I know I’m usually all about middle grade fiction over here, but I just finished the most lovely adult historical fiction, and I have to share it with you all: Adrift, by Rhonda Ortiz, the second book in her Molly Chase series.
You guys, Adrift checks all the boxes of things I’d been dying to see more of in a book:
Historical fiction of a less-written-about time period (1793 Boston and Philadelphia), check.
Fascinating historical details, check.
Spies! Intrigue! Puzzles to solve! Check.
Romantic banter, check.
A beautiful representation of a realistic but God-centered engagement and a healthy, loving marriage, check check.
Adrift picks up right where In Pieces, the first book in the series left off: the engagement of Molly Chase to her childhood frenemy, if you’ll forgive me the modern term, Josiah Robb. Josiah has been recruited to be part of the new country’s team of intelligencers, as the war between France and England is threatening American shores. What follows is a story that is simultaneously adventurous and deeply philosophical at turns, while losing none of the good humor and historical richness of Book 1.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
Boston, 1793—Now engaged, Molly Chase and new federal intelligencer Josiah Robb want nothing more than to settle into quiet married life—or as quiet as life can be when one is hunting down a ring of traitors among Boston’s elite. But the plan has one glaring flaw: Molly herself, and the madness that has plagued her since her father’s death. Until Molly proves herself an asset rather than a liability, Josiah’s investigation cannot move forward.
Intelligencer Eliza Hall thought she had left her troubles behind in Philadelphia long ago. When she is sent back to follow a suspect, she’s ready to acknowledge the truth and make her peace—except that the man she loves, who doesn’t know about her past, is assigned to come with her. Now she must outwit her fellow spy and closest friend, lest he hate her for what she had been, while they maneuver to prevent Revolutionary France from dragging the fledgling United States into a war it cannot afford.
Both women are in search of a safe harbor. Little do they expect the winds to blow them into the most tumultuous waters of all—back home.
Since you’ll ask... Yes, in this case you should really read the series in order. In my opinion, you’d be a bit confused about the details if you jumped right in here. Do yourself a favor and order In Pieces if the series is new to you!
You can pre-order Adrift before its August 8 release day (and/or order In Pieces while you're there) at this link: https://rhondaortiz.com/store/adrift . Many thanks to Rhonda Ortiz and Chrism Press for providing me an e-ARC in exchange for my honest review.
I'll be doing an interview with Rhonda very soon—any questions you'd like me to ask her?
A hidden bonus of being a Catholic author is that I've spent my life steeped in story-worthy elements. You want beauty and drama? Walk into a Mass and breathe in the incense and beeswax candles. Let the music of Byrd and Tallis echo in your ears. See the gleam of brass in the smoking thurifer and the sheen of silk on the tabernacle and vestments. You want the perfect story? Read the Bible, with all its heartache and betrayal and sacrifice and longing and love. Or the lives of the saints, echoing this story in their own unique lives.
But the downside to being a Catholic author? It can get annoying when non-Catholic authors steal from the treasure box of Catholic imagery and items. When they do it well, I don't mind so much (I loved The Inquisitor's Tale, for example…even though it did say Dominicans wore brown...). But when they do it poorly and the book wins acclaim, it's honestly painful. A recent award-winning title by a truly brilliant author missed the mark so much on angels and religious life (to a Catholic, "religious life" means living as a nun, sister, priest, brother, or monk) that I was honestly astounded by its stellar reception. Didn't it matter to anyone else that sacred elements of our Faith were being appropriated to add drama and mystique to a story?
Last week I read Back to the Bright Before, by Katherin Nolte--a newly-released story that very much takes advantage of the "Catholic mystique," but also very much gets it right. I am assuming that the Nolte is Catholic or was at some point, because she not only uses Catholic elements carefully and respectfully, but she never lets them get in the way of a really well-told story. It would have been easy to point out much of her symbolism to her readers, but instead she leaves it there like a little Easter egg for her readers to notice or not notice—you don't need to know all the answers because what you're there for is the story.
