Book Review: Shepherd, Potter, Spy—and the Star Namer

A couple of months ago, I received the offer to review the book Shepherd, Potter, Spy—and the Star Namer for Peggy Consolver—author. She had been intrigued by the story of the Gibeonites, found in Joshua 9 and 10, and wanted to write a novel about them. Well, I was immediately intrigued by the idea; I had never come across a story written from that point of view before! So, of course, I signed up for it.

Keshub is the main character; he is a 12-year-old as the story begins. He lives in Gibeon, and is a shepherd for his family. One day, he runs across an Amorite boy on the border between their lands, and is startled to learn that the boy, bin Zedek, a son of Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem, hates his own father. Why? He learns the terrible reason a few months later. As Keshub grows, he graduates to a new job, helping in the family’s pottery business. He especially loves helping his uncle sell their wares in nearby Jerusalem and Jericho, and badly wants to travel outside of Aijalon Valley. But soon, disturbing news reaching the village occupies his mind. A huge group of people, the Hebrews, are camped on the border of Canaan. Some 40 years ago, they came out of Egypt, leaving chaos in their wake—what will happen now? As they come closer to Gibeon, Keshub’s people prepare to defend themselves. Soon, Keshub and his brother are involved with spying on the Hebrews. Their people still haven’t figured out how to save themselves, although Keshub’s father is beginning to think that the Star Namer he has heard of, the God who made the stars and everything else, may be the same God who is allowing the Hebrews to cross the flooded Jordan River on dry ground, and making the walls of Jericho fall outward before his son’s eyes. What will he do with this knowledge?

We enjoyed this story. The terror in the minds of the Canaanites, and the various ways they reacted to the threat of the Hebrews as they approached, was really brought to life. I also appreciated the way the author switched back and forth, mostly telling the story from Keshub’s Canaanite point of view, but at times showing us the life of a boy in the Hebrew camp. I hadn’t thought about it much before how the people would have known that all the men of a certain age and older would be dying before long, before they would enter the Promised Land. That dread is brought out in this story. The family relationships were beautiful, too. We especially liked one line, where Mother said, “Boys, beware when your brother wears that look. He can talk you out of your woolen blanket on the coldest day.” I also felt like we really got a feel for the geography of the area. It was obvious that the author had spent some time there, learning to know what the place was like.

Although we enjoyed the historical aspect of the book, there were a few complaints we had. It seemed like the narration was rather long-winded; we felt like it could be cut down by half or even two-thirds and tell the same story without dragging so much. I had a little trouble with the quality of proofreading, as well; words were not always divided properly at the end of lines, which made it hard to read aloud, and one character’s name was spelled three different ways. We also wondered about the total lack of religion in the lives of the Gibeonites.

All in all, I would recommend this book as a very clean, fairly accurate story of Bible Times. We read it aloud, and all the children were listening in. It is not a story with a lot of tension; I didn’t get many requests for “another chapter.” On the other hand, my 7-year-old wouldn’t mind hearing it again sometime!

The author has created a study guide for the book. I did not purchase it, but did look over the sample. If you wanted to do a unit study on Ancient Israel, this would be a wonderful resource. She has some maps, and many links to help you learn more about various topics mentioned in the book.

For the reviews of 80 other people who read this book, click on the banner below: Shepherd, Potter, Spy--and the Star Namer {Peggy Consolver Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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Children—March 2017

I’m not sure what her problem was, but she sure thought it was terrible!03-IMG_2049

I dehydrated some strips of zucchini one day. When I brought the dehydrator in that evening to empty it, the children started eating them—and didn’t stop till they had eaten about half of them!


One afternoon, the hot water heater was boiling, after the fire had been burning most of the day. I said that the little boys ought to have their bath. Later, I went looking for Mr. Imagination, and this is what I found! Obviously, he didn’t catch what I really intended. Of course, Little Miss soon let go of her dress and was soaking. They had fun for awhile.


It rained! The creek had some water in it, and the little children had a lot of fun for a few days. What a mess!


Mr. Inventor’s latest project. An old brother in our church died a little over a year ago, and Mr. Inventor recently asked his widow if he could buy the man’s three old motorbikes. None of them are working, although the motors will turn over on two of them. He’s hoping to put together one that works. They had to dig them out from under several year’s worth of grass and thistles, to load them on the trailer. I managed to grab this shot of the boys riding on them up to the house before we left to bring them home from Kaikoura. All five boys are on board; Mr. Sweetie’s head is just visible behind Mr. Intellectual’s shoulder. There wasn’t time for a better picture before they disembarked.


Mr. Diligence doing school while Princess naps. That cat sleeps in the funniest poses! I have several more picture for another post.


