This year I'm devoting more time to reading, and I set a Goodreads goal of reading 52 grown-up books. In February, I read 13 books, the majority of those being children's books that I read with my children. In this post, I didn't include EVERY picture book we read, just the books that stood out. The books we read for our year 2 homeschool made the list, even if we didn't love it (I'm looking at you, Alice in Wonderland!)
We tried to find books to celebrate Black History month in February, and included our favorites here. I've used affiliate links to share these books with you (in some cases, at least!)
13 Books We Read in February: Personal Reads
This book...sigh....this book was so beautiful and influential and life changing. A MOPS mentor let me borrow this book, and I had never heard of it before, so I didn't dive in head first, but it only took me a couple of pages to realize that this book was sent to me by divine appointment. I had been thinking about humility in several different capacities lately, one of them being a quote that circulated around my Facebook feed a year or so ago: "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."
Hannah Anderson uses plant metaphors to show how we were created to depend on God. and how we ultimately overlook this fact by trying to do everything ourselves. "You're not God" is how someone summed up the original idea for this book, and that thought alone has changed my perspective since reading this book.
I gave it 5 stars. I wrote down so many lines in my commonplace book because there were so many rich ideas. It was full of literary references, and with the nature influence, it is a perfect read for any Christian Charlotte Mason mom.
I found myself rushing to finish this book not because I was so engrossed in the storyline, but because I was eager to get it over with. My podcast co-hostess recommended this book, and there were definitely enjoyable parts. I've heard that the books improve throughout the series, and I'm willing to give some of the others in the Lord Peter Wimsey series a try.
The writing was beautiful in parts, but in others, it was graphic. One phrase compared someone's head to maggots coming out of gorgonzola cheese. 5 points for creativity, but negative points for being disgusting.
I think my biggest problem with it was the way that some of the characters were introduced. All of the sudden, there were new people there and by the way they were being discussed, it seemed as though we had already met them. I flipped back a few pages several times to make sure that I hadn't missed the introduction, but there WAS no introduction. It was just a character, who in at least one occasion, was present for many paragraphs before a name was even given. I found this confusing because of the large number of characters in general.
I gave this book 3 stars, and was happy to see that Goodreads didn't wholeheartedly disagree with me.
I've been wanting to read this book since the beginning of the pandemic, because it is set in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. I can see why so many people like it: it's entertaining, but there are a couple of things that I can't get past:
The first half of the book is so heavily focused on death as a theme, which makes sense as the Bright family moves to Philadelphia, a hot-spot of the flu pandemic, where they work at/run a funeral home. The mother felt like death followed her around, and I just found that strange. It was almost as if she had replaced God with death, as she pictured it talking to her and moving around her.
But then magically, the theme of death is just gone! Yes, there's still the funeral home, but it really just lifts out of the whole novel, which seemed strange to me since it was hit over my head with a phonebook for the first half.
I've also realized that when authors write each part from different perspectives, it is difficult to fully develop characters. I struggled at the beginning of this book because three of the characters telling the story were very young, and it seemed to lack depth. And because of the nature of switching perspectives, every time it gained momentum, the perspective switched and any tension was cut like a ribbon on Christmas present.
And my final grievance: the title "As Bright As Heaven" is completely unclear until the last sentence of the book, and that last sentence had absolutely nothing to do with any of the themes that were present. Sure, the family's name is Bright, but the last line came in a very tangentially related sub-plot that didn't even seem to fit at all in the book.
I gave this book 3 stars for the reasons I mentioned, although there were some *bright* spots.
This is a book that I'm happy to have read. I found it at a thrift store and since my daughter and I are reading George MacDonald for her year 2 homeschool, I thought it would be fun to read something for myself. I am not sure if I would tell you it was a "must-read" but if you have a little time to spare and want to be inspired to love your neighbor better, go for it!
George MacDonald was an excellent writer, and while some things came off as overly moralized and saccharine-sweet, I think it was more a product of the time than sub-par execution. Other aspects, though, seemed far beyond the times.
Kirsty is a teenager in the Scottish highlands in the 1800's, and she is likable from the start. Not only does she have nearly flawless character, she is not the old-fashioned character who is waiting to be rescued by a man. In fact, she turns down the proposal of a Lord, someone who would elevate her social status, because of his poor character.
