My last 5 Audio Reads

In January of this year, I signed up for an Audible Membership. Over the past 8 months, I have listened to several books this way. I wanted to share my thoughts on the last 5.

 Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness

Regardless of your thoughts on various sects of Christianity, each woman presented in Eric Metaxes’ book has some wonderful character traits we could stand to emulate. All of them were incredibly brave and all stepped out in faith. In the introduction, Metaxes does a superb job explaining why he chose these seven women. His goal was not to choose women who had been the first woman to do something, but who were able to do what they did because they were a woman. My favorite section and the woman I would most like to emulate would be Corrie Ten Boom. Which brings me to my next audio book:

Tramp for the Lord

I have listened to this book twice already and definitely want to purchase a hardcopy for my personal library. Corrie Ten Boom was an amazing woman. She and her family risked their lives to help save Jews from the Nazi regime. Several of her family members gave their lives for this cause. I have several chunks of this book “clipped” so I can go back and remember important ideas she shares. Follow Corrie on her path around the world and join her in her fearlessness in sharing God’s love with everyone she meets.

Disciplines of a Godly Woman (Redesign)

This book is a practical book to help Christian woman live a Godly life. Barbara Hughes gives specific ways to help you put God at the center of your life. A few things that were convicting and motivating for me were:

  • her discussion on meditating and studying scripture. As well as her encouragement to memorize scripture.
  • thinking continually on Christ.
  • thinking about what I am watching on tv and doing with my time. On my phone, I wrote some notes to myself about this specifically. Am I having conversation with people? Or looking at my phone?

This book will certainly help you put somethings into perspective.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing)

This book is a pretty quick read. Jen Wilkin focuses on the attributes we can only attribute to God. I do wish I had known there were scriptures and reflection questions presented at the end of each chapter. I plan to get a hard copy of this book too. I have so much I want to highlight and mark up! I love how she encourages us to be cautious of the Instagram Bible. Today it is too easy for us to feel like we are filling up on God’s Word without actually reading the Bible. As a bonus, this book is read by Jen herself!

Side note: if you are unfamiliar with Jen Wilkin you are in for a treat! She has several Bible studies and podcast teachings available FOR FREE at http://jenwilkin.podbean.com

Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life

This book is a guide to do just what it says. Author Ruth Soukup shares her personal story about debt and learning to budget in this practical guide to money. She writes, “We must learn to control our love of money or it will control us.” If you are struggling to control your money or just want a few more practical ways to save, you should check this book out. She also has a lot of resources on her website http://www.livingwellspendingless.com

Random note on Audio books:

  1. You can sign up for Audibles via amazon for free for 30 days. This gives you TWO FREE credits which translates into TWO FREE BOOKS! If you cancel, you will be presented with a few other options like paying every other month or maybe even a reduced price if you sign up for 3 months. (The options appear to change, so it may be completely different when you are reading this.)
  2. Overdrive is a public library app you can access free. My relatively small town public library uses it, so I imagine most public libraries have it now. You can check out ebooks and audio books FREE!

The Daring Ladies of Lowell

Interest Level: Mature/Adult

“But it is changing,” Benjamin Stanhope said. “None of us can hold things where we want them to be. It is all slipping and changing, Alice.”  Change is the theme in The Daring Ladies of Lowell. These daring ladies stepped off their family farms in hopes of changing their futures. Once in Lowell, they began to take steps to change their working conditions. As much as many of us despise change, we can’t deny that sometimes, it’s the only way  things can ever be different.

Alice Barrow left her father and their farm to find new opportunities and independence as a mill girl in Lowell, Massachusetts. There, she finds more than she bargained for. She is instantly drawn toward Lovey Cornell, a girl full of jokes and laughter. They spend their evening hours on the porch discussing life in general and life in the mill. It is on the porch steps that Alice learns of Lovey’s burning passion to fight for better working conditions.

