This historical fiction novel is based on the flood of 1889 in that struck Johnstown, Pennsylvania and killed mo...moreI read this book aloud to my children.
This historical fiction novel is based on the flood of 1889 in that struck Johnstown, Pennsylvania and killed more than 2,000 people. The author’s grandparents survived this tragedy, and this story was crafted with their memories of the events. The story’s protagonist is Megan Maxwell, who is 15 years old. Her father owns Johnstown’s finest department store, and her family is the wealthiest in town. However, when the South Fork Dam breaks and the floodwaters rise, this girl is no different than anyone else. Social classes are cast aside, and everyone helps everyone else. Despite the catastrophe, there is a feeling of hope and inspiration as families work together to rebuild the town. There is real teamwork here, with some people involved in search and rescue and others who have medical training tending to the wounded. The ones who still have roofs over their heads have thrown open their doors wide to the displaced victims. I love the general tone of triumph over disaster.
What a great survival story and an interesting piece of history! My children and I just loved it, and we could not put it down!! We would recommend it to everyone.(less)
I read this historical fiction classic aloud to my children. It takes place in 1864 during the pioneer days, and it won the 1936 Newbery Medal.
Caddie...more I read this historical fiction classic aloud to my children. It takes place in 1864 during the pioneer days, and it won the 1936 Newbery Medal.
Caddie is 11 years old, and she is a tomboy who feels more comfortable roughhousing with her brothers (Tom, age 13 and Warren, age 9) than cooking and sewing with her sisters. Interestingly, the adventurous children in the Woodlawn family were the red-headed ones, and the dark-haired ones were more proper. The family moved from Boston to Wisconsin, and both Caddie and her sister, Mary, were frail and weak. After little Mary died, Father begged Mother to let him try an experiment with Caddie because he was desperate not to lose another child. He wanted Caddie to be allowed to play in the sunshine because he believed it would restore her health. He didn't want her to be keep indoors being raised as a proper young lady. He was right. Caddie thrived, and she was the apple of her father's eye.
Across the Menomonie River, there lived a local Native American tribe. Caddie struck up a friendship with the Chief, whom the kids called Indian John, and the natives were fascinated with the red-haired children. They did not mind when the kids crossed the river to come for a visit.
A rumour runs rampant among the white settlers that the natives are planning a massacre, which was what happened two years before when the Minnesota Natives killed over one thousand white settlers. Because of this, most of the settlers are apprehensive about the natives. Father does not believe that the rumour is true because he trusts the honour of Indian John and his tribe. The settlers are afraid, and they band together so that they can be united in the event that a massacre does occur. Father assures his neighbours that there is nothing to fear, but he still invites them to stay at the Woodlawn farm. Caddie overhears some of the men discussing the situation, and they want to take the offensive position and attack the natives instead of waiting to see what will happen. She is horrified, and she feels she must go and warn Indian John before it is too late.
Wow, what a fantastic story! Caddie is such an excellent role model for young girls. She is courageous, thoughtful, and fiercely loyal to those she loves. She refuses to be swayed by the opinions of others, and she is not afraid to be the one in the crowd who is different. She stands up for what she believes in, even when she is in the minority. She has more character than many adults.
We loved this book, and I highly recommend it! We have already bought the companion story, Caddie Woodlawn's Family. (less)
At the start of the book, 12 year-old Harry is eagerly awaiting his return for his second year at Hogwarts. The...moreI read this book aloud to my children.
At the start of the book, 12 year-old Harry is eagerly awaiting his return for his second year at Hogwarts. The Dursleys are hosting an important dinner for Mr. Dursley’s boss and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Mason, and Harry is supposed to remain out of sight so as not to embarrass them. Upon his return to his room, he finds a strange elf named Dobby who has come to warn Harry not to return to Hogwarts. When Harry finds out that Dobby has been stealing the letters from Ron and Hermione meant for Harry, he is furious. Dobby makes trouble for Harry and uses magic to send Mrs. Dursley’s dessert crashing to the floor and a furious Mr. Dursley forbids Harry from ever returning to Hogwarts. He installs iron grates over the window and takes away his magic books and wand and locks them up in the cupboard under the stairs. Poor Harry! Good thing that Ron and his twin brothers steal their father’s magical car and use it to tear the grate from the window and rescue Harry!
