Old-Fashioned Reads

20170522ma_1307I keep a list of everything I read. In fact, if I really like a book, I put a star next to it. Sometimes a happy face. And sometimes a sad/mad face.

Recently, I was searching for a book I know I had read, but I forgot the exact title. So, I went to my list. And I noticed a bunch of the books that had stars next to them. Now, some of those books were not the old. Quite recent releases, actually.

But a number of them were not. In fact they were older than me. Something many would called “old-fashioned”.

And apparently, I like “old-fashioned” books!

So here is a list of my favourite old-fashioned books… These books, despite having been written years ago, still seem relevant today. At least in my humble opinion. (Yes, they may still have a few things that show their age, but overall they have not lost their storytelling magic).

Now, I’m not going to include anything by Jane Austen or Louisa May Alcott or L.M. Montgomery or Laura Ingalls Wilder… to name a few. Although they could be on this list. They aren’t, probably because they are on my other list of “Favourite Books of All-Time”.

No, the books on my “old-fashioned” list are those that seem to go under the radar… books that many people probably have never heard of. In fact, I had never heard of them! (Until I read them, of course.) They were books that I read, not knowing that they would become favourites of mine.

So… here’s the list. In no particular order:

1) Daddy Long Legs, by Jean Webster (1912)
2) Mrs. Mike, by Benedict and Nancy Freedman (1947)
3) My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell (1956)
4) No Graven Image, by Elisabeth Eliot (1966)
5) I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (1948)

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Review: Going Where It’s Dark

510+MH3rPYL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Going Where It’s Dark
Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: When Buck’s friend David moves away, he also loses his “caving” buddy. Now he starts to explore “caves” on his own. While he knows the danger, he keeps this a secret from his family. But that’s not the only secret.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Buck’s a likeable kid. I felt Naylor captures quite well how he deals with his stutter and the bullies, etc.

2) I like Uncle Mel and how he fits into the story. He’s sympathetic to Buck and definitely a good role model. His absences due to his trucking job also allow for Buck to be able to keep some of his “secrets” from him.

3) The military approach by Jacob Wall to Buck’s stuttering problem… I found this fascinating. And to make it even more cool is that this approach seems to be based on how Naylor’s husband himself helped with people who stuttered. (This reaction is possibly due to the teacher coming out in me.)

4) I like how the theft at the sawmill is linked to… well, I won’t spoil it for you.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I was not convinced that Katie was Buck’s twin. They don’t seem to be twins. Period. She seems more like an older sister. I can’t really put my finger on it.

2) The cave parts. I think I might be a tiny bit claustrophobic, because any book that deals with people climbing through holes under ground makes me want to skim. And yes, I did skim the underground parts. This is not really a fault of this particular book, but just my personal reaction to small caves and being trapped underground.

3) The ending seemed a little abrupt to me. It felt like there should be another chapter. I’m not sure why, because Naylor has pretty much tied up all the plot strands. It just seemed like there should be more.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – While not my favourite of Naylor’s books, I did enjoy the stuttering plot-line. Again, this is probably a personal preference on my end.

When Books Disappear

You know what makes me really sad?

When books go missing from the library.

Now, I’m not talking about books that have been lost or books that are overdue. I’m talking about books that used to be at the library, but are no longer there… Because they have been deemed “no longer relevant”.

I’m talking about classic children’s books.

Elizabeth Enright is one such victim. I grew up with her classic The Saturdays. But does my library carry this book anymore? Nope. Why not? Well, it’s old. It’s set in the past (in the 1940s if memory serves). But so are a lot of other books written today. In fact, I’d say it’s more realistic because a modern author tends to put modern spin on a time period they did not live through.

btbh-032Another victim… Maud Hart Lovelace. Now, I did not grow up with the Betsy-Tacy books, so nobody can accuse me of nostalgia here. (I did grow up with B is for Betsy books, but that’s by a different author.) I discovered Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books in my 20s. And I loved them. They are set in the early 1900s and are marvelously written.

Fortunately, I own a few of them in paperback. About a year and a half ago, I read Betsy-Tacy Go Downtown to my nieces (aged 8 & 9 at the time). We loved it. The horseless carriage. The theatre production. The secret revealed at the end.

Now, here’s the sad part. I went to my library and asked: “Could you please get these books? They have brand-new released versions for sale! It’s not like they’re out of print.  These are wonderful reads and kids deserve to read them! I want my nieces to read them!”

Maybe I picked the wrong librarian. She was probably in her 20s. Her response to me was: “Have you tried inter-library loan?”

For kids?! Really? I wanted my nieces to be able to get these books out for themselves. How realistic is it for them to jump through all the hoops in order to use inter-library loan!

Here’s the thing. I didn’t just come to the librarian with my request that the library buy the  Betsy-Tacy books. There were quite a few other titles on the list (other books I wanted to read but noticed that my library still had not ordered). These other books  were written more recently. Actually, within the past 2-5 years. Like Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye (by Wendelin Van Draanen), and Spy Camp (by Stuart Gibbs). And there were at least three more books on my request list (but I can’t remember the exact titles any more).

And you know what? They ordered every single one of those books. But, they did not order a single Betsy-Tacy book.

Now, I like Van Draanen. I like Gibbs. I like modern authors.

But what about Maud Hart Lovelace? What about Elizabeth Enright? What about the other authors that have disappeared into the library’s discard pile? Now, I don’t think every book ever written should be made untouchable. Remember B is for Betsy (the other Betsy books by Carolyn Haywood)? My library does have that one. I picked it up recently. Unfortunately, B is for Betsy has not aged well. I would not classify that book as classic. As an adult, I couldn’t even finish it. Not even for nostalgia’s sake. (Please recall that I have fond memories of reading this book as a child.)

No, the books by Maud Hart Lovelace and Elizabeth Enright are in a different category entirely. They belong with the Jane Austen books. And L.M. Montgomery books. And the C.S. Lewis books. And the Beatrix Potter books.

It made me sad to realize that these librarians couldn’t recognize a book worth keeping.

And when they disappear, I think we miss out on some wonderful literature.

P.S. So far, my library still has many of the books by E. Nesbit (like The Treasure Seekers) and Edward Eager (like Half Magic). I fear these books might end up like the Betsy-Tacy books. I try to make it a point to take these books out every now and then. Just to show those librarians that people do want to keep the classics alive.

A Beginning After the End

20170530ma_1382“People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.” – Steven Spielberg

I recently came across this quote and thought, do I agree with this? Is it true? Is it not? Is it partly true?

The more I think about it, the more I do think that it’s true. The end of a good story is never really the end of the story, is it? Even “And they lived happily ever after” implies that something does happen after the book is closed for the final time.

The same goes for the Epilogue. It will summarize what happens next, but still it doesn’t actually finish the story. Unless, maybe if the main character dies.

But even if the main character dies, the rest of the story world continues. Other characters still live on.

Just as in real life.

And the stories that touch us the most have to have some part of real life in them. That’s why I think we’re drawn to such stories. Now this is not true for every story or book. I’ve read my fair share of books where the characters and plots are, at best, just “okay”. Others could be better described as dull and lifeless (and perhaps even trying too hard, but not succeeding). These stories, we’re probably glad to see the end of.

But for good books… For the stories that stick with us… These are the stories where the end of the book is really just another beginning.

It’s a beginning that comes after The End.