Life may not be a fairy tale

In our jaded world, this is something always on the verge of being snuffed out, but we musn’t succumb.

Hearth's Rose Garden

… but we want it to be…

The child inside of us is still hungry for the hero and the purity of virtue.

Yes.  Give us complicated heroes, ones that have to struggle against their demons, inside or out.  Or give us perfect heroes, and have them struggle against evil so dark that it makes you weep merely to see it.   But have them WIN.

We are humans, and we want to be inspired.

Archetypes are fine.   Ignore the voices screaming about being pigeon-holed – we all know they’re Cinderella’s step-sisters, not Cinderella.

Fairy tales tell us deep truths, truths we need to hear, truths that we’ve forgotten.

Tell us a story and tell us the truth.

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The Escape of Oney Judge

oney judge

The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s slave finds freedom. Originally published in 2007. Hardcover, 32 pages.

The Escape of Oney Judge is a children’s book, which as the title indicates, recounts the story of the escape of the female slave of Martha Washington, wife of founding father and first president George Washington. Oney was the daughter of an enslaved seamstress named Betsy, and an English tailor indentured servant by the name of Andrew Judge.

There are more detailed and extensive literary accounts of Oney Judge’s story, but this is the book our 9-year-old picked up from the library on a recent trip. She has written two book reviews for this blog, but this is one she wasn’t quite sure how to review, so it falls to me.

It’s a good, balanced historical children’s book. Rather than engage in hyperbole and theatrics, it reveals the complicated relationships and emotional connections that developed between slaves -particularly house slaves- and their masters and mistresses.

In Oney’s case, the realization that when all was said and done, she was still property to be bought, sold, or gifted was the impetus for her dramatic escape and time of hiding. Despite the constant dread of being found and sent back into slavery, Oney Judge decided the rewards and hardships were well worth the risk.

This is a very good book for kids between 7-10. I chose that age range based not only on reading level, which is well in hand of a literate 10-year-old, but content.

This was the 2008 Bank Street Best Children’s book of the year.

Grade: A

Content advisory: Nothing to be alarmed about here, but it is a story about the intersection of slavery and our country’s most beloved founding father.



Reel talk: films I’ve seen recently.

We’ve seen four movies of late,  and they left some impressions. Some of the impressions were better than others, and all of the films but one were big budget flicks. We are a family headed by a lover of comic books, so I’ll start with those. The last film is one that can only be considered an artistic wonder, and it’s something original, unlike most of what filmmakers churn out these days. I’ll put the trailer at the end for those who haven’t heard of it. If you’re an art lover, you’ll want to try and find one the few theaters new you which is running it.

Thor: Ragnarok was an attempt to lighten Thor up, infuse some humor into the franchise, and reunite Loki and Thor in an interesting but shaky alliance to fight off their evil sister whom they never knew about until right before she showed up. Were it not mot for my general enjoyment of Mark Ruffalo and particularly Idris Elba, I wouldn’t have found it very entertaining at all. I give it a ‘C’ and don’t recommend that you see it if you haven’t already.

Secondly, we saw the new Justice League movie. My husband has always preferred DC to Marvel comics anyway, so it stands to reasons that we would like this one more. It was pretty good, and there weren’t any obvious attempts to shove PC narratives down your throat. At least, there weren’t any that one doesn’t expect in a typical Hollywood film. They stuck to the spirit of the comics mostly, unlike Spider-Man: Homecoming which was a disaster of a film more concerned with meeting a diversity quota and opening the minds of its audience.

As an aside, I noticed that the Aquaman of my childhood got a major upgrade in the Justice League. My childhood Aquaman is on the left, while the new and improved Aquaman is on the right.

It just occurred to me that my characterization of this as an improvement it pretty subjective.  As for the film itself, I give it a ‘B’.

We also saw Coco, Disney-Pixar’s latest. it was visually stunning and well presented. Because our kids have been taught and understand all the inherent theological falshoods and problems connected to the Mexican Day of the Dead, they saw this as fantasy and nothing more.  Read the review for this one at the Christian movie review site Plugged In for more information. The worst part of this experience was the 20 minute Frozen “short” at the beginning, which was not only long, but tediously boring.

