Booklet Review: The Mass Explained for Kids

The Mass Explained for Kids is my latest Catholic Company review item, and as usual it is a good one.  I’ll cut to the chase: This is an excellent tool for anyone who wants to make sense of the Mass.

What it is: A short, affordable booklet from Pauline Press that walks through the new translation of the Mass.  Even-numbered pages contain the text of the Mass and all the necessary instructions (sit, stand, kneel, rise, bow, beat chest, shut up priest says . . ., etc.).  On the facing page are notes explaining what is happening, what difficult vocabulary words mean,  and all kinds of other useful information.

Why I like it:

  1. I’m always looking for a good Missal to give to non-Catholic grown-ups who come to Mass, that makes it easy to follow along.  This one wouldn’t stand out as a kid’s book, if you put a sticker over the “for kids” on the cover.  At $1.95 retail, you can afford to send them home with your guests as souvenirs.  It would be pretty easy to put post-it notes at key places when your guest needs to pick up the hymnal.
  2. The explanations are great.  Tons of good info.  But the format makes it easy to read as much as your brain can take, and leave the rest for another day.
  3. There are definitions or explanations for all the new words showing up with the new translation (“consubstantial”, “incarnate”, etc.).  In addition, all the changes are in bold face.

Who is it for?  People who can read pretty well.   Other than the cover art, there are no pictures.  All the explanations are written clearly, and my very average-reading 4th grader says she had no difficulty understanding them.  But you do need to be ready to tackle big words and gather useful information from your reading.    Words like “epiclesis” and “anamnesis” have pronunciations (“ep-ih-CLEE-sis” and “an-am-NEE-sis”).

Useful for catechists?  Absolutely.  The format makes it super easy to find the info you need for class, and the explanations are already translated into plain English.  Much easier than tearing through a pile of Scott Hahn books trying to remember where you found that quote that one time, and/or trying to translate The Catechism into something ordinary mortals can understand.  Plus I learned some things I didn’t know.

Other important info:  It’s 5.5″ x 8.5″, with a flexible heavy-paper cover, very trim, so designed to be stuffed into your purse in doled out during Mass.  But note the cover is not paperboard, so don’t let the baby put it in her mouth. Also there’s some info about the Daughters of St. Paul in the back, who have got to have the coolest charism in the universe.  Nuns that run bookstores and a publishing company.  How awesome is that?


Thanks to the Catholic Company for filling the mailboxes of bloggers with excellent products; this one is coming to Mass with us this Advent, no question about it.   In addition to asking for an honest review (check), our sponsor would like me to also tell you that if you need a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible, they sell those too.

Book Review – Emporer of North America

John McNichol kindly sent me a review copy of his new  Young GKC book, and I keep forgetting that I still have not posted a full review.  I also keep forgetting to get Mr. Boy to write his review.  Mine is here for you now.

What it is: Emperor of North America is the second in the series, following Tripods Attack.  It’s an alternative history in which Young GK Chesterton is an American trying to make it as a journalist in steampunk England.  In book one, Martians invade.  In book two, Martians are back to Mars (for now?), but there is big trouble from a certain earthling who’s gotten hold of martian technology.  If I were to give it a sub-genre, I’d vote “fast-paced epic catholic action-adventure alternate history”.

Who reads it:  Mr. Boy was, my goodness, eight? really?, when he read the first book.  Thereabouts.  He’s not a normal reader.  I’d vote 10-11 is the earliest normal boy age, or whenever your child picks up Lord of the Rings and won’t put it down.  Target audience is middle school and up.  [Young GKC doesn’t require nearly the endurance you’d need for epic Tolkien.  You do need to be able to read big words and keep track of a complex plot, but the writing is very action-packed, doesn’t bog down at all.]  Grown-ups who enjoy a good story will find plenty of fodder for the intellect — GKC quotes, literary references, and of course trying to figure out the intrigue.

