Tuesday, December 21, 2010


"Heidi" by Johanna Spyri is one of my all time favorites. Every time I read it, it's like reading it for the first time again (and I should know... I think this was my fourth, uh, fifth time reading it.). I feel everything that the young girl feels: her compassion, her pain as she leaves home, her joy, her sorrow, and most of all... her love for the Swiss mountains, her grandfather, her goats, and her friends; of which she has many. It is such a fun book to read anytime. But let me proceed to the synopsis:It all begins with a woman named Detie dragging a five year old girl up a mountain to take the child to her grandfather. It seems like an ordinary scene, except for the fact that the young girl - Heidi (as you may have guessed), has never met her grandfather. And there are rumors everywhere that "Uncle Alp", as he is called, is the meanest man alive. But once he meets Heidi, his heart starts to soften, and he grows to love her. Heidi also grows to love him, and her new home.  But one day, years later, Detie returns, wanting to take Heidi with her. She tells Heidi that she is going to live in Frankfurt, with a girl named Clara, who is very sickly, and must be in a wheel-chair. She then promises Heidi that she can come back as soon as she likes. So Heidi is taken away from her home, and her grandfather, and goes to live with the Sesemann household. She meets Clara, and Sebastian, the butler; Miss Rottenmier, the lady in charge; Tinette, the maid; and many others during her stay. Secretly, Heidi longs for her grandfather, and the days in the mountains. She waits for when she can go home, and be free again....
This book, published in 1880, is great. I give it 5 stars, and would recommend it to any age. My copy is 283 pages, but it is more of an easy read. I hope that everyone who reads it enjoys this book as I do.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Very Charleston"

I told my mom a while ago, "They should make more school books with pictures like we read when we were little. Pictures of what the houses, clothes, cars and furniture would have looked like in a certain era, in a certain town. 
"Very Charleston"by Diana Hollingsworth Gessler  did that with its watercolor illustrations, it's informative (and sometimes humorous) captions, and its maps scattered throughout the book. I loved this book! It takes you through the streets of Charleston, SC. within its 6 chapters. It's divided into
1) South of Broad
3) Charleston Harbor
4) North of Calhoun
5) Mt. Pleasant and the Islands
6) The Lowcountry
It also has an appendix, acknowledgements, and an index. This book is a must read for everyone. If you already love the South, you will love this, and if you aren't as much of a Southern person.... it will make you one. It gives you plenty of information without completely giving you a headache. The way the author has the book set up makes it very enjoyable, and "Very Charleston". It has 145 pages (without counting the appendix, acknowledgements, and index - then it's 159), and is appropriate for any age, although ages 8 and up would probably get the most out of it. I give it 5 stars! Here is a small sample (sorry, it's the best one I could find!) and the one on the left is another work of art by the author.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"
"The Worst  Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson is one of those books you pick up when you need some Christmas cheer and humor to brighten up your day. I read it for the first time last year, and from time to time my family could hear me laughing in my room at the comments and jokes made by the unforgettable characters. It starts with the Herdman children:
The worst six kids in the history of the world. Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys. They do all sorts of bad things, and were never expected to be tangled up in any way with the church Christmas pageant. But thanks to Charlie, the brother of the girl who narrates the story, the Herdman kids show up at church one Sunday expecting cookies, cake and ice cream because of a lie he (Charlie) told. And because the usual director of the play, Mrs. McCarthy is stuck in the hospital, the story unfolds.  Imogene asks what the Christmas pageant is about, and when told that it's about Jesus, her reply is "Everything here is." So no one worries about it, assuming that the Herdmans won't want to stick around any longer. But they do. And pretty soon the Christmas pageant is starring the Herdman children as Joseph, Mary, the wise men and the angel of the Lord. Everyone expects it to be a total disaster... six kids who have never heard the Christmas story before starring in the Christmas pageant? But the performance makes everyone think about how the first Christmas really was. I love this book. It's an easy read, but I still enjoyed it and give it 5 stars! It would work wonderfully as a read-aloud. It has 108 pages, and 7 chapters. And it is very funny.
If this book ever enters your home library, it's sure to become a classic.