Mr. Imagination was given a huge teddy bear at a secondhand shop we went to on his birthday. Little Miss loved it, so when a friend at whose house we were a few days ago mentioned that she was sending some teddy bears to the op shop, I said Little Miss would like one. Did she want the bears, though? No—she fell in love with this penguin!


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Book Review: Meddlin’ Madeline Book Two—Such a Tease


Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book


Book: Such a Tease
Author: Chautona Havig
Genre: Christian Fiction/Historical/Mystery

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed Sweet on You, the first book in the series about Madeline Brown, but Such a Tease is even better, I think. This was a really fun book to read. I enjoyed seeing how Madeline worked out the details of Vernon’s scheme for electrifying the town—was it a fraud, or wasn’t it? How was the bank involved? And then there is Russell. He really wants her to receive something better than the first offer of marriage she was given—is Henry the one? Russell is only fulfilling his promise to his sister Amy to keep Madeline from being lonely while Amy was in Europe, or so Madeline believes. I loved all the different strands woven together in this book. I also love seeing the way Madeline is developing a deeper walk with God through this story.

The author’s synopsis:

Madeline, with a little assistance, discovers her old adversary is gaining a following in Rockland! Can she expose him for the fraud she’s sure he is? In book two of the Meddlin’ Madeline series, Madeline Brown has a new endeavor to occupy her time. But is it to keep her out of the way or a reward for her work in Sweet on You? With the help of her young friends, Madeline discovers her old adversary is gaining a following in Rockland! What’s a girl to do? But her new position also gives her opportunities to observe, and what she sees sets more than one new investigation in motion. What does her old suitor, Delbert Jackson, know? Why is Mr. Merton giving important papers to that scoundrel, Vernon Smythe, and whatever happened to poor Abigail Cooper? Add to these intriguing questions Henry Hardwick’s continued attentions, Edith’s newfound devotion to the temperance movement and Madeline’s determination to find her a more reliable suitor, and strange behavior from her Aunt Louisa and things heat up as summer fades from Rockland. Her dear friend, Russell, busy with an important project at work, finds himself unable to help keep her out of trouble and away from danger. Is Madeline going too far? Will her meddling get her in serious trouble this time, will it destroy her reputation irreparably, or will she rid Rockland of a scoundrel once and for all?

About the Author

Author of the Amazon bestselling Aggie, Past Forward, and HearthLand series, Chautona considers herself blessed to live in California’s Mojave Desert with her husband and five of her nine children. When not writing, which she admits isn’t often, Chautona enjoys blogging, paper crafts, sewing, smocking, photo editing, and old (read: before her parents’ time) music.

Guest Blog Post from Chautona

Leon Czolgosz is my new nemesis. He’s dead, but he ruined my book. No, really. The guy totally destroyed the opening pages of Such a Tease. Now, these days, not a whole lot of people remember the name of Leon Cozolgosz. I didn’t. But I’ll never forget him now (although I may never remember how to spell his name). Who is he? Only the guy who shot President McKinley. Why am I annoyed with him over a hundred years later? The idiot did this thing on September 6, 1901. You know, four days after this book opened? Yeah. Couldn’t he have done it on say… January 6, 1901? Even January 6, 1902 would have served my purposes. Look, I’m not as callous as I appear. Truly. But if President McKinley had to die, did his murderer have to do it when it would completely mess up my book?

How did it mess up my book you ask?

I’ll tell you. I left it out—the whole assassination thing. There I was, fixing a wedding date for one of the characters, when a thought occurred to me. She could be married on Flag Day—if Flag Day was a thing then. I didn’t think it was. I really thought Wilson was responsible for that—you know, creating holidays in between his notes to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany or something like that. But I hoped. Somehow—just maybe. I mean we had Labor Day from Cleveland, why not Flag Day from McKinley. But noooooo. He didn’t. What did he do? He got shot. Four days after my book opened. And there wasn’t a single word about it in the story. Like I could ever get away with that. This was news! Big news. And nothing about it in the life of a daughter of a politician? I think not. Not only did this Leon Czolgosz (no, really. It’s spelled correctly) shoot the president on September 6th, but he didn’t do a good job of it! Look, I think I’ve established that I didn’t want President McKinley killed. But if the guy with the unpronounceable last name had to do it, couldn’t he have done a good job of it? Couldn’t he have shot the president in the head? McKinley suffered for eight days before he died. Eight days! They thought he was getting better and then gangrene killed him. It would have been a mercy had Leon just shot McKinley in the head or the heart. Why the abdomen? Cruel, if you ask me, even for an anarchist. And it made adding the whole affair to my book even more problematic. No, really! Think about it. I couldn’t have the newspapers announce the death of President McKinley on September 7th and then have a few mentions of the bank being affected or something. No… no… now I had to have a headline event, give false hope, and then add the death on top of it all. Look, I do an obscene amount of research for my books. No, really. Keen was slang in 1901. Woohoo! Look up “peachy keen”? Yeah. Can’t use it. 1950s. The telephone? Can Madeline expect to use one in a burgeoning city in 1901? Considering there were over 850,000 telephones in use, yes. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that a photographer who works for a local paper might have a telephone in order to receive calls requesting him to come photograph some big event—like the Mayor’s speech on the death of President McKinley, perchance? Yep. Somehow, I almost missed one of the biggest events in US history. Research saved the book—and ruined my timeline. All at the same time. Gotta love history. Or not. And Leon Czolgosz? Yeah. Thanks for nothing.

