The Matchlock Gun

matchlock gun

This Newberry Medal book is a historically accurate book which seems to pop up in a lot of reading lists, yet it is not one I would assign without discussion. The story, which takes place in 1756 in New York State, centres on a boy named Edward whose father is off protecting the family from an Indian raid in the north. Edward is primed on how to defend the family at home with a huge old Spanish gun. The story follows the impending attack by some Indians, as they are called, and culminates in Edward successfully shooting off the big gun, saving his mother’s life (it seems), and killing three of the enemy.

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Ages 8-12

Easy-read chapter book for beginners.

Not recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

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A Grain of Rice

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By Helena Clare Pittman

This cleverly told oriental folk-tale is something of a math lesson in disguise. An easy, fun story, readers will root for the clever peasant who uses hard work, a cheerful demeanor, and his wits to win the hand of the Emporer’s daughter. I have to agree with the School Library Journal who calls the book, “wise and humorous.”

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Easy-read chapter book for beginners.

Ages 6-12

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

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The Family Under the Bridge

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by Natalie Carlson

Walk the streets of Paris and step into the world of hobos and a family who moves in with one. For children who live in comfortable homes, the book will be eye-opening but not in a graphic, depressing way. As for the values communicated through the story, the mother in the book is committed to staying together as a family, and Armand, the hobo, grows in self-respect throughout the book, ending with a renewed willingness to work and take on responsibility. The gypsies, however, seem to hold little respect for public property—which may be an accurate historical reflection—and Armand holds little respect for the truth but bends it to suit him. This makes the book not only eye-opening and heart-warming, then, but also opens a door for discussion.

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Ages 6-12

Easy-read chapter book for beginners

Reviewer: Doreen

 

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The Light at Tern Rock

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By Julia L. Sauer

The Light at Tern Rock is a story that takes you to Nova Scotia, Canada, back to the days of light-house keepers. A thin book, this tale brings a warm, cozy feel as Ronnie spends the weeks before Christmas tending the lighthouse with his aunt. But the book also brings up feelings of resentment and bitterness as Ronnie faces the mean trick that has been played on the two of them, when he and his aunt realize they are stranded at the light for Christmas. These feelings are worked through and forgiveness and hope displayed as the two reconcile themselves to their situation and clean and bake for Christmas. The story ends on Christmas Eve as Ronnie and his aunt light the great lamp and think of all the candles being lit that Christmas Eve around the world to “light the Christ-child on his way.”

An easy-read chapter book with lovely pencil drawings.

Ages 7-12

Reviewer: Doreen

The Green Ember

Green Ember

Here we have the gripping adventure that begins with oppression and the fight for freedom. In this tale of three books (more coming), the ravens and wolves have commenced an all-out attack on the rabbit kingdom, and the rabbits must fight for their lives, their freedom, and their children. The story of Picket and his sister Heather will be eagerly followed by readers, as very short chapters move the plot quickly along.

It is a rousing tale to read or listen to with your older children as themes of loyalty and treachery, family ties, faithfulness and sacrifice, oppression and persecution, truth and corruption are right there to be talked about. For kids studying history and time periods like the World War II, the third book in this series provides an excellent way to delve into the themes of government and the individual, treason and forgiveness, trust and regret, bringing home the terrible circumstances and difficult choices individuals had to make, while maintaining some emotional distance by the format of a fictional adventure.

The audio book is very well-read but a caution regarding the series over-all would be for violence. The author does a good job of not being graphic in his depiction of violence, especially in the first and second book where in battle he keeps description cryptic, simply saying things like “he swung his sword and cut him down.” But as the horrors of slavery in the third book come to light, our heroes are at different points struck in the head, kicked in the stomach, burned with a piece of iron, and threatened with a burning iron. The grim reality that young siblings are fattened and taken away for the enemy’s table also comes to light, making this series more appropriate for older children than young. Readers familiar with church history and current events, however, will quickly draw lines between the story and persecution today.

 

Recommended

Ages: 10 or 13 and up.

Titles in the series so far: The Green Ember; Ember Falls; Ember Rising

Reviewer: Doreen

Ember Falls

One Green Apple

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By Eve Bunting

A picturebook that reads like a true story, and in a sense is true, as it tells the story of a young middle eastern immigrant to North America. Join Farah as she goes with her new classmates on a field trip to an apple orchard and finds out that among all the strangeness and difficulties, laughter and friendliness are a universal language.

Picturebook

Ages 5-12

Recommended

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

 

The Boy’s Book of Outdoor Survival: 101 Courageous Skills for Exploring the Dangerous Wild

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By Chris McNab

Intriguing to all wanna-be-explorers, this book actually teaches practical skills from building a fire to cooking and shelter-building. Each skill has a page of its own and is written in a clear, brief, interesting manner with pictures and diagrams to help out. A great companion book to “My Side of the Mountain”!

Ages 8 and up

Available from public libraries

Recommended

Ages 8 and up

Reviewer: Doreen

The Little White Horse

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By Elizabeth Goudge

A fairy-tale for middle graders, this chapter book tells the story of a girl who is determined to suppress evil and restore peace to the valley of her forefathers. Goudge was high-church Anglican and brings a strong respect for the church and one’s service to God. For Protestants, there is reference to a statue of Mary and the old traditional prayer times of the monks, but these are elements that can be taken in context of the fairytale as a whole. With little to no magic, except the sea horses which come rushing through the woods one night, the heroine proceeds with courage, discovering her own weaknesses and resolving not to fall into the old family ways of pride and bitterness. A strong sense of home and family and the sanctity of marriage are conveyed throughout the book. For preteen girls who still want to read fairytales, here is one that remains wholesome.

Chapter book

Ages 10-13

Available from public libraries

Reviewer: Doreen

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

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by Nicola Davies

Davies excels at taking tiny parts of our world and making them relevant and understandable to children. Neat illustrations with a retro look help make the scientific concepts relevant and interesting.

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Big picturebook (not very long)

Available from public libraries

Ages 5-12

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen

 

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Whose Nest is This?

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By Heidi Bee Roemer

With beautiful, well-detailed illustrations, this picturebook brings to life all kinds of creatures’ nests, not just birds. The object of the book is not to cover many nests, but rather, a wide variety of nests, which it does well. Truly this book is a tribute to our great Creator. The text on each page is simple, but more details are included on the final page for the eager learner.

Picturebook

Available from public libraries

Ages 4-10

Recommended

Reviewer: Doreen