The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

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Book Review of The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

As a lover of classic literature, I cannot believe that I haven’t read The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss! I watched the movie as a child, and from what I can remember, the book is not like the movie at all. That’s always how it goes though, right? What an adventure! Let’s just say that if my family were ever shipwrecked and stranded on an island, I would hope it would be the same island as the Robinsons. We would definitely not do as well as they did! What they accomplished is pretty impressive!

Blurb:

The Robinsons leave Switzerland in hopes of settling far away as missionaries, then afterward settling as citizens elsewhere. Their journey did not go as planned, and they ended up shipwrecked on a deserted island off the coast of New Guinea. They took from the ship what they could, including seeds and some animals. From the Preface: “…few books have obtained such deserved popularity. The gradual progress of the family from utter destitution and misery, to happiness and abundance, arising from their own labour, perseverance, and obedience, together with the effect produced on the different characters of the sons by the stirring adventures the met with, created a deep and absorbing interest.” The family learns together how to improve their lives. They work hard, endure many hardships, and thrive on the island.

My Book Review:

You know the game where you’re stranded on a deserted island and you can only take 3 things? One of my things would be this family. Seriously. If you’re going to get stranded, get stranded with the Swiss family Robinson! The book is fairly well written. You can tell by the way the father (the narrator) addresses and talks about his wife that this book was written a long time ago. Another clue is that he uses the Biblical name for their donkey (if you know what I mean), which is different than most people speak today.

The characters are well developed, and I liked them. I found the father to be a bit much sometimes. He seriously knows everything: what all of the plants are and what to use them for; how to plant crops; how to hunt, skin, and save the meat; how to build buildings and bridges and carts and canoes; how to navigate in the ocean; how to raise animals; how to build canals for fresh water drinking, bathing, and crop watering. You get the picture. The mother miraculously knows how to spin cotton to make clothing and how to cook.

Each of the boys has a unique personality and talents. I liked that they were able to find roles in the family to make those talents shine, and to improve them. Another thing I loved about the boys was how well they took care of their mother. They loved her so much they would spend days or weeks building things for her to make her life easier or more comfortable. Kids today could definitely do more of that!

I liked how they prayed and observed the Sabbath Day; you don’t read about that a lot today. I also liked how hard they all worked, and the good attitudes they had about their situation. It’s a little slow at points, but there’s some good action interspersed to make up for it.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like or that I noticed. They killed quite a few animals (some out of necessity–some not). We all know they need to eat, so that’s not the problem. One of the children, especially, killed some animals he didn’t need to. It’s a magical island—did you know that? On this one island there are flamingos, bears, bison, and penguins.

Overall, I am impressed with how they thrived on the island–didn’t just survive. Positive attitudes, hard work, gratitude, and working together helped them achieve this. During this difficult pandemic, I think we could all learn some lessons from this family. Yep, if you’re going to get stranded on a deserted island, make sure the Swiss family Robinson family is with you!  I did like the book and think it’s worth reading.

Content Rating PG+Content Rating: PG+ (There is minimal profanity in this book. They do use the Biblical name for the donkey, which technically isn’t a swear word in that context, but my kids consider it one. There’s not any “intimacy,” and very little violence. They call the native people “savages,” which isn’t too PC, but it was written a long time ago.)

Age Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 3/5

3 Star Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/32o1ooa

 

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Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown What the Other Three Don't Know by Spencer Hyde
 
Photo Credit: goodreads.com
 

Book Review of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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Book Review of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

People ask me all the time what my all-time favorite book is. Well, here it is! I have LOVED Les Misérables for many, many years. I saw the Broadway play when I was younger, and it hooked me. I’ve read this book at least three times. The unabridged version, of course (1,463 pages)! I love, love, love it. Please enjoy my book review of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Did I mention that it’s my FAVORITE book??

Blurb:

“Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.”

My Book Review:

Wow! Where to start? This book is amazing. Simply amazing. It is my all-time favorite book! I LOVE this book! The character development is unsurpassed. Each character comes to life on the page. Hugo’s attention to the details about the characters allows them to become a part of your life. They become beloved friends, hated enemies, and family. These characters don’t disappear with the closing of the book, either. They stay on your mind for days and years after. You wonder about them, long to see them again.