Here's a description from the publisher:
When eleven-year-old Pet Martin's dad falls from a ladder on their family farm, it isn't just his body that crashes to the ground. So does every hope her family had for the future. Money is scarce, and Pet's mom is bone-tired from waiting tables at the local diner, and even with the extra hours, it's not enough for a third surgery for Pet's dad. Her five-year-old brother, Simon, now refuses to say anything except the word "cheese." Worst of all? The ladder accident was Pet's fault.
She's determined to fix things--but how? Good old-fashioned grit...and maybe a little bit of magic.
When a neighbor recites a poem about an ancient coin hidden somewhere on the grounds of the local abbey, Pet forms a plan. With her brother, a borrowed chicken, and a stolen pony, Pet runs away from home. If she can find the coin, Daddy can have his surgery, Momma can stop her constant working, and Simon might speak again. But Pet isn't the only one who wants the coin...which means searching for it is more dangerous than she ever imagined.
This dazzling debut novel filled with magic, family, and adventure is sure to be an instant classic.
Here's the thing. This book will be classified as magical realism, but to a Catholic reader, it will read as something even better: a story of miracles. As Pet learns in the story and I have learned in my life, miracles are all around but you'll miss them if you're not looking. How wonderful it was to read a story where faith moved mountains and hope overcame the darkest evil! If you want to see it as magic… that's ok. Maybe we can agree it's the "Old Magic" of Narnia and The Secret Garden, a power bigger than the powers of this world, bigger than evil and bigger than even our biggest problems.
On a final note—and I know I can't really work this in with a perfect segue—the NUNS ARE SO GREAT. Having lived across the street from a Dominican monastery for several years, and knowing many nuns and sisters very well, I do get prickly when they're portrayed in literature as socially-awkward mystics or repressed goody-two-shoes. Nuns are real people, guys. :) Every single one I've met has entered religious life because she feels called to something bigger and deeper than herself—she is running to a great love, not running away from the world. And that deep love and complete normality was perfectly portrayed in Back to the Bright Before. Sister Melanie, the novice sister who befriends Pet, is just like many young nuns I know: kind and funny and nerdy and normal. I just loved her.
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations, check out Always in the Middle!
Vintage Summer Reading, Part 6: The Magic Summer, by Noel Streatfeild (UK title: The Growing Summer)
Welcome to Part 6 of A Vintage Kidlit Summer, the summer challenge hosted by me and Anna Rose Johnson. We've been having so much fun re-discovering childhood favorites, exploring new-to-us vintage stories, and connecting with other vintage-loving friends! For more about the challenge, and to see the schedule and our recommendations (you're welcome to join in anytime, even for just a week!), see this previous post.
This past week's theme was "Well-known Author, Little-known Book," and once again I took Anna Rose's recommendation—for the win. ;) I'd read several Streatfeild books as a child and as an adult, and I'd even had this one on my shelf for several years after finding it at a library book sale.
My first surprise upon opening this book was this lovely dedication. Elizabeth Enright is one of my very favorite authors, so even if I didn't already love Noel Streatfeild, I think this would have tipped me in her favor. It's like discovering a mutual best friend, isn't it?
Just a few pages in, I remembered what a masterful storyteller Streatfield is. Her characters jump off the page, and her depiction of the relationships between the four siblings is spot on. How did such a prolific author manage to create new, unique, believable characters in every story?
If you know Streatfield from Ballet Shoes and its "companion" books, the description of The Magic Summer might surprise you a little. When their doctor/researcher father is taken ill on an overseas research trip, four siblings are sent to live with their eccentric great-Aunt Dymphna on the coast of Ireland (hooray for another children-by-the-sea story!). Aunt Dymphna quotes poetry at every turn and is a master at rummage sales, herb-lore, and lobster-catching. She is not quite as skilled at things like keeping house, driving a car, or raising children. The children are nearly left to fend for themselves, with hilarious consequences. They also come upon a mysterious boy hiding in their aunt's old mansion, providing a mysterious side story—and another excellently-crafted character.
