Let’s Visit Awhile. . . in England

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If only I was really in England!  No doubt my afternoon reading would absolutely lovely sitting in the English countryside. And that is exactly how I’m spending many of my free moments…reading!

It would probably be an interesting idea to actually post about the wonderful books I have enjoyed with my children and in my own private reading. I could even share about the ones that I sat to the side. It is rare that I don’t finish a book but it does happen! Unfortunately,  I am so far behind in reviewing/sharing what I have read, I don’t even know where to begin.

So, why not just share a book that I am reading and enjoying very much right now?

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Joanna Cannon) is set in the late 1970s in a English neighborhood. There is a wide cast of characters but the story is pulled along by Grace and Tilly, two young girls looking for God. If they find God, then Mrs. Creasy will be found. This has a bit of mystery/suspense, diverse and engaging characters, and absolutely lovely language. Ms. Cannon has a lovely way with words that create pictures for feelings, mood, and atmosphere.

“I stared past the vicar to Enid’s coffin, and thought of the ninety-eight years which lay inside. I wondered if she’d thought of them too, alone on her sitting room carpet, and I hope perhaps that she had. I thought about how she’d be carried from the church and through the graveyard, past all the Ernests and the Mauds and the Mabels, and how ninety-eight years would be put inside the ground, for dandelions to grow across her name. I thought about the people that would forever walk past her, on their way to somewhere else. People at weddings and christenings. People taking a shortcut, having a cigarette. I wondered if they would ever stop and think about Enid and her ninety-eight years, and I wondered if the world would have a little remembering left for her.” p 88

I just happened to stumble across The Trouble with Goats and Sheep one evening while browsing Pinterest. I wish I could remember where? Someone had it on a “must read in 2016” type of list. Spending so much time in children’s literature, I have to purpose to make time for adult selections.

“It was strange how different people’s kitchens could be. Some were shouty and confused, like Mrs. Dakin’s, and some kitchens, like Eric Lamb’s, hardly made a sound. A clock tick-tocked above the doorframe and a fridge whirred and hummed to itself in the corner. Other than that, there was silence as we ran the taps and stared through the window and washed our hands with Fairy Liquid. Next to the stove were two easy chairs, one crumpled and sagging, the other smooth and unworn. Over the back of each were crocheted blankets, reams of multicolored yarn stretched together in a shout of color, and on the dresser was a photograph of a woman with kind eyes. She watched us dry our hands and take lemonade from Eric Lamb, and I wondered if it  had been her patience which had woven together the strands of wool, for a chair she could no longer sit in.”  p.182

I’m just a bit over halfway finished with my reading and am eager to see how the lives of this little neighborhood are going to end. I’m taking it slow and enjoying my time sitting on the wall with Grace and Tilly.

“I still hadn’t learned the power of words. How, once they have left your mouth, they have a breath and a life of their own. I had yet to realize that you no longer own them. I hadn’t learned that, once you let them go, the words can then, in fact, become the owners of you.” p.187

What have you been reading this summer?

ArtAchieve – A Review for Every Artist

When you look around my house, you will naturally see books, books, and more books. You will also find sketch books, drawing pencils, watercolors, and more all throughout the house. One of my daughters hopes to one day illustrate children’s books so I am always on the look out for books, tutorials, and other resources to help her. ArtAchieve has allowed us to use and review their Entire Level 1 online art course and Lydia has been the primary student. I’d love to share her experience with you.

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review
ArtAchieve has five levels of art instruction available online. They do increase in difficulty and skill as you progress through the levels. We chose to go with Level 1 because the lessons were fun, we had all supplies readily available, and I could invite younger ones to join us at times. You can select any of the lessons at any level and learn more details about what that lesson will present to your student. Not only are supplies listed but also the approximate time the lesson will take to complete.


Another great aspect to the ArtAchieve lessons is that you can choose to dig deeper into the subject matter. In Level 1, Lesson 3,for example, is The Hungarian Insects. If you wanted to explore the subject a bit more, you are given links to resources that help you learn about the history and geography of Hungary. A list of picture books by Eric Carle on insects is suggested and a great way to showcase great art work. Science and writing suggestions are given as well. While we didn’t utilize all these cross-curricula resources, it is nice to have that option.

ArtAchieve has FREE lessons available. The lessons on Simple Lines and Shading are beneficial no matter which level of ArtAchieve you begin with.

How did Lydia use ArtAchieve Level 1?

Initially, I had two of my daughters using Level 1 of ArtAchieve: Lydia, 12 and Hannah, 10. Hannah completed a few lessons if she found the picture interesting but Lydia was my devoted student who I really had in mind for this course. Lydia used this independently and most often worked on her art in the afternoons. She would look over the lessons to see what supplies she needed, find a quiet spot, and create a masterpiece. She usually completes one lesson a week. She has looked over the other levels and is eager to give them all a try.

I really liked using this course. Well, I didn’t really enjoy the lesson on shading but it is an important skill to have. This would work really well for younger children as well because it is easy to understand. What you are doing is explained really well. The warm ups that you do are helpful and good practice. It was fun. Sometimes the videos were a repetitive in the beginning. And I didn’t like the words on the screen being read at the same time. I can read faster and like reading it for myself. Lydia – 12

There were a couple of afternoons that some of my younger ones (8 and 6) wanted to create a masterpiece of their own. They would wait for Lydia to finish and then copy her work. With a bit of guidance and encouragement, I think they could work through Level 1 quite well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we were quite pleased with ArtAchieve Level 1.  The video instruction gives clear, easy to understand explanations. I loved hearing the instructor comment on how no two creations are going to look the same. This is your art. In a house with all of the children constantly drawing, sketching, and creating, we can easily find ourselves comparing our creations a bit harshly.

