In the Book Basket

October 9, 2007 @ 11:35 pm | Filed under: , ,

Jane is reading some of the books on the House of Education’s Year 7 list this fall. House of Education, in case you don’t know, is the upper-grades companion to Ambleside Online. I’ve been drawing heavily from Ambleside’s booklists since Jane was five years old. Beanie, six and a half, is making the acquaintance of some of Jane’s old friends this year: The Blue Fairy Book (my childhood copy, actually, fearfully dogeared and dearly loved), Just So Stories, Nesbit’s Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children. Writing these titles makes me almost giddy: I love this literature; I love living these books with my girls.

One of the HOE books Jane is reading—and I too, for it was new to me, and I’m doing my best to pace her these days—is H. E. Marshall’s English Literature for Boys and Girls. The stodgy title belies the fun inside this book. Marshall is the author of Our Island Story, a fat and lively rendering of the history of England, through which my girls and I have been slowly making our way in fits and starts, for oh, at least two years now. I enjoy Marshall’s narrative style: the colorful character sketches, the dramatic flair, the occasional intrusions of a twinkle-in-the-eye authorial voice. I’m encountering that same amiable voice in the English lit book, which makes my ‘homework’ a most enjoyable pastime.

Of course, by opening the book with several chapters about Irish and Scottish legends, Marshall had me at hello. Jane writes out most of her narrations these days, but I asked her to tell me the story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley (chapter two of Marshall’s book) for the fun of seeing how well she could spin a yarn. She did a bang-up job, with all the little embellishments that rope a listener in. I don’t know which one of us enjoyed it more: there’s a great satisfaction in telling a tale well, and an immense delight in being treated to a tale well told. We’ll have to do this more often. I needn’t be the only storyteller around here.

Both the Marshall books I mentioned (and a good many others) are available for free downloading (chapter by chapter) at The Baldwin Project, a site about which I have raved before. Some of them can be ordered in inexpensive hard-copy editions as well.

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8 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Kathryn says:

    I have an old copy of English Literature for Boys and Girls I picked up a few years ago. Think I’ll have to take it down off the shelf and read it myself.

    Did you know H.E.Marshall also wrote an English history book aimed at a younger audience than Our Island Story … Kings and Things. It races along at a great pace, albeit with an Over Use of Capitals. I suspect Beanie might enjoy it. I know it has been republished recently in the UK by Galore Park (

  2. Jennifer says:

    What a great post! I’ve been eyeing Our Island Story for months.

  3. Wendy in VA (now in MD) says:

    Yay! We ordered English Literature for Boys and Girls last week for Grace. Now I’m *really* looking forward to it. :o)

  4. Eileen says:

    My just-turned-8yo is an excellent reader, and this is the first year I’ve struggled to identify good books for her to read on her own, that aren’t “too old” in terms of content. (I wish I were better-read myself!!) I had forgotten about Ambleside’s list, and I didn’t even realize there was an “older extension” list available–I am very excited to check it out!

    The hardest part of homeschooling, I think, is having to “reinvent the wheel” at every level–and I refuse to do the “pre-packaged” thing, so it’s my own fault, I guess. (But then, it’s also the part I find most invigorating, if only I had more time!!)

    I’m so impressed with what you accomplish with your children, and the easy-going way it all seems to fall together. Thanks for taking the time to detail what you’re doing–it helps immensely!


  5. patience says:

    I can relate so well to feeling giddy over the thought of sharing wonderful literature with your children!

    We love both of Marshall’s books. I am aware they are not perfectly accurate, but that matters less than the enjoyment my child gets from them (since I know where they’ve missed some facts, and I can fill them in.) I have groused in the past about inaccuracies in Story of the World, and will never use it because of that, but somehow it is different with Marshall, lol!

    And I agree that Ambleside is a wonderful resource, for booklists if nothing else, and Baldwin Project is my favourite site ever.

  6. Jane Ramsey says:

    I love the Ambleside booklists!

  7. Jennifer in OR says:

    I need to come here more often! Thank you for the link to the Baldwin Project – WOW, what a find.

  8. Meredith says:

    HE Marshall continues to captivate our gang too, myself included!! I think I’ll check out the one Kathryn mentions for my younger guys, although my 5yo regulary asks for OIS as one of his RAs!! Isn’t it a blast to learn right along side our children, the storytelling sounds wonderful Lissa, a girl after your own heart for sure 🙂