Mature Content Rating: Mild PG for the violence.  Language is clean (expletives like “blast!”, and all sorts of genuinely colorful but never off-color insults).  The romance and discussions of romance are clean as you could manage and still get close enough to kiss; my 11-year-old tells me he just skips those parts anyway, which are written for young men who think girls are no longer gross.  The evil violence is chilling, but there’s no lingering on graphic descriptions, and despite the intensity of the opening pages, the overall proportion of such scenes throughout the book is modest.  (FYI, the alien scenes in Tripods are super gross.  Not for squeamish middle-aged ladies.  But no trouble for boys.)  There’s a couple of bar scenes, including a cautionary tale about drunkenness.

What if  steampunk and/or sci-fi are not my genre?  The GKC is awesome.  McNichol recreates young GKC superbly.  The other historical and literary references are just as good, and fun to figure out.  Some have, like GKC, an alternate past, and I was especially impressed with how McNichol nailed the “What if _________ hadn’t _________?” with one of the main characters.  Just perfect.  Loved it.

[FYI: All my friends love sci-fi, but I think it is kind of boring.  I do not find this series boring, not for a second. More like, “fighting with my son over who gets to read it first,” and “I know I should go to bed, but . . . .”  My taste in fiction runs to Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Jane Austen, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, etc.  And Wodehouse, of course.  If you sort of mash those together, the young GKC series fits right in.]

What if GK Chesterton and literary puzzlers are not my genre?  There’s spaceships.  Giant robots.  Chase scenes.  Intrigue.  Mysterious pasts.  John McNichol is really good at writing action.  And bad guys.  I’m going to see if I can’t beg him to teach a class on writing bad guys at the next CWG online conference.

Who shouldn’t read this book?  People who have to be so serious about everything. Also if you can’t stand genre fiction.

I heard it is ‘preachy’. Um, no.  Catholic? Yes.  I suppose it’s one of the troubles with a book written by a guy who teaches middle school — normal teens talk about love, God, angels, apparitions, all that stuff.  It’s only adults who think these things are taboo. I *think* non-Catholics who are comfortable with Catholic characters being noticeably Catholic should be okay; someone correct me if you disagree, I haven’t read it with a protestant lens on.   [I’ll post an update on that if need be.] Most of the could-be-preachy stuff is things like “what’s the difference between love and infatuation?” or “is religion merely a crutch for the despicable weak?” — topics of general interest, not strictly Catholic.

Final Recommendation?  I give it a ‘buy’ recommend if there’s room in your book budget and the genre sounds at all interesting.  It’s very readable, and McNichol has the keep-the-plot-moving thing down pat.  I do strongly recommend you buy both in the series if you haven’t already read Tripods.

Where to get your copy: Barnes and Noble has Emperor of North America in stock in paperback and Nook version, and Tripods Attack in paperback.  Amazon has Emperor in paperback and Kindle version, take a look at the Kindle preview to get started on the story and see if you want to buy.  Amazon has Tripods in the Kindle version, and again the Kindle preview is your reality-check.

Sophia originally published Tripods, and I see they have it back in stock in paperback.  This has brought back down used prices, which had briefly gone silly-high — shop around on B&N and Amazon if your budget is tight, ignore the weird artifacts floating in the cybermall.   Bezalel is the publisher for Emperor, and you can buy the print version direct on their site.  (As I write, Bezalel is offering free shipping on McNichol’s book — nice!)

Aquinas & More has copies of Tripods in stock (paperback — and you can add it to your wedding or ordination registry, I love that), and so does The Catholic Company (no registry, write Santa I guess).  But if you love all that is good and true, of course you will first ask if it can’t be stocked via your local Catholic bookstore.  They can order these things, you know.


