Living Books for Mom

Charlotte Mason introduced me to the idea of living books.  Froggy enjoys the ones in her curriculum. So with the recommendations of several friends, I have been reading some living books myself. 

The first is Never Fall Down.   It is a novel based on the life of Arn, a Cambodian refuge who is 11 when the Khmer Rouge came into power. Like many living books, this is a fictionalize account based on a real story.  In the novel, Arn tells all the horrible things he endured to survive until by luck he was adopted along with two other boys and brought to America. The book is listed as young adult but is sufficiently graphic that I would say it is not for a sensitive youth.

Music is the magic ticket in Arn's life that garnered him the attention he needed to escape. The book ends in 1984 with a speech Arn gave at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York, during which, for the first time, he found release in tears. Since then, Arn has spoken out in public forums around the world. In 1998 he founded an organization that has since evolved into Cambodia Living Arts, which seeks to revive traditional music that the Khmer Rouge brought to the edge of extinction.

The second book is The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis. I originally got this book with the intention of reading it to Froggy.  It quickly became apparent that despite it being on the children's shelves it is not for children.  It is very well-written and tells an important story but I would recommend that the child be at least as old as the heroine Parvana (11). When they are ready, read it together. The story is well researched and shows an important look into a hidden world.

The final book(s) is Rashi's Daughters by Maggie Anton.  This trilogy is my first living history book from a time period long ago.  The books look at Jewish life specifically from a woman's perspective during the time of Rashi (4800-4865/1040-1105 CE).  I am somewhat familiar with the history and so that is a background. The most fascinating part for me is the Talmudic debates.  It is fascinating to see how the logic develops and the decisions are made.  The book is full of quotes from the sages and Torah as the characters debate the topics that are very personal and relevant to their lives.  These debates while academic in one sense have a significant impact on the daily lives of the characters. 
It is also interesting to see how superstitious these learned people were.  The characters are considered the most learned members of their community and they believe in demons and that specific psalms will have specific reactions in the daily life. 


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