The Shack by Wm Paul Young (Julia’s reading project boo review)

The Shack

By:  Wm Paul Young

Published by:  Windblown Media

Remember the reading project I’m doing with my teenage munchkin?  We’re kind of getting behind…  with Springtime busyness.  Let’s face it, I’m not the most disciplined person in the world so why should my daughter be, right?  lol  FINALLY, after a few weeks, Munchkin finished her last book!  This one’s costing me 5 bucks and it’s 5 bucks I’m happy to pay because she LOVED it!

Here’s the description from the back cover:

“Mackenzie Allen Phillips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.  Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness” , Mack received a suspicious not apparently fro God, inviting him back to that shack for the weekend.

Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare.  What he finds there will change Mack’s life forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world  so filled with unspeakable pain?”  The answer Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.  You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!”

What was Julia’s take on this AMAZING story?  It made her THINK & FEEL.  She asked me if this was a true story.  I’d heard conflicting reports about the “truthfulness” of this story.  In the end, we “Googled” the question.  We found the authors site and read straight from the horses mouth that The Shack was indeed fiction based on an event in the authors life.  He says that he wrote the book for his own children and he’s leaving it up to the reader whether or not the “conversations” took place.  He leads us to believe they did actually happen and that he (the author) really IS Mack, the lead character in the book.

There are so many questions we, as adults, have about God.  Is He/She a disciplinary God or is He/She a loving God or maybe both?  Why does God let bad things happen to good people?  Naturally, a teenager has maybe even more questions than an adult has.  My daughter has faith that God exists and she really IS more spiritual than the average teenager, I think.  However, this book answered most of the questions she has.  The Shack just made sense out of God’s love for her.

Here’s what Julia says about The Shack:

“I believe Missy (Mack’s daughter) was murdered just so that Mack can see what God is really about.  Instead of God being his enemy, He became Mack’s closest confidant.  This was the BEST book I’ve ever read so far.  I took a lot of notes on pretty much everything that Papa (God) said.  My favorite quote was, “A part of you chooses not to see me.  You don’t need me at all to create your list of good and evil.  But you DO need me to stop such an insane lust for independence.”  It reminds me a lot of myself.  The Shack changed my perspective on God.  Now I see Him as a loving, caring and forgiving God, instead of only seeing God as a powerful, scary man who only exists to punish me for my sins.  Although I didn’t see Him as only mean, I just didn’t see Him capable or willing to be as nurturing of a God as the author portrayed in the book.

I wish the whole world would red this book!!!”

So you see, by Julia’s comments, she cared enough to not only READ the book, she also took notes!  Wow.  I didn’t know this until she gave me her book report.  This made me SO happy!  It’s a definite jackpot when she finishes a book, remembers what it talked about AND it sparks her imagination and makes her grow as an individual.  Now I have the hard job of trying to top this one for her!  lol

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Lincoln A Photobiography (by Russell Freedman)… Julia’s Reading Project

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Julia’s reading project.  It’s been a while because we’ve been so overwhelmed and busy.  Too much to do and too little time.  SOMETHING had to give.  Sadly, it had to be her reading.  I hate to slack in this area because I feel like these reading projects that I give her are sometimes the only education she’s getting.  School just keeps getting more disappointing.  I’m STRONGLY considering taking her out of public high school and either placing her in the Catholic school system or home schooling her.  I feel terrible about even considering imposing such a change at this delicate age but she has to get an education from SOMEWHERE.  There are some days where the ONLY educators who show up to teach these kids are substitute teachers who don’t know their A$$ from a hole in the ground.  I guess that’s a subject for a different post.  TRUST me, that will be a rant that you might not want to read.