Things you  need to know re: the famous ‘full disclosure’: I’m a total Tripods/Emperor groupie.  The kind of person who gathers up godchildren and treks across town to get a book signed, and totally thinks that is the highlight of a trip to the Pacific Northwest.  The whole “my niece is being confirmed” was just a pretext — I mean, yes, sacraments were administered, relatives visited, every good thing.  But wow!  A signed copy! Yes! Pizza with Author & Family! Woohoo!  Also John writes for the Catholic Writers Guild blog, and generally gives evidence of being a Pretty Nice Guy.  But you may recall from ancient blog history that I liked the first book long before I had any reason to like the author.

Theology of the Body For Teens: Middle School Edition

The Catholic Company very kindly sent me a review set of the Theology of the Body for Teens: Middle School Edition bundle. Okay, so I begged for it.  They sent an e-mail out to all the reviewers (they are still accepting new reviewers) asking who wanted it, and I gave it my best me-me-me-meeeeee! and made the cut!  Yay!  And then I told my DRE, who explained how she was busy trying to finagle a copy on loan from another parish.  Because yes, it is that good.

What’s in the packet:

  • A student book.  Eight chapters of substantial, readable lessons.  Upbeat format.  Rock solid teaching.  You will need one of these for each student.
  • A teacher’s guide.  It’s the student book page-by-page, with helpful teaching notes.  Includes some lesson-planning ideas, answer keys of course, additional information about the Theology of the Body, and supplemental material on difficult topics.  If you are teaching this as a class, you need this book.
  • The parent’s guide.  This is a small book (75 pages, pocket-size) that explains what students are learning.  It is more elevated, adult-level content, focused on how to parent middle-schoolers — it is not a re-hash of the student guide at all.
  • The DVD collection.  There is a set of videos for each chapter of lesson, plus additional material on difficult topics, and a show-this-to-the-parents chapter that explains what the course is about.  The videos are fun, held the interest of my small test-audience of adults (me) and kids (mine), and add significantly to the content of the course.  You would want these if you were teaching this as a class.

What does the course cover?

Well, the focus is John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, but it comes down to: How do I live?  What will make me happy?  And what do I do with this body I’m growing into?

Most of this is not about sex.  It’s mostly about virtue, identity, and love.  How do I love and respect myself and others?  How do I build good relationships?  How do I know what God wants me to do?  It’s a serious, useful, substantial set of lessons that really teach how to be the kind of person God wants you to be.

–>I read the student workbook first.  I found it helpful for me, personally.  To the point that in my opinion, parishes would do well to offer the course to both teens and their parents.  As in: I myself, a grown-up, NFP-using, CCD-teaching, cave-dwelling bona fide catholic dweeb lady, found this to be a course that pushed me to grow in my Christian life.

What Age Student?

The books are targeted towards middle-schoolers — grades 6th to 8th.  I may be under-estimating his maturity, but I felt that my own 6th grade boy, who lives a fairly sheltered catholic-homeschool life, and is not one bit interested in girls, he was not ready to fully benefit from the program.  I held onto a copy of the student book for us to use at home, and when my parish offers it next year (please God), I will send him then.  But for girls (who mature earlier), and for boys and girls who are more fully immersed in our sex-saturated culture, this is about on target for as young as 6th grade.

Sex-related topics are taught in a wider context.  First students learn how we use our bodies to communicate, how we must make an effort to grow in virtue and purity, and how we should not use others for our own gratification, within the wider context of regular life.  It is only after these essentials are thoroughly explored, many weeks into the course, that students are shown how they apply specifically to sex.

Sexual topics are dealt with directly but modestly.  If you don’t know what porn is, all you’ll find out is that it is “the display of images for the purpose of arousing lust”.  (Lust is “a vice that causes people to view others as objects for sexual use”).   So this is a step more mature than earlier-grades catechesis, where the details of “impurity” are left entirely to the reader’s imagination.  If your student is not yet ready to learn about the existence of pornography, sexting, and fornication, hold off on this course for now.

