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Review: The Camp X Series by Eric Walters

A while ago I reviewed Camp X by Eric Walters. That page-turner was the first of a series of World War II books for young people that ranges from Ontario to Bermuda to England. Here I present mini-reviews of the rest of the books in the series.

camp 30
Camp X: Camp 30
For their safety, George, Jack, and their mother were moved to a different town, Bowmanville, where their mother was offered a job at Camp 30, the German officer POW camp. Of course, it did not take the boys long to get involved in the camp as well, delivering mail, becoming friends with the POW commander, and discovering a whole lot more than they were meant to.

Truly, this is the nicest book of the series. Since it deals with the German officer POW’s of Camp 30—gentlemen, not spies—the book contains very little violence. It also emphasizes the fact that many German career soldiers, which is what many of the officers were, were not Nazis. Highly recommended.

Reading the adult fiction account of Camp 30, Word of Honor by Hodgson, I realized just how close to reality Eric Walter’s book is.

Fools Gold

Camp X: Fool’s Gold
George and Jack were happy now that life was finally back to normal. No more danger, spying, or heroism. But one day, they came home from delivering papers to find three gunmen in their kitchen. The men needed the boys’ help, and took their mother, Mrs. Braun hostage in exchange for their cooperation. And that co-operation had something to do with Camp X, the top-secret spy camp nearby.

Now what? The boys had both signed the Official Secrets Act during their first adventure, but they could not let their mother get hurt. How could they keep their word, save their mother, and foil the thugs who were endangering the war effort?

Fool’s Gold by Eric Walters is another action-packed story, full of intrigue and danger, and based on fact. Recommended.


Camp X: Shell Shocked
The Braun family, Jack, George and mother, have moved yet again in another attempt to mislead Nazi agents based in Ontario. They are still close to Lake Ontario, and Mrs. Braun again works at the same munitions factory as part of the war effort. The boys are determined to go to school and live a normal life.

But, once again, Jack and George notice a few things…and are noticed. As trouble begins to brew, Jack is almost oblivious, because he has found a girlfriend, Daphne. But George, who can’t sleep because of his nightmares about previous adventures, discovers that his mother is sneaking out at night and lying about it.

When the munitions factory is threatened, the boys, both experienced secret agents by now, are given assignments. Life becomes more and more dangerous for the entire town, but only a few people know and even fewer are working for safety.

Unlike the first book, Camp X, this one is a bit unrealistic. Although Jack is still acting like a typical teen, young George is turning out to be a talented secret agent, a quick thinker and incredibly brave, who commands the deep respect of the head of Camp X. That being said, this is still an exciting story worth reading.

Note: Death and killing are very real in this story, and George becomes involved. Jack’s romance is not totally positive, either, and, as usual, the boys keep things from their mother.  Recommended, but not for sensitive children.

trouble in paradise

Camp X: Trouble in Paradise by Eric Walters
After all furor at the munitions plant in Ontario, the Braun family has been relocated to Bermuda for their safety. There, the boys can concentrate on school, Mrs. Braun becomes a censor who checks overseas mail and, best of all Captain Braun rejoins the family as he begins his new assignment to help defend the Bermuda harbor.

School with the snobby upper-crust boys from Britain has its challenges, but Jack’s new friend Louise more than makes up for them. However, there’s a whole lot more than school going on. Before long the boys get into trouble again, noticing things they weren’t meant to. They end up working in the Princess Hotel, defense headquarters on the island. There they learn the surprising truth about their mother, and an even more surprising fact about Louise.

And they also learn that Nazi agents plan to attack. But when? And where?

Note: Little Bill, the head of all clandestine operations in Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe ‘sees all, knows all, and seems to be everywhere at once’ and is therefore very occasionally called ‘God’. This may or may not be historically accurate, but it bothers me. For this reason I am uncertain whether or not to recommend this book, although the story itself is great.


Camp X: Enigma by Eric Walters
From Bermuda, the Braun family set off for England to meet the grateful parents of Louise, Jack’s girlfriend, whom the boys saved in the previous novel. On the way, their convoy is attacked by U-boats and one of the U-boats is torpedoed. A mysterious object is taken from it before it sinks (two brave sailors gave up their lives for it) and once again the boys’ family becomes involved in secretive war matters.

The Brauns do eventually meet Louise’s family, an adventure in itself, but first they are whisked off to Bletchley Park where all sorts of mysterious war activities are happening. As usual, the boys keep their eyes open and get involved in dangerous missions. This one, however, they never expected to leave alive….

Enigma is an exciting story, full of historical detail.  Recommended, but not for sensitive children.

This exciting series of World War II books, based on careful research, will thrill young people. With the caveats mentioned in each mini-review above and the warning below, I recommend the series for ages 10 and up (the book covers says ages 8-12), although I’m not letting my sensitive 11-year-old read it yet.