On to more highbrow stuff.

Below is the trailer for Loving Vincent, a film in which every bit of the animation, and it feels like undervaluing it to call it animation, is hand painted by 100 artists in the post-impressionist style of Vincent Van Gogh. The film is an exploration of his tragic and short life which celebrated his art from beginning to end.

It was original, which sets it apart from most of what it out there today, and it was well done. I highly recommend it for art buffs and hisory lovers. You just have to find theaters which are running it if you’re interested.

Thus ends our recent foray into the movies. We have no intention of seeing the new Star Wars so thus ends our uncharacteristically busy movie stint for quite a while.

Adam and His Kin

adam and his kin

Adam and His Kin, by Ruth Beechick. Originally published in 1990. 176 pages.

When our sixth-grade student was assigned this book for her literature class, I’d never heard of it. It is basically the characters and stories of Genesis framed as historical fiction. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it when I picked it up. Apparently, it is well known in homeschool circles, and opinions on it are mixed. A positive take can be found here, a negative one here, for those interested in both sides of the issue.

As I began to read it, my initial reaction was a mixture of apprehension and horror. It seemed sacreligious to me to fictionalize Scripture. What, I thought, would possess anyone to do such a thing? However, I kept reading and allowed our daughter to keep reading primarily because I fancy myself open to new ideas and I genuinely trust the heart, intentions, and faith of the administrators and staff of the program where we have  our kids enrolled and taking classes.

After I got over my initial reluctance to the very idea of Ruth Beechick’s project, I began to see it differently. It gave us opportunities to go back and study Genesis closer, note contradictions and parallels, and remember that what we were reading the author’s attempt to help the reader see these people as more than just Bible story characters.

On the whole it was a decent read, when kept in proper perspective. The literature teacher who assigned it was careful to make the distinction between the Bible and this book, and even gave the children opportunities for class discussion on the pros and cons of reading such a book.

If there was one thing I appreciated about the book more than any other, it was that the author tried to capture the universality of human nature, that it is as it has always been over time. The sin nature that motivated Adam, Eve, Cain, Ham, or the builders of Tower of Babel was as evident then as it is today. Greed, jealousy, lusts for power and self-aggrandizement are as old as humanity itself, despite our tendency to believe that people are uniquely horrible in our time compared to times past.

That said, it certainly needs to be read with caution, and an eye toward the Scriptures.

Grade: B-

Content advisory: I wouldn’t recommend this book to any child under middle school age and certainly not to anyone without an in depth knowledge of the Book of Genesis.


Farmer Boy

farmer boy

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Originally pulished in 1933.

This review was written by our 9-year-old daughter. I do minimal editing to her writing when I post her reviews. Like Paddington, this book was part of assigned reading for her literature class.

Farmer Boy is a nonfictional classic by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband Almanzo Wilder, and his childhood.

It is very engaging and entertaining. I have not read many classics yet but this has to be one of my favorite’s. Once you start it is very hard to stop.

It is also very easy to read. Some of my favorite chapters are Birthday, Independence day, and also The Fair.

In The Fair Almanzo enters the biggest pumpkin contest. He fed his pumpkin milk  everyday. It was so big Father had to put in the wagon the night before.When he got to the fair he won the contest and everbody asked him what he had done to make it so big. He was going to lie but his father was standing there, he thought that he would get disqualified and get his ribbon taken away, but he had to tell the truth so he did. He had a wonderful day at the fair.

I highly recommend this book. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.



Captains Courageous

Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling. Orignally published in 1897. 144 pages.

Our 11-year-old had to read this book for her middle school literature class, so I read it also. It was at times a hard read, as dialect heavy books tend to be for me, and this one was heavy with various dialects of both the American seamen from the northeast and foreigners from various points around the globe.

However, I make a point of not being dissuaded by dialects when reading a book and pushed forward. Our daughter tackled this problem by listening to several of the chapters on Librivox as she read it, and it helped her grasp Kipling’s style -in this book- much better.

