August has been a rough month. With the kiddos heading off to school next Thursday, or in our case, booting up for another round of virtual learning, I was feeling the pressure of our summer vacation’s end and took a blog-free timeout for a week to focus my attention on my son. I’m not sure what the blogging etiquette is for this sort of thing, so I left the explanation of my absence to this monthly review post for ease and brevity.
Because of this impromptu break, I ended up reading four books with my son and only two on my own. No matter, though, at least I totaled at six to completion, in keeping with the pattern of the last three months.
The two of us enjoyed The Secret Garden immensely. We were lucky enough to find a book at the library that contained recipes for the food mentioned within, so watch for a review in The Gallery over the coming weeks for this fun cookbook, and see some photos of our delicious makes.
Who Was Mister Rogers by Diane Bailey
My boy picked a great one this time: Who Was Mister Rogers? He was only my favourite children’s entertainer of all time – that’s who he was and that’s who he shall remain.
Addressing sensitive issues with children, validating their feelings, and encouraging them to love themselves for who they are whilst taking the time to love their neighbour; was there ever a more beautiful or necessary message than that?
I’m excited to do a full review on this Who HQ title along with a companion post on some of his more momentous episodes, so stay tuned. 😉
George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
George has had enough of his wicked grandmother’s surly and selfish nature, so when she regales herself by frightening him with tales of eating bugs and practicing Wizardry, he thinks it’s time he had a little fun of his own.
Roald Dahl has tapped into every child’s wish to mix up a witch’s brew in this wild and wacky tale. As he seeks revenge on his nasty grandmother by concocting a medicine that is sure to either set her straight or send her flying to the moon, either option is all right by George.
My son requested that I make a Read-a-Loud of this book, as he found the grandmother very entertaining. Watch for that on Storytime Sunday later this week.
To listen to the dramatic reading of Chapters 1 & 2, click here.
Summer Brother by Jaap Robben
Summer Brother was the first to arrive of the long-listed 2021 International Booker Prize titles that I had put on hold at the library in the spring.
This Dutch offering by Jaap Robben was sad, pathetic, enraging, and touching. The heavy scenes playing out were made lighter by the naivety of the thirteen-year-old narrator, but the main takeaway for me here is how terrible at parenting people can be, no matter where they reside.
This story makes you uncomfortable, disgusted, and dreadfully sorrow-filled for the many innocents taken out along the way.
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
The Baudelaire children lose their parents in a fatal fire and, sadly, must bounce between various family guardians until their bequeathed estate is awarded to Violet, the eldest, on her 18th birthday. With such a hefty sum of money tied to them, the children have a target on their back as their distant relative, Count Olaf, attempts to gain access to them and their fortune.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a fun collection, no doubt, but at times it lingers as repetitive and formulaic. The key is to take sufficient lapses between each volume, so I figured out, as a four-month break from the predictable antics of Count Olaf proved enough to make this fourth volume exciting for us again.
This time the Baudelaire children must live out their orphaned days at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, where they are forced into manual labour and near starvation. There are some sour types they must contend with, but at least no Count Olaf. But is he ever really far away?
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Wow, a lot is going on here, given it mainly took place in one block of brownstones! Doctor Fox is a shut-in, unable to fight her fears and leave the safety of her four walls. With a glass of Merlot in one hand and a Nikon focusing in the other, this depressed and lonely woman passes her time by spying on the surrounding families on her wealthy street.
Admittedly, I found the storytelling a little sluggish here and there, but that might have more to do with my ignorance of the Silver Screen references invoked throughout. Otherwise, this was a clever tale that explored the psychology of damaged people, which I LOVE in a story; see my review of In The Woods by Tana French here. Even though I was sure I had it figured out more than once, I was duped and unawares upon the unveiling.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Having only a vague recollection of its contents, I was pleasantly surprised by how much my 8-year-old son loved this book!
Relished by countless children across the world for over a century, this legendary classic is timeless in its characters, their struggles, and its overlying messages. That said, some scenes provide teachable moments about racism and the effects of colonialism, which make reading this aloud with a child ideal.
Well, almost ideal. I struggled to read the Yorkshire dialect sprinkled throughout in a sensical way for the first few paragraphs. In exasperation, I stopped trying so hard and instead read it with an accent, albeit a poor one, and it went much smoother, haha. I fared better in getting the words out, and they went by faster.
Have you read any of these titles? What was your favourite read from August?