Friday, December 7, 2018

Book Club: Book Review of A Cobbler's Tale: A Novel

cover of A Cobbler's Tale: A Novel book



Disclaimer: I received access to the e-book for free on NetGalley in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

A Cobbler’s Tale: A Novel by Neil Perry Gordon is an intriguing look into the lives of three individuals – Pincus, Jakob, and Clara – as they navigate New York City and Poland in the early 1900s. The story introduces the reader to life in a Jewish village in Krzywcza and New York City. I really found the tale to be an interesting one as I learned more about each individual and their lives and families.

Cover of A Cobbler's Tale: A Novel and a photo of New York City


The story starts in July 1910 aboard the SS Amerika where we meet Pincus Potasznik who is seasick and his new friend, Jakob Adler. Both are Jewish and escaping persecution and trying to make a new life in America. A Cobbler’s Tale provides many details about the life of Pincus in the United States and that of his wife, Clara, in Poland. One of the groups to which we are introduced – in addition to the gangs of New York – is that of the Landsman Society of Krzywcza, which helps the newly immigrated from Pincus’ village find a job, a place to live, and provide religious assistance as well.

One of the features I liked about A Cobbler’s Tale was that everything seemed to hold a significance. Things that might only seem to have a passing importance to the story – like the meeting of the palmist Dora Meltzer – are actually more important to the plotline than they first appear. This assisted to create a tale that was woven together from the first page to the last page of the book. I most definitely wanted to see what was going to happen in each successive chapter of the book.


Clara was a strong character of A Cobbler’s Tale. She was key for keeping her family together while Pincus emigrated to America. There were many things that Clara needed to accomplish without her husband. From the birth of their last child, Anna, to keeping the cobbler’s shop running in Krzywcza with the help of Shmuel, while raising the children, Clara was kept very busy. She also handled difficulties with grace and strength.

My recommendation requires you to read a few potential spoilers. A Cobbler’s Tale: A Novel by Neil Perry Gordon is not the typical work of Christian fiction I usually review for my blog. So while I may have enjoyed it – as I really enjoy works of historical fiction and non-fiction – there may be some parts that some might find disturbing.

Warning and Potential Spoilers


There are a great number of raw details included in the story that are not normally found in books that I review for my blog. For example, there is persecution, gang warfare and violence, murder, rape, and details about war in general. Personally, the way in which Clara must ‘handle’ the police chief in Krzywcza was upsetting to me as well as that of the problems that Moshe (the son of Pincus and Clara) got into with the palmist towards the end of the book.

Even with the raw details of the story of the three characters, I do not feel disappointed in having read A Cobbler’s Tale: A Novel. I loved the little details included about life during the 1900s and felt the individuals came to life. I enjoyed the book.


Looking for more books to read? 
Why not check out these other book reviews? 






Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Spending Time with the Bible: A Review of Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan



Over the past several years, I have been introduced to the idea of devotionals – I have read and reviewed more than a handful during this year alone. When given the opportunity to review the new devotional from Zondervan, I was excited because Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women looked like a truly lovely book. And it is! Such a beautifully designed and well-produced book from a company that I have come to trust.

How do we know as young or old women who we are supposed to be? How can we guide our daughters to be the best women they can be? As Lindsay A. Franklin states in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women: "we're bombarded by lots of different messages" (Introduction). In this new devotion I am reviewing, young women can find out what the Bible has to stay about women and look for encouragement, wisdom, and inspiration. 

If you are unfamiliar with Zondervan, you can read more about this great publishing house that has been providing quality Christian content since 1931. Our family has several of their books in our home so I knew that adding Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women to our shelves would be a great thing. 


From the story of Eve in Genesis to the mother and grandmother of Timothy, we read about so many different women (and a few men) from whom we can learn and gather inspiration for our daily lives. And of course, there are several days examining the definition of an ideal woman as provided in Proverbs 31. 

There are many topics discussed in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women such as:
  • Relationships (by examining the lives of Hagar, Sarai, and Abram we see how we are all entwined with others' lives) 
  • Favoritism 
  • Repeating mistakes of our parents
  • Blessings in today's world
  • Taking care in our speech and words 
  • Victim-blaming 
  • Physical attraction 
  • Female leadership
  • Pride 
  • Standing up for one's self 
  • Expectations of God 
  • Compassion
  • Hospitality 

There are also a great number of women who are discussed in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women including the following: 
  • Sarah
  • Rachael 
  • Potiphar's wife 
  • Dinah
  • Miriam 
  • Rahab
  • Hannah and Peninnah 
  • Tamar 
  • Widow of Zarephath 
  • The Shunamite woman 
  • Esther 
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus 
  • Salome
  • Martha and Mary 
  • Lydia
  • Eunice and Lois 
  • Others throughout the Old and New Testaments 
The days and the devotions are interconnected so I would not recommend just picking it up and starting on whatever day or page you wish. It is important to read from day one through to the end, as the book is chronological. 



