Book Chat

This month’s book reviews: may contain affiliate links —

My seventh grader read Animal Farm for school, and encouraged me to read it as well. It had been years since I’d read it, and I had basically forgotten the gist. I found it very timely. The animals on a farm decide they’ve had enough of human oppression, and overthrow the evil farmer. Now, things will be utopian – animals in charge of animals. What could go wrong?

Well, plenty. The list of 7 rules that the animals paint onto the barn subtly changes over time, until the famous line appears: “All animals are equal; but some animals are more equal than others.”

Very timely, as I said; very timely indeed. The book has a powerful lesson about keeping your eyes open and being aware of what’s going on around you. Depending on your politics, you’ll probably be assigning various political figures to the different animals. I know I did …

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This seems to be “kids’ recommendations” month, because another daughter insisted I read Riding Freedom. It was a good choice! It’s the story of Charlotte, who lives in the 1800s. Charlotte is sent to a stereotypically awful orphanage, and finally runs away – but not before disguising herself as a boy in order to up her chances of making a permanent escape.

Charlotte/”Charley” loves horses, and earns a living taking care of them. She ends up buying land for a ranch of her own in California.

Good book for kids or adults alike, with history lessons as well as a great example of a girl with courage and persistence.

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I have a habit of visiting a place, becoming fascinated, and then wanting to read about that place or the people associated with it. This year, when I knew I’d be visiting Mount Vernon, I got smart and decided to read about Martha Washington before I went.

I like the cover of Martha Washington: An American Life – it’s a nice contrast to our usual image of Martha as the kindly, plump, white-haired old first first lady. What we know about her has been greatly hampered by the fact that, after George Washington died, she burned all the letters between them in order to preserve their privacy.

But in this book, I got to know her better. I found myself admiring her, while noting that she was decidedly not like me: she was a great conversationalist who loved to have the house full of visitors all the time (she hosted over 600 overnight guests at Mount Vernon in one year alone).

She had sadness in her life; her four children (all with her first, pre-George husband) all died before she did, either in childhood or young adulthood. She was decidedly unhappy that George was so involved in the revolution and then served as President, because she (and he as well) would have much preferred to just live quietly at Mount Vernon.

She once wrote, “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” I think we all could do well to follow her example there.

It was fun to see a reproduction of one of her dresses at Mount Vernon’s visitors’ center, along with some of her shoes, famed for their small size:

Martha Washington dress Mount VernonRecommended for a look at a little-known life.

 

8 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. So when are you going to give us a summary of your trip to the DC area?

  2. I hear you about visiting a place and then wanting to learn all about it. I do that ALL the time!

    That book on Martha Washington sounds very interesting–I really enjoy biographies of first ladies (well, biographies in general–but biographies of women tend to include more “everyday” details, and first ladies are more accessible than most other women.) I’d be interested in seeing the differences between the biography and Moser’s fictional account, as well.

  3. I re-read Animal Farm when my daughter read it also. It does have some great lessons, but still kind of a creepy book. Ha. Enjoy reading!

  4. I like how you are reading about Martha Washington in advance! =D It does sound really interesting and I wouldn’t mind landing a copy of that one myself!

  5. Animal Farm. Wow. Haven’t thought about that one in a long time! It sure would be a timely read for these days! My daughter liked Riding Freedom too, but I haven’t read it yet. Guess I need to! The Martha Washington one looks interesting too. My oldest read a biography of her this year for our schoolwork and wrote a short paper on her for our homeschool co-op.

  6. Hmmm… I’ve been thinking of re-reading Animal Farm lately. I read it in the fourth grade. I think I was too young to really get it. I do remember the book but not all that well.

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