Search Reviews

Please note that search is case-sensitive. Searching for author "chesterton" will NOT find items by G.K. Chesterton.

A Place to Hide

True Stories of Holocaust Rescues
Book cover: 'A Place to Hide: True Stories of Holocaust Rescues'
Author(s): 
Jayne Pettit
Copyright: 
1993
Publisher: 
Scholastic
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
114 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This book contains true stories of remarkable people (mostly Christians, including many Catholics) who saved the lives of Jews from the Nazis in World War II. According to this book, despite six million Jews killed by the Nazis, it is estimated that two million Jewish children were saved by rescuers such as the sampling presented in these stories. It is estimated that the number of rescuers (those who harbored Jews in their homes, transported them to safety, etc.) is anywhere from fifty-thousand to five hundred thousand.

The stories here include:

  • Miep Santrouschitz, who hid Anne Frank and her family in a tiny apartment above a business in Holland.
  • Oskar Schindler (subject of the recent movie Schindler's List) who spent his fortune bribing the Nazis in order to save over one thousand Jews from the death camps.
  • The story of Denmark, under its remarkable king Christian X, and its resistance against the Nazis. It's difficult to sum up all the remarkable pieces of this story in a few words, but the Danes ferried over 8,000 Jews to safety in Sweden (under the noses of enemy warships) over the coure of three months.
  • Andre and Magda Trocme and the city of Le Chambon, France, who provided a place of refuge for many Jews.
  • Padre Niccacci of Assisi, Italy, who rescued many Jews, even hiding them in the cloistered convents.

The book is thoughtfully done - accurately and fairly portraying Christian beliefs (and really showing Christianity at it's best - standing up in the face of evil) and delicately handling topics that would be sensitive for children. The author's intent is that "this account of the rescuers and their 'conspiracy of goodness' will serve as a tribute to all of those remarkable people who, in Abraham Foxman's words, 'seemed to be ordinary people living typical lives, but each was blesed with a touch of greatness.'" It is also beautiful to read that the Jewish Foundation for Christian Rescuers (who are largely responsible for the content of the book) have turned around and tried to give aid, where needed later in life, to those who risked so much to accomplish these heroic rescues.

Review Date: 
1-12-01
Reviewed by: 

A Pocket Guide to St. Paul

Author(s): 
Scott Hahn
Copyright: 
2008
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Number of pages: 
96 pages
Resource Type: 
Review: 

I really enjoyed this quick and easy-to-understand guide to St. Paul and his writings. Well, perhaps "easy-to-understand" isn't fair, because the topics covered here on the writings of St. Paul are not easy ones. Yet this is a reasonably accessible place to start and might even be usable, with some guidance, for a teen Bible study group.

I've always been a fan of good writing in small packages (in this case approx. 4 x 6 inches) because not only can I get to the heart of the matter fairly quickly, but also conveniently as the book can be stashed in my purse.

This book opens with a fairly detailed biography of the great saint with subtitled sections to make it easier to follow (great for moms who get interrupted a lot from their reading!) Even though I've read (and watched) biographies of St. Paul before, it's hard to keep the details straight in my head. This overview was a very helpful refresher - and also one that can be turned to again and again.

The largest chaptert of the book is on "St. Paul's Thought". This is perhaps the most unique aspect of this book and a particularly welcome read in this year of St. Paul. It provides an extremely helpful overview of what St. Paul has given to Catholic theology. A quick read-through of the sub-section titles is helpful: "Why a Pharisee? Why Saul?", "The Word of the Cross", "The Good News of Salvation", "Salvation and Sonship", "The Importance of Covenant", "The Scandal of God's Fatherhood", "We Are 'In Christ'", "The Church at the Center", "Faith and Works", "The Problem of Pain", "Glory in the Cross".

I found the chapter on "St. Paul's Letters" to be particularly helpful because, even though I've read all of his letters before, and some numerous times, there's always so much more to learn. Also, I don't tend to have a ready grasp of which letter was significant for which reason. This includes a paragraph or three overviewing and explaining each of St. Paul's Epistles.

