6/2018 Home School Book Review news

Home School Book Review Blog (https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com/ ) is the place to go for over 3,500 book reviews, primarily of children’s and youth literature both old and new, from a Biblical worldview.

Books reviewed in May of 2018 include:

May 31, 2018–Sermon Design and Delivery

May 30, 2018–The Westing Game: A Puzzle Mystery

May 29, 2018–Speaking for the Master: A Study of Public Speaking for Christian Men

May 28, 2018–How to Prepare an Expository Sermon

May 27, 2018–On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons

May 25, 2018–New Land: A Novel for Boys and Girls

May 23, 2018–Black Rock: A Tale of the Selkirks

May 21, 2018–The Winter Room

May 18, 2018–Wonder

May 12, 2018–Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears

May 8, 2018–Tod of the Fens

May 2, 2018–Common Sense Preaching

The winner of our Book of the Month Award for May, 2018:


Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Books we are currently reading and will review in the near future are:

Spurt by by Chris Miles

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald

The Boy and His Curse by Michael Philip Mordenga

Remember https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com/


Sod Schoolhouse Near Alva, OK

sod schoolhouse

Sod Schoolhouse

Near Alva, OK

Woods County is located in the northwestern part of the state of Oklahoma. It is named after Samuel Newitt Wood, a renowned Kansas populist.  The county seat is Alva, which is located along the Salt Fork Arkansas River.  Northwestern Oklahoma State University is located in Alva.  The old photo shows a teacher and children out in front of a sod schoolhouse near Alva in Woods Co., Oklahoma Terr., ca. 1895.




Edmund Rubbra and the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra


Charles Edmund Duncan Rubbra (May 23, 1901 – February 14, 1986) was a British composer, who composed both instrumental and vocal works for soloists, chamber groups, and full choruses and orchestras, was greatly esteemed by fellow musicians, and reached the peak of his fame in the mid-20th century. Rubbra was born on May 23, 1901, at Semilong in Northampton, England. He was the brother of the engineer Arthur Rubbra. His parents encouraged him in his music, but they were not professional musicians, though his mother had a good voice and sang in the church choir, and his father played the piano a little, by ear. Rubbra’s artistic and sensitive nature was apparent from early on.  He took piano lessons from a local lady with a good reputation. His uncle owned a piano and music shop.

In 1912, Rubbra moved with his family a little more than quarter of a mile away to Kingsthorpe, moving again four years later so that his father could start his own business selling and repairing clocks and watches.  Rubbra started composing while he was still at school. One of his masters, Mr. Grant, asked him to compose a school hymn. He would have been very familiar with hymn tunes, as he attended a Congregational church and played the piano for the Sunday School. He also worked as an errand boy whilst he was still at school, giving some of his earnings to his parents to help with their finances.    At the age of 14, he left school and started work in the office of Crockett and Jones, one of Northampton’s many boot and shoe manufacturers. Later, he took a job as a correspondence clerk in a railway station. In his last year at school he had learned shorthand, which was an ideal qualification for this post. He also continued to study harmony, counterpoint, piano and organ, working at these things daily, before and after his clerk’s job.

Rubbra’s early forays into chamber music composition included a violin and piano sonata for himself and his friend, Bertram Ablethorpe, and a piece for an excellent local string quartet. He used to meet with the keen, young composer, William Alwyn, who was also from Northampton, to compare notes.  Rubbra was deeply affected by a sermon he heard given by a Chinese Christian missionary, Kuanglin Pao. He was inspired to write Chinese Impressions – a set of piano pieces, which he dedicated to the preacher. This was the beginning of a lifelong interest in things eastern.  At the age of 17, Rubbra decided to organize a concert devoted entirely to Cyril Scott’s music, with a singer, violinist, cellist, and himself on the piano, at the Carnegie Hall, in Northampton Library. This proved to be a very important decision, which would change his life. The minister from Rubbra’s church attended the concert, and secretly sent a copy of the program to Cyril Scott.

