Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review of P. L. Travers' "Mary Poppins"

I typically like a book better than its movie adaptation if I get to it first. Unfortunately, I think I watched Disney's Mary Poppins before I ever began reading. Also, there is no doubt that reading a children's book in your late twenties is not quite the same as if you had read it as a child. Excuses aside, I didn't enjoy this book very much.  I didn't like the character of Mary Poppins whatsoever, and the adventures she experiences with the children were stranger and less charming than those featured and adapted in the film. It was an odd book I almost didn't finish, but at least now I can have an actual opinion about the story and characters. I don't think I will waste my children's time by reading this one to them.

Review of Elisabeth Elliot's "Through Gates of Splendor"

This account of the lives and deaths of five men as told by one of the widows will make you rethink God's love and how we express it to others through our words and actions. They loved those the world saw as unlovable and did not value their own lives over the spiritual salvation of others. It is breathtaking and inspiring... and convicting.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A review of C. S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe"

Reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis is like visiting an old friend. ...An old friend that is brilliant and tons of fun. I picked up this book again because of my focus this January and February on literature written or read during my parents' youth. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was first published ten years before my parents' birth, so that means they were the first generation of children in my family with the pleasure of this classic. A couple of my grandparents would have been older teens when it first came out. My mother remembers reading it as a student and writing a school report about it. I did the same during my school years, and I am sure my children will follow in our footsteps when it is their turn. This book, with its Christian themes tucked inside, is an absolute pleasure and a true gift to children's literature.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review of Scott O'Dell's "Island of the Blue Dolphins"

Survival for Karana is more difficult than just finding enough to eat and drink. Her need for shelter from wild animals and the fierce storms that beat against her island are only the beginning. Karana must deal with grief, abandonment, and loneliness. Her strong will to live helps her forge a new life in harsh conditions void of the culture and human interaction most of mankind takes for granted. The internal thoughts and feelings of this fictional (but inspired by real life) girl kept me turning the pages.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Palma Lena Peterson Smith Died on 27 January 1934 in Sioux City, Iowa.

One thing about genealogy is that you usually do it in small, bite size chunks as life allows. After all, this is a hobby which requires time and funds if you want to go very deep. As a result, some errors can be assumed correct for a very long time before they are corrected.

On that note, I spent some quality time the other night looking for records to back up "What I already know" about my 2nd great grandmother Palma Lena Peterson Smith. As always, I was reminded why the original records are so important. The only death date for Palma listed in the online family trees (and the one I was using) was 27 December 1934. Wrong! The sudden passing of this dear Christian woman happened a full 11 months earlier on 27 JANUARY 1934! I found this out by tracking down original newspaper notices about her death – the first of which was published 28 Jan 1934 (only one day after her death) in the Sioux City Sunday Journal.

I was perplexed at first. It wasn't just my mistake (which happens). Everybody had this incorrect date. How was everybody wrong? I looked up my original source, The Story of J. M. & P. L. Smith and their Kin and Kith by Palma's daughter Leora Swanson, and the death date was correct in two places both in and near the copied obituary from an unknown date and newspaper. By the way, I am looking for this information in case anyone knows where to find it; the obituary is full of information, and I would like to use it as evidence.

What was unfortunate is that the typo was held in the genealogy summary in the back of the book and was apparently the page that was being copied by me and my fellow Smith Family researchers. Oh well. It happens!

Also, the obituary was very clear that she died in a hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, not closer to home in Sloan or Albaton. So, two mistakes in my family tree disposed of. On to the next!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Review of Ron Reagan's "My Father at 100"

This might not be the best book on Ronald Reagan, but it is from a unique perspective. Written by a man just a couple years older than my own parents, it is written by the president's youngest child. Ron Reagan had a complicated history with his father, and this book of memories and reflections helps to humanize an individual that was so much more than just a California Governor or President of the Unites States of America. He was a husband and a father who cared deeply, made mistakes, but always loved his family and hoped for their best.

One thing I like about My Father at 100: A Memoir is that it is not a political biography. It is about a son's journey to dive into his father's past as a boy and youth and relate to him in a way that is no longer possible. Walk where he walked. See what he saw. The author traveled to the places where his father was born, grew up, went to school and worked as a young man and tried to put himself in his grandparents and father's shoes.

Despite significant religious and political differences, it is obvious from Ron Reagan's reminiscences that he loved his father very much and respected him as a person of character even when they didn't agree. There are a few places where the author's tone seems slightly condescending toward his father, and I believe the vast divide in their personal worldviews was a conflict that even love could not make easy. Still, President Reagan's status as one of the good guys shines through.

I enjoyed the family history aspect of this story. We travel from Ireland to Illinois to California with five generations of Reagan men and see the family develop and persevere through both national and international crises. Fame aside, this was an intriguing look at how we are both shaped by our world and have a turn at shaping it back.

