Monday, February 8, 2016

A Second Visit to Brooklyn

I made a friend in junior high who I got to visit with again just a few weeks ago. There have been more than four decades between visits and yet her impact on my life has been powerful. She was there for me during a rough time back then and offered me wisdom, courage and, most significantly, hope.

That she existed in the pages of one of the favorite books of my whole life diminishes her steadfastness as a friend not a bit, rather, strengthens it. I only read the novel once in eighth grade. When I went back recently to get reacquainted, I admit I was a little fearful that time and memory had warped her out of shape, but it hadn't. My recollection of Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was even more accurate than I could have believed. Betty Smith’s character, who has hovered in my imagination throughout my life, was even more true to herself than I could have wished. I didn't value Francie any less as an adult than I had as a young teen, but I did view the adults in her life differently.

Her mother was not the hard, uncompassionate figure I had judged her then--far from it. My perspective as a grandmother and a mother who tried to instill wisdom in my own children, and who now watches those children do the same for their own, was delighted to read this conversation between Francie's mother and grandmother. As a homeschooling mother who now writes about literature, this passage fascinated me more now than it could possibly have when I was thirteen. The dialogue below is between baby Francie’s mother who is seeking advice from her own mother, an Austrian immigrant.

“I am strong. I will work hard, Mother, but I do not want this child to grow up just to work hard. What must I do, Mother? What must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?”

”The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read, then she must read every day. I know this is the secret.”

“I will read,” promised Katy. “What is a good book?”

”There are two great books. Shakespeare is a great book. I have heard tell that all the wonder of life is in that book. All that man has learned of beauty, all that he may know of wisdom and living are on those pages. It is said that these stories are plays to be acted out on the stage. I have never spoken to anyone who has seen this great thing, but I heard the lord of our land back in Austria say that some of the pages sing themselves like songs.

”Is Shakespeare a book of the German?”

”It is of the English. I so heard the lord of the land tell his son who was setting out for the University of Heidelberg, long ago.

"And what is the other great book?”

And there, my friends, I will pick up next week. I do, however, suggest that only your mature young women read this book, but do thoroughly recommend it as a valuable novel to fill the heart and mind of anyone. It well deserves its place in twentieth century classic literature.

For the joy of reading,


Monday, February 1, 2016

So Far This Year

A question I am fond of asking friends or strangers is, "So, what are you reading?" This is a great source for future reading, often taking me down trails I would otherwise not have ventured upon to discover hitherto unknown regions in literature.

January is traditionally a good month to get some reading in, though this past month has been busier than the typical January recuperation from holiday leisure time for me. Rather than wait till the end of the year to publish a large list I thought I'd monthly share the books I've finished and make a comment or two about them. We have been woefully lax in keeping up with our "what we're reading" link, so this is my remedy.

1. Atticus by Ron Hansen. All my friends were raving about this book ten years ago, but it just became available to me on audio. It's well written and a compelling modern version of the prodigal son. If you're struggling with forgiveness, it will grip you.

2. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic by Steven Johnson. This book is an example of the surprises we find when we step out of our comfortable genres, a fascinating book on many levels, encompassing the fields of sociology, epidemiology, ecology, forensics, history, geography, anthropology. An excellent author weaves vivid historical figures (including Dickens) into an otherwise forgotten event that gives an unforgettable appreciation for what scientific sleuthing can accomplish to benefit the safety of life we take for granted.

3. The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. Often asked for good books written in recent years, here's one I mentioned recently ( I highly recommend this for middle school readers and older.

4. In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus. This classic satire was reminiscent of reading Screwtape Letters--I had to keep reminding myself that folly was speaking.

5. One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters. I usually ease into a new year with some light reading and am so glad to have discovered this author in recent years as the historical setting and the quality mystery stories about Brother Cadfael are entertaining and well written.

6. Moonwalking with Einstein, The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. A fascinating account of how our minds store and recall information within a humorous account of the author's own attempt to compete with the world's memory champs.

7. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. My husband and I began this biography a year ago when we saw the film. I cannot say enough about this excellent author, the Olympic runner and real-life hero she so masterfully portrays, or the value of reading a true World War II account. Your mature high schoolers will be inspired and informed in reading this powerful life story.

8. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. My book club met this past week to discuss this-- and yes, I was correct in my prediction made about the first chapter. I love this author and recommend any young person read this novel for its beauty, as well as tremendous insight and wisdom about choices in love.

9. How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. This author is truly gifted in vocabulary, style, and ability to weave historic developments and scientific discovery. If your high schooler needs credit or inspiration for technology and engineering, this book is riveting.

10. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Girls, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jean Birdsall. I read this one during a blizzard and found it to be thoroughly delightful, as heartwarming as the old Moffat or Melendy series and absolutely in that tradition for elementary students on up. Pure fun, humor, touching, and memorable.

11. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt. This newly discovered author by me has risen to stardom in my eyes. This is probably one of the most powerful stories I have read in years, perhaps because of my own experience with parenting adopted children. The sensitivity with which Schmidt addresses difficult modern issues is incredible and I highly recommend this book for mature young people, and anyone older, but be sure to have a box of tissues nearby. I will never get over this book and am still oozing tears at the thought of it.

For the joy of reading,


Saturday, January 30, 2016

February Book Sale

A reminder: Our postponed January Book Sale Update will be
MONDAY, February 1st at 10:00 am EST.

A new addition to our sale pages will be in place at that time--
I've added pictures of every book! I hope you'll check back on
Monday to browse our offerings and hope you'll find some
new treasures to add to your bookshelves.