Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: Sarah Books

When my daughter was about 8, she was extremely interested in the Underground Railroad. I don't recall what in particular sparked it, but her interest continued strongly for over a year. She was so intrigued on the topic that she started writing a research paper (at 8!) and we even visited an actual station on the Underground Railroad. It's too bad that author Jim Baumgardner hadn't penned Sarah's Wish yet; I know my daughter would have loved this perfect compliment to an Underground Railroad study.

While he had an interest in writing at an early age and his first magazine article printed at 19, it wasn't until the age of 59 that Jim Baumgardner published his first novel. Baumgardner's 9 grandchildren, all homeschooled, were his inspiration for his novel series, Sarah's Wish. The books contain no sex, profanity, or offensive material; Baumgardner never puts in material which he wouldn't subject his own grandchildren.

Sarah's Wish,
set in the 19th century, is about a recently orphaned girl who is dealing with her mother's loss while trying to maintain and keep secret the Underground Railroad stop her mother ran on their property in OH. Sarah encounters slave catchers, runaways, gypsies, and a riverboat captain during her hopeful wish-fulfilling travels and adventures with Doc and the funny actin' and tawkin' Granny. In the end, Sarah does discover her wish, but not in a way that she expected.

Sarah is strong in her faith and some might call this Christian fiction. Baumgardner likes to think of it differently.

The books have been referred to as Christian fiction. I prefer to describe them as Young Adult fiction written by a Christian author. Sarah’s faith is important to her and she lives by it, but the books do not try to convert the reader to anything. The stories do teach Christian principals of living a good life and treating others as you would have them treat you. I do not ignore the evil in the world and Sarah must confront it at times just as we all do.
The main characters are likable and the story gives a glimpse into the time and area. There is a glossary of terms in the beginning of the book just in case you aren't familiar with terms such as "light a shuck" and "slantindicular" or historical references like "Orphan Train" and "apothecary".

At 12, this 123-page book was a quick read for my daughter. She thought this story would appeal more to the 8-10 year old range, though still enjoyable for older kids. Also, there are two more books in the series, Sarah's Promise and Sarah's Escape, at 248 and 304 pages respectively, that may appeal more to the older crowd. If your child finds the first in the series enjoyable, they will likely to be up for the challenge of longer sequels. Additionally, this is a series that can grow with your child. Click here to read excepts of each book in the series.

As an added bonus, in the back of Sarah's Wish is a code to download an audio version of the book. Narrated by Eva Hamlin, the audio version provides 3 hours and 41 minutes of listening either from the computer or a MP3 device. Rather than have my 10-year-old son read the book, I had him listen to the audio while playing Legos. Since the cover of the book has a butterfly, I figured he'd be more open to the story in the audio version. He seemed to enjoy the story just fine and complained when it was time to turn it off for awhile to do something else.

We love audio books around here and I loved that it was included with the book purchase. Struggling readers could listen to the audio while following along in the book to strengthen reading skills while non-readers could just listen in. The audio version gives you options for multiple ages and levels within your family to enjoy Sarah's Wish. You can listen to an excerpt of the audio a (click"sample' under the book cover).

Jim Baumgardner sends out a quite enjoyable newsletter every month that includes history facts, a question of the month, letters from readers, and other tidbits. To sign up for the newsletter, send an email to with "send newsletter" in the subject line. Sarah's Wish can be purchased for $9.99 with free shipping and handling at the Sarah Books website. Each book comes autographed by the author and would make a great Christmas gift for young friends and relatives.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

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