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A Look at Minerals

from Galena to Gold
Book cover: 'A Look at Minerals: from Galena to Gold'
Author(s): 
Jo S. Kittinger
Copyright: 
1998
Publisher: 
Franklin Watts/Grolier
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
64 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

A surprisingly interesting (and fairly in-depth) picture book that introduces children to minerals - which include metals and gems. Many full color photos highlight and enhance the text, which covers topics such as Mohs' Scale of Mineral Hardness, ice crystals, cleavage planes (the way minerals break when cut) of various minerals, metals in their natural state, special metals like gold, silver and platinum, how various minerals form and what they look like in their natural state. My children and I found this to be quite an interesting book.

Review Date: 
4-25-01
Reviewed by: 

A Look at Rocks

from Coal to Kimberlite
Book cover: 'A Look at Rocks: from Coal to Kimberlite'
Author(s): 
Jo S. Kittinger
Copyright: 
1997
Publisher: 
Franklin Watts/Grolier
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
64 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

I really didn't expect to get much out of a children's picture book on rocks. Rocks are, well, rocks! I was wrong. Mrs. Kittinger has done a fine job in presenting various types of rock, how they are formed in nature (with a significant emphasis on volcanoes) and the various fascinating and often beautiful varieties of rocks. There are many stunning photos and fascinating statistics on rock-related items from Mount Rushmore (and it's lesser known "sister-sculpture" - Stone Mountain - of some "monumental" figures of the Confederacy) to the Grand Canyon to amazing volcano formations. The book also includes a glossary, an index, suggestions for further reading and internet resources for rock collectors.

Review Date: 
4-25-01
Reviewed by: 

A Man for All Seasons

Book cover: 'A Man for All Seasons'
Copyright: 
1966
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a VERY well-done rendition of the story of St. Thomas More. Thomas More was a well-respected lawyer who was named Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII. He is a model statesman - modest, intelligent, and principled. He was martyred for not condoning the actions of the King toward the Catholic Church and his first wife. (Quite a refreshing contrast to modern-day politics!) I would suggest this for high school students as younger students (unless they are familiar with the story and accustomed to somewhat complex dialogue) may find it "boring". We were very pleased to find this movie at our local library. Available on VHS or DVD.

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

A Map of Life

Author(s): 
Frank Sheed
Copyright: 
1933
Publisher: 
Ignatius Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
144 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a really beautiful little book about morality and the Catholic Faith. It would make a great supplement for high school age or excellent reading for an adult. It's not too difficult to understand, but also interesting and really makes you think.

The author has this to say about the purpose of this book:

A traveler through life gets vivid – sometimes extremely vivid impressions of things near at hand: confused impressions of things seen at a distance or only heard of: but of the whole plan of life, no idea at all. In his mind will be a jumble of facts, tossed about in any order – God, sin, church-going, disease, sacraments, suffering, the treason of friends, hostilities, death and the fear of death, money and the loss of it, God-made-man – and so on without end. But which of these things are big things and which of them are little, he will not know with certainty: the things that have come nearest to himself will seem big things: the remoter things will seem small.

And of the relations of these things one to another – how one thing agrees with, or conflicts with, another – of all this, merely by dint of living, he will have only the most confused and uncertain impression. In fact it may easily happen that a man who merely lives, and neither reflects nor is taught, does not even suspect relationships, but thinks of all things as accidents with no reason in themselves save that they happened, and no connection with each other save that one cam earlier and one came later. Because of this confusion, I propose to try to make what may roughly be called a map of life.

This is a great book to use for a group teen discussion. When I was being homeschooled for high school, a friend of the family guided us in discussions of one chapter every month. We found it very engaging and helpful.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

A Marian Bible Study

Bringing Scripture to Life for Moms
Book cover
Author(s): 
Laura Marie Wells
Copyright: 
2006
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
112 pages
Review: 

The very interesting aspect that first called my attention while doing this review is that the author of Our Sunday Visitor’s A Marian Bible Study took up the project of writing it before she had ever developed a relationship with Our Lady. This writing of the book, thus, is a reflection of someone's own "journey into the heart of Our Lady" as she states simply in the preface.