The result of this was that Scott took Rubbra on as a pupil. Rubbra was able to obtain cheap rail travel because of his job with the railway, so he was able to get to Scott’s house by train, paying only a quarter of the usual fare. After a year or so, Rubbra gained a scholarship to University College, Reading. Gustav Holst became one of his teachers there. Both Scott and Holst had an interest in eastern philosophy and religion, inspiring Rubbra to have further interest in the subject.  Holst also taught at the Royal College of Music and advised Rubbra to apply for an open scholarship there. His advice was followed and the place was secured. Before Rubbra’s last term at the Royal College, he was unexpectedly invited to play the piano for the Arts League of Service Travelling Theatre on a six-week tour of Yorkshire, since their usual pianist had been taken ill. He accepted this offer despite its meaning he missed his last term. This provided him with invaluable experience in playing and composing theatre music which he never regretted and which stood him in good stead for his later dramatic work. Rubbra’s songs are not well known, but they spanned his whole composing lifetime: Rosa Mundi, Op. 2, was the first published, in 1921.   In the mid-1920s Rubbra used to earn money playing for dancers from the Diaghilev Ballet. At around this time he became firm friends with Gerald Finzi.  The vast majority (42 of 59 works) of Rubbra’s choral works have religious or philosophical texts, in keeping with his interest in these subjects. His first choral work was his Op. 3, written in 1924.  Although Rubbra was a fine pianist, his works for solo piano occupy only a minor part of his output. He did, however, write a great diversity of chamber music, throughout his career. He considered that his Violin Sonata, Op. 31, which he wrote in 1932, was the first of his compositions to be taken seriously in the musical world. His First String Quartet was composed only a year later.

In 1933 Rubbra married Antoinette Chaplin, a French violinist. They toured Italy together, as well as giving recitals in Paris and radio broadcasts. They had two sons, Francis and Benedict.  In 1933, he wrote a one-act opera, still in manuscript, which he originally called Bee-bee-bei, but renamed The Shadow. It reflects his interest in the East, as it is set in Kashmir.   It was not until 1937 that Rubbra’s first symphony was completed. Symphonies Nos. 2, 3 and 4 followed in quick succession, the fourth being completed in March 1942.  Rubbra is also well known for his 1938 orchestration of Johannes Brahms’s piano work Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel.   In 1941, Rubbra was called up for army service. After 18 months he was given an office post, again because of his knowledge of shorthand and typing. While he was there, he ran a small orchestra assisted by a double-bass player from the BBC orchestra. The War Office asked him to form a piano trio to play classical chamber music to the troops. Rubbra was happy to oblige, and the trio, with William Pleeth the cellist, Joshua Glazier violinist, and himself on the piano, took six months acquiring a repertoire of chamber music. “The Army Classical Music Group” was formed and later expanded to seven people.  They travelled all over England and Scotland and then to Germany, with their own grand piano.  After the war, Rubbra became a Roman Catholic, writing a special mass in celebration, the Missa Sancti Dominici, Op. 66.   The Cello Sonata of 1946 was dedicated to William Pleeth (the cellist in The Army Classical Music Group) and his wife.

For a long time Rubbra was not satisfied with his first string quartet, although Ralph Vaughan Williams was very interested in it. Finally he thoroughly revised it, and published it in 1946, with an inscription to Vaughan Williams, and destroyed the original finale.  Three other string quartets followed at long intervals.   His Fifth Symphony was started in August 1947.   Also at this time, the University of Oxford was forming a faculty of music. They invited Rubbra to be a lecturer there. After much thought, he accepted the post. From 1947 to 1968 Rubbra was a lecturer at the Music Faculty and a Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford. The army trio kept meeting, playing at clubs and broadcasting, for a number of years, but eventually Rubbra was too busy to continue with it.   It is a measure of the high esteem in which Rubbra was held in the 1940s, that his Sinfonia Concertante and his song Morning Watch were played alongside such works as Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, Kodály’s Missa Brevis and Vaughan Williams’s Job, at the 1948 Three Choirs Festival.   When Vaughan Williams heard that the University of Durham was going to confer an Honorary D.Mus. on Rubbra in 1949, he wrote him a very short letter.

