Out of the Best Books: Classics We Studied in April and May 2019

It’s time to do another recap of classics we’ve been studying in our home, for homeschool and family life. Words that I hold sacred, from the holy writ of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says that we are to  “… seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom. …” (D&C 88:118.) It’s so wonderful when I can claim a divine mandate for one of my favorite hobbies, reading!

Here is a wonderful article about reading from the best books over here from the New Era. Even though it was published in 1974, it is just as timely for today.

I love these quotes in the article from Elder John A. Widtsoe:

“Man must forever seek out knowledge, put it to proper use, and train his will to intelligent living…Among Latter-day Saints, education becomes a life-long process. Young and old alike must be engaged in the development of their natural endowments. In fact, it is expected of the members of the Church that they continue their education throughout life.”

Then here’s another juicy one:

“The reading habit is most valuable in life. I mean by that the practice of using a little time, say half an hour a day, in the systematic reading of worthwhile literature. The mind is opened to precious fields of thought; the achievements of the ages become ours; even the future takes form. As the mind and spirit are fed by well chosen reading, comfort, peace and understanding come to the soul. Those who have not tried it, have missed a keen and easily accessible joy.

“Moreover a person who engages in such a regular daily reading, if only a few minutes a day, in the course of a few years becomes a learned man. But it must be a regular daily habit. … Some of the best educated men that I have ever met have never been to college but have acquired the habit of daily reading of good books for a few minutes a day.”

So here’s to the reading life! I know it’s hard in this day of digital distractions. I confess I sometimes succumb to reading social media instead of books. I always do feel rewarded more richly when I turn to a book, however, so I am committed to spending a good chunk of time reading at least 5 days a week this summer. (Reading in the sunshine helps motivate me.)

I started this post back in April, and here it is June! My blogging life gets away from me! I found so many fun books for June and July from my “National Treasure” tour last month. Those books will have to wait for another post. :-).  I came home and found a bunch of them at my local library and have had so much fun reading them by myself and with the kids. Anyway, back to my April and May books.  The above book, Joy in the Covenant, I read for my online book club. You can read my review here.

The above book has become one of my favorite Easter books. It casts a vision for me of how fun it will be to be a grandma and have Easter traditions that the cousins look forward to. I want to do an Egg Tree like in this book, but make it more spiritual by having the kids put in their favorite scripture inside an egg that they hang from a tree, like the tradition talked about here. 

The kids and I consumed The Voyage of the Dawn TreaderPrince Caspian, and The Horse and His Boy, as audiobooks on our long drives back and forth to our weekly homeschool meetings this past spring (90 minutes each way). I don’t pay 100% attention to fantasy books, my mind always wanders, so the kids take more credit for listening to these than I do. I do have some favorite quotes from these books though that I managed to notice and laugh or smile at.

Here are a few from The Dawn Treader:

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”
Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”

“One of the most cowardly things ordinary people do is to shut their eyes to facts.”

“It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that ‘from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.’ To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”

 

Now a few from Prince Caspian:

“That’s the worst of girls,” said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. “They never can carry a map in their heads.”
“That’s because our heads have something inside them,” said Lucy.”

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

“Aslan: You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.”

“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

“The worst of sleeping out of doors is that you wake up so dreadfully early. And when you wake up you have to get up because the ground is so hard you are uncomfortable. And it makes matters worse if there is nothing but apples for breakfast and you have had nothing but apples for supper the night before.”

The image below shows the cover art for the Focus on the Family audiobook set we enjoyed. We got all seven audiobooks of the Chronicles of Narnia in one album set, for only $7, brand new, still in the shrink-wrap, at a thrift store in Phoenix, on the way home from the airport after I got to see my grandbaby shortly after his birth. So sweet! God was really watching out for me to bless me with such a beautiful, random gift that He knew I would love to give my family! I gave it to them/me for Christmas. I love, love, love these versions of Narnia. They employ full dramatization with different voices, beautiful orchestration of music, and tons of sounds effects.