The book is rounded out with some reflections on "St. Paul and Us", a "Quick Reference for Catholic Doctrines and Practices in St. Paul's Life and Work", "The Quotable St. Paul" and "Prayers to St. Paul."

Highly recommended!

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
2-19-2009
Reviewed by: 

A Pocket Guide to the Meaning of Life

Author(s): 
Peter Kreeft
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
64 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

If any writer today can squeeze the meaning of life into a small 64 page booklet, the popular and prolific author Peter Kreeft can! The book is short, brief, almost laconic. One can throw it into the purse or even the pocket. And yet, the Pocket Guide to the Meaning of Life has it all: the truth of who we are, why we are here, where we are going, and how to get there.

The book is laid out in a simple Q & A format, displaying no more than two questions per page. Whenever he is able, Kreeft answers the questions with a single word or short phrase. Once in a while, a relevant, brief passage of the Bible is quoted. Sometimes, he answers the question posed by stating, "this is the way Jesus answered it", and proceeds then to quote from a Gospel writer. Saint Augustine is quoted a couple of times as well, and Saint John of the Cross and Gaudium et Spes once each.

This booklet will make a nice study aid for preparation for the sacrament of confirmation, but also beyond that-it would be helpful reading to just about anyone, in any stage of life!

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
12-24-2007
Reviewed by: 

A Reading Program for Overcoming Dyslexia

Book cover
Author(s): 
Cheryl Orlassino
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Lulu.com
Binding: 
Spiralbound
Number of pages: 
284 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

I recently came across a program entitled A Reading Program for Overcoming Dyslexia by Cheryl Orlassino. My eight year old falls under the generic term of dyslexia. We've been struggling the last two and half years with reading. We have not completed the book yet as I only ordered it a month ago. So far so good---he does not clam up and cry every time we start our reading/phonics lesson and is beginning to decode on his own without just memorizing the words. In fact, he's writing words from his lessons all over his art work. (My son is an avid little "illustrator".)

The book contains 55 well laid out lessons (you know, open the book and teach without prior preparation). I have found that the first two lessons can be done in one sitting but from lesson three on dividing the lessons into two sessions seems less overwhelming. The difference between this program and others we've tried unsuccessfully is the following:

  1. Consistent repetition
  2. Giving the reluctant reader more consonant/vowel blends to practice---not just the basic phonograms
  3. Taking the consonant/vowel blends and presenting them in different orders so the brain can learn and reinforce the visual input
  4. A nice balance between oral and written drills and dictation.
  5. Teaches and drills high frequency words

This is not a beginning reading program. The author notes that a student needs to know the alphabet, basic sounds, and how to write before beginning her "reading boot camp". Consistency and repetition are the key to this program. Hence, it is a big lesson in self-discipline for both student and parent. It is imperative to drill from the lessons and read to the child everyday--- as in seven days a week.

The book cost about $28--$30. It is spiral bound softcover and printed in black & white.

For more information: www.yourkidcanread.com
Reviewed by: Christine Hamel

Available from: www.yourkidcanread.com

Christine Hamel is a Catholic homeschooling mom of 4.

Review Date: 
2-09-2008

A Seed is Sleepy

Author(s): 
Diana Hutts Aston
Illustrator(s): 
Sylvia Long
Copyright: 
2007
Publisher: 
Chronicle Books
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
40 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Sometimes a book comes along that is truly outstanding! The acknowledgments page alone of this new book by Dianna Hutts is truly impressive! The text is captivating, telling stories that fascinate young and old readers about all sorts of seeds. I bet many an amateur botanist will have never heard about some of these! The illustrations--just gorgeous--complement this high quality picture book. Our children are learning Botany this semester at Homeschool Co-op and this volume is an excellent enrichment. We have the authors' other one as well--An Egg Is Quiet--also excellent!