In 1952, Rubbra received a request from the BBC to write a piece for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The result was Ode to the Queen, for voice and orchestra, to Elizabethan words.  In connection with the same celebration, he was invited by Benjamin Britten to contribute to a collaborative work, a set of Variations on an Elizabethan Theme. He initially accepted, but later withdrew; Britten then asked Arthur Oldham and Humphrey Searle to take his place. The sixth and seventh symphonies followed in 1954 and 1957.  All three of his works for brass instruments were commissioned. One of them, Variations on “The Shining River,” was a test piece for the Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, 1958, held in the Royal Albert Hall.  He also orchestrated Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G minor, though when this was recorded by Frederick Fennell and the London Pops Orchestra in 1959 for Mercury, he was not given due credit on the LP sleeve or label.

On Rubbra’s retirement from Oxford in 1968, he did not stop working; he merely took up more teaching at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where his students included Michael Garrett and Christopher Gunning. Neither did he stop composing. Rubbra’s last four symphonies show a change of approach. These symphonies were composed between 1968 and 1979.  Rubbra’s Second Piano Trio, Op. 138, was first performed by the members of The Army Classical Music Group, who got together again especially for this performance in 1970, though Glazier had now been replaced by Gruenberg.  Fly Envious Time, Op. 148, was his last song, in 1974, being inscribed “in Memoriam Gerald Finzi.”   The last string quartet was written in 1977 in memory of Bennett Tarshish, a young American admirer of Rubbra’s work, who died in his thirties.  His last choral work was Op. 164, written in 1984, only two years before his death. He also wrote for children’s voices and madrigals, as well as producing masses and motets, including the Nine Tenebrae Motets, Op. 72, setting the Responsories for Maundy Thursday in an intensely dramatic manner.   Indeed, he kept up this activity right until the end of his life. He had, in fact, started a 12th Symphony in March 1985, less than a year before his death in Gerrards Cross on February 14, 1986. Rubbra’s last work was his Sinfonietta for large string orchestra, Op. 163, which was commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra of New York, for performance in 1986, as part of the tricentennial celebrations of the founding of New York. This work was dedicated to Rubbra’s sons, Adrian and Julian, and received excellent press reviews.

Rubbra did not base his composition on formal rules, preferring to work from an initial idea and discover the music as he composed. His style is more concerned with the melodic lines in his music than with the chords, and this gives his music a vocal feel. He found his method of composition, working from a single melodic idea and letting the music grow from that, to be very exciting.  The most famous of his pieces are his eleven symphonies. Although he was active at a time when many people wrote twelve-tone music, he decided not to write in this idiom himself. Instead he devised his own distinctive style. His later works were not as popular with the concert-going public as his previous ones had been, although he never lost the respect of his colleagues. Therefore, his output as a whole is less celebrated today than would have been expected from its sheer merit and from his early popularity.

My collection includes the following works by Edmund Rubbra:

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, op. 103 (1959).

Improvisation for Violin and Orchestra, op. 89 (1956).

Improvisations on Virginal Pieces of Giles Farnaby, op. 50 (1939).

Taking Down Atheists’ “Treaty of Tripoli” Argument

Interesting–and educational–information from my friend Bill Federer:

Bill Federer recounts logic behind incendiary ‘America is not a Christian nation’ verbiage

The Treaty of Tripoli is of particular interest as secularists attempt to use its wording as a definitive expression of the intent of America’s founders regarding religion and government.

An in-depth examination, though, may prove this untenable.

In March of 1785, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met in France with Tripoli’s ambassador Abdrahaman regarding Muslim Barbary pirates attacking and capturing American ships in the Mediterranean and imprisoning American sailors. Jefferson asked what the new nation of the United States had done to provoke Muslims.