Note: These books are spy stories and, as such, they contain deception and deadly violence. That, unfortunately, was reality for many unknown heroes who worked for our freedom. Although Jack and George always stand up for each other when things get dangerous, they often interact in an unpleasant way in everyday life. This upsets their mother (and me), but the boys and their dad agree that this is not unusual. Only you as parent can decide what is suitable for your family and your individual children.

The Camp X Series by Eric Walters should be available in most Canadian libraries and probably in large US libraries as well, and can also be bought from online retailers in both Canada and the US.

Thanks to Cindy for mentioning this series to me.

These books form part of our multi-year, literature-based Canadian History course .

This post is linked to Finishing Strong and Trivium Tuesdays as well as the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Disclosure: We borrowed this series from our library and I am not compensated for this review.

Three Week Wrap Up: Spring and a Completed Project

In our life these weeks

It’s so good to be back again after taking a two week blog holiday!  This break was necessary, though, so I could complete a massive project:

You may recall that I’ve been very busy lately with an enormous history of modern physics project. It culminated in two guest lectures at a local college.  That project is now finished, and I’m so thankful to be balanced again!  However, I’m also very grateful for this incentive to study the history of physics and try to organize it all in my head.  That’s something I never had time for as a practicing physicist and never made time for as a homeschooling mom.

The snow is melting!  The robins have arrived and eagerly hop through the patches of dead grass that are expanding day by day.  When we open the door in the mornings, we hear dozens of birds chirping, twittering, and calling.  And, in our flower bed where the dog sleeps and warms up the soil, the tulips are coming up.  We’re expecting a dusting of snow today, but it will soon disappear.

In our homeschool

Miss 16 has been working very hard in all her subjects.  Currently, she’s focusing on math and chemistry, and is shooting ahead.

Miss 13, like Miss 16, does not like the weekly schedule I laid out and prefers to work on one subject all day long, sometimes for several days.  This is fine in some cases, but for languages and music it does not really work.  In other areas, too, I think it leads to short term learning rather than long term learning, so I will need to emphasize review.

Miss 11 has been working quite diligently, and some days she even seems to hit that magical ‘flow’ state that the psychologists write about, when the brain is super-sharp and everything seems to be going supremely well.

In our gluten free kitchen… Apple pancakes.  Corn bread.  Vegetable ham pasta.  Stampot with kale.  Cauliflower, kale, chard, peas, beans, carrots, etc.  Roast and sausages and bacon.  Chicken.  Sauerkraut.  Jalapeno mushrooms.  Lots of baking:  cookies and cupcakes and cinnamon rolls. (Miss 16 has been busy.)  Pizza.  Chicken balls, spring rolls, and onion rings.   Lots of eggs. Lots of porridge.

Some of my favorite things were

  • Working on the history of modern physics project
  • Finishing the history of modern physics project
  • The days the girls worked diligently
  • Sleep

Questions/thoughts I have…  Every time you do something new, you learn something new.  So it’s good for our kids—and us moms, too!—to get out of our ruts once in a while.

Fitness… After more than three weeks my ankle is still stiff, and it was only a tiny sprain. That slow healing probably comes from being older.   I have not managed to walk as much as I’d planned, and have now discovered that I can’t just go back to walking 10,000 steps a day.  So I’ll build up slowly again.  Sigh!

I’ve been needing an enormous amount of sleep lately.  Usually 10 hours a night, plus an afternoon nap!  Perhaps that is because I was working too hard?  We’ll see what happens in the next week when I plan to take life easier.

Some of the things I’ve been working on

  • Homeschooling
  • Studying the history of modern physics and organizing all the information
  • Preparing our vegetable garden seed order

I’m reading… Matthew. I finished Superforce, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, Discoverer of X-Rays, James Clerk Maxwell, From X-Rays to Quarks, No Ordinary Genius, Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids, and, for fun, Huckleberry Hill.  I’ve also read large portions of many others:  The Soul of Science, Quantum Physics and Theology, Quantum Theory, Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution, Planck’s Scientific Autobiography, Theology and Modern Physics, and Subtle is the Lord.  Currently I’m reading A House for My Name, The 40 Most Influential Christians, Guilt-free Living, and Pure Love:  Solomon’s Song of Songs. (Notice, no science books!)

Reading Aloud… We’re reading Jeremiah (so sad!), Volume 5 of In de Zoete Suikerbol, and Young People’s History of the Church. 

When my husband is home for meals we read Hebrews.

I’m grateful for …. Two successful lectures.  All the learning that went on this week.

Quote or link to share….    About the movie Noah:  Apparently director Aronofsky said this was the ‘most unbiblical biblical film’ you’ll ever see.  Here’s an analysis by Creation Ministries International.