Review Date: 
3-22-2007
Reviewed by: 

A Shepherd in Combat Boots

Chaplain Emil Kapaun of the 1st Calvary Division
Author(s): 
William L. Maher
Copyright: 
2002
Publisher: 
Burd Street Press
Number of pages: 
189 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

What makes a hero? In our modern society, we often associate heroes with professional sports. Some "famous" player leaps into the air making an unbelievable catch in the final moments of a game resulting in national attention. But there is another kind of hero, the quiet, unsung hero, someone who selflessly places himself in harms way to save the life of another. Fr. Emil Kapaun is one such hero.

Father Emil Kapaun deserves more than recognition, honor, and respect. He deserves to be emulated. That in some way is the motive behind his actions, to have others follow Christ and that also is the harder thing for us to do. He did what many of us falter at doing. He did the right thing; he had a properly formed conscience based on the teachings of Christ and he acted on it. He placed himself in harms way over and over again because he was ministering to Christ living in each one of the people he was assisting, whether or not that person recognized Christ.

Father Emil did not do this to receive a fancy trophy or shiny medal, but because he loved others with the compassion of Christ. May we all follow his selfless example in our daily lives when we are called to act upon our conscience even when the world and those around us would act otherwise.

William L Maher shares Fr. Emil's life story in his fascinating, well-documented biography, A Shepherd in Combat Boots, Chaplain Emil Kapaun of the 1st Cavalry Division.

Surrounded by Chinese enemy forces, cut off from help, and grenades flying, Fr. Emil chose to stay with the wounded American soldiers rather than try to escape. Refusing to leave the wounded men, they were eventually herded into prisoner of war camps after a grueling, heartless march of freezing temperatures and little food over mountainous terrain of close to 100 miles. Mercilessly, men to weak to walk were shot and killed. His heroism, faith, and courage bolstered the morale and saved the lives of many others.

Fr. Emil was a parish priest who served in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. He experienced the horrors of prisoner of war camp in Korea, where he died, trying to make it a better place for others. Everyone should read the chapter on the tactics the Communist Chinese used to break down the morale of the soldiers in prison camp.

From the opening pages, the reader is drawn into Fr. Emil's life story. In this hard to put down biography, we learn of a man who was willing to take up Christ's cross and follow him.

Review Date: 
5-14-2010

A Story of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Author(s): 
Brother Ernest, C. S. C.
Illustrator(s): 
Carolyn Lee Jagodits
Copyright: 
1960
Publisher: 
www.Marys-Books.com
Series: 
Dujarie
Number of pages: 
30 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

In this charming, simple story, we are introduced to St. Elizabeth, beginning with her birth and covering her complete life. Clearly, the style is written for younger children. "She was born in a big castle in Hungary way back in 1207--a long, long time ago!" Although the story is written for younger children, the language and storyline are not watered down, touching on the important events in her life as well as addressing the problems she encountered. "Soon some of the members of the court began to spread rumors against the princess." Throughout the story, vignettes of her sanctity are revealed in both the dialogue and the narrative. "When they got to the church door, Elizabeth stopped and took off her crown. 'I cannot wear a crown of gold and jewels when Jesus, my King, wears a crown of thorns!'"

St. Elizabeth presents a realistic portrait of a saint, who sought to follow God's will for her vocation in a balanced way. "These children required much of Elizabeth's time, but no matter what else there was to be done, they came first."

Even though it is written for young children, the story is engaging for all ages: no sugar coating of the realities she underwent, yet holds the attention of the reader until the end. Originally, there were several hundred Dujarie books, hopefully many more will be reprinted.

The popular Dujarie saint series from the 40s, 50s and 60s is back in print. There are two recommended reading levels: 1st level, 2nd gr. and up; 2nd level, 4th gr. and up. Saint Elizabeth is the first reading level. Some of the vocabulary is not typical for 2nd grade, e.g."expression of veneration." Since most 2nd graders are not proficient at reading, some will prefer to have the book read aloud.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Available from www.marys-books.com

Review Date: 
5-14-2010

A Storyteller's Version of Shakespeare for Kids

A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Taming of the Shrew
Author(s): 
Shakespeare as told by Jim Weiss
ISBN: 
1 882 513 401
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Greathall Productions
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

I love Melissa Wiley's quote on Jim Weiss' website: "Suddenly I understand. My four-year-old is narrating Shakespeare...Thank you, Jim Weiss!" (www.melissawiley.net)

My teenagers have fond memories of doing just that-- listening and quoting Shakespeare in early elementary school. I asked my 16 year old before I wrote this review and his opinion was that this CD offers the usual Jim Weiss traits: high quality adaptations, great storytelling voice, well done character voices.

