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Life with Father by Clarence Day

Home School Book Review, March 2, 2015

Clarence Shepard Day Jr. (November 18, 1874��"December 28, 1935) grew up in New York City, NY in the 1890s and early 1900's. His father, Clarence S. “Clare” Day Sr., was a Wall Street broker. The son attended St. Paul's School and graduated from Yale University in 1896, where he edited campus humor magazine The Yale Record. The following year, he joined the New York Stock Exchange, and became a partner in his father's Wall Street brokerage firm. Day enlisted in the Navy in 1898, but developed crippling arthritis and spent the remainder of his life as a semi-invalid, making his living as a writer and long-time contributor to The New Yorker magazine. His first book, This Simian World (1920), was a collection of humorous essays and illustrations. He is best known for his 1935 autobiographical work Life With Father which detailed humorous episodes in his family's life, centering on his rather domineering but still lovable father.

Day's comic stories of his father are taken from his serialized articles in the The New Yorker magazine. Drawn from his own family experiences, these were pleasant and gently satirical portraits of a late Victorian household dominated by a gruff, opinionated father who demands that everything from his family should be just so, and a warm, charming mother. Some people don’t like them because they feel that Mr. Day was vulgar, disrespectful, and obnoxious. I tend to agree with others who point out that, yes, the father is somewhat rude, maybe even intolerant and tyrannical, but following his antics is still very humorous. Remember, the author is describing real events and real people. The book does paint an accurate picture of life in that time for a middle class family. And it is evident that “Clare” loved his wife and family, and while he blustered and yelled at times, they loved him. There are references to smoking tobacco, drinking alcoholic beverages, and dancing.

My biggest complaint is the sheer amount of profanity and cursing Mr. Day used. Thus, I would suggest that the best use of this book would be as a family read aloud so that the bad language could be eliminated. Aside from this problem, I found the book very amusing. Scenes from the book, along with its 1932 predecessor, God and My Father, and its 1937 sequel, Life with Mother, published posthumously, were the basis for the 1939 play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, which became one of Broadway's longest-running non-musical hits. In 1947, the year the play ended on Broadway, William Powell and Irene Dunne portrayed Day's parents in the film of the same name. Life with Father also became a popular 1953��"1955 television sitcom.
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Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War by Sam R Watkins
Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War

Home School Book Review, February 27, 2015

Samuel "Sam" Rush Watkins was born on June 26, 1839, near Columbia, Maury County, TN, and received his formal education at Jackson College in Columbia. Early in May 1861, the twenty-one-year-old Watkins joined the First Tennessee Regiment, Company H (the "Maury Greys,” or Co. Aytch as he calls it), to fight for the Confederacy. He faithfully served throughout the duration of the War, participating in the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, Murfreesboro (Stones River), Shelbyville, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, Adairsville, Kennesaw Mountain (Cheatham Hill), New Hope Church, Zion Church, Kingston, Cassville, Atlanta, Jonesboro, Franklin, and Nashville. Of the 120 original recruits in his company, Watkins was one of only seven to survive every one of its battles when General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee surrendered to General William Tecumseh Sherman in April, 1865.

Soon after the war ended, Watkins began writing his memoir, entitled "Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show," which was originally serialized in the Columbia, TN, Herald newspaper. Some twenty years later, with a “house full of young ‘rebels’ clustering around my knees and bumping about my elbows,” Co. Aytch was published in book form as a first edition of 2,000 in 1882. This remarkable account is a classic Civil War memoir of a humble “private soldier” fighting in the American Civil War which balances the horror of war with a sense of humor at the lighter side of battle. It is filled with tales of marches, commanders, Yankee enemies, victories, and defeats. Watkins did not set out to write “history.” For that we must read history books. His aim was simply to record his personal observations, and Co. Aytch is heralded by many historians as one of the best the best primary sources about the Civil War experience of a common soldier in the field.

Of course, as you can imagine, there are graphic descriptions of fighting and killing. Some references to smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, and gambling occur. Also, the “d” and “h” words and the name of God are occasionally used as exclamations. But remember that all this falls within the historical context. When writing about the war, Watkins says that he “was not a Christian then,” but evidently later became one, and his account contains a number of religious observations. Watkins, who was often featured and quoted in Ken Burns' 1990 documentary titled The Civil War, died on July 20, 1901, at the age of 62.
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John A. Logan, Stalwart Republican From Illinois (Shawnee Classics) by James Pickett Jones
John A. Logan, Stalwart Republican From Illinois (Shawnee Classics)

Home School Book Review, February 8, 2015

John Alexander Logan Sr. (February 9, 1826 ��" December 26, 1886), called “Black Jack” by the men he led in Civil War battles from the Henry-Donelson campaign to Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and on to Atlanta, was an American soldier and political leader. He served in the Mexican-American War and was a General in the Union Army in the American Civil War, one of the Union Army’s most colorful generals. Originally a Democrat who became a Republican, he served the state of Illinois as a State Senator, a Congressman, and a U.S. Senator and was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President of the United States with James G. Blaine in the election of 1884. As the Third Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, he is regarded as the most important figure in the movement to recognize Memorial Day (originally known as Decoration Day) as an official holiday.

Author James Pickett Jones, PhD, is a Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at Florida State University. His biography of John Logan is actually in two volumes. The first, Black Jack: John A. Logan and Southern Illinois in the Civil War Era, tells of Logan’s early life, military career, and Civil War service. This sequel continues his postwar story, covering topics such as reconstruction, regional and national Republican party politics, military policies, developing tariff policies, the 1884 presidential race, the fascinating story of the 1885 Illinois senatorial election, and a host of other matters. It is not a popular biography but a scholarly work, heavily footnoted, and its appeal likely is primarily to political history junkies like me. The “d” word is used three times in quotes, twice printed as “d____d,” and the term abbreviated “s.o.b.” is found once, again in a quotation. Both books were originally published by University Presses of Florida but have been reprinted as Shawnee Classics by Southern Illinois University Press. Logan was an important late-nineteenth-century figure. John A. Logan College, a community college in Carterville, IL, which is part of the Illinois Community College System, is named for him.
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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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