Category Archives: My Library

A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land

This past week, we read an amazing book called,

“A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land”.

It was about Tasmania’s convict history

and it was fascinating.

It was also gorgeously illustrated

and well deserved its book award.


Brace yourself for the size of this book though.

It’s HUGE and will be a challenge for any bookshelf.

But, don’t let the size deter you from buying it.

The size enhances the amazing illustrations.


Check out the attention to detail in this book.

It’s truly impressive.

There are lots of these ‘cut-out’ type illustrations

and you could pore over them for ages.

I did!


There’s also a lot of historical detail in the book.

I learned so many new things.

But, as well as information about the convict period in Tasmania,

there’s information about specific characters too, both convicts and free people.


Over the years, we’ve read a lot of books about Australia’s early history,

and I think this is one of the best in terms of illustrations and information.

However, it’s not the easiest book to read aloud and the text isn’t very detailed,

but, I still rank this title as a great book.

Perhaps not a living book, according to Charlotte Mason’s definition,

but, if illustrations could be ‘living’, then this book would definitely be a living book.


I highly recommend it.

It has been perfect for preparing us for our trip to Hobart.


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Posted by on August 26, 2018 in History, My Library


What We’re Reading and Viewing

How should one start a post about books?

Obviously…with a photo of a box of books.

This box got somewhat lost.

It took six weeks to find its way to my place

but it finally arrived…thankfully.

What was in it?


Well, a sticker book for my nieces to play with at my brother’s wedding.

No, it didn’t arrive in time.  😦

I also got Robin McKinley’s book, “Shadow”.

I’d hoped to take this one to Adelaide with me.

Nope, that also didn’t happen, since it was travelling all around the country without me.

I also picked up two books from my wishlist –

Sylvie Well’s “My Guardian Angel” and “Elvina’s Mirror”.

These books are about the plight of the Jews at the hands of the Crusaders.

This story sounds intriguing.

I also bought the Emily books, written by L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables.

Have you read them?

I’ve read and LOVED the Anne books but never read Emily’s story

so I plan on fixing that.

And, finally,

(yes it was a big order – the last before our government added even more taxes to our lives)

I bought Dante’s “Inferno” and a book to help me understand it, “A Beginner’s Guide to Dante’s Divine Comedy”.

I chose Anthony Esolen’s translation after looking through different translations and finding Esolen’s to be my favourite.

I’m enjoying Inferno more than I imagined that I would.

You should definitely try it if you haven’t already.


Okay, time to talk about the books we’ve read.

Recently, we finished reading “Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle Under Castro”.

This book was really eye-opening.

It’s the true story of the author’s childhood in Cuba under Castro’s oppressive regime.

Do you know anything about Cuba under Castro’s Communist government?

I knew virtually nothing before this book.


We also read about Carl Linnaeus, the guy who organised the system of classification that we use for plants and animals.

We started with this darling picture book, “Karl, Get Out of the Garden”.

(Picture books are a great way of getting a quick overview of a topic.)

Then, we read one of the Great Minds of Science books on Linnaeus.

It’s a fascinating story.  Imagine renaming every plant and animal on Earth!

This story will also help you remember the order of all those phylums, genuses and kingdoms.


We’ve also been reading about Australia’s Democratic System

in preparation for a trip to Canberra.

This (pictured below) was a great overview of our system.


Since we’re heading to a performance of Hamlet in a couple of weeks,

we also read a children’s edition of the play.

If you are looking for a great illustrated version,

get this one by Bruce Coville.

In fact, all of the Bruce Coville Shakespeare’s books are fantastic.


After reading the abridged story, we watched several Hamlet movies.

(The Mel Gibson version will always be my favourite.)

We also watched “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”

as we’re seeing a performance of that as well.

Have you read or see this play?

All I can say is that I hope the play is better than the movie.

Tom Stoppard should have left Shakespeare’s play alone.

He totally massacred a classic

and we didn’t find it funny at all.


Last week, we also watched a movie version of the Eureka Stockade.

This dvd was great.  It was an old black and white classic.

The older movies are always better history teachers.

They focus on history rather than turning everything into some sort of love story.


The other week I bought the newly published book, “Mephisto”

We have been waiting for ages for this book.

