May Book Notes

May Book Notes

Finished in May:

1. Till We Have Faces, Mrs Darwin’s April selection for Reading for Believers.

I have such a hard time talking about this book. I love it and yet every time I try to untangle it I feel like I’m hitting a brick wall. I was hoping our book club could help me jump over that wall but we haven’t made a whole lot of headway. One of these days I hope to be able to give it the attention it deserves.

2. Your Baby Is Speaking to You by Dr Kevin Nugent with photographs by Abelardo Morell.

I’ve been dipping into this library book occasionally and enjoying it; but wishing I had more time to peruse it at leisure. I’d love to purchase a copy for myself (but then would probably fall into the trap of figuring I have all the time in the world and thus never touch it. Too many books too little time!) It is a book which both invites browsing and deeper study. However, it’s a bit harder for me to pick up and put down because of the larger size. Hard to manage in one hand while nursing Anthony. Too big to balance on the pile of books in the bathroom to read there. If not for the size, it would be a perfect bathroom book. Each two-page spread is its own chapter. A photo paired with a few paragraphs of text discussing the baby behavior illustrated by the picture. This is a book I really want to read twice. The first time to skim through and get an overview with a determination to come back later and really pay attention to what its saying. (Tired, distracted mommy brain means its hard for me to absorb everything on the first go round.)

The photos by themselves would make the book worth getting. Gorgeous black and white shot of precious newborns.

My sister refers to this as a “field guide for babies.” It is quite handy to have on hand while you’re studying your newborn. The text makes me want to spend hours just staring at Anthony. It describes all sorts of behaviors and reflexes I’ve never noticed, or never payed close attention to. It almost makes me want to have another baby because Anthony is already past the age of some of the behaviors. I want a model to study. This book addresses both the concerned mother who wants to be able to better understand and respond to her beloved child and also the mother-scientist who loves to observe and identify and understand her baby as subject for the sake of the knowledge itself.

I’ve always been stumped at the stay-at home mom who finds herself bored being alone with the baby. To me a baby is an endless source of fascination. This book feeds that side of me.

3. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

I picked this up from the library on someone’s recommendation.I think maybe it was in a comment thread at The Bonny Glen. Anyway, I sort of like it and sort of don’t; bu the don’t part of that is really just my own quirkiness, I think. It’s a whimsical book about a governess who goes to her first placement after finishing school only to find that her charges are a trio of children who were raised by wolves. The heroine is likable, a more vivacious and self-confidant version of Jane Eyre. There is a mystery introduced that is only partially solved in the book. Hints of a greater mystery to be revealed in later volumes of the series.

Where I dislike this book it is because of my difficulty in suspending my disbelief about the subject of feral children. I did a research paper once on the linguistic difficulties of feral children. It seems there’s really a window in which language acquisition can happen and if a child is not exposed to language of any kind during that window it is pretty much impossible for him to acquire it later in life. Fascinating stuff and so tragic for the poor children who have missed that opportunity because it’s not just about having their childhood ripped away but really about their inability to connect with the human race. They have been stripped of the ability to use words, to think in words. Oh I shouldn’t get started because it’s one of those subject I” am so passionate about. So anyway knowing what I know about the real tragedy of feral children,  I really had trouble suspending disbelief and going with the flow. I expected one thing when with the kids who were raised by wolves and could only communicate via howls and barks were introduced. I was really thrown for a loop when they are then suddenly capable of quite sophisticated level of communication within mere days. Even if their communication is punctuated by howling and they tend to end words in “woo”. I know it’s just a novel; but I like my fantasy to have some kernel of verisimilitude in it and this book just lost me there.

Once I got past that stumbling block, however—and yes I did keep reading—it is a cute little story. Though the cliffhanger ending did annoy me, as they always do. I really don’t like the feeling of being totally incomplete. I’m probably going to have to pick up the next book in the series just to satisfy my narrative curiosity.

4. The Road from Roxbury by Melissa Wiley.

I bought this at the end of last year when Lissa was selling some copies she had of her books. This was the one of her novels that I hadn’t been able to find used so I was excited to finally finish my collection. Plus having a signed copy—Squee!!! I wish I had nice hardcover copies of all her books; but that’s beyond my poor little budget.

I put this up on the shelf to read later not because I wasn’t excited but as a way of sort of savoring the anticipation. Also I had a bunch of library books and books I’d otherwise committed to reading that were in the queue. So this was the first book I grabbed from the stack of recently acquired books. (Recent being a relative term. There are books there from my birthday last August that I still haven’t read.)

Anyway, the perfect time having arrived, The Road from Roxbury was as much of a pleasure to read as I’d anticipated. I especially love the Charlotte novels because they are set practically in my backyard. I recognize the places and the history is relevant, personal. Charlotte is a great character too.

I love the schoolmaster who is more interested in gaslights and canals than in teaching children. He seems so mean at first and unjust and later it turns out he is a very nice person, just stuck in the wrong place. My sympathies for him as I’ve been the teacher who doesn’t quite fit before.

5. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

The third volume in the charming series about a family of four girls from Massachusetts. I really don’t know what to say without giving anything away; but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

6. Imperial Renegade by Louis de Wohl

A novel about the Emperor Julian the Apostate, also called Julian the Philosopher, the last pagan ruler of the Roman Empire and also the last ruler in the Constantinian dynasty. A fascinating account of this complex character whose parents were assassinated and who was raised an Arian Christian; but who in adulthood decided to worship the pagan gods. As usual de Wohl handles spiritual matters with finesse. Most of the novel is told from Julian’s point of view. It is rather grim, seeing how he is misled deliberately to follow false gods. Interesting encounters with St Athanasius are incidental to the main plot—or are they?

Although I’ve found most of de Wohl’s books would be suitable for younger readers, I feel that this one might require more parental guidance because many of the attacks against Christianity are not directly answered in the text. I could see how that might be troubling for a younger reader—though with proper guidance those very issues could be the occasion for very profitable discussions.

Books I’ve Started:

1. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy.

I’m only a few pages in and finding it hard going. It’s not what I’m in the mood for. But I shall soldier on because Betty Duffy is leading the charge.

2. Happy Catholic: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life by Julie Davis I’ve loved Julie D’s blog probably since around the time I discovered that there were such things as blogs. I love her wide-ranging interests, her book recommendations, and her wonderful quotes. Above all I love Julie’s vivacious personality. Though we’ve never met, Julie feels like an old friend. I’ve just started to dip into her book and already I know it’s a keeper. I keep reciting bits of it to Dom and Tree. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it later.


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  • I am so glad you are doing this series! I am always looking for advice and encouragement on how to bring up my son to love God. I’m always paranoid that I will somehow inadvertently raise him to be an athiest axe murderer! I do have a question for you: My son is 9 months old. He was baptized when he was about 3 weeks old. I always take him to Mass unless he is sick (he hasn’t gone maybe twice) and I have taken him to daily Mass and am thinking about taking him to adoration (that’s something I’m really uncertain about.) I was just wondering if there is anything else I can do with him. He’s so young so I’m not sure what is age appropriate for his developmental age when it comes to religion!

  • Maggie,

    You’re taking him to daily Mass, that’s awesome! I’d try adoration but maybe plan to stay only five or ten minutes. Whenever I’ve done it, I’ve gone with a “let’s see” attitude, ready to duck out if baby gets loud and seems to be disturbing anyone.

    I’ll be getting into a lot of specifics in the third part of my series. But to answer your very age-specific question, here are some other things I’ve done with my children when they were very young. It’s hard to pin an exact age on them, I sort of follow my gut as to when they’re developmentally appropriate.

    1. Pray my personal devotions out loud so they can hear. Whatever prayers you pray: the rosary, the liturgy of the hours, litanies, whatever you do, do it out loud. (any age)

    2. Singing hymns. Babies love to be sung to so anything you can learn will be appreciated. My kids love Amazing Grace and Immaculate Mary and I try to do seasonal hymns at Christmas and Easter etc. I’m currently trying to add new hymns to my repertoire. And for the record I am not a good singer and can’t read music. You Tube is my friend for learning tunes. (any age)

    3. Rosary as chew toy. Wooden rosaries make nice teethers. You can point out the cross when he starts to get interested in naming things and teach him “Jesus” as one of his first words. Give the rosary when baby can grab and hold. When you give it to him point to the cross and say Jesus in the same way you’d tell him the name of a ball or cup or anything you hand him. (when baby is interested in grabbing)

    4. Holy water. When going into church I help baby put his hand in the font and I move his arm in the sign of the cross. I’m not exactly sure when I start doing that but probably by nine months they’ve got enough curiosity to enjoy the splash of the water. Also, we bought a little plastic holy water bottle at a Catholic book store and we use that to bless ourselves and the kids when we say bedtime prayers.

    5. If your baby is sleeping on his own in his own bed, then you might start doing bedtime prayers with him when you tuck him in. We say an Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, pray for our family’s special intentions, ask their guardian angels to watch over them.

    6. By nine months you could probably introduce some board books. Here are my reviews of some specifically Catholic board books (probably not at your local library: Baby Come to Church and Where Is God?
    The Saving Name of God the Son

    6. Is he interested in hugs and kisses yet? Hang a crucifix over his bed and at bedtime take it down and let him kiss Jesus. My little ones love that.

    7. Hang other religious art in your house, pictures of Mary and the saints and point them out to him, name them, say brief prayers like, “St Joseph, pray for us,” and “Holy Mary, pray for us.”

    8. Buy laminated holy cards of your favorite saints and let baby play with them. I usually add “St X, pray for us” as we look at them.

  • Wow! These are awesome suggestions! Thank you! I do sing or hum hymns at bedtime because those are the only tunes I really know! And when we sing them in Mass I can tell he somewhat recognizes them! It’s great!

  • What’s really great too is when he starts singing them himself. I love hearing my two year olds sing. Ben is just starting to sing Gloria and Alleluia.