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up .

Review: The Boy in the Picture by Ray Argyle


the boy in the picture

All Canadians know the photograph of the Driving of the Last Spike, the historic moment signifying completion of the great railway that Canada’s confederation was built on.  But look closely at the picture.  Who’s that boy right in the middle of all the dignitaries, behind the one driving the spike?

LastSpike_Craigellachie_BC_Canada (337x340)

He’s Edward Mallandaine, known at the time as the Craigellachie Kid.  Ray Argyle, the author, heard the story of the picture and of life along the railways in 1885 from Mallandaine himself:

Eighteen-year-old Edward Mallandaine, always out to do great things, left his comfortable home in Victoria, British Columbia to join the militia.  He wanted to help defeat Louis Riel and his followers in the North-West Rebellion.

So the idealistic, somewhat pampered youth took a steamer to the beginning of the railway, travelled on it as far as it had been built, and then set off across the Rockies, adjusting to real life on the way.  Too late for the rebellion, he ended up carrying mail and supplies along the unfinished railway until it was completed.  This is his tale, of railway crews and Chinese laborers, of theft and high officials, of packhorses and icy cold…and of that famous picture.

Written as a novel, but including informative historical insets and photographs, The Boy in the Picture is a fascinating account of an often neglected part of Canadian history:  the building of the railway in British Columbia.  It is an exciting and inspiring story in its own right besides being well-researched history, and it should appeal to both teens and adults although it was written for “young men and women who yearn for adventure”.

Note:  Two brief mentions of off-color events, treated matter-of-factly and in the context of the story, show that this book was not written for young teens.  However, most of them would not even catch on and would instead hurry on to the next adventure.

The Boy in the Picture was published in 2010 and is available as a paperback and an ebook.

The Boy in the Picture by Ray Argyle forms part of our multi-year, literature-based Canadian History course and will be an incentive for us to explore the train section of the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa as well as the Eastern Ontario Railway Museum in Smiths Falls, Ontario. 

This post is linked to Finishing Strong and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I borrowed The Boy in the Picture from our library and am not compensated for this review.

Weekly Wrap Up: School, Fun, and a Vulture Poem

In our life this week

Well, after sharing my thoughts about being far behind in our schoolwork, I was surprised by a great learning week.   The girls worked very diligently and learned a lot.

And we also did other things:  skiing, swimming, reading, beading, pie-making, watching the snow whirl by the windows, and sitting by the fire.

In our homeschool

Miss 16 finished reading Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Dorothy Sayers translation.  She enjoyed it so much that it is now on my list of books to read eventually.   She has also been doing artwork while listening to audiobooks and has gone through many pages in How to Read a Book.  Since she’s writing paragraph by paragraph summaries of that book, I got to reread those sections, too.  I do so love it!

Miss 13 has done an enormous amount of church history and Bible this week, and she’s mastered the difficult art of converting a writing topic into a thesis statement.  That is probably one of the most important things she’ll learn this year.

Miss 11 was very diligent and studied hard.  Fractions are getting easier and easier, and so are grammar and spelling.  For nature study, she drew a picture of a bittern from a bird book…and she learned about color blending using pencil crayons.  That was a very productive hour!  She also made many colorful origami boxes to store her beads.

Once again, we had a Friday poetry presentation session.  Miss 16 read another poem from The Lord of the Rings, Miss 11 hurried through “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” and Miss 13 presented a funny poem by Hillaire Belloc that is now hanging on our fridge:

    The Vulture

The Vulture eats between his meals,

    And that’s the reason why

He very, very rarely feels

   As well as you or I.

His eye is dull, his head is bald,

   His neck is growing thinner.

Oh, what a lesson for us all

   To only eat at dinner.

In our gluten free kitchen… Apple pancakes.  Pear pie.  Dutch meat pie.  Banana cream pie.  (After all, this is pi week.)  Homemade spring rolls with purple cabbage because that is all we had.  Peas, corn, salad, broccoli.  Stirfry.  Cauliflower with cheese.  Bami, a Dutch-Indonesian noodle dish.  Breaded chicken.  Sausages, bacon, eggs.  Scrambled omelets.  Porridge.  Tuna salad on rice cakes.  Lots of grapefruit.  Yoghurt.

Some of my favorite things were

  • Skiing with Miss 11
  • Swimming in a wave pool with the girls
  • Going down the waterslide at the pool
  • Watching the girls work so diligently and learn so much
  • Reading on the couch with my husband who is too exhausted to work in the evenings
  • Hearing and watching water drops dance down the shingles of our roof on a warm day
  • Snow

Questions/thoughts I have… When you’re working with a huge amount of stuff, like Miss 11’s thousands of beads which got spilled this week or my history of modern physics project, you consciously have to sit down and contemplate different ways of organizing it all.  Then you have to choose one…and you won’t know until you’re at least halfway through if you’ve chosen a good way of doing it.

