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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Salem Ridge Press Review

Tired of wading through book racks full of cheaply produced books that depict questionable values? Looking for that one gem that you can read aloud to your kiddos or turn over to your independent reader without hesitation? You need to take at the offerings available at Salem Ridge Press. Salem Ridge Press is the brainchild of Daniel Mills, a homeschool graduate who was inspired by reading old, out-of-print books to republish similar gems and make them available to everyone. Most of their books are available in both soft and hardcover directly from the Salem Ridge Press' website as well as from other booksellers. And you can read the first chapter of any of their books on their website for free! As a TOS Homeschool Crew member, I was recently given the opportunity to review 3 of these promising books:

The American Twins of the Revolution
by Lucy Fitch Perkins
Twins Sally and Roger Priestly awaken one night to strange noises and discover their mother is not in her bed! Frightened and with no one to turn to (their father is fighting in the war), they sneak downstairs and hear voices in the dining room...who is that man talking to their mother? The answer embarks them on a mission to hide and deliver much needed gold to General Washington. Throughout it all, they prove their worth in character and courage.

A couple of notes on this book: As this story takes place during the American Revolution, the Priestly family are slave owners. And while they treat their slaves well, and in fact the house slaves Aunt Hitty and Uncle Jude seem almost like family, the overall treatment of slavery in the book is rather benign and non-judgemental. I don't think this is a problem with the book, as the point is to try to depict the times, but it is a topic you may wish to discuss with your children. Also important to note, the slaves in this book speak in very heavy dialect, distractingly so, to the point where I actually had to tone it down so that my children could understand what was being said at times(we read it aloud). While the recommended ages for this book are 8 to adult, I would not expect an 8 year old to be able to read this on his own for that reason alone. Plus, the Priestlys do not speak in dialect at all, which was kind of surprising, actually, and it really accentuates the gulf between slave-owner and slave. Available from Salem Ridge Press in softcover for $12.95 or hardcover for $22.95.

Glaucia the Greek Slave
by Emma Leslie
Glaucia and her brother Laon are teenaged Greeks who have been sold into slavery in order to pay off the debts of their dead father. Though they try to stay together, they are separated, with Glaucia being sold as a lady's maid to a wealthy Roman family and Laon escaping and trying to find a way to buy freedom for his sister. The depiction of slavery in this book is vastly different from Twins. Laon is beaten by a slave trader rather brutally (though it is not graphically depicted) near the beginning, almost to the point of death. Glaucia is bargained over like the piece of goods her new "owners" consider her to be. But at the center of this whole story is a mystery concerning the disappearance of Glaucia and Laon's mother and how this disappearance is related to the rising up of Christianity and the persecution of Christians.

We read this book aloud as well, and at first my kiddos had a little difficulty getting into it...maybe it had to do with stilted dialogue full of "thees" and "thous." But once we learned a little more about Glaucia and Laon, they were riveted. A definite plus in this book is that unusual terms having to do with the time period are defined at the bottom of each page (like footnotes)---this really came in handy for me as my inquisitive Mary asks the meaning of about 1 word per sentence of any book I read to her. Suggested reading level for this book is 10 to adult. Glaucia is available from Salem Ridge Press in softcover for $14.95 or hardcover for $24.95.

Mary Jane - Her Book
by Clara Ingram Judson
My little Mary absolutely loved this darling little book. We finished it in a couple of days, and she wanted to read it again right away! The Mary Jane of the title is an almost 5 year old little girl (she celebrates her birthday at the end of the book), who spends her days in wholesome play, investigating nature (ever try to give a nest of baby birds up in a tree a drink of water with a hose?) and mischief making (like showing her friend Junior how it can rain indoors). Something new and interesting is happening all the time and along the way Mary Jane is learning how to keep house, including cleaning the bathroom and how to sew. Suggested reading level for this book is ages 6 to 10. An excellent read aloud for younger children, though. Mary Jane is available from Salem Ridge Press in softcover for $12.95 or hardcover for $22.95. The sequel to this book is Mary Jane - Her Visit by the same author, which I think I just might have to order in time for Mary's birthday next month.

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