The first half unfolded very slowly. We learn about Kirsty's life and family, and her brother Steenie, who has exceptionally strong faith in God, probably because he has special needs. I was so impressed that this boy was not presented in a condescending way, another aspect of this book that seemed to be ahead of its time. Steenie was especially good at loving others, and I loved that about him.
The book picked up when the boy who proposed to her put another girl from the village in a precarious position. Kirsty chastised him and ended up physically beating him up. Not your average old-fashioned book! I loved this about Kirsty, even if physical violence is never okay.
A big storm comes and shakes everything up in Kirsty's home and village. From this point on, I was hooked. I won't give away the ending, but I was so happy with how it turned out.
I'm teetering between 3.5 or 4 stars here.
I found this on a homeschool blog and thought I would read it to Miss H, but it really isn't for children. It was definitely inappropriate for her. But, that wasn't even what caused me to abandon my read-aloud plans (because I just skipped anything inappropriate!) Basically, Copeland's writing style is too hard to follow in a read-aloud. She writes about an experience, what she learned about the experiences, connects it to an event in the future, and then skips back to the original timeframe. It was really difficult for H to follow, even though she is a really attentive listener.
When I stopped trying to read it allowed and read it on my own instead, I enjoyed it a whole lot better. I did end up skimming some sections because her style, that I mentioned earlier, made for a lot of repetition.
If I could give multiple scores for different aspects of the book, I'd give 5 stars to her amazing story, 2 stars for readability, and 3 for age-appropriateness. I struggled to read about how people called this small-framed adolescent "fat," and I certainly wouldn't want my child or future teenager to take in those ideas. I recently saw that there is a young reader's edition, and I'm wondering how much of that it filters out.
I picked up some books from the library for Black History Month, and this might be our favorite. It discusses how the sit-ins, boycotts, etc., affected the Civil Rights movement in the 60's. I was really struck by the line that said even though this was in general a violent time, this movement refused to use violence. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful in this book, and it gave us so much to talk about.
This was another powerful book that we picked up from the library. It talked about the overground railroad, the train system that transported black people who left their roles as sharecroppers in the south for better lives in the north.
My boys, who love all type of vehicles, picked this out at the library. The illustrations are gorgeous and had us talking a lot about them. The story is not really a story. It's a description of all of the people and vehicles that are making their way to the harbor. I had to read it twice to get the point!
This book brought Henry Wordsworth Longfellow's poem "The Blacksmith" to life for my little boys. I am not sure they enjoyed it as much as I did, but I'm okay with that!
This was my second read-through of this book. I read it to H for her kindergarten year, and my now five-year-old has been begging to read chapter books now, too. My son probably enjoyed it even more, because big sister was a little frightened by it. Tumtum and Nutmeg also made my cozy read-alouds book list.
We enjoyed this book that is a part of our Simply Charlotte Mason study of the Old Testament and Africa. The book is about a slightly spoiled Egyptian boy, who, because of his land ownership, comes upon a great deal of money. He wants to buy something for himself, but ends up buying a light-skinned slave girl in order to save her from a cruel owner. The boy, Kaffe, and Sari have wonderful adventures in Egypt, and then find themselves in the middle of a tomb-robbing scandal. There was quite a bit of action in this book, and my kids didn't want me to put it down!
I know the topic of slavery is very sensitive, but it was really eye-opening to see it from a different perspective. Note- I linked to the Simply Charlotte Mason version, but it is available for slightly less from The Good and the Beautiful.
The Golden Goblet was a selection for our Simply Charlotte Mason curriculum as well, but it was intended for older children. I decided to listen to the audiobook with my children to make the most out of our curriculum. This book was so similar to Boy of the Pyramids, but was written about 30 years after it, so I'm assuming the older book may have been an inspiration. H really enjoyed it, but had to ask questions every now and then. E, 5, didn't understand it much but enjoyed the snippets he tuned into.
In our latest Thinking Love Coffee Chat (a bonus for email subscribers!) Amy and I talked about this book, which I just didn't love! We read it faster than we usually read our other literature books, solely because I wanted to be done with it. I think H enjoyed it more than I did. In volume 1, Charlotte Mason called this book "a delicious feast of absurdities." I didn't find it so delicious, just absurd!