Five new favorite books in Core F: Eastern Hemisphere

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Have you browsed Sonlight's new catalog online? If so, you may wonder why I included many new books in Core F: Eastern Hemisphere this year. When I first wrote Core F years ago, I didn't have many options available for books that explored those far-off countries. So while I've always loved the books in that Core, I've kept my eye out for new books to use as well.

This year I reviewed each and every book in Core F to see which I might replace and which I wanted to keep. After reading scores of new works, I found several stunning new titles. Here are five of my favorites:

China:Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Our young hero, Minli, lives in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain. Her rural Chinese family works hard in the fields each day. But merely growing enough food to survive is difficult and they struggle to get by.

Minli's father has always told her stories about the wise man who lives on the moon. So one day, Minli heads out to find him and ask for help. This quest turns into quite the adventure as she leaves her home for the first time to find wisdom outside of the village.

I love the beauty of this tale, which is part Chinese folklore and part fantasy. You'll appreciate the believable themes of friendship and courage throughout. I also love the wonderful folk art illustrations.

Mongolia: I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade
For this story, we travel to 13th-century Mongolia. A horse crushes Oyuna's foot when she is a baby. Her family believes they are cursed with bad luck because of this bad omen. But as crippled Oyuna grows up, she falls in love with horses and delights in the freedom she finds on their backs.

When Kublai Khan's fierce soldiers invade her village one day, Oyuna must make a fateful choice. The soldiers come to steal horses and gather new soldiers for their conquest. So in hopes of restoring her family's honor and staying with her beloved mare, Oyuna disguises herself as a boy and joins the soldiers on horseback for their quest. Not surprisingly, Oyuna's journey will change her life forever.

This book is a treasure for children who love horses. But I think it can inspire all of us to greater determination and courage.

The West Bank: Habibi
A beautiful story that deals with tough but timely issues, I debated about whether or not to include this book. I decided to include it because I believe we must be willing to examine the reality of Palestinian/Israeli tensions in the West Bank.

I believe Habibi can help us see both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews as real people just like you and me. I consider that very worthwhile.

The story features a contemporary Arab-American family from St. Louis who moves to the father's homeland. Not surprisingly, this turns the teenage daughter's life upside-down. She doesn't know much about her father's heritage, she doesn't speak the language and she doesn't know the cultural rules that are supposed to dictate her conduct. I love this because she offers an outsider's perspective on the culture and tensions her neighbors take for granted. When she begins a forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy, things really start to get interesting.

I wouldn't recommend Habibi without the accompanying notes in the Core F Instructor's Guide. For one thing, the author includes a chapter where the non-religious family in the middle of a world driven by religion tries to explain how all religions lead to God. We counteract this popular but false idea with notes in the IG. That said, I trust that Habibi will help put flesh on the ongoing cultural and religious strife in the West Bank.

Many countries and cultures: Best-Loved Folktales of the World
I love how folktales give a different insight into other cultures. What character traits do they value (such as hospitality, conformity, inquisitiveness, cunning or bravery)? Who do they consider a hero? What do they do when times are hard? How do they reward wisdom and punish foolishness?

This delightful collection of tales includes many you've probably never heard—from East Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa and more. I use these as Read-Alouds for those doing the 5-day program. May these stories add richness, perspective and depth to your cultural studies throughout the Eastern Hemisphere.

Sudan: A Long Walk to Water
Master storyteller Linda Sue Park gives us an inspiring work based on a true story. She takes us to Sudan, where she weaves together two people's stories: one girl growing up in Sudan in 2008, and one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" who escaped Sudan in the 80s and ended up as a refugee in the United States.

The girl, Nya, walks for eight hours every day in order to fetch water for her family. She has dreams of what to do with her life, but feels trapped in the struggle for day-to-day survival. The boy, Salva, flees his war-torn village on foot, survives crocodile-infested rivers and under-equipped refugee camps to eventually build a new life in Rochester, New York.

But the story really gets good when Salva decides to head back to Sudan to help his people. Watch as he struggles to offer Nya the hope she needs.

I trust this book will inspire children to see that they can make a difference in the world today. May you enjoy this true story as much as I did!

Whether you look forward to the Core F journey this year or in years to come, may these books and others open your eyes to these fascinating parts of the world. If your children are past Core F and on to the upper-levels, you might still enjoy these works as supplemental reading. After you read them, please let me know what you think!

What books are you looking forward to in your program(s) this year?


P.S. Remember that these books, the updated Core F, and all updated curriculum will be available for purchase starting April 2.

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