Fitness… So, for the first time in 6 years I went cross-country skiing!  Miss 11 talked me into it, and we went to the library, through some fields and then across a few driveways, up and over their snow hills.  Of course, I slipped on a driveway hill and got my first sports injury in many, many years:  a slightly twisted ankle.   A few years ago I called to inquire about wheelchairs because I could hardly walk…and now I have a sports injury!  I’m so thankful that is possible!   Of course, after that I took a break from walking, and, being rather bruised, did not do my physio exercises either.  It was fun to have a valid excuse.

We also went swimming which, for me, was mostly hanging out in the wave pool, going down the two-story waterslide, and relaxing in the hot tub.  It was not very strenuous but not sedentary either, and we all really enjoyed it.

Some of the things I’ve been working on

  • Homeschooling
  • Studying the history of modern physics and organizing all the information

I’m reading… Zechariah. I finished Ten Days Without, and started and skimmed a lot of different books, including Madeleine Takes Command which always brings tears of awe to my eyes. Currently I’m reading The Faith of Scientists, The Trouble with Physics, Subtle is the Lord, Superforce, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, A House for My Name, and The 40 Most Influential Christians.

Reading Aloud… We’re reading Isaiah, Volume 5 of In de Zoete Suikerbol, and Young People’s History of the Church.  We finished Henry Hudson.

When my husband is home for meals we read 2 Timothy.

I’m grateful for …. Sleep.  All the learning that went on this week.  Health.

Quote or link to share….    If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a hilarious wee video about winter that I completely identify with, especially now that we’re heading into another cold snap.  Our whole family loves it.  If you have issues with your weather, do check it out.  (And if you’re in the US, remember that +1C is the same as 34F.)

This post is linked to Kris’s Weekly Wrap Up .

Review: 10 Days Without by Daniel Day

10 days without

In 10 Days Without:  Daring Adventures in Discomfort that Will Change Your World and You, Daniel Day presents “A Rebellion against Apathy. A Strategy for Action.”

He is tired of his own apathy, ‘slacktivism’ he calls it, when he hears about things but does not do anything concrete about them.  Day wants to encourage everyone else to get up and do something too, and that’s why he started his 10 Days Without experiences.  Their purpose was two-fold, to get him thinking about the people who had to spend their whole life ‘without’, and to raise money and awareness for specific causes:

  • 10 Days Without Shoes to Address Disease
  • 10 Days Without a Coat to Address Homelessness
  • 10 Days Without Media to Address Distractions
  • 10 Days Without Furniture to Address Global Poverty
  • 10 Days Without Legs to Address our Response to Disabilities
  • 10 Days Without Waste to Address the Environment
  • 10 Days Without Speech to Address Modern-Day Slavery
  • 10 Days Without Human Touch to Address Orphans, Widows, Prisoners, and Other Untouchables

Day transparently shares his own story as well as those of others who participated in these challenges.  He also outlines practical steps his readers can take if they wish to address the issues he’s discussing.

I’m still not sure what to think of this book.  On the one hand it is gimmicky, but on the other hand it is enlightening and powerful in practical ways.  Has it changed me?  I have a few more things on my to do lists and more things that I want to pray about regularly.

In many ways, however, Day and his challenges rubbed me the wrong way.  This young guy means well, but really, how many Christians do all the things he does that he is now repenting of or stopping for 10 days?  He had 18 coats in his closet!  He is an avid consumer.  He had not read the Bible for a long time before he went on the 10-day media fast.   He asks, “Did you know that it is possible to eat breakfast sitting at a table with nothing else to do?”  And, according to him, if you don’t buy books, don’t eat at sit-down restaurants (or the other kind either), don’t go to movies, and don’t take very long deciding what to wear, you may be poor.  I think my problem with this book is that the culture Day writes from is so extreme that I can hardly take him seriously.

On the one hand, how many Christians raise as much money as he does for shoes, coats, and so on and generate as much awareness?  On the other hand, how many give sacrificially and help without fanfare (as Jesus told us to do), and therefore have a radically different lifestyle than Day does?

Day does raise a very important point.  Are we merely consumers of things Biblical:  a good sermon, a podcast, a book…or do we demonstrate our faith through our actions and our lifestyle?  In the Bible, James said much the same thing,   “Faith without works is dead.”  Of course, we’re not saved by what we do and how we live, but if we are saved, our life will show it.

As a reminder of that fact, this could be a helpful book.

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, and is also linked to Saturday Reviews

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this ebook from Blogging for Books for the purpose of this review and have presented my honest opinion.