There’s a lot of history in this book. To some people it may be too much, but I love every word of it. I thoroughly enjoy learning about the French Revolution and its key players. Hugo somehow manages to make it exciting. Now, if you’re not really a fan of long history lessons, you may enjoy the (gasp!) abridged version instead. I, however, love the history and the descriptions of the time period. I love the intricacy and craft of Hugo’s writing. No one writes like that anymore, and I wish they did.

Les Misérables is filled with emotion. As you read you’ll feel the whole range of emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get angry, and you’ll begin to see your own life differently. You’ll look at how you treat people, and how others are treated. You will feel gratitude for your blessings and circumstances. Yes, there are still unkind people and there are still unjust circumstances, but overall, living conditions have drastically improved since then.

If you want a new friend, one that will be with you for awhile, then this book is for you. You’ll have this friend with you for the rest of your life. It takes a long time to read this book, but while you read it becomes a part of you. I cry the last 200 pages. Seriously. I don’t ever want it to end. Please read this book then call me so we can talk about it! I love this book so much and I highly recommend it!

Content Rating PG-13+Rating: PG-13+ (There are war-time atrocities and themes along with prostitution. Some characters die, and there are other adult themes.)

Recommendation: 16+ years-old

My Rating: 5/5

5 Star Book Review Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here:

 

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the book thief by markus zusak The Rent Collector by Camron Wright  the nightingale by kristin hannah
 
 
This review was first published on 09/24/09; updated on 6/18/18.
 

Book Review of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Book Review of A Wrinkle in Time (Book #1) by Madeleine L'Engle

How have I never read this book? I don’t know, but when I saw that the movie was coming out, I told my kids that we needed to read it! We have been diligently reading almost every night to get it read in time. Whew! We finished! I sure hope the movie is good! (Look for my Book vs Movie showdown coming after we see the movie next week.) Are you looking to read the book or wondering what all the hype is about? Read my book review of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle to find out what we thought.

Blurb:

“Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure—one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

Winner of the 1963 Newberry Medal, A Wrinkle in Time is the first book in the Madeleine L’Engle’s classic Time Quintet.”

My Review:

Wow! What an adventure! A Wrinkle in Time takes you on a journey through the universe. Have you ever wondered what’s out there? Do you ever look up at the stars and imagine who or what lives on those planets, and what the stars are made of? Do you ever dream of traveling through the universe? Well then this book is for you! It’s very unique and imaginative. It seamlessly mixes fantasy and science fiction into an incredible tale of courage, sacrifice, and love.

I read this book aloud to my kids, and it was so fun to take this journey together. Even my 16 and 14 year-old boys sat with us. I thought it worked great as a read aloud. There are quite a few exceptional vocabulary words, and so it was good that I could explain (or look them up) if needed. I think it works for a read aloud for about 2nd grade and up, and as a silent read for middle-graders and YA.

I thought it was written well. The characters are so likable and realistic. Charles Wallace differs a little; he’s very likable, but a little hard to relate to. He’s very young and very smart. He reminds me of the main character in Ender’s Game. Meg thinks she’s ordinary, but does some extraordinary things. I love Calvin. He’s a sweet, thoughtful, smart, and caring friend. It’s hard not to like Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Yep, you read that correctly!

The story definitely takes you out of this world! Some of it is WAY out there. I had a friend tell me that she could never get into this book because of how far out there some of it is. I did feel that some of it was hard to grasp because it’s so unique, but since I was reading it with my kids I had to keep going. Once you let go of your boundaries and let your imagination take over, the story comes to life. We all enjoyed it.

As a mom, one thing I loved were the lessons learned. You get to see courage, sacrifice, bravery, and love in action. The characters do hard things that they don’t want to do, but they do them anyway. They learn to trust each other, and to trust themselves. I also love how much you need to use your imagination. As an adult, mine may not get used as often as it should, and it’s fun to delve into this crazy universe of ours.

 

Content Rating GRating: G (Clean! There’s no profanity, no “intimacy,” and no violence.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th) and up as a silent read and Early Readers (2nd-3rd grade) and up as a read aloud.

