Weekly Wrap-Up #5

Unforunately, I didn’t end up listening to 4 audiobooks in January. I had to finish Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims at the start of February. I always count these commas, so to speak, for the month in which I finish them. February has a good start: 2 audiobooks finished and 2 books, 1 Juvenile and 1 Young Adult, finished.

AUDIO

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims by Rush Limbaugh

Well, I’ve heard trash about Rush’s books as well as praise. So I decided to try one out. Since I am descended from a Mayflower Pilgrim (the one and only William Bradford, whot whot), I picked this one as my audiobook.

As one whose family listened to Rush growing up, his voice is familiar. However, when I begun the book, he sounded so different. Then it dawned on me: I’m so used to him just talking, not hearing him reading! See, reading voices are different from our conversational voices!

The gist of the story (and the entire series) is that a history (substitute) teacher, Rush Revere, can go back in time. He uses a time-traveling talking horse named Liberty. In this story, he takes two students back and forth in time to discover the “true” history behind the arrival of the Pilgrims. He shows his other students this history by using a smartphone to talk videos of their trips.

This story is more didactic than I like. There is just a lot of spewing historical facts. Since the entire story doesn’t take place in a classroom, the dialogue in the story doesn’t seem natural. For historical fiction, it is more historical than fiction.

Rush writes in a way that tells instead of shows. For a writer of non-fiction, this writing style works. But for a piece of fiction, it is not as entertaining. There exists a genre called narrative non-fiction. I could see Rush doing better with this genre. However, since he includes a time-traveling horse and basically wanted to have much “face” time in the story as possible, I don’t believe writing from that perspective would be plausible for him.

I also didn’t like the reinforcement of stereotypes. Why can’t Tommy be secure in being an “inner geek?” Just because he plays football doesn’t mean he should hide his love of learning. By Rush making him that way, he encourages this behavior. Rush doesn’t treat people of color any better. Yes, Freedom is dark-skinned and gets to participate in time-traveling, but is she an Indian? Why isn’t the Native American tribes clearly named? Why is it assumed Massasoit would be like Elizabeth, a bully? Surely, Rush knows the names of the tribes around the Pilgrims as well as how Massasoit treats the Pilgrims. In addition, Rush calls Massasoit’s language “gibberish.” No language should be called gibberish. Gibberish is what babies say, not a complex form of communication. For more discussion on the treatment of Natives in the book check out Debbie Reese’s review here.

And what was up with the bad joke Liberty, a horse, gave about his coat and “not being judged by the color of his skin”? Y’all, that was just straight up distasteful.

I thought Rush’s explanation of Liberty’s ability to time-travel was curious. He used science: Liberty didn’t get struck by lightning but was near enough for things to happen and make it possible for him to open a portal into history. I wasn’t expecting that to be why. But then I started to think that he has a large Christian base. If he explained time-travel purely as something science could reason out, then it being magical is ruled out. This would ensure people who avoid magic could read it. Just speculation.

Overall, the story was okay. I’d probably give it a 2 out of 5 stars. I don’t really feel like I’m vested in the characters enough to read the next installment. In fact, the story is a bit narcissistic. I mean the main character is named after the author. Granted it’s cute that the only way for the portal to work is with “rush, rush, rushing to history,” but still. Also Rush always seem to give the right reasoning behind why Bradford should do this or that. He basically gets all the credit for helping the Pilgrims survive.

Liberty, the talking time-traveling horse, is the best part of the story.

So while I wouldn’t eagerly read another one, I would still show the series to people who like history, that is for kids with a leaning toward history than fiction. Well, I would like to read one about the Civil War. Rush goes off on a very conservative discussion about how Bradford’s belief in the common good promoting everyone to work equally doesn’t work. Rush advises that every man work on his own land for his own self. Of course, Bradford’s plan doesn’t work and Rush Limbaugh’s, I mean Rush Revere’s, belief is validated. Since I just finished White Trash I would be interested in seeing from what angle Rush would use to explain the South’s desire for slavery to continue. Will class be present in it? How will he explain how people in the South were poor not from lack of working, but from a system?

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan turned out to first be a play. Barrie later on wrote the novel. It’ a story about three siblings who willingly fly away with Peter Pan to Neverland. Neverland is a place that the children had seen before in dreams, much to the annoyance to Peter who seems to want to be the one to show them new things. Peter is cocky and conceited; he still has his milk teeth! Capitan Hook has it out of Peter because Peter cut off his hand and feed it to the Croc. The Croc now wants to finish Hook off because he is so tasty.

