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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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).

5 Reasons Why I Liked A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens always amazes me. I’ve been meaning to read this book for some 20 years. Maybe longer. Why did I wait this long? I ask you…

Five stars. Yes, there’s a reason why this book is so famous. And after (finally) reading, I’m in complete agreement. It was wonderful. And without further adieu, I’ll give my 5 reasons why I loved this book…

A Tale of Two Cities // by Charles Dickens

#1 – The Purple Prose

tale-of-two-citesI don’t always like purple prose. But Charles Dickens is the master. And yes, there’s a lot of purple prose in this book. Just look at the opening lines… possibly the most famous lines Dickens ever wrote (although A Christmas Carol might give this one a run for its money)… These lines are absolutely beautiful.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

(Book the First, Chapter 1)

What’s amazing about those lines is that they actually mean something to the story. Sure, it’s purple prose, but it demonstrates the dual-nature, the good and the bad, of the French Revolution. Dickens’ point is that the peasants needed relief from the tyranny of the aristocrats… But the bloody results made this the worst of the times.

But, that’s not our only example. This book is chock-full. Here’s a less familiar quote, but it’s equally just as poignant:

He had never seen the instrument that was to terminate his life. How high it was from the ground, how many steps it had, where he would be stood, how he would be touched, whether the touching hands would be dyed red, which way his face would be turned, whether he would be the first, or might be the last: these and many similar questions, in nowise directed by his will, obtruded themselves over and over again, countless times…

The hours went on as he walked to and fro, and the clocks struck the numbers he would never hear again. Nine gone for ever, ten gone for ever, eleven gone for ever, twelve coming on to pass away.

(Book the Third, Chapter 13)

If you love words, you’re in for a treat.

#2 – The Characters

I loved old Mr. Lorry (that man of business!). And the Doctor. And Lucie and Darnay. And Sydney Carton. Okay, Sydney was my favourite from early on in the book… in spite of the fact that he drinks too much!

And then we have an assortment of true Dickensian characters. You know the ones. The caricatures… the larger-than-life creatures that inhabit every novel by Charles Dickens. There’s the old codger, Jerry Cruncher (who made me furious with how he treated his wife!)… And Miss Pross (who plays a role in the story I didn’t anticipate)… And the three Jacques (who inhabitant of the wine shop in Paris)…

Which bring me to the antagonists of the book: M. and Mme. Defarge. What complex feelings they stirred within me. One minute, I was hating them, and another minute, feeling pity for their long-suffering. (I have hope for M. Defarge at the end of the book, although his fate after the last chapter is untold.)

And most of all… I loved seeing how all the characters come together at the end. It never ceases to impress me how Dickens manages it all.

#3 – The Themes and Symbols

Reading this book brought me back to my course of study at university: Literature! We studied other works by Dickens (Great Expectations and David Copperfield), but not this one. What I love about writers like Dickens is that there is so much to be digested in terms of themes and the symbolism he works into his novels.

The symbolism of twos. Two cities. Two heroes. Even Miss Pross and Mr. Cruncher make an interesting two-some!

The symbolism of feet and shoes. Lucie hears phantom footsteps. Doctor Manette, in time of great distress, sets to work making shoes. The fact that time ever marches forward, marking out our path in life. (I feel an essay coming on!)

Then there’s the images of wine and blood that permeate the story. After all, it IS the French Revolution.

But best of all, I loved the theme of resurrection that runs through the book. The story starts with Doctor Manette being “recalled to life”. And the theme keeps popping up. Even in the macabre grave-robbing scene involving Mr. Cruncher. And finally to Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay. (Note: I did a blog post earlier this year about the theme of resurrection in books. Here’s one more book to add to that list!)

#4 – The History

This book was a historical novel even in Dickens’ day. And boy, does it bring to life the reality of the French Revolution like no other. The chapters devoted to the Storming of the Bastille, the frenzied state of Paris, the blood-soaked paving stones gives us a vivid picture of the Reign of Terror. It’s not like reading the history books. (Maybe it’s all that purple prose!)

And yet, it feels so real. It doesn’t feel like a historical novel. At least not like the historical novels written today. (Sometimes, those books just feel like they’re historical novels.)

And finally, let’s just say that reading this book makes me very glad I am not living in Paris at the time of the French Revolution. Or as Dickens would say: “The new era… the Republic of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death…” (Book the Third, Chapter 4)

#5 – The Ending

This is a wonderful story of sacrifice. If you haven’t read the book, I won’t give spoilers. But if you have, you will know what I mean. As I was reading, it reminded me of the movie, Casablanca. I love that movie because of the sacrifice at the end of the story.

