Book Reviews

This book has a lot going for it. It can be used for many years, not just as an ABC primer, but for older kids who are learning alphabet correspondences as part of their pagan training. I was actually surprised at the detail in the book.

Title: A Pagan Book of ABC’s by Shanddaramon

From the introduction: “This book can help children learn more than just the alphabet, however, because it introduces concepts related to modern Paganism. Many of the words used to identify letters of the alphabet are based on Pagan principles.

The eight sabbats of the Wheel of the Year are included; as are the three celestial bodies (the sun, the moon, and the stars); the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water); the four directions or quarters (North, South, East, and West); the concept of the sacred circle; the pentagram; and the terms God and Goddess….Letters from different alphabets of interest to Pagans have been included.” (Greek, Hebrew, Theban, Futhark Runic, and Ogham -ed.)

So the text page for A looks like this:
Each text page has an accompanying picture page opposite it.

Pretty neat, huh? I found this approach novel and unique, making the book of value despite some minor flaws. What flaws?
1. The illustrations leave a lot to be desired. Kids books like this should really focus on pictures as well as words and letters. These look like poorly photoshopped photographs. Illustrations would have been a nice attention catching thing for the kids.
2. The assumptions made: about “pagans” all believing in one goddess and one god, that we all celebrate the wheel of the year sabbats, and that we all use the same names for those sabbats. If you are gonna use an umbrella term like “pagan” you need to be less specifically wiccan.

That said, I will use this book with Rowan and change a few of the words to make it work for our family. It certainly has merit that I have not found elsewhere!

I like the activities in the back of the book, aimed at older children beyond those learning their ABC’s. (Things like, “Spell your name in Greek or Theban”.) It extends the life of this book.

Another Review:
TITLE:  Home and Away, A Story of Family in a Time of War

AUTHORS:  David and Nancy French

Home and Away, written by David and Nancy French, is an honest and straightforward account of the experience of a first combat deployment.  The couple tells what it’s like when a husband and father deploys to war and the reality of military life for both the soldier and his wife and kids left behind.  David joins the Army and deploys to fulfill his duty to answer a call from God and fulfill his duty to his country.

He explains his reasons for joining the Army Reserve and how he changes as a man, husband, father, and lawyer as he undergoes becoming more of a soldier and less of a civilian.  Nancy tells us how she supported his decision and learned how to grow as a woman, wife, and mother. Set both in the Diyala Province of Iraq and a small town in Tennessee, David and Nancy simultaneously recount the toughest year of their lives.

In the fall of 2007 David deployed to Iraq as a judge advocate with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment where he learned what it means to be in a combat zone.  With a sometimes humorous and at times gravely serious tone, he talks about every aspect of deployed life – how it feels to befriend, counsel, and serve side by side with other fathers and husbands and then to experience the profound grief that comes when a good friend and comrade dies.

Using humor and sarcasm intermixed with a tone of gratitude, he also details the mundane aspects of watching the same movies over and over, getting into routines, and enjoying the little pleasures all set against the realization that each time he emailed or instant messaged with his wife might be the last.

During that year, Nancy lives in Tennessee raising their two kids, attending church and battling the demons and triumphs that come with trying to be strong, running a household, comforting kids, answering intrusive questions by well-meaning acquaintances, and humbling herself enough to ask for and accept help from friends and fellow church members.

She runs the gamut of the normal emotional cycle of deployment.  Nancy candidly talks about deployment life with humor and exudes a toughness of character every military spouse hopes she possesses when the difficult times come.  Her determined personality shines through her descriptions of the relationships and goals she develops during the deployment.

David and Nancy intersperse pre Army-life glimpses of their civilian lives, which reveal them to be a fascinating couple apart from their military experience.  In my opinion, their military experience makes them just like hundreds of thousands who’ve served, just like me, and though my husband and I have very little in common with the civilian-world French family, we share a bond that is unique to military service.

Though every military branch and deployment is different, there are certain truths that apply to every one of us who is bound by the experience of sending our husband off to war.

At times, some of the explanations are a bit lengthy and distracting, and in other areas I thought the timeline was a little confusing but overall, Home and Away gives a very accurate portrayal into military life during war with intimate detail.

Military spouses will easily identify with Nancy and will gain insight into their own soldier’s experiences and maybe even develop a better understanding and appreciation.  Service members will better understand what their spouses endure and what it’s like when we don’t hear from our husband, see his area of operations on the news, live and die with every email or lack thereof.

I tend to agree, however, with Nancy that most of the time our troubles are mere inconveniences when compared to what our husbands are going through in Iraq.

Civilians who want to learn about the typical emotional cycle of a deployment, the accounts in Home and Away give a frank account of how a civilian can morph into a soldier and how it affects everything.  The incidents, trials, and episodes that make up a year’s worth of deployment anecdotes are the same for the active duty community as well as reserve families.

The overall theme of relying on faith and community during difficult times, coping with grief, separation, relationship and communication issues, and examining the reasons why some answer the noble call to serve in the military are woven throughout Home and Away – a unique book which tells a common yet fascinating story from both perspectives.

I received a free copy of this book to review but received no financial compensation of any sort.  The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.