The book is divided into eleven chapters, or guides for eleven monthly meetings. Each chapter titles mirror the Marian Rosary mysteries, but go beyond the traditional mysteries, touching on each of the evens of Mary's life: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, through the sorrows of the escape to Egypt and the finding in the Temple, the Crucifixion, and culminating with the Assumption and Coronation in the last chapter. There is an appendix entitled "Frequently asked questions" which may prove to be very valuable to both Catholic and non-Catholic involved.

The way the chapters are organized is a dream-come-true to Bible Study leaders: an opening verse from Scripture, personal anecdotes opening the chapter's theme, even suggestions for songs, and of course answers provided in the back. Short Scripture passages are part of almost every question, and many interesting biblical facts are brought up about issues related to Mary's life. For example: in the chapter entitled The Wedding at Cana, the theme is "Marys' Intercession", the short introductory Bible verse is from John 2:5, "Do whatever He tells you", and the first part's questions revolve around readings that relate to both Old Testament and New Testament weddings. Old Testament passages from the books of Judges and Tobit, the parable of the wedding feast and the parable of the ten virgins are used so participants can form a picture of a wedding feast of that time period. Then the theme if intercessory prayer is brought forth, and several passages in the Old Testament are again read to explain intercessory prayers. A closing prayer is suggested at the end of each chapter, before a final memory verse.

The organization of the chapters also loosely follow the liturgical year: if the group starts in the beginning of the school year, the chapters should reflect (more or less) the liturgical year themes of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. I also love the short passages from the Saints relevant to the chapters-- Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pope John Paul the Great, St. Teresa of Avila--sprinkled throughout the book.

Mary is our Heavenly Mother, and a Marian Bible Study for mothers is a wonderful idea. By studying, learning and getting to know Mary we can only become better mothers! This volume will please both those who have an established devotion to Mary as well as those who are still to begin their own "journey into Mary's heart".

Review Date: 
4-11-2007
Reviewed by: 

A Medieval Feast

Book cover: 'A Medieval Feast'
Author(s): 
Aliki
Copyright: 
1983
Publisher: 
Harper Trophy
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
32 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a children's story book about a fictional, but historically accurate, medieval feast (appropriate to about 1400 A.D.). The story starts from the very beginning, when the lord and lady of a manor receive notice that the King would be visiting for a few days. We see what immense preparations would start long before his arrival and the concern on the part of those hosting the feast because the king wouldn't be travelling alone - the queen, knights, squires and members of the court would make the feast a large and somewhat worrisome preparation. The colorful illustrations are inspired by medieval tapestries and are full of interesting details. The role of the Church is not forgotten as the bishop chants the grace before the meal and sits at the right hand of the king. Other details of life in the middle ages are included in the midst of the preparations for the feast and the feast itself, but the details don't go very deep. You see what happens but not much about how it happens. (My husband thought the book would have been improved by including some recipes and more descriptions of how things were made and how tasks were performed in those days). Nevertheless I think it's an interesting and worthwhile read for the little ones while their older siblings are studying the middle ages. You could probably find this one at your local library.

Review Date: 
4-7-2000
Reviewed by: 

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Title page of the play, from the first quarto
Author(s): 
William Shakespeare
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

We studied this Shakespeare comedy in 9th grade using an "interleaved" edition featuring the original text on one side and notes to clarify the meanings of archaic terms on the facing pages. Looking at the text on the pages was a little daunting, but it is amazing what a difference reading it aloud in class made. Suddenly the words were not so strange or difficult to follow any more, and as it is a play -- not a novel -- reading aloud really helped bring it to life. Our class was also able to attend a live outdoor performance, which further enhanced our study of the play.

