Saturday, March 17, 2012
Hey there! So it has been far too long, but I thought I would pop in and do a little post! Today I want to discuss my fondness for Kate Douglass Wiggin, and two of her books that in turn, inspired movies that I loved as a young girl, and still enjoy now!
About a year ago, Anna and I saw the Shirley Temple movie "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was going to be on tv. I got all excited, and set it to record on the DVR. It was cute (not really as engrossing as my memory had it chalked up to be), and we enjoyed watching Shirley Temple do her stereotypical overly cute, bubbly thing (don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Shirley Temple, but sometimes she can go over the top!). Buuuut, anyway. The best part about watching it this time around, was finding out in the opening credits that this movie is based on a book of the same title by Kate Douglass Wiggin, an authoress whom I already knew myself to be fond of! Sooo, I did a little internet shopping, and landed myself Wiggin's book: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm! I'll now proceed to share with you my favorite passage from the book, that I recorded in the book review notebook that I keep. I warn you, it is a bit of a whopper, but that Kate Douglass, she can be a wordy woman!
"Sparkling in the sunshine, gleaming under the summer moon, cold and gray beneath a November sky, trickling over the dam in some burning July drought, swollen with turbulent power in some April freshet, how many young eyes gazed into the mystery and majesty of the falls along that river, and how many young hearts dreamed out their futures leaning over the bridge rail, seeing 'the vision splendid' reflected there, and often, too, watching it fade into 'the light of common day.' "
I liked the cover art I chose for this post (even though my copy unfortunately doesn't have this cover) because it is a picture from the scene of the above passage! I wrote in my notebook that this book was like a New England version of Anne of Green Gables. So if you are an AOGG fan, this book may be for you! =) I will warn you, it has a creepy Dean Priest element to it (for those of you familiar with Emily of New Moon). But, overall this book is delightfully witty, while touchingly tender at the same time. If you like the movie, definitely give the book a try, because in my opinion, the book is much better!
Next Kate Douglass Wiggin book turned movie is Mother Carey's Chickens which was made, by Disney, into one of my most beloved movies ever: Summer Magic. I just love Haley Mills, and the music in Summer Magic, and of course the fact that it is set during my pet season...Summer! So, I can't remember when exactly I found out that Summer Magic was originally a book, but that was my first introduction to KDW. It is a lovely book. Sadly, it has been a few years since I have read it, and I had not yet started recording favorite quotes/passages from my literary undertakings. =( It is definitely in my "to do list" of books that were greatly enjoyed and need to be eventually re-read. Sadly, I'm afraid that to do list usually takes a back seat to "books that I have not read, but cannot wait to read." So...all that being said, the book is a good bit different than the movie, but still a very enjoyable read. The book seems to focus more in on the character of Mrs. Carey, while Summer Magic revolves more around Haley Mills' character, Nancy (the daughter). Also, Nancy is a bit younger in Mother Carey's Chickens, so that sort of changes the dynamics of the storyline. I do remember enjoying MCC, and I would like to read it again one day, maybe out loud to future daughters. =) But...if I was forced to choose book over movie, in this case I would have to go with Summer Magic! Partly because I really love all of the songs! =) Oh, and this time I chose a picture with the actual cover art on the book I own!
Ok, so one last KDW book. I have not read this one, but seeing as how it is a Christmas story, I hope to read it in the Christmas season 2012 (haha, really planning ahead, I know). I've read good things about it, and since I already know I like KDW, I hope I will enjoy The Birds' Christmas Carol. As far as I know, this book has not been made into a movie, but I could definitely be wrong. I was recently given a Kindle as a very generous birthday gift from a family that I babysit for (Thank you Bells!). I have always thought I would not be a big e-reader person (Jake has a kindle, and I have tried it a few times), but I am finding out that Kindles definitely have their selling points. One of those being this: I can get books like The Birds' Christmas Carol for free on my Kindle because the copyright has expired. This way I can read it, and if I decide it is a favorite that I would like to own in an actual paper format, I can always buy it online, but for now, it's sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read in December, and I didn't have to pay a penny. Can't really beat that! Oh, and if I do end up buying this in paper form, I hope I can find this cover, because I think it is delightful! =)
Well, here ends my thoughts on Kate Douglass Wiggin. Hope you folks enjoyed! If anyone has any other recommendations of KDW literature, let me know! Hopefully I won't let quite so much time lapse between now and my next post. Maybe I will finish up this book vs. movie idea, and post about Pollyanna. Until then, happy reading (too cheesey?)!