The stories in this CD--A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Taming of the Shrew-- are neither over simplified or obscure for younger children. Jim Weiss is successful at opening up the world of Shakespeare at an early age and gives them the cultural references that will aid children in their studies until they are ready to tackle Shakespeare!

Additional notes: 

Jim Weiss also has produced a version of Romeo and Juliet.

Review Date: 
1-21-2009
Reviewed by: 

A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning

Author(s): 
Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Intercollegial Studies Institute
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
52 pages
Review: 

One thing people who homeschool worry a lot about is what college to send their children to. Many people homeschool to provide their children with the right kind of education—religious, liberal, etc. The last thing we want is for a bunch of flaky atheist, deconstructionist professors--or dorm life--to undermine our children’s assent and conformity to the natural and supernatural truths of our faith. So, do we send our children to one of those super-Catholic schools that are listed in the Cardinal Newman Society Guide? Or do we send them to one of the older, well established, but secularized to varying degrees Catholic universities and hope for a good campus ministry? Or a secular university, whether private or public? Is the Newman center okay? Will our children lose their faith? Their morals?

The answer, of course, varies with the child. All things being equal all Catholic schools should be genuinely Catholic and genuinely universities. If that were the case the decision would be a no-brainer, setting finances aside, because a genuinely Catholic university is the only real university there is. Alas, not all Catholic universities are Catholic. Not all fields are available at the Catholic schools that are. And many people can’t afford a private college or university of any sort. So, many people find it better to send their children to a state school or a Catholic school where the administration and faculty seem to have missed the memo (Ex Corde Ecclesia) about the meaning of Catholic identity.

The university, Catholic or not, has become a place where the focus is on the attainment of information that will lead to an increase of power, and the teaching of a sophistic rhetoric that will persuade others to allow you to exercise that power. Knowledge as such has become the only activity of the University, without any attention to the personal context of the cultivation of knowledge, or the practical significance of knowledge for living a good life—to the acquisition of wisdom. University students need wisdom as well as knowledge precisely at the age they are at and the university, where the student spends most of his time, needs to provide for the formation of the whole person, not just the intellect.

So, if you choose one of the schools that are not Catholic to the core can you count on losing your child to the secular humanists? Certainly not. Let us hope that our home education has given our children a good, solid foundation from which to negotiate the crazy things that are said and done out there, especially at the University.

Of course, our children can’t rest on their laurels. Neither can we. Because they will be growing exponentially as persons during their college years, they will need to continue their education as persons, not just professional training. First in importance, of course, is an active spiritual life and continued study of the faith. Also important, indeed essential, is a continued effort at a formation of the mind that corresponds to our genuine human nature and calling. And this does not merely mean studying the Catechism or encyclicals. It means learning to think like a Catholic about all things, such as politics, art, and science. It means gaining something that approximates a Catholic, liberal education.

Most universities, Catholic or otherwise, do not seem to know how to form the intellect according to the Catholic pattern, so our children will need guidance from somewhere else, especially if we ourselves did not get and have not since acquired such an education. Fortunately, that guidance is available in the person of James V. Schall, S.J., professor at Georgetown (a particularly secularized Catholic University).

In A Student’s Guide to: Liberal Learning, James V. Schall, S.J. gives some attention to the deficiencies of the contemporary university education and offers the discontent university student, or any adult serious about life, a three-pronged remedy.

Schall’s book can best be described as a 12-step program for higher education. First, we have to be aware of and acknowledge the problem in higher education and we have to admit we can’t do anything about it on our own. We are powerless before the relativistic forces of professional intellectuals. Then we have to know that a solution exists, help is available. Then we need to seek it.

