Recent Reads in Our Homeschool: “Middleworld” and “The Plot Chickens”

Two books that we’ve loved of late for very different reasons:

My son picked this book out himself. It’s written for kids 10 and up, but he was very intrigued by the cover. Turns out that we both enjoyed Middleworld by J&P Voelkel.

Fair warning: not every Kindergartener is going to be giddy about a teenaged boy learning about Maya culture through jungle adventures. Some parents may flinch at vivid descriptions of Maya underworld (Xibalba) and a few key characters’ ability to move between it and the living world (Middleworld)–especially if they themselves feel uncomfortable when reading texts relating to another culture or group’s spiritual beliefs. (In other words, if you won’t read either Harry Potter or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on religious grounds, then this is not the book for you.)

Yet Middleworld was perfect for us, bringing to life ancient Maya ways in a new, exciting manner. When we began reading this book, we’d just finished several weeks of intense anatomy study–his idea–so the culturally appropriate mentions of blood and mentions of human sacrifice in the book didn’t creep him out. Plus, since I read this one aloud to him, I could tweak passages that I felt were too mature for his age. Since I visited Chichen Itza as a teen and loved it–and got in trouble for bringing a graphic book on the Roman Empire to my elementary school as a kid, maybe he’s got a genetic curiosity about ancient cultures and “uncivilized” ancient life? By the way, the authors have a fantastic website that we checked out to learn more about glyphs and such.

Note that we’ve moved on to the second book in the Jaguar Stones series, which is more graphic than the first. I’m doing a lot more “editing on the fly” with it than the first one. Fortunately, the third book isn’t out yet, so we’ve got some time to mature in anticipation of it.

I picked out the other fave of the month, which is suitable for everyone:

The Plot Chickens is a great way to introduce kids to the elements of story and life as an author. The main character even has a run in with a negative review only to discover that the rewards of a writing life have little to do with the opinions of critics and more to do with the process–and devoted fans.  Henrietta, working on her Hunt and Peck brand typewriter, is endearing to all ages. Yes, this book’s illustrations are down-right precious.

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  1. That first one sounds like it’d be something fantastic to read to our six year old twins! I like to pick things from different cultures, and different eras. We have read The Rats of NIMH, The Borrowers, Anne of Green Gables… and countless shorter books. Next on the slate is Little House in the Big Woods, which should now be largely familiar to them as it’s similar to how we live LOL. I am going to have to look up this one on Mayans, though. Being an interfaith minister, I like to introduce other spiritual practices to the kids (even ones we would never ourselves practice!) because it makes them think.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I happen to personally worship the Greek Gods. It’s not all gore, really. Much of what they teach in public schools about Roman history (and earlier, Greek history) is about the ruling families but not about the actual *Roman people*. 🙂

  2. What’s really interesting about the Jaguar Stones is how they brought it into the modern world using a teenage boy who likes video games. It’s an interesting way to bring so much information into present day but still tell the ancient stories.

    In the first book, there’s a passage where one of the characters explains why ancient Maya peoples relied so heavily on sacrifice. It was insightful.

    All faiths welcome here at RW&G. It’s a secular operation, after all. =)

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