Through the devotions, young women can learn that – even though they are not in the spotlight at all times – they are just as important by reading about Miriam. Readers are also reminded that God cares about us – "our spiritual, physical, and emotional needs" (115) and God will help us overcome stronger problems. Through the examination of women in the New Testament, we are clearly reminded that Jesus showed compassion and we can as well. We can show compassion to those with chronic illnesses, loved ones who are hurting emotionally, those who take care of ill loved ones, and others. 

What I Like 


There are so many aspects to Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women that I enjoyed – from the fact that is a hardcover book to the inclusion of women who are not always discussed in the Bible – it is a great book for women (and men) of all ages. 

  • I like that it does not start with a date (i.e. January 1) so one could pick it up at any time of the year and read through the devotions 
  • Conversational in tone – I felt like the author was speaking directly to me 
  • Each page has four lines for reflections or notes 
  • Ribbon bookmark to keep one's place 
  • Chronological in its examination of the Bible 
  • Inclusion of women from the entire Bible – and not just the famous women 

Notes to Readers 


I do want to share a few topics that you may want to consider before you give this as a gift or purchase it for your own daughter. When discussing the story of Dinah, Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women examines the idea of victim-blaming and whether the relations with Shechem were consensual or rape. Some may find this problematic or difficult to read or consider. There is also discussion of Tamar, consent, and abuse. Personally, I did not feel any of it was discussed in an inappropriate manner but there were several pages devoted to suffering and healing from sexual trauma. 



We are presented with more than 50 ways young women can walk in the footsteps of the ladies (and men) of the Bible in Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan. While I may not have read the devotion cover to cover, I did skim through each entry and found myself reading many of them as I was writing this review. Beloved has a way of drawing the reader in and wanting to learn more so I highly recommend it as a gift for young women. 


To learn more please visit: 




Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew were also blessed with reviewing Beloved: 365 Devotions for Young Women from Zondervan – I recommend you check out their opinions of this wonderful new book as well! 




Monday, December 3, 2018

Dice, Decks, and Boards: Cauldron Quest


This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

We love cooperative games for kids. Therefore, the games we have from Peaceable Kingdom have not disappointed us. They "believe that children (and adults!) thrive when they work and play together in respectful ways. Cooperation encourages bonding, teamwork, shared decision making, trust, and emotional health."


Cauldron Quest is a game for two to four players aged 6+ that takes about 20 minutes to play. The object of the game is to get the three correct ingredients into the cauldron before all six paths on the board game are blocked. The story of the game is that there is an evil wizard who has cast a spell that will destroy the kingdom. The players have the power to break the spell – but only if we work together! We must find the three correct ingredients and move them down the paths to the cauldron.

"Work your Magic! Break the Spell!" 



Game Pieces include:
  • 6 plastic potion bottles with ingredient stickers 
  • 6 cardboard cauldron ingredient disks
  • 6 cardboard path blocker disks
  • 1 cardboard wizard hat & plastic stand 
  • 1 cardboard spell breaker token
  • 3 action dice
  • 3 "magic dice" (normal D6) 
  • 1 circular game board
  • 1 set of instructions 
The set up and instructions for play are clearly written with appropriate illustrations to further explain the game. On our first play through, I read the instructions prior to playing and referred to them during game play. 

Our entire family – 3-year-old, 5-year-old, teen, and parents – played the game. Except for our daughter wanting to use her own pink dice, we all were able to play the game successfully. We even won!

I would recommend Cauldron Quest to families of young children, day-care centers, preschools, and others. It is fun and will have a good replay value as things change each game play with different ingredients needed and the rolling of dice.



 

Looking for more posts about games and gaming? Please check out the following: 






Friday, November 30, 2018

Sugar Plums Dancing...Snowflakes Falling...Let's Write about December with Free Writing Prompts



As the winter officially approaches, many parts of the world are already under the grips of cold weather – from freezing blizzards to lovely snowfalls – winter weather can bring lots of changes to our lives. Many families are taking a break from traditional homeschooling studies to celebrate Christmas so this is the perfect time to work on writing skills in a more relaxed setting. Don't know what to write? Why not try these free writing prompts

Photo Prompts 


Ice skating

Person wearing winter parka

snowed in

Writing Prompts 




Download Here

What is your favorite thing to write about in the winter? 