The help that Schall proposes is threefold. “We need some self-discipline, our own personal library where we keep what we read, and real good guides” (p. 49). In order to remain intellectually sane in the poisonous atmosphere of many universities and the world around us, a person must take an antidote—which is a guided reading of the good books in the tradition of classical western liberal arts, whether ancient (Plato) or modern (Flannery O’Connor).

1. Self-discipline. The emphasis on reading makes the focus of the book on the intellectual life. Schall highlights, however, the role that moral disorder plays in losing sight the truth. “There is an intimate connection between our moral life and our intellectual life” (p 30). Although, as Newman held, the teaching of knowledge is the purpose of the university, that does not mean that the university is absolved from helping the student form his will so he can achieve his intellectual goals. Those for whom the formation of the intellect is the primary concern cannot neglect the moral virtues without sacrificing the intellectual ones as well. Although, Schall does not directly address the proper way to attend to the formation of the will, he does state that moral virtues are as important for the formation of the intellect as intellectual virtues. The focus is on the human mind which cannot function properly outside of a healthy will and body and affections. “If we do not have our lives in order under the rule of right reason, we will simply not see the first principles of reasoning and of living” (p. 11).

Intellectual virtues themselves are important as well: He, for instance, encourages, without naming them, the classical intellectual disciplines of the mind, the trivium of the liberal arts. The liberal arts aren’t just knowledge, but arts, distinct from the useful and fine, but arts nonetheless, directed at understanding and communicating the truth. That is why such books as Adler’s How to Read a Book, Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life, and Schumacher’s A Guide to the Perplexed are as important as the great texts themselves, such as Augustine’s Confessions. Reading even great books without a mind trained in something like the trivium is less likely to gain true knowledge that can be communicated and put into action. We will be left with good, vague feelings about a text, but no clear understanding of how the ideas in the book relate to the whole.

2. Good books. One of the best features of this book is the lists. Not only do we find “Schall’s Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By” as Appendix I, but throughout the text there are short lists, serious ones, such as, “”Five Books on Thomas Aquinas,” “Five Classic Texts on Philosophy,” “Six Classic Texts never to be left unread,” “Seven Books About Universities,” and quirky and whimsical ones, such as “Three of the More than One-Hundred P.G. Wodehouse Novels” and “Four Books Once Found at a Used Book Sale.” Names of other good books not on any of the lists are sprinkled throughout the book. They are listed in the bibliography of the online version.

But, even good books aren’t all equally valuable. Being the good guide he is, Schall does not leave us without indication of what is the most essential reading. The two most important books are the Bible and Shakespeare. The seven intellectual heroes for Schall are: God (the Bible), Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine and Aquinas. Honorable mention may be given to Eric Voegelin.

3. The need for guidance (authority). Schall is proposing initiation into a wisdom tradition, not just an intellectual ‘great conversation.” This implies a prior judgment of the value of given books: an authority. It is not enough, as in some Great Books programs, to be introduced into the Great Conversation about what is true or whether the truth is knowable. For young readers such an encounter can lead to confusion and cynicism. Great books don’t answer the question about what is true (p. 23), unless we already know how to tell. What is really needed is a prior judgment about those works that in fact articulate some aspect of the knowable and known truth and center our intellectual formation on them. This is done quite readily in particular disciplines, such as physics or economics. Why not in knowledge as such or knowledge as a whole? Schall has positioned himself as a master, a guide. He is pointing to the texts of intellectual sanity. This does not absolve our irreplaceable need to make our own judgment about the truth of the good books our guides suggest. Schall makes it clear that ideas need to be tested by the reader against their own experience (p. 41) and college students are at an age when they need to take responsibility to discern the truth of what they hear.