There are three groups in the Neverland, a place where everyone pretends: the Red Skins, the Pirates, and the Lost Boys. Wendy plays Mother, Peter plays Father and the Lost Boys are the children. This book, as it was written in 1911, is sexist and racist in our day and time.

By the by, it took me a while to catch on that Nana was in fact a dog. I really thought the Father was just calling the Nurse a dog in a derogatory way, until she left hair on his new trousers. Boy did I feel silly.

Although Barrie can write, I found this story a bit too nonsensical for my taste. It was almost like reading Alice in Wonderland in that sense. With the terrible representation of the Natives and the reinforcement of typical women roles and attitudes, i.e. vain, jealous, exists for beauty, and does the housework and rearing children with all joy, I can’t recommend it.

BOOKS

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

I have been meaning to read this book for a while. I never read Judy Blume growing up but I wish someone had told me about her, especially this one. This is the story of Margaret, a transplant to New Jersey via New York City. The entire tale takes place in her sixth grade year at this new school. It is about her struggle with puberty, which honestly is a big deal to every human being. She can’t fit her training bra, isn’t sure if she can trust her new friend, hasn’t gotten her period, and is wondering about God.

Her family isn’t religious. Her mother is a Christian and her father is a Jew. Her Jewish grandmother dotes on Margaret. So when for a school project Margaret decides to intesvigiate different religions, she first goes to temple with her grandmother. Margaret visits different Christian demoniations, all the while not feeling totally okay at any one place. But she “prays” to God, that is talks to Him all the time about growing up. She pleads with Him to help her grow.

This story is raw. While some of the topics in the story are “hush topics” and I can see parents potentially not wanting their kids to read about Playboy, periods and praying, I recommend it for preteens, both boys and girls. There is comfort for the preteen soul to know others think the same things they do or are facing similar situations. I like how honest Margaret’s relationship with God is; she gets mad at Him and then, when something good happens, she is happy with Him. A real mirror into human nature when it comes to God.

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown

Mary Ann Graves had no idea how prophetic her last name was. This fictionalized account of the Donner Party is poetically writen. This style does well to not only escalate the story, but it helps mold the tone of the story. Brown expertly uses free verse to slow down and speed up the pace.

Graves, her parents, her 8 siblings and a hired hand are making their way to California. They leave Indiana with a happy heart and full wagons. Of course, as things went on the Oregon Trail, ill times greet the Graves. Eventually, they meet up with other groups of pioneers and join up companies. The group endures desert hiking, a man being exiled from the group, and the dwindling of supplies. Eventually, a group of them decide to go ahead and cross the snowy mountains to get help for this starving camp. Along the way, people die or are killed to be eaten.

Next up is to read Nathan Hale’s Donner Dinner Party to learn more about the excursion. Would you eat another person to stay alive? I’m not sure…

THEO’S

Theo’s books are not counted toward my resolution goal. I just like to share the books we read with our preschooler.

Humphrey’s Playful Puppy Problem by Betty Birney and illustrated by Priscilla Burris

Like Humphrey’s Really Wheely Car, this “tiny tale” doesn’t disappoint. Humphrey, the classroom hamster, gets to go home with Richie for this particular weekend, which is lucky for Richie. He is using Humphrey for his science experiment. Humphrey isn’t too sure about going to Richie’s after Kirk, another classmate, talks about Humphrey being made into a monster. Humphrey’s worries only esclate when he discovers Richie has a new puppy named Poppy. Well, Humphrey doesn’t become a monster but the playful pup Poppy (I do love the allietrations!) does get too close to comfort with Humphrey. This story has enough suspense and action to keep you interested in finding out if Richie’s experiment will work and if Poppy will mistakingly harm Humphrey.

The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

I snagged this one as a Theo read-aloud because it is super-short and has pictures on all the pages. But after reading it to him, I realized he probably doesn’t understand the strife between the brother, “The Pain” and the sister, “The Great One.” However, he surprised me. He asked to read it everyday. He actually enjoys the storyline! I do recommend this book to discuss sibling rivilary and to talk about love between family members. The two seem to not like each other, but deep down they do (as alluded to the fact they get bored when the other finally goes away). Overall, I can’t wait to revisit this one whenever we have another child and the two get older.

By the way, I love the new covers recently given to all of Judy Blume’s books!!! I can’t wait to try them all out (mostly for myself; I’ll wait to share the others when Theo gets older).


What did you read this week?

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