In the weeks after her arrival, Alice is thrust into the hard life of a mill girl. With Lowell on the cusp of revolution, the Fiske family decides they must make a show of caring if they are going to squelch the fire of revolt. From all the girls, they extend an invitation to Alice to join them in their Boston home to discuss the issues at the mill. It is there she learns that Hiram Fiske really has no desire to hear her complaints but was merely making a show of it all. She does, however, find an ally in Samuel Fiske, the attractive and caring heir to the Fiske family fortune.

As the days drag on, Alice will soon find herself caught up in love and loss. She must fight for the life of the mill workers as well as fighting for her heart.

Cautions:

*Lovey is a bit of a flirt and will disappear for hours at a time. She will be found one morning hanging from a tree by the neck. It is this loss that Alice must face and find a way to gain justice for her dear friend. At the trial for the suspected murderer, we will learn that she was pregnant. The prosecution will paint her as a prostitute who hung herself out of shame.

*One of the mill worker’s husbands will barge in and attempt to take her child. There is a clear picture here of the lack of rights married women had.

*The Fiske family is portrayed as being selfish and out only for themselves at the expense of their workers.

*Toward the end there is a little unrest and people will begin tossing rocks at each other.

*This is a time of the revivalist community. The man accused of murder is a revivalist Methodist preacher. There is some attack on the Methodist church because of this.

Awesomeness:

*This is a wonderful book about the fight for independence for women and the changes in the American society up north.

*It paints a really good picture of class in America and the growing desire for equality among the genders.

*Alice and Lovey are strong leading ladies. (Neither have a strong desire to know the Lord, but they are good people who attempt to do the right thing.)

*The dialogue during the trial was taken from transcripts of a similar trial during this time in Lowell.

Lesson Ideas:

*Research the life of a mill girl. What did she do? Where did she live? Why would she move away from her family?

*Research the Industrial Revolution and the advancements of the textile machines.

*Look into Andrew Jackson’s policies on Industrialization.

The Dressmaker

Interest Level: Mature/ Adult

France, 1912. A young woman is working as a maid for an older lady. She is suppose to be making dresses. She is a seamstress afterall, not just a cleaning lady. She dreams of a life where she can design and create her own dresses, far away from the prowling hands of the mistress’s son.

Tess Collins is a poor girl who has spent a great deal of time waiting on others. One day, she finally decides that she has had enough. After requesting her wages she storms out of the house in Cherbourg once and for all and heads towards to docks. There, awaiting departure, is the Titanic. Through quick thinking and even quicker talking she is able to find passage aboard the ship as a personal maid to known other than Lady Duff Gordon. This pivotal moment will change Tess’s life forever.

As we all know, 1912 was the year the Titanic sank. Luckily for Tess she makes it to New York. There she will discover that the sinking ship was just the tip of her personal iceberg! She will be stuck between two worlds: that of the rich and that of the poor. She is treated one minute as a servant and the other as a middle class professional. She will find she must not only choose one world for her financial security, but for the security of her heart as well.

 

 

Cautions:

*Tess mentions twice that the son of her mistress in Cherbourg assaulted her.

*Lady Duff Gordon is incredibly manipulative and self-centered. She does only what is best for her.

*There is a lot of lying, bribery, deception, and blame during the trials.

*Tess is kissed by two different gentlemen, both with her permission.

*A character commits suicide from being called a coward.

Awesomeness:

*This book is historical for three reasons: The Titanic’s unfortunate voyage, the change in the fashion industry, and the suffragist movement. All three events are mentioned and woven throughout the story.

*Tess is able to work her way out of a difficult life situation and learn to make it on her own merits.

*Several characters intentionally search for the truth and support one another as they heal from the tragedy.

Pick up this book and travel across the Atlantic with Tess. You won’t be sorry.

 

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Research the sinking of the Titanic.

*Research the fashion trends in the early 1900s.

*Research Lady Duff Gordon and Coco Chanel.

*Discuss the importance of respecting those who are different than us.

