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Home School Book Review has commented on (413) products.

Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital by Tonya Bolden
Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital

Home School Book Review, January 30, 2015

Michael Shiner (c. 1804/1805-1880) was an African-American male born into slavery in Maryland. His original owner was William Pumphrey Jr. of Piscataway, MD, but he was sold to Thomas Howard Sr., chief clerk of the U. S. Navy Yard in Washington, DC, where Michael was put to work in the Ordinary. After obtaining his freedom following Howard’s death, he continued working in the Navy Yard for a time before becoming involved in other jobs in the nation’s capital. He had learned to read and write and kept a diary or journal in an old shop book that included his observations on the British sacking of Washington, DC, during the War of 1812, the “Year Without a Summer” of 1816, the rebuilding of the Capitol and the White House, the raising of the Washington Monument, the Civil War, and the end of slavery, among other things.

However, Capital Days is not just a biography of Michael Shiner. Author Tonya Bolden, who has won several awards including the Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Maritcha, uses Shiner’s life and writings as a backdrop to chronicle a period of immense change in our country and its capital. The book includes excerpts from Shiner’s diary and other primary sources, and is liberally illustrated with paintings, photographs, drawings, and other archival images. Each of the four chapters has a timeline. An author’s note in the back contains further information and is followed by a glossary. Finally, there is an index to make the volume useful for reference purposes. It is interesting that in his early life, Shiner often got “spirited” at a tavern and was evidently quite a drinker, but later in his life he gave up drinking. Capital Days is a fascinating look for young adults into a very important period of our nation’s history.
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Rush Revere and the American Revolution: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans by Rush Limbaugh
Rush Revere and the American Revolution: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans

Home School Book Review, January 28, 2015

In book #3 of the series, teacher extraordinaire Rush Revere, his wisecracking horse Liberty, and their friends Cameron (Cam), Tommy, and Freedom are off on another time-traveling adventure off to meet some brave soldiers in the year 1775. They get to visit with such heroes as Dr. Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and, of course, George Washington. With them, the reader will get to see the two lanterns hung in the Old North Church, ride with Paul Revere to warn “The British are coming!”, and grapple with danger at the battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill.

Along the way, what will Cam learn about his absent father, with whom he’s angry because his soldier dad has been sent to fight in Afghanistan for a year? As with the other two books in this series, there are some people who absolutely hate this book, with comments like, “This book was simple minded….The book is bad��"really, really bad with stilted dialogue, ridiculous characters, and banal cliches….This simple-minded, terribly unimaginative, badly written book….This piece of trash….A piece of garbage….To expose children to his bluster at such a young age just can’t be good for their developing minds.” Interestingly enough, none of the critical reviewers actually cited any historical inaccuracies, biased claims, or other erroneous statements. They just kept saying that it was badly written, simple minded trash or garbage.

I would conclude that they’re probably just a bunch of sour leftists who can’t laugh at anything, despise everything that smacks of genuine patriotism, and likely think that “Harry Potter” and “His Dark Materials” are the best books available in children’s literature today. Simply by way of full disclosure, Liberty does say that he’s “Gotta Pee Soon,” the euphemistic “geez” is used once, and a soldier at the Battle of Concord is quoted as shouting, “Fire, for God’s sake.” Of course, there’s a lot of Rush Limbaugh shtick in the story. However, that’s just designed to use humor in making it catchy so that it will capture kids’ attention and appeal to their imaginations with the idea that as they read they’ll absorb the real history that’s being described.
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Magic Tree House #49: Stallion by Starlight (Stepping Stone Book) by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Tree House #49: Stallion by Starlight (Stepping Stone Book)

Home School Book Review, January 26, 2015

Time-traveling brother-and-sister duo Jack and Annie must find four secrets of greatness for Merlin the magician. On their first such adventure, they travel back in time to ancient Macedonia and meet Alexander the Great. However, young Alexander is prideful, bossy, and not very nice. His father, King Philip II, has purchase a bunch of new horses, including a black stallion named Bucephalus. Alexander wants the horse for his own, but the animal seems rather wild, and Philip intends to get rid of it. Is there anything that Jack and Annie can do to help tame Bucephalus, enable Alexander to keep him, and in the process learn one secret of greatness?
Even though our boys are long past the age range for the Magic Tree House books, and in fact are now out of school completely, my wife has continued to buy them because she enjoys reading about the adventures of Jack and Annie herself. Some object to them because of the magical element, but others feel that the magic is more of the fairy tale type rather than anything akin to actual sorcery or is just used as a literary vehicle to get the two back in time without necessarily promoting it. In Stallion by Starlight the euphemism “gosh” appears once. The basic benefit of the series is introducing young readers to important historical figures and events in a fun way that captures their attention and makes the story interesting.
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Return to Gone-Away (Gone-Away Lake Books) by Elizabeth Enright
Return to Gone-Away (Gone-Away Lake Books)