I'm not sure why the U.S. title is The Magic Summer--there are no fantasy elements in this story, unless you count Aunt Dymphna's unaccountable talent for conversing with seagulls. The U.K. title, The Growing Summer, seems much more apt. Throughout the course of the summer, the challenges and mysteries and fun the children experience lead them to grow in ways they never would have expected. Children today, who can hardly fathom a world where a helpful adult is not a mere text message away, will likely be enthralled by the children's freedom and mastery.
What's your favorite little-known book by a well-known author? Did you join in this week's challenge? Next week we're jumping into vintage "Big Family Stories," and I have an All-of-a-Kind Family sequel I can't wait to crack open!
Welcome to Week Four of A Vintage Kidlit Summer, hosted by me and Anna Rose Johnson! For more info, including recommendations for each week's theme, see this previous post.
This week's theme was a Book in a Series, which pretty much left me…staring at all my favorite vintage books. :) But I chose one that I remember loving as a child and yet somehow which I'd completely forgotten all the details about by the time I reached adulthood: Friendly Gables, by Hilda Van Stockum.
Friendly Gables is the third book in The Mitchells series—one thing I loved as a kid was watching the family grow from five children, to six children, to eight in this final installment. As you may know, I have eight children myself, so reading this book felt like holding a mirror up to my life.
Friendly Gables is a perfect little family story (or, little big family story), taking place over Mrs. Mitchell's three weeks postpartum after the birth of twins. SO MUCH in this story reminded me of my life, that it often seemed uncanny. Reading now, I remember vividly my impression of Mrs. Mitchell… I remember thinking, "Wow, she is such a great mother. Someday I am going to be a mother like that." I wish I could say I have succeeded! I am afraid that on my bad days I look more like the villain of the story, stuffy nurse Mrs. Thorne, with her constant heckling about keeping the house tidy and looking out for one another. Still… it's good to have a model to look up to, no? Maybe someday…someday I can be as good a mother as Mrs. Mitchell is! I wish Hilda Van Stockum was still alive so I could find out if her perfection was inspired by reality or by wishful thinking!
Another high point of the story was the way the Mitchells' Catholic faith is an everyday part of their life—more so than in the first book of the series, probably because this (and the middle book) takes place in Canada, where Catholicism was more strongly a part of communal life as well as personal life. A line at the end choked me up: "The guests were all grouped around as Monsieur le Curé poured water on the two little heads and solemnly baptized them James Michael and John William. Mother had tears in her eyes. It was part of the joy of giving birth, to bring her babies back to God afterward. Daddy shared her feelings. He had put his arm through hers and she leaned against him." Such a perfect snapshot of a moment and feeling I know so well...
I hope you all don't mind a bit of a catch up post! These past two weeks of summer reading have been delightful—in addition to these vintage reads, I dove into a new early reader, a recently-released adult historical fiction and a soon-to-be-released adult historical fiction, all of which I plan on sharing with you soon. I haven't done too much besides read, as after the non-stop pace of play rehearsals and long daily drives for the musical my children were in, my body decided to force me to give it a rest. Luckily sick days are good reading days!
For week three of the Vintage Kidlit Summer reading challenge I'm hosting with Anna Rose Johnson, the theme was Magical Adventures. We actually both chose to read Half Magic, by Edward Eager. As one commenter on Instagram pointed out, this book is a book-lover's dream, as old favorite stories are woven into the plot and environment of the story. After just a few pages, I was ready to dive into E. Nesbit again—and maybe I will, later this summer!
For week four, I re-read Emily's Runaway Imagination, which I now think may be Beverly Cleary's most underrated book. I love the episodic style and historical setting (she wrote it as historical fiction, unlike her Henry/Beezus/Ramona stories). I love the little vignette scenes as well as the drama of the biggest plot point: can Emily and her mother bring a library to small-town Oregon?
