February is the month of my birth and so is one of my favorite months of the year. I love feeling special (classic Enneagram 4 here, yes), and February makes me feel special. I’m glad I can finally admit it. Ha!
Another reason to like February this year is that I have done a fair amount of reading and have also rediscovered a bookish community that I lost, little by little, as I quit blogging. I have also weaned myself off mindless social media, not exactly with the full intention of quitting it altogether, but with the realization after listening to Cal Newport on a few podcasts that the opportunity cost of missing out on whatever I was/am missing out on because of my lack of social media involvement is worth what I’m rediscovering: less angst, more time, and (hopefully) better face-to-face relationships. I should offer a confession by way of a caveat to this, though: I am way more active on my homeschool message board of choice these days, which is where I’ve found my bookish community. Somehow the conversations there feel better to me than my usual mindless scrolling of Instagram. More on this bookish community at the end of the post.
So, February. Here’s what I read:
I re-read The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright for my third through fifth grade Book Adventures class at co-op. It was very gratifying for me to introduce the Melendys to a new group of children. My original praise-fest about the book is here.
I listened to the audiobook version of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Wow! What an affecting story! This is one that just might be better as an audiobook due to both the voice of the narrator and the story itself. It’s the story of a young African American teen, Will, whose brother has just been murdered in a gang-related shooting. Will leaves his apartment the morning after, bent on the expected revenge. The spirits of several people who have passed from this life join him on his elevator ride down (which would last about sixty seconds in reality) from the seventh floor to the ground floor. During this time, Will reflects on what gun violence has cost him, his family, and his friends, and he has a decision to make: continue the trajectory or choose a different path. Every character in the story is sympathetic, which helps put an appealing face on a very difficult issue. I did not realize it as I listened to the audiobook, but this is a novel-in-verse, a genre I have grown to love. Highly Recommended. (The audiobook version is here–Long Way Down.)
Last year I read a couple of memoirs that completely captivated me, so I now I’m always on alert for anything remotely appealing in the genre. I “met” Anna K. LeBaron on Instagram and learned that she had written her own story about being raised in a fundamentalist Mormon sect and how she broke away from it. As I usually do with memoir, I devoured this story. I hate to admit that reading memoir makes me feel a wee bit voyeuristic, as in “Oh my word! I can’t believe people actually believe this and live this way! What happens next?”, but I reconcile this to the fact that they have actually written the book FOR people to read. Anna LeBaron shares a difficult, unbelievable story, but she has obviously done a lot of hard work to be at a place of wholeness herself today in order to tell the story.
I finally finished Mark Twain’s The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson. I sort of off-the-cuff picked this one for my thirteen year old’s literature studies because I remembered reading somewhere years ago that this is a good Twain novel to start with. I made an on-the-fly study of it by having her answer a few analytical questions and look up some obscure words, etc. I found the story quite enjoyable. Twain’s satirical humor is appealing to me. One thing that made this novel even more enjoyable to me is Wilson’s aphorisms at the beginning of each chapter. I’m glad to have read this classic.
My boys and I listened to the audiobook of Sharon Creech’s Ruby Holler. I believe this was a first read for me. I find Creech’s books both very quirky and also very poignant, and this one is no different. Since I only read Creech as an adult, I can’t (of course) say how they would read to a child (though I think I can say that my children have enjoyed everything they’ve read by her). She manages to hit all the right notes for me when it comes to the longing of a child for a parent and how surrogate parents can sometimes fill that hole. The relationship between Tiller and Sairy, the aging couple in this story who takes in the “troublesome twins,” Florida and Dallas, is particularly sweet and realistic to me. I also like how Tiller and Sairy, despite their many, many decades of marriage, still wonder what life would be like if they had their own identities apart from being husband and wife. (Spoiler: they discover that their individual identities aren’t nearly as fulfilling as their together identities.) My little guys liked the foiling of the villains in this story in particular. I will say that the story ends very abruptly, to the point that we wondered if the audiobook that we were listening to via Scribd was faulty somehow. It turns out that no, the story just ends abruptly. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile read, though do be aware that it’s about twins who were abandoned as infants, if that topic might cause issues for you or your readers.
I have quite a few more books in the works which I am very, very close to finishing, but they’ll have to wait for another post.
I am joining a number of readers on the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge on the the Chat Board of the Well-Trained Mind forums. The challenge and the mini-challenges associated with it are listed on the blog Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks. I consider this my virtual book discussion group, especially thanks to the chatter that goes on each week on the forum. It’s fun! I think I’m well on my way to meeting the challenge.