Showing posts with label Literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Literature. Show all posts

Friday, May 27, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Read for the Heart from Apologia Press

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There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all.
~Jacqueline Kennedy~ 
[Read for the Heart, page 51] 

The infusion of language, into our lives, comes quite naturally at birth. It is the quality behind what we are receiving that is truly the issue.  Is it merely parrot repetition which slowly progresses into every day slang and chatter?  Or is there something more? Could it be a delicate thread of wonderment, discretely hidden deep within the confines of the printed word-whether spoken aloud, or absorbed through our own optical lenses? Does it knit a fanciful world to ponder upon?  Make one cry or jump for joy?  Does it stir a sense of duty, encourage the betterment of the human race or change one's inner core?  Or does the language so utterly fail to do anything other than dumb down and bore one's mind?  Is there a disconnect from what is touted as an excellence of writing [by the author/publisher], compared to how it really creates language depravity in one's mind, and drenches the reader with spiritual or ethical fodder?

Read for the HeartChoosing the right food for the mind [books] is not as simple as one would think.  It is easy to be swept into the flood of mass production, current fads and what not. What you think is great material may actually be nothing more than a cleverly disguised waste of words on paper.  But there is hope and Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkston offers a wealth of information to help guide you along in this daunting process.  Whether you are new to making book selections for your family, or if you are a self-proclaimed bibliophile with several years of collecting under your belt-this is a great resource to have.

I actually had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at the Mid-Winter HS Conference in Grand Rapids, MI a few years back (sadly, the year that the space shuttle exploded-so this is very ingrained in my mind).  Now she won't remember me, but I certainly do her.  She seemed to be oozing a love for Christ and that really impressed me.  So I am not surprised to find that she penned herself a wonderful guide to whole books, which expounds the necessity of giving our children good, nourishing literature to build up their minds and souls.

Within the pages, one finds a little personal back story from Sarah's life regarding each area/genre, along with a listing from one to several books written by a wide variety of authors (who meet the qualifications for excellent writing in children's literature), and usually a small ditty regarding the stories themselves. All of this is meant to give you better insight regarding what books you would like to see stuffed onto your own shelves (purchased by you or on loan from your library). Written to allow for you to make the final decisions regarding your collection, this guide will serve you for many years to come.

I personally, was familiar with many of her recommendations and found myself nodding in agreement to them.  I was delighted to see several goodies that I have never had the pleasure to cross paths with; so I now have a nice little list handy to assist me when I am out browsing for "needed" books for our personal library.  I especially appreciate how it is divided into sections [Picture Books, Golden Age Classics, Children's Fiction, Fairy Tale and Fantasy, History and Biography, Spiritual Reading for Children, Poetry, Music/Art and Nature] because I can zero in on just those books meeting my criteria list. As a homeschooling parent (any parent really), it is vital to have good resources and reference material handy to help me be a more informed, successful facilitator of our children's education and growth (mind and body)~Read for the Heart ranks right up there as one of those sources.

To gain a better understanding of what this reference book offers, I recommend you go through the Table of Contents and read the portion of the available chapter on the website.


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Read for the Heart info page
this is for the homeschooling parent to use as a reference

**Don't forget to find out what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products, over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. provided me with a free copy of the Read for the Heart book, so that I could write this review.  I did not receive any financial compensation for my honest opinion of this product.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Yesterday's Classics

Being all Charlotte Masony like in our style,  I have tried my best to add many of the books she recommended into our humble library collection (OK, maybe not so humble-perhaps "our ever growing" collection would describe it better). Unfortunately, especially when I first started reading up on her methods and choices for literature,  I often found myself engulfed in the disparaging situation of just trying to find, let alone purchase those books. Why you ask? Well, because she lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and many of those beauties have long since become (the dreaded 3 words to any book collecting enthusiast) "OUT OF PRINT." Yes, the horror.  Nothing more frustrating than trying to find what sounds so awesome and perfect for your current studies, than to face the "ever present, non-existent/not available book of choice" hunt.  