Missed our other writing prompts? 



Saturday, November 24, 2018

Book Club: Book Review of Mark of the Raven



Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

Secrets and special powers abound in Mark of the Raven, Book One of The Ravenwood Saga, by Morgan L. Busse. While reading and reviewing this excellent work of fantasy from Bethany House, I was drawn into the world of Lady Selene, her family, and the other houses introduced by Busse. I have read quite a bit of fantasy and I will be adding Busse to the list of authors I regularly read.


The story starts with a special ceremony in which the heir to the House of Ravenwood, Lady Selene, receives a special mark and eventually awakens with her new power – that of a dreamwalker. Sadly Selene is informed by her mother that the Ravenwood women do not use their gifts of entering another person's dreams for good. They actually are hired by others to gather information and sometimes as assassins. This realization – of the dark job that the dreamwalkers perform – does not sit well with Selene.

In the background of Selene's tale is that of the ever-encroaching Dominia Empire which had attacked the Seven Houses hundreds of years ago. While Selene is learning more of the past, representatives from the other Houses meet at the Ravenwood Home, Rook Castle, to discuss an alliance against the Dominia Empire. Not all the Lords and Ladies are in agreement as to how to handle the Empire. The disagreement causes more strife.

From the opening pages to the exciting conclusion of Book One, I could not put Mark of the Raven down. I was unsure what the tale would hold for me after reading the description and was very pleased at how much I enjoyed this work of fiction. The characters are very well-developed and by the end of the book, I felt like I knew Selene and Damien (Grand Lord of the House of Maris) well and wanted to learn more about the others in a future book.



The inclusion of magical-like gifts or abilities may cause concern for some but I found the inclusion of the dreamwalking and ability to control water or fire intriguing and fascinating. I have read a lot of fantasy novels and Busse's use of these gifts or talents was presented in a new way.

I recommend Mark of the Raven to those who enjoy fantasy. It is a well-written novel that poses some thought-provoking questions (which were explored on Instagram in late October and early November 2018). I know I will be keeping an eye out for Book Two of the Ravenwood Saga!

Instagram Discussion Questions from #FantasyReadAlong


Two of the answers I shared on Instagram


Selene's new power brings many challenges...which would be the hardest for you? 

Damien raises the sea boundary...how would you respond in his place? 


Monday, November 19, 2018

Family Fun: Winter Crafts and Activities



Now that the weather is getting colder, are you dreaming of hot chocolate by the fire and putting up the holly and ivy? Commercials advertising Christmas gifts are popping up on TV and the sounds of the holiday season can be heard earlier and earlier each year in the malls and stores. All of the Halloween and Thanksgiving items are going on clearance. Are you eagerly awaiting the first snowfall? 

Over the years I have shared our winter arts and crafts and activities at A Mom's Quest to Teach. In order to help find those posts, I am sharing them again in one convenient place – right here!

Do you have a favorite? Or does your family partake in their own fun winter activity? 



Winter Crafts 



Snowflake Sun Catcher 



Snowman Names 



Toddler's Christmas Felt Tree 



Snowman Milk Container Craft 




Do you have a favorite winter time craft or activity? 



Friday, November 16, 2018

Holiday Unit Studies are Fantastic for Homeschooling! – A Review of Homeschool Complete Christmas Unit Study



If you are looking for an all-inclusive curriculum as a Christian parent, Homeschool Complete might be the perfect fit for your family. Thematic units contain lesson plans that cover multiple subjects including mathematics, language arts, and physical education. There are a variety of activities in each unit to help you really meet the needs of your individual child and family. Because Homeschool Complete offers such great flexibility I was very happy to review their Christmas Unit Study (K-6).



What is in the Christmas Unit Study?


The unit study is designed for K-6 grades with a variety of activities to accommodate beginning, intermediate, and advanced level students. For example, while both our children could work on saying the sounds for Lesson 4 in Part A of the student workbook, our five-year-old was able to read the words and we were able to complete the fill in the blank questions, too. And our three-year-old daughter (with help) was able to complete the matching activity (Worksheet 4a). As they get older, we will be able to reuse the Christmas Unit Study and look at the section on contractions and comparison of three digit numbers from Lesson 4.

At the heart of the Christmas Unit Study is the story of the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke. Each lesson introduces new parts of Luke to your children so you can work on memorizing it (or just enjoying it like we did). After the reading of Luke, there are a number of different activities you can complete for the different subject areas.

Sample Activities and Lessons


There are so many great ideas and activities in the lessons that I could see this unit study lasting more than the recommended two weeks for our family. As both our children are younger, we have been spending a short amount of time on the lessons each day spread throughout the entire day. In fact, we were able to complete one of the activities while waiting for dinner to finish baking. How is that for flexibility for the homeschooling family?

