The Week In Books, No. 3

I was really disappointed by “Bringing Up Boys.” It had some (far fewer than I expected) interesting points and information about how boys are different than girls (duh), but it lacked any real concrete suggestions for how to bring up boys, at least any that I found helpful. Furthermore, I expected the book to be at least mostly geared toward how to bring up boys to be godly men, not just how to survive for 18 years and hope they turn out ok. Overall, this book was a waste of time and I’m glad I only checked it out of the library rather than buying it. I don’t recommend it.

After seeing Lisa’s comment on last week’s book roundup entry, I remembered that we had a copy of “Future Men” so I read that to follow up the Dobson book. Unlike “Bringing Up Boys,” “Future Men” is highly practical and totally scripturally based. Wilson examines what the Bible teaches about godly manhood (including the example of Christ and God the Father) and applies Scripture to how parents can mold and train their boys to use their God-given traits in a godly way rather than a worldly way. Having grown up as a girl myself, I found it very helpful to see how some of the strange things boys do are just the unrefined raw material that will turn into a godly trait, and how not to squash the good aspects of manliness when they show up in little boys. I highly recommend this book to parents of boys, and actually I think even if we didn’t have boys I still think it would be useful reading.

This week Hannah and I enjoyed reading “The Secret Garden” together. In case you missed the conversation in the comments from last week, I explained that I read aloud to Hannah every day from longer literature that is child-appropriate. I read somewhere that one of the best things you can do for a child’s language development is to read out loud to him/her from when he/she is very tiny, especially reading the good language of literature, not just shorter children’s books. We do read short books too though. Anyway, while I read Hannah will sometimes stand next to my chair and look at the pictures, or, if there are no pictures for a while, she will play sitting next to my chair. We have a little basket of toys and a shelf of board books next to the rocking chair for this purpose. She seems to enjoy listening and plays quietly and contentedly for as long as I keep reading. But back to “The Secret Garden” – I was reminded of how much I loved this book as a girl, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again. When I mentioned to a friend that I was reading this book to Hannah, she said her mom had been upset by some references to magic in the book. I found most of those to be innocuous, such as when the daffodils sprout seemingly overnight and the children say “it must be magic!” However, there are some silly parts where characters say God goes by many names around the world and so magic is God and God is magic and other ridiculous things that were immaterial to the story and also dumb. So I skipped those paragraphs. There weren’t many. It’s still worth reading!

I can’t say “Knitting For the First Time” was much different from the other knitting books I’ve read – I still feel like I grasp the theory of knitting, but most of the practical stuff is way beyond me. There are some patterns for toddler sweaters in this book that did inspire me to just make a really simple sweater for Hannah to only let her wear in the house where no one can see her. 🙂 We’ll see if that actually happens. My current knitting project is just knitting a big green square. I have made pretty good progress on it, but currently it is stuck on the side of the couch behind the end table where we store the blankets, and I can’t get back there because of how my stomach gets in the way. I could just ask Josh to get it for me. I should do that. And I will.

Home Life in Colonial Days” is such a fabulous book! Written in 1898, this book is still a respected source of social history about colonial times, due to Earle’s exhaustive research, and, no doubt, to her highly readable style. I learned a great deal about the time period from this book, and enjoyed the detail and insight into everyday life in the colonies.

Several things impressed me about the colonists, first their ability to withstand soul-crushing cold inside their houses! The homes were so cold that ink would literally freeze in pens being used right by the fire side. If a pan of water was left right at the edge of the fire overnight, it would be frozen solid. So imagine sleeping upstairs away from the fire! Imagine trying to keep babies and little kids warm all night! Imagine having to get up to go to the bathroom! I will remember this information whenever it seems cold in our 68 degree house this winter!

Of course, you could sleep through anything after you spent all day keeping your household together back in that day. I was greatly impressed with the details of what it took to make cloth: from growing the plant, harvesting, washing, bleaching, carding, spinning, weaving, dying, etc etc etc. And everyone did it, even people living in towns and cities. The book notes that a woman doing a day’s worth of spinning would have walked the equivalent of TWENTY MILES and spinning was not all she did that day! Everyone in the family worked together, from the little ones who could do little tasks to the grandparents. They also had a tremendous sense of community and would often take work over to a neighbor’s house to work together and socialize. Even in 1898, Earle lamented how neighborliness and community had gone by the wayside, and that lack is even more pronounced these days.

After I finished reading about all the daily tasks everyone did, I found myself thinking of how hard life was and what drudgery had to be endured. Then I got to the section on how everyone took such great pains to beautify their lives. These women who made all their food from scratch over an open fire, spun and wove all the clothes they wore, kept their homes and raised and taught their children, ALSO took time to hand make delicate and detailed lace, embroidered just about everything with intricate stitchery, and found out which native plants would yield the most beautiful dyes for yarn and fabric so that their clothes and bed hangings and even everyday items were not just serviceable but also pretty. The descriptions of the needlework and other amazing things these women did were amazing. All in all, this was an engaging and fascinating read, and I would highly recommend it.

Sampler Stitchery” is one of the books I got at the library book sale over the weekend. It’s really a great reference, and gives detailed explanations AND helpful illustrations of several more advanced embroidery stitches that I have wanted to try, such as Pekinese stitch. The project ideas in the back are a little dated – all have that late 1970s, early 1980s “country” thing going – but the book as a whole provides good ideas and helpful information. I was inspired to do some new embroidery projects, if I can ever find a place locally to buy materials. Has anyone noticed that our craft store/fabric store choices around here are super limited??? Rebecca, when are you going to start your fabulous fabric store??? 🙂

I also finished Genesis this week in my Bible reading. I’m not going to review Genesis here, except to say that I get a whole lot more out of it since our pastors preached through Genesis recently. I really like it when there is a sermon series that tackles a whole book of the Bible systematically.

Currently Reading:
Exodus, Psalms, Matthew, Acts
“The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn” by Robin Maxwell
“The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame (to Hannah)
“Training Hearts, Teaching Minds” by Starr Meade (as a family)

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