Back to A Tale of Two Cities. I did guess (partly) what would happen by the story’s end, although, there were various possibilities. The suspense was well-played. Which brings me to my next comparison: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Perhaps this is just a French Revolution thing going on here, but trying to get our characters out of the city of Paris (with their heads intact) is a harrowing read.

I also love the glimpse into the future that we get at the very end.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? Did you love it as much as me? Let me know in the comments!

Read an Old Book

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“When a new book is published, read an old one.” ~ Samuel Rogers

This is some good advice.

There are so many good “old books” out there. And we sometimes forget about them with all the influx of new books being published. So, this quote is a good reminder NOT to forget that these old books exist, and that they are often worth reading a second and third time.

Some recent “old books” for me are…

#1 – The Story of the Treasure Seekers // by E. Nesbit

story-of-the-treasure-seekers.jpgThis book is all about the escapades of the charming Bastable children. The family is facing hard times, and the children decide it’s up to them to help their father restore their family fortune.

This leads to many endearing, yet ill-advised, schemes. The children somehow manage to land on their feet, though, usually with the help of Albert-next-door’s uncle. (While Albert-next-door is a little prig, his uncle is a sympathetic champion to the children.)

I love that Nesbit teases us with her narrator’s “secret identity” through-out the book. “It is one of us that tells this story – but I shall not tell you which: only at the very end perhaps I will. While the story is going on you may be trying to guess, only I bet you don’t.”

The language is definitely a little old-fashioned. (It was originally published in 1899! But Nesbit’s storytelling is top-notch… better than many of our contemporary authors. I didn’t read this book as a kid, although I wish I had. I found the story thoroughly enjoyable from an adult’s perspective. This is one of those books you’ll want to keep coming back to.

First published in 1899… (My Rating: 5 Stars!)


#2 – Man o’ War // by Walter Farley

158930I recently picked this one up at a thrift store. I’d never read this book before, but I loved reading The Black Stallion series as a kid.

Reading this book as an adult, I must say I really enjoyed it. This book just shows Farley at his best… dealing with the behind-the-scenes of training a horse for the races. Set around the time of the First World War, it follows the story of one of the greatest race horses in history: Man o’ War.

Bonus: For me, I love that this book is about a REAL horse. (Sorry, folks, but if you didn’t already know this, the Black is fictional. Not that fictional is bad in any way. Come on, Anne Shirley is fictional, too.) Now, of course this book is a fictionalized account of the story… or a based-on-a-true-story type of book. But I must say, the story of Man o’ War is fascinating.

As a kid, I always came out of reading a Walter Farley book thinking I was a true horsewoman. (I’m not, and never was, and never will be.) And now reading this for the first time as an adult, I felt this book did the same to me. I guess that’s the magic of Walter Farley’s writing!  🙂

First published in 1962… (My Rating: 3.5 Stars)


#3 – Homecoming // by Cynthia Voigt

homecomingSadly, this book is no longer at my library. I have no idea WHY they would get rid of it. Because this is an amazing book! I guess it’s just “too old”. (It was published in 1981, so apparently that’s “old”.)

When I realized this book wasn’t at the library, I started searching for it at the used book stores. Finally found a copy. Bought it. Still, I’m very sad the library doesn’t see the value of this book.

It’s the story of the Tillermans, a family of four kids who are abandoned by their mother in a parking lot. So, hardly a cent to their names, they have to fend for themselves and find their own way “home”.

This book is heart-wrenching in its portrayal of the kids’ journey. A journey in both the physical sense, and also a metaphorical sense. Their goal is to reach a grandmother they’ve never met. And when they get to the grandmother’s, it’s not all fairy-tale-ending happiness. The grandmother is a big crank and pretty determined that she wants nothing to do with four grandchildren.

But Dicey, the eldest, is pretty determined to do whatever it takes to keep her siblings together.

First published in 1981… (My Rating: 4.5 Stars)


Any good “old” books you’ve been reading recently? What do you consider to be an “old” book? Do you even read “old” books?

Books That Make You Cold

So… I was recently re-reading The Giver by Lois Lowry.

And I was struck by one scene. (Note: This may be a minor spoiler for those who haven’t read the book. But my question is this, WHY haven’t you read this book yet?!)… As Jonas and Gabe are on the run, they are attempting to hide from the heat-seeking aircraft. In order to avoid detection, Jonas transfers memories of snow to Gabe. The memories cool down their body temperatures.

Now, I don’t consider myself a scientist. So my question is this: Is this even possible? Would a heat-seeking device be fooled? Does a memory, such as snow, cool the body down?

(Note: I will give Lois Lowry gets a pass on this detail because of the nature of her story world. Technically, in our world, it’s impossible to transfer memories to another person by laying your hands on their back. But in the world of The Giver, well, this is exactly how it happens for Jonas, the Giver, and Gabe. So story world definitely takes care of this heat/memory/cool thing in the book.)

