Category Archives: History

Gem From a Clearance Table

You have to ALWAYS check the clearance tables at a bookstore.


Underneath the piles of trashy books,

(and there’s always lots of those),

there are often treasures

just waiting to be found.

Look what I found!

Fortuyn’s Ghost” by Mark Greenwood

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I have a stack of books by this author and the illustrator.

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Mark Wilson has a very distinct type of illustration.

I can always pick his books.

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The author, Mark Greenwood is also a kind of illustrator I suppose

– he illustrates with words.

Reading aloud his books is a delight.

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This book find was so perfectly timed.

It’s about a Dutch ship that was shipwrecked somewhere off the west coast of Australia.

And at the moment, that’s exactly what we’re reading about in History

– early maritime encounters with Australia.

Unfortunately, the Fortuyn had a rather unpleasant ‘encounter’ with Australia,

but, sadly, so did so many other ships.

(I love books that contain an information page for sharing additional information.)

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And  how much did this treasure cost me?

Drum rolls, please.

It was only $2!!!


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Hmmm…maybe I shouldn’t have told everyone about my book buying tip.

Now, all the clearance tables will be picked over.

Okay, just forget everything I said.

You read nothing.


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Posted by on March 16, 2017 in History, My Library


How We Spent Our ‘Not Ready to Start School’ Week

As I said in my last post, we didn’t start school this week.

However, reading aloud always happens around here.

How else can you fill all those hours in a day if you aren’t reading something?!

So our week still looked rather ‘schooly’, which is pretty normal for us.

We simply aren’t normal people.

Anyway, on Monday, we actually went to a real live school.

Yep, true story!

But, there were no kids.

Well, unless you count my two.

We were helping hubby clean and prepare his classroom for the first day of his school.

Then, on Tuesday, we sat down and polished off eight chapters of “Spice and the Devil’s Cave”.

Great book, by the way.

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On Wednesday, we sat together and read through the remaining chapters of

“Around the World in a Hundred Years: From Henry the Navigator to Magellan”.

If you could only read one book about the Age of Exploration,

then, this is the book I would choose.

It’s very well written and contains fairly detailed chapters on the key explorers –

Prince Henry the Navigator, Bartholomew Dias, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama,

John Cabot, Ferdinand Magellan and others.

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And on Thursday, that’s today, we read Stuart Waldman’s “Magellan’s World”.

This “Great Explorer” series is fantastic.

(We have all except 3 of the books in the series

and this afternoon that number was reduced to 2.)

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Every book in the series is a picture book,

however, the accounts are quite detailed and take a while to read.

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I also loved the fold-out map that we could keep open and in view as we read the account.

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In honour of Australia Day, which is today,

we read a couple of picture books about the First Fleet and the first Australia Day.

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Then, this afternoon, we sat down as a family and watched the documentary,

“Arthur Phillip:  Governor, Sailor, Spy”.

(For my overseas readers, Arthur Phillip was the man in charge of bringing the first colonist/convicts to Australia.

He was also the first governor of our first settlement).

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Gosh the ABC Store has some great documentaries.

I might have to toddle over to their website and see what else they have on offer.

I bought this documentary when their bricks n mortar stores were closing down.

I was one of the only people in the documentary section of the store.

Everyone else was wasting their money on television show merchandise.

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And, tonight, we plan on watching an episode of a documentary about the history of spice.

Tomorrow, will be a social day.

First a trip to the surgeon to remove my stitches,

then a trip to the store to find a birthday present for my youngest niece

(yes, she’s nearly one already!),

and then we’ll spend the afternoon in the park with friends.

All in all, I think it was a pretty good, “Not Ready to Start School” week.


Posted by on January 26, 2017 in Family Life, History, Homeschooling Days, My Library


Spice and the Devil’s Cave

Spice and the Devil’s Cave” has been one of our all-time favourite books about explorers and the Age of Exploration.  It’s a fabulous piece of historical fiction that won a Newberry Honor award in 1931, but, it’s a book that is rarely mentioned in lists of good books, which is such a shame.

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The story is set in the 1490s, in Lisbon, Portugal, and revolves around Ferdinand Magel­lan, Vasco da Gama, and Bartholomew Diaz who meet in the home of Abel Zakuto, a Jewish banker with a particular interest in navigation instruments and charts.  The Portuguese explorers are searching to find an all-water route to India in hopes of bypassing the Arab trade monopoly on spices and the European middleman, Venice.  While the book entwines several explorers into the story (including John Cabot, Columbus, Prince Henry the Navigator), it is the voyage of Vasco da Gama sailing down around the Cape of Good Hope, which the explorers refer to as the Devil’s Cave, that is central to the plot.  But the author, Agnes Danforth Hewes, has cleverly included more than just exploration in this great book.  There are also pirates and spies, persecution of the Jews, tension between Venice and Portugal, Arab threats, and even a smidge of romance.  It’s such a cleverly constructed book that left us wondering about what was fiction and what was fact.  That’s what I like about a good historical fiction.  True, they can’t ‘teach’ you history, but they certainly make you interested enough in the time period to search out more information.

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Oh and before you read this book, we recommend that you read “I Challenge the Dark Sea” by Olive W. Burt, which is about Prince Henry the Navigator.  It’s not as thrilling as “Spice and the Devil’s Cave” but it sets the scene perfectly for it.  It outlines Portugal’s initial exploration of the west coast of Africa and introduces Bartholomew Diaz, whose voyage first sights the Devil’s Cave.

Soooo many good books, and only one lifetime to read them all in.




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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in History, My Library


Franklin and Winston

Today, we read an interesting book called

“Franklin and Winston:  A Christmas That Changed the World”.

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Did you know that Churchill spent a Christmas at the White House to make ally plans with Roosevelt?

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I know very little about Churchill but this book helped grow my interest in finding out more.

He sounds like he was quite a character.

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Oh and it’s not really a Christmas book,

but, the event occurred at Christmas,

only days after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941.

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Anyway, I hadn’t seen this book before so I wanted to share it with you.

It’s an impressive book

– the illustrations are lovely and the story is quite interesting.

It would make a good addition to any World War 2 reading.

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Posted by on December 11, 2016 in History, My Library