Patrick Carmen Archives - Eva Varga

January 7, 20122

Like most homeschool families, we read stacks of books together:  classic children’s literature, Shakespeare plays, fairy tales, fables, tales of historical heroes, poetry, and even graphic novels.  We laugh together.  We cry together.  The kids have even begged to sit in the car “… just to finish the chapter” of an audio book to which we are listening.

Reading together allows us to learn about historical events, to lean about the world in which we live, and to learn about one another.  The books and the discussions we have have created innumerable threads that bind us together and provide a framework with which we interpret our world.  The stories we’ve encountered have become our own little personal inside jokes.

One of the books we have most recently listened to was The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carmen.  It is the first book in a trilogy (and two followup books that include a prequel) centered around a heroine named, Alexa.  12-year-old Alexa, has spent her life living behind the four-story walls that surround her village and the three others that make up Bridewell Common. But Alexa’s curiosity for what lies in the hills and forests on the other side sends her on a daring adventure into a secret world in which nothing is as it seems to be.

We coincidentally finished this book as we were driving up to the trailhead of a local waterfall for a scenic hike.  A small portion of our trip involved a few miles on a gravel road.  As we were driving, we heard a loud clunk on the roof of the car.  The kids immediately wondered to the cause and while I thought it may have been a small stone kicked up by my tires, they proclaimed it was probably Murphy “…trying to get our attention.”  Murphy is one of the animal characters in the book … a squirrel.  “Maybe he was dropping an acorn on us?!”

We arrived at the trailhead and proceeded on our walk.  It was nearly 2 miles up to the falls where we took a number of photographs, did a quick crayon rubbing (the recreation area here has trails to four falls – each with a metal box and engraving where you can do a rubbing – upon hiking to all four, you earn a special stamp in your National Parks Passport book), and turned around.   As we were heading back down, Buddy pointed out a bright green spot in the center of one of the pools beneath the falls (the falls were a series of cascading waters over the rocks, each producing small pools of very clear waters – perfect for a swim in the heat of summer).  He then asked, “Could this really be Elyon?  Do you think that is a real stone like Alexa found in the creek?  Mom, could Murphy be real?”

Reading together provides wonderful antidotes to our lives.  It enriches our experiences and anchors our understanding of one another.  The books we read together proved us with our own unique family language.  We have a common framework with which to interpret our world.  The connections we make are not always understood by others, however.  This affords us an opportunity to share our favorite books with others, often leading us on bunny trails to other books that they in turn recommend to us.

If you are interested in learning more about Alexa’s world or to find games & downloads for The Land of Elyon, follow this link.