Back to the book.  A few months ago, while visiting Springfield Illinois, the hubby and I visited The Lincoln Museum and Library.  Abraham Lincoln is such a colorful personality in history and there’s just so much more to his story than his presidency and the way he died. I wanted Julia to learn about the man and what made him tick.  There are SO many books to read on this subject and I didn’t really know which one would be geared more toward a teenager.  I consulted a representative of the Lincoln Library and she recommended a Photobiography.  I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t sold on this as it seems like I would be helping to “dumb down the youth of America”! Lord knows that once we start resorting to picture books for our teenagers, we’ve given up hope on them ever being literate.  lol  Okay, I gave in because the lady had a good idea.  She told me that this particular book touches on all the subjects that interested me PLUS Julia would be able to see pictures that related to Lincoln’s life.  I think if they’re real photographs, that’s history too, right?  There was enough of the story here and I wanted Julia to be interested.  It worked!

Lincoln:A Photobiography

Lincoln A Photobiography by Russell Freedman

Clarion Books

A John Newberry Medal Winner

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master – This expresses my idea’s of democracy.  Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the differences, is no democracy.”

A. Lincoln

“Few, if any, of the many books written for children about Lincoln can compare with Freedman’s contribution… Well organized and well written, this is an outstanding example of what (juvenile) biography can be.  Like Lincoln himself, it stands head and shoulders above it’s competition.”

-School Library Journal

What impressed Julia most about this book?  She tells me that she felt like she actually knew the man.  She discovered what might have motivated Abe Lincoln to feel and act so strongly about certain topics, such as slavery.  Julia was also impressed with how likable a guy Mr. Lincoln was.  She learned that although his photos don’t portray him as a very handsome man, many people who knew him, reported that once they were in his presence, his “spirit” shined through his eyes and his smile and made him appear very handsome.  He was so charismatic and funny.  Julia was also impressed that Mr. Lincoln remained strong in his convictions even while being hated by Democrats and Republicans alike.  He won his last election very narrowly and ONLY because Sherman had torched Atlanta and FINALLY it looked as though the Union would win.  Before that, it seemed as if the war would carry on forever and before too much longer, most of the male population of America, would be wiped out.  Julia tells me that she was amazed to be reminded that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.  In American contemporary issues, it seems like the Democratic party takes credit for being the party who stands up for the rights of African Americans.  In reality, the Democratic Party started out VERY against emancipation of the American slave.  To be fair, not many Republican’s were in favor of emancipation either.  Lincoln BARELY got the Emancipation Proclamation to pass and resorted to a little bit of “trickery” to sneak it past many legislators.  Julia tells me that the schools don’t really focus on the other causes of the Civil War.  Mostly, the kids are led to believe that slavery is the sole reason for the war, when in fact, she learned that slavery didn’t become an issue until after the war had already started.  Through this book, she was able to put faces to names and she learned so much more about this period of time, in history, than she did in school with her history book.

Did she like the book?  Yes and she says she’ll recommend it to anyone her age who needs to do a project on the life of Abraham Lincoln or the causes of the Civil War.  I have to say that even I learned more than I previously knew.  So the picture book thing?  Yeah, I like it!  lol  Julia earned $5 for this one.  However, she had to write 2 book reports because she tried to copy, word for word, part of the first one she turned into me.  So there’s the added lesson she learned about plagiarism!  lol  It’s never too soon to learn about that, right?

True Believer (Nicholas Sparks)…Julia’s reading project, a book review

After reading 1984, and 3 other books that I’ve chosen for her, it was time to let Julia choose her own book.  She’s been bribed (paid $25 so far) to read the 4 books that I’ve had her read.  To date, she’s only liked 1 of those books.  I’m a little sad about this BUT the main thing is that she’s LEARNED and opened her mind to different subjects.  MUCH discussion about exploited women and children (Half the Sky), in fact, we’re STILL talking about that, even though she had a hard time getting through the book.  She’s developed more empathy for the early struggles of African American men, women and children after reading Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry.  After reading Call of the Wild, Julia gave a little thought to treating our pets even better than she already did because she saw through the eyes of a dog.  1984 made her open her eyes to what’s going on in America RIGHT NOW, even though she REALLY didn’t like the book.  That’s the idea, right?

