Homeschooling Happenings – Mexico

Today we finish up our time in Mexico. Last week we studied the country as a whole and this week we concentrated on what’s going on at the US-Mexico border and its history. These are a few of the books we liked this week.

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos. 160 pages, 2018, 4.5 stars. This is labeled as a teen book, but most could be shared with younger kids. So important for kids(and adults) to understand the why of the kids that are coming.

Hear My Voice: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States compiled by Warren Binford. 96 pages, 2021, 4 stars. So many things I loved about this picture book. I loved that each page was illustrated by a different artist with Mexican ties. I loved that it was told in both English and Spanish. I loved the additional information at the end, along with questions and ways to help.

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins and Sara Palacios. 40 pages, 2019, 3 stars. A more upbeat story for younger kids about a one day event between San Diego and Tijuana where families on different sides of the border can come together. Fictional story about a real event.

Travesia: A Migrant Girl’s Cross-Border Journey by Michelle Gerster and Fiona Dunnett. 72 pages, 2021, 3 stars. It’s listed for teens, but I think mature 10-11 year olds could also read it. This was about actually coming across the border, with the afterward telling how it changed their family.

We watched videos, read different viewpoints, and had a writing assignment for the week. I wish we’d had time to delve into it further.

The Honeys by Ryan La Sala

The Honeys. 4.25/5 stars, YA novel, 344 pages, 2022

Mars has always been the lesser twin, the shadow to his sister Caroline’s radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who’d grown tragically distant.

Mars’s genderfluidity means he’s often excluded from the traditions — and expectations — of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place.

What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister’s old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying — and Mars is certain they’re connected to Caroline’s death. from Goodreads

What did I just read? A seemingly recognizable story of a teen twin on the search for what happened after their other half died turns into…a dreamlike coming of age story, in a way. I really don’t want to say more. I went in blind and think it’s best you do too, but only if you are in the mood for something bizarrely different.

My favorite part of the book was the gender fluid, oft maligned, main character Mars. He is a character I’m not likely to forget. It really was his coming of age story, every sweet, honeyed drop of it.

I listened to the fantastic audio of this very mind bending book. The production was top notch and I would highly recommend experiencing the story this way. But only if you’re in an open state of mind 🙂

Love this thought…

“The way they talk about themselves—with such frankness—it feels like all people are wet clay, all the shapes that define us self-imposed. I realize this fits into the way I’ve always seen myself, which is: art, attempted, though often spoiled by the demands of another’s taste. It makes me wonder what shape I’d be if I’d never met another human being.”

The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America by Jason Reid

The Rise of the Black Quarterback by Jason Reid, sports history, 4.25 stars, 282 pages, 2022

As a football fan, I was so excited when Trish asked if I’d like to be part of this book tour. I’m a Buckeye and I think it goes without saying that attending Ohio State means that you are going to be bombarded with football in the fall. Now that I live in Cleveland the Bucks help make watching the Browns more bearable.

If you’re thinking you have to like football to like this book you’d be mostly right. This is a book about the start of the NFL and other professional football leagues as they got started in the early 1900s and about the black players, but you can’t tell that story without talking about that period of time. I found the first half of the book just as interesting historically as anything else. Reid does an exceptional job of painting a portrait of the men. I really felt like I knew these men who broke barriers, like Fritz Pollard.

Even though I’m not completely naive to the the history of racism in the US and how it still rears its ugly head, I was surprised to see the barriers put up for black quarterbacks, like a 13 year period when some unspoken rule kept them from the NFL. But even after this ‘ban’ lifted so many great black athletes were passed over and the ones who weren’t faced so much backlash from fans. Warren Moon, the only black quarterback in the NFL Hall of Fame, was booed by his own college fans for years, before leaving to play in the Canadian league. He had to win up there for 6 years before an NFL team was willing to bring him home. This was the early 1980s. And the hate mail and death threats around that time period for many of the men were still shocking to me and I’m an 80’s kid!

There’s so much more here, but I can’t tell all of the stories! I am so glad I read it. Reid did a skillful job of telling the stories of the past and tying them to the current day NFL and it’s crop of black quarterbacks. He brings it full circle. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Chicago Bears Justin Fields who is having a standout season after only two years removed from THE Ohio State University 🙂

“In September 2019, ESPN’s The Undefeated website (now Andscape) began a season-long series of articles on the emergence of Black quarterbacks in the NFL. The first article in the series was Jason Reid’s enormously popular, “Welcome to the Year of the Black Quarterback.” The series culminated with an hour-long television program in February 2020, hosted by Reid himself. The Rise of the Black Quarterback: What It Means for America will expand on Reid’s piece—as well as the entire series—and chronicle the shameful history of the treatment of Black players in the NFL and the breakout careers of a thrilling new generation of Black quarterbacks. Intimate portraits of Colin Kaepernick, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray feature prominently in the book, as well as the careers and legacy of beloved NFL players such as Doug Williams and trailblazing pioneers Marlin Briscoe and Eldridge Dickey. Reid delves deeply into the culture war ignited by Kaepernick’s peaceful protest that shone a light on systemic oppression and police brutality. Fascinating and timely, this page-turning account will rivet fans of sports, cultural commentary, and Black history in America.” from Goodreads.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for sending me the book!