Flexibility and adaptability are two of my favorite things about homeschooling. I was able to adapt some of the reading of vocabulary activities to also include writing for our five-year-old. For example, in Lesson 1, one of the activities lists asks the child(ren) to read eighteen words. I wrote out some of these words in our son's notebook for him to read and write.



Some of the activities in the lessons include the following:

  • Read a recipe and make gingerbread cookies 
  • Count the days until Christmas using a paper chain 
  • Put words in alphabetical order 
  • Read A Christmas Tale by Geronimo Stilton 
  • Play Alphabet Toss 

Learning about positive and negative space using stencils and tracing objects.


Coloring ornaments


What We Like


From the Daily Calendar Routine to the ideas for physical education activities, we are really enjoying the Christmas Unit Study. We really enjoyed working on the different art projects such as using stencils and cut-out shapes to create positive and negative spaces as well as creating paper ornaments for our tree. 

Establishing a daily routine of identifying the date, days of the week, and months of the year has been a great thing to add to our homeschool day. We had been working on these skills but now the kids ask for each day if I should forget ever since we started using the Christmas Unit Study. 
  • Each lesson lists the materials needed (for example, the books, crafting supplies, worksheets, or even baking supplies) 
  • Very adaptable 
  • Each lesson lists the skills – so if you are looking for something specific to work on you can just reference the first page of each lesson 
  • Variety of books recommended and used 
  • Lessons include language arts, math, and physical activities 

Learning about time and making a clock


Our five-year-old son said his favorite part of the Christmas Unit Study has been learning how to read a clock. I think working on this particular skill has allowed him to feel more grown-up as he is navigating the world of time more and more on his own. Our three-year-old daughter enjoys any project that allows her to draw, color, or create something – which this unit study has plenty for her!

Personally, I would recommend the Christmas Unit Study for families from Homeschool Complete. I find it has been a perfect fit for us as we approach the holiday season. I look forward to continuing to use the activities in the different lessons as we get closer to December 25. 




Take advantage of a special offer - Save 10% through December 21, 2018 on the Christmas Unit Study! 



How do you spend the month of December? Do you use unit studies or take a break from homeschooling? Let me know in the comments!


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Gift Guide When Shopping for Teenage Boys


This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Shopping for others can be somewhat daunting and challenging. As our own children get older – or those in our family grow up, it can be difficult to pick out the perfect gift they will love and use – especially if they are a teenage boy.

What is your go-to gift for a teen boy? Do you ask the teen? Sometimes it might be easy because the parents will tell us they are saving up for something – a new gaming platform, sporting equipment, or a concert or trip. Other times they might even have an online wishlist. But what if they don't make it easy?

For the Gamer



The one thing our teen seems to go through is Xbox controllers. Perhaps you know of a young man who is also hard on their gaming controller? If it is within your budget you could purchase a new controller or a gift card to go towards a new one. They even make custom ones.

Headsets are a great option for teens who are allowed to play online games with their friends and family. And just like controllers, they often break and need to be replaced.

If the teenage boy has a favorite video game series, you can bet there are product tie-ins. For example, our son has a Destiny watch and socks. Other gaming series that sell merchandise include Fallout, Minecraft, and Bioshock.



For the Reader


Depending on whether or not your teen enjoys reading, you may or may not find our suggestions helpful. We have struggled for many years trying to find books that our teen enjoys to read for fun. While he liked the Harry Potter series, he wasn't reading them nonstop to find out what happened to Harry and his friends. However, he does enjoy Star Wars comics and reading books about World War II. This recommended reading list has been my husband's go-to list since he was a teen himself. We have provided several suggestions from it for our teen son.

Comics are also a great choice – I recommend finding your local comic book store and supporting them. We are fortunate enough to have one in our town.

 

 For the Sports Enthusiast


To go along with the gaming theme, you could get a custom Xbox controller if your teen is into the NFL. And of course clothing is always a great idea when it comes to buying gifts for growing teens. From t-shirts and hoodies to jerseys and hats, there is such a variety of items available for any sports fan to wear to show their team pride. There are also fun items like Fathead decals or a tabletop foosball table.




Other Fun Ideas


One thing our teen can't seem to get enough of is candy. We don't buy it for him often – usually just the holidays – so candy would be a great gift idea. Even snacks you ordinarily wouldn't buy make for a great gift (and are perfect for snacking during the winter break!).

For the artist, new sketchpads, art pencils and pens, or other drawing materials is a great idea. For the musician, maybe a new case for their instrument or music by their favorite band.