Rating: 4/5 stars

4 Star Rating

 Hurry! If you start reading now you may still be able to finish while the movie is still in the theaters! To purchase this book click here:  http://amzn.to/2p5WDLk
 

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The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson  Mysteries of Cove by J. Scott Savage
 
 

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Little Women


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Blurb:
“In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy are responsible for keeping a home while their father is off to war. At the same time, they must come to terms with their individual personalities–and make the transition from girlhood to womanhood. It can all be quite a challenge. But the March sisters, however different, are nurtured by wise and beloved Marmee and bound by their love for one another and the feminine strength they share. Readers of all ages have fallen instantly in love with Little Women. The story transcends time–making this novel endure as a classic piece of American literature that has captivated generations of readers with its charm, innocence, and wistful insights.”
My Review:
This book holds a place in my heart! I loved it as a young woman (I read it many times), and I loved it just as much this time. I hadn’t read it in years, but it doesn’t matter; picking it up is like finding a long-lost childhood friend. Jo, Meg, Beth, Amy, and Laurie are like old friends, and it was so fun meeting them again after so many years apart. I LOVE this book! I love the carefully crafted language–books are not written with such beautifully crafted language any more. I love the descriptions, the conversations, the antics, and the characters. I love how simple life seemed in the early nineteenth-century. I know it had its difficulties; there was a war going on, they didn’t have a lot of money, women didn’t have as many opportunities as they do now, but they all sat together by the fire at night and sewed, read, and talked. As children they didn’t need tv, video games, or ipods, they had  their imaginations and the big world outside. I love that. I enjoyed reading about the plays they put on when they were younger, and the little club they had. Even though it sometimes jumps to different characters, it’s easy to transition, and you know exactly which sister is being spotlighted in that chapter. It’s so fun to see the sisters grow and mature. You see them grow up before your eyes, and reading it from a mother’s perspective brings a whole new side to the book. How obvious is it that I love this book? Can you tell?? Yeah, just a little! I definitely recommend this book! It takes a minute to get used to the writing because it’s so different from today’s literature, but I promise it’s worth it! This book will take a little bit longer to read because of the language, but once again, it’s so worth it! I hope this new generation of young girls will be able to learn to love the language and this story. I know my kids are used to faster-paced books and lots of action, but I hope to be able to instill in them a love of the classics as well.
Rating: PG (No language or “intimacy.” A character dies and it’s really sad. Other than that, it’s clean.)
Recommendation: YA (13 and up) It’s clean, but the younger girls may not be able to understand or appreciate it as much. 

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Blurb (From amazon.com):
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.”

My Review:

This is one of my all time favorite books! It is a classic and still a great read! I read it in school and have reread it several times. I appreciate it more every time I read it. Atticus Finch is a single father raising his two children, Jem and Scout. He has a nanny that cooks and takes care of the children, and she is an African-American woman. Next door to them lives Boo Radley, who never comes out of the house. The story goes through the trials of being a single father, growing up in the 1930’s, and the relationships between races at that time. Atticus is a lawyer who is asked to defend an African-American boy accused of raping a white girl. Harper Lee did a very good job in this book. It is very well written. I love the way she writes. I love her descriptions, her character development, and the way she seamlessly traverses difficult subjects. I love the lessons that are taught in this book. It is timeless. The issues brought up in the book are still in the news today; I love books whose messages are relevant to all ages and eras. I wish some of the issues in this book were no longer issues today; however, since they are still issues, books like this are great to help us see beyond the trees and into the forest.

There are some very adult issues discussed in this book that may be too much for younger readers to understand and deal with. (Do I really want to go into rape with my 11 year-old son? No.) There is the rape trial and other racial issues. With that said, older junior high students (9th grade) and high school students will definitely benefit from reading this book.

 Rated: PG-13 (Racial issues and a  rape trial.)

Recommendation: High School and Up. This is a great read for a high school English class. This book may be appropriate for a mature 9th grader as well. As is always the case, I recommend that parents read this book first to determine whether or not their child is mature enough to handle the issues discussed.

   

*This review was originally posted on 4/28/09, but has been updated. 

Book Review of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We all know the story. Scrooge is a mean spirited old man who doesn’t like Christmas or anything happy, for that matter. He works with Bob Cratchett, and will not allow him enough fire to stay warm. He pays him very little and detests that he wants one day off for Christmas. He used to have a partner, Marley, but he passed away. Christmas eve Scrooge goes home and Marley’s ghost comes to visit him. Marley’s ghost carries heavy chains and tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts that night. So the ghost of Christmas past comes, then the ghost of Christmas present, and then the ghost of Christmas yet to be. Scrooge sees the Cratchett family with Tiny Tim, he sees himself dead, and he sees many of his good past memories. These memories and feelings are enough to give Scrooge the motivation to change his life.