Thankfully, this is where the eVersion books have become so very helpful-because many of those out of print (of course in print books too) are now available for the download.  I couldn't possibly spend the time it would take to locate these, nor could I afford the expense of purchasing the multitude of books (since many are way over priced) that I would want. 


I cannot deny that I love, love, love the smell/feel/nostalgic comfort of books, the "turning of the pages" sound and so forth-but I do not love the bulkiness, the storage issue and most importantly-the pain of trying to lug several of them (literally the pain folks as many of my books are quite heavy) when I travel.  I must face the facts here that the eVersion craze is not so crazy.  I admit (wholeheartedly) that I love to be able to have several hundred books just a click away (and if you are wondering-no I do not have an eReader just yet-but I do have the free app for it on my PC and I do take my 'puter just about everywhere). So yes, I have conquered my anti-eVersionite phobia, to now actually being able to promote them. So where am I going here?  Well, you have probably noted two things so far: I use mostly Charlotte Mason methods for homeschooling (ie: living books); and I am reviewing eVersion books.  Well, I hope you got that anyway.

So, there is this company called Yesterday's Classics, of which I have the privilege of  telling you about.  They have compiled a collection (225 books so far) of several wonderful books that were written during the 1880s to 1920s-where charming and good character go hand in hand.  Better yet is that Y.C.'s have dedicated a section noting which books are used for each year through Ambleside Online. They also have done this for those who follow Living Books Curriculum, and Pageant of History.  I also see many, many of these titles can be used for those using the Classical education format too.  They offer 22 different genres to fit your schooling needs, with clear text, beautiful illustrations [black and white and some color spattered throughout], all in an easy to use format.  And it doesn't require dashing out to the local library to hunt for them, nor the continual outlay of cash to have them all in one's collection.  


I zeroed in on the nature study books (some I am familiar with, others were new to me) and the Shakespeare titles.  I have read through them, and found them so refreshing, understandable (not an easy thing when it comes to Mr. Shakespeare's material) and lovely in deed.  The nature books [not surprisingly] hearken one back to a more gentle time, where charming and delightful mingled together like old friends meandering through the gardens of life. I am so pleased to be able to share these with my children (thanks to Yesterday's Classics).  What's more, there are plenty of other selections, that will come into play as we traverse through our studies this coming term, and beyond.  With 225 books to choose from, I know I have a wealth of options to use for several years to come. I even find the old science texts to be a neat challenge for my students-as I have them compare the knowledge of the time (the antiquated scientific knowledge noted within it) to today's technological advancements, so they can see just how far we have come to understand our world around us. 

But like LeVar Burton (from Reading Rainbow) often stated, "You don't have to take my word for it.",  spend some time reading through the site, it is the only way for you to truly grasp the wealth of materials here. Stroll through their collection to compare it to what you use for your curriculum, it may be just what you were looking for. Oh, and I wanted to note that yes, initially one may feel that the price is absorbent, but when you break down the cost of purchasing these individually, it adds up fast-and the final amount is much higher than the Yesterday's Classics package price. This is a wonderful way to build a library, especially if you are a CM, Classical, or living book educator.  


Why not just use the free versions of these?

That is a valid question~and one that you alone will have to decide on.  Through the bit of research I conducted, I found that some are available to be purchased or for free through the bigger online stores; and many can be found for free through online sources.  But-here is the thing-many were missing the delightful artwork/illustrations, and had rather fuzzy/non-crisp text, or "citation notes" and such spattered throughout.  You always have the risk of having missing pages and of course, unreliable sources to download them from in the first place . You will spend a lot of time tracking them down~ of which you will not have the results you were hoping for. Trust. Me.  

For example:  I decided to download someone else's [free] The Blue Fairy Book and then compare it to the Yesterday's Classics version. Right away I noticed that the free version was messy, with paragraphs running right on into the next (no breaks), and it had no illustrations.  As for the Y.C.-I found that it contained the adorable images, was nicely organized [I could click the particular story I wanted, which took me directly to that page] with highlighted titles, along with a layout/font that was easy to read. Best yet, I was able to distinguish one story from the next, with a quick glance.  Not so with the other.  It is pretty clear that if you want quality-then the Yesterday's Classics version is right fine product. 

