Speech & Literature Appreciation Class for Children

Last fall, I had the wonderful privilege of teaching a literature appreciation class to 7 students between the ages of 4 and 13. Over seven weeks they memorized the poem “Daybreak” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and become familiar with seven of Aesop’s Fables. At the end of the course, I hosted a tea party for all my classes, and my students had the opportunity to show their parents what they had learned. They each recited their favorite Aesop Fables and quoted the poem together. Some of my students even dressed up in full costume for their “speeches.” We all had a blast.

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Reviewer’s Digest//Fantasy and Sci-Fi

The Book of Dragons, selected and illustrated by Michael Hague

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Read August 24th-31st

This collection features several delightful dragon stories I’d never heard before or heard only in part. My one critique is that the illustrations didn’t always fit, the dragons often being more cartoonish and whimsical than fierce and magnificent as the stories describe them.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson (Wordsworth Classics)

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Read from October 20th-27th

The featured and famous short story “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is refreshingly Calvinistic in its eloquent and provocative portrait of human depravity. I give it five stars. The other short stories in this collection range from 1 star to 4. One crossed the line into useless and awful horror for its own sake (“Thrawn Janet”), several were dull and dragged, lacking the refinement of Stevenson’s later mastery of the short story form but still containing several lines worth underlining, and two stories, “The Merry Men” and “Markheim”, I found almost as riveting and intellectually stimulating as “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.”

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton

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Read November 6th-8th
5 Stars

The story opens and moves with the kind of childish silliness that makes you purse your lips, roll your eyes, shake your head, then smile despite yourself. Despite my grown-up sensibilities I caught myself laughing at wandering mangrove trees, giant poison-tongued tortoises that drop out of willow trees on unsuspecting victims, an imaginative girl determined to save the world (from–whatever it needs saving from!), a 12-year-old King who works to tears the citizens of the Island-At-The- Center-Of-Everything to provide a steady supply of pepper to satisfy his inordinate appetite for the spice, a man so long accustomed to shrinking from danger that his body has begun to shrink inside his now-oversized clothes and–of course, at a giant that is asleep under the island and may at any point wake up. Especially if the Leafeaters keep digging around his toes.

But underneath the ridiculous is a current of serious thought that will take you by surprise. You never stop laughing but somewhere along the way, so subtly that you don’t know quite when it began, you start thinking as well. You think about bigness and smallness. Of fear and adventure. Of strength and weakness. Of mystery and life’s frailty.

Life is both more terrifying and wonderful than we realize. It is “a mess and a miracle. So pick up a broom and dance.”

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

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Read October 30th
The first couple chapters were exciting. I loved the style of narration and was immediately draw into the unfolding story. But in the end, the story left me burdened by the sadness dystopias always bring me.

I am increasingly leery of the dystopian craze among my own peers. I think that the occasional dystopian novel is helpful to the Christian because of its unique ability to explore the implications of secular worldviews in a way abstract arguments can’t. Instead of telling you that communism is a dead- end road, they make you feel the oppression, ride the roller-coaster, and recoil in horror as the oppressed pigs of Animal Farm come to take on the likeness and behaviors of the Farmers they overthrew; instead of telling you that Darwinian evolution offers a hopeless future, they make you feel the coldness, the despair, and the emptiness of a godless universe deep down in your bones.

I need these reminders now and then, of just how hopeless the world is without Christ, of just how hopeless the espoused beliefs of many of my neighbors are. But I also think that if this kind of literature and film becomes our main staple and dominates our minds and affections, despite our cognitive disagreement with the worldview presented, the coldness and darkness of it will still subconsciously creep into our own worldview. We’ll begin to accept their view of reality as congruent with our own. I see it in young people of my generation manifested in a profound skepticism that there is hope for the world on the horizon, forgetting that Hope has arrived and He’s coming back and that that has profound implications for humanity. The future we face is neither dark nor cold nor uncertain and we need to be reminded of the hopefulness of our faith at least as often as we are reminded of the hopelessness of all others.

Other Fantasy and Sci-Fi books read in the second half of 2014: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, the Harry Potter books 1-4, The Hobbit (again)
Other General Fiction books read in the second half of 2014: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (click for review)

Seeing the Horrors of WW2 Through a Child’s Eyes

I AM DAVID
By Anne Holm

⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0152051600/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0152051600&linkCode=as2&tag=livinheassha-20

This book moved VERY slow and the plot and character development was simplistic, yet there remains in this story a spark of something that is difficult to describe and likely will not resonate with all readers, compelling me to give this book a higher rating than I would otherwise. It’s a story of the crushing influence and lasting impressions a secular and oppressive institution have on a young boy who should have been in the bloom of “innocence” but instead must be taught to smile, to trust and to accept “something for nothing” in return as he leaves behind the Nazi concentration camp he lived in all his life in the dim hope of finding his long-lost mother in Denmark.

I would highly recommend the book to young readers because it is a delicate and non-graphic introduction to the holocaust, focusing on the effects rather than the source of WW2’s horrors.

Seabird

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

(A 300-words-or-less review)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0395266815/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0395266815&linkCode=as2&tag=livinheassha-20

Something between a picture book and a novel, Seabird makes for a pleasant summer afternoon’s reading or a periodic before-bed-time story with something there to spark the imagination of both the adult and the child too young to read it on his own. I loved the imagery and word pictures. The book reminded me constantly of Moby Dick. Sometimes it took only a word to bring back the salty sea breeze and the zing of the whale lines, taut with the chase.

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