Reading Roundup of Books, from Jefferson to Cleary’s CATegorical books

I’ve decided it’s pretty hard to keep up with life these days. At least, it’s hard to keep up with life, planning homeschool lessons, raising two kids, and keeping blogging on two blogs! I’m not going away, but this is how things go.

I have read a number of fantastic books in the past months that I’ve never posted about. Here is a run-down of some of them. Let me know if there is one that you’d like to hear more about.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by John Meacham (Random House, 2012). This fantastic look at Thomas Jefferson was a nice complement to the biography of John Adams I read a few years ago (by David McCullough). I find those two founding fathers absolutely fascinating. I was very interested in Thomas Jefferson. He was a private man, and yet he was such a visible part of the founding of the country. Mr Meacham did a fantastic job of giving us a glimpse of this complex personality. I don’t feel I know him, but I feel I know as much as there is to know. It piqued my interest once again in the founding of our nation. Recommended. Digital review copy.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929). Some books are nearly impossible to explain in words, and The Sound and the Fury is one of them. You must experience it. It is narrated by three siblings in three different years in the early 1900s, one of whom is a mentally challenged man, Benjy, who has no sense of time. Therefore, the book is both stream of consciousness and non-chronological. Although it is an overwhelming read for that reason, it is also fantastically executed. After my one read of this book a distant two months ago, I cannot explain what happened in the book, but I can tell you I want to reread it. Definitely.

Dolphin, Fox, Hippo, Ox by Brian Cleary (Lerner Publishing, 2012) and other books in the Words are CATegorical. These books are clever. Using fun rhymes, they teach about concepts that children are still learning about: parts of speech, mathematical concepts, or, in this case, animal groups. Dolphin et al is about mammals. I liked this book enough to seek out others in the series to enjoy with my young son. In general, though, I don’t think they actually teach much. They are not nonfiction enough to cement the concepts. They provide a nice and fun introduction, however. Digital review copy.

Figuring Out Fossils by Sally M. Walker (Lerner Publishing, 2013) caught my eye because (1) I love Sally Walker and (2) I read a book by Ms Walker about fossils last year, a part of the Early Bird Science series. To my delight and surprise, this was the same book I read last year, repackaged with more kid-friendly design and a new title. I never reviewed it last year, so I am pleased to have revisited it. Ms Walker is expert at explaining complex concepts without talking down to the young reader. Her text on fossils is simply perfect. I am not a science person myself, but reading the series (now called “Searchlight Books — Do you Dig Earth Science?”) gives me confidence and understanding about the basic concepts of the titles. These books are written for middle-elementary level readers, with large text, frequent diagrams and illustrations, and a glossary of unknown terms. The redesign of the book makes it a little more kid-friendly. Font style, text-box design, and placement of illustrations goes a long way toward keeping a young reader’s attention. Digital review copy.

Of course, I’ve read far more than these four books. There are a number of picture books I’d like to revisit with you, and some more review copies that I need to discuss. For now, however, I hope these brief thoughts can hold you over until next time.