Captains Courageous is a very masculine book. In fact, if I have to answer the question, “What is Captains Courageous about?” my answer is manhood.  In fact I was asked this question. It’s about a boy, coddled, spoiled and entitled by his mother:

“Like many other unfortunate young people, Harvey had never in all his life received a direct order—never, at least, without long, and sometimes tearful, explanations of the advantages of obedience and the reasons for the request. Mrs. Cheyne lived in fear of breaking his spirit, which, perhaps, was the reason that she herself walked on the edge of nervous prostration.”

One day, as Harvey and his mother (his father is busy managing and increasing their multi-million dollar fortune) are sailing from America to Europe, he falls off the boat and is believed to be lost at sea. He isn’t lost but instead is rescued by a pasing fishing boat filled with men based on the New England coast. Men who are not scheduled to return to the east coast (where Harvey can be reunited with his parents) for another four months. He is eventually presumed dead..

Stuck on the fishing vessel with a crew of sea-hardened sailors from all over the globe, away from his father’s money and his mother’s coddling, Harvey has to work for his keep. He initially balks, but it doesn’t take long before the ship’s captain, Disko Troop, literally beats it into his head that he isn’t in New York anymore, he won’t be for several months, and that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

This book is ultimately about a boy coming of age, and becoming a man of character as he is influenced by the crew of the We’re Here. The rather obvious dichotomy between the understanding the two fathers represented (Disko Troop and Harvey Sr.) and the two mothers represented drove home to me how much Kipling was driving home the reality that there are things about manhood that women will never quite be able to grasp.

Lots of seafarer terminology is here and I had to look most of it up, and there Kipling spends pages describing the experience of ocean life. So much so, our daughter thought it would be valid to categorize the sea as a legitimate character, which I found very interesting and insightful.

This… This is a good book. It may have been a children’s book in 1897, but given the decline in most American’s level of reading, I feel completely comfortable recommending to anyone from age 12 to 92. Besides, what was it that C.S. Lewis said:

No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally- and often far more- worth reading at the age of 50 and beyond.

Grade: A

Content advisory: Some racial slurs and religious slurs. Some murkiness on matters of faith that would probebly be best explored with children under 12. Death, violence, and peril are included as well.

Age recommendation: 12 +




Book life, homeschooling, and a request.

I still have a few book reviews in draft, which are being slowed down significantly as we adjust to our new homeschool workload. Sometime over the next two weeks, I expect to post reviews of the following books:

  • Captains Courageous
  • Hillbilly Elegy
  • A Bear Called Paddington
  • Your Man is Wonderful

In the meantime, we are experiencing quite the challenge juggling the demands of homeschooling, the homework and readings associated with the supplemental classes our kids are taking, and regular homemaking necessities.

The positives are that our kids are getting top notch instruction from some amazingly gifted women (and a few men) in subjects I could never have tackled with the same depth of knowledge and enthusiasm. Latin, literature, drama, speech, visual arts, and art appreciation taught by teachers with passion for the subjects, years of studying them, and a wholly Christian worldview are pretty priceless. We are thankful to have found such a great community to add to our homeschool repertoire and more parents to join us on the journey.

The challenge is that being out of the house two days a week means that we have to incorporate the reading and homework for those subjects, the instruction of the subjects I am solely responsible for (math and science primarily), meals laundry, and other daily duties into a workable schedule. This, five readers, is where you come in.

I am looking for a scheduling program -online or PDF- that I can use to organize our day, keep good records, and generally organize our new homeschool life. It doesn’t have to be free. I’m willing to pay for it so long as it is adaptable and works. Up until this point our days have been fluid and relaxed because we weren’t out as much with the exception of our much less demanding co-op. It’s a new day, and I need something new to tackle it with. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Today has actually been a pretty sane day. So much so that we made it to the library. Everyone in our house has different reading interests, and as I moved about the house this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice the different stacks and what they revealed about the range of readers:


My stack.


lover of all things magical.
The eclectic reader.
foodie/aspiring culinary artist.
Too busy mapping northern Europe to check out books! Also busy reading Captains Courageous.

I’ve had to break out my long abandoned -but pretty effective- laundry schedule to keep that from being a huge pain. My slow cooker is also going to start getting quite the workout.

Basically, I’ve got to up my time management game since we decided to abandon the relaxed homeschooling approach.