Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco

This story tore to the core of my heart. I was appalled to read the treatment that this young woman endured, some of which under the noses of other Christian adults. I myself was lucky enough to have never experienced bullying to this extent. I certainly had my share of teasing, but it pales in comparision to this.

This story opened my eyes to what I can and should do as a teacher. Students won't tell me everything. Nor will my interference necessarily help the child in the short term. But, I must still have the courage and understanding to know that children can be cruel to each other in their race for acceptance. As a young teacher, I hope to be the person who will encourage children to know that they are loved, and that competition is not necessary, and only wastes time, energy, and skill.

This book is not for the faint of heart. For those who ignore bullying, who are the bullies, or who assume that this sort of treatment has been removed from the lives of youngsters will be thrown out of their comfort zone. There are far too many people today who assume that their thoughts, words, and actions, if said behind the back or with majority support, will not affect the victim. They are wrong, and I think this is the book that will show them how long and how far their words can stretch.

Max On Life: Answers and Inspiration for Today's Questions

I found this book to be very eye-opening and helpful. Each of the entries is about a page or two long, and each one offers a bit of clear and understandable advice. Topics included relationships, sin, church, work, family, children, Scripture, and other such issues that the new and old Christian wrestle with. I highly recommend this book to anyone who needs a place to start finding answers to the everyday questions, as each points back to a bit of Scripture.

The only con to this book that I can see is the lack of historical awareness, and doctrinal knowledge. I know that Lucado has delt with issues of doctrine before, and I was looking forward to hearing his take on different doctrines that the Church is facing today. But the book is for those who have the basic life-questions, not for those who are looking for deep theological discussion. Both have their place, and I certainly enjoyed the book thoroughly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara

The Civil War devastated American families, changed the American understanding of the Constititution, and was fought by mortal men. These men and women seem larger than life to modern students, and Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels helps to bring the conflict and the human participants back into reality. His format, skill, and understanding each bring each general’s hopes, dreams, and beliefs into sharp reality, all in a format that grips the reader throughout the bloody Battle of Gettysburg.

Michael Shaara walks his readers through every inch of the battle from a different point of view for each chapter. The reader becomes completely engaged in the conflict from the point of view of General Lee, Longstreet, Chamberlain, Buford, and several others. The reader feels the symptoms of Lee’s failing heart, or of Champerlain’s affection for his younger brother, and of Longstreet’s ability to sacrifice all of his men for the war. Each man has his failings, and the reader becomes aware of the mistakes of the war, not as a simple history lesson or an example of stupidity, but as an intricate and familiar part of humanity. Shaara insures that Lee’s mistakes are not opportunities for scorn, but for a better understanding of the men behind the larger-than-life figures of history. No matter which side of the conflict the reader may stand, he will appreciate the struggles and humanity of each of the generals before the book is done.

Each of the chapters tells the battle from the view of a different general, and each chapter is written as if the reader were reading the thoughts of the general at hand. Shaara uses a vocabulary, sentence structure, and thought process that reflects the character of the General. Longstreet feels thoughtful, quiet, awkward in crowds, and completely dedicated to the task at hand. The reader enters into the mind of Chamberlain, capable of great theological ponderings, but obviously disciplined enough to keep those thoughts at bay while in battle, until he can sit and think everything out clearly. The chapters from General Lee’s mind are controlled, sad, thoughtful, tired, with a yearning to return home, and an understanding that ‘home’ will never be the same for him. Shaara’s masterful use of language reflects the personality and thinking style of the man in the spotlight, helping the reader to better understand and relate to the General as a man.

As a reader who is largely unfamiliar with the greater themes and terrain of the Battle of Gettysburg, this book was a tremendous aid to great understanding. Not only did the battle descriptions make sense, but the Generals and leaders all became more human, making the battle all the more fascinating and distressing. The only improvement possible would be in reference to the maps. Each of the regiments and units was marked with the same color and style block, with no differentiation between Confederate and Union troops. This made the maps confusing for someone who was still learning the names and loyalties of each of the different generals and regiments. If the Union were always blocks, and the Confederate positions were marked with striped blocks, then the maps would have been vastly improved. Otherwise, this book cleared up so many confusions of the battle, and helped to establish the different participants as human beings, not simply characters in a story.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Eat Your Peas, Mom: Simple Truths and Happy Insights

Eat Your Peas, Mom is a lovely little book, and would make a perfect gift for Mothers Day. Each page has a short but candid quote, and the opposite page remains empty for writing your own letters. The paper used for the pages are thick vellum-like material, which can survive the wear and tear of writing and reading.

My own mother has been an amazing and quiet influence on my life, and I've only begun to realize the full extent of her touch in my life. She is quiet, funny, wise, human, and an amazing cook. She has taken care of four children, and a husband, and has given one child away in marriage, and is preparing to give away her second as well.

This book is a humorous and lovely book that would be a perfect opportunity to thank that mother in your life, both with the words of the author, and your own.