Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: Sarah Books

One of the joys of being part of the TOS Homeschool Crew is discovering delightful little gems that I never would have found otherwise.  Jim Baumgardner, and the Sarah Books, are such gems.

When I found out I'd be receiving Sarah's Wish, by Jim Baumgardner, I'll admit to being skeptical.  We're studying ancient history this year.  And by "we" I am speaking of myself and four boys, K-7th.  So historical fiction written about a girl in Ohio in the mid 1800's... well, I just wasn't sure.  And most of the fan mail on the website is from girls.  But I figured that I would enjoy the book anyway.

My fears were unfounded... the boys were all hooked from the very first chapter.  I mean, really... snakes, runaway buggies, slave catchers?  It got their attention.  Throughout the story, they begged for "one more chapter, PLEEEEEEEEASE!"

Sarah is orphaned in the first chapter.  Since you are only introduced to her mother in the course of the buggy accident, that isn't as emotional as it could be.  It would have been harder if you had already learned more about her and her work on the Underground Railroad.  I appreciated that mom's death wasn't some tearjerker scene.

As for the rest of the story, well, it was fascinating.  The story is somewhat predictable, but not completely so.  The characters are written realistically, each with their own little quirks.  We read a lot of historical fiction in this household, and have read quite a bit about America in the 1850's and 1860's.  But nothing that has truly brought to life so many facets of daily life as this story does from the time period right before the war.

There is the whole thing about the Underground Railroad, and how Sarah's mother had not even told her best friend what she was doing.  And the detailed description of putting spokes into a wagon wheel.  Or watching with Sarah as a new steamship is slid into the river.  Or learning about the new game of baseball.  It's all these little details that really make you feel like you are living right there with Sarah.

A third Sarah book has just come out.  Book two is called Sarah's Promise.  Book three is Sarah's Escape.  The author also send a monthly newsletter via email that is filled with fascinating little tidbits about Sarah's times mostly.  You can sign up for the newsletter on the website.

All in all, I highly, highly recommend this series.  The books are a fairly easy read, and well suited to a family read-aloud.  There was enough action to keep my 3 and 5 year old's attention.  There was enough detail to keep my middle schooler involved.

And while it may sound like a "girl's book," my guys said that any boy who lets that stop him from reading the book is missing out.  And while there are no real boy characters to identify with, there are men who are well-developed characters, and who are worthy of emulation.  Doctor Baumgardner (the great, great grandpa of the author) is the most obvious.  But there is also the pastor, the steamship captain, and even the guy fixing the wagon wheel.  These men are solid, respectable citizens, and Sarah's interactions with them were fodder for some great conversations.

We are requesting books 2 and 3 for gifts this season.  And if you purchase from the website, the books are signed by the author.

And you can check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about Sarah's Wish at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive Sarah's Wish for free from the vendor in question.  I also received a discount on the purchase of additional titles, which I plan to use. The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  It does guarantee a review. A fair review. But I am not going to praise something unless I think it deserves the praise.  If I don't like it, you'll hear that.  And hopefully with enough detail as to why so you can decide for yourself if what I hate about it makes it perfect for your family.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

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