"Roller Skates"

"Roller Skates" by Ruth Sawyer is a wonderful book, which I can say I enjoyed thoroughly. Based on the first couple chapters, I thought it more of a dull and boring book, but the story picked up as it went along, and by the end of the book I was almost in tears. The book takes place in 1890's New York City, where ten year old Lucinda is spending her year while her parents are in Europe. Lucinda quickly makes many friends while staying with Miss Peters, and loves her new life as an "Orphan".  Lucinda goes from being a girl not much concerned with the needs of others, to being a mature and thoughtful girl. She puts on plays, "borrows" friends for the afternoon, and celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas during the 10 chapters. "Roller Skates" is 186 pages, and the chapters are a nice length. I think that anyone over the age of five would appreciate the story, but really any age would be fine. It is a Newberry, and well written (and those of you who know me know that I love books like that!) At the end they weave in something to make the book - which has become very sad - sweet and touching. I think this book will become a favorite of mine, and I will read it a few more times. I give it 5 stars out of 5! Oh, and one more thing worth adding: the illustrations by Valenti Angelo are simple and beautiful, and are just the kind I like!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Shades of Gray"

"Shades of Gray" by Carolyn Reeder is a book that I wasn't sure if I would enjoy, because there are a few school books that I don't like as much as others. But this one was different.
The main character is Will Page, a twelve year-old boy dealing with the ruins of the Civil War. Everyone in his family has died and left him alone, and so he has to go and live with relatives in the ruined Virginia Piedmont.  It wouldn't be too bad living with the poor family, but the worst of it is he'll be living under the same roof as his Uncle Jed, who refused to fight in the war. Will considers his Uncle a traitor, and then a coward, until he finally learns the truth. So at a first glance, this book doesn't look like much, right? But it is well written, and won "The Scott O'Dell Award". And other things are involved. There's Meg, his cousin. She is a character that can change the course of the book with a word, and I think if she hadn't been in the book, it would have been a little boyish for me. But Meg comes into certain situations, and it gives the book a nice feel.  Then they house a Union soldier, Jim Woodley. Will is not exactly thrilled about this.  But he soon realizes that many kind people fought in the war - or didn't - because of their beliefs. And when he has to make an important decision, he finally comes to the truth, based on the many lessons he learned while staying with the Jones family. This book has a nice message concealed inside the pages. I give it 5 stars (out of 5) and recommend it to anyone 8 years old or older. It has 17 chapters and 152 pages.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Across Five Aprils"

"Across Five Aprils" is another book taking place during the Civil War. It is by Irene Hunt, and is for all ages.  The Newberry Honor book taking place in Illinois is about Jethro Creighton, a young boy; and his family.  It is very informative, and is great for anyone studying the 1860's.  The characters all feel so real, and you find yourself reading page after page, waiting to see what will happen. It has 12 chapters, but all of them are on the longer side. It has 212 pages, and I hate to say this young readers, but it (or at least my copy) does not have any pictures.  Jethro endures many things during the five Aprils the book takes place, and many of them involve sad news. But there is also joy, a letter from the president, and good news regarding his older sister Jenny, and her boyfriend (also the previous school teacher), Shadrach Yale.  I give this book 5 stars, because it was touching, well written, and one of the "Gems". I would recommend it to anyone, boy or girl. It is a wonderful book, and I have a feeling that I will read it many times in the years to come. It is a very inspiring book, and worth a read.
Natalia :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Leaving Gee's Bend"

Hey there, world. Sorry for not posting that much. But here is a new book review (for "big kids"!)

