6 Tips for that Hard-to-Read Classic

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Classics are books that tell such wonderful stories.

I read tons of classics back when I was in school. But I’ve noticed, I don’t read as many any more. Because, let’s face it, classics tend to be harder to read. The language is often more difficult. They’re wordy. And long-winded.

When I do read a classic, I realize there’s a reason so many people love it. The writing is amazing. In fact, it’s why we still read these books hundreds of years after they were published. These books are worth reading. They are worth the effort.

Which is why I’ve decided to write a post to discuss 6 tips to help you read classics.

First, a short story. It involves two books: Ivanhoe and A Tale of Two Cities. These books have been on my TBR for years. And as of this year, I have read them both… sort of.

About 20 years ago (has it been that long?) I managed to read about 3/4 of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. And, you know what? I don’t remember a thing about it. It was slow-going while I was reading it. My brain wandered as my eyes read each line. Chapter by chapter. I never really finished the book. And it’s has been sitting on my night table ever since.

So… How to finish a book like this?

The truth is, I’m going to have to start over.

I have found that I just need a plan of attack. Which is what I did most recently (and successfully) with the other book on my list: A Tale of Two Cities. (You can read my thoughts on this book here.)

I realize that I’ve used various tips throughout the years. Here is a compilation of 6 tips to try if you’re finding it hard to get through a classic:

Tip #1 – Listen to the Audiobook

I happen to love a good audiobook. Assuming it has a good reader, of course. I tend to prefer one reader as opposed to full cast recordings. It’s amazing what a really good reader (i.e. actor) is able to do with their voice. (This also works great for “re-reading” books. I’ve re-read such classics as Jane Eyre; all the books by Jane Austen; The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnAnne of Green Gables; etc. etc.)

Warning: Not all audiobooks are created equal. I have quit audiobooks because of the reader. This can be very expensive if you’re buying audiobooks. I get mine from the library. The only drawback of the library is that they don’t always have the audiobook you want.

Tip #2 – Audiobook + Physical Book

Okay, so this was a real break-through for me! This is how I read A Tale of Two Cities and it worked like wonders! I did a chapter or two at a time, sometimes more.

You’ll need a unabridged copy of the audiobook, plus an unabridged copy of the physical book. Then follow along as the audiobook plays. This really helps for concentration. You’re seeing and hearing!

Tip #3 – The Perks of Spark’s Notes

Now, no cheating here. Read the book!

But as you’re reading, check out a copy of Spark’s Notes (or similar). You can find them online. After finishing a chapter of the book, go to the corresponding section of Spark’s Notes. Read the summary and analysis.

Guess what? It’s like having a little mini professor give you insight into what you’ve just read… 

Tip #4 – Digest the Book in Small Chunks

Read the book in installments. Don’t try to rush things.

There’s no prize for speed reading! What I find, when I read a book too fast, I don’t remember or digest what I’ve read. Then, what’s the point? We read these classics to enjoy the story being told. Take advantage of that.

Tip #5 – Consider an Abridged Version

Let’s face it. There are some classic books that have a lot of verbiage that could be tightened up.

Years ago, I read an abridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo. And I loved it. I got right to the meat of the story.

I also could have read an abridged version of Les Miserables. I didn’t, I could have. What I did read was the full book in all its glory. (Unabridged AND with annotations… Oh my!) But there were definitely a bunch of chapters that had nothing to do with the plot that could have been eliminated easily. Even Victor Hugo’s editor thought so… (I know this because I read the annotation for that!) Alas, M. Hugo wouldn’t listen to reason…

Tip #6 – Try a Graphic Novelization

So, I did this with The Scarlet Letter. (Another book I read years ago but had trouble remembering what the book was about.) The graphic novel version was beautiful! And it also clarified a few things quite nicely for me!

For me, personally, I don’t think I will do this too often. I have too much love for the written word. I like graphic novels well-enough, but when I read a graphic novel, I often want more WORDS! However, if you (or somebody you know) is a more visual learner, than I highly recommend this avenue.

