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    Books & Reading, Educational Philosophy

    Book Review: The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater

    December 3, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    The Living Page: A Review[dropcap]I[/dropcap] know I’ve already mentioned this book a number of times, and many of you have emailed me and told me you already bought it, but still I thought I would post an official review before I write a few posts exploring the ideas in the book.

    My short review is something like this: This book? Worth. every. penny. {Not that I paid for it myself; Laurie Bestvater was kind enough to send me a review copy thankyouverymuch after I jokingly asked Leslie to get me one. Thank you, Leslie! I am so glad she actually said yes!} Buy it; you’ll like it — at least, you will if you are a CM fanatic or interested in things like poetic knowledge and the ancient classicism that involved not reams of frantic activity but meditative, monastic-type scholarship.

    That is the short review.

    The best review I’ve read so far, before I get to my more lengthy comments, is the one over at Dewey’s Treehouse. I agree with that review. In this book, Charlotte Mason grows up. This is not your usual CM book, which is usually nothing more a narration of her principles coupled with personal, practical applications. Unless you have done a lot of your own research on what Miss Mason actually did in her classrooms, and read her volumes a number of times, this book will add to your body of knowledge in many helpful ways.

    Generally, I read a lot of nonfiction. I do this because it is easier for me to pick up and put down as I go along in my day. I do read the fiction for my AmblesideOnline pre-reading, to say nothing of all the fiction I read aloud to the various members of my family, but I generally find that reading fiction for myself is a dangerous endeavor. I am tempted to ignore everyone and spend far too many hours reading.

    So, as I was saying, I read a lot of nonfiction.

    Over the years, I’ve built a simple criteria for what I consider to be a good nonfiction book, the sort of book that gets a good review for me. It has to be full of Good and True ideas, Beautifully written. If it is Beautifully written, but untrue, I get cranky. If it’s True, but badly written, I get snarky. Neither of these responses is noble, which is why I rarely do book reviews anymore. There are a lot of badly written and untrue books out there, and who wants to read a bunch of negative, sarcastic Afterthoughts?

    I certainly don’t.

    The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason passes my Good, True, and Beautiful test. Bestvater not only presents wonderful ideas — a feast of ideas — but she does it with Style.

    I’ll give you an example.

    Sentences like this:

    If the trinity of the Mason classroom is the rich curriculum plus the habit of narration and the teacher’s “fine art of standing aside,” the notebooks are the liturgy that invokes the formation and frames the student’s encounter with Glory.

    Did you read that? I have read it over and over and when I think about all the ideas packed into this single sentence, I start to feel improved in the way of Wordsworth’s skylark —

    type of the wise who soar, but never roam.


    The one thing this book lacks is a professional editor. Some of the organization doesn’t make sense, and in a few areas, the thoughts don’t logically follow. With that said, it was totally worth it to me to get through those parts to the rest of the content because the book is, as I said, very good.

    In my next few posts on this book, I hope to unpack a few of the ideas. If you’ve already gotten a copy of the book, I invite you to discuss with me in the comments! If you haven’t yet bought the book, Christmas is coming, my friend. Put this baby on your wishlist!


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  • Reply Anonymous December 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I don’t see an e-version, though? I checked on Amazon and then a google search… Anyone know otherwise?


    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 5, 2013 at 6:54 pm

      I haven’t seen one, either, Joy. 🙁 I don’t think there is one out yet…

  • Reply Anonymous December 4, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    I am in the middle of the book now, and I am SO enjoying it! I have gathered lots of quotes for my own Commonplace book!
    Julie in St. Louis

  • Reply Mystie December 4, 2013 at 3:17 am

    I bought it when you first raved about it! I have it on my shelf. Sigh. I hope to get to it soon, but we’ll see how this holiday season shapes up. 🙂 I’m *hoping* for lots of extra reading time, but I’m not sure if it will happen.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 5, 2013 at 6:11 am

      I think you will like it, Mystie, and I would love to hear your thoughts once you’ve read it. But I know that you, like me (and everyone else around here), have a bigger stack than there is ever free hours in the day…

  • Reply Michele December 4, 2013 at 2:04 am

    JUST ordered it tonight! Can’t wait 🙂

  • Reply Celeste December 4, 2013 at 12:04 am

    So happy to read your review. I can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts. This one *is* on my wishlist–I have been sitting on my hands trying to keep myself from ordering it for the last month. (*Someone* on my family better come through! LOL)

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