What device is this for?

Amazon Kindle 3.JPGNOOKcolor screen
Yesterday's Classics is designed to be used with the Kindle, or Nook
eReaders (other EPUB readers too) and the iPad or smartphone devices.
you don't need an eReader to enjoy this-
you can download FREE apps
 which are especially designed for your PC!

 (Amazon has the Kindle app [you can only use the Kindle file for this]
and you can also download free EPUB reader apps such the Sony reader) 

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Yesterday's Classics homepage
Kindle Dwnload:  $99.95 (all 225 books)
EPUB Dwnload:  $99.95 (all 225 books)
all ages

*Don't forget to read what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products, over on our TOS Review Crew homepage.

***Yesterday's Classics provided me with both download files for the Kindle/EPUB of the 225 books, so that I could use and enjoy with my family, in order to write this review.  I did not receive any financial compensation for my honest opinion of this product.

Monday, April 5, 2010

TOS Crew Review: Terrestria Chronicles: The Crown of Kuros (BK 4) and The Dragon's Egg (BK 5)

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!  Strap on your armor, take up your shield and mount your trusted stallion. The battle is about to begin. Take heed oh ye young Knights in training.  Lend yourself to step back into the time of gallant men, goblets encrusted of gold and gems, of Ladies in Waiting and prudent princesses.  Set off on one adventure to another to learn what it is to be a member of the King's court. Straight from the printing press of Sir Dunlop comes a series called The Terrestria Chronicles, written in the Christian allegory manner, with which to bedazzle the young lords and ladies of 10 years and older.

Presented here before ye are but two of the seven of the bound parchments (which one does not need to read chronologically to understand) to which I dare say that I received to review. I implore thee to come hither to reflect and ponder what stories I shall tell of these.  Nay, only you can determine for yourself if this will suit your family and find honor upon your bookshelves. As my tale may not be what you yourself find to be true, but alas I must speak as Sir Wisdom would encourage me so to do.

The Crown of Kuros
4th in the Series

Due to the inpatient Prince Josiah, the Crown of Kuros is swiped from the castle-opening the possibility that it will fall into the hands of the evil Argamor.  It is a quest that the Prince must undertake alone, although he is guided by several knights of King Emmanuel.  Will the young, newly adopted son of the King be able to withstand the challenges and the final battle to regain the Crown?  Will the underground reconnaissance Prince Josiah and Prince Selwyn encounter help thwart the plans of Argamor's Council?  Take a step back into time to the land of Terrestria, where knight sightings are more frequent than at a Renaissance Festival, and trips through an underwater abyss reflect what can happen from choices righteously made, or from choices simply  gone bad.  Where evil tempts to crack the very walls of the King's Golden City, and the good and faithful struggle to slay the dragons which grip the residents' hearts.  Castle facts, glossary and a notation regarding how to yield one's heart to the Lord included as an extra bonus as well.  Please note-there is some discussion in several chapters about Argamor's tactics for gaining the hearts of the King-which directly relate to today's common goodies-the TV, rock music, women who are not Biblically grounded, etc. that I have discussed below.  I do not agree with most of these assumptions and find the inclusion to serve as being over the top preachy-rendering this one my least favorite of the two.

The Dragon's Egg
5th in the Series

Could Prince Josiah have just made one of the most common yet life-fracturing decisions that could bring down an entire castle?  The desire of a forbidden object has been planted in this young man's heart-only to grow and fester into an out of control need to feed the dragon (literally here).  Denial is rampant, while deceit and ultimately despair rule the Prince-until he wisely learns to take advice from those who love him.  How can he be used to help others when he himself is struggling with his own heart issues?  Mount up and take a ride through the land of Terrestria with young Prince Josiah, as he learns what it means to live a life truly dedicated and submitted to King Emmanuel.  Where little things grow to humongous proportions like the current National debt, dragons speak with forked tongues and the slaying of one's grotesque Carian Greatwing is the means to living in victory.  Again-castle facts, glossary and information regarding the yielding of one's heart included at the end.  Although I found Prince Josiah's ability to quickly resolve or change the situation (like saving a man in a fire, and then helping Prince Selwyn and Princess Gilda to put out the cottage fire within a mere couple paragraphs) hard to believe. I wondered at times if these kids (because they are not adults from my understanding and even so) were bred with Spider Man, Wonder Woman, Batman and other various Super Heroes, which would explain their amazing abilities. Kind of hard to swallow.

