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Results 1 - 25 of 336
1. Spring Reading 2014

Picture Books

Rip Van Winkle- Retold and illustrated by Will Moses, based on Washington Irving's book. Philomel Books a division of Penguin Putnam Books for young readers. New York 1999. This book is based on a  classical folk tale about a man who goes into the woods and falls asleep waking up many years later to a new world. This classic tale is retold with a combination of wonderful illustrations and words. It is probably better suited for the older child because of complex words and storyline. This new version brings a wonderful story back to our modern world. The storyline and sophisticated crafted words make it more suited for an older child.  

Patti Cake and Her New Doll- Written by Patricia Reilly Giff and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. Published by Orchard books New York an imprint of Scholastic Inc. 2014. The book describes one day in a life of a little girl named Patti and her home companions mainly a dog named Tootsie and a new doll she got. With an imaginative approach, the author turns an regular day into an adventure and makes the ordinary into the extraordinary. A good book for you to get for you kids.

The Fisherman & His Wife- Based on a story by Grimm and Illustrated by John Howe 1984. Published by Creative Editions Mankato MN, 2001. The fisherman is happy living a simple life until one day everything turns around when he catches a magical fish. The fisherman's wife cannot be satisfied with what she gets. Her greed takes away everything the fish gave them. It is a great book for the older reader and the illustrations are stunning.

   Trouper- Written by Meg Kearney and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published by Scholastic Inc. NY, 2013. The book is written from the point of view of a dog. The dog Trouper tells us his life story: how he lived on the streets t the time he was put in a pound and finally adopted. This book makes readers empathize with millions of abandoned dogs running on the streets or sitting in cages in the pounds waiting to find a loving home. I highly recommend this book to everyone.   

The Little Engine that Could
- Retold by Watty Piper and New Art by Loren Long. Published by Philomel Books a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group 2005. This is a great version of a classic. I loved how the writer and illustrator gave life to the characters. The story does not only teach children a lesson about never giving up, but it also introduces them to four kind of trains. I really loved this book and I strongly recommend you get it with your children. Each of us can accomplish anything we put our mind too.    

 Under the Same Sun- Written by Sharon Robinson and Illustrated by AG Ford. Published by Scholastic Press, New York 2014.  This is a great educational book about Tanzania a small country in Africa. One can vividly imagine the beautiful land of Africa with its lush scenery and many different animals. This book is very unique and the illustrations are amazing. The story is idle for a classroom setting.

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2. A Rogue's Life (1856)

A Rogue's Life. Wilkie Collins. 1856. 159 pages. [Source: Book I bought]

I am going to try if I can't write something about myself. My life has been rather a strange one. It may not seem particularly useful or respectable; but it has been, in some respects, adventurous; and that may give it claims to be read, even in the most prejudiced circles.

 Who is the rogue in Wilkie Collins A Rogue's Life? None other than Frank Softly. He comes from a respectable (though not wealthy) family. He falls OUT of favor with his parents and INTO a good bit of trouble. Debt factoring into this rogue's story quite often. He doesn't really "fit" with any of the "respectable" professions allowed to his class. And I believe his first "profession" is as a caricaturist. He sells his work, has it published, is quite successful using a pseudonym... for a while But. When people match his real identity with his pseudonym...well, that just won't do. That is when his parents make a stand.

A Rogue's Life is a short, pleasant read. It's told in first-person narrative. And the narration is quite lively. His adventures and misadventures are a bit crazy perhaps, making the whole too complex to easily summarize for review. But. It is an easy enough story to follow when you're actually reading it.

Essentially when this 'rogue' falls madly in love--and, of course, it's love AT FIRST SIGHT, with a beautiful yet mysterious young woman, there is NOTHING he won't do to find out who she is...he will woo her no matter what it costs him...

Another 'fun' element (if 'fun' is the right word?) is the speculation involving an inheritance. Frank's sister will inherit a good deal of money from someone (I can't remember who) IF and only IF Frank can outlive the grandmother. So throughout the book, there is all this speculation about the future! The grandmother is very old and determined to live forever, and, of course, Frank's misadventures (including prison time) could lead to his dying young...

It's an odd book in a way. But overall, it was a pleasant way to spend an hour.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. TURNING PAGES: Grim, An Anthology edited by Christine Johnson

Oh, happy day! It's anthology time! This one from Harlequin Teen just last month, and the list of authors is shiny, award-winning, and long: Ellen Hopkins, Amanda Hocking, Julie Kagawa, Claudia Gray, Rachel Hawkins, Kimberly Derting, Myra McEntire,... Read the rest of this post

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4. Research in the digital age


Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) launched in 2003 with 700 titles. Now, on its tenth birthday, it’s the online home of over 9,000 titles from Oxford University Press’s distinguished academic list, and part of University Press Scholarship Online. To celebrate OSO turning ten, we’ve invited a host of people to reflect on the past ten years of online academic publishing, and what the next ten might bring.

By Adrastos Omissi

As someone who has lived out his entire academic career in a research environment augmented by digital resources, it can be easy to allow familiarity to breed contempt where the Internet is concerned. When I began my undergraduate degree in the autumn of 2005, Oxford’s Bodleian Library, as well as every faculty and college library, had already digitized their search functions, Wikipedia was approaching one million English articles, and all major journals were routinely publishing online (as well as busily uploading their back catalogues). Free and instantaneous access to a vast quantity of research material is, for those of my generation, simply assumed.

The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By Kamyar Adl CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By Kamyar Adl CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Internet’s greatest gift is text, in every permutation and definition of that word imaginable. For research students, one of the greatest obstacles is to acquire the necessary information that they need to make their own work a solid, and above all, living piece of scholarship, in communication with the wider academic world. Text is, ultimately, the sine qua non of this struggle.

Each specialism has its own particular loves, its debts owed to the Internet. Find any doctoral candidate in Britain today and they’ll each have their own version of ‘I couldn’t have completed me doctorate without online product X.’ For me, a classicist, it was the digitization and free availability of an increasing proportion of the written records of the ancient world. Online libraries of Greek and Latin texts, libraries like Perseus, Lacus Curtius, and the Latin Library, or searchable databases like Patrologia Latina brought the classical world to life (and to my laptop).

Of course, it’s not just ancient books that are now open to easy access from anywhere that the Internet can reach. When I was an undergraduate I looked into how much it would cost me to buy the entire Cambridge Ancient History series, which I felt would make an invaluable addition to my bookshelves. The answer – somewhere in the region of £1,600 – was enough for me to go weak at the knee. Now, I have all fourteen volumes in PDF. Google Books and the increasing digitization of the archives of publishers and academic libraries means that paradigm shifting debate can now beam into student rooms and even into private homes.

Just as the automated production line turned the automobile, once a bastion of elitism, into an affordable commodity for the average household, so the Internet is now putting books that would have once been hidden in ivory towers into the hands of any person with the desire to find them. And as hardware improves, these options become more and more exciting. Tablet computing means that this enormous corpus of academic texts and original sources is now available on devices that fit into a coat pocket. Gone – or going – are the curved spines and broken bag straps that were formerly the lot of any student forced to move between libraries.

Of course, not everyone is beaming as barriers of cost and inconvenience are stripped away from academic texts. Publishers still have businesses to run and it will be interesting to see in years to come how sharply the lines of battle come to be drawn. Nor is the marginalization of the book, a thing of beauty in its own right, much of a cause for celebration. But for those wishing to access academic texts, the trend is up, and texts that would once have been found only after a long search through some dusty archive or at the outlay of several hundred pounds are now nothing more than a Google search away.

Adrastos Omissi grew up in Jersey, in the Channel Islands. He recently completed a doctorate in Roman History at St John’s College, Oxford, and now works as a researcher for the social enterprise consultancy, Oxford Ventures.

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5. My Year with Jane: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. 1813. 386 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

Is Pride and Prejudice your favorite Jane Austen novel? Why or why not?

I must admit that Pride and Prejudice is not my favorite, favorite Austen. I almost like that it is not my favorite book by Austen. But. No matter how much I say it isn't my favorite, every single time I reread this one, I am surprised by how satisfying and lovely it really is. It is so incredibly familiar, and I think that is part of the charm. The dialogue is so familiar, the characters feel like old friends, you can't help getting swept up into the story, the romance once again. The movies probably have more than a little to do with that. Do you have a favorite adaptation?

There are so many characters to love, so many characters to love to hate. Do you have a favorite? Elizabeth is not my favorite Austen heroine, but, she is probably among my favorites from Pride and Prejudice. I love her relationships: seeing Elizabeth with Jane, seeing Elizabeth with Charlotte, seeing Elizabeth with Lady Catherine, seeing Elizabeth with Darcy!

Like most Austen novels, the more attention you pay to the little details, the more you'll be rewarded! That is why rereading is oh-so-essential.