*Discuss Lady Duff Gordon’s attitude toward others.

*Look at dress patterns from the 1900s. Try your hand at designing and sewing something. 

A Chain of Thunder

Interest Level: Middle School, High School, Adult

“When the sun went down, the shelling began again, the civilians moving inside quickly, but she remained outside the cave, watched the red streaks, heard the thumps and distant thunder, and noticed now for the first time that something was missing. What had been done to James’s best friend was an act of raw desperation repeated in the town, and all throughout the cave-spotted hills. Until now, every time the shells came, it had been the same, the whistle and shriek of the mortars and the cannon fire answered by a scattered chorus of howling dogs. But tonight there were no howls…” (510)

If the above quote doesn’t make you want to pick up A Chain of Thunder: A Novel of the Siege of Vicksburg (the Civil War in the West) by Jeff Shaara, then perhaps you should just stop reading here! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. (Yes, Mr. Shaara himself calls it a novel in his letter to the reader.)

A friendly note: I read this book right before my trip to Vicksburg. I made sure to take pictures of everything I could find that was mention in this novel, therefore, you will see A LOT OF PICTURES in this post. Quite possibly more than I have ever included!

 

A Chain of Thunder follows the Vicksburg campaign. Grant, Sherman and several other Union Generals and their men are headed to Mississippi from Tennessee. There to meet them is General Pemberton. Unfortunately for the Confederates, the President desires Pemberton to protect Vicksburg, but General Johnston desires Pemberton to march out and meet Grant.

Pemberton is an interesting person in that he is originally a Pennsylvanian but married a Virginian woman. Therefore, he sides with the Confederacy in the war. His men, however, do not fully trust him seeing as he is a Yankee by birth. This makes his command even more challenging.

The chapters are each presented by a different character in the novel, which I love! It allows you to get multiple perspectives about the same situation.

It also gives you a glimpse into the relationships between different leaders. Not until I read this book did I realize that Sherman and Grant were so close. Sherman was fiercely loyal and protective of Grant. Even when he didn’t fully agree with Grant’s decisions he bow to military rule and followed Grant’s orders.

We meet both Confederate civilians like Lucy Spence and file-in-rank soldiers from both sides. We learn of wounds, starvation, death, and fear from each character.  

I jotted down lots of notes in the margins and kept wishing my students could read this novel! (My pre-ap kids just might read it next year!)

There are too many details to get into in this post, but I will say Shaara does a magnificent job putting you in the minds of those involved in this conflict. His attention to detail and research is phenomenal. As a teacher, I always stress to my students the importance of studying an event such as the Civil War from both sides. Shaara definitely does this.

 

Cautions:

*This is a war book therefore battle scenes are discussed. There is no description that is unnecessarily gory. Do to the nature of the event, the dead on the Union side were left out in the field for some time. There is one chapter in particular where Bauer sees several Union dead out in front of him and will describe the bloated bodies.

*Civilians who chose to stay in Vicksburg will eventually have to move to the hills and create caves. There they will eventually subsist on donkeys, squirrels, dogs, and even rats.

*There is some good natured ribbing among the soldiers and some harsh commands from the younger officers. (I don’t rightly remember off hand there being any foul cuss words used.)

Awesomeness:

*You get a glimpse into the lives of the leaders. Until I read this book and William Tecumseh Sherman by James Lee McDonough, I did not know that Sherman lacked confidence in his abilities and vehemently hated the press! (For good reason!)

*The reader gains a better understanding of the strategy and reasoning behind the siege. We are privy to the true intelligence of all those in charge.

*The book is incredibly well-written and will have the reader eager to finish. (Even if you already know the outcome.)

*This book would be a wonderful springboard to use in studying the Civil War leaders like Sherman, Grant, Pemberton, and Johnston.

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Research each leader: Grant, Sherman, McPherson, Pemberton, Bowen, Johnston

*Go to the Vicksburg National Military Park youtube channel and watch several awesome videos!