What surprised me most, not having read this since I was about ten, was one very important and understated theme in this story: racism. Not exactly what you'd expect from a Beverly Cleary novel, right? And yet I found that Emily's experiences relating to her elderly Chinese neighbor had a ring of authenticity and courage. At the beginning of the story, Emily is afraid to take the road that goes by Fong Quock's house—not, as you might expect, because she is afraid of the Chinese man, but because she is afraid of herself. She has a hard time understanding his accent, as he is the only Chinese person she has ever met, and she is afraid she will hurt his feelings if she misunderstands. She's also honestly afraid of embarrassing herself because of her misunderstanding, which I also find very relatable—how often are our intentions totally pure? Throughout the story, Emily always speaks of Fong Quock with respect and admiration, but her fears almost make her miss out entirely on the chance to connect with him in a genuine way.
Now, like many vintage books, Emily falls into a few stereotypical depictions of Chinese that I'm sure modern readers may justifiably object to. In these cases, I like to take Mitali Perkin's advice and read more widely, to get a more full and nuanced view of any pinpointed time and place. Certainly Emily's experiences with her Chinese neighbor seem honest and good-hearted…but what would the point of view of a Chinese immigrant in 1920's Oregon look like? How would his version of the story look different? Maybe you all can help me out there. Do you readers have any good recommendations for stories of Chinese immigrants to the Northeast U.S. in the 20's?
This week, we're moving on to A Book in a Series—which pretty much encompasses about 80% of my favorite vintage books, so I'm having a hard time choosing. Any must-read series on your lists of favorites?
We've arrived at Week 2 in our Vintage Kidlit Summer Reading reviews! (You can learn more about this summer reading challenge that Anna Rose Johnson and I are hosting in this post.) This week's theme is Moody & Mysterious, and I again chose to read Anna Rose's recommendation: Mystery on Heron Shoals Island, by Augusta Huiell Seaman, originally published in 1940.
Here's the publisher's description:
Fifteen-year-old Marty, her grandmother, and their macaw, Methuselah, live in a big old family house on Heron Shoals Island. When they’re asked to board a young musical prodigy, his father, and his professor for the next couple of months, Marty senses disaster on the horizon. The group soon becomes friends, though, as they find themselves working together to solve a thrilling and complicated mystery. If they can solve it, life at the old home on Heron Shoals Island will never be the same again.
Guys, I LOVE island stories. This makes two in a row, and I could easily just specialize in kids-on-an-island stories this entire summer. This one was very different from last week's lighthearted family story. The suspense and danger were real, but they never got too intense. (I'd have no issue handing this to a young, precocious reader.) The mystery itself was slightly predictable to me (I mean, I'm a writer, so it's hard to surprise me with a plot!), but very engaging and complete with a satisfying ending.
My favorite part, though, was the description of the hurricane that takes place at the climax of the book. I'd heard stories from grandparents and elderly friends of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938—clearly that was the inspiration for the terrifying storm in this story. Every summer during hurricane season, the weather channels here in CT pull up the old photos and first-hand accounts, so it was easy to visualize exactly what Seaman describes in her story. And of course placing it within a story made the storm come so much more to life!
This week we're diving into some light fantasy with "Magical Adventures." I'm already delving into an old favorite, Half Magic, by Edward Eager. Are you joining us this week?
I'm also linking up today with Greg Partridge for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday—for some more current MG recommendations, be sure to check out his blog!
Welcome to Edition 1 of 12 in my Vintage Kidlit Summer Reading reviews! (You can learn more about this summer reading challenge that Anna Rose Johnson and I are hosting in this post.) This week's theme is Summer Vibes—it was NOT easy to choose just one vintage book for this theme (and I may have cheated—overachieved?--a little by reading other summer stories with my kids. But today I'm spotlighting my official read and new discovery: Seacrow Island, by Astrid Lindgren of Pippi Longstocking fame.