His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. Amongst the most violent against him was Mrs. Bennet, whose dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment by his having slighted one of her daughters. Elizabeth Bennet had been obliged, by the scarcity of gentlemen, to sit down for two dances; and during part of that time, Mr. Darcy had been standing near enough for her to hear a conversation between him and Mr. Bingley, who came from the dance for a few minutes, to press his friend to join it. “Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.” “I would not be so fastidious as you are,” cried Mr. Bingley, “for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty.” “You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” said Mr. Darcy, looking at the eldest Miss Bennet. “Oh! She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.” “Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him.
“My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner. You cannot refuse to dance, I am sure when so much beauty is before you.” And, taking her hand, he would have given it to Mr. Darcy who, though extremely surprised, was not unwilling to receive it, when she instantly drew back, and said with some discomposure to Sir William: “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner.” Mr. Darcy, with grave propriety, requested to be allowed the honour of her hand, but in vain. Elizabeth was determined; nor did Sir William at all shake her purpose by his attempt at persuasion. “You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to deny me the happiness of seeing you; and though this gentleman dislikes the amusement in general, he can have no objection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half-hour.” “Mr. Darcy is all politeness,” said Elizabeth, smiling. “He is, indeed; but, considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance — for who would object to such a partner?” Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had not injured her with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her with some complacency, when thus accosted by Miss Bingley: “I can guess the subject of your reverie.” “I should imagine not.” My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”
“It is a rule with me, that a person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill.” “That will not do for a compliment to Darcy, Caroline,” cried her brother, “because he does not write with ease. He studies too much for words of four syllables. Do not you, Darcy?” “My style of writing is very different from yours.” “Oh!” cried Miss Bingley, “Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest.” “My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them — by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents.” “Your humility, Mr. Bingley,” said Elizabeth, “must disarm reproof.” “Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” “And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?” “The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance.
“Miss Eliza Bennet, let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.” Elizabeth was surprised, but agreed to it immediately. Miss Bingley succeeded no less in the real object of her civility; Mr. Darcy looked up. He was as much awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously closed his book. He was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere. “What could he mean? She was dying to know what could be his meaning?” — and asked Elizabeth whether she could at all understand him? “Not at all,” was her answer; “but depend upon it, he means to be severe on us, and our surest way of disappointing him will be to ask nothing about it.” Miss Bingley, however, was incapable of disappointing Mr. Darcy in anything, and persevered therefore in requiring an explanation of his two motives. “I have not the smallest objection to explaining them,” said he, as soon as she allowed him to speak. “You either choose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.” “Oh! shocking!” cried Miss Bingley. “I never heard anything so abominable. How shall we punish him for such a speech?” “Nothing so easy, if you have but the inclination,” said Elizabeth. “We can all plague and punish one another. Tease him — laugh at him. Intimate as you are, you must know how it is to be done.”
It is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?” “They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.” Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.
When those dances were over, she returned to Charlotte Lucas, and was in conversation with her, when she found herself suddenly addressed by Mr. Darcy who took her so much by surprise in his application for her hand, that, without knowing what she did, she accepted him. He walked away again immediately, and she was left to fret over her own want of presence of mind; Charlotte tried to console her: “I dare say you will find him very agreeable.” “Heaven forbid! That would be the greatest misfortune of all! To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.”
I must stop quoting now! I have a feeling that they could get out of control!

My first review September 2007
My second review December 2011

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

by Jan Brett


I have a sneaking suspicion that I have a clue to WHY bears hibernate. My reasoning stems from the recent winter storms that have wrought havoc with school schedules, retailer’s sales totals and just plain getting to work each day. Bears seem to have the easy solution and a unique way to jettison the jangly nerves brought on by weeks and weeks of battling snowstorms and clearing off cars and driveways. The answer is to peacefully sleep away the winter. That way you awaken to the beauties of springtime in good humor.

Jan Brett, in her unique telling of this ageless forest tale of that famous home intruder, Goldilocks, begins the telling with the bears fully awake and off for a jaunt in the woods as their breakfast porridge, delightfully laced with roasted nuts, honey and berries, cools.

The charming cottage Jan has envisioned where the bruins dwell is filled with such rich detail of design that I wish I could put my reservation in right now for a weekend getaway there – if the bears allow their cottage rented out. For instance the porridge bowls that Ms. Brett fashions for the bears are not the ordinary bowls with dings that you or I might toss into the dish wisher! These are exquisitely executed like small soup tureens with tops. Bear motifs of alternating brown, black and polar bears adorn each one. They are sweetness times three!

If these bears do not EAT from ordinary bowls, they certainly do not SIT in run of the mill chairs. The bears seating selection consists of one rough hewn, leather lashed style, with wild egg shells perched atop its back boards, a tufted and tasseled affair, and the smallest, a intricate hand carved delight. Miss G smashes that one to smithereens. Perhaps young bears weigh LESS than young blond house intruders, or at the very least, sit more carefully!

And the BEDS – oh the beds. All I can say is that I so wish SOMEONE would fashion a bed of wood for me with pinecones on the four posts and 2 carved bears each on the head and footboards. Heaven!

BUT, there is always a time of reckoning in this story as the bears return to find their porridge tasted, their chairs sat in, with one demolished, and the intruder asleep in the smallest bed. It has the cutest hedgehogs on its posts. Aww! Awake and aware of her hosts’ return; Goldie skedaddles without so much as a thank you. Maybe she wrote them a hostess note later or at the very least sent a basket of berries and honey, but somehow, I doubt it. Oh Goldilocks, where ARE your manners?

Jan has infused the magical borders of her version of this famous fairy tale with forest life, replicated in carved versions of flowers, mice, mushrooms, bee hives, strawberries, butterflies plus intricate frames that I wish could be replicated into moldings for a house not just for bears.

Jan’s eye for detail is unerring and the feeling she brings to this telling is distinctly “Brettian” in its warmth and wonder.

If you must choose one picture book version, and there are many, to introduce your young reader to Goldilocks and the beleaguered three bears she bothers, let Ms. Brett’s be the version you choose. It is a world away from any other.        


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7. Caperucita Roja- Little Red Riding Hood!

Despite the fact that most of the major streets are blocked and there are protests occurring in different parts of the country, by some amazaing miracle my complimentary copies of Caperucita Roja -Little Red Riding Hood- have arrived today!

The book turned out so lovely, I am really so pleased. It is published by Ediciones SM Spain and will be available March 5th. This book belongs to a series of books called -Cuentos De Ahora-

What a wonderful surprise to get these books at a moment like this.. Really made my day!
I'll post more about the making of this picture book and will show a little more of the inside illustrations soon. :o)

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8. The great Oxford World’s Classics debate

By Kirsty Doole

Last week the Oxford World’s Classics team were at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford to witness the first Oxford World’s Classics debate. Over three days we invited seven academics who had each edited and written introductions and notes for books in the series to give a short, free talk in the shop. This then culminated in an evening event in Blackwell’s famous Norrington Room where we held a balloon debated, chaired by writer and academic Alexandra Harris.

For those unfamiliar with balloon debates, this is the premise: the seven books, represented by their editors, are in a hot air balloon, and the balloon is going down fast. In a bid to climb back up, we’re going to have to throw some books out of the balloon… but which ones? Each editor spoke for five minutes in passionate defence of their titles before the audience voted. The bottom three books were then “thrown overboard”. The remaining four speakers had another three minutes each to further convince the audience, before the final vote was taken.

The seven books in our metaphorical balloon were:

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (represented by Dinah Birch)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (represented by Helen Small)
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (represented by Roger Luckhurst)
A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Edward Austen-Leigh (represented by Kathryn Sutherland)
The Poetic Edda (represented by Carolyne Larrington)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (represented by Fiona Stafford)
The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle (represented by Lesley Brown)

So who was saved? Find out in our slideshow of pictures from the event below:

Kirsty Doole is Publicity Manager for Oxford World’s Classics.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.

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Image credits: All photos by Kirsty Doole

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9. Terrence Malick on Margaret Doody


A piece on Terrence Malick’s latest film To the Wonder appeared shortly after its release this April at New York Magazine‘s online site Vulture. Nothing about the title of the piece need grab you at first engagement—though “Radiant Zigzag Becoming: How Terrence Malick and His Team Constructed To the Wonder” is elegiac and ponderous and a bit of a mouthful, not unlike the reputation of Malick’s oeuvre. What ends up fascinating in this article—besides lines we like such as, “the film has struck some as a particularly Malick-y Terrence Malick film”—is the breakdown of that radiant zigzag becoming, which the writer traces to a scholarly introduction penned for an edition of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, a tawdry Stockholm Syndrome-done-good epistolary novel that shocked and awed its eighteenth-century readers. The Intro was written by our own Margaret A. Doody, the John and Barbara Glynn Family Professor of Literature at Notre Dame and a specialist in Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature.

The relevant connection to Doody’s work?