Well, as promised, it was time to allow her to choose her own reading material.  I didn’t want to lose her and even though I’m PAYING her for each book report, I want her to enjoy reading.

Here’s what she choose:

True Believer by Nicholas Sparks (Time Warner Book Group) 318 pages

Description from the inside sleeve:

“One day you’re going to love something that can’t be explained with science.  And when that happens, your life’s going to change in ways you can’t imagine…”

Jeremy Marsh is the ultimate New Yorker:  handsome, almost always dressed in black, and part of the media elite.  An expert on debunking the supernatural with a regular column in Scientific American, he’s made his first appearance on national TV.  When he receives a letter from the tiny town of Boone Creek, North Carolina, about ghostly lights that appear in a legend-shrouded cemetery, he can’t resist driving down to investigate.

Here in this tightly knit community, Lexie Darnell runs the towns library, just as her mother did before the accident left Lexie an orphan.  Disappointed by past relationships, including one that lured her away from home, she is sure of one thing:  her future is in Boone Creek, close to her grandmother and all the people she loves.

Jeremy expects to spend a quick week in “the sticks” before speeding back to the city.  But from the moment he sets eyes on Lexie, he is intrigued and attracted to this beautiful woman who speaks with a soft drawl and confounding honesty.  And Lexie, while hesitating to trust this outsider, finds herself thinking of Jeremy more times than she cares to admit.

Now, if they are to be together, Jeremy Marsh must make a difficult choice:  return to the life he knows, or do something he’s never done before-take a giant leap of faith.

A story about taking chances and following your heart.  True Believer will make you too believe in the miracle of love.

Ok, here’s what Julia thought of Mr. Sparks book:  She didn’t like it!  lol  He’s her favorite author and I expected that she would fall for the romance, once again, like in ALL the Nicholas Spark books.  Not so much and I’m encouraged about the mind of THIS 14 year old!  lol

In the last paragraph of Julia’s book report she tells me:

“I didn’t like this book as much as I did the other Nicholas Sparks books because there was nothing special about it.  It was a traditional love story and VERY predictable!  Girl had been hurt in previous relationships.  Boy was opposite of what girl was used to and was willing to do anything to make things work between them.  Honestly, I was bored.”

And I owe her $5!  lol  I wonder what  kind of book she choose for herself NEXT time?  I’m encouraged that she didn’t fall for the typical love story.  I’m still thinking about which book I’ll choose for her now that she’s done with this one 😉

1984 (George Orwell)… Julia’s reading project

Another book done and book report complete by teenage munchkin (more here).

1984 By:  George Orwell  299 pages ( Centennial Edition Published by Signet Classic)

Description from back of book:

1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever.  1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia” – a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words.  No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of it’s admonitions – a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

Why did I choose this for my 14 year old?  Because I think it’s important to give her an example of what COULD happen if the government gets too powerful.  I wanted her to think and relate this book to what might be happening in America now.  Clearly, some of it is already happening. Teenagers, today, aren’t expected to debate (at least not in our public school system) or to think outside the box.  I wanted her to stretch her imagination and talk to me about her ideas concerning the power that our government should be allowed to have.

Did it work?  I think so.  She hadn’t given ANY thought to the government or the state our country is in until she read this book and we started discussing it.

From the words of Julia, “This book scared me because it’s a weird thought to know our world COULD be like that.  I wouldn’t be able to handle not having any freedom at all.  I think it will be a long time before the government ever takes over.  Right now the government has the ability to listen in on our phone calls and there are cameras in pretty much ALL public places.  That’s kind of the same situation as in the book, just not as bad yet.”

Hmmm…  LOT’S more discussion on the topic with Julia to come.  Her innocent mind can’t grasp what’s happening all around her now.  However, I’m trying not to throw TOO many of my own opinions at her because I want her to form her OWN opinion.  I want her to open her own mind up.