I have heard the story before, I’ve seen a few different movie versions, and I actually acted as Mrs. Cratchett in third grade. So I like the story a lot; however, I have never read the real Charles Dickens’ version. I really enjoyed it. I love the language in many of the classics. I love the attention to detail, the descriptions, and the feeling of this book. It did take a minute to get back into the language, but I loved it. I love the message of this story. I love that it teaches living life to the fullest and the importance of families. I love that it teaches that it’s never too late to change. This is the perfect story for Christmas time. I think I’ll make it an annual read, and maybe read it to my kids next year.

Rating: PG  (It’s a great clean book for all ages. It might be a little scary for the little ones.)

Recommendation: Everyone can read and enjoy this book!

This review was originally posted on 12/24/11

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “It is hard enough for Mr. Popper to support himself, Mrs. Popper, Bill, and Janie Popper. The addition of twelve penguins to the family makes it almost impossible to make ends meet. Now Mr. Popper has sixteen mouths to feed! But Mr. Popper has a splendid idea–the talented penguins would be a sensation on stage!”
I love penguins! I’ll just put that out there. When I taught first grade I had a HUGE penguin unit. When I go to SeaWorld I have to go spend time with the penguins. I have read and studied them like crazy. I have seen every penguin documentary out there. Crazy? Yep. I know. But it’s ok. We’ll just keep my little obsession a secret, ok? I think that is why I like this book so much. It’s a little nerdy, but it’s super fun and there are lots of penguins in it. I, of course, read this book to my students while we studied the penguins. I have also read it to all my children. And they have all enjoyed it as much as I have. It’s just crazy and fun. I love Mr. Popper. He’s very funny and quirky. The penguins are the star of the show, and I love their different personalities. I think the accommodations Mr. Popper makes for the penguins in the house are creative and well thought out. I do have to say that I relate to Mrs. Popper a lot more than I want to right now. Haha…..she goes crazy with the mess the penguins make in the house. Four kids make a big enough mess in my house, I can’t imagine adding twelve penguins to the mix. I also hate to be cold, so having a freezer and an ice rink as a basement wouldn’t make me happy either. The performances that the penguins do are imaginative, and the kids love to hear about all the crazy things the penguins do, especially the mischievous things they do. This book is fun for all ages, is clean, and makes a great read-aloud! My daughter’s second grade class read it for their book group, and it was a little difficult for her to read, but she could read some of it by herself. My kindergartener loved listening as well. (Shhh…..don’t tell my fifth and sixth graders that I know they were listening even though they were pretending they were too cool to listen to this story as well. 🙂
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: As a silent read second grade might be ok for really good readers. For sure third grade. As a read-aloud, preschool and up will enjoy it. It’s great for everyone!

Great Expectations

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
(Summary taken from the inside book cover) “Bound for life as a lowly blacksmith, Philip “Pip” Pirrip desperately wants to impress beautiful Estella, the spoiled ward of Miss Havisham, a wealthy and bizarre woman. But Estella has a heart of stone, and she makes Pip miserable every time he visits her at Miss Havisham’s dreary old mansion. Then fate steps in: a secret benefactor sets Pip up as a well-to-do gentleman with a fanciful life in London. But something sinister from his past is lurking in the shadows. Will Pip thrive in his new life? Is Estella his true love and soul mate? And will Pip’s past forever haunt him?”
I read Dicken’s “A Tale of Two Cities” years ago, and remember enjoying it, so I was excited to read “Great Expectations.” Unfortunately, this book just didn’t meet my great expectations (haha….I couldn’t resist). It was Pip. He drove me crazy. He was a spoiled brat. I thought he was ungrateful, mean, condescending, unintelligent, uncaring, and distasteful. I didn’t like him at all. And seeing how he was the main character, that made this a long and difficult read. It took me a very long time to read this book. I found it difficult to read, and slow going, because there were many words that I did not know. They may have been well known in Dicken’s time, but they are meaningless now, and so I just had to plow through and guess at their meanings. There were some things I liked about this book. I liked Joe. He was so patient, loving, selfless, and hard working. I liked Wemmick and Herbert as well. They brought humor, love, friendship, loyalty, and selflessness to the book, and I was thankful for that.
I do like the cover of this book. The cover is actually the reason I got to read this book. Splinter New York had Sara Singh design their covers for the classics, and I really like them. I think the picture of Pip is right on. I like the expression on his face, and think the simple elegance of it fits the time period well. I think it looks pretty and am definitely putting it on display in the cabinet in my entryway.
Rating: PG+ (A few profane words, violence, murder)
Recommendation: 13 and up, just because I don’t think anyone younger would be able to understand the language of the book, or care about it.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

