Friday, October 28, 2016

Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern {Book Review & Giveaway!}

In October 1730, young Rip Van Winkle sneaks into a graveyard and comes face-to-face with the ghost of William Blaxton, the legendary first settler of Boston.  Warning Rip that the city is in danger, the ghost gives him a mysterious gift:  a pumpkin lantern with power over life and death.  Before fading into midnight, the ghost tells Rip to take the lantern to Feathertop, a mythical pumpkin-headed scarecrow.  
Pursued by Mistress Hibbing, a witch of terrifying power, and hunted by the nightmarish Midnight Minister, young Rip must rely on the aid of Jonathan Edwards, a stern and secretive preacher, and Nathaniel, a talkative, know-it-all raven.  Guided by the magical light of the lantern, Rip races across New England to find Feathertop, save Boston, and become a most unlikely hero!
Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern by Seth Adam Smith is a perfect read for Halloween!  I am not quite finished with the book yet (so I don't know how it ends!) but I wanted to get this review out there before Halloween came and went!  Here are my thoughts on the book so far...

Rip was found as a baby in a cemetery by a young couple with no children.   Crazy right?  Literally, they found Rip in an open grave, laying at the bottom, nearly dead with cold.  Pulling him out of the grave they warmed him back to life, named him Rip (as in "Rest In Peace") and raised him as their own.  What they didn't know is that was born with Rip magical powers.  He can talk to plants and they talk back!  As Rip grows, more and more adopted children join his family, and life is good.  Until the sickness arrives.  Devastated at the result the sickness has on his family Rip slips into longer performing magic and feeling directionless.

One sleepless night, Rip looks out his window to see a stranger with yellow eyes.  The stranger looks right at him and Rip feels drawn to follow.  Sneaking out of the house that night brings him back into the graveyard...  and he runs right into the ghost of William Blaxton! Blaxton gifts him with a mysterious pumpkin lantern, charging him with using the lantern to become a "light in the wilderness" and save the city of Boston from the darkness.  With the help of a preacher and a talking Raven, Rip sets out on his journey to defeat the evil Mistress Hibbins & the terrifying Midnight Minister and bring light and truth back to Boston.

This is my first time reading a fiction book by Seth Adam Smith and I have enjoyed it very much!  Pulling you into fanciful scenes with fantastic descriptive power takes the reader on the journey with Rip!  It's been hard to put down!  I can't tell you how it ends since I don't know yet, but I can tell you that I can't wait to find out!  Will Rip save Boston?  I hope so!

Seth described this book as a fable about overcoming depression and the importance of finding the "light in the wilderness."  Learn more about Seth Adam Smith by visiting his website at or on Instagram @sethadamsmith.

Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern by Seth Adam Smith can be purchased from your favorite retailer!  I am also giving away one copy to a lucky reader here at Swinging On Small Hinges.  Enter using the giveaway tools below!

Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.  Thank you so much for swinging by!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

America's Struggle to Become a Nation, Timeline of the Revolution {Homeschool Curriculum Review}

Are you looking for a simple way to teach history to your 4th-6th graders this year?  I know I am overwhelmed every year as I constantly bounce around trying to find a curriculum that I love.  Some years I think I've got it and then our homeschool evolves, my children's interests change and suddenly I am looking for something that will meet our ever-changing needs.  This year it was all about simplifying.  If you too are looking to simplify your homeschool then this new American History program published by Master Books may be just what you are looking for!

The new Timelines of the Revolution series is a 2-part set, The Fight for Freedom, Biographies of the American Revolution and America's Struggle to Become a Nation, Timeline of the Revolution.  I was given America's Struggle to Become a Nation with coordinated teacher guide to review and I'm excited to tell you all about it!  This new series, written by Rick & Marilyn Boyer of, helps students from grades 4 - 6 understand how our nation came to be.  Staunch patriots, Rick & Marilyn present American History from a Godly perspective and really help children understand the blessings of liberty and the importance of not just remembering, but treasuring, our heritage.  These 2 books are all you need to set students on the path of patriotism and a love of American history! 

The text contains 34 chapters, one for each week of the school year.  Each chapter is divided into 3 separate reading sections creating easy places to divide up the work through your week.  As you can see in the Teacher Guide, the recommended schedule is a five day per week plan, but this program lends itself to flexibility and can be used as a 4 day plan as well.  Each section includes a question/answer worksheet.

What we love about America's Struggle to Become a Nation:
-First of all the pictures are ah-mazing!  The full color illustrations throughout the book are beautiful!
-The Teachers Guide makes is super easy to figure out what each daily assignment is.  Box-checkers that we are, we love a guide that lets us check something off.  The teachers guide also allows for inputing and tracking grades if your homeschool requires that.
-Lengthy quotes dotted throughout the book serve as source documents, which is something that is challenging to find in a homeschool curriculum for children this age.
-Lessons are bite-sized allowing for great flexibility and holding your child's attention.
-Quarterly and bonus quizzes are located in the back of the teacher guide for your convenience.  This is a handy tool that can even be used orally to check for understanding.
-One of our favorite parts - each chapter includes a couple of projects to complete.  For example: memory work selections (like the pledge of allegiance), journal entries, designing posters, writing newspaper articles, building a fort, and research opportunities.
-Wait, I changed my mind, I think maybe this is our favorite part:  Uncle Rick stories are punctuated throughout the text.  And many of you already know how I feel about Uncle Rick, but if you need a refresher you can read all about the "this is my Uncle Rick too" moment here!
-The price is great!  As of this posting the America's Struggle to Become a Nation 2-book set is only $36.99 at!

Other thoughts about America's Struggle to Become a Nation:
-The curriculum is designed for grades 4-6 but my 5th grade daughter did struggle to understand the meaty concepts without help so I believe that a parent or teacher will need to treat this book as a read-aloud for students who are not strong and motivated readers.  This works great for us since we do many subjects as read-togethers still, but if you are looking for a curriculum your child can do completely independently this may not be a good fit.  Master books offers .pdf download samples of both for you to read over before deciding. 

We really enjoyed reviewing this product and I plan to keep it and use it for next year when we begin our studies in American History!  

Check our more products from Rick & Marilyn Boyer by visiting their website at!

Disclaimer:  Thank you so much to Rick & Marilyn Boyer and MasterBooks for the wonderful opportunity.  I was given this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my very own.  Thank you so much for "swinging by!"

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