Home School Book Review, January 23, 2015

In the 1958 Newbery Honor book Gone-Away Lake, author Elizabeth Enright (1909-1968), who already had a Newbery Medal for her 1938 Thimble Summer, tells the story of ten-year-old Portia Blake and her six-year-old brother Foster of New York City who go to spend their summer vacation with their Uncle Jake, Aunt Hilda, and cousin Julian Jarman in the country, where they discover an abandoned Victorian resort community next to a bog that that used to be called Tarrigo Lake, but is now known as Gone-Away Lake. There they meet elderly siblings Mr. Pindar Payton and Mrs. Lionel Alexis (Minnehaha) Cheever, whom they call Uncle Pin and Aunt Min. They also find an abandoned mansion, the Villa Caprice built by the wealthy Mrs. Brace-Gideon with which they fall in love.

In this sequel, the Paul and Barbara Blake decide to buy and restore the Villa Caprice at Gone-Away, spending the entire next summer there. A lot of work has to be done to clean and brighten the old house. Along the way many treasures are discovered, and numerous adventures are enjoyed. Aunt Min remembers that Mrs. Brace-Gideon had a secret safe hidden somewhere in the house, so Porsh and Jule begin looking for it. After searching and searching, they almost give it up. Where could it be? Will they ever locate it? If they do, will it contain anything valuable? Some parents may want to know that one main character smokes a pipe, a few common euphemisms (heck, confound it, doggone) occur, and there is a reference to reading a book entitled Mme. Vavasour’s Gypsy-Witch Fortune Teller. However, one of Uncle Pin’s prized possessions is an old copy, in Latin, of the “Canticle of the Sun” by Francis of Assisi, which begins, “Praised be my Lord with all his creatures.” He translates and reads it to the kids.

Return to Gone-Away is a thoroughly adorable story, the kind which kids can take outside on a lazy summer’s day, lie in the hammock under the shade of a tree, and read for pure pleasure. The School Library Journal noted, “Enright’s world is a gentle one, full of children playing in an unstructured way, exploring both the house and the wonders of nature surrounding it, and willingly visiting with their elderly neighbors and listening to their stories.” This is certainly part of what makes it such a pleasant read. And the Chicago Tribune said, “One of those rare and wonderful books to be read and enjoyed and savored.” I agree wholeheartedly. As far as I am concerned, children’s literature for middle grade readers just doesn’t get much better than this, and it gets a high recommendation from me.
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Return to Gone-Away (Gone-Away Lake Books) by Elizabeth Enright
Return to Gone-Away (Gone-Away Lake Books)

Home School Book Review, January 23, 2015

In the 1958 Newbery Honor book Gone-Away Lake, author Elizabeth Enright (1909-1968), who already had a Newbery Medal for her 1938 Thimble Summer, tells the story of ten-year-old Portia Blake and her six-year-old brother Foster of New York City who go to spend their summer vacation with their Uncle Jake, Aunt Hilda, and cousin Julian Jarman in the country, where they discover an abandoned Victorian resort community next to a bog that that used to be called Tarrigo Lake, but is now known as Gone-Away Lake. There they meet elderly siblings Mr. Pindar Payton and Mrs. Lionel Alexis (Minnehaha) Cheever, whom they call Uncle Pin and Aunt Min. They also find an abandoned mansion, the Villa Caprice built by the wealthy Mrs. Brace-Gideon with which they fall in love.

In this sequel, the Paul and Barbara Blake decide to buy and restore the Villa Caprice at Gone-Away, spending the entire next summer there. A lot of work has to be done to clean and brighten the old house. Along the way many treasures are discovered, and numerous adventures are enjoyed. Aunt Min remembers that Mrs. Brace-Gideon had a secret safe hidden somewhere in the house, so Porsh and Jule begin looking for it. After searching and searching, they almost give it up. Where could it be? Will they ever locate it? If they do, will it contain anything valuable? Some parents may want to know that one main character smokes a pipe, a few common euphemisms (heck, confound it, doggone) occur, and there is a reference to reading a book entitled Mme. Vavasour’s Gypsy-Witch Fortune Teller. However, one of Uncle Pin’s prized possessions is an old copy, in Latin, of the “Canticle of the Sun” by Francis of Assisi, which begins, “Praised be my Lord with all his creatures.” He translates and reads it to the kids.

Return to Gone-Away is a thoroughly adorable story, the kind which kids can take outside on a lazy summer’s day, lie in the hammock under the shade of a tree, and read for pure pleasure. The School Library Journal noted, “Enright’s world is a gentle one, full of children playing in an unstructured way, exploring both the house and the wonders of nature surrounding it, and willingly visiting with their elderly neighbors and listening to their stories.” This is certainly part of what makes it such a pleasant read. And the Chicago Tribune said, “One of those rare and wonderful books to be read and enjoyed and savored.” I agree wholeheartedly. As far as I am concerned, children’s literature for middle grade readers just doesn’t get much better than this, and it gets a high recommendation from me.
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