*Research Vicksburg civilian stories

The Underground Railroad

Interest Level: Adult

 

Intense. Sad. Overwhelming. Cruel. These are the words that come to mind when describing   The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Colson Whitehead.

The story follows Cora, a slave in the deep south. Woven throughout her story are the stories of her mother, grandmother, and other characters in the novel. Colson Whitehead does a marvelous job of weaving these stories together into a seamless tale.

The novel’s central focus is on Cora and her journey north on the underground railroad. She is first approached about this journey by Caesar, another slave on the plantation. It wasn’t until her master died and his brother took over the farm that she even considered running away.

Cora and Caesar take off together and make it to Charleston, S.C. There they become comfortable with life as freed blacks. That is, until they are discovered. Cora is being hunted by Ridgeway, a slave catcher out for revenge & vindication. He had attempted to hunt down Cora’s mother when she run away but never found her. He is driven by hate and a need to clear his name.

When writing these posts, I always struggle with exactly how much of the story to share. I don’t want to give away too many details and spoil the emotion that will inevitably come along with the first time you read this. But I do feel that I must share some serious concerns with you. Please forgive me if you feel as though I have ruined the storyline for you.

Cautions:

*This book is written in vivid detail. There are scenes of rape, torture, and murder that are described. Corpses hang along roads with genitals cut off. A slave is tortured & burned on the front lawn of his master’s house while he hosts a luncheon!

*As a history teacher, I was annoyed that Whitehead chose to make the underground a real railroad underground. As a literary lover, I can appreciate the attempt to change it up a bit and be more creative.

Overall, this book was hard to read and the ending was disappointing. I actually listened to it as an audiobook and that may have made getting through it even more difficult. It’s one thing to read something so intense to yourself; it’s another to have it read to you!

I would not suggest letting younger readers read this book. It is definitely for mature audiences only!  

So Fair a Lady

Interest Level: High School/Adult

This is book 1 in a 3 book series by Amber Lynn Perry. I received this series for FREE through a deal the author had with Amazon. As you have probably noticed by  now, I am a sucker for historical fiction. Add some Jesus and romance to that and you can pretty much guarantee I’ll read it!

I would like to say something right off: just because a book is Christian, does not mean it is approved for all ages. As you’ll see, the struggles faced by the characters in this novel or relatable, but mature. So, just keep that in mind.

The setting of this novel is before the official start of the American Revolution, but Boston is an occupied city. The novel opens up with the death of Dr. Campbell. Eliza and Kitty now find themselves orphaned. Worry overtakes Eliza. But soon after, she finds herself the recipient of a marriage proposal from Samuel Martin, a captain in the British Army. Though she is excited, Eliza cannot accept right away. Her father left her with a note that unravels everything she thought she knew about him. Her refusal gives us a glimpse into the true character of Samuel.

Not long after the proposal, Eliza is awakened by a pounding on her door. She opens it to find Thomas Watson, a local printer and member of the Sons of Liberty, anxiously standing there. He quickly explains that she and Kitty are in danger and must come with him. Something in Eliza prompts her to believe him. She and Kitty gather only necessary items and take off with Thomas. They make it into the family fields just as the British arrive at the house. From their hiding spot, they are able to see the British soldiers enter the house and ransack it.

Thomas manages to get the girls to Sandwich within a few days. There, they hide out and try to figure out what to do next. Meanwhile, Samuel is distraught over the “kidnapping” of his future bride. He pursues the trail wherever it may lead. And of course, it eventually leads to Sandwich.

Throughout the weeks that Eliza and Kitty are hiding in Sandwich, Eliza will begin to learn the truth: the truth behind her father’s beliefs, the truth behind Samuel’s characters, and the truth about love.

 

Cautions:

-Thomas is being blackmailed by British soldiers. This is the reason he must run.

-Samuel is EVIL!! It becomes pretty obvious early on.

-Eliza is nearly raped by two drunken sailors.