October Favorites

I’ve been reading like a maniac for Cybils judging (I think I’ve read around 70 and I’m not even halfway done!) but I’m going to wait and talk about them after judging is done.

These are my 5 favorite reads in October that aren’t up for Cybils judging.

Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright

This one packs a punch. I wasn’t familiar with Hector or his story. The way that this story was told in three different first person segments made it all the more powerful. This was perfectly told for the older elementary or even early middle school set. So much to discuss. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t give more details, but if you are talking about apartheid, this story of 12 year old Hector is a must read.

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu by Moahloli and McDonald

This is a fabulous book for little kids about the beauty to be found in each other. I adored it. We we read this and compared the idea to other religious ideas. And it came full circle when we read the Mandela book and it talked about ubuntu, which means “I am, because you are.”

A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation by McDivitt and Palmer

A great book that shows the amazing strength of this man as he brought about change for his people. We were lucky to have such a leader on the world stage. Intelligence, empathy, and courage are qualities too often lacking in leaders.

The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews

It’s the second book of the Belles of London series but is a standalone. To be honest, I wish there had been a bit more interaction between the four friends that we met in The Siren of Sussex, but that just means it works better for new readers to the series.

Julia has crippling anxiety in social situations and that’s a big problem since her huge dowry puts her on everyone’s radar. Enter Captain Blunt who has come to London to fetch a rich wife to support his estate and three illegitimate children. A mutual attraction is there from the beginning, but it takes a life-threatening situation to move things forward.

This is one of those sweet romances that features two decent people who are each to cheer for. There are mysteries and problems to unravel, but the goodness of the characters make this a comforting read. And the mysteries aren’t so hard to figure out early on, but waiting for Julia to learn the truth made it worth reading.

I first knew I’d like Julia when she took a book to a party and actually found time to read it! She was a mouse who became a lioness thanks in part to the man who first showed her love. While she was a quiet character Captain Blunt was full of mystery and seemingly bad choices so the two matched quite nicely.

Highly recommend for romance fans, especially ones who love historicals. I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.

Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis by Susan Hood

This 339 page middle school book told in free verse is fantastic. I mostly listened to the audio and it was great.

Zhanna and Frina are piano prodigies and live in Ukraine with their parents. One day the Nazis come and march them toward the killing fields. Both girls manage to escape at separate times but eventually find each other again. They change their names and birthdays in the hopes of hiding, but Zhanna’s piano genius couldn’t be denied.

Read the book. Watch these two Jewish girls stand in front of the Nazis night after night and survive.

Homeschool Happenings – Chicago and South Africa

Homeschooling in October is always a struggle. My birthday, Jason and my anniversary, and Gage’s birthday have all turned into a fall trip. Lot’s of celebrating, planning, and travel. I’m not complaining, I love the family time and the road trips with beautiful fall color, but I admit some of the homeschooling is…not as great as it could be. We spent a week in Chicago and had a fabulous time. We spent hours upon hours inside a variety of museums, so I’m counting it as a week well taught 🙂

This week to get back on track I was pretty strict with our schedule and feel better. We spent a week in South Africa and I loved these picture books…

Yoshi and the Ocean: a Sea Turtle’s Incredible Journey Home by Lindsay Moore – Fabulous story of a recued turtle who spends 20 years in a Cape Town aquarium before being freed. The information in the last few pages told more about her journey and how they tracked her. I read this one for Cybils Award reading so that’s all I’m saying for now 🙂

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu by Moahloli and McDonald – This is a fabulous book for little kids about the beauty to be found in each other. Adored it. We we read this and compared the idea to other religious ideas. And it came full circle when we read the Mandela book and it talked about ubuntu.

A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation by McDivitt and Palmer – A great book that shows the amazing strength of this man as he brought about change for his people.

Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright

Mama Africa: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope With Her Song by Erskine and Palmer – Loved this story of a woman who left her country to try and change it through her music.

Living in South Africa by Perkins and Woolley This series is for a level 2 reader, but I like including them as a quick read for him to get some idea of the country we’re going to study.

We made this bobotie recipe from the Enchantment of the World South Africa book. While it doesn’t look anything like the picture it was very yummy. We followed this recipe to perfection, so I’ll have to look for a different recipe next time because it’s definitely going in our rotation.

Have you ever been to Africa? Not yet for us, but it’s fun to travel through books!

