Quick Pick Reviews #6

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “B”. “B” is for Biography.

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

Jim Henson: The Biography // by Brian Jay Jones

JimHenson-BiographyCover.jpgGenre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: Everything you wanted to know about the Muppets… it’s all here. Jim Henson’s creative genius is amazing and this book tells of his humble beginnings with Sam and Friends from his involvement with Sesame Street to the rise of Kermit and the whole Muppet gang. I particularly enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peek at The Muppet Show and the Muppet movies. I loved the chapters about the making of The Labyrinth. (I love that movie!)

Warning: I would not really recommend this book for kids. I don’t think it was written for kids. Also, [*SPOILER] I was saddened by all the accounts of infidelity. I can’t tell you how I hated those sections of the book. ūüė¶ [*END SPOILER]


The Narnian // by Alan Jacobs

660367Genre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this biography of C.S. Lewis. From his childhood in Northern Ireland to his home at the Kilns. This is not the first biography I’ve read about Lewis, but I thought this is definitely one of the better ones.

Of course, my favourite parts dealt with the time in his life when he was writing the “Narnian” books.

P.S. I find the cover of this book a little odd. The photo of Lewis in his bathrobe with a lion prowling behind him. Well, I guess it’s certainly memorable!


High Society: The Life Grace Kelly // By Donald Spoto

6465776Genre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: I have been a long-time fan of Grace Kelly. My favourite Hitchcock movie (Rear Window) stars her. So, I particularly enjoyed finding out more about her life. I found it interesting that she (and those around her?) didn’t consider her to be a great beauty. (Really?! What planet were they living on?)

The story of how she fell in love with Prince Rainier was also very interesting. I mean, I knew the basics, but I didn’t know it was because they first became “pen pals”!

After reading this book, I just had to go to youtube to watch/re-watch a lot of the clips from her movies mentioned in the book. And considering that I have never seen High Noon (her first movie), it may to high time that I did. Or perhaps even re-watch High Society!


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What Shall I Call Thee?

20170824ma_4747
Growing up, one of my best friends would often refer to our favourite authors by their first names. (In fact, she still does it today.) And, by extension, any book by said author. So an L.M. Montgomery book would become a “Lucy Maud” … As in “Have you read this Lucy Maud?” (Later she’d shortened it to simply “Lucy”.)

And I’ve noticed that this with other people as well, typically regarding women writers. Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder are “Louisa” and “Laura”.¬†Jane Austen fans even have their own special designation as “Janeites”.

But why do we call authors by their first name? Is it because it makes these authors feel more like our friends? Well, that’s my guess.

But, I’m different. For me, it’s important to use the author’s name under which they published. So “Lucy Maud Montgomery” is written or spoken of as “L.M. Montgomery”. And thereafter, in the same conversation or article, just as “Montgomery”.¬† (Which becomes a slight problem if we’re talking about the Brontes!)

I think this may stem from this realization… Authors are people that have private lives. For example, “Lucy Maud” was never really called “Lucy” (her grandmother’s name) in her lifetime. Her family and friends called her “Maud”. And for most of her published life, she was “Mrs. Macdonald”. And yet, she published under the name “L.M. Montgomery”.

For me, that knowledge is enough. “L.M. Montgomery” she would be.

So, while C.S. Lewis was “Jack” to his friends, he was “C.S. Lewis” to me because that’s how I knew him.

And then there’s Jane Austen. I’m definitely a fan, but for some reason, I cannot (and will not) call myself a “Janeite”. I will not call her “Jane”.

I think, for me, it’s a respect thing. Respecting the work of the author. Respecting the boundaries between an author and the reader. Although, when my friend does the opposite? I find it endearing. It’s like Jane Austen really is her friend!

So, what’s that say about me? Hmm…

P.S. I don’t think there’s really a right or wrong side to this. But it interests me to find out where other people stand. What do you tend to do?

P.S. 2 – If you’re curious to know… The photo above is of a statue of “Lucy Maud” at the L.M. Montgomery Museum in Leaskdale, Ontario.

Old Enough to Read Fairy Tales

20170623ma_1916When I go to the library, I am immediately drawn to¬†the children’s section. Why? Because I love books written for kids.

Not so much picture books. Not those early chapter books. No,¬†give me books¬†written for the Middle Grade reader. What used to be called Children’s Literature. (And by extension, I’ll also¬†include many Young Adult books in this category.)

But the thing is, I’m not a kid anymore. In fact, I haven’t been a kid for quite awhile.

When I was¬†a teen, I quickly grew¬†out of these books. There was a time (probably when I was in high school, but maybe even earlier??) when I didn’t want to read such books anymore. Or if I did want to re-read the occasional¬†book from my childhood (Anne of Green Gables?),¬†I certainly wouldn’t admit it in public. Yep! I was “too old” for kids’ books.

And this reminds me of the dedication C.S. Lewis included in his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

“My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,
C. S. Lewis‚ÄĚ

Now¬†I’ve¬†reached the age when I am¬†“old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Recently, I was trying to figure out exactly when this happened. I’m thinking it started to come about while I was in university. Of course, I took all the literature courses I could get my hands on. I studied plenty of¬†Shakespeare and Dickens, Austen and Edgeworth, Trollope and Harding, just to name a few.

And then, in my fourth year, I signed up for a course on Children’s Literature. This course included some of my childhood favourites, but it also introduced me¬†to children’s books I had never read before. I read books by authors I didn’t even know existed!

And reading these kids’ books for the first time, I found that I¬†actually enjoyed them. I mean, I really enjoyed reading these stories! These stories meant for kids.

But that’s was the just the start of a realization that a good children’s book has special magic in it. A special ingredient. Basically, it needs to be enjoyable on different levels. The book has to be of interest to the child, naturally. But it also will contain truth and humour and characterizations that¬†will pique the interest of the adult.

That’s the secret ingredient.

Slowly, but surely, I began to re-read more of my old favourites, realizing¬†that¬†many of these books were as good as when I first read them as a kid. (Although, I will admit that other books didn’t stand this test of time.¬†Or they didn’t contain that extra, secret¬†ingredient.)

About ten years after taking that university course, it hit me that¬†I actually preferred children’s books to reading most adult books. Maybe it is the fairy-tale element found in many children’s books. Not that the stories have to be fairy tales. Children’s books are¬†so hopeful. Yes, the characters in these stories have struggles, but the point of the story is to overcome those struggles and take us¬†to the¬†happy ending. (I do like a happy ending. While I don’t need an ending to be saccharine, I also don’t want to read a book that ends in a¬†depressingly sad way.)

I still have my old childhood favourites,¬†but I also have my favourite “new” authors. Whether they are long-dead authors I’ve discovered only recently, or authors living¬†and¬†writing for today’s market.

It makes me sad to hear¬†people dismiss children’s books because they’re written “for kids”. Young people especially do this, but so do many adults.

I comfort myself with this thought: One day, hopefully, these people will come upon their own realization that they are now “old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”