Buy the book on Amazon here.

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To enter the giveaway with which Chautona is celebrating this release, go here.

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Book Review—Bessie’s Pillow

We recently had the opportunity to review Bessie’s Pillow, a new book by Linda Bress Silbert, published by Strong Learning, Inc. I read the book to myself first, after a couple of people in an online forum mentioned some possible concerns with it, but decided that it would be fine to read aloud to my children. I’m glad I did! We really enjoyed this true story. One thing that made it even more meaningful to us is that we have a family living with us at the moment, and the wife came from Latvia; she was born in Lithuania, where Bessie came from! I was glad to be able to ask her how to pronounce a Russian word. 


Boshka Markman was only 18 when her parents managed to save enough money to send her from their village of Glubokoye (Glue-bo-ko-yeh) in Lithuania, to New York City to live with her older sister. Life in Lithuania, the Pale of Settlement, was increasingly dangerous for the Jews, and Boshka’s parents didn’t want her hurt—or worse—in a pogrom. They also didn’t want her to be in danger as she traveled alone across the Atlantic Ocean, so they bought her a first-class ticket. As she was leaving, a woman gave her a beautifully-embroidered pillow, asking Boshka to give it to the woman’s son in New York.

Although Bessie, as she was known after her name was changed at Ellis Island, was able to find her sister in New York City without too much trouble, she was disappointed with what she found there—and very thankful for friends from Glubokoye who were happy to take her in. She was not willing to live off of their generosity for very long, however, and soon learned more about how most Jewish people in New York lived than she had ever wanted to know.

After living in New York City for about a year, Bessie finally brought herself to find the owner of the pillow in New Rochelle. What happened next? Well, let me just say that we’ve read so many books now that my boys can detect a budding romance pretty quickly! The book tells the story of Bessie’s married life, with its joys and tragedies and triumphs, for the next 20 or 30 years. World War I is described from her perspective, as well as the Spanish Influenza and the Great Depression. Something I particularly enjoyed was the mention of homeschooling her children during and after the Influenza. The book states that many people did that at the time, to protect their children from illness.

We greatly enjoyed Bessie’s Pillow. Esther commented that it has a unique perspective on immigration. Most of the stories that are written about European immigrants to America tell about people who traveled in steerage and lived in the tenements. Bessie was more upper-class, however, so the perspective is quite different. Another thing that was different about this book, from most, is that it is written in first-person, present-tense style. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite that way, but it worked well. You are really drawn into Bessie’s life. There are flashbacks here and there, which are clearly marked with italics. When I was reading aloud, I did make sure to mention that this was a flashback so no one got confused.

There is a website that goes with the book, Bessie’s America, which contains a wealth of resources for expanding the study of Bessie’s life and times. You can find links on this website for other books to read, information about food, about the music and the news of the time, and photographs of Bessie’s family, her life, and the places she lived. We haven’t had time to explore this very much, but it looks like you could do a lot with it.

A few things to be aware of when using this book with children: The prologue mentions murder and rape. Chapter 2 does, as well. Chapter 3 describes how the women were forced to undress for a medical examination. Chapter 5 mentions that Jewish boys often maimed themselves so they would be unfit for military service. Chapter 10 has a veiled reference to prostitution. Chapter 15 includes a description of a kiss. None of these were extensive; it was easy to censor as I read aloud. I wouldn’t necessarily want a child younger than teenage to read the book on their own, however.

To read what 90 people have to say about this  book, click here: Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews} Crew Disclaimer

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Random Pictures from February and March, 2017

I often end up with an assortment of pictures that don’t seem to fit any theme, so here they are.

