Shelli reviews this medieval fantasy, in which a girl learns to channel her inner heroine.
around the web
Yes, yes, yes: Why kids need monsters and magic.
The technology has changed, but social networks have been around since the Middle Ages.
My brand-new high schooler and I are definitely going to be using these exercises to kick off our new school year in a couple of weeks.
Oh, gosh, I really want to go on a road trip with Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes.
I never go anywhere without at least one emergency book. (And I’m so thankful that technology lets me carry around a chunk of library on my phone!)
at home | school | life
in the magazine: We’re getting started with the research for an update to our Best Cities for Homeschoolers list, and you can nominate your favorite city right here.
on the podcast: Suzanne and I are talking about socialization (which is simple) and friendships (which can be trickier). If you’re an iTunes user and you like the podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review—it’s always awesome to get a little feedback.
in the classroom: Fall classes don’t start until after Labor Day, so you’ve still got plenty of time to sign up for 12 weeks of learning adventures.
on instagram: My baby knitting (at least the bits that got done before the shower!) is a hit.
on my night table:
I should be reading Five Children on the Western Front, but I’m actually rereading Little Women instead because I have a tradition of reading it every year before school starts. (I’ve been doing this since kindergarten, so I can’t quit now!)
Big Bad Breakfast may be my new favorite cookbook. (And North Mississippi Eggs Benedict is my new favorite breakfast-for-dinner.)
on my 14-year-old’s night table:
The Embroidered Garden: Stitching through the Seasons of a Flower Garden (I keep waiting for her to finish with this so I can steal it, but no luck so far)
In the Spotlight (Number two in the Princess Diaries series)
on my 8-year-old’s night table:
When Mischief Came to Town, but it’s practically buried under his rock collection right now, so I’m not sure if it counts.
watching: Clarissa Explains It All with the kids. (It’s streaming on Hulu!)
prepping: Our new school year doesn’t start until after Labor Day, but I’m rotating books around the house to get ready—and our homeschool group picks back up next week.
knitting: I’m churning away at my Elijah, but I keep worrying that I’m not going to get the right balance of stuffing in the trunk. If you look at the other project photos on Ravelry (aren’t they adorable?), it’s obvious that there’s a golden ratio for trunk stuffing.
socializing: I’ve been having some lovely going-away meals with former students who are headed off to college this fall.
[I try to keep on top of interesting new books, but there are so many good boos out there, it seems a shame not to revisit some of my favorites now and then, just in case they’ve fallen off your radar and are just what you want for your library list.]
OK, so the premise of Connie Wilkes’ time travel books is absolutely brilliant: In the not-too-distant future, historians must get practical experience by traveling back in time to the period of their concentration. (“You didn’t become an historian by staying safely at home,” one character reminds the worried professor Dunworthy near the beginning of the book.) Most of Willis’ time travel history books take place in the 19th and 20th century, but The Doomsday Book sends history student Kivrin back to the 1300s.
This is a big deal, even for time-hopping Oxford academics. Some time periods are just inherently dangerous, and the Middle Ages—with the plague, disease, lack of general hygiene, bad food, and short life expectancy—are not safe places to travel, especially for a solo young woman. And there are issues with slippage—time travel is notoriously unreliable, and you can’t always be sure you’ll end up exactly when you want to be. But Kivrin is determined to be the first historian-traveler to the Middle Ages, and despite her professor’s concerns, she gets the go-ahead to check out a 1320 Christmas celebration in person.
But things don’t exactly go as planned. Kivrin discovers that she’s landed in 1348, with the Black Death just making its entrance in England. (She’s immunized, but none of the nice people who’ve taken her into their village are.) The big time discrepancy means that getting Kivrin back to her right time will be a challenge—but Dunsworthy is the only one who’s worried about Kivrin because fpresent-day Oxford has been hit by a plague of its own, and the town is quarantined. As Kivrin experiences life in the Middle Ages—realizing how little her years of obsessive research and study have taught her about actually living in medieval times—she faces the possibility that she may live out the rest of her life in 1300s England.
I love this book. Some people criticize the needless and rather boring drama Dunworthy goes through trying to first figure out what’s happened with Kivrin and then how to get her home, but I actually think that’s exactly how bureaucratic organizations tend to operate. (It’s true that Willis didn’t imagine cell phones, which might have sped up some communication, but in general I think all the lags and waiting and missed calls are totally believable.) But the best part of the book is the time travel bit, when we’re with Kivrin in Skendgate. Willis does a great job paining a medieval village as seen through Kivrin’s eyes, first as she grows to understand and know the people who have taken her in and then as she watches, heartbroken, as the plague kills villager after villager, leaving Kivrin alone and far, far from home.
This is definitely a YA book—when a plague shows up, you know there’s going to be a lot of death, and some of the descriptions of the plague’s effects are pretty gruesome. But I think it would be a terrific accompaniment to a medieval history class or just an engaging read for teens who appreciate apocalyptic fiction (what’s more apocalyptic than a good plague?), science-fiction, or good historical fiction.
I first read A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver when I was in fourth grade and recovering from a routine surgery in the hospital. I was lucky. Reading this admittedly strange, absolutely quirky, and richly detailed fictional biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine convinced me that history was fascinating—a conviction that even years of lectures on overhead projectors and bubble tests couldn’t manage to shake.
The book takes place in Heaven, where Eleanor is waiting to find out if her husband Henry II has finally put in enough years in Purgatory to join her in Heaven. (Hey, I told you it was a strange book!) While she waits with her friends and family, they tell the story of Eleanor’s life: her short-lived marriage and subsequent divorce to Louis VII of France, her tumultuous marriage to Henry Plantagenet, who would become the king of England, and her role as regent for her son Richard I while he was fighting in the Crusades after Henry’s death.
Eleanor comes to life through these stories as a complicated, impatient, stubborn, and impulsive girl who grows up to be a complicated, impatient, stubborn, and impulsive woman. It’s not difficult to see how she became the most powerful woman in the world during her lifetime. Both criticized and adored by her subjects in France and England, Eleanor — the wife of two kings and the mother of two kings — was a passionate supporter of the Second Crusade, one of the women cited in Capellanus’ The Art of Courtly Love, and a leader of a rebellion against her husband on her son’s behalf that led to her seventeen-year imprisonment.
Be warned: A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver may create a lifelong addiction. (I still read everything about Eleanor of Aquitaine I can get my greedy, ink-stained hands on.) But even if it’s just a book on your summer reading list, it will bring medieval history to life in a way that your family won’t soon forget.
We’re reprinting some of Amy’s summer reading series favorites from Atlanta Homeschool magazine on the home/school/life blog.