Monday, September 24, 2012

A Line That was Drawn, by Hugh Estlinbaum

While my daughter is still too young to read many of the books which I am recommending, I want to know what direction I want her to go in the future.  She is a fourth grader this year and we are reading classical literature.  Because of her abilities, we are reading a re-written, easier version of them, but we are still reading them.  As she gets older, if she wants to read the full versions, I will not stop her, but I want the Middle School and High School years of schooling to be focused on learning real things, not someone’s imagination (no matter how creative or realistic that imagination may be).  So, I am sharing some of the books which I intend on reading with her as she gets older.


A Line that was Drawn was a book written by Hugh Estlinbaum.  Hugh’s sister Lorie was one of my two best friends in High School.  We lost touch for many years, but we now meet periodically for Chai Tea at Panera Bread and catch up on the big and small events in life. When I think of Hugh, I think of a 9 year old little boy who would enjoy sticking his nose into whatever game we were playing. His sister, as most teenager sisters would do, would quickly send him off doing something else. 

I was getting ready for work one morning in 2009, the television blaring the morning news in the background, when I heard the name Estlinbaum.  Since it is not a common name, I perked up and walked into the room with the television. That was when I heard about Hugh’s son, Tony.  The Swine Flu (H1N1, as it later was called) was a new virus at the time and many people were dying quickly from it.  I said many prayers for Tony through this time and e-mailed his sister Lorie, who I had recently reconnected with, for updates on Tony’s condition.  I was teaching a 5th grade class at church on Sundays and I put Tony’s name on the prayer list that first Sunday.  One of the boys immediately said, “Tony? He’s on my football team.  I didn’t know he was sick.” 

 Tony Estlinbaum, Hugh’s son, was one of the first hospitalized cases of the H1N1 virus.  He almost died many times in the months he was hospitalized.  Unlike others who caught the virus, Tony had no pre-existing conditions.  He was a healthy 10 year old who came home from his first football game with a headache.  Fortunately, his parents recognized that something was very wrong and took him to a trusted Oklahoma City hospital emergency room before it was too late, but the hospital had difficulty caring for him. Only an experimental procedure saved his life. 

A Line that was Drawn was written by the father of an extremely ill son only a few months after Tony went home from the hospital.  You can see the shock of a parent finding out his otherwise healthy oldest son may not survive the night.  He takes you through the continued prayers of his family and why he decided to go public by calling in a local news organization.   As time passes and his son’s condition continues for months to be critical, Hugh and his wife must balance being at his son’s bedside and spending time with his healthy children who were not allowed into the ICU.  His family and faith grew stronger as the very life of his child was beyond the control of Hugh and the highly skilled doctors caring for him.

 This is a book which I highly recommend for parents, but I wouldn’t recommend children read it before High School years.  There is no bad language in it or any situations which Middle Schoolers should not read, but the content is very intense at times. I suggest having a box of tissues nearby when you read the chapters where Tony was at his most critical.  Even though this book was written months after Tony came home, it’s easy to see how difficult it was for a parent to describe the near death experience of his child.  One reason Hugh wrote this book was to help other parents to see how important immediate medical care was. Had they waited any longer than they did, there is no doubt that Tony would not have made it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meet me in the Gloaming

            I am figuring out that it is so important to keep fictional reading in the “entertainment” category and non-fiction in the “school” category. The exceptions will be fictional books which include a lot of facts.  Since nonfiction books are not widely read, I want to share a series of non-fiction books that I intend to use in our homeschool with my daughter as she gets older.  Meet Me in the Gloaming by Carol Vinzant will definitely be one of them.

I suppose I should disclose that Carol Vinzant, the author of this book, is a friend of mine.  I have known her for many years and I know that she planned on writing this book for many years before she actually did.  I have a great deal of respect for Carol, and even more since she pushed through a great number of difficulties to publish this amazing book which relates the life of her grandmother.  Carol inherited her grandmother’s diaries, stacks and stacks of them.  She remembers her grandmother puttering around the kitchen when Carol was a child, but she had no idea the exciting life she lived until she began to read what Clemmie had written over the years about events that had occurred. 

 About ninety-five percent of this book tells content directly from these diaries, while five percent is fictional conversations which she had to include to show progression which was necessary but was not described in the detail she needed to use.  She worked very hard to keep these fictional sections to a minimum, though, and worked very hard to keep them true to the people involved.  Some members of her family complained to her about including some portions which they did not want published, but Carol said it is part of her grandmother’s story so it should be told.  The title comes from an old hymn of the same name.

Meet Me in the Gloaming takes place primarily in Texas, where Clemmie lived all of her life.  Her family struggled financially, which only got worse during the Great Depression.  See life through her diaries as she goes through love and loss.  She struggles to be a spinster school teacher, in spite of her difficulties controlling the bullies in every class in which she taught.  After she marries, she does all she can to keep food on the table and a roof over her family’s head, all the while maintaining her belief in God and keeping her morals high.  She describes events of her time, including an entire town which moved a couple of miles so they could be closer to the railroad (something which happened in many towns in Texas and Oklahoma which were close but not exactly on the track of the railway when it came through).  When available, actual photographs are included throughout the book.


If you are studying the history of the United States during the depression era and afterward, I highly recommend you use this book as part of your studies to see exactly what the depression years were like for most families during this difficult time.  There are many situations in this story which will provide discussion points about life as well as giving you a variety of events of the time which you can further research.  I highly recommend reading Meet Me in the Gloaming by Carol Vinzant.