I appreciated the Warm Up activities for the lessons. I think they are really helpful for the student to get a feel for the lines, curves, and angles that will be used in the art work for the day. Very simple but very helpful.

Crew Members were able to review Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 of ArtAchieve. So take a moment and see what others are saying about Art Achieve and the various levels of art instruction.


Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review
Crew Disclaimer

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard

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We have been enjoying some great reads over the past few months. If I would only share them with you, right? Well, today I am making time to share about a book that you really want to add to your summer reading list!

In early 2015, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes quickly became a family favorite. Who could resist the greatest thief that ever lived?  It is quite possible that we were book stalking Jonathan Auxier’s newest release: Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard: A Peter Nimble Adventure for months. The book stalking paid off because as soon as Sophie Quire arrived at the library, it came home with us.

Peter Nimble and his loyal friend, Sir Tode have returned. This time Professor Cake has sent Peter and Sir Tode on a quest to help Sophie Quire. And who is this Sophie Quire and what is a Storyguard? Sophie Quire is a young girl who works as a book mender in her father’s bookshop. Life takes as unexpected turn when Peter arrives with a mysterious book and an offer to help her find the other three volumes.  Once Sophie opens this rare book, her life is forever changed.

“It has often been said that one should never judge a book by its cover. As any serious reader can tell you, this is terrible advice. Serious readers know the singular pleasure of handling a well-made book – the heft and texture of the case, the rasp of the spine as you life the cover, the sweet, dusty aroma of yellowed pages as they pass between your fingers. A book is more than a vessel of ideas: It is a living thing in need of love, warmth, and protection.” Sophie Quire, Page 1

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard brings to us once again the irresistible character of Peter Nimble and another exciting adventure. Pyre Day is an annual celebration in Bustleburg. A day each year where nonsense is sent into the flames of the Pyre of Progress. This year,  Inquisitor Prigg, has decided that storybooks will be tossed into the Pyre; these childish stories are the ultimate source of nonsense and must be destroyed. In an effort to save not only Bustleburg but the world, Sophie must find four magical books. There are those who will do anything to stop Sophie, Peter and Sir Tode from this quest.

“No, my foolish scribbler. I have made this world better. Safer. More dependable. There are no more fairy feasts in Bustleburgh, but neither are there starving widows. The lame man no longer experiences miraculous healing, but he now has a physician to soothe his pain. Children have no time for perilous adventures, because they are employed in productive work. We have no glass orchards or wishing wells, but we do have courthouses and factories and hospitals and schools.”

“But to destroy all magic everywhere…” Sophie said. “There must be some other way.”

“Haven’t you been listening?” Prigg said. “The world is not big enough for both man and magic – perhaps it never was. In order for man to live, magic must die.”

“Magic cannot die,” Scriverner Behn said, stepping toward him. “So long as there is wonder in the hearts of men, so, too, will there be magic.” Sophie Quire – Page 337

Jonathan Auxier has a gift with words. He has again woven together a tale of adventure that takes us on a worthy quest.  We experience again the beauty of friendship and sacrifice. We journey beside our friends, Peter, Sophie, and Sir Tode, to save the magic in this world. We find that we can’t wait to turn the page. We laugh out loud. We nod our head in agreement. We can’t wait to see how it will all end and then we sigh when there is not another page to turn.

If you have an adventure loving kiddo, you will want to read Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. If your home is overrun with those who know the beauty of a story bound in the pages of a book, read Sophie. There is no age limit. I read this aloud and we all enjoyed it. From my four year old to me, we eagerly anticipated each evening’s reading. Be prepared for your children to suddenly need blindfolds and swords. A sack to hold a book or two is an added bonus.

**Not necessary, but I would recommend reading Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes first. Jonathan Auxier also wrote The Night Gardner which is a Victorian ghost story that we enjoyed as well.

Sophie thought she might understand what he meant by this. For all the hours she had spent repairing books, she knew that stories were much more than words on a page. Stories lived inside those who read them. It was like Sophie with her mother. She might not have remembered her mother’s face or voice or touch, but those things were a part of her all the same. Maybe that was Prigg’s real folly,” she said, drawing a strand of hair behind her ear. “Magic cannot be removed from the world, because the world – every speck of it- is magical. It is simply a matter of whether or not we can see it. Sophie Quire – Page 439

One aspect of Auxier’s writing we appreciate, is that he embraces words without fear or hesitation. I am always so pleased with the range of vocabulary used in his writings as well as his boldness in producing a long read. At 444 pages, Sophie Quire is a book to settle down with for a long visit. Do not let the length deter you. A worthy read, in deed.

Most of these books have grown shy in their old age, preferring to sit quietly on the shelf. But if ever you find a very dusty book on a very out-of-the-way bookcase, put it to your ear and listen closely. What do you hear? The faint rustle of pages, the creak of an old spine, and the hushed song of a story waiting to be read. Sophie Quire – Page 444

I hope you are enjoying a bit of summer reading to beat the heat. What good books have your and your children enjoyed this summer? Let me know if you read Sophie Quire!