Read more at:


Gordon Jacob and his Symphonies


Gordon Percival Septimus Jacob (July 5, 1895 – June 8, 1984) was an English composer who is best known for his compositions for wind band and his instructional texts.  Born on July 5, 1895, in London, England, the youngest of ten siblings, Jacob was educated at Dulwich College in South London, England. His career almost ended before it began. He enlisted in the Field Artillery to serve in World War I when he was 19. The vagaries of war pushed him into the infantry, in the trenches in the front line. He was taken prisoner of war in 1917, and was one of only 60 men in his battalion of 800 to survive. He amused himself and his fellow POWs by forming a small prison camp “orchestra” of any instruments they could muster, and arranging music for it. At this period he received the news that his brother Anstey, who had enlisted with him, had died on the Somme, and this he commemorated some years later in his first Symphony.

After being released Jacob spent a year studying journalism, but left to study composition, theory, and conducting at the Royal College of Music. Because of his cleft palate and a childhood hand injury, his instrumental abilities were limited; he studied piano but never had a performing career. Jacob’s first major successful piece was composed during his student years: the William Byrd Suite for orchestra, after a collection of pieces for the virginals. It is better-known in a later arrangement for symphonic band. While a student Jacob was asked by Ralph Vaughan Williams to arrange the latter’s English Folk Song Suite for full orchestra.  He taught at the Royal College of Music from 1924 until his retirement in 1966. Malcolm Arnold, John Bevan Baker, Frank Bury, Ruth Gipps, Imogen Holst, Cyril Smith, Philip Cannon, Pamela Harrison and Robert Turner were among his students.
In the 1930s Jacob, along with several other young composers, wrote for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company (now The Royal Ballet). His one original ballet, Uncle Remus, was written for them, but most of his contributions were arrangements of established works, such as Les Sylphides, for which his version remains in use, though the rival orchestration by Roy Douglas has been more often recorded for disc.  Jacob also contributed light music to a morale-boosting comedy radio show during World War II, which earned him the appreciation of the public but the disdain of the musical elitists. He also wrote music for several propaganda films. In the 1940s he was commissioned, on the recommendation of Sir Adrian Boult, to orchestrate Elgar’s Organ Sonata.

Jacob became a Fellow of the Royal College in 1946, and throughout his career often wrote pieces for particular students and faculties.  The height of his renown was in the 1950s, during which his Music for a Festival was used for the 1951 Festival of Britain, and his trumpet-heavy fanfare arrangement of the National Anthem was used for the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  Later ballet scores arranged by Jacob include Mam’zelle Angot, (based on Charles Lecocq’s music, which remains in the repertoire of the Royal Ballet) and, in 1958, London Morning, composed for the London Festival Ballet by Noël Coward and orchestrated by Jacob.

There is a 1959 BBC documentary about his life, Gordon Jacob, directed by Ken Russell.  After his retirement from the Royal College in 1966, Jacob continued to support himself by composing, often on commission.     Jacob was one of the most musically conservative of his generation of composers. Though he studied with Vaughan Williams and Stanford at the Royal College, Jacob preferred the more austere Baroque and Classical models to the Romanticism of his peers, and stuck to this aesthetic even in the face of the trends toward atonality and serialism.  This conservatism later caused his works to fall out of fashion when the 1960s establishment favored the avant-garde. Jacob held the movement in little regard.   He was a skilful writer for winds, and a good deal of his present-day reputation is because he embraced the wind band, which had begun coming into its own as a concert ensemble. Additionally, he published solo and chamber literature at various levels of difficulty for nearly all the wind instruments, many of which are now standard items in the pedagogical and performing repertoires.

Jacob was prolific, publishing over 400 pieces of music in addition to four books and numerous essays on music.  He wrote an important number of works for oboe, including two concerti, one Sonata for oboe and piano, one Sonatina for oboe and cembalo, an oboe quartet and some music for students.  He described many of the works as “unpretentious little pieces,” though some of his most important works were published during this time, including his Concerto for Timpani and Wind Band in 1984.  Jacob married twice, once in 1924 to Sydney Gray, who died in 1958, and again in 1959, to her niece Margaret Gray. He had two children by Margaret, who was 42 years his junior. He died in Saffron Walden, England, on June 8, 1984.