"Leaving Gee's Bend" by Irene Latham is inspired by a true story taking place in a rural "island" in Alabama... Gee's Bend.  The main character is ten year old  Ludelphia Bennett, who does a courageous thing, even though she's blind in one eye. Her mother comes down with pneumonia while delivering her baby daughter, and it seems like she'll never get well again. So Ludelphia decides to do all she can to help. Even if it means leaving Gee's Bend, crossing the river, going to Camden - which is forty miles away, sleeping in a barn, meeting Mrs. Cobb... the lady she was specifically warned not to run into, going to the doctor, writing a letter to the red cross, and secretly riding in a wagon. She learns that Gee's Bend is the place she loves most. This story is very sad. But it has that uplifting feel most melancholy books have.
It portrays the dialect of those living in the south during that time in what I think is a very realistic way (but I wouldn't know, I wasn't living then.) .
It is 230 pages, but has a larger print compared to some books. It has an Author's Note, where Irene Latham explains where the idea came from. It also has acknowledgements. I recommend this for anyone 8 and up, and although anyone can read it, I think of it more as a girl's book. I give this book (which was just published this year, by the way.) 5 stars!


Friday, November 19, 2010

"Earl the Squirrel"

I know that I haven't posted a lot lately, we have been very busy, so there has been less time for reading. Right now I am working on reading a couple different books, but for now, here's a children's book for the youngest ones reading this :)
"Earl the Squirrel" by Don Freeman (the author of "Corduroy") is the sad tale of Earl, who, as you may have guessed, is a squirrel. One night his mother tells him he must go hunt for acorns on his own, with no help at all from her or anyone else. Because his human friend, Jill, is not able to give him an acorn, she gives him a little red scarf to wear. It is good luck for Earl, as one night he goes on a journey to find an acorn. Earl is the cutest hero, and little kids love to ask questions, and laugh at certain parts. It is really cute, and the illustrations are very nice. I say anybody under 8 years old would love this book, but if you want to know a secret... I think I kind of enjoyed it myself. If you have a toddler in your life, I would recommend this book.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Because of Winn-Dixie"

"Because of Winn-Dixie" by Kate Dicamillo is one of my favorite books.
India Opal Buloni is one of those characters that you feel is "real", because their story is so touching. While the red haired, freckled face preacher's daughter is certainly a part of the story, so is her dog. It all starts when she goes to the Winn-Dixie grocery store. When she sees that a big, ugly dog is about to be sent to the pound, her heart is broken. She soon finds herself telling a major lie, but that lie entirely changes the course of her Summer. Opal is very lonely in her new town. She hardly knows any kids in town, and her father makes things no better. He is always like a turtle, sticking his head inside a shell, and hiding in it. And Opal has no mother... or at least with her. Her mother left when she was young, and Opal has no idea where she is, but is finding herself thinking more about her mother than ever before.  Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal meets many friends and even finds a job.   Miss Franny, Otis, and Gloria Dump all prove to be wonderful friends, and Opal doesn't care if they're adults. The stories Miss Franny tells keep Opal busy in the morning, the work at the pet shop keeps her busy in the afternoon, and at night, she goes to Gloria's house.  Since Miss Franny is a librarian, Opal asks for a suggestion for a book to read to Gloria - who is blind. She soon starts reading to her, and that's when the idea comes to her. The story comes to a close while they're having a party, and it sort of ties in everything, and sums up the book. This book is sad, sweet, and well written, and the humor comes through at times. Winn-Dixie is a lovable dog, and his charming ways are what make the book so sweet. It even has a Newberry Honor! And if you don't read this book, Kate Dicamillo is a wonderful author, and all of her books are great! But as for "Because of Winn-Dixe", I give it 5 stars and it is 192 pages and could be read by anyone!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Turn Homeward, Hannalee"

