The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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Title: The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Premise:

Carol Bird is born on Christmas Day, a wonderful gift to the rest of her family.  Her health is rather poor and never improves throughout her childhood.  This Christmas, Carol makes it her mission to bring joy to someone else and chooses the Ruggles children who live in poverty in a small house behind her family’s mansion.  Carol and her family make grand preparations so that the Ruggles children can have a magical Christmas experience.

My thoughts:

I read this book some years ago and it’s one of my favorite Christmas stories.  I’ll warn you, it does end sadly.  The story is so sweet and old-fashioned, with charming drawings scattered throughout the book.  Carol uses her last Christmas to bring joy to other children, and I believe that’s a thought worth sharing during the Christmas season.

Really, you have to take the story at face value or you could get caught up in a discussion about why the Bird family doesn’t provide aid to the Ruggles family the rest of the year.  That’s a perfectly valid criticism of the story, but the story wasn’t really written as a manual on civic responsibility.  It’s just a feel-good Christmas story which keeps everything surface level.  The one redeeming point is Uncle Jack’s proclamation that should something happen to Carol, he vows to take the Ruggles family under his wing.  Thank heavens for Uncle Jack!

I recommend The Birds’ Christmas Carol as a touching story that’s perfect for the Christmas season.

Possible Objections:

  • In one scene the Ruggles children play “Deaf and Dumb Asylum”

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Grandfather’s Dance by Patricia MacLachlan

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Title: Grandfather’s Dance by Patricia MacLachlan

Notable: Book #5 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series

Premise:

This story picks up a short while after the previous one left off.  Jack is now a toddler/preschooler and acts just like his grandpa, John.  Cassie has come to terms with the family’s new addition and she can’t help but love her little brother.  Anna and Justin finally marry, which necessitates a visit from the Maine relatives.  The joyous mood is short-lived, however, when tragedy strikes.

My thoughts:

Well,  I finally finished the Sarah, Plain and Tall series!  It’s a bittersweet ending because I always feel sad when a story featuring some of my favorite characters comes to an end.

In this book, little Jack fairly worships the ground his grandfather walks on and tries to emulate him in all he does.  Poor grandfather is finding it harder and harder to keep up with the rest of the family because of his failing health.  Each family member has to confront the prospect of a future spent without their father/grandfather, and come to terms with that eventuality.

This is a good story for introducing kids to mortality and helping them see that death is an unavoidable part of life.  For kids who might be facing the loss of a grandparent, I think this could be a very cathartic read.  I’ll confess–it made me cry.

I recommend Grandfather’s Dance to kids who are reading beginner chapter books, or as a touching family read aloud.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL SERIES POSTS:

More Perfect than the Moon by Patricia MacLachlan

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Title: More Perfect than the Moon by Patricia MacLachlan

Notable: Book #4 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series

Premise:

Cassie Witting is now the family member whose responsibility it is to write in the journal.  Cassie enjoys observing others and writing make-believe stories about them.  When Cassie finds out that Sarah is going to have a baby, she thinks the baby will come between herself and her mama.  She hopes that if she makes up her own story about the baby, perhaps nothing will change and that Sarah will still love her best.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book as a continuation of the previous three in the series.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t my favorite in the series.  I think it was because there was so very little that actually happened in the plot line.  It’s basically about Sarah getting pregnant, the difficulties she has as an older pregnant woman, and Cassie’s resentment about the new baby.  It’s a nicely done story, and I can see it being a good read for a child who isn’t thrilled with the idea of a new baby being added to their family.

Probably the most satisfying part of the story for me, was in seeing Grandfather’s role in the family expand.  In the last book he had just been fully admitted as a member of the Witting family, but in this book he has really found his position in the family.  He’s a confidant and mentor to the children, a helper to the adults, and a patriarch to the whole Witting family.

I recommend More Perfect than the Moon to kids who are reading beginner chapter books, or as a touching family read aloud.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL SERIES POSTS:

The Littles Go to School by John Peterson

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Title: The Littles Go to School by John Peterson

Premise:

Lucy Little is worried about going to school for the first time.  Her family reassures her that she will enjoy it, but she’s still scared.  When Tom and Lucy find themselves accidentally transported to school in the gerbils’ cage, Lucy gets a chance to explore the school and find out how fun it really can be.

My thoughts:

My son and I just finished this chapter book for school.  I think we may have made it through all the Littles books we own!  For some reason this wasn’t my favorite Littles book.  I think it may be because the action and adventure was very tame, apart from their being transported to the school by mistake.

My son enjoyed it and got a kick out of the silly things Tom and Lucy did while exploring the school, so I suppose it’s a bit more appealing to kids.  It may have also sounded similar to our homeschooling experiences.  Just like us, Tom and Lucy do the majority of their school work at home through mostly child-led activities.  They go to the “big school” for one week per year to meet with their classmates and teacher, Ms. Beta Gogg.

I recommend The Littles Go to School to those who are already fans of the Littles.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Caleb’s Story by Patricia MacLachlan

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Title: Caleb’s Story by Patricia MacLachlan

Notable: Book #3 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series

Premise:

Anna has now left home to finish school and work in town.  It is Caleb’s turn to write in the family journal and the new topic is the appearance of a mysterious stranger named John.  When the family finds out who he really is, it causes some major consternation and Jacob must learn to forgive if their family is to survive.

My thoughts:

The third book in the series is right in line with the previous two in terms of style and subject matter.  In this volume we get to see Cassie (the youngest daughter) as a young girl and Caleb has taken on a much more mature role in the family.  I loved the part that he had to play in teaching John a new skill.  Seriously, if I tell you want it is, I’ll spoil the book for you.

The same overarching theme of family is explored in this book, with the emphasis being on forgiveness and fresh starts.  I still don’t know how MacLachlan does it, but she packs very moving stories into small packages.  Bravo!

I recommend Caleb’s Story to young people who enjoy stories about early American settlers.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL SERIES POSTS:

 

Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan

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Title: Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan

Notable: Book #2 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series

Premise:

Sarah and Papa have been married a year, and Anna and Caleb have come to know Sarah as their mother.  However, hard times hit when there is a drought on the prairie.  Can Sarah cope with the difficulties of prairie life, or will she return home to her beloved Maine?

My thoughts:

Like the first book in the series, this one is also short and to the point.  Through a relatively simple story, MacLachlan goes straight to the heart in examining the topics of family, hardship and commitment.

Life on the prairie ends up being harder than Sarah ever imagined, and she’s not sure if she can cope with the prolonged drought which threatens their home, livestock and very existence.  I enjoyed seeing the children’s relationship with Sarah’s relatives develop.  Even though they left the prairie to visit Sarah’s family, they felt secure in the knowledge that Sarah saw them as her children and didn’t simply leave them behind.  The development at the end cements their status as a family even more.  No spoilers!

I recommend Skylark to young people who enjoy stories about early American settlers.

Possible Objections:

  • One of Sarah’s aunts goes skinny-dipping

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL SERIES POSTS:

October 2017 Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to this month’s winners!

  • Pride and Prejudice   Nancy

  • The Quick —  Julie T.

  • The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Strategy Battle Game Book —  Aprile M.

  • Miss Bianca in the Orient — Eileen B.

  • Holding On to Hope — Jessica W.

  • The Cricket in Times Square — Jade W.

 

I’ll email all of you to set up delivery and I hope that you enjoy your new books!

November Unhaul & Giveaway — CLOSED

My Bookshelf Giveaways:

*Read my reviews by clicking on the titles above.

Enter by clicking on the link following each title.  The giveaways are open internationally to participants 18 years and older and will end on November 30, 2017.  Winners will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!