One odd but telling reference point Malick gave his editors was Margaret A. Doody’s introduction to the Penguin Books edition of Samuel Richardson’s revolutionary 1740 novel Pamela. In the intro, Doody discusses the fact that Richardson’s novel, which unfolds as a series of letters, presents an internalized narrative that appears, on the surface, to lack any and all artifice. “He loves the formless, the radiant zigzag becoming,” Doody writes, and the phrase “radiant zigzag becoming” soon became an unofficial motto for the film, representing its constant sense of movement and the fact that the characters’ relationships seem to always be in flux.

For less radiant zigzag becoming and more screwball ancient whodunit, stay tuned for Doody’s Aristotle Detective novels this spring. Until then, more info about the series can be found here.

(H/T Alan Thomas via Margaret Doody via Fred Rush)

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10. The Perfumed Garden

The Perfumed Garden
Author: Sheikh Nefzaoui
Translator: Richard Burton
Read by: Jonathan Keeble
Publisher: Naxos Audio Books
Genre: Classics
Length: 5 CDs (Total time 6:34:43)
Price: $34.98

Buy it at Amazon

The Perfumed Garden was written in the 15th century by Arab Sheikh Nefzaoui. Like India’s Kama Sutra, it portrays the joys of marital love through words and descriptions. If the reader follows the instructions provided, the author declares he will have an opportunity to experience these pleasures to the fullest.

Sheikh Nefzaoui was determined to provide an encyclopedic work in naming sexual positions, and both the male and female body parts. These lists are followed up by detailed descriptions which require some work to visualize properly. Drawings would have been nice, but were not provided with the CDs, and may not have been included in the original text.

In addition to the copious lists, short anecdotes and other explanations are included. Commentary on the deceits and treacheries of women is especially amusing, and home remedies for various ailments are also provided, although they should be used with extreme care. Married love is considered one of the greatest pleasures on earth, and both men and women are encouraged to enjoy each other to the fullest.

This sensitive subject is handled professionally and skilfully by reader Jonathan Keeble. Taking on the personality of Sheikh Nefzaoui, he encourages listeners to follow his instructions and maximize their pleasure. This quality production would be perfect for couples to enjoy on a quiet evening, letting nature take its course with its message.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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11. Way Back Wednesday: The Canon of Picture Books

Walking Down Corridors with the Caldecott


Merriam-Webster defines the word “canon” as “a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related work” as in the canon of great literature.

I recently wrote a blog that intimated that just as most literate adults have read a canon of great literature that reaches a high water mark, so too in picture book literature there is a sort of canon of best books that define what a classic picture book is and should be in content and style and in the ability to move the imagination and heart of our youngest readers. That canon’s foundation, to some, starts with the list of Caldecott award winners and honor books begun in 1938. The Caldecott Medal “shall be awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States the preceding year.” Awarded by the Children’s and School Libraries section of the American Library Association, it’s named in honor of Randolph J. Caldecott, nineteenth-century English illustrator.   

At the Snuggery, in our Way Back Wednesday segments, we’ve tried to shine the spotlight on these gems that might have fallen off young parents’ picture book reading radar or slipped their notice. This year, in fact, marks the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal and I’ve written blogs on many of them this year at the Snuggery. Have you ever had a feeling of perfect synchronicity, where things fall in an almost perfect alignment or “meaningful coincidence”?  I recently had one of those moments when I came face to face with the canon or at least large parts of it. I couldn’t take the smile from my face as if I were recognizing friends; friends that I wanted to introduce around.

I walked the halls of Penguin Young Readers, and there, as I turned corridor after corridor, lining the walls were the covers of the canon – framed. To see classic picture books in a store randomly displayed is one thing. BUT, to see one publishing house and its contributions to the canon was amazing! Many were books I’ve certainly read to children, my own included, and to other young ones in story hours I’ve done. It was a moment I’ll remember.

There was something about seeing row after row of great picture book covers that gave me a renewed hunger to share these books with young readers that haven’t heard the words and seen the pictures that make the stories come to life and to share with children something of the lives of the wonderful authors behind them. I didn’t just see the covers in those corridors. I saw the children for whom they were written who’ve read them and those who are still waiting to read them.

Don’t let your children and grands miss out on the start of the great picture book canon! And while you’re at it, add your own favorite “read it again” to the list! Back to school is the perfect time to “connect with the canon” and jump-start your children’s love of reading. You and your young reader can connect with all that lies beneath the covers of the canon!

Here is a list of just some of the extraordinary book covers I saw on those Caldecott corridors:




They Were Strong and Good – Robert Lawson – 1941                        

Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey – 1942

Madeline’s Rescue – Ludwig Bemelmans – 1954

Time of Wonder – Robert McCloskey – 1958

Nine Days to Christmas – Marie Hall Ets, illus., text: Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida – 1960

The Snowy Day – Ezra Jack Keats – 1960

The Funny Little Woman – Arlene Mosel – 1973

Arrow to the Sun – Gerald McDermott – 1975

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears – Leo and Diane Dillon, illus.; text retold by Verna Ardema – 1976

Ashanti to Zulu – Leo and Diane Dillon, illus., text: Margaret Musgrove – 1977

Ox-Cart Man – Barbara Cooney, illus., text: Donald Hall – 1980

The Glorious Flight Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot – Alice and Martin Provensen – 1984

Owl Moon – John Schoenherr, illus., text: Jane Yolen – 1988

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China – Ed Young – 1990

Mirette on the High Wire – Emily Arnold McCully – 1993

Officer Buckle and Gloria – Peggy Rathmann – 1996

Rapunzel – Paul O. Zelinsky – 1998

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat – Simms Taback – 2000

So You Want to Be President? – Judith St. George – 2001















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12. The Life of Cesare Borgia (1912)

The Life of Cesare Borgia: A History and Some Criticisms. Rafael Sabatini. 1912. 326 pages. [Source: Bought]

Rafael Sabatini would NOT have approved of Horrible Histories' Borgia Family. The truth is, however, that I would never have sought out Sabatini's biography of Cesare Borgia if I'd not fallen in love with the video. It was Mat's "I am the mostest, powerfulest, evilest of all" that made me curious and seeking. I wasn't that impressed by my first attempt to learn more. The fictional Borgia Bride was awful. Fortunately, I discovered Sabatini's biography. It was LOVE.  It wasn't love because it fit into any preconceived notions about how I wanted the Borgia family to be. It was love because it respected human nature and historical fact. It embraced common sense and used dry wit, in part, to argue and persuade.

I journaled my reading in four parts. The first post tackled the preface and introduced Sabatini's goal in writing. It was WONDERFUL. The second post examined Cesare's father, Alexander VI (Rodrigo). The third post focused almost exclusively on Cesare. The fourth post focused on Sabatini as an author, his narrative style, his technique of criticizing other authors and sources. 
Life is an ephemeral business, and we waste too much of it in judging where it would beseem us better to accept, that we ourselves may come to be accepted by such future ages as may pursue the study of us.
But if it be wrong to judge a past epoch collectively by the standards of our own time, how much more is it not wrong to single out individuals for judgement by those same standards, after detaching them for the purpose from the environment in which they had their being? How false must be the conception of them thus obtained! We view the individuals so selected through a microscope of modern focus. They appear monstrous and abnormal, and we straight-way assume them to be monsters and abnormalities, never considering that the fault is in the adjustment of the instrument through which we inspect them, and that until that is corrected others of that same past age, if similarly viewed, must appear similarly distorted.
Hence it follows that some study of an age must ever prelude and accompany the study of its individuals, if comprehension is to wait upon our labours.
Sabatini just came across to me as practical, witty, sometimes wise, and sometimes poetic.
Mind being the seat of the soul, and literature being the expression of the mind, literature, it follows, is the soul of an age, the surviving and immortal part of it; (6)
Anyway, here is Sabatini's thesis--his goal for writing this biography. If you can embrace this premise, then chances are you'll find this one well worth the read!!!
Before we admit facts, not only should we call for evidence and analyse it when it is forthcoming, but the very sources of such evidence should be examined, that, as far as possible, we may ascertain what degree of credit they deserve. In the study of the history of the Borgias, we repeat, there has been too much acceptance without question, too much taking for granted of matters whose incredibility frequently touches and occasionally oversteps the confines of the impossible. (12)
If the author has a mercy to crave of his critics, it is that they will not impute it to him that he has set out with the express aim of "whitewashing"as the term goes—the family of Borgia. To whitewash is to overlay, to mask the original fabric under a superadded surface. Too much superadding has there been here already. By your leave, all shall be stripped away. The grime shall be removed and the foulness of inference, of surmise, of deliberate and cold-blooded malice, with which centuries of scribblers, idle, fantastic, sensational, or venal, have coated the substance of known facts.
But the grime shall be preserved and analysed side by side with the actual substance, that you may judge if out of zeal to remove the former any of the latter shall have been included in the scraping.
If Sabatini was alive to refute current fictional portrayals of Cesare in romance novels...
Women play no part whatever in his history. Not once shall you find a woman's influence swaying him; not once shall you see him permitting dalliance to retard his advancement or jeopardize his chances. With him, as with egotists of his type, governed by cold will and cold intellect, the sentimental side of the relation of the sexes has no place. With him one woman was as another woman; as he craved women, so he took women, but with an almost contemptuous undiscrimination. 
The biography is rich in detail. It doesn't just focus on Cesare. It tries to cover more than that--to look at an age, to capture a time and place. It is ALL ABOUT context for Rafael Sabatini. And I really enjoyed his technique overall. 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Rereading Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/2003. Random House. 190 pages.