-Samuel meets a horrific end.  

Awesomeness:

-Power of friendship, love and sacrifice

-Thomas is super sweet!

-The characters continually lean on and seek guidance from the Lord.


Lesson Plan Ideas:

Discuss:

-Not feeling forced to date or marry someone

-The roles of men and women in the time. Focus on the difference between Samuel and Thomas’ feelings about a woman’s ideas.

-At the time, people were loyal to their colony and then state before they were loyal to America as a country. This will continue to be felt even in the 1860s.

 

Research:

-Diseases of the 1700s

-Sons of Liberty

-Tea Act and the colonial response (Tea Party)

-The “Join or Die” flag and it’s origination.

Respond:

-In chapter 6 we read, “Those of us in the colonies are treated like second class citizens. Our king robs us with his taxes and we have no proper representation in Parliament. Our lives will never be the same if we continue to let King George dictate his will at every delicate whim.”  Do you think all the colonists felt this way? Can you list some of the taxes? Why did the king begin to tax the colonists?

-In Chapter 26 Thomas hears Dr. Campbell’s words: “The pursuit of your righteous desires is worth every sacrifice.” How does this quote relate to Thomas and to the colonial cause?

Wedded to War

Interest Level: High School/Adult

 

Forget being wedded to war, I am wedded to this book! I did NOT want to put it down, but I HAD to put it down a few times. This book made me cringe, gasp, moan in fear, sigh in frustration, and talk back to the characters. All of which are signs of a great novel.

Quick summary: Charlotte volunteers to be trained as a nurse for the Civil War. Her mom, sister, and suitor all disapprove of her decision. After training in New York, she is sent to Washington, D.C. to serve in the local hospital. There she is thrust into the hardships of being a woman in a male dominated world as well as the hardships of war. Woven throughout the war is Charlotte’s personal struggle with following her calling and what society deems appropriate.

Long summary: Charlotte is considered a spinster because she is 28 and not yet wed. She is being courted by Phineas Hastings, a wealthy New Yorker. Much to his chagrin, Charlotte volunteers to be trained as a nurse for the war. He figures this will be a short term infatuation and she will eventually put it all behind her and marry him. A few chapters in, we are introduced to Ruby, an Irish immigrant also living in New York. She is struggling to make ends meet and her husband Matthew recently shipped off to war. She finds herself in Five Points seeking work. She meets the a group of women who place women of high moral character but low socioeconomic status as domestics.

As fate would have it, Ruby is placed in the house of Phineas’ mother. There she meets the ill tempered Phineas. Phineas feels the need to control all the women in his life and out of fear for something Ruby overheard, he rapes her. Once violated Ruby takes to a life of prostitution. She meets Dr. Blackwell at her office in Five Points. There Dr. Blackwell matched Ruby up with a job in Washington, D.C. She is put under the care of… you guessed it, Charlotte. Ruby works hard and diligently and doesn’t know of Phineas’ and Charlotte’s connection until months after being in D.C.  

Charlotte, her sister Alice, and Ruby continue to work for the Sanitary Commission. All the while, Phineas is attempting to retrieve Charlotte and convince her to marry him. Phineas’ stoops to some really low levels in order to protect his wealth. It is his character that caused all of the emotions mentioned at the beginning of this post. 

I do not want to say too much more for fear of ruining the story and for you chance to make faces such as mine! (Note: these are from my instastory!)

Cautions:

*Phineas is a terrible man. He does rape Ruby and then blackmail her about it.

*Prostitution is discussed and for a short time Ruby is a prostitute.

*Ruby toys with idea of abortion and suicide.

*This novel is set during war, as such, wounds, fever, and amputations are all discussed.

*Be prepared to discuss abusive treatment or thoughts toward women.

Overall, this book is AMAZING!! I have not felt this kind of reaction to a book in a long time. I had to put it down and walk away a few times from frustration with the characters!! But I could not wait to come back to it! Jocelyn Green also does a wonderful job weaving in Biblical truths that stand the test of time. I love how Charlotte, Caleb, Edward, and Ruby all quote scripture to each other as a form of encouragement and love.