Harry stays with the Weasleys until school starts, and Dobby tries to prevent Harry from getting aboard the Hogwarts train by sealing the magical passageway to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. The quick-thinking boys use Mr. Weasley’s car again to get to Hogwarts, although not without consequences!
The newness of Hogwarts still hasn’t rubbed off for me. I found it just as magical as the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In this installment, we are introduced to the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart. The women all swoon over this man, who has authored many books that recount his magical escapades. The book is a bit darker than the series debut, and Harry keeps hearing a chilling voice who whispers murderous words. Victims are becoming petrified, essentially turning into statues, and it seems to have to do with a Chamber of Secrets that was opened many years before. The key lies in a mysterious book that falls into Harry’s possession, which was owned by a Hogwarts student named Tom Riddle.
My kids and I absolutely loved this book! It was filled with so much excitement, and it was the highlight of our day to read this at bedtime each night. Even at such a young age, it is easy to see that Harry is becoming a very powerful wizard. I love the whole “good versus evil” tone that Rowling has created.
As was with the first one, I love how Rowling ends off the book with such a touching scene between Dumbledore and Harry. Dumbledore always offers Harry sage insight and treats him with such warmth and love, and I couldn’t help getting misty-eyed.(less)
I read this biography aloud to my children, which won the 1988 Newbery Medal.
Abraham Lincoln was a man who came from meagre beginnings. His poor famil...moreI read this biography aloud to my children, which won the 1988 Newbery Medal.
Abraham Lincoln was a man who came from meagre beginnings. His poor family lived in a log cabin in Kentucky, and his family moved to Indiana when he was seven years old. He was largely self-taught, and he was rarely spotted without a book in his hand. He had an interest in politics from the age of 23. He schooled himself in law and passed the bar in 1837. He married Mary Ann Todd, who many considered was above his social class. The upper-class citizens laughed at his unrefined manner of speaking and gangly appearance.
Freedman gives us an inside glimpse into the life of Abraham Lincoln. We learned a lot about Lincoln’s personality, and we were amused that he preferred to let his children run amuck in the White House. He did not have a firm disciplinary hand towards his children, and he was never one to deny his children anything.
“It is my pleasure that my children are free, happy, and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.” – Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln and his wife were both absolutely devastated when two of their sons died in early childhood: Eddie died at the age of three years in 1850, and Willie died at the age of 11 years in 1862.
Freedman takes us through all of Lincoln’s political career right up until his assassination. The photographs had a huge impact on our understanding and aided in taking us back to this time period.
This is a fascinating book about Lincoln, and I highly recommend it!(less)
I read this historical fiction novel to my children, which takes place in 1860 before the Civil War.
Simon Green is a 15 year-old boy, whose parents ar...moreI read this historical fiction novel to my children, which takes place in 1860 before the Civil War.
Simon Green is a 15 year-old boy, whose parents are deceased. He has been raised by his aunt and uncle, and they never let him forget what a burden it is for them to have to have an extra mouth to feed. He is slightly dimwitted, being the oldest boy in the one-room schoolhouse and having taken Grade 3 four times. The teacher, Miss Rogers, is not much older than he is! At the end of the school year, she takes Simon aside and tells him that she believes that it is time for him to move on and that she must graduate him and wishes him well.
Simon wonders what he shall do with his time, now that he no longer has school to attend. He comes up with a brilliant plan after speaking with Mr. Buffey, who tells him that turkeys fetch $5 a head in Denver because food is in short supply. Simon reasons that if he buys 1,000 turkeys for $0.25 a head in Union, Missouri and walks them to Denver, Colorado and sells them for $5 a head, he will make a profit of $4,750. It’s a great idea, but only if he can make it work. He excitedly speaks with Miss Rogers about his plan, and she decides to invest in his business proposal. This gives him the financial backing that he needs in order to buy the turkeys from Mr. Buffey.