Did she like this book?  Ummm  NO!  lol  Once again I chose a book NOT to her liking 😦  In her words, “I didn’t really enjoy this book because it wasn’t exciting until the end when Winston was arrested”.  Ahhhhh… the mind of a teenage, carefree girl!  She lives for romance and excitement, kind of like her mother!  lol  Oh, almost forgot to tell you that this one cost me $10!  lol  It’s a price I’m happy to pay if it helps her to use her brain 😉

Reading Project, Or – How I Bribed My Daughter…

My 14 year old started high school this year.  As I mentioned before, she’s the baby of the family and my last chance to do things right so naturally, I’ve been pretty involved with her school work and her grades.  She had a few issues in English this year, which is strange because she always tested well above her age in English and literature.  In 7th grade, she was reading on a college level so you can imagine my surprise when I was notified that she’s only reading on a 9th grade level THIS year.  Of course, I immediately scheduled a meeting with her English teacher and what I learned was more than a little unsettling to me.  I don’t know about ALL public schools but our little public school doesn’t have a required reading list for their high school students.  Totally not acceptable to me!  No WONDER we have such a high illiteracy rate these days.  I realize times are different AND there’s a big difference between public school and the Catholic school that I grew up in BUT I was required to read Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in 6th grade!  We couldn’t move on to 7th grade until we had a complete understanding of both.

And here’s where I took matters in my own hands…  I established my own very special required reading program for Julia.  Okay, at first she wasn’t happy about it but I explained that she would lose her skills if she didn’t use them (she came really close to letting that happen) AND reading is the single most inexpensive vacation that a person can take.  Once you open a book, you’re transformed to places you may never get to see in “real” life.  Did I tell you that I also resorted to bribery?  Each book that she finishes in a timely manner (I usually give her 2 weeks but she’s been finishing 1 book a week) AND hands me a good book report on is worth between $5 and $10!  You can’t beat that, right?  She loves it!  For the most part, I’ll be choosing the books I want her to read.  I don’t want this to be a punishment though so every once in a while she’ll get to choose her own.

I’m going to try and post about every book as she finishes it but because this is a new blog and she’s finished 3 books since we started doing this, there’s going to be 3 books on this post.

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

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The reason I chose this book for my 14 year old is that I wanted her to understand how very lucky she is to live in America, the land of the free.  I wanted her to have an understanding about the horrors and oppression other women face in the developing world.  What she learned:  She says what stuck with her is how widespread human trafficking is and about sex slavery.  Did she appreciate this book?  No.  Maybe a bit too much for a 14 year old BUT she does want to start fundraising and getting her friends involved in raising money to prevent human trafficking.  Mission accomplished!

I paid her $10 for this one!

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

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The reason I chose this book was primarily because we own sled dogs (Alaskan Malamutes) and I remember loving this book at her age.  I thought it would be cool for her to see the world through the eyes of a dog.  Did she appreciate this book? Absolutely not!  She thought it was too sad.  She didn’t like to read about “Buck’s” struggle to survive the extreme conditions and inhumane treatment of some humans.  It made her sad.  On the other hand, she liked Jack London’s writing style.  She liked that she was made to understand exactly how “Buck” felt… she truly saw through the eyes of a dog.

This one earned her $5

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor

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I chose this one last week in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day.  It’s so hard for a white kid to understand what it was like to be black in America even in the early 1900’s.  I wanted her to know and to feel something.  Mildred D Taylor will MAKE you feel!  Basically, it’s a coming of age story about a black family and their struggle with “accepting the way things were” and the treatment of black people.  It also mentions lynching, night riders (or KKK) and describes a tar and feathering.  Did she like it?  YES!  We have a winner!  She loved it and even gave me a 3 page book report (I didn’t ask for 3 pages but she just had a lot to say about the book!  Lol)

$5 for this one!