Now-for the most part these were OK.  I have truly debated with myself, over how to properly handle what I am about to pen.  Then the Lord spoke to my heart and this is how I choose to address such things.  Let it be said that I am not anti-Christian literature, allegories nor the use of fiction to help spread the Word-as I am not.  But there are times when certain issues within the material "rub me the wrong way" and there is my dilemma.   I do not want to make it sound like these cannot be useful or a good fit for your family-but what I am saying is this:

I take the same position Paul reflected upon (when discussing how the preaching of Christ's truth was being handled when he was in chains-preaching for selfish gain or out of love) when considering the Terrestria Chronicles.  Meaning because they promote Christ-I am not against them entirely. 
Paul stated, 
"...But what does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this I rejoice..."
Philippians 1: 19

Now, not that I am saying the Dunlop Ministry is falsely teaching the Gospel, because I do believe they are promoting these stories out of love and in the truth to Jesus Christ. That these can be used for spreading of the Gospel and the betterment of our youth.  But rather that some areas they are fixated on, do not necessarily reflect our family's opinion and practice  [the very personal and private matters-issues that are better left up to the discretion of the parents, the family's religious views and mostly-up to the Lord to convict upon. IE: the anti-TV, anti-rock music, anti-strong women lean].  Some of these points are valid and address the same concerns that I have-but they seem very bent on one side-one that could easily set a wrong impression and cause guilt, confusion and disdain-all of which are not of God.  

It is Man's heart that is evil, no matter what surrounds a person, and it can go from good to bad in a literal  heartbeat.  Man has been sinful since the fall in the Garden of Eden, with or without the use of modern technology.  After all, the heart is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23)-hence the very reason we all need our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Because without Him, there is no hope.  Granted these things do, and will continue to set the "wheels in motion"-but such things are not the whole reason for the state of the world. Adam and Eve were not texting each other, Moses was not gyrating across the Pharaoh's palace floor, Debra the Prophetess/Judge wasn't holding "Down with Dudes" rallies, and Paul certainly wasn't surfing the Internet-yet each were used greatly by the Lord all the while they sinned over and over again-without these noted tactics [in the Terrestria Chronicles] from Argamor and his council. Any of those items, used in a positive Godly manner can and will be used by the Lord to enter the homes and hearts of millions, by whomever He chooses-to show the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, I implore you to please keep this in mind, if you choose to use these books as witnessing tools.   Pray for wisdom and discretion.

For us, we'd rather open the Bible and read through the parables of Jesus. They use real life situations that are easier to comprehend without the use of a fanciful allegory approach.  I personally really struggled with these, I ( a veracious reader) actually became quickly bored and had to struggle to get through them.  The names of a lot of the characters were long and laborious to read, and the situations the main characters found themselves in seemed to be "wrapped up" way too quickly.  Rendering much of the storyline into to the "way too far fetched" category.  My teen felt this was like trying to sum up every lesson of the Bible into one chapter or book.  That it needed to stay focused on just one or two topics at one time-that it was too "all over the board" making it less effective.  

That said, it doesn't mean that it won't suit your needs.  I would recommend borrowing one from the local library or friend, to get a feel for the nature of these.  It may be exactly what your children love to read.  Again, take into consideration my notes above, and be sure to read what my other TOS mates had to say to get a good idea if these books will be right for you.

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Terrestria Chronicles Homepage

$7.99 each (PB edition)

Don't forget to read what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products, over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Dunlop Ministries provided me with one free copy each of The Crown of Kuros and The Dragon's Egg, to read and enjoy, in exchange for my honest opinion of them.  No financial compensation was received for providing this review.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Sarah Books Series

Usually, when I think of historical fiction-I tend to get, well-more jittery than a June Bug in May! Will it be so fanciful and out of touch, that the relevance to the story line would only be befitting for a cartoon? I have read enough books of this nature,  to know that not every author takes the time to really research and "truly understand" the subject at hand, in order to be able to pen something that puts the reader right into the world as it was. Nor do they write something that "could"  possibly have happened. That is becoming a lost art-but not so with the Sara's Wish story.