The goal of a liberal education as conceived by Schall is not just knowledge, but sanity—a mind that corresponds to the real so the person can act according to the truth and make decisions about the organization of his personal life and society that are in accord with the nature of the parts, the whole and their relationship. “Just because someone is smart does not mean he is wise” (p. 8.) The goal of the university is the cultivation of the intellect. But that intellect needs most of all to be able to address the meaning of the whole and our place in it and relation to it. Although we can “know” a truth, it isn’t actually true for us until we can and do act upon it. Our actions reveal what we believe (p. 21). Schall himself speaks on page one of “knowledge for its own sake.” He follows quickly, however, on page two with an assertion that we need not only “to know what is,” but also “to know what we ought to do” (p. 2).

The classic liberal tradition is precisely that, a wisdom tradition to be handed on. Because modern university culture has been deeply influenced by a philosophy of liberal education that believes that the critical faculty is the most important faculty of the human intellect, rather than the ability to receive and understand the accumulated wisdom of the ages, we have to cultivate the latter on our own.

Although this book is intended to be a guide for undergraduates, it may be equally useful for the many of us parents who may not have had access to a genuinely Catholic liberal education. And even those of us that did can benefit greatly from many of the books on Schall’s great lists. I personally have discovered in the past six months at least one life-changing book by reading Schall's Student's Guide.

A fuller version of the book can be found online here.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
12-3-2007
Reviewed by: 

A Student's Guide to the Study of History

Book cover: 'A Student's Guide to the Study of History'
Author(s): 
John Lukacs
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
ISI Books
Number of pages: 
49 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

It is hard to believe that such skinny little books can pack such a wallop. That is what you find in this series by ISI (Intercollegiate Studies Institute) books.

From the opening pages, you gain a sense of the personal; you feel that you have picked the brain of your favorite professor over your beverage of choice, as he elaborates on his favorite subject. Since it is a professor speaking, he does not merely "tell" you his opinion, he speaks with academic authority, in both his level of language and the conviction of having taught this for many years.

Since the book addresses the importance of studying, anyone (either high school student, parent/teacher), who is interested in studying history would profit from reading this.

In this student guide, the topic is history. Having recently read several student guides to history, it has become apparent to me that each professor has his own view of what makes history. In this book, Lukacs begins with a "description," not a "definition" of history. Lukacs differs from some historians in that he believes that history includes both the remembered as well as the recorded past. Since he believes that everyone has a contributing role to history and not just significant people or important events, he has a rather broad view of history.

In discussing how only the past is included in history and not the present or the future, Lukacs quotes Soren Kierkegaard. "We live forward, but we can only think backward."

Lukacs goes on to describe the history of history. He begins by explaining the difference between human beings and other living creatures and how only humans have a sense of history. He then goes on to talk about some of our oldest historical records are found in the Old and New Testament. In doing so, he makes some interesting arguments for Christianity. The section alone makes the book priceless.

From there, he discusses other historians throughout time, such as Polybius, and Plutarch. He also distinguishes between chroniclers and historians. He clarifies how the meanings of words, such as barbarian, have changed over time.

In the next section, he shows the development of the "professional historian".

Under the chapter "the methods of history," he stresses how important it is to know how to read in order to study history. By this, he does not mean phonics!

There may be some debate as to what comprises the study of history. Usually, however, historians agree on what are considered the classics in history. In the last chapter, Lukacs recommends various titles the student should read for each period of time. Keeping in mind that the audience for this book is college-age, some of these recommended texts might not be appropriate in their entirety for high school students, because of the sexual references; in particular, Herodotus'Histories and Plutarch's Lives.

I appreciate his footnote that "there can be no good historian who cannot write well." He adds, "Writing well means thinking well." In fact, there are numerous statements throughout the book that I am tempted to highlight: thought-provoking statements for the reader to ponder.

At times, the language can become a bit academic-sounding, and Lukacs likes to get off on tangents; but if the reader sticks with it, he will arrive at the author's point of view and find the wait worthwhile. Altogether, this book not only offers a good list of books to consider reading, but also offers a good explanation of of what is needed to study well: to read and think critically and express one's thoughts intelligently in writing. All this is packed in a mere 49 pages.

Review Date: 
11-22-04
Reviewed by: 

Pages