We see this rock wall every time we go to Kaikoura now. These rocks were stacked up to try to keep new rocks and dirt off the road if the slip slips again. I always think someone with a huge piece of equipment must have had fun stacking them up!30-IMG_1896

One of the boys found this cicada that died halfway out of the shell! They were quite intrigued with it.


We’re doing Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy this year for science. An assignment for the first chapter was to make a model of the solar system with balloons. From right to left are Mercury (black), Venus (orange), Earth (blue), Mars (red), Jupiter (orange), Saturn (pink with a green ring), Uranus (blue), and Neptune (purple). The yellow one represents the sun, although it would have had to be the size of half of our house. Jupiter and Saturn should have been twice as big as they are, but the balloons kept popping when we tried to get them bigger. And apparently, Pluto is no longer considered a planet! Even though this is quite out of scale, we had fun doing it.


I made tiny ponytails in Little Miss’s hair one day, just for fun. I think it will be awhile yet before we need to do any such thing again!


Our onion harvest this year.


We took the Inland Road to Kaikoura one Sunday when the coastal highway was closed due to slips from rain and fresh earthquakes. This is a church in Waiau, which was badly damaged in the November 14 quake. The bell tower is leaning pretty badly, although it’s hard to see in this photo.


One evening at the table, we were discussing how old each of us would be in Mercury years (Mercury goes around the sun four times for every Earth year). Someone got out our new abacus to figure out his daddy’s age. Multiplication is challenging with the abacus! We finally worked out how to get the answer, but it took awhile.


Mr. Intellectual drew this picture of a volcano, presumably in Hawaii, erupting into the ocean.


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Product Review—Circle C Stepping Stones Books

Mr. Intellectual, the only boy in our family who reads much of anything, has really enjoyed the other Circle C books we have (most of each of the Circle C Beginnings and the Circle C Adventures series). When I had the opportunity recently to sign up for review copies of the first two books in Susan K. Marlow’s newest series, Circle C Stepping Stones, published by Kregel Publications, I knew he’d love them. I read both Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top aloud to all the children, and the boys really enjoyed them. Mr. Sweetie badly wants me to get the rest of the books in the series. Mr. Intellectual really likes them, and so does Mr. Diligence, although I can’t get any more out of him than that! Even Mr. Imagination enjoyed them. Here he is holding them:


Book #1: Andi Saddles Up. Andi (her real name is Andrea) is nine years old now, and finally able to ride her beloved filly Taffy with a saddle! She desperately wants her very own brand-new saddle for her birthday, but there isn’t one with her pile of gifts when she arrives at the breakfast table. Not only that, but an irate neighbor shows up in the kitchen, yelling at Andi’s big brother Chad, who runs the ranch since the death of their father many years ago, about a boundary dispute. During the next few weeks, Andi faces a couple of temptations to disobey. What happens to her when she directly disobeys an order given by Chad? The results are surprising! I asked one of my boys what he didn’t like about this book. He answered that he didn’t like the yelling and arguing. We all liked the conclusion of the story, though!

Book #2: Andi Under the Big Top. A circus is coming to town! This must be the most exciting thing Andi has ever seen. All the children of the family go to town to watch the parade, and the whole family attends the afternoon show. Andi is enthralled with what she sees. Then, she talks to Henry, a young boy who is part of the circus. It turns out that there is another side to the circus, which she hadn’t seen before. Is there any way to help Henry? And what about when something very dear to Andi disappears? I appreciated the way the circus was portrayed so realistically, and not held up as something glamorous. I was slightly apprehensive about reading it to my children, since we don’t do things like going to circuses, but it turned out to be fine, in my opinion.

There is a study guide on the author’s website to go along with these books. Although we won’t be using it, it would be a great resource if you want to do a unit study based on these stories. There are also coloring pages which can be printed. I printed a set for each of the four children ages 4-7 who are living in our house right now, and they have really enjoyed them. There are six pictures for each book. They are the illustrations in the book, each one in a full-page PDF. We really enjoyed doing this review, and I’m hoping we will have the chance to review more books for this author. We also loved that Kregel Publications was willing to mail physical copies of them to us, even though we live in New Zealand!

For 60 other reviewer’s opinions on these books, click on the banner below: Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}   Crew Disclaimer

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Product Review—Creative Freewriting Adventure

One of the products we have been able to try out lately in order to review for The Homeschool Review Crew is Creative Freewriting Adventure, from the Home School Adventure Co. I requested this item for review because we often have a hard time coming up with ideas for writing stories for our homeschool writing group, Dead Boring. I thought maybe this book would help with that. Well, it has—but not for everyone, as I was hoping. It was a bit too involved for most of the children, but Mr. Intellectual is doing very well with it.

