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.