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
A deal’s a deal, anywhere—anytime—in the universe; but some deals, of course, are better than others. Sadly this deal was, for me, not one of the better ones. “What deal?” you ask. Well, here it is: Like the Oilers sending Wayne Gretzky to the Kings for some virtual no-names and some cash or the Red Sox shipping Babe Ruth to the Yankees for only cash—hold the no-names—I agreed to read a “book” called Heaven to Betsy if my sister (Jessi, the gracious hostess of this blog) would read Tarzan of the Apes. Now, undoubtedly, you know of the famous Tarzan series and its prolific genius of an author Edgar Rice Burroughs; and you would readily agree that Jessi got the better end of this deal. Despite the deal’s one-sided nature, I fulfilled my part in it, because . . . well, because I saw no way out of it. And how bad could a 327-page book with relatively large print be? Actually, that’s the question I intend to answer, for I’ve been asked (kind of) to review the book I read as my part of the deal. So, here it is—my review, which I’ve cleverly and descriptively titled:
Heaven to Betsy was Purgatory to Me
I read a book for any of three purposes:
1. To be entertained
2. To learn something of value
3. To get to the next book
If I’m reading a book that is fulfilling one of the first two purposes, I’m happy. Itis ideal if my current book is fulfilling both of the first two purposes. However, if I am only reading a book for purpose number 3, that’s bad news. Bad news for me, for the book, and for the people that have to endure my endless and vehement complaining (these poor souls are probably the recipients of the worst news of all).
Unfortunately, while reading Heaven to Betsy, all I could think of was when I would be finished and what book I would read after that precious moment was realized. Truly, as my title suggests, reading this book felt like being in Purgatory, where I imagine one is thought to simply be taking one’s “lumps” while waiting to move on to another (hopefully much better) place.
The first and greatest reason for my feeling this way is the book’s complete lack of a plot. As far as I could tell Betsy’s sole purpose and goal in life (and thus, “Bettina” being the main character, the book’s “plot”—if you care to call it that) was to look good and have other people see her look good. Mentally contrast this . . . uh, “action” with the thrilling adventures of Tarzan, John Carter, or Frodo Baggins and it should be quickly and easily deduced that I was quite bored.
I don’t believe I would have felt this way, even with the book not having any compelling action in it, had I cared for any of the characters—or at least the protagonist. But for everyone mentioned in the story I found myself feeling something somewhere between annoyance and cold indifference. Their lives, activities, interests, and dialog I found boring and irritating. Everything they did, said, or even were described as feeling—everything that happened—left me wanting to turn to the next page only to get there—not to find out what happened next. Possibly I felt this way because I knew what would happen: Betsy would go to a party, find a new fake beau (who didn’t really like her), blush, droop (for the duration of the party), and then go home. After a while (one or two chapters to be specific), that got old.
Along with my lack of feeling for the characters and the book’s lack of action, was my not having much in common with anyone in Heaven to Betsy. In full acknowledgement of my propensity to exaggerate and sensationalize, I submit that three of the five commonalities between Betsy and me are our humanity, breathing, and eating. Resisting the urge to simply contrast our two personalities, I’ll move on to the few positive qualities I saw in this book.
The last two of the five things Bettina and I have in common are our mutual interest in writing and our dislike for algebra. Not exactly things to build a strong lasting bond with, but enough to make chapters including things like the Essay Contest almost bearable.
Typing of the Essay Contest, it was, I feel, a good part in the book; but only—I must admit—because she lost. Of course, I have less than no confidence that this taught Miss Ray a lesson of any value (or, rather, that she learned anything from the lesson); in fact, I’m certain that she’d repeat her mistake again if given the chance. She just can’t resist those parties with all their opportunities to achieve her only goal in life (look good and have as many witnesses as possible).
Call me cold, hateful, unfeeling, or any synonymous word that you can think of, but I could muster no pity for any of her problems or troubles, for I believe she—through poor decisions and immaturity—brought most of them on herself. “But she was only 14, and sure to mature and change!” you might cry, eager to rush to poor Bettina’s defense. If that is indeed your reaction, I thank you, for you bring me to my next complaint: Throughout the whole book Betsy Ray undergoes no emotional or mental development (other than flippantly and pointlessly become an Episcopalian . . . which doesn’t count). She remains the same annoying girl, hiding behind the social persona she has created for no reason and thinks everyone—everyone—wants her to be.
In any event, I suppose that’s all I’ll say about this poor book. The last bit here will be in my own defense.
C.S. Lewis advised us to avoid reviewing (and avoid reading, if possible) books we already know we hate. A prime example would be me reading and reviewing Heaven to Betsy. A rather poor idea, I think, and I believe Clive would most heartily agree. But . . . keep in mind, please, that the reviewing was not my idea. (I cannot now remember if I was first to suggest the deal or not. Though I feel it matters less than the review.) I didn’t want to do this, but I was forced! So don’t blame me for what I honestly feel and tried to put into words. Blame Jessi, blame Betsy, even blame Ethel Barrymore (who I guess was a hunchback of sorts), but please don’t aim any ill feelings or harsh disagreements at me, ‘cause I’m innocent as a lamb.
