Saturday, June 28, 2014

_The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men_ by Christina Hoff Sommers

I mentioned this book in an earlier post. I was curious and ordered the book from our library. It is not an easy read because it is scholarly, but it was a good read. By "good" I mean that if you have sons or if you are a teacher, you should read this book or the updated version of it which I have not read (The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men).

What struck me about this book is that I needed to read it about 16 years ago when I began teaching. I was taught to believe in and use (in education classes and in teacher in-services) so many practices that Sommers debunks. I pushed for students to vomit out their feelings in journals and practiced so many other teaching methods that put boys at a disadvantage. I can see it so very clearly in the rearview mirror. I certainly didn't mean to hurt them or their learning, but I can see that I was misinformed. The sad thing is that those who misinformed me also were educators who really wanted to help all of the children, but they were misinformed, too. It seems that somehow really poorly researched findings about girls' voices being squelched in our society caught on and became the shaky basis for well-meaning but bad policies and initiatives.

While this book leans solidly to the right, it is well-researched and filled with logic and common sense. Sommers does a good job of pointing out flaws in a respectful way that considers her opposition. Even if you are more liberal-leaning, I think you would find this book thoughtful and useful.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

_John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads_ by John Denver

In honor of West Virginia Day (June 20th), I offer up this picture book review.

It rocks. The illustrations by Christopher Canyon are beautiful, especially if you like quilts. But even if you don't like quilts, the pictures are so detailed and gorgeous. It comes with a CD of the song, and the boys love listening and turning the pages and watching Mommy cry at the end. Every time.

Buy it as a gift. It's worth it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

_Ranger’s Apprentice Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan_ by John Flanagan

My mother-in-law, who has reared 10 of her own boys, highly recommends the Ranger’s Apprentice series. We were recently on the receiving end of a few of the books, and my oldest two boys (ages 10 and 8) gobbled up the first two books and were begging me to find the others at the library. They also insisted I read them, too.

I complied. 


Things have been quite busy around here lately, and I tried picking up the first book, The Ruins of Gorlan several times. But my eyelids were just too heavy. Sleep won the day.

Finally I had a chance to begin reading. While the book is set in a fictional realm which is usually a minus for me, I just didn’t want to put it down. I could see why the boys liked the books so much. The story of fifteen-year-old Will figuring out his new life as the ranger’s apprentice is filled with adventure. As gripping as the arduous training and battles are, Will’s inner struggles had me on the edge of my seat and cheering for him to make (what I thought) the right decision.

I’ve only had a chance to read this first book, but I heartily recommend it.


It’s a little late now since both boys read the first two, but I do think I’ll hold off on letting them read more for a bit. Why? Because it’s a little more intense than I think they are ready to handle. There is some violence which is to be expected in a tale with knights and castles, bullies and monsters. While I wouldn’t call the violence gratuitous, it was fierce enough to make me feel uncomfortable. I do think some 10-year-olds might be okay with it, but it’s something that a parent should judge. If you have concerns, preview chapters 21 and 22 for what I considered to be the harshest of the violence.

For those who want to shield their children from all romance, there is a kiss at the end of chapter 31. While only 3 sentences of the entire book were devoted to it, it made quite the impression on both the receiver and me. Again, it was not gratuitous and it also wasn’t trashy. It was intense because of Flanagan’s writing style that brings words to life. I might have even blushed while reading it. There. Now you think I’m a total prude, and that’s okay. I can handle it.

The book is recommended for ages 10 and up, and that is probably a good starting range. Perhaps my 10-year-old can handle it just fine, but I’m still waiting (mostly because of the violence). I recommend giving it a perusal before you hand it to your boy if he is younger than 10. 

If any of you have read beyond the first book and have more insight about the series, please let the rest of us know in the comments.