts here.

Journey to the River Sea was another surprise hit for me because I had never read anything by Eva Ibbotson.  I loved it!

Like the DLM, I can’t pick just one final favorite.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that sharing the Anne books with my girls is a dream come true.  I’m sad that our Year of Anne is over (even if it did take us much more than a year!)  

What were your family’s top read-alouds of 2017?


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What I read in 2017 and my top picks http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2017/12/22/what-i-read-in-2017-and-my-top-picks/ http://hopeisthewordblog.com/2017/12/22/what-i-read-in-2017-and-my-top-picks/#comments Fri, 22 Dec 2017 13:30:47 +0000 http://hopeisthewordblog.com/?p=23980 [Read more...]]]> My total this year, between reading to myself {for myself–you know what I mean} and reading aloud {the number of titles that I actually read is a little iffy because Steady Eddie and I share duties at night}, is somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty books.  This, of course, doesn’t include picture books.  The number is much higher than I thought.  You read see my list in its entirety here.

When I think about this year’s reading, two things comes to mind.  The first one is that I read a lot of nonfiction. In fact, about a third of what I read for my own enjoyment and edification was nonfiction! They are definitely the books that I remember the most.  I gravitate toward bibliotherapy, so I’m always looking for titles I “need” to read.  I feel like I’m still processing a lot of what I read, like maybe I need to go back and re-read a few of them and take notes.

The second thing that comes to mind regarding this year’s reading for me is that I rediscovered audiobooks.  I now appreciate them for myself, not just for my children.  Most of my audiobook consumption happened while I was exercising–during my brief stint of jogging and into my re-commitment to walk as often as possible.  I owe my new-found love for audiobooks to Jim Dale and his reading of the Harry Potter series.  Yes, this is the year I read Harry all the way through, from start to finish.  And yes, I loved it.

If you’re interested, you can see my whole list here.

And now on to my favorites.

Favorite novels of the year

Read my brief review of The Nightingale here.  This is really the only adult novel I read all year, but it’s a good one.

I read To Stay Alive by Skila Brown for last year’s Cybils and was positively haunted by it.  My thoughts about it are here.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan in audio is just as good as you’ve heard.   It’s three separate stories about three different children in three settings but the story is united by a common object.  The genre here is iffy:  magical realism crossed with historical fiction, maybe.  The thing that makes the audiobook a standout is the musical component.  The common object that unites all the stories is a harmonica, and the music is just lovely.

Of course, Harry Potter is always a winner.

Nonfiction top picks

This is the year that Steady Eddie and I discovered Peter Scazzero.  I listened to Emotionally Healthy Spirituality in audio and went on to acquire the devotional that goes with it (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day: A 40-Day Journey with the Daily Office).  I need a re-read on the original book.  So much of it seems like it should go without saying, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.

The Chemistry of Calm by Henry Emmons, M.D. is a book I learned about on the one and only What Should I Read Next podcast episode I’ve ever listened to.   I promptly purchased the Kindle version of the book and devoured it after I listened to that episode.  We’re well-versed in approaches to anxiety treatment in our home (understatement! ha!), and I appreciate this doctor’s hopeful attitude and science-based suggestions.  This is definitely one I need to re-read.

I have only recently come to embrace the fact that yes, I am indeed a HSP.  That is thanks largely to this book, The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.  I’ve had it in my Kindle holdings for a few years but the time was finally right this year for me to realize some things about myself.  Aron fleshes out the idea of “overarousal” and what it means for those of us who have finely tuned systems.  The best thing I can say about this book is that it gives us HSPs permission to BE who we are, which is not something we’ll likely ever hear from the world at large.  ETA:  I finished this post before I had quite finished the book, and at the end it went off the rails a little bit for me.  However, I still stand by the fact that it is quite an important book for me personally, so I’m leaving it in as a top pick.

So as not to end on a navel-gazing note, I’ve ordered my nonfiction picks to end with the only biography I read this year:  Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman.  However, since it’s a biography of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo, one might argue that it still falls into the category of books about mental health.  😉  At any rate, both Louise and I found this YA biography engrossing, both beautiful and sad.

Sometimes I wish I kept up with all the books I dabble in, that I almost finish but don’t for one reason or another, ones that I read over long swaths of time.  That would boost my number considerably, but since I don’t, I’ll be satisfied that I did some quality reading (and listening) this year, even if most of it went unblogged.

Stay tuned for our top picks for this year’s read alouds.

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