Wednesday, July 5, 2023

An Open Book: June 2023 Reads

 It's time for another literature round-up! I'm linking up with An Open Book to chat about the books that got me through June. Shockingly, almost every book I picked up was fiction-and some of them were really fantastic. Let's dive in! 

The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite De Angeli

Somehow, I never read this classic when I was a kid (though I had heard about it), and since my oldest child has been learning about the medieval world, I wanted to pick this up to see if he would like it. The story is about Robin, a boy who is left at home alone when his father goes off to war and his mother has gone to help the queen. Robin gets sick and becomes crippled, and since the plague is taking down people right and left, he's all alone. One day, though, a monk comes and takes Robin under his wing. Robin learns how to swim, carve wood, and slowly regain his strength-and eventually discovers how he can serve the King's cause, even with his physical limitations. This was a beautiful, fun story, and I'm excited to share it with my kids! 

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Axl and Beatrice are an elderly married couple who live in a village in Saxon England. A mysterious mist has fallen over the land, and its been slowly taking away memories. Axl and Beatrice decide to travel as they look for their son, who they haven't seen in a long time. They meet all sorts of interesting characters and do lots of reflecting on their marriage, the tensions within England, and memory. This is a thoughtful, slow book, and I thought it was really beautiful (reviews on it seem to be quite mixed, though-people either seem to love it or hate it). I also really love that it focused on a married couple. This will be a good one to reread and soak in more, I think. 

Mothering by the Book, by Jennifer Pepito

In this book, which seems like its part devotional, part memoir, part homeschooling encouragement, Pepito reflects on different fears that have overwhelmed her in motherhood. Then, she describes how the practice of reading aloud children's literature helped her to move through those fears. I tore through this book, and even if I didn't fully relate to all of her experiences (she talks a lot about the time their family lived in Mexico, and I've never been there) a lot of this resonated with me as a fellow homeschooling mom. Not everything in this book clicked with me, but overall I really enjoyed it-and she has some great book recommendations in here, too!

Thistlefoot, by GennaRose Nethercott

In modern-day America, Isaac Yaga and Bellatine Yaga, long estranged siblings, are brought together when they receive an inheritance gift from an ancestor in Russia: a house on chicken legs. But that's not the only thing that has arrived; a mysterious villain, the Longshadow Man, has followed the house in close pursuit, leaving destruction everywhere he walks. This book is part Russian folklore, part Jewish history, and part horror, and it was a lot of fun to read! I was very annoyed when two completely unnecessary LGBT plotlines were thrown in, and that soured the experience for me a bit. Otherwise, this was an enjoyable read and the writing was absolutely gorgeous. 

REREAD: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

This book was a "bedtime reread," and it continues to be delightful. The story follows Cassandra, a teenage girl who lives in a crumbling castle in 1930s England with her eccentric family. Cassandra grapples with creativity, first love, friendship, and poverty as she unpacks life within the pages of her journal. It is a fun coming-of-age story, with some sad/heavy parts (spoiler, but I think its sad to see where Stephen winds up). There's also a handful of sexual references in here, so I probably wouldn't give this to a young teen, but I'm excited to share it with my daughters when they are quite a bit older! 

My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok

Asher Lev is a young boy in a devout Jewish community in 1950s New York. One day, he begins drawing, and discovers that he has a gift and a love for art. However, as Asher explores this talent, he realizes that not all in his religious community see his gift as something he should develop--especially when he wades into blasphemous territory. This was a fascinating book with so many thought-provoking themes and characters. Foremost, there's the topic of art, blasphemy, and religious practice. I was also struck by the marriage between Asher's parents, and the work that his father does for the Rebbe, their spiritual leader-good and important work, but work that takes Asher's dad away from their home for long periods of time. There's also the topic of nudity in art, and as I read a scene that portrays a nude model, I kept thinking of St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body. This was a fascinating book, and it is so good-even when I question what some of the characters decide to do, it is thoughtful and respectful and the story is beautiful (and timeless). I can definitely see this novel as one that offers different lessons each time you come back to its pages. 

The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, retold from the Howard Pyle original by Tania Zamorsky

On my continued hunt for medieval literature, a friend whose kids attend a Classical school mentioned this to me for my oldest. Since I never actually read any of the King Arthur legends as a child, I was excited to pick this up. It was a fun read, and I like how many different stories are included in here. The prose was not quite as eloquent or polished as I had hoped, unfortunately. Still, it seems like a decent introduction to the King Arthur stories for a young elementary school student. 

Thanks so much for joining me this month! If you have any recommendations (especially for Medieval literature for kids), please drop them in the comments! 


  1. Wow, I forgot about I Capture the Castle! I might need to read that one again as well. I remember loving everything about it other than the ending.

  2. Have you thought of any of the Rosemary Sutcliff books
    and those by Henry Treece

    I don't think my local public library service would have many of them as they would be regarded as dated but all were good reads

    1. Thanks so much for the recommendations, Karna! I picked up a rosemary Sutcliff books years ago, but never actually finished it-I should revisit her works! I've never heard of Henry Treece's books; those look fantastic!

  3. Thanks for linking up again this month to An Open Book! My Name is Asher Lev sounds like a really thoughtful book. I skimmed over the author's biography on Goodreads, in he sounds like an interesting man. He didn't live too far from me at the time of his death, in Eastern Pennsylvania.

    1. Oh, that is interesting to know about the author! It is such a small world, isn't it? I hope you enjoy the book if you pick it up! I think it's definitely going to make it on my list of "notable reads" for the year; it is a deeply thoughtful book, and I'm kind of surprised I didn't hear about it until recently!