That said, here’s something I do know…

When I read certain books, they make me feel cold.

long-winterCase in point: The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

In the book, Wilder encapsulates the whole feeling of winter. The never-ending blizzards. The family huddling next to the stove, trying to keep warm. Laura and Pa twisting hay in the freezing lean-to. The train that never comes. Christmas that never comes.

The isolation of the Dakota territory.

The snow. And more snow. And even more snow.

LongWinter1Wilder intended to name the book The Hard Winter… Because that’s probably how in later years they would refer to that winter of 1880-81… Can’t you just see them sitting around the fire saying: “Remember the Hard Winter? This snow is nothing compared to that!”

But the publishers ultimately changed the title to The Long Winter. (I mean, just look at those covers. Neither of them seem to be shouting “hard”.)

By the way, this book received a Newbery Honor in 1941 for its writing.

I know why. Because those words bring feelings of COLD.

Which is great if you’re reading beside a nice, warm fire. Or in summer. Yes, a nice, hot summer day might be the perfect for reading cold books.

What about you? Do you have any books that make you feel cold?

Illustrations that Make the Book – Part 1

Not every book needs illustrations. Let me make that clear.

And yet, there are those books in which the illustrations seem to go hand-in-hand with the written page… So much so that we come to find it hard to think of the book without these illustrations.

When I was coming up with this blog post idea, I noticed that most of the books on my list are OLDER books. Back in the day, it seems like a lot of books came with illustrations. However, there are a few contemporary books that made my list. (You’ll find those books in Part 2.)

The list of books below are all books written by authors no longer living…


The Chronicles of Narnia

44d68d9efe02b0989776792662a92c6aWritten by C.S. Lewis and illustrated by Pauline Baynes. Her pen and ink drawings are still used in the editions published today. Why? Because they are beautiful and amazing and capture the magic that is Narnia. I can’t tell you how much I love these drawings.

Like this iconic moment in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe… Lucy has just entered Narnia for the first time and is walking with Mr. Tumnus and his umbrella. Such a wonderful scene! (And, on a side note, it’s the image that Lewis himself saw in his mind’s eye that inspired him to write the book in the first place!)


Winnie the Pooh

92ffd90047cc7581e73a3707645700bc.jpgThere aren’t illustrations that have become as iconic as A.A. Milne’s masterpiece: Winnie the Pooh. Even the great Walt Disney couldn’t overshadow E.H. Shepard’s illustrations, they are that good! (While I don’t mind the Disney version of the Pooh characters, I’d pick Shepard’s illustrations over Disney’s in a heartbeat!)

I think Shepherd was able to capture the childlike wonder of the Hundred Acre Wood and its inhabitants. Pooh and Piglet are charming in the illustration to the left, as is Christopher Robin.

And it makes me want to find a bridge to play a game of Pooh Sticks…


The Little House books

2014_0708_webimages_53_littlehouseLaura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books show that sometimes books have to wait a bit to find their perfect match in illustrations. While the first edition had other illustrations (by Helen Sewell), the later editions (starting from 1953) were given the Garth Williams touch. These simple pencil, charcoal, and ink drawings have since become inseparable from Wilder’s work. Probably what helps make them so amazing is that, before he sat down and drew, Garth Williams traveled to the real-life locations to get a feel for the prairie scenery world of Laura Ingalls.

I love how Mary and Laura are gazing in awe as Pa plays his fiddle. Pa’s fiddle is such an integral part to the books 🙂


The Betsy-Tacy books

Meeting Miss SparrowThis series by Maud Hart Lovelace, in many ways, can be split into two series. The “younger” books and the “older” books. And interestingly enough, the illustrations follow this divide.

The first four books, beginning with Betsy-Tacy until Betsy-Tacy Go Downtown, have illustrations by Lois Lenski. Beautiful, whimsical, and perfect for capturing the magic of childhood!

Betsy at her writing deskHowever, once Betsy and her friends enter Deep Valley High, Vera Neville takes over the illustrations. And guess what? Hers are perfect, too! I’m not sure if Lenski could have done the high school books. And I’m not sure is Neville could have handled the younger girls. Whoever made the ultimate decision about this, bravo!

Two illustrations are necessary for this series. The first shows young Betsy in the library (I couldn’t resist!). And the second is an older Betsy sitting at her “writing desk” (her uncle’s trunk).


Swallows and Amazons

00048975-300x403These books are written by Arthur Ransome. And he illustrated them too “with the help of Miss Nancy Blackett” (one of the characters in the books!) These drawing are unique to the books. They’re fun and have that child-like abandon of the untrained child-artist… Alluring in their own way.