This is not a weak work of historical fiction, but rather a nicely written story that captures you right from the first page. Set in 1858, rural Ohio (or as my grandpa used to say "Oh? Hi Yo"),  just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War; we are introduced to a recently orphaned young lady named, Sarah. The loss of her mother propels the child into the hands of adults who are struggling to figure out what to do with her. Thankfully, Granny Evans (a friend of her mother) steps forward to open her home to this young 'chile. It is from there, that the story really starts to unfold. There seems to be some secret Sarah is desperately trying to keep; but with the appearance of slave catchers, her hand is forced. She needs to find someone to trust the secret to, but whom? Not one to spoil a story, I will leave it at that. Well, no actually I won't.

Of course, my favorite character is Granny. She speaks and thinks like an old gal with a bunched up corset. And that is the beauty of this character. Her charm and charisma soften what could be a rather difficult time for a child who recently lost her mother. She nurtures and cares for Sarah, molding this story to the reader’s heart. That sweet old woman manages to pepper her rearing skills with "Hill Wisdom" (that talk that Hill-folk are well known for) and love-making the reader feel like they are right along side listening to her as she doles out her thoughts on things.  I have even picked up a couple new "Granny Evans" lines, that I can test out on my own children. Actually, all of the characters mesh well in this story; pulling the reader into their lives during this turbulent era in American history. Oh, and if you and your children enjoy a good yarn by listening to an  old-time radio narrative of the story-then you can download the audio version  (after purchasing the book) to enjoy over and over again.

The timing of  this review is perfect-as my teenage daughter is covering the early years of the Civil War in her history studies.  I have added  Sarah's Wish to her reading list-but alas, she is awaiting its return to our humble abode, due to it being out on loan.  Frankly, when a fellow lover of fictional history asked me if I had read any good books lately-I just had to lend it to her!  So, if you are in the midst of studying slavery and the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, or are looking for well-written fiction for your children to read (I would say upper elementary and beyond)-Sarah’s Wish fits the bill. What is quite interesting is that the author, Jim Baumgardner, based the character of Doc Baumgardner, on a real life doctor living during the story's timeline; and who also happened to be Jim’s great-great grandfather. Somehow, that makes it more personal and adds a really nice touch to this charming story. I was saddened when the book ended-I wanted to know what happened next!  Thankfully, there are now two sequels:  Sarah's Promise, and Sarah's Escape.

I cannot end the review without taking just a moment to talk about the author. I found the Mid-Western charm of Jim shining through with his extra care and attention to each purchase/order. He signs each book with the buyer's name- and adds a sticker of a butterfly-which also happens to play an important role in the story. That extra touch really points out the love the author has for his company and stories.  Now, perhaps I am a bit bias, as Jim also plays a barber in an old town museum in Wichita, KS-and seeing how my grandpa, and my great- grandpappy were barbers-I feel a bit of kinship. Or maybe it is the fact that Jim takes the time to create a company that places customer service at the top of the priority list. Whatever it is-it was a pleasure to review this story penned from this kind gentleman.

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Sarah's Webpage
Sarah's Wish
$9.99 with free shipping and handling.
Sarah's Escape: $17.50 Sarah's Promise: $13.50
The prices listed are for those buying through the author's site. Prices slightly higher from other retailers.

What’s more, Jim pens an E-newsletter you can subscribe to. I find them to be filled with great information (like the website), Jim's wit and charm and much more. I believe you will enjoy it too.

Don't forget to check out what my fellow TOS mates have to say about this and many other fine homeschool products on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

**Sarah Books provided me with the free copy of the Sarah's Wish book, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.