It was a pleasure to burn. 

I first read and reviewed Fahrenheit 451 in May 2007. I then read the graphic novel in October 2010. I couldn't resist reading the "real" book at that time as well. I even sought out A Pleasure to Burn, a collection of stories that traces Bradbury's developing themes. That collection included two crucial stories: "The Fireman" and "Long After Midnight." (Also I watched the movie.) The summer of 2012, I read tons of Ray Bradbury, and, of course, I had to reread Fahrenheit 451!

I definitely consider Fahrenheit 451 one of the rare must-reads. It is intense and thought-provoking. The novel, as a whole, is powerful. But it is in conversation (or dialogue) that this one truly shines. Guy Montag's conversations with Clarisse, with Faber, and to some extent even his boss and wife. It's a very reflective novel as well. In its pages, readers get a glimpse of a man at his most vulnerable: a self awakening of sorts as a man wakes up to the nightmare world in which he's been a part of all along.

Favorite quotes:

Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute...Remember, Montag, we're the happiness boys. We stand against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought. (50-1)  
 We've started and won two atomic wars since 1990! Is it because we're having so much fun at home we've forgotten the world? Is it because we're so rich and the rest of the world's so poor and we just don't care if they are? Is that why we're hated so much? Do you know why? I don't, that's sure! Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. God, Millie, don't you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe... (62)
Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public itself stopped reading of its own accord. (78)
 It’s been a long time. I’m not a religious man. But it’s been a long time.’ Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read. ‘It’s as good as I remember. Lord, how they’ve changed it in our parlors these days. Christ is one of the family now. I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.’ (81)
Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. (83)
Though this one is "about" books, in a way, it is not. It is about the ideas, emotions, concepts behind the books. It is about the knowledge and wisdom sometimes contained in books, but never exclusively found in books. It is about choices and lifestyles. The nightmarish culture found in Fahrenheit 451 is a result of people choosing to be shallow, selfish, materialistic, technology-obsessed, and pleasure-seeking. People are "happy." But their "happiness" is fake. It comes at the cost of suppressing emotion and intellect. Free thinking is not encouraged. Thoughts shouldn't have depth and substance! One shouldn't ponder, consider, or reflect! It's about lives packed with noise and busyness--a blur of distractions--all designed to keep you from realizing there is something more, something that has been lost.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Horace and Me by Harry Eyres

Mostly about the author Eyres and what he gleaned from Horace's poetry and wisdom, this charming book will inspire one to spend several late summer nights savoring Horace's poems over a glass (or two) of sherry. Books mentioned in this post Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an... Harry Eyres Used Hardcover $17.50

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15. Rookwood (1834)

Rookwood. William Harrison Ainsworth. 1834. 464 pages. [Source: Bought]

Rookwood is a mess of a novel. But sometimes it is easy to love a mess, to love a book despite its flaws. If Rookwood is a mess, it is because it is a blending of genres and story lines.

There is the incredibly creepy, ever-mysterious Rookwood family. The mystery involving lies, secret marriages, hidden wills, and a LOT of murder. The heart of this plot is focused on inheritance. Who is the rightful heir of the Rookwood estate? Is it Luke Bradley the supposed "illegitimate" son of Sir Piers Rookwood and Susan Bradley? There seems to be proof the two were married and he is in fact legitimate after all. Is it Eleanor Mowbray? There seems to be a hint in that direction. Is it Ranulph Rookwood? He's certainly confident that he's the rightful claimant. And he's ready to defend it against contrary claims. The plot is creepy and bizarre because the family history is so strange and blood-filled. The book also lacks a clear HERO.

When it is creepy, it is incredibly creepy. The chapters that focus on the underground wedding are so very weird and creepy. Before Luke found out the truth about his past, about who he is, he was in love with a gypsy girl, Sybil Lovel. And Sybil's mother, Barbara, is truly something. As soon as Luke does find out the truth, he becomes fascinated with the idea of marrying his cousin Eleanor Mowbray and 'stealing' her away from his half-brother, Ranulph. (Eleanor and Ranulph were in love already.) The "romance" of this one is truly creepy and a bit bloody.

Balancing out the gothic romance, readers meet Dick Turpin, famous highwayman. Over half the novel stars Turpin. Readers see him eating, drinking, joking, singing, laughing, fighting, riding, holding up coaches, etc. Readers see him among friends and enemies. Turpin knows Luke Bradley. He knows of the messy inheritance. He has in his possession the marriage certificate. He wants Bradley to be triumphant perhaps, but he'll bargain with either side. He and Bradley work together at times, and against each other at times. Bradley isn't above playing legitimate hero and rescuing the damsel in distress if he feels like it. Turpin overlooks the frustrations Bradley sends his way. These sections of the novel are incredibly light. All action. All adventure. A lot of drinking and singing and general merry-making. And an incredible amount of boasting!