Don't get me wrong: I enjoy Pippi very much. But I can't understand how so much of Astrid Lindgren's reputation seems to rest on that one character. If you haven't read Ronja, the Robber's Daughter or The Children of Noisy Village, for example, you're missing out on much of Lindgren's humorous and emotional depth and breadth. Seacrow Island took me in a very different direction, but no less delightful, as it's a story that was contemporary when Lindgren wrote it, and solidly in the realm of realism. The mention of blue jeans and polo-neck sweaters and motor boats made me forget temporarily that I was in a Lindgren novel—until the humor hit. And Seacrow Island really is one of the funniest realistic fiction stories I've ever read.
Some of that humor is situational, but for the most part, it's all about the people. Much like Jane Austen or L. M. Montgomery, Astrid Lindgren has the ability to write characters that make you laugh out loud while still being essentially human and deeply real. We laugh at them, but we never mock them—perhaps because we see in them a bit of ourselves or of someone we love.
Seacrow Island is inhabited by a cast of intensely lovable and mostly humorous human beings—with a few animals thrown in for good measure (I have never had such a warm feeling toward wasps as I did when reading this!). At the center of the action is the Melkerson family: Melker, the dreamy and ever-so-slightly pompous-in-a-lovable-way writer; Malin, Melker's oldest daughter, who at nineteen is the mother figure for her motherless brothers and the irresistible love interest for any nearby young men; Niklas and Johan, the 11- and 12-year-old adventuresome and trouble-making brothers; and Pelle, the 7-year-old, tenderhearted baby of the family. When the Melkersons rent a tumbledown house on Seacrow Island for the summer, the children are quickly befriended by the locals, particularly Tjorven, the six-year-old "queen of the island," who has the entire population wrapped around her chubby and charming finger.
There is little intense drama in the story, and yet I found myself unable to put it down. The everyday drama of forming friendships and falling in love and fearing change and wanting a pet—all these familiar situations were so adeptly crafted that they held my attention with the magnetism of a thriller. Besides the characters, Seacrow Island itself was such a well-drawn and delightful setting, I wanted to book a plane to Sweden before I'd turned the last page.
Thank you so much, Anna Rose, for recommending this book!
Now, friends, what have you been reading? If you've joined in the Vintage Kidlit Summer, please share! I'd love to read your own book recommendations; if you've highlighted one for this week's theme, please leave a link in the comments—or use the comments section to share a one or two sentence spotlight here. :)
As a treat for my kindred spirits, I'll be giving away a paperback copy of one of my vintage favorites. Just leave a comment here about what you've read, or share on instagram with the hashtag #vintagekidlit summer (and, if possible, tag me and Anna Rose in your post @faithhough42 and @annarosewriter). I'll choose a winner on Wednesday 6/7, and can mail a copy within the United States. Good luck!
"As to moral courage, I have very rarely met with the two o'clock in the morning kind. I mean unprepared courage, that which is necessary on an unexpected occasion, and which, in spite of the most unforeseen events, leaves full freedom of judgement and decision."
Ah, two o'clock in the morning. We're old friends now. When I was young, and my first baby was born, I delighted in her midnight murmurings which meant I could wake up and stare at the astounding perfection of her features. A few years into mothering, with a backlog of missed sleep, it did indeed require a certain moral courage.
Luckily, by that point, I lived directly across the street from a Dominican monastery, where women of all ages awoke to pray throughout the night, without the alluring reward of baby snuggles. They were summoned by a bell and I by a baby's cry, but it was comforting to unite my own drowsy prayers with theirs on the mornings when my eyes simply didn't want to open. "O God, come to my assistance," I would pray (and still do), "Lord, make haste to help me."
In subsequent years, I've come to have a true appreciation for these early mornings of nursing and wakefulness. I wish I could say I always open my eyes with joy and alacrity every time… I don't. I'm middle aged now, and energy is in short supply. But once I do rustle up some motivation, I genuinely enjoy being awake while the rest of the household sleeps. I am glad for the time to speak and listen quietly with God. When I finish prayer, I enjoy reaching for a book (or my kindle, thanks to its backlit screen) and diving into stories while the baby nurses. It's another kind of two o'clock courage, I suppose, to open a book instead of scroll on a phone.