As for the play itself, it is a light comedy that revolves around two young men (Demetrius and Lysander) and two young women (Hermia and Helena) and their adventures. Their fathers want Demetrius and Hermia to wed, but Hermia prefers Lysander. Meanwhile, Helena is still in love with Demetrius even though he has jilted her for Hermia. Hoping to elope, Hermia and Lysander enter a wood, but are pursued by Demetrius and Helena. There they get mixed up in the doings of the fairies, whose King and Queen have themselves had a bit of a falling out. Throw in the mischievous Puck and a group of simple craftsmen, and you have a recipe for much hilarity.

Shakespeare uses the situations to explore our human capacity for caprice and wilfulness through the sometimes ridiculous events in his play. Other themes you might want to discuss are: is it appropriate for a father to insist that his daughter marry a particular man? To what extent have the people Shakespeare portrays been influenced by the return of classical thought and Roman law in this regard? What of Oberon's attitude toward his wife Titania? And what about the magic? It's supposed to fix everything, but does it? Or does it just create more chaos?

But A Midsummer Night's Dream is a lot of fun, so don't let too much dissection spoil it for you or your students.

Additional notes: 

Written approximately 1595.

Many editions available, including several online.

Review Date: 
1-8-2009
Reviewed by: 

A Mother's Rule of Life

How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul
Book cover: 'A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul'
Author(s): 
Holly Pierlot
Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
Sophia Institute Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
203 pages
Review: 

Have you ever considered motherhood to be your vocation? Have you prayerfully considered the various daily duties and burdens of your state in life? Do you think that prayer time will have to wait until your children are older? until the dishes are done? until the entire house is decluttered? Do you long for the peace of the monastery? A nap? A clean house? A day in which all he schoolwork is completed? This is the book that will help you learn how to "do it all" without losing your mind or spending a fortune, while you and your family grow in holiness and peace.

For those of us who are "schedule-resistant", a rule of life is not a schedule; it is much, much more. Mrs. Pierlot defines a mother's rule of life as "an organization of everything that has to do with your vocation based on a hierarchy of the priorities that define the vocation and done with the intent to please God." She describes these priorities as the "5 P's": Prayer (basic spiritual needs), Person (basic physical needs), Partner (being available to one's spouse), Parent (being available to one's child(ren) ), and Provider (through work outside or inside the home). Thorough descriptions and real-life examples show you how to think through your own situation to analyze how each of these essential responsibilities fits into your rule. The final chapters on the heart and spirit of the mother's rule tie the entire process together and encourage the reader in implementing her rule without scrupulosity. .

A Mother's Rule of Life is not a book that you will read from cover to cover in one sitting and suddenly say "A-ha!" You will need to read this book several times: at least once to understand the major ideas and get excited about beginning the process of developing a rule; a second time to appreciate both the enormity yet the simplicity of the task at hand; and, a third time to absorb the details of the process in an effort to apply them to your own unique situation. Writing and living by a rule will not be an overnight process for most women; it will require periodic changes and updating within an overall framework. Even so, the time and effort spent will yield tremendous dividends as you live out your vocation every single day. Reading this book may also lead you to reading and studying more about the saints and Catholic teaching through many quotations from Catholic sources that the Catholic mother may wish to learn more from. As an aside, Mrs. Pierlot relates an unusual step in her path towards God regarding her need for prayers of deliverance. Any reader wishing to understand this issue better may wish to read An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories by Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist of the Catholic Church.

