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Iris is an orphan, sent to live with her aunt and cousin. From the beginning, Iris struggles to fit in with her new life. Her only comfort comes from her aunt’s goats, for which Iris is responsible. Things go from bad to worse when Iris’ aunt threatens the goats, and Iris determines to take a stand to protect them.

The suspense of this book just about killed me. From the opening pages, you know what will happen to Iris, but not how she gets to that point. For the rest of the book, you are left anticipating the worst. While the plot was engrossing, there were points throughout the book when it became too intense for me and I had to put the book down for awhile. Overall, it was a great story and I was inspired by Iris’ courage and resilience.

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.

Abby Johnson was passionate about helping women in crisis, and served as the director of her local Planned Parenthood clinic. Although she worked at Planned Parenthood, Abby truly disliked abortion, and made it her goal to reduce the number of women who needed to receive abortions. Then, Abby witnessed an ultra-sound guided abortion at her own clinic, and instantly knew that things would never be the same for her again.

I could not put this book down. From the opening chapters, I was drawn into Abby’s story. She tells her story honestly, and points out the good and the bad in both the pro-choice and pro-life movements. It was amazing to see how God worked in her life to bring about change for the good, and how God used the faithful prayers of believers to reach out to Abby. It was eye-opening to read about how some in the pro-life movement have been so hurtful to the very women they proclaim to be helping. If you are truly sincere in wanting to end abortion in this country, Abby’s story is one you must read.

Looking for a fresh start, Travis and his father moved to a tiny town in Newfoundland.  Travis’ father immediately settles into his role as the town doctor, but Travis, still grieving over the loss of his mother, struggles to find his place.  When a bully marks Travis as his target on Travis’ first day of school, Travis knows that his new town will never be home.  But then Travis discovers a group of wild cats, who will certainly freeze to death during the fierce Canadian winter…unless Travis can figure out a way to help them.

Travis’ battles–to make friends, save the cats, defeat the bully, conquer his grief and find a home–drew me in immediately.  Readers of all ages will relate to this book, but middle school boys in particular will devour MacLean’s first book.  AND, I just discovered that MacLean wrote a follow-up book about one of the female characters, Prinny Murphy.  How cool would it be for the girls in a 6th grade class to read Prinny’s story and the boys to read Travis’ story?  Or better yet, the girls can read from the boys point-of-view, and the boys can read from the girls’.

We recently watched the HBO mini-series The Pacific. It was a fascinating and horrifying look at the American Marines who served in the Pacific theater during World War II.  One of the featured Marines was a private named E. B. Sledge.  Sledge’s journey from his country home in Alabama to the war-torn islands in the Pacific, and his transformation from boy to Marine were powerful stories.  As we completed the series, we discovered that Sledge had written a book about his service with the Marine Corp.  Eager to find out more about his story, I immediately checked out the book from our library.

Sledge’s book is a straightforward account of his beginnings as a Marine, and of the battles that he fought.  Some of the movements of the troops were confusing to me, as were the references to various Marine regiments and divisions.  I’m sure that readers who know more about the military wouldn’t be confused at all.  But Sledge’s account isn’t just a retelling of troop movements.  Rather, it’s his personal story of the sights, sounds, horrors, defeats and triumphs of war.  It’s graphic at time, but matter-of-fact.  As I ended the book, I was overwhelmed with admiration and respect for the thousands and thousands of troops who have served so faithfully in combat for our country.

Many of the things that Sledge experienced were documented in the mini-series.  If you haven’t yet watched the mini-series, I would highly recommend reading With the Old Breed first.

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