Carolyn Astfalk hosts the Open Book linkup: Share what you're reading and get recommendations from other readers.
Welcome to the February 2021 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler's Heart AND Catholicmom.com.
An Open Book is all about what my family is reading this month, from the adults down to the little kids.
Share what you're reading by linking up your blog post below. Simply write about what you're reading. You can make it personal or, as I do, extend it to the whole family. Your post can be as simple as a few lines about the book or as in-depth as a 700-word review. That's entirely up to you. You can even forego writing all together and record a video or simply post cover photos.
No blog? No problem. Please share what you're reading in the comments.
My husband has been reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus: Prayer Companion from the Do-It-Yourself Ignatian Retreat by Michael E. Gaitley during his weekly Adoration hour. The book is compact — easily portable — and offers some short meditations for reading and reflection. I see my husband is highlighting passages, which means he’s finding it valuable. And since there haven’t been any in-real-life retreats happening for the better part of a year, this seems like a fruitful option.
I’ve been wanting to read Emily Jaminet’s latest book, Secrets of the Sacred Heart: Twelve Ways to Claim Jesus’ Promises in Your Life, for a while, and a CatholicMom Book Club was the impetus I needed to get started. I’m taking it a couple of short chapters at a time, watching the author’s videos, using the free journal I downloaded to accompany it, and reading the CatholicMom reflections on it. We’ve been dipping our toes into this traditional devotion for a while with a lovely painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (given to us by the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus who had been residing in our parish) and beginning the First Friday devotions. I’m looking forward to doing an enthronement in June, and this book will be our guide.
I enjoyed The Truth about Romantic Comedies by Sean C. McMurray, a smoothly written Young Adult romance featuring Tim, a fatherless teen who spends much of his time tending to his grandma, who has Alzheimer’s and is undergoing cancer treatment. The cancer center is where he meets Rachel, a Christian girl who changes her hair color with her mood and is a firm nonbeliever in teenage love. It’s both humorous and poignant and rings true from my memories of teenage years.
Jennifer Rodewald has become one of my favorite contemporary Christian romance authors. Everything Behind Us is an atypical marriage of convenience story, one motivated by listening to and obeying God’s direction. It’s a deeply moving story that reveals the beauty of married (not necessarily synonymous with romantic) love. I’m not much of a crier when it comes to books, but I’d recommend tissues for this one.
I highly recommend The Work of Our Hands: The Universal Gift of Creativity by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur to anyone, but especially to artists of all stripes. The short, unique reflections provide a deeper understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God, the Creator. As a bonus, it gave my creativity a little boost too. Worth reading and pondering.
The Boy Who Knew (Carlo Acutis) by Corinna Turner is the first book I’ve read about Blessed Carlo Acutis, my new go-to guy for tech problems. He’s so much more than that though. This author has a way of drilling down to the meaning and purpose of life using the high stakes matters of life and death, not just in this book but in many of her other books as well. Blessed Carlo’s story is told through a British teen faced with a leukemia diagnosis and grappling with his mortality. This book is also noteworthy for being set during a recent event: the October 2020 celebration of Carol Acutis being named Blessed. While the subject matter is necessarily a bit heavy, it’s a great introduction to Blessed Carlo and his life.
My oldest son is beginning Hamlet with his William Shakespeare class. It’s premature for us to discuss it or start watching movie adaptions, but the time is right for coloring the Hamlet page from Crush and Color: Keanu Reeves: Colorful Fantasies with a Mysterious Hero by Maurizio Campidelli, which made its way into our house as a Christmas gag gift. The coloring pages themselves are interesting, and the romanticism is hilariously over the top. If you’d have told my late 1980s high school self that Keanu Reeves would even more popular now than he was then, I’d have laughed. But here we are!
Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz-Ryan was a gift for my daughter. She’d previously read Esperanza Rising by the same author. In Riding Freedom, orphaned Charlotte has nothing to lose when she runs away from an orphanage disguised as a boy. The story is especially appealing to horse lovers and is based on the first U.S. woman to ever vote — disguised as a man.
Traer Scott’s Nocturne: Creatures of the Night is filled with beautiful photos of nocturnal animals and interesting facts about them. My seventh grader picked this up for a research paper on the fennec fox, but this book appealed to everyone in the family. Just a pleasure to look at and so much to learn about God’s amazing creatures.
The Story of William Penn by Aliki is the second children’s book we picked up about William Penn. The first was filled with too many details, and both the children and I thought it was confusing. This short book was well-written and provides a basic overview of the life of the founder of Pennsylvania (“Penn’s Woods.”)
We recently received Our Lady’s Wardrobe by Anthony DeSefano as a gift, and I’m delighted with it. It is a lavishly illustrated introduction to several of the most common titles of the Blessed Mother, most of which are tied to Marian apparitions. The illustrations are paired with mellifluous rhyming text that gives a thumbnail sketch of the locale and circumstances of each apparition.
Squirreled Away (The Dead Sea Squirrels) by Mike Nawrocki (Veggie Tales) is a recommendation I picked up from another An Open Book post. This eight-book chapter series begins with Michael and his friend Justin accompanying Michael’s dad to an archaeological site. The boys get lost in the Dead Sea caves. They discover some seemingly dead squirrels, Merle and Pearl, which then become re-animated.
It had been a while since anyone in the house had read Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. The story of the little French girl who has her appendix removed was a childhood favorite of mine, and it fit perfectly with my young son’s study of Europe and his sister’s study of France. I’d not previously noticed so many Parisian landmarks in the illustrations. The story remains a favorite.
Angelo by David Macaulay is another picture book set in Europe. Angelo restores an Italian church façade, and over the course of his years’ of work, befriends a pigeon. It’s a poignant story about craftsmanship, friendship, and what we leave behind.
I knew nothing of Ernest Shackleton until I read the graphic novel Shackleton and the Lost Antarctic Expedition by Blake Hoena with my son. (Another gap in my knowledge discovered. There are many.) The book covers Shackleton’s failed expedition to the South Pole, recounting the amazing story of Shackleton and his team’s survival. I can barely imagine the conditions these men endured.
Copyright 2021 Carolyn Astfalk
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