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Who Should We Then Read? Review by Nancy Casari DaytonJan Bloom
380 2nd St SE
Cokato, MN 55321
Who Should We Then Read? (WSWTR) is a useful companion for any homeschooling family looking for a guide to quality children's and juvenile authors. Understanding an author's background is helpful when you are reading and evaluating his work. And if you enjoy a book from a particular author, it is convenient to have a handy list of his other works. This volume has some other nifty helps too. This review is for the 2001 revised and expanded edition.
Most of this 340-page volume is devoted to author biographies, found in the middle of the book. To give an idea of the basic format, here is a description of the entry for Edith Nesbit on pages 182-84. The author's name is bold and in a bold box with the years of her birth and death. Books are listed in the following categories: Fiction (upper elementary through adult), the "Five Children" series, Collections, Non-Fiction (upper elementary +), Poetry, and Plays. A total of 62 titles are listed. There are a few lined spaces for notes. Then a five-paragraph biography about the author is provided. The biography contains two paragraphs about her personal life and three paragraphs about her writing. All the author entries follow this pattern; some are longer, and some are shorter. Favorite authors are marked with a smiley-face icon.
There are other resources to assist with the reading endeavor, in general.
- Where to Find Great Books suggests live, print, and Internet sources of used and reprinted favorites.
- The Care and Repair of Books offers advice for dealing with such issues as mold, water damage, insects, and general preservation efforts.
- A Guide to Resources About Authors is mostly an explanation of how Jan Bloom gathered and selected the information included in the author biographies.
- Biographical Resources is a listing of 20 volumes containing biographical information on authors.
- Author Information is a multi-page table summarizing the information in the author biography section: author and resources consulted, birth/death, special characters, type, reading level, and page where the author entry is located.
- History Overview explains sources of historical information, the storytelling aspect of history and a small list of historical authors included in this book.
- Biography Overview presents an argument of the value of reading biographies, the criteria for selecting the biographers included in the book, and the list of biographical authors.
- Fiction Overview provides a very thoughtful view on the value of reading fiction and an explanation of different types of fiction.
- Reading Level Suggestions provides a list of authors at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. A list of series is included in each level.
- Reading Interest Suggestions suggests authors for 11 different interest categories.
- The 72-page Series section is at the end of the book, after the author biographies. It contains much information from the previous edition. This information would appeal to collectors and those who simply enjoy reading every book that can be found from a series they admire. This section includes a list of Newbury and Carnegie Awards books.
In the Preface, Jan Bloom states that the purpose of the book is to introduce authors who "wrote their books during a time when the virtues we esteem as Christians were the accepted values of most of society" and "to steer parents and children to good books which enrich, enlighten, and/or entertain." I am certain her booklist contains many books that fit those criteria. However, it would be incorrect to assume that every book recommended in WSWTR espouses only Christian values and a Biblical worldview and contains nothing offensive. Jan Bloom acknowledges this, too, in her Preface.
Aesthetically, WSWTR is a portable size, 8 ½ in x 5 ½ in. The spiral binding allows the book to lay flat easily. The size of the type, though, is quite small and may prove a challenge for those, like me, who are on the cusp of requiring bifocals. The cover is of laminated cardstock.
WSWTR is a goldmine of information. If you intend to select books on the basis of the authors background or find particular value in having that information, this resource will serve you well. In skimming through the book, you are sure to discover authors with whom you would like to become acquainted. You can purchase it from www.BooksBloom.com for $19.95 plus $3.00 shipping. On the other hand, WSWTR contains so many book titles that you may find it difficult to choose from among them. Gladys Hunt's Honey for a Child's Heart booklist is much smaller (perhaps more manageable), and at $10.95 on www.amazon.com, it is less expensive. At this time, I find it easy to use Honey as a reading list from which to choose books for my preschoolers; however, I believe I will find WSWTR more useful when my children and I can discuss an author's background and how it affects his writing.
You may also find the following websites helpful as you choose books for your family:
ASLC website with information on Newbury and Caldecott Medal books:
Carnegie Award website: