Summer Reading for Students- 2017

St. Louis Cathedral and General Andrew Jackson“Once you know how to read, then it is up to you to read and read well.  A learned man, a learned lady, is someone who not only knows how to read but who has read well.  This means that you will have to spend time by yourself with books, not just with machines of various sophistications lost in horizontal relationships of the now.” —James Schall, S.J. How are we to live in this broken world, Thursday, 25 May 2017. (1)

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors…The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.” —C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism. (2)

As we prepare to open the doors of Ozark Catholic Academy in August 2018, I am pondering what could students and parents read over the summer that will begin laying the groundwork for this new adventure. This post focuses on what I would suggest students dive into if they are entering grades 7, 8, and 9 in August 2017.

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Seeing through the eyes of others or walking in their shoes, are phrases or notions that have been told to us by our parents, mostly our moms. In recent years, we’ve heard this from Everlast through the lyrics of “What It’s Like ” and more recently from Pope Francis when Roman Catholics meet sinners where they are. Opening and expanding our imagination through reading is a necessary step for us to be able to see reality for what it really is–reality.  C.S. Lewis understands that readers desire to see through the eyes of humanity, but even that is not enough for them.  For me, to walk in one’s footsteps, that is to understand or know someone, is to ask about what book he or she is reading and then be able to converse over it.

As your eyes peruse the list of books below, know that it is not meant to be “a list” but a spring board to inspire summer reading. The lists below are by no means dogmatic but do have a theme.  In Fr. James Schall, S.J.’s opening quotation a distinction is made between reading and reading well.  “Reading well” is an inference for possibly the following ideas.

First knowing how to read well, is about getting the most out of the fiction or non-fiction book you are engaged in.  An example of this, even with a novel for enjoyment, is to underline or highlight key lines that make you laugh, cry or leave you with wonder.  Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book, is the key text that can give you the tools to further enjoy what you read.

Second in Schall’s understanding of “reading well,” can be taken as reading books that are understood to be good.  Such a notion does not mean there is one list that you should read by the time you leave high school, or even pass from this life to the next.  But rather there are books that truly expand our sight or our experience by allowing us to see through the eyes of others or to walk in their shoes. The list below reflects just that. There are books worth reading that have been recently published, but perhaps the true enjoyment of such books can come about when one has read well those worthy of reading that have come before.

Of course, these books are only suggestions but I hope they will engage the imagination of students whether, it is poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. And by all means the lists below can be read and appreciated by adult readers.  Parents reading books along with their middle school or high school child is a step that we all can take and enjoy a hearty conversation over dinner, whether that dinner is around a camp fire, the beach or while visiting grandparents this summer. Just a reminder that this reading does not supersede any reading you have to do for the school you are currently attending.

Also, I know local libraries offer programs for children to read during the summer and even bookstores, like Barnes and Noble offer reading challenges to young readers.  Visit your local library or even better, a used bookstore and ask if they have such a program or that they might even begin one to bring in young readers.

Enjoy the summer and whatever adventure you have planned or those unplanned; either way, carry a book with you and you may possibly have two simultaneous adventures!

Entering Seventh Grade

  • Conan Doyle, Arthur. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • O’Dell, Scott. Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • Serraillier, Ian. The Silver Sword
  • Armstrong, William. Sounder
  • White, E.B.. Stuart Little
  • Currie, Eve. Madame Currie: A Biography
  • Alcott, Louisa May. Eight Cousins
  • Burnett, Frances Hodgeson. The Secret Garden
  • Speare, Elizabeth. The Bronze Bow
  • Fitzgerald, John. The Great Brain series
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island
  • Portis, Charles. True Grit

Entering Eight Grade

  • Stevenson, Robert Louis. Kidnapped
  • Verne, Jules. Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Wyss, J.D.. Swiss Family Robinson
  • Herriot, James. All Creatures Great and Small
  • Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life
  • L’Engle, Madeleine. The Austin Family Chronicles
  • Twain, Mark. The Prince and the Pauper
  • White, T.H. The Once and Future King
  • Morris, Willie. Good Old Boy
  • Tarkington, Booth. Penrod
  • McCullough, David. 1776
  • Orwell, George. Animal Farm
  • Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken (Young Adult Adaptation)

Entering Ninth Grade

  • Sienkiewicz, Henryk. Quo Vadis
  • Douglas, Lloyd C. The Robe
  • de Wohl, Louis. The Last Crusader: A Novel about Don Juan of Austria
  • Rawicz, Slawomir. The Long Walk
  • Austen, Jane. Emma
  • Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility
  • Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451
  • Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels
  • Sutcliff, Rosemary. Silver Branch
  • Buck, Pearl. The Good Earth
  • Lewis, C.S.. Space Trilogy Series: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra. That Hideous Strength

 

  1. http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/05/28/how-are-we-to-live-in-this-broken-world/ found on June 7, 2017.
  2. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/11/26/c-s-lewis-literature-reading-books/ found on June 8, 2017.