"Turn Homeward, Hannalee" By Patricia Beatty is a book about a part of the Civil War not as well known.
Hannalee Reed and her family have always worked at the mill in Roswell, Georgia. Their father died a few years before, and Davey, their older brother is at home for a few days... before leaving to go back to the Confederate Army. One day, Hannalee and her younger brother, Jem are taken away from Roswell by Yankee soldiers, and forced to work at a mill in the north, but this time, it's blue cloth they're making. Before they leave, Hannalee promises to "turn homeward", and come back to her pregnant mother as soon as she can. She leaves with the persimmon seed button given to her by her mother as a reminder to come home, the clothes on her back, and Jem. She gets separated from Jem, and Davey's fiance, Rosellen , and is left all alone. But she is brave, and does whatever she can to keep everyone together. She masquerades as a boy, witnesses a battle, and finds out heartbreaking news about Davey.  Certain parts of this books are a bit predictable. Other parts are actually surprising. This book is very sweet, and I love how the importance of family is stressed. This book was very good, but it may only get four stars, and maybe even 3 1/2. Overall, this book (approved for all ages, by the way) tells of the journey of one girl as she finds her way back home. At the end of the 208 page book, there is an Author's Note. I can recommend this to anyone looking for a Civll War easy read.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"The Greatest Stories Never Told"

"The Greatest Stories Never Told" by Rick Beyer is a collection of 100 shocking stories beginning in 46 B.C. and going on until 1990 A.D. The stories are all about what REALLY happened during certain events. Leaf Erickson didn't really discover North America.... the pilgrims landed on Plymouth because they ran out of beer.... one of the best baseball players of all time never made it into the major leagues... we had a year with 14 months! These are just a few of the interesting tidbits you will find tucked into this nice book. On one page, you will find a story (and I'll bet you you've never heard 2/3s of them!), and on the page to the right, you will find pictures, photographs and quotes. They are all amazing, and I would definitely recommend it for all students - or at least older students. I wouldn't want to confuse younger children, because the things you read can be a completely different side of the story than what you've always heard.

I really enjoy this extraordinary book, and love that you can read it at just about any pace. I have come back to it over and over again. I hope that you like it as much as me. If you see it somewhere.... buy it or check it out! It is a total "Gem". I give it those 5 stars it deserves! I would recommend this to anyone ages 9 and up.

"Jacob's Rescue"

                                "Jacob's Rescue" by Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin is the touching story of young Jacob Gutgeld, a Jewish  boy taken away from all he's ever known to live with the Roslan family in 1939. This book is so sad yet so inspiring, and the fact that it's based on a true story makes it even more sad and inspiring. Alex Roslan promises him two things
1) He will be safe while living with his family.
2) He is a Jew, and although they are Christian, they will not try to convert him, and let him stay a Jew.
The family does all they can to help the Jews living in Poland, including taking in Jacob's brothers, moving from house to house to protect Jacob's identity and risking their own lives everyday.  This book is definitely a tear-jerker, but is very good, and leaves you thinking about the significant time period Jacob lived through.

This book is good for anyone who truly understands the Holocaust, and reading-wise, shouldn't be too hard for eight year olds and up. I  enjoyed this book and read it in a day. It has 117 pages (and two more with pictures) and I give it 5 stars!

Natalia :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol's Orphans"

"George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol's Orphans" by Janet and Geoffe Benge is a book about none other than... George Muller.
The year is 1821, and a sixteen year old boy is sitting in prison on Christmas day for going to a fancy inn, and leaving without paying.  George is waiting for someone to come and break him out of there, and for the time being it's his father. But George needs someone else in his life to break him out of other situations. Within the next few years, George is saved, and does all he can to be a light for God.
Fifteen years after his Christmas in prison,  George is sitting at the table to eat a Christmas feast with his wife, his partner and 60 orphans.
If I had to pick one word to sum this book up, I would think about it and choose: Inspiring.  Here is a bit of a summary:
The Mullers decide to start an orphanage right in their own community, and pray. Hardly having enough money to feed their own family, they continue to trust God for all their needs. George's simple idea soon becomes a reality to over 10,000 orphans in the years to come. They never fail to pray to God, and never go a night without a meal, without heat, and without a child to look up to them. This book is amazing. I was looking for a book to pick up and read the other day, and chose this one. I remembered this book from reading it in Kindergarten, and I also remembered the impact it left on me. I could hardly stop reading it, and finished it very quickly. It has 205 pages and 17 chapters. Even if you don't read this certain well written book in the "Christian Heroes: Then and Now" series,  I would encourage you to read another miraculous book in the series. They have everyone from Gladys Alward to C.S. Lewis.
But if you do decide to read this one.... good for you! It is a wonderful book, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. I give it 5 stars out of 5, and I think it is appropriate for everyone.