 

Lesson Plan Ideas:

*Chapter Two discusses the secession of Virginia and the attack on Union forces in Baltimore. Research the city of Baltimore and why they might attack Union forces. What was Lincoln’s response? You can check out The Hour of Peril as a resource for this. 

*Research all the historical figures in this novel:

-Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

-Dorothea Dix

-Robert E. Lee

-Abraham Lincoln

-George B. McClellan

-Frederick Law Olmsted

-General Winfield Scott (Scott’s Great Snake/Anaconda Plan)

 

*Research the inspiration for Charlotte: Georgeanna Woolsey

*Research the battles mentioned:

-Bull Run

-The Peninsula Campaign

-The Second Battle of Bull Run

*Watch the scene from America the Story of US: Civil War about the minie ball

*Look into Five Points and the Irish Riots of 1863 (Watch Gangs of New York for mature readers or used selected scenes that show the Conscription Riots.)

*Chapter 19 mentions Rose Greenhow, the main character from Wild Rose. You could have your child read Wild Rose: The True Story of a Civil War Spy or research female spies in the Civil War.

*In chapter 30, Charlotte meets Marty, a fallen soldier. She learns that Marty is actually a woman. Look into female soldiers in the Civil War. There are some great scholarly works out there about female soldiers. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War is an excellent resource.

*The end of the book offers an insight into the true parts of the novel, including social norms.

*Jocelyn Green offers a free supplemental guide on her website for this novel. 

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

Wow! I don’t know if it’s the season of life I am in or just the truth in her words, but Crystal Paine (moneysavingmom.com) really hit the nail on the head with Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. This book was very encouraging. Originally, I thought it was going to speak to moms. Whenever I hear survival mode I think of two things: a teacher in her first year and new moms. But    this book is more than that.

I think it’s unfortunate how we can get carried away with our daily to dos & need to be busy that we forget life can be simple. Get sleep. Say No. Exercise. All of these things Crystal encourages us to do. She aptly reminds us that without these things our priorities can’t get done and we will experience burnout. 

Two things really hit home for me: stop trying to do it all & stop comparing myself to other women.

I am a new bride. I have only been married for 9 months. I know I jumped into marriage with both feet and a desire to be the best homemaker & wife I could be. I wanted to be in control of all the house duties: meal planning, cooking, cleaning, organizing, etc. But I quickly learned this was not going to be as easy as I thought. (Have I mentioned that I teach junior high?) I began to realize that I needed a priorities list. I needed to zero in on the things that were most important for this season. Otherwise, I was going to run myself ragged trying to complete all my duties at home and at work. Crystal writes, “If we want to say goodbye to survival mode, we need to make time for what really matters. This means we have to clear out the nonessential commitments. (17)”  While I still desire to be the best homemaker I can be, I am getting better at focusing on my priorities. If things don’t fall in line with them, then I say no.

“I think we, as women, are our worst critics. Comparison is one of the biggest traps to losing our momentum or giving up before we even start our journies to say goodbye to survival mode. It’s easy to want what we don’t have or see something better in others that we lack ourselves. (167)”  As I read this, I was jumping up & down shouting YES!! (Well, not literally, but I was in my head.) This is so true. Being a new bride does cause me to compare myself to others. I want to be organized and well put together. I want my husband to be proud to be married to me and excited to come home. Man, have I worked myself up in a comparison tizzy. It really does steal my joy. Thankfully, my husband is loving, gracious, and patient with me.