Difficult topics are not presented directly to teens.  There are some video segments the instructor can choose to present depending on the maturity of the group, as well as supplemental teaching material in the teacher’s manual.  One teaching technique I found very helpful was a script where a teacher reads a scenario (young people gathering in the alley behind a movie theater), but the actual misbehavior is not specified.  The teacher then asks: What do you think was happening there?  It’s an opening for students to share the kinds of things they know are going on in their community, which the instructor can then address as appropriate.

I’m cheap.  Or poor.  Do I need to buy the whole nine yards?

The materials are made to be used together.  For a knowledgeable parent wanting to teach at home for the minimal investment, purchasing just the student book would provide a substantial lesson for the least cash outlay.  Note however: The other items do add to the overall content of the course. This isn’t a case of the videos just repeating what the book says, or the parent book being a miniature version of the student book.  Each element contributes new and useful material.  If I were teaching this in the classroom, I would want the whole collection, no question about it.  As a parent, I would want my children to view the videos.

Is it Protestant-friendly?

It’s a very Catholic program.  (Don’t let the “Pope John Paul II” thing fool you.)  You’ll hear references to saints, to the sacraments, the Catholic faith.  BUT, keep in mind, this is all just normal healthy human life.  Love, virtue, modesty, chastity — these are for the whole human race.  The message is right on target with what any Christian youth program would want to teach.  So if you are comfortable with Catholic-trappings,  you could work with the whole course as-is, and just explain to your audience that it was made by Catholics.  If not, you may want to get the materials for yourself, and use them to train yourself how to teach these topics to your teens.

Summary:  I give it a ‘buy’ recommend, if you are responsible for teaching a young person how to act like a human being.  Thanks again to our sponsor The Catholic Company, who in no way requires that I like the review items they send, but would like me to remind you that they are a fine source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Emperor of North America – in my hand!

Yay!  My autographed copy of Emperor of North America has arrived.  I waved it in front of my eldest, who snatched wildly.  I told him he could have first dibs on it if he finished his homework.  Presto-chango, he turns into The Boy Who Cares About Fractions.  Would that Mr. McNichol could write a book a week.


Kolbe update, week 5

We just started week 5, thought I’d give a little report on how things are going.  Re-cap: This is our first year using Kolbe.  6th and 4th grader are enrolled, and mostly following the plan with a couple substitutions.  2nd grader and kindergartener continue to do the home-grown, relaxed-schooling thing.

Overall Impression: Very happy with the decision.  On a day like today (evil dictator felled by an evil-er cold), wow it is SO MUCH BETTER having the plans ready-to-go.  Oh I know, it is so easy to make your own course plans.  Oh, I know, it only takes a few minutes to type them up each week.  But wow, being able to growl at a child and say, “Where are you in your homework?” is even easier.

–> Without ready-made, day-by-day plans, two big kids would definitely still be on the relaxed-schooling plan, which I really love for the little guys, but is not the ideal choice for our older kids.  Way too many disruptions in the school year so far (exhibit A: evil dictator with evil cold), no way I could have held together a formal curriculum if it relied 100% on my willpower alone.

Some comments on specific subjects:

Latin: Mr. Boy is doing the first year of New Missal Latin.  I like it pretty well.  Like the kolbe-published supplemental resources.  Will say this: In my opinion, the teaching parent needs to either have a smattering of Latin under the belt, or be ready to learn-along.  Having already done the intro to classical Latin in previous years, these first few weeks have been largely review for Boy & myself, and yes that is very nice.  Now is not my time to be learning a new language.  No really.  Sometimes it is not that time.

(Remind me also I have some other comments on this particular Latin program and the pro’s and con’s.  For a post another day.)

Grammar:  No shock here, I’m one of ten people in the known universe who actually likes Voyages in English.  So far, no difficulties.  Definitely if you haven’t diagrammed sentences before, you want the intro to diagramming booklet as a supplement.