"Thoughts should not always find utterance, else we might often endanger our own safety, and that of others."
It is as necessary for a man to be a gentleman before he can turn highwayman, as it is for a doctor to have his diploma, or an attorney his certificate. 
You may both of you be gratified, gentlemen," said Palmer. "Talking of Dick Turpin, they say, is like speaking of the devil, he's at your elbow ere the word's well out of your mouth. He may be within hearing at this moment, for anything we know to the contrary."
By-the-by," added he, surveying Jack more narrowly, "it occurs to me that Turpin must be rather like you, Mr. Palmer?"
"Like me," said Jack, regarding Coates askance; "like me—how am I to understand you, sir, eh?" "No offence; none whatever, sir. Ah! stay, you won't object to my comparing the description. That can do no harm. Nobody would take you for a highwayman—nobody whatever—ha! ha! Singular resemblance—he—he. These things do happen sometimes: not very often, though. But here is Turpin's description in the Gazette, June 28th, A.D. 1737:—'It having been represented to the King that Richard Turpin did, on Wednesday, the 4th of May last, rob on his Majesty's highway Vavasour Mowbray, Esq., Major of the 2d troop of Horse Grenadiers'—that Major Mowbray, by-the-by, is a nephew of the late Sir Piers, and cousin of the present baronet—'and commit other notorious felonies and robberies near London, his Majesty is pleased to promise his most gracious pardon to any of his accomplices, and a reward of two hundred pounds to any person or persons who shall discover him, so as he may be apprehended and convicted.'" "Odsbodikins!" exclaimed Titus, "a noble reward! I should like to lay hands upon Turpin," added he, slapping Palmer's shoulder: "I wish he were in your place at this moment, Jack." "Thank you!" replied Palmer, shifting his chair. "'Turpin,'" continued Coates, "'was born at Thacksted, in Essex; is about thirty'—you, sir, I believe, are about thirty?" added he, addressing Palmer. "Thereabouts," said Jack, bluffly. "But what has my age to do with that of Turpin?" "Nothing—nothing at all," answered Coates; "suffer me, however, to proceed:—'Is by trade a butcher,'—you, sir, I believe, never had any dealings in that line?" "I have some notion how to dispose of a troublesome calf," returned Jack. "But Turpin, though described as a butcher, is, I understand, a lineal descendant of a great French archbishop of the same name." "Who wrote the chronicles of that royal robber Charlemagne; I know him," replied Coates—"a terrible liar!—The modern Turpin 'is about five feet nine inches high'—exactly your height, sir—exactly!" "I am five feet ten," answered Jack, standing bolt upright. "You have an inch, then, in your favor," returned the unperturbed attorney, deliberately proceeding with his examination—"'he has a brown complexion, marked with the smallpox.'" "My complexion is florid—my face without a seam," quoth Jack. "Those whiskers would conceal anything," replied Coates, with a grin. "Nobody wears whiskers nowadays, except a highwayman." "Sir!" said Jack, sternly. "You are personal." "I don't mean to be so," replied Coates; "but you must allow the description tallies with your own in a remarkable manner. Hear me out, however—'his cheek bones are broad—his face is thinner towards the bottom—his visage short—pretty upright—and broad about the shoulders.' Now I appeal to Mr. Tyrconnel if all this does not sound like a portrait of yourself." "Don't appeal to me," said Titus, hastily, "upon such a delicate point. I can't say that I approve of a gentleman being likened to a highwayman. But if ever there was a highwayman I'd wish to resemble, it's either Redmond O'Hanlon or Richard Turpin; and may the devil burn me if I know which of the two is the greater rascal!" "Well, Mr. Palmer," said Coates, "I repeat, I mean no offence. Likenesses are unaccountable. I am said to be like my Lord North; whether I am or not, the Lord knows. But if ever I meet with Turpin I shall bear you in mind—he—he! Ah! if ever I should have the good luck to stumble upon him, I've a plan for his capture which couldn't fail. Only let me get a glimpse of him, that's all. You shall see how I'll dispose of him." "Well, sir, we shall see," observed Palmer. "And for your own sake, I wish you may never be nearer to him than you are at this moment. With his friends, they say Dick Turpin can be as gentle as a lamb; with his foes, especially with a limb of the law like yourself, he's been found but an ugly customer.
Tell me, girl, in what way? Speak, that I may avenge you, if your wrong requires revenge. Are you blood of mine, and think I will not do this for you, girl? None of the blood of Barbara Lovel were ever unrevenged. When Richard Cooper stabbed my first-born, Francis, he fled to Flanders to escape my wrath. But he did not escape it. I pursued him thither. I hunted him out; drove him back to his own country, and brought him to the gallows. It took a power of gold. What matter? Revenge is dearer than gold. And as it was with Richard Cooper, so it shall be with Luke Bradley. I will catch him, though he run. I will trip him, though he leap. I will reach him, though he flee afar. I will drag him hither by the hair of his head," added she, with a livid smile, and clutching at the air with her hands, as if in the act of pulling some one towards her. "He shall wed you within the hour, if you will have it, or if your honor need that it should be so. My power is not departed from me. My people are yet at my command. I am still their queen, and woe to him that offendeth me!" "Mother! mother!" cried Sybil, affrighted at the storm she had unwittingly aroused, "he has not injured me. 'Tis I alone who am to blame, not Luke." "You speak in mysteries," said Barbara. "Sir Piers Rookwood is dead." "Dead!" echoed Barbara, letting fall her hazel rod. "Sir Piers dead!" "And Luke Bradley——" "Ha!" "Is his successor." "Who told you that?" asked Barbara, with increased astonishment.
Dick saw the effect that he produced. He was at home in a moment. Your true highwayman has ever a passion for effect. This does not desert him at the gallows; it rises superior to death itself, and has been known to influence the manner of his dangling from the gibbet!
"Proceed now with the ceremony," continued Barbara. "By darkness, or by light, the match shall be completed." The ring was then placed upon the finger of the bride; and as Luke touched it, he shuddered. It was cold as that of the corpse which he had clasped but now. The prayer was said, the blessing given, the marriage was complete. Suddenly there issued from the darkness deep dirge-like tones, and a voice solemnly chanted a strain, which all knew to be the death-song of their race, hymned by wailing women over an expiring sister. The music seemed to float in the air. THE SOUL-BELL Fast the sand of life is falling, Fast her latest sigh exhaling, Fast, fast, is she dying. With death's chills her limbs are shivering, With death's gasp the lips are quivering, Fast her soul away is flying. O'er the mountain-top it fleeteth, And the skyey wonders greeteth, Singing loud as stars it meeteth On its way. Hark! the sullen Soul-bell tolling, Hollowly in echoes rolling, Seems to say— "She will ope her eyes—oh, never! Quenched their dark light—gone for ever! She is dead."
The next time you wed, Sir Luke, let me advise you not to choose a wife in the dark. A man should have all his senses about him on these occasions. Make love when the liquor's in; marry when it's out, and, above all, with your eyes open. This beats cock-fighting—ha, ha, ha!—you must excuse me; but, upon my soul, I can't help it."
"Every man to his taste," returned Turpin; "I love to confront danger. Run away! pshaw! always meet your foe."
A man should always die game. We none of us know how soon our turn may come; but come when it will, I shall never flinch from it. As the highwayman's life is the fullest of zest, So the highwayman's death is the briefest and best; He dies not as other men die, by degrees, But at once! without flinching—and quite at his ease! 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Resurrection (Naxos Audio)

Author: Leo Tolstoy
Publisher: Naxos Audio
Genre: Classics / Audio Books
ISBN: 978-184-379-574-2
Length: 16 CDs (Total time 20:13:55)
Price: $98.98

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Prince Dmitri Nekhludov once loved a young girl named Katusha. Many years later, he serves jury duty on a murder case. The accused is Katusha, now a prostitute, and when she is unjustly convicted, Nekhludov’s conscience can’t let the verdict rest.

Facing his own role in destroying Katusha’s life, he determines to do everything he can to free her from her sentence. And in the process, he becomes interested and involved in how the prison systems operate. Now he not only needs to protect Katusha, but he also begins to help others who have been unjustly and unfairly imprisoned.

Tolstoy’s classic, Resurrection, is a powerfully moving tale of a wealthy and privileged man facing his own inhumanity in the treatment of those who are helpless to protect themselves. In working to save Katusha, Nekhludov is also saving himself from a life of useless and vain pursuits.

Neville Jason is marvelous in conveying the drama as it unfolds, and bringing this somewhat dry tale to life. The listener has compassion for Nekhludov and Katusha, as he listens in on their life stories. Naxos Audio has created a wonderful production of Resurrection for all who enjoy listening to the classics.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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17. Little Witch

Little Witch
Author: Anna Elizabeth Bennett
Illustrator: Helen Stone
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-1-61608-964-1
Pages: 128
Price: $12.95

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Minikin Snickasnee (Minx) is the nine year-old daughter of the town witch. Her mother is evil, and won’t let her go to school or play with the other children. In fact, she dislikes children so much she turns them into flowerpots. Minx hates being a little witch, and desperately wants to be a normal girl.

Not one to sit around hopelessly, waiting for things to change, Minx decides to go to school, in spite of her mother’s wrath. She casts spells, hoping for the right one to bring what she longs for. And she makes friends, even though she’s putting them in danger of becoming flowerpots. One day, everything does change, as her efforts are finally successful, and she is able to live the life of her dreams.

Little Witch was first introduced in 1953, and this 60th anniversary edition brings this classic back into print. It was named #7 in a School Library Journal poll of top 100 children’s novels, and tops the “most in demand” list of out of print books. In this reprint, nothing is lost of the original, with all illustrations and font intact. If you read Little Witch in your youth, and want to share this timeless treasure with your own kids, this is a must-have edition for your collection.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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18. Pygmalion (1912)

Pygmalion. George Bernard Shaw. 1912. 96 pages.

Pygmalion is another book I read for the book to movie reading challenge. There is a lovely 1938 movie starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller. If you've only seen Leslie Howard in Gone With The Wind, you should really make a point to see either Pygmalion OR The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934). Pygmalion was also the inspiration, of course, for the musical My Fair Lady starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Don't ask me to choose between Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. I happen to LOVE musicals, but Leslie Howard is oh-so-good in this one!!!

Pygmalion is certainly the inspiration for My Fair Lady. And I feel the musical stays, perhaps until the very end, true to the spirit of the original play. The songs fill in the gaps between the acts and scenes. The songs are quite expressive and provide insight on the individual characters. Through song, we learn more about what is going on in the house and about the months of training involved. On the other hand, in the book, there's a big gap between when Henry Higgins agrees to the experiment with Eliza Doolittle and her first outing. The first outing in the book is to Professor Higgins' mother's house. (The racing scene isn't in the original play.) Another big difference is that readers don't witness the big scene, the triumphant scene firsthand. Readers simply see the three returning home all dressed up. Readers hear the boasting and learn of the success after the fact. I really enjoyed the way My Fair Lady added to the original while keeping up the spirit.

Pygmalion is a short read, and it's also quite enjoyable!  

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Treasure Island (1883)

Treasure Island. Robert Louis Stevenson. 1883. 311 pages.

I was surprised by how much I liked Treasure Island. I didn't really expect it to be my kind of book. And, in a way, it still isn't. (I'm not going to feel the same devotion to Jim Hawkins that I feel for Anne Shirley.) But it is a GOOD adventure story. Plenty of drama, action, adventure, surprise, and danger. It is a life-or-death adventure book abounding with good guys and bad guys.

Jim Hawkins is our hero. Though he isn't always confident in his abilities to be A HERO, Hawkins is the hero that he needs to be when it counts, the hero he needs to be in order to save the day. Jim Hawkins' father owned an inn. One day a former pirate (Billy Bones) comes for an extended stay at the inn. He hires the young boy (Jim) to be on the lookout for a one-legged pirate (Long John Silver). He does NOT want to meet up with this pirate--or really any other pirate for that matter. But he is found by a few pirates before long. Jim's life is messy in that his own father is dying and this pirate is dying; the same doctor sees after both men. The pirate brought with him a sea chest (with a treasure map). Having this chest at the inn brings danger and excitement. Eventually it takes Hawkins to sea with others--some good guys, some bad guys--all in search for this treasure on an island. Of course, the good guys aren't aware that the others are "bad" and have murderous intentions. But readers learn this information right along with Hawkins...

