The Winged Watchman

A Plumfield Kids Book Review by Jack Masarik, age 11  “The Watchman . . .The Watchman . . . Joris looked at it in despair. Winged Watchman . . . guardian angel . . . his breath came in wheezy gasps. He heard footsteps coming closer. Soon he would not be able to run anymore;…

The Cottage at Bantry Bay

Listen to this review here When Diane and I were preparing for our formal interview with Dr. John Tepper Marlin, son of Hilda van Stockum, he told us that people would often remark to his mother that she had “such interesting children.” Marlin said that his mother always chuckled at that remark because she thought…

The Mitchells: Five For Victory

Listen to this review here Drawn from real life World War II experiences, Hilda van Stockum created an endearing story about children and family life during the second world war in Five For Victory. Hilda van Stockum was born in Holland to Dutch-Irish parents where she was homeschooled through the age of eight. As a…

The Miracle of St. Nicholas

“Why can’t we celebrate Christmas tomorrow in St. Nicholas?” Set in a small Russian village, young Alexi asks his babushka (grandma) why they cannot celebrate Christmas in their village church of St. Nicholas. In the wake of the Bolshevik revolution, the communists vigorously worked to eradicate religion because it threatened the Russian people’s dependence on…

Happy Times in Noisy Village

In another post, I commented that my first exposure to Astrid Lindgren was through Pippi Longstocking and I wasn’t terribly impressed. Along the way, however, I was persuaded to try some of her other work. I read Children of Noisy Village and fell in love. In my review of that book, I note a Santa…

Old Sam Dakota Trotter

“It was this way with many things, for there was no sure guide to go by. It was the beginning of experience. Of course no two settlers were working under the same conditions, and their methods differed… as they learned to overcome their own difficulties in their own way, uncertainty gave way to a good…

Good Old Archibald

The podcast version of this book review can be found here. When Bethlehem Books was having their big summer sale, I combed through their catalog for books that would captivate my reluctant boy reader. My nine-year-old son is a much better reader than he gives himself credit for, but he is easily intimidated by long or…

Philomena

Reading aloud is hard. It is work, it requires focus, it demands stamina, and it usually requires good habits. Reading aloud, like almost anything truly valuable, is hard to do. Over the years, I have heard great mentors give the same piece of advice: choose a book you love. Read aloud can be much easier…

Enemy Brothers

“England and her Allies aren’t just fighting the Axis countries – they’re fighting the evil spirits that have laid hold of Germany and Italy and Japan.” War always turns things on their heads. Real life during WWII was especially good at turning things inside out and upside down. During that creatively brutal time, so many…

Year of the Black Pony

“It took stiff-necked courage and grit to ranch in Oregon country in the early 1900’s.” The Year of the Black Pony is a story about family and fortitude more than it is a story about a horse. The horse, however, is a character worthy of being in the title. This hard but beautiful story is…

The Winged Watchman

You can find the podcast version of this review here.  Hilda van Stockum’s The Winged Watchman is an edge-of-your-seat adventure story that paints a vibrant but challenging picture of WWII life for Dutch families in German-occupied Holland.  “Joris Verhagen was six years old when the Germans invaded Holland. At ten he could remember little of…

Children of the Noisy Village

Oh. Oh. Oh. This review breaks my heart, and it is wrong. 3 Stars – “The content is too old for kids in 2016. Too old school story.” (An Amazon Reviewer) Confession: I am not a big fan of Pippi Longstocking, also by Astrid Lindgren. I love the charm of Lindgren’s writing but Pippi’s unconventional…

The Hedge School

In 17th century Britain, the Protestant English settlers of Ireland had failed to assimilate the native Irish Catholics, and there was serious political and religious tension on the island. In 1641, native Irish landowners staged a rebellion against the English settlers and failed. A bloody, complicated, and chaotic series of events unfolded causing political, economic,…