Composition: I failed to observe that there is a separate composition book for 6th grade in addition to the vocabulary and grammar books.  Kolbe plans call for one assignment a week from that book.  I’d already maxed out the book budget.  So I typed up 36 composition assignments for the Boy, and stuck those in his plan book.  Conveniently, 6th graders do not use the composition portion of VOE, so I borrowed from there.

Spelling / Vocabulary:  The kids hate this.  Lot of work.  I keep reminding them that a good PSAT / SAT score is worth cold hard cash.    They get that.  We’ve used Spelling Power in the past, and have good results with using that study method for studying the words missed on the pre-test.   The whole amount of Kolbe-assigned words is a lot, though.  And we’ve had a couple weeks with enough disruptions that I couldn’t keep up my end on this one through the whole week.  We just move on to the next week, rather than piling up.

Word Study:  Oh, yeah, and word study.  Gee these children get a LOT of language arts.  They tell me this one is easy (MCP Plaid).  It is also good for them.  Happy there.  Decided this was one workbook the kids could write their answers in, would be a royal pain to have to do the assignments on a separate page.

Geography:  Lovin’ the geography books.  Short, easy assignments, genuinely useful map skills.  Makes me happy.

Religion: Of course I like it (Faith & Life), I was already using it anyway.  This is the other activity book I let the kids write in.  Pretty happy with the addition of the St. J’s Balt. Catechisms as well, serious retro power going on there.  My DRE also likes the program.    She’s experimenting with one section of F&L for 8th grade CCD this year.  (Rest of us are using our same Loyola Press books from previous years.  Which are fine.  But I’d still make my kids do F&L at home.)

Science:  Not a demanding program, which works for me.  We skip the Monday “investigation” every week, so far there hasn’t been one worth the hassle.  Also, I have the workbooks but the course plans don’t call for them, and both kids have decided we are happier not doing them.  I’m good with having them do just the textbook reading and review questions, and they can unschool any other science they desire. I like that balance.  [Recall: Two real microscopes in my living room.  Engineer at the dinner table every night.  Unschooling science is a viable option.]

Literature:  Um, where are the study questions? Apparently they are in some other place than the course plans.  I guess a Kolbe booklet I was supposed to buy?   For the uninitiated: You acquire the book you are studying — White Fang and Misty of Chincoteague to start, for us — and then the course plans give you chapter reading assignments and a weekly short essay to write, book report at the end.  And those plans also mention these “study questions” and “vocabulary” and stuff.  But they aren’t in the plans.    And no, I can’t be bothered to go look back at the Kolbe catalog, nor to post a question on the Kolbe forums.  Because, um, my magic pen of you-don’t-have-to-do-this works great!  I just cross out assignments!  We love it!

–> As a result: I let the girl take her final exam open-book and open-dictionary (Misty only takes 5 weeks), since it would be requiring her to have memorized study questions she’d never seen.  Flipped around the final week course plans to have her do the exam first and write the book report second.

Math: Not using Saxon.  Nothing against it.  We’re just still happy with Math-U-See, didn’t see a reason to switch when that was already working. 

History: Recall everyone’s doing Rome this year, which would ordinarily be the 5th grade course.  Very happy both with using the program as written for Mr. Boy, and subbing in History Pockets for the first two quarters for the girl.  Not much else to say.  The Kolbe-recommended course is very good.  And one of my children really needed to meet Ancient Rome in a perkier manner.

[But yes, I had to pick up a library book on the Aztecs, because HP fails to mention the, er, human sacrifice, those amazing wonderful ancient Aztecs were practicing during the European renaissance.  Yeah, I’m a western culture snob.  Facts are facts.  I vote for the no-live-beating-human-hearts-in-the-hands-of-the-priest every time.  Give me self-flagellating, slightly sore-backed penitents over flayed-alive sacrificial victims any day.]

Funny story though: We’re planning to go see our local Roman legion when they gather not so far from us in November.  Except the girls only want to go if they get to dress up.  So a certain growing 4th grader is going to be let loose with some discount linen between now and then.  Luckily the rest of us already own passable garb that still fits.