While the novel is interesting before they reach the island, the book REALLY becomes interesting once they reach the island.

Read Treasure Island

  • If you like watching pirate movies or reading pirate stories
  • If you like adventure stories
  • If you like coming-of-age stories

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. The Inimitable Jeeves (1923)

The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves). P.G. Wodehouse. 1923. 225 pages.

The Inimitable Jeeves is my favorite Wodehouse yet. (I've also read The Man With Two Left Feet and My Man Jeeves.) I loved this short story collection because it is all devoted to Bertie and Jeeves! Featured stories include: "Jeeves Exerts the Old Cerebellum," "No Wedding Bells for Bingo," "Aunt Agatha Speaks Her Mind," "Pearls Mean Tears," "The Pride of the Woosters is Wounded," "The Hero's Reward," "Introducing Claude and Eustace," "Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch," "A Letter of Introduction," Startling Dressiness of a Lift Attendant," Comrade Bingo," "Bingo Has a Bad Goodwood," "The Great Sermon Handicap," "The Purity of the Turf," "The Metropolitan Touch," "The Delayed Exit of Claude and Eustace," "Bingo and the Little Woman," and "All's Well."

These stories introduce one of Bertie's friends, Bingo Little. He is quite the character. He is always falling in love with someone. And there's always drama that Bertie and Jeeves get drawn into! But Bingo Little isn't the only source of drama! There's also Bertie's family, including Aunt Agatha and two of his cousins, Claude and Eustace, to name a few. Some of the stories are set in the city, others take place in the country. All are delightful!!!

My favorite sequence of stories is "The Hero's Reward," "Introducing Claude and Eustace," and "Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch." In this sequence, Bertie finds himself accidentally engaged to a girl, Honoria, a young woman that Bingo was once quite smitten with! Sir Roderick is Honoria's father, and their lunch together is quite delightful! He's not quite sure he likes Bertie, not quite sure Bertie is sane... enter an insane number of cats, fish under Bertie's bed, and a stolen hat... and you've got an unforgettable chapter!

Read The Inimitable Jeeves
  • If you like short stories
  • If you love short stories
  • If you hate short stories
  • If you enjoy P.G. Wodehouse
  • If you want more Bertie and Jeeves
  • If you love to laugh
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Greek Mythology for Kids: Story Collections and re-tellings of The Odyssey

The D'Aulaires, Edgar and Ingri, met at art school in Munich in 1921 and published their first children's book ten years later and, up until 1980 when Ingri died, contributed a number of distinguished children's books, most of them non-fiction. Their book of Greek Mythology remains the biggest selling collection for children and is often used as a textbook. The collection is thorough and

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22. Turning Pages: The Night Swimmers, by Betsy Byars

Everyone from Forbes Magazine to individual authors are selling the "thar's gold in them there backlists!" schtick. But, is there really? Are book which were first published in the seventies or eighties best kept there? A book which goes out of... Read the rest of this post

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23. Sunday Salon: Reading Anne's House of Dreams (1917)

Anne's House of Dreams. L.M. Montgomery. 1917. 227 pages.

Anne's House of Dreams is a lovely book in L.M. Montgomery's Anne series. It opens with Anne marrying Gilbert Blythe. The two honeymoon in their new home on the other side of Prince Edward Island. The two adjust to life together and settle down within the community. There are plenty of kindred spirits to be found, though in this book and in subsequent books, they are now known as 'the race that knows Joseph.' Readers meet Captain Jim and Cornelia Bryant--two extremely vibrant and eccentric characters. Who could not love Captain Jim? And isn't Cornelia fun?!

Leslie Moore is also Anne's friend, but their friendship is strained at times. Anne being too happy by her friend's reckoning. Leslie has had a sad life: her younger brother killed in a farm accident, her father committing suicide, having to protect her mother from the harsh realities of life by agreeing to marry a horrible man, being trapped in an abusive marriage, etc. When readers first meet Leslie, her husband is deserving of pity himself, a tragic sea accident having changed him dramatically, he has the mind of a child but the strength of a man. And then there is Susan Baker! Susan plays a much larger role in other books in the series--particularly Rilla of Ingleside.

The book chronicles the first few years of Anne's married life. There is a focus on friendship, family, community. There is also a mingling of hope and sorrow.

Favorite quotes:
"Stoutness and slimness seem to be matters of predestination."
"Jane was not brilliant, and had probably never made a remark worth listening to in her life; but she never said anything that would hurt anyone's feelings--which may be a negative talent but is likewise a rare and enviable one."
"Ah, there's the rub," sighed Anne. "There are so many things in life we cannot do because of the fear of what Mrs. Harmon Andrews would say."
"That evening Green Gables hummed with preparations for the following day; but in the twilight Anne slipped away. She had a little pilgrimage to make on this last day of her girlhood and she must make it alone. She went to Matthew's grave, in the little poplar-shaded Avonlea graveyard, and there kept a silent tryst with old memories and immortal loves."
"My very happiest moments have been when I had tears in my eyes--when Marilla told me I might stay at Green Gables--when Matthew gave me the first pretty dress I ever had--when I heard that you were going to recover from the fever. So give me pearls for our troth ring, Gilbert, and I'll willingly accept the sorrow of life with its joy."
"It's rather hard to decide just when people are grown up," laughed Anne.
"That's a true word, dearie. Some are grown up when they're born, and others ain't grown up when they're eighty, believe ME."
"Soul ache doesn't worry folks near as much as stomach-ache."
"Our library isn't very extensive," said Anne, "but every book in it is a FRIEND. We've picked our books up through the years, here and there, never buying one until we had first read it and knew that it belonged to the race of Joseph."
Fun with Captain Jim:
"Life may be a vale of tears, all right, but there are some folks who enjoy weeping, I reckon."
"I've kind of contracted a habit of enjoying things," he remarked once, when Anne had commented on his invariable cheerfulness. "It's got so chronic that I believe I even enjoy the disagreeable things."
"Heretics are wicked, but they're mighty interesting. It's jest that they've got sorter lost looking for God, being under the impression that He's hard to find--which He ain't never."
"But it ain't our feelings we have to steer by through life--no, no, we'd make a shipwreck mighty often if we did that. There's only the one safe compass and we've got to set our course by that--what it's right to do." 
Fun with Cornelia:
Anne looked in some surprise at the white garment spread over Miss Cornelia's ample lap. It was certainly a baby's dress, and it was most beautifully made, with tiny frills and tucks. Miss Cornelia adjusted her glasses and fell to embroidering with exquisite stitches.
"This is for Mrs. Fred Proctor up at the Glen," she announced. "She's expecting her eighth baby any day now, and not a stitch has she ready for it. The other seven have wore out all she made for the first, and she's never had time or strength or spirit to make any more. That woman is a martyr, Mrs. Blythe, believe me. When she married Fred Proctor I knew how it would turn out. He was one of your wicked, fascinating men. After he got married he left off being fascinating and just kept on being wicked. He drinks and he neglects his family. Isn't that like a man? I don't know how Mrs. Proctor would ever keep her children decently clothed if her neighbors didn't help her out."
As Anne was afterwards to learn, Miss Cornelia was the only neighbor who troubled herself much about the decency of the young Proctors.
"When I heard this eighth baby was coming I decided to make some things for it," Miss Cornelia went on. "This is the last and I want to finish it today."
"It's certainly very pretty," said Anne. "I'll get my sewing and we'll have a little thimble party of two. You are a beautiful sewer, Miss Bryant."
"Yes, I'm the best sewer in these parts," said Miss Cornelia in a matter-of-fact tone. "I ought to be! Lord, I've done more of it than if I'd had a hundred children of my own, believe me! I s'pose I'm a fool, to be putting hand embroidery on this dress for an eighth baby. But, Lord, Mrs. Blythe, dearie, it isn't to blame for being the eighth, and I kind of wished it to have one real pretty dress, just as if it waswanted. Nobody's wanting the poor mite--so I put some extra fuss on its little things just on that account."
"Any baby might be proud of that dress," said Anne, feeling still more strongly that she was going to like Miss Cornelia.
"I s'pose you've been thinking I was never coming to call on you," resumed Miss Cornelia. "But this is harvest month, you know, and I've been busy--and a lot of extra hands hanging round, eating more'n they work, just like the men. I'd have come yesterday, but I went to Mrs. Roderick MacAllister's funeral. At first I thought my head was aching so badly I couldn't enjoy myself if I did go. But she was a hundred years old, and I'd always promised myself that I'd go to her funeral."
"Was it a successful function?" asked Anne, noticing that the office door was ajar.
"What's that? Oh, yes, it was a tremendous funeral. She had a very large connection. There was over one hundred and twenty carriages in the procession. There was one or two funny things happened. I thought that die I would to see old Joe Bradshaw, who is an infidel and never darkens the door of a church, singing `Safe in the Arms of Jesus' with great gusto and fervor. He glories in singing-- that's why he never misses a funeral. Poor Mrs. Bradshaw didn't look much like singing--all wore out slaving. Old Joe starts out once in a while to buy her a present and brings home some new kind of farm machinery. Isn't that like a man? But what else would you expect of a man who never goes to church, even a Methodist one? I was real thankful to see you and the young Doctor in the Presbyterian church your first Sunday. No doctor for me who isn't a Presbyterian."
"We were in the Methodist church last Sunday evening," said Anne wickedly.
"Oh, I s'pose Dr. Blythe has to go to the Methodist church once in a while or he wouldn't get the Methodist practice."
"We liked the sermon very much," declared Anne boldly. "And I thought the Methodist minster's prayer was one of the most beautiful I ever heard."
"Oh, I've no doubt he can pray. I never heard anyone make more beautiful prayers than old Simon Bentley, who was always drunk, or hoping to be, and the drunker he was the better he prayed."
"The Methodist minister is very fine looking," said Anne, for the benefit of the office door.
"Yes, he's quite ornamental," agreed Miss Cornelia. "Oh, and very ladylike. And he thinks that every girl who looks at him falls in love with him--as if a Methodist minister, wandering about like any Jew, was such a prize! If you and the young doctor take myadvice, you won't have much to do with the Methodists. My motto is--if you are a Presbyterian, be a Presbyterian."
"Don't you think that Methodists go to heaven as well as Presbyterians?" asked Anne smilelessly.
"That isn't for us to decide. It's in higher hands than ours," said Miss Cornelia solemnly. "But I ain't going to associate with them on earth whatever I may have to do in heaven.
"Thank goodness we can choose our friends. We have to take our relatives as they are, and be thankful if there are no penitentiary birds among them."
"Do you know, Cornelia," said Captain Jim gravely, "I've often thought that if I wasn't a Presbyterian I'd be a Methodist."
"Oh, well," conceded Miss Cornelia, "if you weren't a Presbyterian it wouldn't matter much what you were. Speaking of heresy, reminds me, doctor--I've brought back that book you lent me--that Natural Law in the Spiritual World--I didn't read more'n a third of it. I can read sense, and I can read nonsense, but that book is neither the one nor the other."
"It is considered rather heretical in some quarters," admitted Gilbert, "but I told you that before you took it, Miss Cornelia."
"Oh, I wouldn't have minded its being heretical. I can stand wickedness, but I can't stand foolishness," said Miss Cornelia calmly, and with the air of having said the last thing there was to say about Natural Law.
 Fun with Susan:
Is it not funny nobody ever asked me to marry him, Mrs. Doctor, dear? I am no beauty, but I am as good-looking as most of the married women you see. But I never had a beau. What do you suppose is the reason?"
"It may be predestination," suggested Anne, with unearthly solemnity.
Susan nodded.
"That is what I have often thought, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and a great comfort it is. I do not mind nobody wanting me if the Almighty decreed it so for His own wise purposes. But sometimes doubt creeps in, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and I wonder if maybe the Old Scratch has not more to do with it than anyone else. I cannot feel resigned then. But maybe," added Susan, brightening up, "I will have a chance to get married yet. I often and often think of the old verse my aunt used to repeat:
There never was a goose so gray but sometime soon or late Some honest gander came her way and took her for his mate!
A woman cannot ever be sure of not being married till she is buried, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and meanwhile I will make a batch of cherry pies. I notice the doctor favors 'em, and I do like cooking for a man who appreciates his victuals."
 "And did you notice his ears and his teeth, Mrs. Doctor, dear?" queried Susan later on. "He has got the nicest-shaped ears I ever saw on a man's head. I am choice about ears. When I was young I was scared that I might have to marry a man with ears like flaps. But I need not have worried, for never a chance did I have with any kind of ears."