A few weeks ago, a friend asked my favorite question: "Do you have any books to recommend?" She needed some reading recommendations for her own two a.m. nursing sessions, and I was most happy to oblige. Since then, I've put some extra thought into this question… What makes for the best early morning reading during the early months of motherhood? Not just any book will suffice. It needs to be engaging, certainly, but also not require too much deep thinking. (I love a good, philosophical treatise…but not at two a.m.) For me, it can't deal with any terribly stressing topics--no child abductions or violent, traumatic deaths on this list. At that time of day, I tend to prefer character-centric works over plot-centric ones (although there are exceptions), but the pacing needs to skip along just as well as if it were a thriller.
Without further ado, then, my list of Best Books for Two O'Clock Nursing Sessions—or anytime you need some good, lighthearted, and brilliant stories in your life.
The Blue Castle is L. M. Montgomery's only "adult" novel—its main character is twenty-nine and there a couple more mature themes than her other books. It's funny and clever and heartwarming, and one of my two favorite books ever.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Excellent historical fiction that will definitely make you want to plan a trip to Guernsey.
While you're daydreaming about Guernsey… Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge, brings the nineteenth century version of the island to life in a thought-provoking and challenging book about the sisters and the power of the presence of God and the decision to love.
Daddy-Long-Legs, by Jean Webster, may technically be categorized as a children's or YA book, but its sweet romance, low stress, and epistolary style makes it a go-to recommendation for me to give anyone at all.
And if you love Daddy-Long-Legs, you should definitely give Katherine Ray's Dear Mr. Knightley a read! Her books (that I've read so far) are all delightful, with at least a touch of literary influence for you book nerds like me.
A recent (and wonderful) discovery for me was the writing of D. E. Stevenson. Her Miss Buncle's Book trilogy is lighthearted and hilarious, while still being very intelligent. I found the whole series, but the third book in general, full of sound advice for a good marriage. Bonus!
Maybe it's living in New England, but I will always love a good Revolutionary War story, and In Pieces, by Rhonda Ortiz fits that bill to a T. Romance, intrigue, beautiful dresses (the main character is a seamstress, and the descriptions are rich and historically accurate), philosophy, faith… This book has it all.
A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson is the perfect lighthearted read for those of you who binged Downton Abbey.
I love every word I've ever read by P. G. Wodehouse, but Lord Emsworth and Others is my favorite nighttime reading collection of his stories. I consider "A Crime Wave at Blandings" to be a perfect short story.
There are moments in my nights when my prayers are less like peaceful meditations and more like anxious raging. In those moments, I find the stories of The Little World of Don Camillo, by Giovanni Guareschi, particularly comforting. Even better than their steady humor is the beautiful relationship between God and the character Don Camillo portrayed in these stories. God is tender and patient and ready with a witty answer when needed. Don Camillo is imperfect but sincere. It's so good.
Are there any books you'd add to this list? What gets you through wakeful seasons of life with peace and poise—or at least general sanity?
All right, friends, get your pre-order buttons ready. Today I’m reviewing a soon-to-be-released middle grade book which jumped right onto my “Top 10” and “Better at least get a Newbery Honor” lists.
Here’s what the publisher had to say about Jacqueline Kelly’s The International House of Dereliction:
In this not-so-scary ghost story from Jacqueline Davies, bestselling author of the Lemonade War series, quirky, tool-wielding Alice Cannoli-Potchnik begins to repair the dilapidated mansion next door—only to discover the old house is home to ghosts, and they need mending, too!
Home is where the heart is. But can a house have a heart of its own.
Ten-year-old Alice is moving for the eleventh time.