[Book Review] Emma by Jane Austen

Emma by Jane Austen

Emma

by

Jane Austen

Blurb:

“Pretty, rich Emma Woodhouse loves to meddle and is sure she knows best when it comes to love. So why not play cupid and bring couples together? But Emma sometimes interferes too much in her friends’ lives. And none of the men Emma knows meet her own high standards for a husband. Will her good intentions ruin other people’s chance for love? Is there a man who can truly understand Emma and win her heart?”

My Review:

I love Jane Austen! I love the language, the flow, the characters, and the stories. I get sucked into the time period and find myself living in a world very different from our own. This book is no different. I read it when I was in junior high, so it has been awhile. It did take a few pages to get back into the language, but then I really enjoyed it. Emma drove me crazy because she always had her nose in someone else’s business, but she was adorable at the same time. Her father seemed old and cranky, but she loved him and took good care of him. The characters are so fun. I could just picture the neighborhood and each individual personality living there. I thought a lot about what they do with all their time. They don’t speak a whole lot about work, and yet they can afford big estates and servants. What did they do for work? What did they do with all their time? Sometimes I wish we could go back to a more quiet time like that. No tv or video games, no texting or soccer/dance/basketball/piano lessons. Just living and enjoying the moment. That would be nice. Then again, maybe not. I love most of our modern day conveniences. The story is somewhat slow moving, but that is what I like about Jane Austen books. I love that I can read and get caught up in her world.

The reason I read this particular edition of Emma was to showcase the new artwork on the cover. I really like it, and think it embodies the time period well. It is published by Splinter New York, and illustrated by Sara Singh.

Rating: PG (Only brief kissing and flirting)

Recommendation: 13 and up (I think I read it about age 13, and I loved it.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Forever and Forever by Josi Kilpack   Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen

First published: 2/25/13, Updated: 12/15/17

Coming Home

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) “This is a novel to be savored, a curl-up-under-the-covers kind of old-fashioned reading experience hardly anyone knows how to write anymore. In telling the story of Judith Dunbar and her loved ones, Rosamunde Pilcher writes with warmth, wisdom, and clear-eyed insight about every family. This is a totally involving story of coming of age, coming to terms with both love and sadness, and, in every sense of the words, Coming Home.”

This is a really long book. There are 728 pages in the version I read. I did enjoy it, though. I haven’t read a “classic-type” book like this in a long time, so it took me about 150 pages before I got into it and could read it a little faster. The language is beautiful. I loved the descriptions and pictures that Ms. Pilcher paints with her words. I could almost smell the sea and feel the cool breezes.The character development is well done as well. I love Judith and feel for her. It felt like she could be my cousin or neighbor. I love Nancherrow and the people that live there. I also really like Aunt Lavinia and Judith’s aunts and uncle. The story is about Judith’s life growing up and how her family and those around her are affected by the war, and how they each end up “coming home.” It has a cozy feeling to it, and it does make you feel like you are home. It’s familiar.

I didn’t like the transitions at all, however. You’ll be right in the middle of a story with one character, then there is a little symbol on the page and all of a sudden you are reading about someone completely different. It threw me off every time. It takes a second to figure out who you are reading about and what he or she is doing. I also thought it ended quite abruptly. For having 728 pages I thought it needed about 30 more to finish it. There is some language in this book, including the “f” word a few times. There is also quite a bit of promiscuity. For some reason I had in my head that people living at the time of WWII wore chastity belts or something. Hahahaha. Nope.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I don’t know if it is considered a classic, but it has a “classic-type” feel, which I enjoyed because I haven’t read one in so long. I would recommend it with the previous warnings.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, “physical intimacy,” and some war atrocities.)

Recommendation: 18 and up