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I got the book below on Audible. I love the author’s interpretations of the Bible stories. She, Sally Lloyd Jones, really has a way of explaining the depth and breadth of God’s love and the beauty of His stories in the Bible.

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

 

The book below tells a story I had never heard before. It’s a true story about a woman who helped finance the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott by baking and selling pies. She inspires me!

Then the one below is one of my favorites from childhood. I confess I didn’t actually read it this past spring but I totally meant to! Does that count? I have my own softcover copy from childhood that I ordered from Scholastic books when I was in third grade. My version doesn’t have the cool charms though. It’s a great book to read at least once a year to cast a vision for kids and parents that kids can do most if not all of the housework and not just mom.

My nine year old read all the volumes of Tintin from the public library in two months. They are full of fantastical, implausible plots. Every twist and turn seems to involve an explosion, fight, or disaster. Definitely not for me but for sure for my little boy. He loves them all, except for one of the volumes, The Castafiore Emerald, because “they spend the entire time at his friend’s house and don’t go out and do stuff.” I’m not really sure if Tintin counts as one of “the best books,” but at least he’s developing a habit of loving to read which Sarah Mackenzie says counts.

 

The book below is a cute look into music history.

 

For the Quest class I mentored for older homeschooled teens we read the one below. It’s one of those classics that is just sooo great to revisit at least every year. I found a decent version on YouTube to listen to. That’s how I get a lot of my “reading” done.

I finally finished reading aloud the Uncle Eric WWI book to the kids while they do dishes and kitchen cleanup 2-3 times a day. Now we are working through his WWII one below. These are great for challenging commonly held assumptions about the World Wars, written by a Vietnam vet. The two middles of the younger kids had a class in our homeschool group last semester about WW2. I wanted to make sure my kids got a non-glamorized view of war with some of its complexities and hellishness, which these books definitely offer. Even though the class is over, it’s summer, and these books weren’t required, we are reading them on our own and finishing.

My friend Olivia asked the parents in our homeschool group to read the book below and discuss it. I like it, it is full of valuable insights. It’s just slightly intimidating for the average stay at home parent. How about we have books that talk about the grit needed as a parent to endure another sleepless night of a teething kid crying, a toddler who won’t stay out of the toilet bowl or the flour, a preschooler with chicken pox who won’t sleep, or endless rounds of cleaning vomit when the family catches the bug? Surely someone has done studies of how important grit is for everyday parenting?

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by [Duckworth, Angela]

 

Olivia also had us parents of our homeschool group read the Hunger Games and discuss it for March last semester. I finally gave in, despite what I wrote here, years ago. I decided I was wrong. HG is valuable to read as a somber warning of what could happen if society shifts from being God-based to state-based. I also love the Christ figure-ish-ness of Peeta. I  would wait for kids to read it until they are maybe 13 or 14, depending on the personality. I let my 14-year-old read them. Olivia is urging me to read the rest of the series to get the full depth of the Christian symbolism between Peeta and Katniss. We’ll see. Can’t I just read the plot summaries online and call it good, lol?!! I have so much nonfiction and picture books I would rather read! On the other hand, it would be great to read the rest and bond with my son over them. I listened to a lot of this book while either driving to and from Tucson or painting my friend’s office, so just thinking about the book brings up those memories of painting back and forth or driving back and forth, with the narrator’s voice lulling me through the brushstrokes or the desert. Her voice was kind of creepy but I got used to it. At least now I’m a bit more culturally literate, although I’m not giving in on reading Harry Potter.

The one below is one of those perfect bedtime stories that is light, funny, and charmingly illustrated. I love, love, love illustrator LeUyen Pham’s work. It’s that perfect combination of realism and cartoonishness that I adore and hope to be able to draw like in my next life. She’s also done work for Shannon Hale’s Princess in Black and Real Friends books. So amazing!

We also did the standard scripture reading out of the New Testament for the Come Follow Me Study Guide and our daily Book of Mormon reading. That’s it for now! I’d love to hear what you are reading lately, please comment below.

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