Saturday Linkfest

I’ve got another episode from the Homeschool Photo Contest to post, but am waiting for just the right time.  Ha.  Meanwhile, here’s how you should goof on instead:

1.  Read this article from the Apparent Project on Why You Should Not Mail Peanut Butter to Haiti.  No, really, take it out of the bubble-wrapped package and eat it yourself.  Haiti thanks you.  Because it turns out that shipping bunches of free stuff to impoverished countries undermines local businesses.  That make peanut butter.  Or would, if only Haitians weren’t getting boxes of the stuff from other countries.  Go read.

2. A longtime friend, engineer, amateur gunsmith, and EMT, sent us this YouTube video on Gun Safety.  PG WARNING: If your head is screwed on straight, there’s at least one scene that is objectionable even for comedy noir. It also means you aren’t the target audience.  [Hint: If you have given up watching action-adventure shows because all the egregious gun safety violations– by law enforcement good guy characters no less!!– have caused you to throw your tv out the window, you aren’t actually the target audience for this clip.]  But it is funny. With proper parental guidance as required.

3.  Look, Sarah Reinhard one of my favorite writing friends, has a new book out:

She let me look at one of the later drafts, and it is a really nice little book.  If you are looking for a family-friendly Advent Book, I’d give it a recommend.  From what I recall, it is protestant-friendly.  But just e-mail her and ask if you have any questions or concerns, she is one of those extroverted writers who likes to talk to readers. Or leave a comment in her blog combox.  She’s totally chatty.  Super Nice Person.  Happy to talk about her books any day.

4.  And is just me, or does it look like the new John McNichol book is now out on Amazon?

Serious coolness.

Not for people who don’t read genre fiction.  But highly recommended if you are looking for fun, readable Catholic GKC Sci-Fi Alternate History goodness in a package your boy will enjoy.  Do you know of a different book that will cause an 11-year-old boy to beg to read Huck Finn?  Maybe you do.  Or maybe you think that no day is complete without the threat of an alien attack.  In which case, McNichol is your man.

the child who is determined to hate Kolbe

Yesterday after I dropped the kids off for Grandma time, a little voice told me to visit the other crack dealer Educational Wonderland.  Sure enough, they had cool little wipe-off books of math facts games and drills for the little guys (yes, I gave my daughter math books for her birthday — she was thrilled), and these:

So today I was thumbing through the new history books, and a certain rising 4th grader comes along and picks one up. “Oh.  Those are the terrible KOLBE books.”  Disgust.  Horror.  How could your mother do this to you?!

“No, darling.  Those are the books I got for you to do instead of the Kolbe book.”

“Oooh!”  Picks up book again.  Actually looks at it.  “Hey, this looks fun!”

Yes dear.  After enough years of living with you, I begin to have a clue, thank you.

–>  I found this year that I really like having all four kids on the same subject.  Not necessarily the same books, just the same general topic.  So for the coming year, I signed up both big kids for Kolbe’s Ancient Rome study, which the boy has already started reading for fun, and the girl is determined to hate, on account of it being called Famous Men of Rome.

Emphasis on Men.  She is not interested in Men.  Plus it is Kolbe, and we all know that Kolbe is Evil.  Even though we have never ever tried it, and plus it looks eerily like what we already study.  But it is to be hated.

Anyhow the plan is for the boy to whiz through the set plan, which he will complain is too easy and plus he already read the book this summer and why does he have to do the dumb workbook, blah blah blah, and look, here’s an Osprey book, let’s read that instead, yes dear on your free time you may.  (And he will.)

The craft-loving 4th grader I’m going to let do the Pockets books first.  Q1 she gets to be the teacher and take the littles through Ancient Civilizations.  That’s only 7 pockets, so 7 weeks, and the last two weeks of the quarter she’ll do some timeline work and then write me a report, which will bring up the grade-level to more her age.  Q2, littles will work through some other ancient Rome / Greece items with me, and my Kolbe-hating darling will do the Ancient Rome Pockets book, which will fill the quarter.

