Monday, September 17, 2012

Summertime and the Reading is Easy, Part III

August was a very busy month, so my reading was rather limited and still on the lighter side. On a positive note, we have returned to a more normal home schooling schedule, so the kids and I are making better progress with our read-aloud titles, even fitting in some just for fun, not merely those that complement our history studies, which are usually fun, too, of course.

Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery
This was more therapeutic reading after the Jodi Picoult novel I read in July, but then any excuse to read Montgomery will do! I read this on my Kindle, so I didn't get to enjoy that pretty cover. I do find the Kindle to be a very good format for short stories, however, since it's easy to take along with me and read when I have a few minutes here or there. Of course, reading Montgomery is delightful, and I heartily recommend these stories for refreshment from modern novels!

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart
It's rather convenient to start reading a series when it is mostly complete (I did that with the Harry Potter books, too). You don't have to wait months for the latest installment, and, in this case, when a prequel is released, you can read it before finishing the later books to have some better insight into the characters. Of course, you may choose to differ with my approach, but I generally prefer to take things chronologically whenever possible. Anyway, all preferences aside, this book was available from the library sooner than the 2nd volume of the Mysterious Benedict Society, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was rather pleased with myself that I figured out the mystery very early in the book, but I won't give it away. For a much better analysis of the book, see Janet's review at Across the Page.

The Virgin in the Ice The Sixth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters
I've said before how much I enjoy the Brother Cadfael mysteries - they include almost all of my favorite things: history, theology, mystery, just a little romance in good taste (none of the too-much-information of modern novels). I'm not sure why I haven't read more than six of them in the past two years, but I guess it's kind of like saving the best for last. I want to draw out the enjoyment of this 21-book series, so I read them sparingly. I think I might need to reconsider that approach, however, since I was reminded once again how satisfying they are.

Here are a couple quotations just to tease you:

Beautiful prose: "The branches of trees sagged heavily towards the ground under their load [of snow], and by mid-afternoon the leaden sky was sagging no less heavily earthwards, in swags of blue-black cloud." (17)

Tidbits of wisdom: "It was all too easy to turn honest anxiety over someone loved into an exaltation of a man's own part and duty as protector, a manner of usurpation of the station of God. To accuse oneself of falling short of infallibility is to arrogate to oneself the godhead thus implied." (88)

Read aloud:

Huguenot Garden by Douglas M. Jones III
This is a family-centered story set in 17th century France when Louis XIV persecuted the Protestant Huguenots. It was well-written and informative, but also simple enough and suspenseful enough to keep my children captivated. Without being overly dramatic or graphic, the author conveyed the faith and sacrifices that were required of Reformed believers during dangerous times, uniquely centering the story on twin girls, two of six children in the family, so that one experiences the full effects of persecution from an innocent perspective.

One chapter focuses on the baptism of the family's new baby, so it provided a good format for discussing the differences between paedobaptism and credobaptism. (Our church is unique in that we have both paedobaptists and credobaptists on our pastoral staff. Recognizing that both views have been held by godly men throughout Church history, we do not divide on this issue, and we all love one another, too!) I only mention this since Baptists might want to be prepared to answer questions if you read this to your kids (aim for understanding, not condemnation).

Tucker's Countryside by George Selden
We also read this sequel to The Cricket in Times Square, which we had listened to on CD earlier in the summer. The sequel isn't nearly so good as the original, in this case, but the animals are cute and their adventures entertaining. There were, however, two aspects that I didn't particularly care for.

First, Tucker's Countryside has a rather overt message of saving the meadows and forests from the bad City Councilmen who want to build apartments. Now stewardship is all fine and good as long as it doesn't become a god unto itself, but this is exactly what our culture has done. I always try to temper stories like this with the caveat that God gave us the earth to use and to take care of, and that people who are made in His image are always more important than animals. Sometimes that might mean that it is better to build apartments than save the meadow.

More disturbing, however, is the situational ethics employed by the animal characters who justify lying and deception as a means to a greater end. Now obviously it's just fiction - animals don't talk or make rational decisions to lie in real life. But at the same time, I don't want to leave my children with the idea that it's OK to tell "little white lies" or intentionally deceive others just because cute animals did it in a book and everything turned out fine. So we talk about it - just brief little questions such as, "Do think that was the right thing to do?" But hopefully those questions will build discernment. I appreciate Carrie's thoughts on this topic recently, too.

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