BTW, if anyone is out there.... feel free to leave comments!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"The Perilous Road"

War. Gunshots. Hate. The type of book that you would think I would never be reviewing. But I decided to make this blog public, so who knows, maybe there is someone out there wanting to read a review on this book I had to read for school.

"The Perilous Road" is a book about Chris Brabson, a southern boy living during the Civil War. But the book is also about much more.  It tells his story beautifully, but  better than that, it tells everybody's story. There's the North, there's the South, and everyone must pick a side.  Chris hates the "Yankees", and wants nothing to do with  them. I mean, why do they think they know what's best for the South? And if the issue is slavery.... he doesn't own any slaves, and neither does his family!  So Chris is shocked when his brother, Jethro, decides to go join up with the Union.  The family suffers many things the next few weeks.  First, the Yankees (the way Chris refers to them) take all their food. And their plow horse. Chris immediately decides to hate the Union forever. 
The war is soon between two brothers, and Chris is determined to do whatever he can for the Confederacy... even spy for them. There are many other elements to the book, including a friendship with a hunter and spy, Silas; dealing with family, and.... Mules.
At a first glance I was not that thrilled to be reading this book. But I found myself getting into it a bit, and so if you have to read a book about the Civil War, this would be an excellent choice. So often we tend to think of the North as the "Good Guys", and the South as the "Bad Guys". I love how this book tells a Civil War story from the perspective of a southern boy.  It has really given me some insight on the Confederacy side. I think this Newberry Honor book by William O. Steele is appropriate for ages 7+. For the rating, I give it 4 Stars out of 5.

Natalia :-)

"Eight Cousins" By Louisa May Alcott

I have a confession to make. I love "Boring Books". You know, classics written in the 1800's? The ones with no monsters, lava, crashes or vampires? The ones that unfortunately sit in the back of the library looking for bookworms like me to read them?

Well, "Eight Cousins" is a bit like that. Everyone probably knows this author for her heartfelt masterpiece, "Little Women". Although "Eight Cousins" may not be as well known, it should be.

Our main character is Rose, a thirteen year old girl, who was recently orphaned. She is sent to live on Aunt Hill, a place where her six aunts (all having their own ideas on bringing up children) live. She is soon overwhelmed by the chaos - that is, until her Uncle Alec shows up. He thinks the pills the aunts give her do nothing for the unhealthy body, and soon prescribes his own "medicine". Fresh air, light and adventure. The horrified aunts give him one year with Rose to see how much her health improves after his experiment. Rose learns to love the man, as if he was her own father. Meanwhile, she shares all her wonderful adventures with Phoebe, the maid; and her seven male cousins she has just met. She does not like boys, but soon finds them to be the perfect companions. There is Archie, their leader; Charlie, his chum; Mac "The Worm", Jamie, the baby; Steve "The Dandy", and the "Brats".... Will and Geordie, two very mischievous boys.

This book is one of my favorites. It definitely wouldn't take over a month to read, maybe around a couple weeks. Medium length chapters, and a simple and fun plot make for a very enjoyable. I think everyone over the age of eight should read this at some point.
I give it 4 stars out of 5!