Well . . . now, mercifully for those who enjoy this blog and those who enjoy this book, I’m done. I’m done with the book, with the review, and my own metaphorical purgatory. Now I’m off to my own metaphorical reading heaven (A.K.A.: a book with a plot).
I know you can pray someone out of purgatory, so I wonder it it's possible for me to pray that he stays there (at least until he reads all the way through Betsy's Wedding)? I'll be generous and let him skip Carney's House Party and Emily of Deep Valley. So, now I give you my review of Tarzan. A much more forgiving review I might add. =) I start out, as always, with my favorite excerpt(s) from the book.
"The Fuwalda, a barkentine of about one hundred tons, was a vessel of the type often seen in coastwise trade in the far southern Atlantic, their crews composed of the offscourings of the sea- unhanged murderers and cutthroats of every race and nation."
"But love is a strange master, and human nature is still stranger, so she asked her question."
I liked these two quotes, and it's kind of interesting because I think they represent the two things I did enjoy about this book. 1) The sea and sailors at the beginning of the book, and also when the French crew comes to the island. I love anything having to do with old sea, ships, and sailor stories. I love the way Burroughs calls the crew "offscourings of the sea." It's as if even the sea wants nothing to do with these scurvy fellows. I like to imagine what an interesting crew it was to be made up of "cutthroats of every race and nation." The second element of the book that held my interest was the romance and human nature story lines. Even though Jane and Tarzan's romance is a little on the unrealistic side, I'll admit I was disappointed when they collectively pulled a Miss Cobb on themselves at the end of the book. I also enjoyed the relationships between Professor Porter and Mr. Philander, D'Arnot and Tarzan, and even Clayton and Jane. I thought they were all good representations of true unselfish friendships. So, all in all, I enjoyed the beginning of the book (I also really liked Tarzan's parents as characters), but I got a bit bogged down through the middle with all of the jungle/apes/native silliness. The apes and natives were both disgusting and terrifying to me. I think Edgar Rice had a little too much fun detailing all of the lurid killing, gutting and devouring. But, the story picked up again once the rest of the human beings showed back up on the scene. I think Burroughs' portrayal of Esmerelda was a bit unfair and not really funny. I could almost be persuaded to read the next Tarzan book if it was guaranteed not to take place in the jungles of Africa (I have no idea if it does or not). Oh well....I guess I'll never find out, unless, of course, Jake agrees to read Betsy in Spite of Herself!
I leave you with a photo of Jake and me, which I think is a perfect representation of both of our feelings about Maud Hart Lovelace's great literary works! =)
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
"In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs."
Monday, March 7, 2011
A few book reviews that I am hoping to post in the near future: The Age of Innocence (read in January). A Wrinkle in Time (February-ish)...and a bit of a collaboration by Jakey and me. We struck a little reading deal that involves Tarzan of the Apes, and Heaven to Betsy! I'm excited to post about that one!! But before I can write that special post I have to complete my half of the deal and finish Tarzan. I believe I'm on chapter 11, but I've only been reading it every few nights, as I'm currently reading another absorbing book that is a little more up my alley (I know, excuses, excuses...sorry!). Can I just say that he finished his half of the deal with remarkable dispatch? I would like to think it is due to the wonderful-ness of the reading material! =)
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Sunday, January 2, 2011
So...in 2010 I ended up reading three Frances Hodgson Burnett books (two by accident and the third just so I could say I've read three). This will be a joint review of The Shuttle, A Little Princess and The Secret Garden.
I first found out about The Shuttle through Betsy Tacy (of course!). There have been so many interesting books that I have bought/read because of the Betsy books (The Beloved Vagabond, Daddy Long Legs, Helen's Babies, and The Shuttle for example). So I was already familiar with The Shuttle through Betsy Books, and then I read an interesting review of it by a book blogger that I follow. I was intrigued when I realized that Burnett wrote the famous children's books: A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Little Lord Fauntleroy, as well as many books for adults such as The Shuttle. So last fall I found a nice used copy online, and finally this summer I was able to work through all my other "books to be read" and get to The Shuttle! Here's my favorite passage that I chose to record.
" 'That is American,' she said, 'the habit of comparing every stick and stone and breathing thing to some literary parallel. We almost invariably say that things remind us of pictures or books- most usually books. It seems a little crude, but perhaps it means that we are an intensely literary and artistic people.' "
A lot of this book deals with relations between American and the British (hence the lion and eagle on the book cover) in I would say...the late 1800's. This quote comes from the main character Bettina (which always makes me wonder if this was inspiration to Maud Hart Lovelace for the nickname Julia gives Betsy) when she has just arrived in England. Bettina's sister has married into the British aristocracy and given Americans a bad name, and Betty (Bettina) is coming across the ocean to save the day and the reputation of Americans everywhere. Forgive my sarcasm there, because I really did like the book, but sometimes I just got the feeling that Burnett was really really proud of her created heroine. But I did love this quote.
