Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: The Wise Woman

Reading is a key that unlocks so many doors, and learning to read and understand well will help anyone grow as a person. Reading is a constant feeding of the mind.  We recently had the opportunity to review The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions from the Home School Adventure Co. This is a book that is not only an entertaining story, but also a journey of sorts, leading the reader down a path of self examination through the probing questions of the Literary Analysis Journal.

For our review we received a pdf copy of the book - written by George MacDonald, with the Literary Analysis Journal Questions authored by Stacy Farrell. This book is 160 pages long divided into 14 chapters. At the end of each chapter, there are a few pages containing questions pertinent to that chapter. There are about 15-25 questions per chapter. While some of the questions are 'comprehension' type questions regarding the particular chapter they represent, most are insightful questions that really cause the reader to dig down deep, examine themselves, put themselves in the place of the characters, searching their own heart for the true answers to the questions. This can be a bit painful, as the story line is one to cause much self examination while you relate to the woeful characters in the story, and see yourself and your own shortcomings in their mistakes.

What is the story line? This book contrasts two main characters - spoiled little girls, in a fairy tale or allegorical setting. One is the unrestrained princess daughter of doting and indulging royalty parents, and the other is a simple country girl that is the daughter of a proud, simple, hardworking country shepherd and his wife. Both girls are the only child in their family, yet that is where their similarities stop. To look at them from the outside, one would seem overtly rebellious and ornery, while the other kind, good, and submissive. It takes some harsh circumstances and an old Wise Woman to reveal that both are corrupt to their very core, with hearts full of pride and arrogance.

What does this teach me? As a mother reading this book, I must admit that there were many times I admired the wisdom of the old woman, as her 'tough love' sought to bring both little girls to a place of genuine repentance and acknowledgement of their true selves, as wretched as they were. There was a lot of good parenting advice woven into this story. There was quite a bit of imagination and adventure as well.

What types of questions are there? I feel that the questions probe into the heart of the reader. It's as if the Wise Woman is reaching out from the story and trying to bring the reader to the same point of self examination as the characters in the book.

What else is there besides the questions? There is a fine vocabulary guide in the back of the book, that lists some of the more difficult words, and gives a place for the student to write in the definitions for those words. Also, the Home School Adventure Co. offers free sample pages for you to look over and get a feel for the type of writing, vocabulary, and questions that are available in this book.

What are the suggested ages for this book? This book is recommended for ages 9-11 as a family read along with their parents, or for ages 12 and up (high school age) to read and work through the Literary Analysis Journal on their own. I truly believe this is best utilized for children to work through the Journal part with their parents, using the questions as a springboard for teachable character moments.

Our own personal opinion: I read this book on my own and as a parent, I found it very convicting. I saw myself plenty of times in both sets of parents - both the indulgent ones and the proud ones. It served as a great warning for me to amend some of my ways, so that my children do not suffer the same deep seated character issues in their lives as the little girls did. I felt the story line started slow, and at first, it was hard to really settle in to the book, but once it arrested my attention, it was hard to put down.

My children's opinion was that the book has very descriptive characters and a very interesting story line, but they found the book quite wordy, and thought there were too many metaphors that cluttered the story.  The book seemed to kind of 'drag on' and they thought the story and its corresponding lessons could have been taught in a simpler and more concise manner.  The younger girls (ages 8 & 12) had a hard time understanding what was meant by some of the questions, and I had to do quite a bit of rewording to help them answer the questions in our discussions. They are still more concrete in their thinking, and had a hard time answering some of the more abstract questions.

Overall, I think I would actually recommend this book to mothers mostly, as I think it could make a fine devotional to help them see the end result when some behaviors are allowed to continue and grow, molding a child's character. I do think, with some guidance and discussion, that children can also learn to examine their own hearts and lives through the instruction given in this book as well.

How much does it cost? There is a spiral bound print edition currently selling for $28.95, and a digital download edition (like what I read) that sells for $14.95. From now until May 15, Home School Adventure Co. is offering 10% off all digital downloads. This includes "Philosophy Adventure", "Philippians in 28 Weeks", and the "Mere Christianity Literary Analysis Journal". If you would like to know more about these other products and see how members of the Crew used them, click the banner below to read lots more reviews!

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