This can also work if you use the graphic novel in tandem with reading the abridged/unabridged version of the book.


Okay, so what are some classics I still want to tackle?

  • Middlemarch // by George Elliot
  • Heart of Darkness // by Joseph Conrad
  • North and South // by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • My Antonia // by Willa Cather
  • Watership Down // by Richard Adams
  • The Man in the Iron Mask // by Alexandre Dumas
  • Agnes Grey // by Anne Bronte

And yes…

  • Ivanhoe // by Sir Walter Scott

What about you? Do you have any tips to add? Are there any classics on your TBR that you’d like to tackle? Let me know in the comments!

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Don’t Judge a Book…

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We’ve all heard it. Don’t judge a book by its cover. And yet we all do it anyway. We DO judge books by their covers! Whether we think we do or not.

Whenever I hear this phrase, my mind immediately goes to a particular book. Which book?

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame).

bluecastle.jpgI probably first read it when I was about 11 or 12 years old. This was the copy at our local library… (see image to your right.)

It was really and truly the UGLIEST book cover I had ever seen. It was so ugly, I did NOT want to read this book. So what if was by my favourite author!

Ugh! That cover.

But then, somehow, I did bring the book home.

And I did read it.

And… Well…

I loved it.

And you know what? Years later, my friends and I were discussing this book. (We all love this book!) And we discovered that we ALL had the same experience. (Being from the same small town, we all went to the same library.) We all hated the cover of this book! And we all didn’t want to read the book BECAUSE of the ugly, ugly cover. And finally, we all did read the book, in spite of the cover. And we all fell in love with it.

P.S. Now I look at the book cover and think to myself, it’s not quite as ugly as I remember. In fact, it’s bringing back fond memories. Nostalgic memories. I’m finding I rather like this book cover… now.

Do you consider the book cover above to be ugly? Would you pick it up to read? Let me know in the comments!

How about THESE covers? Which one catches your eye? (I really like the simplicity of the first one!)

 

BONUS: Have you read The Blue Castle? If so, feel free to gush about it in the comments!

P.S. The photo at the top of this blog post is my first-edition, hard back copy of The Blue Castle. Which I love! It’s falling apart, but that is partly what gives it its charm. (And there’s a bit of a story of how I got it. But perhaps that’s for a future post…)

Photo Challenge #21 / Out of Focus

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“By the Waterfall” / Theme: Out of Focus

A little about this photo…

Yes, I know, the lilacs are in focus. But the waterfall in the background is not. And yes, that was done on purpose. In fact, THIS is what made me want to learn “real” photography. Back before I knew what I was doing with a camera, I wanted to be able to isolate a subject (in this case, the lilacs) yet still tell the story with a soft, out-of-focus background. What I like is that that these lilacs aren’t just anywhere. They’re by the waterfall. Putting the waterfall in shot gives context to the photo.

I’ve done this in my personal work, and I’ve done this in my work-work. I don’t know if other people like the effect, but I do. (By the way, I usually try it both ways. I also shot the waterfall in focus, and lilacs out of focus. I liked this one better.)


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Newbery Verdict: Paperboy

Paperboy // by Vince Vawter

Newbery Honor Book (2014)
Genre: Upper MG, Coming-of-Age (Historical)
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic Plot: A coming-of-age story about an 11-year-old boy who takes his friend’s paper route for a month in the summer. His greatest struggle: overcoming a debilitating stutter.

MY THOUGHTS…

I’m usually a stickler for proper grammar. This book does not use quotation marks for dialogue and very little commas. This would normally drive me nuts! But in the case of this book, I am fine with it. It’s all part of the characterization of the protagonist.

As a kid, I struggled with a slight stuttering problem. I don’t stutter now, by I remember the struggle to get those words out. In the book, the boy can’t even say his best friend’s name (Art) and calls him “Rat” instead. I loved the relationship between the boy and his Mam. She was wonderful! Especially in how she made him comfortable to let his words come out in their own way. And ditto for Mr. Spiro… He treats the boy like a real person and helps him gain confidence. (And all those books in Mr. Spiro’s house? A dream come true!)