Overall, a good read, but not a comprehensive view of the 40th president of the United States. The author assumes you are already familiar with his subject and is just adding some details you might only get by reading a book written by himself, the son of the president.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Book Suggestions for the 1960s and '70s?

Happy New Year! I am listening to "Jesus Music" right now. My new reading challenge for 2016 involves going back in time with books and music from and about the eras of my ancestors -- going back six generations from my parents to my 4th great grandparents (about 1820). Some of you might be able to help me with the first few selections. January and February will be focused on the 1960s and '70s. First, what was your favorite children's book written during the 1960s? Next, which non-fiction books best capture the spirit of the life and times of the 1960s and '70s (may be written at any time)? I am talking about missionary biographies, US politics, Christianity, science, music, and culture. I especially enjoy memoirs written by normal people who told stories about everyday life, but famous people are okay too. Thank you for any suggestions!

2016 Family History Reading Challenge

1. A popular children's book from my parents' generation (1960s)
A Few Options: The Jazz Man by Mary Hays Weik, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, or The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary


2. A non-fiction book about people or events of my parent's youth


3. A popular children's book from my grandparents generation (1932-1946)

A Few Options: Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock by Caroloyn Keene, Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers, Lassie Come Home by Eric Mowbray Knight, or The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
4. A non-fiction book about people or events of my grandparents' youth

5. A popular children's book from my great grandparents generation (mostly 1900-1920)

A Few Options: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Braum, Call of the Wild by Jack London, Raggedy Ann Stories by Gruelle, Johnny, or The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

6. A non-fiction book about people or events of my great grandparents' youth

7. A popular children's book from my 2nd great grandparents generation (mostly 1860-1880)

A Few Options: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, A Wonder: Books for Girls and Boys by Nathaniel Hawthorne, or The Magic Fish-bone by Charles Dickens

8. A non-fiction book about people or events of my 2nd great grandparents' youth

9. A popular children's book from my 3rd great grandparents generation (mostly 1830-1850)

A Few Options: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo, or Children of the New Forest by Captain Maryatt

10. A non-fiction book about people or events of my 3rd great grandparents' youth

11. A popular children's book from my 4th great grandparents generation (mostly 1810-1830)

A Few Options: poems by Jane and Ann Taylor, etc.

12. A non-fiction book about people or events of my 4th great grandparents' youth

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge -- COMPLETED!

I am borrowing (and slightly adapting) the 2015 Reading Challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy. This list will be updated throughout the year.

A book from your childhood: Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

A book you chose because of the cover: The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly by Doug Stewart

A book recommended by someone with great taste: I am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer

A book “everyone” has read but you: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

A book you've been meaning to read: Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

A book originally written in another language: Mazli by Johanna Spyri

A book you should have read in high school: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A book your mom loves: Who Switched Off My Brain by Caroline Leaf

A book that's currently on the bestseller list: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

A book your dad loves: Alfred the Great: The Man Who Made England by Justin Pollard

A book in a genre you don't typically read: King Lear by William Shakespeare

"Bonus" Uncategorized Books:

Plus, more picture books than I can count.

"More Stories from Grandma's Attic" by a New Favorite Author

It is the last day of the year, and I am posting the final review to complete my 2015 reading challenge. Just in time! The final category to fill is "A book by a favorite author" -- an easy one certainly.

But, it wasn't.

I chipped away at Jane Austen's Selected Letters for most of the year, but I still haven't read it cover to cover. Then, my sister gave me a beautiful copy of Mere Christianity on the last day of November, and I thought it would be the perfect choice. Only, December is an incredible month full of gatherings with friends and family, shopping, wrapping presents, baking, and my favorite tradition, the daily lighting of the Advent candles as my family read, prayed, and sang together before putting the children to bed.

And, in all this, I finished reading a book. It was easy, simple, fun, and wholesome. I think I was holding a drowsy toddler in a dark room during the middle of the night when I happened to come across the last page on my lighted Kindle screen. More Stories from Grandma's Attic was written by my newest favorite author, Arleta Richardson. I read the first book in her Grandma's Attic series earlier in the year as a bonus book that didn't fit neatly into any of the 13 categories of the reading challenge. Five months later, I can say confidently that Arleta Richardson is a favorite author. Her stories are memorable and sweet. I return to them over and over again in my mind. A good book doesn't have to be deep, long, or intended for a mature audience. I find my favorites were often intended for children.

Arleta Richardson's approach of remembering her childhood and the stories her grandmother told about her own childhood -- going back much more than a century -- appealed to me in every way. The good news is that there are more books by Richardson to discover.

Have a happy New Year!