A Mother's Rule of Life is one of the two books that I have been recommending recently to anyone interested in Catholic motherhood. (The other is How to Raise Good Catholic Children by Mary Reed Newland.) The ideas are not especially new or earth-shattering, but they are imbued with a Catholic focus and organized so that you can get right to work, step by step, without becoming anxious or overwhelmed. This book provides a good healthy dose of hope for every Catholic mother.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
7-30-04
Reviewed by: 

A Philadelphia Catholic in King James Court

Author(s): 
Martin de Porres Kennedy
ISBN: 
96 714 921
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
Lilyfield Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
316 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Plot overview: After the tragic death of Mick O'Shea, a Catholic fireman from Philadelphia, his widow Tammy and their children are invited to spend the summer at the Kentucky farm of Tammy's brother Les and his family. The catch? Les is the fundamentalist pastor of a small homegrown "Bible-only" church. He believes it is his duty to "save" his sister and her family from the Catholic Church. The story centers on 17-year-old Michael, who is chosen as the preferred point of contact. At first, Michael is very uncertain about Scripture and feels that his uncle's explanations are right; however, Mick has given him a solid grounding in the Faith, so he seeks the answers in Mick's library.

The author does a fine job of portraying the characters with their struggles and motivations. For example:

  • Michael's search for truth is realistic, keeping us guessing how it will turn out.
  • Tammy allows her son to face the challenge, realizing that he is too old to just be told the answers. I love the way the author shows the impact of her prayerful support.
  • Fundamentalists are beautifully shown to be motivated by charity, while at the same time the weakness of their sola scriptura position is exposed.
  • I also enjoyed the contrast between the reactions of the characters who were seeking Truth and those who felt threatened by it. (As a convert, I can appreciate both positions!)

Not only is much excellent apologetic material included in a natural, enjoyable, and engaging format, but it is done with charity and even humility. Topics covered include the Inquisition, the papacy, the role of Mary, and the authority and interpretation of the Bible.

The richness of the Faith comes through in other ways as well. I especially loved the way the author portrays the uniqueness of the Sacrifice of Christ even as it is extended through time in the re-presentation of that Sacrifice in the Mass. Other elements woven into the story include questions of what is really important in life, the support of the Christian community, and the power of prayer.

All in all a very satisfying Catholic novel.

Highly recommended.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
11-20-2007
Reviewed by: 

A Picture Perfect Childhood

Enhancing Your Child's Imagination and Education in 15 Minutes a Day
A Picture Perfect Childhood
Author(s): 
Cay Gibson
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Literature Alive!
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
256 pages
Subject(s): 
Review: 

There are only a few books that I know I'll love even before I see them - and this was definitely one. Picture book afficionado Cay Gibson serves up a delicious array of picture books of all sorts to discover and savor for yourself from your local library (and hopefully start a collection of your own as well).

I'm a big fan of picture books - especially the beautifully illustrated ones that are wonderfully in fashion at present (my habits run along the lines of prominently displaying them in our house to inspire reading, purchasing picture books to coordinate with our homeschool studies - particular in history and science, and even, occasionally, reading picture books aloud to unsuspecting dinner guests) and I'm delighted to have this great place to start to discover many new titles.

The substance of this book is comprised of essays on the value of picture books and how to incorporate them into your lives along with numerous creative and inspiring book lists. Here is a sampling of the booklists you'll find:

List for Teenaged Readers and Reluctant Readers

Children's Hour (A Twelve Month Historical Timeline along with supplementary reading in subjects like science, art, music and language arts)

The Never-Ending List of Children's Authors and Illustrators

Teaching Virtues Through Books

Spanning the Globe

Read Across America

Let's Get Cooking with Literature (Picture Books about Cooking and Recipes)

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Black History Month

Around the World and Beyond with Cinderella

Gardening Treasures

Immigration Booklist

Pioneers and Westward Movement

World War II

Christmas Booklist

This is the sort of book (further enhanced by spacious margins and room for additional notes) that I can readily imagine dragging to the library and to book sales and keeping track of which favorites we've read and which ones we own. A very welcome addition to our home library and one that also looks to be useful in making purchasing recommendations to our public library. I've only read a small portion of the recommended books so far, but I eagerly await discovering many new favorites.

Though this book was written by a Catholic homeschool mom (and includes a number of fine, specifically Catholic titles), its scope is quite broad and would be of interest to many parents, teachers and librarians.

Available from the author's website.

Review Date: 
2-15-2008
Reviewed by: 

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