Natalia :-)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"The Penderwicks"

Enter Arundel, an estate where the four Penderwick sisters are staying for three weeks. There is pretty and practical Rosalind, smart and sarcastic Skye, dreamy and bookwormish  Jane, and Batty: the shy one with the butterfly wings. The Penderwicks is a newer book with an old-fashioned feel.  I love it, and give it 5 stars out of 5!
It all begins with their normal cottage they rent for the Summer being taken.  What will they do?  They hear of another one available and decide to go there.  This is definitely no ordinary vacation, though.  The girls meet Jeffrey, the boy living in the mansion in front of their quaint and tiny lodge, and instantly know that the Summer will be an unforgettable one.   They find themselves in many adventures in the days that follow, and even find out some secrets about the past of Jeffrey's family.  One thing they must watch out for though : Mrs. Tifton... Jeffrey's strict  mother (and her boyfriend, Dexter, too).
Jeffrey isn't the only friend they meet at Arundel, however. There is Cagney , the teenage gardner (who Rosalind befriends, and copies every detail for her next letter to her friend, Anna.), Churchie: The Arundel cook, Harry the Tomato Guy, and of course, Yaz and Carla (Cagney's rabbits.)

Since discovering this magnificently written book a couple years ago, I just read it for what was probably the fourth time, in addition to reading the sequel (which I don't remember that much.) It is certainly an "Instant Classic."
Let me put it this way: If you have not yet read this National Book Award winning book by Jeanne Birdsall, you should. It is one of those books you just pick up and read for hours. It only takes up to maybe 2 or 3 weeks to read (Again, considering the youngest readers here!), and is 262 pages.

Natalia :-)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

For my first review, I wanted a book that is one of my favorites, and something that I thought at least 75% of people would like. I have to read ten books from a certain reading list and write reviews for them this winter (and fall) for my homeschool group. But when you have all your books packed away, it's a little hard. So, I found a solution for all my requests, which included the one that lately I've had this odd craving for a short and easy book that wouldn't take long to read.

So I decided on choosing a free book available on my iPod.So, what did I choose? "The Wizard of Oz." I love this book so much. I got my first copy of it when we moved to Kansas, and have read it many times since. Most of you know this classic by Lyman Frank Baum written in 1900, or at least the popular movie based on the book.

 I give this book 5 stars out of 5!

The main character is Dorothy, a young girl living in Kansas: a dull, ugly and gray place. However, she doesn't live alone. She lives with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, and of course, Toto... her little black dog. One day, she and Toto are whisked away by a tornado, and end up in a magical land. She is told that the only way to get back to Kansas is to go see the Great Wizard, Oz. Eager to do anything - as long as it means getting home -, Dorothy sets out to go find this wizard. Along the way, she meets some of the most lovable and charming characters you will ever read about. They encounter many dangerous and sometimes humorous situations on their way to the Emerald City. The quintet makes some extraordinary discoveries about themselves throughout the book, and it is so much fun to see it as they realize that what they were looking for had been there all along.

One other thing is the magic issue. It says in the Bible that we are to stay away from sorcery, and so the title may tend to throw people off at times. I cannot tell you too much about the wizard if you have not read it, but I can tell you that he is a humble creature, therefore making no impression of being a god or having bad or voodoo magic. It is a rather innocent and sweet book, and Dorothy is merely trying to get back to her home. Overall, I enjoy this 24 (short) chapters  book, and would say it's appropriate for ages five and up. It usually only takes me less than a week to read (it is one of my favorites, though.) but 2-3  weeks may be necessary for younger bookworms.  I love this book. It is so quaint and wonderful and takes me to a land where everyone is polite and charming, where scarecrows wish for hearts, and men are made of tin, and witches are lovely and nice. There are many details not in the movie, so it is a must read for everyone!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Welcome to My Book Nook!

So, here is my new blog! It is a place to find  book reviews and summaries on everything from historical books I'm reading for school to classics. I recently wrote a book review on the book I was reading, but I left it at my house when I went on vacation, so when I get back I will post it. Meanwhile, I am working on the layout and style of this blog. I hope you like it!! I do not want anyone to feel that they MUST agree with everything I say about certain books, but I do hope that they will respect my opinions and give me theirs.