Rascal (Sterling North)

Rascal by Sterling North (1964 Newbery Honor Book) was one of my selections for the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge – 1960s. We are a family who loves a good “boy and his dog” story. Or in this case, a good “boy and his racoon” story.  I had a feeling that Rascal would be a treasured read aloud.

Sterling is a young boy living in Wisconsin during World War I. It is just Sterling and his father living at home. His mother has been deceased for several years, siblings are in various stages of life including his brother, Herschel, who is fighting in the war. With a love for animals and nature, Sterling has a habit of making wild animals his pets. So while in the woods one day with a friend, Sterling finds a baby racoon and brings him home.

June was the month! School was out, cherries were ripe, and all the boys and some of the girls went barefoot. Boys had many extra advantages such as swimming naked and wandering alone along the streams and rivers, casting for bass among the water lilies. Girls had to wear swimming suits and come in earlier from our evening games of prisoner’s base and run-sheep-run. I was very thankful that I was a boy.

While this book shares many humorous stories about Rascal, it is much more than that. We see a glimpse of a time when boys were expected to be in the great outdoors; enjoying nature, hunting, working, exploring, and building. We see a town that truly was a community despite the good and the bad. We see a bit of history from the eyes of a young boy.

Censorship made communication almost impossible in World War I, and Herschel’s letter merely sent his love and confirmed the fact that he was unwounded. I remember one sentence in particular because it was typical of his wry good humor:

“Send me some Paris garters, Sterling. They claim in their ads that ‘No metal can touch you.’ “

The fact that Herschel was still alive and unhurt, and that Rascal and I still had one afternoon before I must start building his cage, raised my spirits considerably. I made jelly sandwiches for the two of us, and we climbed the cleats I had nailed to the oak tree, taking with us our picnic lunch and a copy of Westward Ho.

I read this aloud in the evenings and my children all loved it. From Sam (3) to Bekah (16) everyone was ready to settle in at the end of the day to hear more. I asked my son, Caleb, 13, what he thought of this book. He said, “I really enjoy books where a boy is telling his story. You know, like the Ralph Moody books. Rascal was funny and enjoyable. I liked how at the end Sterling let Rascal choose where he wanted to be.”

“Do as you please, my little racoon. It’s your life,” I told him.

If you haven’t read Rascal, you are missing out on a treasure.


FishFlix – Unbroken – A Review

Movie Nights are a favorite in our home. You can’t go wrong with popcorn, a cold drink, comfy seats and a good movie with the family. However, it can be challenging to find movies that meet our family standards especially with a wide range of ages. We discovered FishFlix.com: Christian Movies to Inspire and Entertain and had the opportunity to review the film, Unbroken – 2 DVD Legacy of Faith Edition.

FishFlix is an online Christian movie store that offers a variety of films. From documentaries to the latest Christian releases, everyone can find something to enjoy.

The movie Unbroken shares a portion of the life of Louie Zamperini, an amazing story of dedication, perseverance, character, redemption, and grace. Unbroken shares various stages of Louie’s life: wild and trouble-filled childhood, Olympic dreams in the 1936 Olympics, and serving as a bombardier aboard a B-24 in WWII. Life takes a terrifying turn for Louie when the Green Hornet (B-24) crashes during a rescue mission. Louie and two other crew members (Phil and Mac) were the only survivors. Louie and Phil survive 47 days on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean until they are found by the Japanese. Louie spent two years in Japanese prisoner camps and was tortured brutally. The ending of WWII freed Louie from the prisoner camps and he returned home a hero.

Unbroken has a brief scene of male nudity when Louie is first captured by the Japanese. FishFlix has blurred the male actors for more appropriate viewing for families. The content was not edited in any other way.

The Unbroken Legacy Faith Edition contains a second DVD that shares the rest of Louie’s story through interviews with Louie. The film Unbroken ends when Louie returns home but there was so much more to Louie’s story. Nightmares, alcohol, revenge, anger, and despair became Louie’s world. Until one evening during a Billy Graham crusade, Louie realized that his life had been in the Lord’s hands all those years and he was changed.