The Belle of Belgrave

The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews, Belles of London series #2 (Book 1), 4.5/5 stars, historical romance, 432 pages, 2022

A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger.

Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.

For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.

In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes…

from Goodreads

I loved The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews ❤️. It’s the second book of the Belles of London series but is a standalone. To be honest, I wish there had been a bit more interaction between the four friends that we met in The Siren of Sussex, but that just means it works better for new readers to the series.

Julia has crippling anxiety in social situations and that’s a big problem since her huge dowry puts her on everyone’s radar. Enter Captain Blunt who has come to London to fetch a rich wife to support his estate and three illegitimate children. A mutual attraction is there from the beginning, but it takes a life-threatening situation to move things forward.

This is one of those sweet romances that features two decent people who are each to cheer for. There are mysteries and problems to unravel, but the goodness of the characters make this a comforting read. And the mysteries aren’t so hard to figure out early on, but waiting for Julia to learn the truth made it worth reading.

I first knew I’d like Julia when she took a book to a party and actually found time to read it! She was a mouse who became a lioness thanks in part to the man who first showed her love. While she was a quiet character Captain Blunt was full of mystery and seemingly bad choices so the two matched quite nicely.

Highly recommend for romance fans, especially ones who love historicals. I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.

I want to thank Austenprose for inviting me to be a part of this tour and sending me a copy of the book.

A few excellent reads

City of Thieves by David Benioff, historical fiction, 4.5/5 stars, 258 pages, pub. 2008

This novel takes place during the Siege of Leningrad during WWII. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own, but I bought it as a blind date book at a fundraiser. I’m so glad I did!

This coming of age story about the friendship between Russians, one a young looter and the other a seasoned soldier, is riveting. Lev and Kolya are sent out in search of a dozen eggs for the wedding of and official’s daughter. I’m not a huge fan of WWII fiction, but the siege of Leningrad books always fascinate me. The inhumanity up against real people and their will to live is always a story worth reading.

It’s at times harsh, crude, and absurd. I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it!

I listened to the audio and picked up the book to read the parts I wanted to think about a little more. The cannibal scene alone will have your heart racing.

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka, 4.25/5 stars, thriller, 323 pages, pub. 2017

The Last Place You Look is set in the Columbus area, so that was a big draw.

Roxane is a private investigator dealing with grief and a drinking problem. This is not unique in this genre, but the addition of her relationships with both men and women added a new layer to her personal story.

She was hired to get her client’s brother out of jail and she’s pressed for time because he’s set to be executed in two months. When she starts nosing around the problems with the local police begin.

This was a fast paced mystery with a flawed lead character and dysfunctional family and I liked it I see that this is the first of four books (so far) about Roxane so there’s hope for her yet.

Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain, 4/5 stars. YA, 432 pages, pub. 2021

This was a fun, swampy, mystical thriller. Eleven teens bound together in the Louisiana bayou town known for its seers and those with special powers. When one of them disappears the one who got away, Grey,, comes home to find her.

The audio performance was great and I really liked it. It’s not a planned series, but I can see another book being written about these kids.

This Week – Paris is July Fail

This whole month has been something of a anxious mess for me and Paris in July had to be left behind for sanity’s sake. I’ll try and give it a go next year.

Gage finished his sixth, and final, week of camp, so it’s been a fun summer. I went to my yearly family weekend with 12 of my aunts and cousins for the first time since covid. We rented a B&B in Jeffersonville, Indiana and it was a great weekend, but also a bit stressful since I had to walk the fine line of having a blast and trying to make good covid choices. The time with the women of my family was much needed.

Tomorrow we start half days of homeschool and I still need to come up with our concrete schedule and activities. On Tuesday, I’ll work at our primary election so my mom will take over substitute teacher days two days in. I’ve been called for jury duty next week and the week after that we’re on vacation to Michigan. Today will be spent trying to figure out our school schedule in all that mess.

On to the books! I finished 17 books. Six adult books and 11 kids books with Gage or in preparation for school.

Gage and I started reading this series together and it’s my favorite book of the month. Why? Because Gage still looks at reading as a chore and this book actually had him looking forward to our reading time. The whole book is a foreshadowing of terrible things happening to three orphan siblings and my kid can’t resist a train wreck. We’re reading book 2 now.

Time is too short for more. Hopefully, calm will prevail this week. Has your July been crazy too?

June Stats and Favorites

I finished 10 books this month, The Bat by Jo Nesbit isn’t pictured because it was an audio. I don’t remember the last time I liked all of my reads so much. 6 of the 10 were sent to me in exchange for a review, so most of these are new and for the first time in forever, no library books!

You can see my 3 favorites, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them! And honestly, from the time I took these pics this morning to the time I’m posting this I already would have changed one of my favorites 😆. Just add them all to your list.

I’ve read 166 books of my 300 goal so I’m on track.

What was your favorite book this month?