I love the fact that we don’t get the boy’s name until the end of the story. Again, because of plot reasons.

FAVOURITE QUOTE…

This is a scene were the boy has stopped to visit with one of his newspaper customers: Mr. Spiro. He is blown away by the fact that he sees “Books. Hundreds. Thousands. Wall to wall. Floor to ceiling.” (I love it when books feature books!)

Mr. Spiro got up from his chair and walked around the room and put his hand on different crates.

English fiction. Russian fiction. The Medievals, Shakespeare. Biographies. Politics. Science, both modern and classical. Geology. I find myself fascinated by the study of landmasses. No doubt because of so much time spent bobbing up and down at sea.

I got up and walked around the room from crate to crate. The books were old and worn and most had pieces of paper sticking out the top.

s-s-s-s-Do you have s-s-s-s-p…?

Poetry was a word I always had trouble saying but I was going to blast it out of my mouth if that was what it took.

Do you have S-S-S-S-POETRY BOOKS?

(Chapter Eight)

NEWBERY VERDICT…

I love, love, love this book! It definitely earned its Newbery Honor award. It’s only a few years old, yet I feel like I read this a long time ago… I’ve actually already done a re-read of this book. That’s how good it is! I feel like it’s been around forever. The award winner that year was Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Since I haven’t read that book, I can’t tell you if I think it should have beat out this book or not.

YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Do you think it deserved the Newbery? Let me know in the comments!


Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal, or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.

Re-read: The Penderwicks series

The final book in The Penderwicks series was released just last week. I haven’t read it yet, but I intend to. So, while I wait to get my hands on the book, I decided to do a re-read of the other four books. Here are my thoughts…

**Note: This blog post MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. However, I have tried my best to keep things vague enough so that, in case you haven’t the books, there aren’t horrible secrets revealed.**

Book #1 // The Penderwicks

penderwicks1This is the book that starts it all. It’s highly inspired by Little Women and actually feels like it takes place in the past. (Although, Mr. Penderwick does have a computer, which tells us it is supposed to be happening in our present.)

We begin with the family, lost on their way to Arundel, where they are to spend their summer vacation. We meet Roselind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. (And there’s Mr. Penderwick, a head-in-the-clouds botanist who likes to quote phrases in Latin.) And it isn’t long before we get to meet Jeffrey, son of Mrs. Tiften, the owner of Arundel. Then we have some wonderful adventures, including a stand-off with a bull, missing bunny-rabbits, and a rope ladder that leads to Jeffrey’s bedroom.

One of the things I love about books like this is how it references other books. Like the whole “Penderwick family honor” thing. That’s a reference to the (motherless) Bastable children in E. Nesbit’s The Treasure Seekers who are seeking to restore their own family’s honour. Birdsall does put her own spin on things. I love the Penderwicks’ little rituals and code words. The MOPS (Meeting of Penderwick Sisters), MOOPS (Meeting of Older Penderwick Sisters), and the OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick) who’s supposed to keep an eye out for Batty.

On this re-read, the one thing I noticed is the vilification of Mrs. Tifton (and it extends to the other books as well!). Even before we meet Mrs. Tifton, she has a bad name… Harry the Tomato Man calls her “snooty as all get-out.” But we know that she loves Jeffrey. In fact, even though she has a hard time listening to Jeffrey, ultimately she does do what is best for him. BUT, for some reason, she is HATED throughout the books.

I mean ALL the books.

None of the kids like her at all. I wish Jeanne Birdsall had been a little more grey in her depiction. Not that Mrs. Tiften couldn’t be a source of friction. There are some wonderful moments where she obviously gets their names wrong (which shows us that she isn’t really paying attention to the children, even when they correct her). However this ends up as a bit of a plot hole when she greatly insults Roselind regarding Cagney. (From what I’ve been led to believe, I’m surprised Mrs. T even paid enough attention to notice!)

Here’s what I wish… Could Birdsall not have given her redemption in some way? Even if just for Jeffrey’s sake. (At least something to extend to the other books where she isn’t the primary antongist?)

My only other beef with this book (and with the next two books) is Sabrina Starr. I can’t stand Sabrina Starr! Come to think of it, Jane should be my favourite character, since I am drawn to writers (like Jo March). BUT, Jane’s creation of Sabrina Starr irks me. So. Much. And thus, so does Jane. (Sorry, Jane!)

Overall, I love the timeless quality of this book that starts it all. It gave me that feeling of reading Little Women, or Anne of Green Gables, or The Secret Garden or The Treasure Seekers… all books written 100+ years ago! I love the bond between the sisters. Really and truly, I found this book as much as a delight to read as the first time around.

A Favourite Quote from the Book

This book is set on the grounds of Arundel, a beautiful, stately home with wonderful gardens.

On one side of the property, a high stone wall separated the cottage from its neighbors. Along the front and the other side ran a boundary hedge. Skye knew that Mrs. Tifton’s gardens were beyond that hedge. She could walk back up the driveway and through the break in the hedge. Boring, and likely to lead to being caughtit’s hard to hide on a driveway. Or she could crawl through the hedge and emerge in some sheltered garden nook where neither Mrs. Tifton nor anyone else would be likely to see her.

Definitely option two, Skye decided.

The Penderwicks (Chapter 2)


Book #2 // The Penderwicks on Gardam Street

penderwicks2The main story revolves around the Save Daddy Plan. In this book, we get a prologue where we learn that Mrs. Penderwick (who died of cancer shortly after Batty’s birth) has put in place a plan (with the help of Aunt Claire) to get Mr. Penderwick a new wife. This idea horrifies Roselind and she and her sisters go to some length to save their father from their aunt who is trying to get her brother (Mr. P) on some blind dates.

This book takes place at the Penderwicks’ home during the school year. If you’re expecting Jeffrey, he does come into the book, sort of. Instead, we get to know the neighbours across the street: Tommy and Nick Geiger. (They’ll play bigger roles later in the series.)

The plot is all about little deceptions. First we have Roselind and Tommy, who won’t admit their feelings to each other. Then there’s the story of Jane and Skye flipping homework assignments. Jane writes a play for Skye called Sisters and Sacrifice (with Skye as the supposed playwright). But then Skye gets the surprise of her life when her teacher wants present “Skye’s play”, with her in the leading role! Hilarity ensues. Ultimately, this all comes back to Mr. Penderwick’s own little deception.

Which brings me to Marianne.

Yes, when Mr. Penderwick tells the girls about how he is seeing Marianne, I remember guessing right away what was happening here. When Aunt Claire asks Marianne’s last name, he definitely gives it away. (At least to an adult’s eyes.) Although, for some reason Aunt Claire doesn’t get the reference. (And I’m surprised the girls don’t do a search online and figure it out. But, although we do live in a modern world that includes laptops, these girls don’t seem to know about Google…)

Ah, yes. We get a little Parent Trap in this book… (I love The Parent Trap, so this isn’t a problem for me!)

A Favourite Quote from the Book

In this scene, Mr. Penderwick is about to go on his second blind date, which has been set up by the girls as part of the Save Daddy Plan. (They are attempting to give him such awful dates that he’ll want to quit dating forever.)

“What did Daddy say in Latin, Skye? Mendax, mendax—?”

Skye was relieved. Latin was easier than feelings. “Mendax, mendax, bracae tuae con—something.”

Conflagrant, I think,” said Rosalind, flipping pages. “I’ll start with mendax. M-e-n-d-e-x. It means liar. Daddy called me a liar!”

“You’d just told him his tie looked great.”