 

Individualism is the Enemy

With the latest Batman, Dark Knight, movies it is hard to imagine batman made into a children’s movie, that is at its base a comedy, and yet takes on tensions that have been in America since its founding and are prominent tensions even today:  Family and Friendship vs. Individualism.

There are two phrases referring to the family and community that I have heard as an adult: Edmund Burke’s “little platoon” and the then First Lady, Hillary Clinton’s book,  It Takes a Village.  With age, and possibly a little maturity, I see that both statements are true.

A few thoughts come to mind when I think of America’s ideal man, the rugged individual, whether from the movie Shane, and the even historical and somewhat mythical heroes like David Crockett and Daniel Boone, to Hunter Thompson’s Raoul Duke, Gordon Gekko, and even the Coen Brothers, the Dude. Lego Batman may begin the movie as the individual hero, alone; the movie takes on Batman having to  overcome himself.

What we see in the first Lego movie is a coming to terms of a father-son relationship and acceptance of everyone’s uniqueness through open creativity using legos not just the making the image on the box.  The  Lego world and figures are communal.  It is through Emmett’s story we see the natural desire that Emmett has to have a community and see him for what he is, which he does not even know until the end, a master builder.

Lego Batman is the ideal vigilante super hero, except he does not have even have superpowers, he is just one ultra-cool, kick-butt hero.  Two powerful scenes struck me near the beginning of the movie, the first as he is defeating the Joker, Lego Batman denies their unique hero-villian relationship, all the way to the point of stating that he, Batman does not need the Joker.  The second scene is as Lego Batman leaves the praise of the entire city of Gotham behind and returns home to his island, which it is mentioned is bits really and physical island but all a reference to an emotional island.  The fourth movie trailer #4 presents both of these scenes.

With all the one line humor stated by Lego Batman, the audience is presented with the dilemma of the movie, Lego Batman overcoming his attachment issues as we see presented as his emotional island.

With the help of his father-figure, Alfred, his newly adopted son, Richard Grayson, and his platonic friendship/co-worker/possible crush Barbara Gordon, Lego Batman confront his attachment issues in order to successfully defeat the Joker in his latest plot to destroy Gotham.

Lego Batman perhaps does not quote Burke and or Clinton, but does open up to acknowledging those around him becoming part of a family…

The movie ends with the song, “Friends are Family” with the lead vocals by Will Arnett and Jeff Lewis.

I am looking forward to the sequel…

Lego Batman…the Anticipation is Almost Over

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I have been thinking about the newly released Lego Batman since seeing the first trailer almost a year ago. Not focusing on the expense of movie tickets, but we do not go out to see all the latest and greatest, but use special occasions to take the family or a majority of the children to see a movie.

So what is the special occasion for taking the family to see Lego Batman?  That is just it…this is the Lego Batman Movie and that is enough.

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I was truly surprised by the themes and success of the the first Lego Movie.  I waited to see in the comfort our own home. As I sat down to view it with some of the children, I am sure the thought of “taking one for the team” shot across my mind.  I can say that I was beyond surprised and enthralled about the theme that “Everyone is Awesome.” Maybe because I thought we were all awesome?

The character who stole the show though…was Lego Batman!

Even at the end, in his most gracious Batman way, he lost Wild Style, aka Lucy, to Emmett.

Over the last few months as further trailers and clips have been released,

A few questions have come to mind:

  • Are the Lego Movies the next Pixar studio franchise, always a hit, always with a message?
  • Is Lego Batman the franchise for the Lego Movies or can Emmett or another character(s) hold their own in Lego Movie 2 or other spin-offs?
  • What is or are the themes for Lego Batman?

This last question I foresee there may be two themes that have come across the trailers, clips and now even seeing the song titles to the movie soundtrack that was just released as well: 1. Individualism and Friendship; 2. Subtlety of Pride and Admitting mistakes (Humility)

I am still not a betting man that the movie will overtly present these themes, but I have caught glimpses.

More than anything, I am anticipating a movie that will be enjoyable and the theater as a whole will have moments of laughter.