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Les Miserables (1862)

Les Miserables. Victor Hugo. Translated and Introduced by Norman Denny. 1862/1976/2012. Penguin. 1232 pages.

Reading Les Miserables was an experience! For six or seven days, I kept good company with the novel. I definitely was not expecting to finish this chunkster in one week! But I found the story so compelling. Political, philosophical, spiritual, dramatic, and romantic. Each word describes the novel, in part. While there are many characters in this novel, I loved the narrator the best of all. Who are some of the characters? Bishop Myriel, Jean Valjean, Fantine, Inspector Javert, Cosette, Marius, Eponine, Enjolras, and Gavroche--just to name a few.

Jean Valjean is an ex-convict who seeks shelter from Bishop Myriel one night. Though he's been treated only with kindness, Valjean in his bitterness (he was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread), he steals the bishop's silver. When the theft is discovered, the bishop is all compassion telling the officials that there has been a misunderstanding. Valjean did not steal the silver; it was given as a gift. In fact, he's happy to give Valjean his silver candlesticks as well. Valjean is shocked and overwhelmed. The meeting turns out to be quite life-changing.

When readers next meet Valjean, he has a new name and life. Monsieur Madeleine is a successful business man. He has a BIG heart. He's always giving. He's always thinking of others. He's always doing what he can, when he can to make a difference when and where it matters most. One woman he is determined to help is a young, single mother, Fantine. Circumstances have separated Fantine from her child, Cosette, but, Valjean is determined to correct as many wrongs as he can in this situation. He will see to it personally.

Unfortunately, his past catches up with him. He learns that a man has been arrested; "Jean Valjean" has been caught. Of course, Madeleine knows this is nonsense. Can he let another take his place in prison? If he tells the truth then he can no longer help the poor, but if he doesn't tell the truth, how could he live with himself? He does the honorable thing--though it is one of the greatest challenges he's faced so far.

But that means, for the moment, that Cosette is left in unpleasant circumstances...

There comes a time, an opportunity for Valjean to escape. What he does with his freedom--this time he's assumed drowned, I believe--is go and find Cosette. The two become everything to one another. Cosette is the family he's never had, never even knew he needed or wanted... the two end up in Paris.

Almost half of the novel follows the love story between Marius and Cosette. But it isn't only a love story. Marius is a poor man in conflict with his rich grandfather. The two disagree about many things. But their main source of disagreement is politics. At first, Marius is swept up in his father's politics, with a new awareness of who his father was as a soldier, as a man, as a possible hero. But later, Marius begins to think for himself, to contemplate political and philosophical things for himself. He becomes friendly with a political group at this time. But his love of politics dims when he falls in love with Cosette...and she becomes his whole reason for being. For the longest time these two don't even know each other's names! This romance isn't without challenges...

This novel has so much drama! I found it beautifully written. So many amazing passages! Such interesting characters! I'm not sure I loved the ending. And I was frustrated with Marius at times. But. I definitely loved this book!