This second DVD (90 minutes)  contains interviews by Greg Laurie, CBN, and The Billy Graham Evangelical Association that have Louie sharing his story of faith and forgiveness. Angelina Jolie, director of the film, Unbroken, also shares about the impression Louie made on her.

Unbroken and Our Home

In preparation for viewing this film, I decided to read the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. This is a common practice in our home: book before movie. We had decided that only our older children (13 and up) would be viewing this film due to the mature theme. My daughters, 16 and 15, opted to view Unbroken later since they currently do not have time to read the book. My son (13) read the book and watched the movie along with my husband and myself.

Overall, I think Unbroken was well done. There were so many aspects of Louie’s experience during the war to share that it had to be challenging to decide what to highlight. It is so very hard to translate emotions, experiences, and struggles from life to film. As Louie’s generation passes away, it is so crucial to remember their lives and the impact they have on us. Movies such as Unbroken help us to remember.

I liked the movie. They did a good job of portraying the life in prison camp. They left out the important facts of his life after the war like his marriage and believing in Christ. I think you need to read the book and watch the movie so you get the full story and details.. Caleb – 13

After learning Louie’s story, we were all eager to watch the interviews with Louie and hear him share of his experiences and faith. While we did enjoy hearing Louie speak, it was a bit disappointing. The three interviews provided presented basically the same information so viewing just one interview was all that was necessary. I wasn’t impressed with certain interviewers and would have appreciated a bit of editing to have more focus on Louie.

I enjoyed the movie’s depiction of Louie’s life.. I appreciated the editing of nudity that Fishflix provided. While I enjoyed the interviews I think that editing would have benefited the flow of content and better shared Louie’s story and faith. Eddie – 45

If you have not seen Unbroken, I would recommend this Legacy of Faith edition. I know you will walk away inspired by Louie.

Other Schoolhouse Reviewers reviewed Unbroken Legacy of Faith edition as well as other selections from FishFlix. If you enjoy a good movie, take a moment to see what others have to say.

FishFlix.com Review

Crew Disclaimer

Preschool Book Basket

It is almost time to head back to the library to refresh our book basket. Before I forget some of the fun reads we have been enjoying, I thought I would share them here. You might want to grab a few to enjoy with your young ones.

Nana in the City (Lauren Castillo) – A young boy visits his Nana who lives in the city. The boy sees the city as loud, busy, and scary. His Nana should not live in the city! With the help of Nana and a special red cape, this young boy realizes that the city can be amazing and wonderful. The city is the perfect place for Nana to live and for him to visit. A sweet, simple book that highlights not only city life but the relationship of a grandmother and grandson.

Time for Bed, Fred! (Yasmeen Ismail) I must confess. I judged this book by the cover. Aqua and red coloring with a cute, little doggie? I had to grab it off the shelf. It did not disappoint. The clock strikes eight and it is time for bed, Fred. Fred is most definitely not ready for bed. Hiding in the flowers, jumping in the mud, and escaping from a bath are all antics of Fred to avoid bedtime. Once Fred finally heads to bed, he can’t seem to find the right bed to be in. Finally we have Fred sweetly dreaming in his own bed. My little ones loved Fred. Colorful, fun illustrations and simple, repetitive text will have your children reading along with you. Anyone who has ever tried to avoid bedtime will appreciate Fred’s efforts.

The Bus Ride (Marianne Dubuc) – You should request this one right now. My children LOVED this book. From eleven down to the three year old, they enjoyed this book so much. Clara is finally taking her first solo bus ride to see her grandmother. As she travels on the bus, she meets a cast of characters that make for a delightful and exciting ride. From a peek a boo playing turtle to a beaver with a giant box to a thief, every bus stop is something new. The illustrations really make this story come to life. Subtle details on each page capture the attentive eye of your children: one bus passenger is reading a newspaper and as new passengers arrive, you notice the headings of the newspaper changing or a small item dropped on the floor. My children loved reading this over and over to see who could notice something missed before. This one will be added to our favorites list, I’m sure.

What is in your book basket?