Well, not exactly this book.

We didn’t know that it was in the works.

We have just always wanted a book with further information about the Mephisto.

We have a little museum guide and that has had to suffice up until now.

Oh, sorry, you might not know what the Mephisto is.

It’s a WW1 German tank that was disabled and taken as a souvenir by Australian soldiers.

It’s also the only WW1 German tank left in the world

and it’s housed at the Brisbane Museum, when it’s not off travelling.


Currently, we’re working through Ken Burn’s “The West” dvd series.

I really like Ken Burn’s documentaries,

although the boys are finding this series a little dry.


Hmmm…I wonder what the postman will bring me this week

and what’s ready to pick up from the library.


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Posted by on August 12, 2018 in My Library


Wondering about the State of Children’s Literature…


Wonder no more!

(These were all found in the one store.  I didn’t even have to try hard to find them.)

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Posted by on February 3, 2018 in My Library


Why Christians Should Read Shakespeare

Some people might wonder why we, as Christians, share Shakespeare’s plays with our children, when lots of other Christian homeschoolers avoid his plays like the plague.

First, let me start with a quote from Reverend Ralph Allan Smith (who has a much better article about why to read Shakespeare!).  “Next to the Bible, he [Shakespeare] is perhaps the most important textbook for Christian young people who are seeking wisdom to live for the glory of God.”  I agree with these words.

Reading Shakespeare gives us the opportunity to live lives that are not our own and to experience and ponder the consequences of different choices – the good, the bad and the ugly.  This experience is available in a lot of quality, older literature, but never so much as in Shakespeare’s stories.  Children need this experience of examining the sinful choices of others in light of God’s truth and wisdom, as much as they need to be familiar with good choices.

Shakespeare’s writing also presents us with a realistic image of fallen humanity and it’s not often a pretty picture.  Each character struggles with sin in the same way that we do and, at the end of most plays, the characters are judged accordingly.   Too often the characters I’ve found in Christian children’s literature are simply too ‘good’ to be relatable and able to teach.  Near perfect characters suggest to children that, in comparison, they are failures in their walk with Christ.

Shakespeare sets a high standard of literature for his readers, a standard not seen in modern books and rarely in books marketed for teens and young adults.  The vocabulary is impressive.  Shakespeare created numerous words and expressions that we still use today.  The written expression is beautiful.  The language is lofty, much like the language of the King James Bible which was written around the same time.  (There’s even a pondering among scholars that Shakespeare may have been involved in its writing).  Certainly, Shakespeare was a favoured writer in the court of King James at that time.

Finally, God’s truth, beauty and wisdom can be found in books other than the Bible and Christian literature.  Even pagan literature can contain God’s truth; the pagans just didn’t realise the value of what they held.  It’s not unlike when a baby gets hold of a book and mistakes it for a chew thing or a place to draw.  Their use of it doesn’t depreciate the value of the book in the right hands.  We just have to take it back from them.  Augustine referred to this as ‘plundering the Egyptians’.  Christians can find things of value in books that are written by non-Christians.  Shakespeare, however, was a practising Christian who knew his Bible better than most people.   Did you know that Shakespeare’s plays contain at least 1200 Biblical references and that many people believe it’s more than double that number?

Sadly, most people have only experienced Shakespeare’s plays in the classroom where they are too often torn apart and analysed piece by painful piece.  Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be experienced at the theatre.  If you’ve avoided his plays because you didn’t enjoy them at school, then you need to attend a family oriented performance of one of his plays.  Shakespeare’s plots are brilliant.

Winston Churchill said “The Bible and Shakespeare stand alone on the highest platform”.  I agree with Winston, as I agree with a number of America’s founding fathers.   “Jefferson was more struck by the moral truths he found in Shakespeare’s plays than by their linguistic skill. These plays, he was convinced, like all the great works of fiction, help “fix us in the principles and practices of virtue” and in “an abhorrence” of vice”.  Many a great Christian man read and loved Shakespeare.

If I was only permitted to own two books (heaven forbid!!), then I would definitely choose the Bible and a complete volume of Shakespeare’s writings.

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Posted by on December 4, 2017 in Homeschooling Thoughts, Language, My Library