The illustration I chose for this book is entitled “Despatches”. It’s the answer from the four young Walkers have been waiting for… their father’s permission that they may indeed go camp out on Wild Cat Island. Let the adventures begin!


So, these are just five of my favourite illustrated books. I’m sure there are other books that fall into the same category… Books, that when I think of them, these illustrations come to mind.

Got any that you’d like to add?

Review: Theatre Shoes

coverBook: Theatre Shoes
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: Sorrel, Mark, and Holly Forbes must go live with their grandmother when their father is found to be missing in action during World War II. They discover that their grandmother is not only a famous actor, but that she expects them to be actors as well. The children are sent to a performing arts academy where they have to navigate their acting lessons and auditions. On top of that, they also discover that they are living with a grandmother who is not as rich as she thinks she is.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This is a companion book to Ballet Shoes. While Pauline, Petrova, and Posy don’t actually make an appearance in the book (aside from letters), their presence is felt throughout. And it’s nice to find out what happened to the three after Ballet Shoes ends.

2) I love the story of Holly and the borrowed (or is it stolen?) attaché case. The children don’t have the money for attaché cases and feel embarrassed because this marks them as different from the other students. The way Madame deals with the whole situation is beautiful. It’s fair to the children and it’s a fair way to deal with Holly’s misdemeanor.

3) Alice is a delightful character who uses Cockney rhyming slang throughout the book (referring to money as “bees and honey” or feet as “plates of meat”). She helps the children deal with their aloof grandmother. I found it especially amusing that she always refers to the grandmother using the Royal-We!

4) Other characters I really like… Uncle Cohen is great, along with his wife Aunt Lindsay. And of course, Madame.

5) The family dynamic between the three children (Sorrel, Mark, and Holly) is nice. They stand up for each other, but the story is realistic enough to show their little tiffs and petty arguing moments.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The story of Miranda acting high and mighty, and then losing her role to Sorrel (the understudy) is almost exactly the same as that of Pauline and Winifred in Ballet Shoes. Now, to be fair, Streatfeild does make note of this “history-repeating-itself” in the book itself. (And this is or can be a big problem in theatre in general, so this isn’t a major criticism.)

2) The ending felt a tiny bit rushed to me.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – This book is a re-read for me, and it’s been many years since I first read it. I love, love, love Ballet Shoes by the same author. While this isn’t quite Ballet Shoes, it is definitely worth the read.

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.

Review: A Little Princess

littleprincess.jpgBook: A Little Princess
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: Sara Crewe comes to a boarding school by her rich papa where she is treated like a little princess. Tragedy strikes when her father dies, leaving her penniless and at the cruel mercy of the headmistress of the school.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Sara SHOULD be a spoiled brat. But she isn’t. She really is a princess, but in the best of ways.

2) I liked the friendship between Sara and Becky, Lottie, and Ermengarde.

3) Miss Minchin is a character that you love to hate. Her hypocrisy is evil! Definitely a memorable character :/

4) The scene with the bun lady is a beautiful scene. She is everything that Miss Minchin is not. I was actually glad when she shows up at the end of the story once again.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Miss Minchin. Yes, she appears above in the “What’s Cool” section, but she also appears here. Could a headmistress be this evil? I suppose she could, but really, this character almost doesn’t seem real. I wish Burnett would have given some redeeming quality, even if just to make her a more rounded character.

2) Sara is too good! Consider her next to Burnett’s other heroine: Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden. Mary is a spoiled brat who is NOT likeable at all in the beginning of the story. But she has a character arc. Sara really has no character arc. She’s good and wise at the start of the book. She’s good and wise at the end of the book. I like Sara, but I don’t love Sara. Certainly not in the way that I love Mary Lennox.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – A re-read for me. I still hate the Miss-Minchin-treating-Sara-badly parts… actually to the point of me not wanting to read the book. Overall, it’s a good book, but not a great book. If you want a great book by this author, check out The Secret Garden.

Reading Pride and Prejudice Backwards

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I’ve read it many times over. It’s one of the books that I’ll just pick up and “spot read”.

I don’t know if anybody else does this, but for me “spot reading” is when I re-read my favourite parts of a favourite book.

Pride and Prejudice definitely qualifies.

This time I started near the end… when Elizabeth first reads Jane’s letter about Lydia and Wickham. I got so engrossed with the story, that I just kept on reading to the end of the book.

That’s when I started to read the book “backwards”. I went back to read about how Elizabeth and the Gardiners first go to visit Pemberley. When I reached the Jane’s letter regarding Lydia, I went back further to the part where Elizabeth visits Charlotte and Mr. Collins.

It’s certainly an interesting way to read a book. I wouldn’t recommend for any book other than one you’ve already read countless times before.

And for me, that’s Pride and Prejudice.