Monday, November 17, 2008

TOS Review: Salem Ridge Press books

As soon as I saw this review pop up on our list-I knew I would love it. I am all about reading good, quality books. The heart of the Charlotte Mason learning method is using well-written, non-twaddle literature, by authors who know and love their subject matter. It is the most important aspect to me, so I strive to keep it front and center in our schooling. What Salem Ridge press offers is just that-excellent literature from the 1800s to the early 1900s; that has been republished and edited to fit current politically correct attitudes (by that I mean, they went through and took out some of the language that by today's standards is considered rather inappropriate, made sure the illustrations were proper, and took out any "smooching and cuddling" that was mentioned, to keep them pure as well).

Salem Ridge Press is the dream child of the homeschool graduate, Daniel Mills. He had a vision to provide books that fit the Bible's standards, and the drive to see it become a reality. These delightful reprints are exactly what one needs to stock their homeschool library with stories relating to Church, World, and American History, younger children's literature, adventure and more.

The three books I received were Mary Jane-Her Book by Clara Ingram Judson (1918), The White Seneca by William Canfield (1911)and Glaucia: The Greek Slave by Emma Leslie (1874).

When I thumbed through the book to read the description of Mary Jane, I must admit- I was a bit apprehensive. I no longer have little girls in my midst, so would an active seven year old boy sit through this? We snuggled up to dive into this story of a rather well-meaning, but somewhat "Curious George-ish" type of a girl from a by-gone era. To our surprise, the story was so easy to become involved in. We thoroughly enjoyed her antics, mishaps and adventures. We almost felt ourselves being transported back to 1918. We are looking forward to purchasing the follow-up book, Mary Jane: Her Visit. I most certainly recommend this wonderful story (even if you are surrounded by rough and tumble boys-the key is to really play up the situations to get them excited and interested-besides, there are a few parts where the little boy across the street becomes "involved" in Mary Jane's shenanigans, so it isn't all girly).

If you need a great fiction-based, but historically accurate story to go along with your study of Greece; or the emergence of the new "Nazarene" religion being spread in Athens during the imprisonment of Paul, then Glaucia the Greek Slave, is it. The story is based on a a brother and sister who are to be sold into slavery to pay for their deceased father's debts (Gaulacia is, but Laon escapes), which leads to their ultimate introduction to Christianity-thus forever changing their lives. This is a good choice for Junior and Senior High students. I should think it could be a good read-aloud for upper elementary students as well. You could easily use this to lead into a study about Paul and his commission to spread the Word of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

I saved The White Seneca for last, mainly because I am a history buff and from the description on the back-I knew this would be my favorite. I was right on target with that assumption. Set in 1774, this story starts right off with the heroics of Henry, and the subsequent events that lead him to a new life with the Seneca Tribe of Upper New York. All of the erroneous information he had learned up to that point, in regard to the Indians, were beginning to be dispelled. What Henry observed and learned from his captors, ultimately helped him to not only escape imprisonment from a rival clan, but to save his family as well. Due to some of the story lines which accurately depict-without graphic detail, (but with enough information so that the reader understands what is going on) some disturbing but actual practices by the Seneca tribes of the time-I do not recommend this book be read by students younger than the 10th grade unless they have already done some study and research into this time period. I suggest that you read it first, so you can make a sound judgement call in regards to when you want your child to read this. I am saving this one for when my daughter studies American History in her Sophomore or Junior year. It is a well-written book that I feel will enhance our studies of the Native Americans' struggle with the encroachment of the white people into their territory; and the pioneer families' struggles with their Indian neighbors. There is a bit of discussion relating to the beginning of the American Revolution but the author decided to stay focused on the new life of the captive and his captors at the time.

Salem Ridge Press also added vocabulary definitions, and points of clarification on some words used in the stories. This is a wonderful help, especially since the reader does not have to stop, find the dictionary, look up the word and then come back to the reading. Overall, I am very pleased with the quality and choices available. I cannot stress enough, what a blessing this company is to the homeschooling community, and to anyone who enjoys excellent literature.

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Salem Ridge Press

Salem Ridge Books are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many fine "Mom and Pop" companies. To see a complete list go here. At Amazon: Mary Jane is listed for $12.95, Glaucia: The Greek Slave for $14.94 and The White Seneca for $14.95 as well.

Don't forget to check out my crew mate's opinion's!