She’s lived in so many houses, each more broken than the last, that home to Alice is nothing more than a place you fix and then a place you leave. After all, who needs a permanent home when you’re a whiz at fixing things
But when Alice arrives at her new home, she can’t take her eyes off the house next door, the stately dark house that hulked in the dimming light. The once-grand mansion, now dilapidated and condemned, beckons Alice; it's the perfect new repair job!
As Alice begins to restore the House to its former splendor, she senses strange presences. Is there a heartbeat coming from the House’s walls? Is someone looking at her? Soon she realizes she’s not alone. Three ghosts have been watching, and they need Alice’s help to solve their unfinished business.
Will Alice be able to unravel the mysteries of the House and find her forever home ... before it’s too late.
Quirky is the right word! I loved Alice and her eccentric Cannoli-Potchnik family. I loved the lighthearted touch with the ghosts. I love the crazy, old house, and the interesting neighbors. It’s all very eccentric and quirky and lighthearted—and yet. The International House of Dereliction is somehow the most believable portrayal of homeschooling I’ve recently come across in a work of fiction. Alice’s education is clearly well-rounded, but she has immense amounts of freedom to pursue her passions. She repairs the International House by herself, and quite capably—and if this sounds unbelievable to you, I invite you to meet some ten-year-old homeschoolers. Admittedly, I only know a couple who’d be capable of home repair (I do have a few nephews who probably could have accomplished this when they were ten), but I know many who have achieved incredible levels of proficiency at the things they are passionate about.
I’m not saying all homeschoolers are like this. Guess what? There’s some totally average and completely below average homeschoolers, too—just like students you’d find in school. But what makes me excited is to finally see this side of homeschooling represented in a work of fiction. It feels like for many years we’ve been bombarded in fiction with the idea that homeschoolers need to be saved from their social ineptitude by a timely entrance into public school. Are there socially inept homeschoolers? Sure. Are they the majority? Let’s just say I know more homeschoolers who can capably put up drywall at age ten than homeschoolers who are socially inept.
I won’t devote all my review to the positive homeschooling rep, much as I could. But Jacqueline Davies deserves mention of her spectacular characterization, her deftly-handled descriptions, and her perfectly-timed and developed humor. I will never use this comparison lightly: at moments, the humor reminded me of P. G. Wodehouse. And I really can’t give any higher praise.
The International House of Dereliction releases in July, but is available for pre-order now. Be sure to add it to your TBR lists!
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations, check out Greg's blog at Always in the Middle!
As a mother of eight, it has been hard at times to know what to prioritize for my children. The older I get, the more I see the evidence that St. Paul was right: whatever is true… whatever is honorable… whatever is pure… whatever is lovely… think on these things. Instead of focusing on the evil and injustice in the world, we look closely at the good and the fair fighting against it. Instead of simply deploring ugliness, we look deeply at beauty.
Keeping that in mind, there's little better to share with my children than stories of the saints: real-life heroes, pointing with their vastly different lives to goodness and truth and beauty. I'm so excited for the recent renaissance of excellent saint stories and picture books for children, and Light of the Saints, by Cory Heimann, illustrated by Tricia Dugat, is a perfect example. No dry and yawn-inducing text here, but lively stories with interactive illustrations that bring them even more to life.
In some ways, you really need to experience this book for yourself to truly appreciate it, but the concept itself sells it: on every other page, a "hidden" illustration appears when you shine a flashlight through the other side. I love this for the sheer creativity, but even more so because it works so appropriately for a book of saint stories, to show that God's activity in their lives is often secret and hidden until it shines gloriously through.
I was kindly sent a copy of this book by the publisher to review (it's the first book from Word on Fire's new children's imprint, Spark!), but as it happened, I already had a copy of my own—so I'd love to pass it on to one of you to share with your children! To enter, just leave a comment telling me who your favorite saint is. I'll choose a random winner next Thursday. (I can ship only to the U.S., but you international readers are welcome to share your favorite saints with us anyway—just let me know you're not officially entering!)
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!