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Chapter 9)


Book #3 // The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

penderwicks3In this book, Skye is the OAP… the Oldest Available Penderwick. In fact, I can almost see Birdsall saying to herself… Hmm, how do we get Skye to go crazy in this book? Well, let’s make her the OAP. Let’s get rid of the parents (and baby Ben). Let’s take Roselind out of the picture (by sending her to New Jersey). We’ll have to put an adult in (Aunt Claire), but we’ll take her out as soon as we can (with a badly sprained ankle). Let’s get rid of Skye’s special list of instructions (on how to take care of Batty). And bam! Skye’s in a perfect storm for a meltdown.

Like the first book, this is another vacation book. But the absence of Roselind does make things a little more chaotic. One of the funniest parts comes at the beginning before they even leave. Roselind is giving instructions about taking care of Batty. “Rule Five: Batty wears this [life preserver] whenever she’s near the ocean.” Skye points out that since they’re staying on the coast, Batty will ALWAYS be near the ocean. “Then she will always wear it,” insists Roselind. AND the younger Penderwicks (including Batty) completely accept this!

Skye is my favourite Penderwick, so I really did like this book. I loved seeing her stretched to her limit and how she manages to survive her OAP-hood.

By the way, Jeffrey’s back in this book! We see a beautiful mentorship begin between him and Batty as they discover that Batty is actually musical. I love how nobody (in the Penderwick family) believes this musicality is even possible since nobody else in the family has the talent for music. But Jeffrey and Batty have a surprise up their sleeve.

And, come to think of it, so does Birdsall, with regards to the neighbour, Alex. (Although, again, I remember guessing fairly early on, even on my first re-through, what was going to happen.)

Fortunately, this is the final time Sabrina Starr comes into the books. (Unless she makes an appearance in the final book, which I have yet to read.) I still can’t stand Sabrina Starr!

A Favourite Quote from the Book

In this scene, Jane is trying to write her first book about romance. But, she realizes that she has no experience with romance. So, she comes up with a Love Survey…

“Do you believe in love at first sight?” she asked out loud.

“Jane, what are you talking about?” It was Skye again, but this time she was only a few feet away. Jane had caught up without noticing.

“She wants to know if we believe in love at first sight,” said Jeffrey.

“More love,” said Skye, now hitting Jane with the paper towels. “As the OAP, I demand you don’t mention love for the whole rest of the day.”

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (Chapter 5)


Book #4 // The Penderwicks in Spring

penderwicks4 Fast forward several years. When I first read this book, it took me awhile to realize that quite a few years had passed since the events of the previous book. (The one set at Point Mouette.)

In fact, in this book, the three oldest Penderwicks are hardly in it. I mean, they are, but they are not the protagonists. Actually, Skye (my favourite!) has the role of sort-of antagonist in this book. :/

Instead, Batty is the now “oldest” along with brother Ben, and little sister, Lydia. She starts a dog-walking business to help pay for singing lessons. Except the singing lessons are a secret, one she’s not even ready to share with Ben!

Batty and Ben have a nice relationship going. Batty is excitedly awaiting her birthday, but her older sisters make life difficult. Roselind brings home some crazy boyfriend from college. Skye is angry with Jeffrey and won’t let him come visit, much to Batty’s disappointment. And then Batty overhears something that throws her into turmoil.

One of the stars of this book is the neighbour, Nick Geiger. He’s home, on leave from the Army. He’s sports-crazy, but surprisingly he has a wonderful bond with Batty (who has NO interest in sports, whatsoever!) And, to tell you the truth, I think his character has developed much more than Tommy. Or even Jeffrey, at this point!

(Hooray! Sabrina Starr is gone!)

A Favourite Quote from the Book

This is a conversation between Batty and Ben, two of the “younger” Penderwicks (not including 2-year-old Lydia).

But Batty was already blocking the door again, wedging a chair under the doorknob. Then she turned down the music so that they could better hear each other. “I’m glad you’re here. I’m calling a MOYPS.”

“Another one? we just had one.”

… “MOYPS come to

“What about Lydia? She should be here if it’s a meeting of the younger Penderwicks.”

