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Because the family is running out of money, Rachel, her siblings and her Pop must move from their New York apartment to an abandoned farm upstate. When they get there, Rachel’s Pop discovers that a promised job is no longer his, and so he must leave the siblings on their own for several months to go find work. Rachel and her younger brother and sister are on their own, determined to prove to their Pop that they can care for the family’s new farm. If you love historical, survive against the odds, fiction as I do, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a perfect choice for upper elementary and middle school girls.

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.

A writing teacher shows a classroom of 4th graders and their teacher how to use the written word to change their lives.  Teachers will want to use this book in their own classrooms.  It will entertain, inspire, and serve as a reminder that the teaching of writing in the classroom is more than teaching the mechanics.  When students learn to write, they can change their lives.

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.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

02nd December 2009

I could not put this book down.  My children and home were horribly neglected as I devoured this fantastic novel.  Skeeter is a 22 year old white girl, living at home in Mississippi in the 1960’s.  She wants to be a writer, but doesn’t know how to make that dream come true.  Aibileen and Minny are black maids, working for Skeeter’s friends.  They too have dreams of something more, but are trapped by the society in which they live.  The 3 women come together in an amazing way to claim their dreams and stand up for what’s right.

This is a must-read book and would be perfect for a group of friends or a book group to read together.  It begs to be discussed, savored and enjoyed with other women.  And although the book alone was fantastic, the addition of an author’s note at the end makes it even better.  Stockett reveals some personal childhood experiences and how they led to the writing of her book.  It makes the rest of the book that much more meaningful.

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