Along the way to Denver, Simon encounters a reformed alcoholic named Mr. Peece and his dog named Emmett, a slave boy named Jabeth, and a teenage girl named Lizzie who has gone a bit mad after the deaths of her parents and siblings. The unlikely quartet become somewhat of a family of their own, and Simon graciously includes the trio as business partners and agrees to split his profit after repaying Miss Rogers her loan plus 10% of her share in the revenue.
The Great Turkey Walk is a fun adventure, and Simon’s business plan proves that no one gave the boy enough credit. We really enjoyed how Simon proved everyone wrong. He is very kind-hearted and thoughtful, as well as street-savvy. (less)
I read this biography aloud to my children. The timing worked out well because it is Black History Month.
Harriet Tubman is an inspiring heroine! Despi...moreI read this biography aloud to my children. The timing worked out well because it is Black History Month.
Harriet Tubman is an inspiring heroine! Despite having a hard life born into slavery, being beaten by her masters, and surviving a serious head wound that should have killed her, she went on to accomplish great things. She single-handedly brought over 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. It is astonishing that she eluded detection with 19 trips across slave territory. We laughed at the mention of Harriet sleeping on a bench beneath a “wanted” poster for her capture. I firmly believe that she had divine intervention helping her along the way.
"I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."
Sterling’s account of Harriet Tubman’s life was fascinating, and my kids and I loved it! Highly recommended!!(less)
This is a fantastic adventure story that is set in 1849 during the time of the California Gold Rush. It feature...moreI read this book aloud to my children.
This is a fantastic adventure story that is set in 1849 during the time of the California Gold Rush. It features an orphaned 12 year-old boy named Jack Flagg, who lives with his aunt, Arabella, in Boston. In order to save the family from financial ruin and force the sale of the family’s estate, Jack sets out to strike a fortune in California. Accompanied by the family’s butler, Praiseworthy, the two set off to purchase their tickets to sail aboard a ship. Unfortunately, their money to pay for their passage is stolen and they must stow-away on the ship. They work off their passage by stoking the boiler with coal. One of the passengers has his map marking the site of gold stolen, and Jack and Praiseworthy devise an ingenious method of ferreting out the thief.
Jack and Praiseworthy encounter one obstacle after another, but they are unswerving in their dedication to complete their mission. They make a great team! I loved seeing the change in their relationship over time from butler/master to more of a father/son dynamic. Praiseworthy really surprised me with his cleverness, and my kids and I laughed on many occasions. It was also really interesting to see what life was like as a gold miner.
If you are looking for a funny adventure story to enjoy with your kids, I highly recommend this book!(less)
This was a re-read for me. Caught up in the excitement of all the rave reviews, I read this one when it first came out. I devoured it then, and I was...moreThis was a re-read for me. Caught up in the excitement of all the rave reviews, I read this one when it first came out. I devoured it then, and I was anxious to read more of the series. However, I decided that this was exactly the type of series that I wanted to experience with my children (I didn’t even have any at the time!) and turned a blind eye to all the future releases in the series as well as the movies. I did not want to spoil the joy of sharing something so wonderful with my kids.
I read this aloud to my children, and they loved it as much as I did! Rowling writes in such a way that the book can be enjoyed by young and old alike. It transcends generations.
For anyone who has been living on another planet and not yet heard about this phenomenal book, it is about a 10 year-old boy named Harry Potter. He was orphaned as a babe and left to be raised by his maternal Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, who do not care for him one bit. While they lavish attention on their dear Dudley, they treat Harry as though he isn’t worthy of any love. He is treated like a servant, made to do the cooking and cleaning, and given crumbs to eat. His “room” is the cupboard under the stairs, even though spoiled Dudley has two bedrooms for himself: One for his bed and the other for his toys.
