Kidlit & Minecraft: Tikki Tikki Tembo

  Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel is the second book we read for SKrafty's Young Literature Classics 1 self-paced class. This 1968 classic claims to be a retelling of an ancient Chinese folktale about why Chinese names are so short. (SKrafty does point out that this is based on a fictional tradition). I'll be honest: I wasn't a huge fan of this book, and I don't think it's one we'd read it again. The problems I had lie mostly in the illustrations (although the text isn't perfect) and ranged from Chinese culture being confused with Japanese culture to outright errors (Chang bowing backwards probably being the most glaring). These issues left me with a very subtle feeling of cultural insensitivity that…

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When Mystical Creatures Attack! by Kathleen Founds

  Schoolteacher Laura Freeman has a nervous breakdown and ends up in a psychiatric hospital. When Mystical Creatures Attack! is the story of her recovery, told through letters, emails, student assignments, stories, an advice column, a journal, and even a cookbook. Side stories focus on the aspirations of two of her students, Janice Gibbs and Cody Splunk. It's a quirky, clever format; maybe a bit distracting. It reads like a series of shorts that are interconnected, but not exactly cohesive. I did feel I had to work a little too hard to keep up with what was happening. Dark humor and a healthy dose of social satire cover tough topics such as mental illness, suicide, postpartum depression, abortion, poverty, questioning faith,…

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Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

  Evergreen is an "emotionally charged novel that spans generations, telling the story of two siblings, raised apart, attempting to share a life." It starts out in 1938 with newlyweds Emil and Emeline, who are trying to carve out a life together in the Minnesota wilderness. Emeline is such a dainty, somewhat naive character when we first meet her. When Emil has to leave for Germany, I love how independent Emeline becomes. She is determined to learn and do things, whatever needed to be done. She ends up having to make an incredibly difficult, heart-wrenching decision which becomes the foundation of the rest of the novel. The plot isn't surprising (especially if you read the book jacket or summary beforehand) but this…

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Nonfiction November Week 3: Diversity & Nonfiction (Transgender)

Week 3: Becca from Lost in Books asks: What does diversity in nonfiction mean to you? Is it about the topic or theme of the book? Or is it the race or ethnicity of the author? Do you have any recommendations for diverse nonfiction books? Are there any topics that you’d like to see written about and/or read more widely?I've mentioned before that, to me, reading diversely means being brought into the experiences of characters who are different from me (Armchair BEA: Beyond the Borders). Sometimes this means temporarily setting aside my own lens in order to experience/understand another culture, race, gender, etc. (A Diverse Reader and Her Pilgrimage to Literary Wabi-Sabi).Since the Transgender Day of Remembrance takes place this week (November…

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KidLit & Minecraft Review: Billy and Blaze

  Last Sunday I mentioned that Minecraft is very popular in our house lately. SKrafty is the kid-friendly/homeschool server we joined. After we explored a bit and got the hang of things, I signed up C for a science class and a literature class, both geared toward younger kids (C is 5½). We started the Young Literature Classics 1 self-paced class, which will cover six children's classics, one per week if we stay on schedule. I thought it would be fun to highlight them here on the blog as we finish each one, especially since five (!!) of the six books are new to me. This week's book was Billy and Blaze, originally published in 1936, written and carefully illustrated by C.W. Anderson. Young Billy receives a pony,…

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Kid Presidents by David Stabler

  When Kid Presidents arrived in the mail, I didn't expect to share it with C. It's geared for ages 9-12, and she's only a kindergartner; I had planned to read through it and maybe save it for homeschooling use in a few years. But C saw the cover, got super excited, and immediately confiscated it. Seriously. I could not get it back until she was good and ready to give it up . . . and what parent is going to take a book out of a 5-year-old's hands, right? She flipped through its pages, pointing out everything she saw, cackling away the whole time (Doogie Horner's illustrations really are a lot of fun). We started reading the book that…

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Nonfiction November Week 2: Be the Expert (Language Learning)

Week 2 of Nonfiction November is hosted by the lovely Leslie of Regular Rumination, and I'm editing this post to say, I didn't know in advance that her post this week would be on language and linguistics. Thankfully we each took a slightly different spin, so you have double the book suggestions!I'd like to talk about language learning, which has been a passion of mine since I was a kid. When I was in elementary school, I'd borrow my dad's shortwave radio (which he built!) and, late at night when reception was best, I'd try to find and identify as many different languages as I could. Then we moved overseas, and I got to learn and use Italian. After that,…

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The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi

  In The Republic of Imagination, Nafisi is bold about asking and tackling some tough questions. Are the humanities important to us? If so, is that being reflected in our lives? In our education system? How does freedom affect how much (or little) we value the arts? As a musician, music teacher, avid reader, and actually, as a homeschooling mom as well, I found it pretty easy to connect with Nafisi's thoughts on these questions and more. Nafisi is passionate about the importance of the humanities in our lives . . . honestly, it radiates from the pages. Her enthusiasm is contagious. I felt inspired to re-read Huck Finn and Babbit. I realized I had to put McCullers and Baldwin on my…

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Sunday Salon: Minecraft Edition

Setting // It's 4:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon. I'm drinking a cup of coffee with York Peppermint Patties creamer.Reading // I started Two Lovely Berries by A. M. Blair Friday night and read it in one sitting; straight through, finished around 4:15 a.m. Saturday morning. I love when a book does that to me! Now I'm reading something completely different: When Mystical Creatures Attack! by Kathleen Founds.Doing // This has been the laziest weekend. We've done nothing. It's been kind of nice, to be honest. Which is why this is a last-minute, quick Sunday Salon.Playing // Minecraft. C recently discovered it and caught on to Pocket Edition amazingly well. I went ahead and got her the PC version, and we logged on to a…

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Every Valley: Advent with the Scriptures of Handel’s Messiah

  If you read one of the forty (brief) chapters of Every Valley each day beginning in Advent, it will take you through the twelfth day of Christmas. Don't feel that you have to reserve this for Advent, though, despite the book's subtitle. Handel presented Messiah as an Easter offering in 1742. Since this devotional covers the entire libretto, which follows the entire liturgical year, it would work well during any season of the year. You could start the first day of Lent and finish up on Easter Sunday. Or, you could forget that it's a devotional and read as much or as little at a time as you wish, simply to gain deeper insight into Messiah. It's a versatile little book. The…

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