“This is really just for you. We’ll call it a MOBAB, Meeting of Batty and Ben, okay? Please?”

The Penderwicks in Spring (Chapter 18)


Book #5 // The Penderwicks at Last

penderwicks5And this brings me to the final book… which I haven’t read yet.

I don’t know if I’m setting myself up for disappointment… Perhaps. I don’t always like final books in series. So, I’m trying not to think too much about what this book might be about. (I have my suspicions about what she’s going to do.)

The only thing I will say here is that I really like how they designed all the covers for the series. The silhouettes are beautiful. I think perhaps that is partly what helps give the books their old-fashioned feel.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read these books? Which Penderwick is your favourite? Do you hate Sabrina Starr as much as I do? (Or, maybe you love Sabrina Starr!) I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! (And if you’ve already read The Penderwicks at Last, please don’t give me any spoilers!)

Photo Challenge #20 / Follow the Path

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“A Bend in the Road” / Theme: Follow the Path

A little about this photo…

I have always had a fascination with bends in the road. Probably because one of my favourite books is Anne of Green Gables. There’s a quote from Anne: “…my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road… Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla.” (Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 38)

This photo was taken as the sun was setting. I love the sun flare in this shot and the golden overtones. What’s around that bend? I have no idea…


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

The Magic of Mary Poppins

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I just finished listening to the audio book for Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers.

(By the way, Sophie Thompson, an amazingly gifted actor, reads the story. I love it!)

mary-poppinsAnd as I was listening, I got to thinking about all the magical elements to the story, and particularly Mary Poppins herself. I guess this is an early incarnation of what we now know as the Magical Realism genre.

Okay, so I have a question for you. If you could choose ONE of the following Mary Poppins attributes, which would it be?

  1. The ability to slide UP the banister.
  2. The carpet bag that weighs nothing and looks like it has nothing in it, but can carry just about anything.
  3. The power to float up like a balloon (as MP does to join Mr. Wigg and the children for their tea near the ceiling).
  4. The ability to speak to and understand animals (as MP does with Andrew the Dog).

So, which would YOU choose?

As for me, I think I’d pick #2… the carpet bag. Just think of the things you could carry without straining your back!

P.S. The photo above is the real umbrella from P.L. Travers that inspired Mary Poppins’ own umbrella. Its home is now at the New York Public Library in Manhattan (along with Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends).

Quick Pick Reviews #7

The Ravenmaster’s Secret // by Elvira Woodruff

ravenmasters-secretGenre: MG, Historical Fiction

My Thoughts: Set in the Tower of London in the 1700s… the best part of this book were the little historical tidbits about living in the Tower with the ravens. Forrest Harper is the son of the Ravenmaster. For those unfamiliar with ravens at the Tower, there’s a legend that the Tower (and by extension, the Crown) will fall into enemy hands if ever the ravens were to leave.

The story itself is about Forrest and how he (and his young rat-catching ally, named Rat) befriends a Jacobite (Scottish) prisoner. I won’t spoil the prisoner’s name as this is an important part of the plot. But I will say that this book includes a raven who can perform tricks, covert messages, and a plot for a daring prison escape. [3 Stars]


The Girl with 500 Middle Names // by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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Genre: MG, Contemporary

My Thoughts: I picked this title up because it intrigued me. What kind of girl has 500 middle names? I was curious. Well, I’m glad I did. The story is about a girl named Janie. Her mother is determined to get her out of the run-down, poorly-funded school she attends. Now she goes to a new school… where she has no friends. And to top it, her mother loses her job.

I enjoy how Janie takes her situation and decides to do something about it. Hence the 500 middle names. She’s feisty. And she’s ultimately willing to learn. Especially when it comes to Kimberly, the rich girl. [3.5 Stars]


Let’s Pretend We Never Met // by Melissa Walker

Let's pretendGenre: MG, Contemporary

My Thoughts: Mattie suddenly moves with her parents to Philadelphia to be closer to her ageing grandmother. She meets her next door neighbour, Agnes, who acts a little strange sometimes. And Mattie soon finds out that if she wants to make friends at school, she needs to keep her distance from Agnes.