The other area where I struggle with comparison is Bible journaling and decorating my planner! It has become such a trend now, that you can find an infinite amount of videos, blogs, pictures, etc on it. I am by no means an artist, but I can’t get caught up comparing myself to others in this area. I certainly don’t want to give up my joy in the Lord because I am too busy wishing I could animate Bible verses better. Crystal goes on to say that we can’t make the most of who we are or our talents if we are too busy comparing ourselves to others. We can’t live with gratitude, intentionality or purpose. (167)

I feel like I could become quite long winded about the encouragement that is on every page of this book. So let me leave you with a few more of the things I loved:

 

  1. Crystal encourages us to create a priorities list. She gives you space to do so right in the book. Jami Balmet discusses this particular point more on her blog
  2. It is ok to say NO! (I am still working on this one.)
  3. I am excited to undertake her 4 weeks of declutter plan. I have a tendency to pick one drawer or cabinet to declutter. But I am excited to take a bigger chunk of space and declutter that. For more on decluttering, see How to Manage your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White.

If you’re ready to start thriving and not just surviving, grab a copy of Crystal Paine’s Say Goodbye to Survival Mode!

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen is every Jane Austen fans fantasy. To be the one who discovers a lost manuscript of THE Jane Austen! Could there be anything better??

Syrie James writes a wonderful What If? Novel. Samantha is no stranger to England as she started her Ph.D. studies there. While visiting with her boyfriend, she uncovers a clue that leads her to believe there is another Jane Austen work yet discovered. Samantha soon finds herself on a quest to find this missing manuscript. She attempts to get a hold of her old advisor but is unsuccessful. Eventually, she follows the clue to an estate in Greenbriar. There she meets the owner’s son, Anthony. Together they search the house in hopes of finding the missing novel.

After hours of searching, they discover the manuscript locked away. They come to the realization that it was not LOST but STOLEN by the original owner of the house. Eager to read the never before published story, Samantha and Anthony stay up all night taking turns reading. Samantha could never have predicted just where this new discovery would take her.

The novel is back and forth between Samantha & Anthony and the Stanhope Family of Jane Austen’s novel. Ms. James’ readers will find it easy to follow both stories. And might find themselves, as I did, wishing it really were a Jane Austen novel.

Syrie James did a wonderful job maintaining the Austenian way of writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Overall, I believe the reader will be satisfied with both the ending of The Stanhopes and the ending of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen.

A few cautions: Samantha puts herself in a few situations that are not wise for a woman in a serious relationship. It is clear that she is attracted to Anthony and she admits to wanting to kiss him. Amelia Davenport (a character in the missing novel) is very selfish and conniving. You could see through it pretty early on.
Overall, however, I found this a quite enjoyable fiction read.

5 Great Reads for Black History Month

 

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons

Grade Level: Fourth

I can’t even deal! This book was so well written. Ann Rinaldi has written a wonderfully, heart-wrenching novel about Phillis Wheatley. I am ashamed to say I really did not know much about her other than she was a slave who was known for her poetry. The novel chronicles her story from the moment of abduction until the start of the American Revolution. Little is really known about her life, especially once she married.

This book would be a great accompaniment to any American Revolution study. There are a lot of important events in Boston that are mentioned. Phillis meets personally with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

A word of caution: the trip on the slaver is pretty intense for Phillis. Her mother is thrown overboard and she nearly starves to death. All Africans are referred to as negra or negro; the more derogatory term is not present in the novel. Phillis, while treated as a daughter of the Wheatley’s, is still seen as a slave. She may be relieved of many normal slave duties, but her masters, especially Nathaniel, still remind her of her place.

Lesson Ideas:

Research each Boston event she mentions.

Read her poems and compare any events to the novel.

Write your own poem about an important event or person in your life.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Grade Level: Fifth

I first read this book  in junior high. I do not really remember my initial thoughts, but on this go around, I thoroughly enjoyed it! This book is a powerful tale of the power of family and staying strong through adversity. The Logan Family is a great example of a strong family. They rely heavily on each other to get them through deaths of friends, threats, and fire. I think this should be a regular read for junior high students.