Requiescat In Pace, Noah Antony

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February 10, 2017- Memorial of St. Scholastica 

I begin with some thoughts about today’s feast of St. Scholastica, the sister of St. Benedict. A story often told about the two them concerns their last evening together. Once a year the two of them would come together at a house outside of the monastery in Monte Cassino. At this last meeting they passed the day in prayer and conversation. As the day came to an end, St. Scholastica implored her brother to stay and pray with her into the evening. Though he was moved by her emotion, St. Benedict insisted that the time was right for him to leave. She turned her prayers to God and fervently asked for his intercession. Our Lord responded with a thunderstorm that shook the area and lessened St. Benedict’s resolve to leave. He stayed with her and they prayed through the evening. She died only a few days later after that meeting. The story is told as an example of St. Scholastica’s great love for God.

Today, we in Northwest Arkansas had the visitation and rosary for a young man of the community, Noah Antony. He was suddenly taken from this world a week ago and tomorrow will be his funeral mass. The young vibrant life of Noah touched so many. My family and I are new to the area but we see the reach he has had among his peers at college, in high school and in his family’s faith community at St. Raphael’s and beyond. This week has begun a time of loss and suffering for his parents, siblings and family.

I mention St. Scholastica and the Antony family, because as they suffer this week and in the time to come, it is in fervent love and solid faith that they are an example to those who know them and see them in this time of grief. The love that St. Scholastica offered up to God to pray with her brother through the evening, I see in them. Even now in their time of grief, they are offering such similar prayers of faith that show a profound love for God.

May we, their friends and family, truly offer up prayers for them and the soul of Noah with the purity and fervor of St. Scholastica tonight, tomorrow and the days to come. Let us ask our Lord to grant them peace and the Blessed Virgin Mary to embrace them as she did the infant Jesus, wrapping him in swaddling clothes to keep Him warm and close to her heart.

Requiescat In Pace

Obituary

Legacy

Catholic Schools Week, the Afterword

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February 3, 2017- Memorial of St. Blasé

For me, the week has been filled with a number of different activities celebrating Catholic Schools Week, both as a parent and in founding Ozark Catholic Academy.

I began the week releasing a short video celebrating Catholic Schools Week.  I would like to thank Trolly Line Bookstore for allowing us to film the video inside their store.  As we filmed in the a nook which was categorized as poetry and classics,  I did leave with three books in hand: One Man’s Meat by E.B. White, a hardcover novel by Dr. Samuel Johnson– Detector, and a hardcover of Henry Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis.

St. Vincent de Paul, in Rogers, and St. Joseph, in Fayetteville, both had school masses where students in uniform came together and participated in mass in numerous ways. At St. Vincent de Paul, board members had a table with our brochures. As parishioners left mass, they were handed the bookmarks we created for them this week. Many small conversations took place and the bookmarks were well received.

At St. Joseph’s in Fayetteville, they had the school mass at 9:00am followed by an Open House for the school.  I manned a table after the 9:00am and 11:30am mass in the narthex and handed out bookmarks as well.  Fr. Jason Tyler announced at the end of each mass that I was present in the back to answer questions concerning the high school. Parishioners were warm in their comments and thoughts and openly received bookmarks. Probably the most voiced comment from people was that they were glad to hear the high school was happening and have always been interested in having one. I stayed for the beginning of the 1:30pm Mass in Spanish and greeted parishioners as they were entering church.

One conversation with a mother focused on the importance of teachers and how her children’s teachers had really made a difference in their lives. But, she said that something was missing even then—it was not within a Catholic context. Meaning that she thought as good and personal as those teachers were, if their teacher-student relationship had happened within a Catholic school, the possibility of their relationship could have been even more rooted in Christ. She expressed her happiness about a Catholic high school coming, and she hoped her youngest daughter would be able to attend.

In the early afternoon, we published our latest video celebrating Catholic Schools Week.  I hope that if you have not had a chance to view it, you will.

Later this afternoon, the St. Joseph’s and St. Vincent ’s 5th and 6th grade basketball teams are competing against each other. OCA will host a few competitions during halftime. The winners will receive the very first Ozark Catholic Academy t-shirts. We hope to post pictures and short videos on our FB and web pages later this weekend.

Here is a link to my talk on St. Thomas More presented at St. Stephen’s on January 23, 2017.

In celebration of Catholic Schools Week, here is a link to all the images that were created to visually present, “Why a Catholic Education?”

My sincere thanks to Mrs. Katie Harris who has volunteered to help with the videos, audios, and images created for our social media.

Thomas More: A Man in the World, Rooted in Family

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On the evening of January 23, 2017 I was able to give talk on St. Thomas More at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Bentonville, AR.

Here is the audio split into two parts: the talk and the Q & A.

Talk

Q & A