A mysterious envelope arrives addressed to Harry. Before he has a chance to open it, Uncle Vernon snatches it away when he sees the seal on the envelope is from a place named Hogwarts. More envelopes arrive, and Uncle Vernon boards up the mail slot and burns the mail. Finally, he takes the family away to a secluded island away from anyone for miles around. It occurs on the day of Harry’s 11th birthday, which of course is not celebrated by the Dursley family. A giant of a man breaks down the door and introduces himself as Rubeus Hagrid, who presents Harry with one of the elusive envelopes. It turns out that Harry has been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which is located in a parallel magical world. Hagrid further informs Harry that his parents were also witches who were killed by a bad warlock named Voldemort. This is all a shock to Harry, as he had been told that his parents died in a car crash. For some reason, Voldemort was unable to bring harm to Harry save for the lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. After Voldemort’s inability to destroy Harry, he disappeared. Some say he died, and others say that he is still around just biding his time. Harry became famous among the witches because he is the only one who was able to survive a tangle with the evil Voldemort.
Harry goes with Hargrid to Hogwarts, where he enters his first year of training to become a wizard. He makes friends with two other first-year students: Ronald Weasley, a red-haired boy who comes from a lower-class family of witches and is frowned upon by some of the richer class because of his hand-me-down robes and books, and Hermione Granger, a bushy brown-haired girl who also has trouble fitting in because she comes from a non-magical “Muggle” family (Muggles are known as non-magical folks.) At first, Hermione comes across as a know-it-all because she is extremely smart and studious. Later, after she takes the blame for an incident which saves Ron and Harry from getting into trouble, the three become inseparable.
Hogwarts itself is fantastically magical with its talking portraits, staircases that change at will, secret passageways, and a forbidden forest. The place is filled with mystery, and Harry and his friends are just beginning their journey of discovery.
This is the type of book that I would have loved as a child. It is a classic tale of good versus evil. I love that Rowling incorporates some life lessons about social classes. When Ron is taunted by the richer wizard families (Draco Malfoy and his two sidekicks, Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe) for his family’s meagre wealth, Harry stands up for him. Harry is envious of what Ron has, which is a loving family. That means more to him than all the wealth in the world, and he would give anything for it.
My kids and I are so excited to continue with the next book in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.(less)
I read this non-fiction book aloud to my children.
The content is quite detailed and provides a good overview on everything related to water. We reall...moreI read this non-fiction book aloud to my children.
The content is quite detailed and provides a good overview on everything related to water. We really enjoyed the chapters on clouds, the water cycle, and body water. Even though the book is recommended for Grades 4 and up, my 4 year-old daughter was engaged by the beautiful photographs.
This is a great science book. We really enjoyed it!(less)
I read this non-fiction book aloud to my children.
The book is told in epistolary fashion as a series of diary entries from December 1777 to May 1778....moreI read this non-fiction book aloud to my children.
The book is told in epistolary fashion as a series of diary entries from December 1777 to May 1778. It relates the harsh conditions that the soldiers had to endure through the winter at Valley Forge. The soldiers suffered in the bitter cold and had little sustenance. Diseases, such as typhus and smallpox, were rampant in the unsanitary camp. Their clothes were threadbare, and many men had limbs amputated due to frostbite.
General Washington remained with his troops and gave them encouragement, and he suffered along with his men.
The black and white illustrations depicted the different types of tents that were constructed, tools and weapons that were used by the soldiers, how they dressed, a surgeon's instruments, and some important historical figures including Marquis de Lafayette, Count Pulaski, Baron De Kalb, and Baron von Steuben.
We really enjoyed this book and intend to read more of this series! It is a good addition to your American History studies.(less)
Before I read this book, I had never heard of William Wilberforce. He was born in England in 1759, an...moreI read this non-fiction biography to my children.
Before I read this book, I had never heard of William Wilberforce. He was born in England in 1759, and what he was best known for was his steadfast resolve in trying to abolish slavery. He presented 11 different Bills to Parliament over the course of 18 years in an effort to limit or abolish the slave trade. He finally met with success with his 12th Bill in 1807 with the enactment of the Slave Trade Act.
This book provides a good overview of how the British parliamentary system works. Even though the content is pretty dry, we still found it interesting. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions, which enhanced our understanding of the content.(less)