Caution: the N word is used regularly through this novel. Cassie gets into a fist fight with a girl who mistreats her. Some local African-Americans are attacked and severely burned by a group of whites. Cassie’s own father is attacked for encouraging people to shop in Vicksburg and not at the Wallace store. Stacy’s friend TJ gets in with the wrong crowd and is accused of killing a white man. He is brutally beaten and nearly lynched. This book does not sugar coat the difficulties African-American sharecroppers faced in the south. Mr. Morrison also shares the story of the deaths of his parents (pg 147-150).

Lesson Ideas:

Write a Journal Entry as Cassie explaining her thoughts on the books they received at the beginning of the novel.

Research sharecropping

Research Jim Crow Laws & segregation

Sounder

Grade Level: Fifth

This is a sweet story about a man and his dog. Set during the days of sharecropping, Sounder shows us the love between humans and dogs. There are no names used in this story. One day the boy’s father comes home with a ham we soon learn is stolen. Eventually, the sheriff comes to pick up the boy’s father. In the midst of his arrest, his dog is shot. Sounder runs off for months and the boy’s father is taken to jail and eventually put on a chain gang. Once Sounder returns, severely disfigured but well, the boy decides to venture off in search of his father. On one adventure, the boy befriends an old school teacher who asks him to stay so that the boy may receive an education. The boy’s mother agrees and he only returns to help with harvest. During the years, the boy’s father has been working only to return one day out of the blue. Do to a severe injury, they let him go. Now father and dog are both shells of their former selves. The boy’s father goes out one day alone, never to return. He passes away in the forest do to his injuries and hard labor. Sounder, too, passes soon after.

This book is only 116 pages but it packs an emotional punch! The arrest of the father is really harsh. He spends years on a chain gang for the theft of a ham.

I guess, in a way, this book is a coming of age story. It is based on a story told to the author.

Lesson Ideas:

Research sharecropping and Jim Crow laws

Write an alternative ending to the book.

Give all the characters names based on their character/personality.

Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North

Grade Level: Fourth/Fifth

I loved the Dear America series when I was a young girl. It is so wonderful how the style of these books put you into the everyday thoughts of the character.

Nellie Lee Love is from Tennessee. It is 1919 and the Great War is over. Her family lives in a multi-generational home and runs a funeral business. The tensions in the south are increasing so Nellie’s father decided to move himself and two daughters to Chicago near his brother. There he will start a new funeral home and have a better life.

The Love family is truly a wonderful example of a family whose first priority is Jesus followed by family. They are not exempt from adversity even in Chicago but they never sway from their love for each other. While in Chicago Nellie and her family become more involved in the ever growing NAACP as well as the suffrage movement.

Cation: While swimming at the lake, a neighbor swims into the white’s section. He is so terrified by the uproar of the whites, that he drowns. This causes a massive riot in the streets of Chicago.

Lesson Ideas:

Write your own diary for a year.

Research the causes and battles of World War I.

Respond to Nellie’s comment on page 130: “Will there ever be a time when people stop hating and hurting one another?”

Respond to Reverend Prince’s comment on page 123: “Ignorance and fear breed violence. Knowledge is the only way to overcome intolerance.”

12 Years a Slave

Interest Level: High School/Adult

This book is a powerful true story told from the man himself. Solomon Northup was drugged and kidnapped by slave catchers. This was common practice in the north after the Fugitive Slave Law. Free blacks were warned not to talk to anyone they did not know. Solomon finds himself sold down south. For twelve years he will live the life of a hardworking plantation slave. Until, finally, one day he is reunited with his family.

Caution: this book is for mature audiences. It is a personal narrative set in the 1840s. There are very brutal scenes and hard truths. I would encourage any parent to read this book prior to allowing your child to read it.

 

This is an amazing primary source for sure!

Lesson Ideas:

Research other slave’s stories like Frederick Douglass.

Research newspaper articles warning of slave catchers.

Research the underground railroad and Harriet Tubman.

For further reading, check out some of my previous posts: Chains, Forge, Ashes, Flygirl, and Elijah