Q3 & Q4 she will finally have to buckle down and be serious, and do Q1 &2 of Famous Men per the Kolbe course plans.  Which should be easier having had the intro in the fall.  If she wants she can read the rest of the book in her free time.  Yes, I will totally let a 4th grader master only half of the history of the Roman Empire.  She’ll see it again one day.  Plus she’ll have the motivation of trying to get a higher score on the test than her brother did.  Which will definitely motivate her.

Went ahead and wrote up next year’s plans for the littles, who are still on the library-book method (not Kolbe — I do too much subbing out at that age, we’d only go crazy).  For science, sticking to my ‘everyone studies the same thing’ approach, I went through the 4th grade science course plans from Kolbe, and assigned the littles to study each week whatever topic the 4th grader will be covering.  So that will be a double bonus, in that they can sit in on her science experiments, and she’ll have a bunch of easy library books sitting around that cover the same thing she is learning in her horrible no-good very bad science book.  (That I think she will like.)

–> If I weren’t worried about the good of various eternal souls, and plus having told the whole internet that lying is wrong, I’d just tell her it wasn’t the Kolbe book, and then she’d love it for sure.

[Mr. Boy will be happy to do science all on his own.  I didn’t try to rope him into the coordinating thing for that.]

So we’ll see how that goes.  I’m hopeful.


I’m off tomorrow for ten days of Momcation, visiting the nieces who have the good sense to go to school.  Assuming my abandoned children don’t hack into the blog to show the world their atrocious grade-level spelling, expect blog silence here.  If you are desperate for goofing off in my absence, you can check my side bar links and tell me which ones have gone bad — I found one already, and no I haven’t fixed it yet.

Otherwise, enjoy the quiet.  That’s what I’ll be doing.  And have a blessed Memorial Day.

Beatrix Potter Read Aloud Problem Solved

As I mentioned earlier, I’d been stumbling through Potter’s Complete Works because I just couldn’t get the rhythm of it.  Solved that problem today: Warmed up with a minute or so of a dreadful fake British accent.  Put the brain in just the right place.   Was then able to finish the Tale of Mr. Tod (using my normal voice, like a sane person), and it actually sounded good.  Great fun.

[Curiously: Reading Anne of Green Gables works beautifully if you accidentally give Matthew Cuthbert a southern accent.  Go figure.]

Letting Swift River Go

We read Letting Swift River Go this week at school.  Tells the story of the damming of the Swift River, from the perspective of a young girl whose home and town are dismantled to make way for the lake.

Well done, highly recommended for the check-out-at-your-local-library list.  My three-year-old sat still for it (hot-chocolate assisted) and all my big kids (5,7,9) listened with interest.    Fits well into mid-20th century American history (all ages), or for little kids, as part of the famous “my town” social studies topic, if you happen to have a dam of your own.   Covers the entire process from making-the-decision to lake-is-full.  I did need to explain to the kids that our local man-made lake was created for a different purpose (hydro-power) than the water project in the story.

More details available at the author Jane Yolen’s blog.


Cover art courtesy of Jane Yolen’s blog.

Tripods Sequel Update

John McNichol (now added to the sidebar) posted this good news for fans of Tripods Attack!:

I am now working on the 2nd draft of the Sequel, tentatively titled “The Emperor of North America.”

Gilbert returns to his American homeland, Herb and Gil become separated in more ways than one, and both boys face temptations, trials and dangers in an attempt to survive the onslaught of the self-declared Emperor.

Here’s hoping you enjoy it as much as the last one!

If you haven’t read Tripods, I highly recommend it.  Not my usual genre, but I have both a weakness for all things GKC, and a boy who enjoys the normal quota of aliens, slime, plots-to-takeover-earth, etc.   Real win-win in the literature department.

(The Curt Jester approves, too, if that helps you decide.)