Do your teens have a favorite gift they have received?


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Book Club: Review of Kate's Really Good At Hockey


Disclaimer: I received access to the e-book for free from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy. Thank you.

I recently joined NetGalley after reading it about for a short while and have had the privilege to review a few books through this medium. The first book I reviewed was Kate's Really Good At Hockey by Christina Frey and Howard Shapiro. It is a graphic novel about the life of Kate and her best summer ever! She is getting the opportunity to attend an elite girls' hockey game in Denver and play with and against some of the best female hockey players in the world. 


Kate's Really Good At Hockey is a graphic novel that details the events of Kate's experiences just prior to and during her summer hockey camp. We follow Kate, her mom, her grandma, and teammates on a journey where she discovers herself through creating new friendships. Her original desires of staying in the dorms are squelched as her mom wants her to stay with her grandma. This change is actually beneficial to their relationship and Kate's time at camp. 



As an adult, I will admit that I knew something was up when Kate's mom insisted she stay with her grandma but I didn't foresee both of the reveals. Perhaps an elementary school-aged student (who I would think this is geared towards) would not be as quick to think something was up. 



Best. Summer. Ever. 

I like the dedication that Kate displays – even in the face of adversity – and would think she could be inspirational for young hockey players. There is a focus on family and friendship as well as dedication to dreams. I would recommend this book to children interested in hockey, but I would encourage parents to read it first because it deals with some complex issues. 



SPOILER

SPOILER 


Kate's grandma has cancer. This may be a topic of concern if family members have experienced it or lost a loved one to it. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Z is for Zhou Dynasty (Blogging through the Alphabet)

photo of bamboo and tea cup


This post contains affiliate links. For more information please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

One of the ancient civilizations that often seems to get glossed over in American classrooms is that of Ancient China. Perhaps that is why – when I was teaching high school world history – I made sure to spend several weeks talking about the different dynasties of Ancient China, including the Xia, Shang, Zhou, Han, and Qin. The early history of China saw the reign of two main dynasties: Xia and Shang but by the 11th century BC, the Zhou people led an overthrow of the Shang Dynasty.

A leader of the Zhou people, who lived in the western side of Shang controlled territory, put into place a plan to overthrow the Shang dynasty. Tai, the leader, presented a plan where they would achieve their goal over the next three generations. The Zhou people felt they were more deserving of the power and set about to take it. In this post, we will take a look at why the Zhou people believed they had been handed the "mandate of heaven."

Overthrowing the Shang Dynasty 


A number of factors – such as the migration of the Zhou people – increased communication and interaction with other peoples in the Shang dynasty (building up both a political alliance and the development of resources in the process). Around 1045 BC, under King Wu, the Zhou people launched a war against the Shang dynasty. King Wu gave a speech to his army which set out to overthrow the Shang capital.

There is historical evidence of the speech and the description of the violent battle that ensued. Blood supposedly flowed so that blocks of wood floated in it and swords and axes made of bronze caused great wailing and screaming. The Shang king was killed and the Zhou were in charge.


Leading the New Dynasty 


Even though King Wu was the ruler he was only a boy at the time of the conquest. The Duke of Zhou, King Wu's uncle, was probably the most important person in the new dynasty as he acted as a wise adviser to his young nephew.

"Mandate of Heaven" 


One of the reasons why the Zhou felt justified in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty became one of the central doctrines of Chinese political culture. This was the "mandate of heaven." Tian, or heaven, was not so much a place as it was a system that governed all the operations in the universe. There was a proper way for society to be organized and a good ruler was key.

The king had to be a good king – a good ruler. The power to rule was given to a good king by Tian and was passed down from generation to generation to create a dynasty. These rulers were to maintain peace and prosperity according to the mandate or their right to rule would be taken away from them. They had rights as rulers such as taxation but it was not to be oppressive according to Tian belief.

King Wu used this idea – the "mandate of heaven" – to explain why they had the right to overthrow the Shang dynasty. In his speech prior to the battle at the capital, he states the Shang had become cruel and the ruler only indulged in his own past-times.

 


Growth of Zhou Dynasty 


A new capital was established by the Zhou on the Wei River. They created Xian to be a permanent capital, unlike that of the Shang who had shifted the capital city every few decades. They also extended their power south and north as they conquered new lands. But as their empire grew, the problems they had planted with the idea of political justification of overthrowing a bad ruler through the "mandate of heaven" would come to fruition and they would be overthrown themselves.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out these other history-related posts!

  


Image of bamboo and tea by δΊ”ηŽ„εœŸ ORIENTO on Unsplash