The following works by Gordon Jacob are contained in my collection:

Symphony No. 1 (1929).

Symphony No. 2 (1945).

Home Is Where the Classroom Is…

Home Is Where the Classroom Is…
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update, May 31, 2018

[Here is a message just sent from Family Research Council.]

There’s a lot to dislike about many public schools — and right now, student safety is at the top of the list. “After a gunman opened fire on students in Parkland, Florida,” a new Washington Times feature explains, “the phones started ringing at the Texas Home School Coalition, and they haven’t stopped yet.”

Like so many state organizations, the Texas organization was used to a certain number of inquiries about homeschooling. President Tim Lambert says they usually averaged about 600 calls a month – a number he watched double over the past several weeks. “When the Parkland shooting happened, our phone calls and emails exploded. And they’re not alone.

Read it online here:


Friedrich von  Flotow and his Piano Concerti


Friedrich Adolf Ferdinand Freiherr von Flotow (April 27, 1812 –January 24, 1883) was a German composer who is chiefly remembered for his opera Martha, which was popular in the 19th century and the early part of the 20th.  Flotow was born into an aristocratic family on April 26, 1812,  at Teutendorf in Mecklenburg, near Lübeck, then part of French Empire but now in Germany.  Originally intended for a diplomatic career, Flotow was French-trained and from age 16  studied music at the Conservatoire in Paris with Anton Reicha.  During this time came under the influence of Auber, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Donizetti, Halévy, and later Gounod and Offenbach. These influences are reflected in his operas, where a distinctive French opéra comique flavour exists. Forced to leave Paris during the July Revolution of 1830, he went home but returned to Paris in 1831.

Flotow completed his first opera in 1835, Pierre et Cathérine, and in 1837 he produced a first, brief version of the opera Alessandro Stradella, which later, in its complete form, enjoyed great success.  However, his breakthrough came in 1839 when he collaborated with Albert Grisar and Auguste Pilati on Le naufrage de la Méduse (“The Wreck of the Medusa,” 1839), based on the wreck of the warship Méduse. Between 1840 and 1878 he produced 19 light operas.  The three-act romantic opera Alessandro Stradella of 1844 is recognized as one of Flotow’s finer works. Martha, composed to a German libretto, was first staged in Vienna at the Theater am Kärntnertor on November 25, 1847, and soon became one of the best-loved of all operas.

Martha was subsequently heard in translation in many European cities. One of its numbers, in the English version, is “The Last Rose of Summer.” Appealing in its melodic charm, Martha won a lasting place in the operatic repertory.   Flotow also wrote ballets for the court theatre at Schwerin, of which he served as Intendant or director from 1855 to 1863, and incidental music for William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.  For most of his last years he lived in either Paris or Vienna, and he had the satisfaction of seeing his operas mounted as far away as Saint Petersburg and Turin. He died on Jan. 24, 1883, at Darmstadt, Germany.

In all, Flotow wrote about 30 operas. Many of these works were performed in different versions and under different titles, in German, French and sometimes other languages. Some survive, some are lost. All but Martha have fallen into obscurity, and even Martha is not nearly as often performed now as it was a century ago, though it is still sometimes staged, and though there have been a number of attempts to revive other Flotow works (including Alessandro Stradella) during recent years.  The best-known single piece by Flotow is probably “Ach! so fromm, ach! so traut.”  This was added to Martha eighteen years after the Vienna premiere, and had been originally written for a different Flotow opera of 1846. It has been much recorded in its Italian version, “M’apparì tutt’amor.”

My collection includes the following works by Friedrich von  Flotow:

Jubel Overture (1857).

Piano Concerto No. 1 in cm (1830).

Piano Concerto No. 2 in am (1831).

Wilhelm von Oranien in Whitehall (1861): Incidental Music to the P lay by Gustav Edler Ganz zu Putlitz.