I loved how this book deals with befriending the “weird” people in our lives. Mattie learns the value of Agnes, even with her quirks. I love how the teacher (and the door-people at the apartment) play a supportive role for Agnes in this story, helping Mattie see Agnes’ value in the world. The grandmother, Maeve, is an enjoyable character. I felt they dealt well with her onset of dementia, especially as Mattie starts to figure out that that’s what’s going on.

Love the cover on this one. The two girls standing with their backs to one another, with Agnes focused on her birds. And Mattie, not quite sure what she wants to do about Agnes. [3.5 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Photo Challenge #19 / It’s Spring

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“Seedling” / Theme: It’s Spring

A little about this photo…

Okay, for this prompt, what I really wanted to capture was a photo of a robin. But, the robins were NOT cooperating. (I’ve been trying for weeks!)

So, I decided to go with another photo that immediately conjures up the image of springtime for me… 🙂 This shot is taken with my macro 100mm lens, which gives that beautiful shallow depth of field.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

2018 Photography Challenge Update

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Okay, so back in January, I decided to give myself a weekly photo challenge. To get me to up my game and take more pictures. (Did I really need an incentive? Well, sometimes…)

Here are a few things on the progress I’ve made so far with this challenge.

#1 // I am so glad I went with a flexible challenge. There is no set theme in any given week. This idea is not original to me. I found it somewhere online (although I forget where). I’ve tried the other kind of challenges and found them to be quite stressful, like I HAVE to make a photograph for such and such a prompt. (Now, I’m not sure how this will change the closer I get to the end of my own challenge, when there are less and less prompts left!)

#2 // When I’m out with my camera, I’m always on the look-out for several prompts all at the same time. Sometimes, I come from a shoot with at least 2 or 3 ready to go. Although, I do try to keep them different from one another.

#3 // I keep a list of prompts in my camera bag, to remind me of things I need to capture. (Although, sometimes, I forget the list is there!)

#4 // When I came up with the list of prompts back in January, I gathered a whole bunch of prompts from other people’s lists. For some of these prompts, I had an idea for how or what I wanted to photograph. Sometimes, those shots came to be. Sometimes, not. I found it’s okay to let an idea go and embrace a new idea.

#5 // So far, I’ve made my challenge every week. But I’ve also prepared myself… that if I can’t do a week, I am determined not to go crazy about it. This is supposed to be fun. It’s also supposed to challenge me to be a better photographer.

#6 // The outtakes. I’ve noticed that some of the other people who are taking this challenge with me have posted more than one photo per prompt. Their “outtakes”, if you will. I haven’t done this (yet), but this does intrigue me. Sometimes I have a hard time choosing which photo to showcase. Sometimes, afterwards, I think to myself: “Why did I choose THAT one. This other one is so much better!” So, you may see some outtakes from me in the future! (Note: The photos in this post are just some of those outtakes I didn’t post.)

#7 // You know what? I like having a list. And I like crossing things OFF my list. It gives me a sense of completion.

#8 // Up to now, all the photos I’ve posted were taken in 2018. At times I see a prompt and think, “Oh, I have a great shot I took last year!” I’m not against posting older photos, but by trying to post only this year’s photos, it does force me to take pictures this year. (There may come a week, however, when I will resort to photos taken in past years. And, you know what? I’m okay with that!)

#9 // I get ideas from looking at other photographers. Sometimes, I will look up a prompt and do a search on Google Images or 500px or Flickr. If I see something I like, I will use that to inspire me and try to capture something similar.

#10 // I am so thankful for the people who are taking this challenge with me! (Yay, you!) Let me say, I enjoy seeing your photos each week! I love the creativity and the interpretations you give to each prompt. AND I’m also thankful for the people who have taken the time to comment on our photos. It is nice to hear your thoughts! 🙂