I downloaded both the basic Creative Freewriting Adventure book and the Creative Freewriting Adventure Coloring Book Edition. They are the same except that the Coloring Book Edition has a coloring picture to go with each assignment. Mr. Intellectual was not interested in that, so we didn’t use it at all.

There are ten exercises in the book. Each one gives you a story to set the stage, and then suggests several things to incorporate into your story. After studying these two or three pages, you are to set a timer and write for 15 minutes. Use your imagination and come up with a continuation of the story you were given in the beginning, putting yourself into the scene! After reading the first assignment, I was inspired to write a story, and it was quite fun. I don’t normally do fiction at all; I’ve never been able to come up with much of anything. This was different, though. It was very easy. I’ve been wanting to do another of the exercises, but haven’t had time. Maybe someday soon. I typed my story into the computer, rather than handwrote it. Here is my story:


Mr. Intellectual has now completed four of the exercises. He is spending a lot more than 15 minutes per story. Each day he works on it for 15-30 minutes. He started out typing, but his speed is still pretty poor, so I had him dictate into the computer. Esther found a program, some extension of Google Chrome, which converts speech to text, so he’s using a microphone and “writing” that way, then correcting what comes up on the screen. He still has so much to write for each story that it takes him several days to write each one! Here is one of his stories:


And, what are these assignments like? The first four feature famous Greek philosophers. A little of their life is described, and then you are assigned a scene to put yourself into. Several questions help you think about what might happen next, and you are asked to think about your senses. What do you see, hear, feel, smell? The next four follow the same format, but have to do with the book The Wise Woman, by George Macdonald. The last two have to do with eternity and Jesus’ birthday. It will sure be interesting to see what Mr. Intellectual comes up with for some of these exercises!

I’m glad I chose to use Creative Freewriting Adventures. Stacy Farrell has done a superb job of making writing fun. I don’t know if I’ll ever use this product again (it is a digital download, so I will have it available as long as it is in my harddrive), but it is certainly worthwhile for my budding writer. Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}

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Funny Boys!

The day we took family pictures, we also got individual pictures of the children. It was hard to get a good one of some of them. We finally managed it, though; you can see the best results on the sidebar to the right. In between, they had fun climbing this monument. There used to be an obelisk on the top, but it toppled in the November 14 earthquake. The boys took turns being a statue on top!


Mr. Diligence


Mr. Intellectual


Mr. Sweetie and Mr. Intellectual


Mr. Sweetie


Mr. Inventor. He insisted on being up in a tree above our heads to have his picture taken.


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Garden Stuff

I sliced a bunch of zucchini for the freezer one day, and decided to try dehydrating some. I sprinkled them with salt, and they are quite good! I did learn that it’s best to oil the trays before putting the zucchini on, or they stick tight. A couple of the children had fun putting the slices of zucchini on the first time.08-IMG_1855


I had never seen a head of cabbage like this one! It had many small heads growing out around the stem, between the leaves.


One of the little boys was quite impressed with the bumblebees on the sunflowers.


One day’s harvest of cucumbers and squash.


Little Miss helped me fill jars of green beans one day. She did a good job of it.


We did an experiment this year with the tomatoes. After reading on the blog of one of Gayle’s cousins how she fertilized her tomatoes with sour milk and had very good results, I decided to try diluting the whey from cheesemaking and the buttermilk we couldn’t use up from making butter, and water the tomatoes with it. To make it a good experiment, we only did that with half the patch. The tomatoes on the right came from the milk-fed tomatoes, and the ones on the left came from the others. I would say the experiment was a success!


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Children and Kittens—February 2017

One day when I was hanging out laundry, Little Miss found this headdress that her daddy wears at work to cover his hair and beard. She thought it was great fun to try on!02-IMG_183603-IMG_1837

Little Miss wanted me to take a picture of Princess’s feet!


Bandit going out the living room window.


What fun! A box with a hole in the side!


Mr. Inventor bringing the little ones in for dinner.


One cool morning I lit the fire in the coal range. Princess spent a lot of the morning on this stool in front of it, soaking in the heat.


Little Miss was excited one morning to find a kitten asleep in the dirty laundry pile. She covered the kitten up, so I carefully picked up the pile of laundry and put it in a basket so no one would step on the invisible kitten. Then, both of them ended up in the soft “bed”.


Little Miss is playing with dolls more and more. Here, she was carefully covering up her baby’s toes. When I put her in bed at night, and she has a teddy bear with her, she wants me to cover its feet, too!


Mr. Inventor’s latest project: a recumbent bike. It’s still in the process of being made, but he rides it around a lot.04-IMG_1932


Trying to sync the front wheels so steering is easier, and fix the chain.


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