Favorite quotes:
What is reported of men, whether it be true or false, may play as large a part in their lives, and above all in their destiny, as the things they do. (19)
We do not claim that the portrait we are making is the whole truth, only that it is a resemblance. (25)
The flesh is at once man's burden and his temptation. He bears it and yields to it. He must keep watch over it and restrain it, and obey it only in the last resort. Such obedience may be a fault, but it is a venial fault. It is a fall, but a fall on to the knees which may end in prayer. To be a saint is to be an exception; to be a true man is the rule. Err, fail, sin if you must, but be upright. To sin as little as possible is the law for men; to sin not at all is a dream for angels. All earthly things are subject to sin; it is like the force of gravity. (29-30)
'The beautiful is as useful as the useful.' Then, after a pause, he added: "More so, perhaps.' (38)
I was not put into this world to preserve my life but to protect souls. (40)
Conscience is the amount of inner knowledge that we possess. (52)
The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human race has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced. (56)
He pondered on the greatness and the living presence of God, on the mystery of eternity in the future and, even more strange, eternity in the past, on all the infinity manifest to his eyes and to his senses; and without seeking to comprehend the incomprehensible he contemplated these things. He did not scrutinize God but let his eyes be dazzled. (67)
There are no bounds to human thought. At its own risk and peril it analyzes and explores its own bewilderment. (68)
We can no more pray too much than we can love too much. (69)
There are men who dig for gold; he dug for compassion. Poverty was his goldmine; and the universality of suffering a reason for the universality of charity. 'Love one another.' To him everything was contained in those words, his whole doctrine, and he asked no more. (69)
The bishop, seated at his side, laid a hand gently on his arm.
'You need have told me nothing. This house is not mine but Christ's. It does not ask a man his  name but whether he is in need. You are in trouble, you are hungry and thirsty, and so you are welcome. You need not thank me for receiving you in my house. No one is at home here except those seeking shelter. Let me assure you, passer-by though you are, that this is more your home than mine. Everything in it is yours. Why should I ask your name? In any case I knew it before you told me.'
The man looked up with startled eyes. 'You know my name?'
'Of course,' said the bishop. 'Your name is brother.' (87)
Is there not true evangelism in the delicacy which refrains from preaching and moralizing? To avoid probing an open wound, is not that the truest sympathy? (90)
'Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man.'
Valjean, who did not recall having made any promise, was silent. The bishop had spoken the words slowly and deliberately. He concluded with a solemn emphasis: 'Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good. I have bought your soul to save it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.' ( 111)
Gold and pearls were her dowry, but the gold was on her head and the pearls were in her mouth. She worked in order to live, and presently fell in love, also in order to live, for the heart, too, has its hunger. (125)
Animals are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes, the visible reflections of our souls. (164)
What is the riddle of these countless scattered destinies, whither are they bound, why are they as they are? He who knows the answer to this knows all things. He is alone. His name is God. (180)
There is a prospect greater than the sea, and it is the sky; there is a prospect greater than the sky, and it is the human soul. (208)
To make a poem of the human conscience, even in terms of a single man and the least of men, would be to merge all epics in a single epic transcending all. (208)
We can no more prevent a thought from returning to the mind than we can prevent the sea from rising on the foreshore. To the sailor it is the tide, to the uneasy conscience it is remorse. God moves the soul as He moves the oceans. (213)
The sisters, then, had this in common when they were girls, that each had her dream, each had wings, those of an angel in the one case and those of a goose in the other. (519)
He never left home without a book under his arm, and often came back with two. (593)
Our imaginings are what most resemble us. Each of us dreams of the unknown and the impossible in his own way. (597)
There comes a moment when the bud bursts overnight into flower and yesterday's little girl becomes a woman to entrap our hearts. This one had not merely grown but was transformed. Just as three April days may suffice for some trees to cover themselves with blossom, so six months had sufficed to clothe her with beauty. Her April had come. (606)
Of all things God has created it is the human heart that sheds the brightest light, and alas, the blackest despair. (844)
'After all, what is a cat?' he demanded. 'It's a correction. Having created the mouse God said to himself, "That was silly of me!" and so he created the cat. The cat is the erratum of the mouse. Mouse and cat together represent the revised proofs of Creation.' (995) 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Sunday Salon: Reading Rilla of Ingleside (1921)

Rilla of Ingleside. L.M. Montgomery. 1921. 280 pages.

IT was a warm, golden-cloudy, lovable afternoon. In the big living-room at Ingleside Susan Baker sat down with a certain grim satisfaction hovering about her like an aura; it was four o'clock and Susan, who had been working incessantly since six that morning, felt that she had fairly earned an hour of repose and gossip. 

 I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Rilla of Ingleside. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, wonderful, memorable, and compelling. It is everything it should be. It closely follows World War I--from the Canadian home front; and at times it shows just how ugly and frightening war can be. It's a patriotic novel, however. Rilla of Ingleside is also an unforgettable coming of age story. Readers watch Rilla mature from a laughter-loving fourteen year old girl into a strong, resilient young woman ready for life and love. This is Rilla's story from cover to cover. Rilla is forced to say goodbye to three brothers (Jem, Walter, Shirley), two childhood friends (Jerry, Carl), and her young love (Kenneth Ford) as they go off to war and uncertain futures. And she has to do with a smile on her face and no tears. Will she ever see any of them again? Will they return whole? Will life ever be the same for any of them again?

But Rilla is ever-busy. Not only is she doing work for the Red-Cross, she's adopted a war orphan! Though she's just fourteen, this young baby boy will be HER responsibility. For Rilla who has never really "liked" babies or found them cute and adorable, this is a challenge...at least at first. But as he starts to grow and change...her heart melts.  

My favorite characters were Rilla, Susan Baker, Walter, Miss Oliver, and Dog Monday. If you've read this one, don't you agree that the Dog Monday parts are incredibly moving?

From chapter one:
There was a big, black headline on the front page of the Enterprise, stating that some Archduke Ferdinand or other had been assassinated at a place bearing the weird name of Sarajevo, but Susan tarried not over uninteresting, immaterial stuff like that; she was in quest of something really vital.
Well, that is all the notes and there is not much else in the paper of any importance. I never take much interest in foreign parts. Who is this Archduke man who has been murdered?" "What does it matter to us?" asked Miss Cornelia, unaware of the hideous answer to her question which destiny was even then preparing. "Somebody is always murdering or being murdered in those Balkan States. It's their normal condition and I don't really think that our papers ought to print such shocking things. 
Wherever Rilla Blythe was, there was laughter.  
There was another occupant of the living-room, curled up on a couch, who must not be overlooked, since he was a creature of marked individuality, and, moreover, had the distinction of being the only living thing whom Susan really hated. All cats are mysterious but Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde–"Doc" for short–were trebly so. He was a cat of double personality–or else, as Susan vowed, he was possessed by the devil. To begin with, there had been something uncanny about the very dawn of his existence. Four years previously Rilla Blythe had had a treasured darling of a kitten, white as snow, with a saucy black tip to its tail, which she called Jack Frost. Susan disliked Jack Frost, though she could not or would not give any valid reason therefor.
"Take my word for it, Mrs. Dr. dear," she was wont to say ominously, "that cat will come to no good."
"But why do you think so?" Mrs. Blythe would ask.
"I do not think–I know," was all the answer Susan would vouchsafe.
"The only thing I envy a cat is its purr," remarked Dr. Blythe once, listening to Doc's resonant melody. "It is the most contented sound in the world."
Rilla is the only one of my flock who isn't ambitious. I really wish she had a little more ambition. She has no serious ideals at all–her sole aspiration seems to be to have a good time.
 From chapter two,
Rilla was the "baby" of the Blythe family and was in a chronic state of secret indignation because nobody believed she was grown up. She was so nearly fifteen that she called herself that, and she was quite as tall as Di and Nan; also, she was nearly as pretty as Susan believed her to be. She had great, dreamy, hazel eyes, a milky skin dappled with little golden freckles, and delicately arched eyebrows, giving her a demure, questioning look which made people, especially lads in their teens, want to answer it. Her hair was ripely, ruddily brown and a little dent in her upper lip looked as if some good fairy had pressed it in with her finger at Rilla's christening. Rilla, whose best friends could not deny her share of vanity, thought her face would do very well, but worried over her figure, and wished her mother could be prevailed upon to let her wear longer dresses. She, who had been so plump and roly-poly in the old Rainbow Valley days, was incredibly slim now, in the arms-and-legs period. Jem and Shirley harrowed her soul by calling her "Spider." Yet she somehow escaped awkwardness. There was something in her movements that made you think she never walked but always danced. She had been much petted and was a wee bit spoiled, but still the general opinion was that Rilla Blythe was a very sweet girl, even if she were not so clever as Nan and Di.
Rilla loved Walter with all her heart. He never teased her as Jem and Shirley did. He never called her "Spider." His pet name for her was "Rilla-my-Rilla"a little pun on her real name, Marilla...
 Dog Monday was the Ingleside dog, so called because he had come into the family on a Monday when Walter had been reading Robinson Crusoe. He really belonged to Jem but was much attached to Walter also. He was lying beside Walter now with nose snuggled against his arm, thumping his tail rapturously whenever Walter gave him a pat. Monday was not a collie or a setter or a hound or a Newfoundland. He was just, as Jem said, "plain dog"very plain dog, uncharitable people added. Certainly, Monday's looks were not his strong point. Black spots were scattered at random over his yellow carcass, one of them blotting out an eye. His ears were in tatters, for Monday was never successful in affairs of honour. But he possessed one talisman. He knew that not all dogs could be handsome or eloquent or victorious, but that every dog could love. Inside his homely hide beat the most affectionate, loyal, faithful heart of any dog since dogs were; and something looked out of his brown eyes that was nearer akin to a soul than any theologian would allow. Everybody at Ingleside was fond of him, even Susan.
"There's plenty of time for you to be grown up, Rilla. Don't wish your youth away. It goes too quickly. You'll begin to taste life soon enough."
"Taste life! I want to eat it," cried Rilla, laughing. "I want everything–everything a girl can have. I'll be fifteen in another month, and then nobody can say I'm a child any longer. I heard someone say once that the years from fifteen to nineteen are the best years in a girl's life. I'm going to make them perfectly splendid–just fill them with fun."
"There's no use thinking about what you're going to do–you are tolerably sure not to do it."
"Oh, but you do get a lot of fun out of the thinking," cried Rilla.
"You think of nothing but fun, you monkey," said Miss Oliver indulgently, reflecting that Rilla's chin was really the last word in chins. "Well, what else is fifteen for?"
From chapter three,
"The new day is knocking at the window. What will it bring us, I wonder.... "I think the nicest thing about days is their unexpectedness," went on Rilla. "It's jolly to wake up like this on a golden-fine morning and day-dream for ten minutes before I get up, imagining the heaps of splendid things that may happen before night."

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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