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Home School Book Review has commented on (393) products.

The Pier at the End of the World (Tilbury House Nature Book) by Paul Erickson
The Pier at the End of the World (Tilbury House Nature Book)

Home School Book Review, November 19, 2014

What would you expect to find around an old, abandoned pier at the end of the world that used to be a busy place but today is crumbling into the sea? Is your answer, “Nothing”? Well, you’d be wrong. Although people are no longer there, other forms of life thrive beneath it, such as plankton, wolffish, sea urchins, sea anemones, lumpsuckers, pout, sea ravens, shannies, many kinds of sea stars, sea slugs, sea scallops, redfish, hermit crabs, and lobsters, among many others. Whether during morning, noontime, afternoon, evening, or night, these amazing sea creatures prowl, crawl, slither, and swim through the waters covering the pier’s old stone foundations. What do you think a spiny lumpsucker looks like?

Author Paul Erickson has authored or co-authored numerous magazine articles and three books about undersea life. Photographer Andrew Martinez’s spectacular images of the undersea world give the reader an up close and personal look at life beneath the ocean’s surface. In the back are a picture comparison exercise and several pages of additional information about other, smaller animals living under the pier and about the species mentioned in the text. There is one reference to something that is said to have taken place hundreds of millions of years ago. Life under the sea has always been a source of wonder for mankind. The Pier at the End of the World is ideal for the future oceanographer or marine biologist. Did you know that the sea slug can arm itself with stinging cells stolen from an anemone?
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The Secret Galaxy by Fran Hodgkins
The Secret Galaxy

Home School Book Review, November 18, 2014

Do you know what a galaxy is? And do you know what galaxy our solar system is in? A galaxy is a very large system of stars. Earth, the sun, and the other planets of our solar system are on one arm of the Milky Way galaxy, a huge disk-shaped spiral. Other stars in the Milky Way galaxy make up such constellations as Orion and the Big Bear. Do you know why it is called the Milky Way? Author Fran Hodgkins writes as if the Milky Way galaxy itself were telling its own story. In addition, each opening has sidebars filled with amazing facts and insights about our galaxy, including its stars, planets, nebulae, super novae, black holes, dark matter, and dark energy.

There is a lot about the Milky Way that we know, but there are also many secrets. What happens inside a black hole? What exactly are dark matter and dark energy? And what will happen in our galaxy next? As a youngster, I was always fascinated by the stars, and I suspect that this is also true of most children. The book does talk about things that are said to have happened millions and billions of years ago, but, of course, there are many scientists who think in those terms. However, Mike Taylor's magnificent night sky photography and the breathtaking NASA images of the births and deaths of stars and galaxies help to make outer space come alive for readers. The Secret Galaxy, a Junior Library Guild selection, will be of interest to all students, but it will be especially useful for the budding stargazer or astronomer.
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Taking Care of Terrific by Lois Lowry
Taking Care of Terrific

Home School Book Review, November 1, 2014

Fourteen year old Enid Irene Crowley lives on Marlborough St. in Boston, MA, with her lawyer father, her radiologist mother, and the family’s somewhat eccentric live-in housekeeper Mrs. Kolodny. She goes to the Carstairs School where her best friends are Trina Bentley and Emily Wentworth but definitely not Seth Sandroff whose father owns a television station and whose mother is a famous child psychologist, though with her other friends away at their camps she starts hanging out with Seth. Named for her father’s very rich great aunt, she hates her name and calls herself Cynthia. For the summer she has enrolled in a morning art class at the Museum of Fine Arts but will be babysitting four year old, over-protected Joshua Warwick Cameron IV, who doesn’t like his name either and wants to be called Tom Terrific, in the afternoons, planning to take him with her to the Public Garden to play while she draws assignments for her class.
In the Garden, Enid/Cynthia and Joshua/Tom make friends with a tall African-American saxophone player called Hawk and a bunch of old bag ladies. One day Tom counted 24 bag ladies in the park. After a successful adventure organizing a picket with the bag ladies to bring back root beer flavored popsicles, they concoct another adventure, with Seth’s help, to give the bag ladies a ride on the swan boats. The project is top secret, and they plan things very carefully so nothing can go wrong. Or can it? And what will Enid do when she is accused of kidnapping? There is actually a cute story somewhere in here, but author Lois Lowry, who has won two Newbery Medals for Number the Stars, which I liked, and The Giver, for which I personally didn’t care, has loaded it down with a lot of unnecessary baggage. The name of God is used as an exclamation, and the term “omigod” appears rather often, along with childish slang terms (crap, pee) and euphemisms (heck, darn).
Perhaps worse than this, Enid signs a petition regarding transvestites, talks with Mrs. Kolodny about “preverts,” speaks of Mrs. Kolodny’s gothic romances as stories in which heroines are seduced by sinister men, has a discussion with Seth about heroin-using prostitutes, jumps to the conclusion that when Ms. Cameron says that she is going away on a business trip she is really going off on a weekend with her boyfriend (which seems to end up being true), talks with Mrs. Kolodny about one of her soap operas that involves a lot of immorality, says that a man looks as if he were stoned, and describes Ms. Cameron’s dress as “low necked with lots of cleavage.” Most godly parents would probably rather not have their pre-teen and middle-school children introduced to such sordid topics. In addition, Enid does some lying and breaks Ms. Cameron’s rules for Joshua, and their escapade in the Garden involves some actual criminal activity��"but, of course, it’s all in the name of a good cause, which is simply saying that the end justifies the means. There are also references to drinking wine and beer and to slow dancing. I’m sorry, but I really can’t give this book a very good rating, especially for children.
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Taking Care of Terrific by Lois Lowry
Taking Care of Terrific