So....overall, I enjoyed the book all the way through. It was not an easy read. To me it was one of those books where you need to commit to paying attention to every sentence and inference if you want to fully understand the characters and plot. Some of the characters were tiresome with their extreme propriety and just plain uptight-ness. I am tempted to think that Burnett was overdoing things a bit. But she is the one who lived back then, not me, so I guess I should trust her take of society in that time. Personally I wished there had been an extra chapter or two at the end of the book to tie up loose ends. But I find myself wishing that about a lot of books. I am a big fan of epilogues. I will just have to imagine how all of the characters life's worked out, I suppose. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, or Edith Wharton type books. I hope to eventually read more of Burnett's books for adults.
A Little Princess- This was one of Andrew's read alouds for school this year. We read it right before Christmas break. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it held his attention, as he was not thrilled at first to be reading such a girly book (I guess the cover didn't help much). We just happened to have the Tasha Tudor edition, which I was excited about after having discovered her books and illustrations this summer (I may blog more on her later). My quote from this book is a short one.
"Only an Oriental could have planned it. It does not belong to London fogs."
I really enjoyed finally reading this book. I grew up watching the Shirley Temple movie version, which I've come to find out is a lot different than the book. I always loved the part where Ram Dass sneaks to her attic and makes it all cozy and livable, and that is the part where this quote comes from. It's said by the secretary who is helping Ram Dass with the plan, and he's right, it really doesn't belong to London fogs.
I liked all the old timey names in this book, for example: Ermengarde, Lavinia, and Amelia. I liked the "Large Family" (who weren't included in the movie), and all the fancy names Sara makes up for them. I liked the final chapter, because it gives a happy ending for even a very small character. I would have to say the plot of the book makes much more sense than the plot of the movie did. I would recommend this book to both children and adults.
The Secret Garden- So this was a book (and movie) that I always had a strange aversion to as a child. I'm still not sure what it was that bugged me about it (I never read it or watched the movie). But I decided to give it a try now that I'm older and on a Frances Hodgson Burnett kick. =) I don't have the Tasha Tudor edition like I have shown in the picture, but I may buy it one day, because it looks charming (more charming than our Wal Mart bargain book version).
I can't say that I loved this book. And I will definitely say that my childhood intuition was right. I would not have enjoyed it if I had read it anywhere under the age of 18 or so, which is when I started to appreciate more flowery writing styles, and more sedate plot lines. Andrew enjoyed hearing A Little Princess read aloud, but I can't imagine him sitting still and paying attention through The Secret Garden. I can't quite put my finger on why I didn't connect with this book, because I know some people adore it. I found it interesting at times, but once I got about halfway through with it I found myself having to plan to read it, instead of looking forward to each chapter, like I do with books I'm enjoying.
I can say one thing in the book I didn't enjoy was the Broad Yorkshire accent! Agh, I hate when an author insists on writing out an accent throughout an entire book (think Red Badge of Courage)! I would much rather just be told the accent and be left to imagine it myself for the remainder of the book. And in this case it wasn't even an accent I wanted to imagine for myself. In fact it really pained me when Mary and Colin started trying to speak it on purpose....no kids, just stick with your proper English!!
I'll end with a few quotes that I did like from the book. First from Mary, because I feel like I know exactly what she means:
" 'Don't let us make it tidy,' said Mary anxiously. 'It wouldn't seem like a secret garden if it was tidy.' "
The next is from Mrs. Sowerby, who was maybe my favorite character. She was a good combination of wisdom, bravery, and nurturing. All the talk about "The Magic" kind of weirded me out, but I liked Mrs. Sowerby's take on it because she saw it in a more spiritual sense as opposed to some mystical force of nature (which is the vibe I got from the kids). But who knows if you can even tell what she's trying to say with the camouflage of her very broad Yorkshire. ;)
" 'Th' Magic listened when tha' sung th' Doxology. It would ha' listened to anything tha'd sung. It was th' joy that mattered.' "
And the last little quote I'll leave you with is about Martha (Mrs. Sowerby's daughter, and Dickon's sister). I liked Martha. She seemed like a good sort, even if she was supposed to be more on the simple minded side. At least she wasn't afraid of hard work! This is talking about Martha's day off:
"She went away in high spirits as soon as she had given Mary her breakfast. She was going to walk five miles across the moor to the cottage, and she was going to help her mother with the washing and do the week's baking and enjoy herself thoroughly."
I probably wouldn't read The Secret Garden again, but I'm glad I gave it a chance and finally read it!