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Schmidt has done it again. He wrote a book about a seventh grade bully that I, a 30-something mother of 2, could not put down. Somehow, Schmidt managed to tie the Vietnam War, an alcoholic father, the Apollo space missions, Audubon’s Birds of America, a playwright, a grocery store and the library into an amazing story of friendship, overcoming obstacles, and standing up for yourself. If you (and your kids) need to pick just one book to read this summer, choose Okay For Now.

An inspirational and practical book for parents who are trying to create a warm learning environment in their homes. No worksheets, no flashcards, just authentic learning experiences.  This book is meant for parents whose children will go on to traditional school, but homeschooling parents will benefit as well.

My two favorite quotes:

Referring to a class of 5 year olds: “I need my kids to talk.  After all, these kids can’t think with their mouths closed.” (p.9)  My son is constantly talking, muttering, and whispering to himself.  But that’s just how 4 year olds think!

“The love of reading and the ability to lose oneself in another world are gifts we give our children when we read aloud to them.” (p. 34)  My parents gave me this gift, and my husband and I are giving it to our kids as well.

Homeland is told entirely through letters.  Susanna, a Southerner, and Cora, an islander from Maine, meet briefly in Tennessee before the start of the Civil War.  They strike up a correspondence that spans the duration of the war.

It took me a 20 pages or so to get into the book and get some characters sorted out.  But once I got going, I couldn’t put the book down.  It’s one of those books that just keeps getting better and better as you go on, and then the ending is so perfect, you wouldn’t change a thing.

Through Susanna and Cora’s letters, Hambly dives into some huge issues: the effects of the war on women; the competing loyalties that people felt as they were torn between love of homeland, their state, the Union, family and their family’s land and livelihood; the choices, or lack of choices, that women had to support themselves and their families; the power of books to teach and comfort; the power of writing to bring clarification and healing during times of pain; the power of friendship to sustain through the darkest times.

Helen is an accomplished author, but when her husband dies suddenly, she finds herself unable to write.  Because she needs money, Helen agrees to teach a writing class.  Through teaching her class, Helen gains an independence she never thought she could obtain.

Although I wasn’t particularly drawn into this story, I always enjoy Berg’s books for one simple reason.  She can write about life’s little luxuries in a tangible way.  A simple pot of coffee or a Christmas cookie comes alive in Berg’s books, and every day life becomes something to celebrate.

I’ve come to the point in my blogging life when I just simply have to make a list of books.  I’ve read some great ones lately, but I don’t have the time to write posts about them all.  So in no particular order, here’s what I’ve been reading the last few weeks:

Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop:  A great juvenile historical fiction about the anti-child labor movement in the U.S.

The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center: The perfect chick lit for a new mom.  Center writes with humor and honesty about being a new mom, yet somehow manages to throw in some romance at the same time.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See:  Explores women’s friendship, secret writing and foot binding in China.  Even though the book is about so much more than foot binding, what will stick with me are the graphic descriptions of the foot binding process.  I had to skip several pages because I was feeling nauseous just reading about it.

Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice From the Holocaust: A newly discovered journal, kept by a 14 year old Jewish girl, living in Poland.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller: Made me want to go back to teaching.  Can’t wait for my own kids to read!  Pre-teachers and current teachers should read this book to regain perspective on what our job as teachers is all about.

Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons  A love story.  Mostly good, but the ending was just strange.  I wouldn’t bother with it.

The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect us From Violence by Gavin DeBecker:  Absolutely fascinating.  A must-read especially for women.  De Becker is a well known security professional, and writes knowledgeably about how to protect yourself by listening to your intuition.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:  Set in Spain.  Young Daniel unravels the mystery of a stranger who is roaming through Europe, burning every book he can find by Daniel’s favorite author.

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos:  A companion book to Belong to Me.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin:  Look out Nicholas Sparks.  Martin’s southern romance is much sweeter and deeper than anything Sparks has written recently.  Doss and Abbie battle cancer together through a river journey.

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