Home School Book Review, November 1, 2014

Fourteen year old Enid Irene Crowley lives on Marlborough St. in Boston, MA, with her lawyer father, her radiologist mother, and the family’s somewhat eccentric live-in housekeeper Mrs. Kolodny. She goes to the Carstairs School where her best friends are Trina Bentley and Emily Wentworth but definitely not Seth Sandroff whose father owns a television station and whose mother is a famous child psychologist, though with her other friends away at their camps she starts hanging out with Seth. Named for her father’s very rich great aunt, she hates her name and calls herself Cynthia. For the summer she has enrolled in a morning art class at the Museum of Fine Arts but will be babysitting four year old, over-protected Joshua Warwick Cameron IV, who doesn’t like his name either and wants to be called Tom Terrific, in the afternoons, planning to take him with her to the Public Garden to play while she draws assignments for her class.
In the Garden, Enid/Cynthia and Joshua/Tom make friends with a tall African-American saxophone player called Hawk and a bunch of old bag ladies. One day Tom counted 24 bag ladies in the park. After a successful adventure organizing a picket with the bag ladies to bring back root beer flavored popsicles, they concoct another adventure, with Seth’s help, to give the bag ladies a ride on the swan boats. The project is top secret, and they plan things very carefully so nothing can go wrong. Or can it? And what will Enid do when she is accused of kidnapping? There is actually a cute story somewhere in here, but author Lois Lowry, who has won two Newbery Medals for Number the Stars, which I liked, and The Giver, for which I personally didn’t care, has loaded it down with a lot of unnecessary baggage. The name of God is used as an exclamation, and the term “omigod” appears rather often, along with childish slang terms (crap, pee) and euphemisms (heck, darn).
Perhaps worse than this, Enid signs a petition regarding transvestites, talks with Mrs. Kolodny about “preverts,” speaks of Mrs. Kolodny’s gothic romances as stories in which heroines are seduced by sinister men, has a discussion with Seth about heroin-using prostitutes, jumps to the conclusion that when Ms. Cameron says that she is going away on a business trip she is really going off on a weekend with her boyfriend (which seems to end up being true), talks with Mrs. Kolodny about one of her soap operas that involves a lot of immorality, says that a man looks as if he were stoned, and describes Ms. Cameron’s dress as “low necked with lots of cleavage.” Most godly parents would probably rather not have their pre-teen and middle-school children introduced to such sordid topics. In addition, Enid does some lying and breaks Ms. Cameron’s rules for Joshua, and their escapade in the Garden involves some actual criminal activity��"but, of course, it’s all in the name of a good cause, which is simply saying that the end justifies the means. There are also references to drinking wine and beer and to slow dancing. I’m sorry, but I really can’t give this book a very good rating, especially for children.
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Beautiful Moon by Tonya Bolden
Beautiful Moon

Home School Book Review, October 23, 2014

When you go to bed each evening, for whom do you pray? It is the middle of the night in the city with a bright moon shining down. A little boy wakes up, scrambles out of his bed, and drops to his knees because he forgot to say his prayers. Just before he prays, he sees the beautiful moon out of his window. He prays for the homeless, the soldiers, the sick, and the hungry, and also for Grandma Grace, Mommy, Daddy, his baby sister Sydney, his turtle Mikey, and his teacher, while the beautiful moon goes on its way. What do you think that he promises not to do tomorrow night?

This is a cute book. Now, if I wanted to be picky, I could note that while this little boy prays, nowhere does the text say to whom (or what) he prays. He could be praying to God, to Allah, to Buddha, or even to the moon which he sees. Perhaps Bolden left it that way to make the book “inclusive.” One reviewer praised the book for recognizing the diversity of the world around us, although I suspect that this has reference primarily to the multicultural subjects in Velasquez's life-like illustrations. Of course, those of us who are Bible believers would naturally assume that he is praying to God, and Christian or Jewish parents can easily make this clear in reading the book to their children.

With this understanding, I will have to say that any book which celebrates prayer and encourages being concerned about others less fortunate than we are is to be commended. Award��'winning author Tonya Bolden has written a number of books for children and adults which have gained her many honors. Acclaimed illustrator Eric Velasquez, who has also won several awards for his illustrations in numerous books for children, made the drawings for Beautiful Moon in mixed media and oil on watercolor paper. The two team up to create an emotionally satisfying and richly painted book which offers an easily understood message about how important prayer can be in people’s lives.
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