scrounging around in my brain…

There are times when you feel like you have nothing to say, but that can’t possibly be true. If you can write a mile-long letter to your best friend, spend an hour or two talking with a friend at a restaurant, find new things to discuss with your mother all the times (because she’s heard everything else, right?), and read tons of books, you must have things going on to talk about. So, then you sit down and stare at your dwindling blog stats and think… what can I write about? Your brain seems blank.

I told myself that it isn’t possible that I couldn’t find something to write about, so I just need to think about it for a while. I took a nap earlier, so now that I’m wide awake again, clever and wonderful thoughts should be bubbling forth. Of course, now that I’m not a nanny anymore, my fail safe is no longer children, but it is… books. If I’ve taken pictures, then the fail safe would be food or flowers, I suppose. But when all else has gone by the wayside, I can still talk about what I’ve been reading.

And since you may have figured out by now that I read a wide variety of books, sometimes I mix them up into my posts. But despite reading the latest books by Kurt Schlicter and Jason Mattera, I need to finish them AND put some thought into it, before I write about them.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t put thought into writing about other books, but when you’re writing about the delightfulness (whatdaya mean that isn’t a word, WP?) of a certain fiction novel, you don’t write about how something really convicted you about the behavior of your society. You talk about the DELIGHTFULNESS of the book! Ha, I used it again. Take that!

So, while scrounging around in my brain for what I’ve been up to, and some of you are spending a hectic summer with your children (yes, I know how much parents “enjoy” vacation, now), maybe you’re looking for something to read? Hey, it doesn’t have to be for kids, these books are great fun for adults, too.

I mentioned in my latest post about visiting the book store that I’d run across a story called The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall. Of course, I bought this National Book Award winner, and took it home to read, thinking that both the design and the blurb on the back made it sound like a tale that hearkened back to the good books that most of us grew up on. Back before “paranormal romance” entered into the public consciousness, we read Little Women, Jane of Lantern Hill, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Boxcar Children, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, Thimble Summer, Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze, and many others. This one looked like it should be on the shelf with those other classic books for children.

And sure enough, I was right! It’s just a wonderful family tale, as the four sisters and their widowed dad go to a new place to spend their three weeks of vacation. They had no idea that their little rented house would be behind a mansion, with gardens galore! Nor did they know what the owner and her son would be like, but I won’t spoil that for you. The girls are nothing alike, from Rosalind the responsible eldest, who has never been boy-crazy, but might just be experiencing her first crush, to little Batty, who loves to wear her butterfly wings, wherever she goes. In between, we have the tomboy Skye, who loves to have her room so tidy, while her writer sister, Jane, is always cluttering her space with tales of Sabrina Starr.

But despite their differences, this family loves each other, and defends their own to the last. So many “modern” books write about dysfunctional families, and I know that there are plenty of them out there. But if your own family has its problems, then all the more reason to read about and have your life brightened by tales of happiness. If you’re looking for a new book to read, or something to share with your kids (both girls AND boys!), this one is for you. The boys will especially enjoy the soccer game that takes an interesting turn, when Jane’s imagination runs away from her.

While reading this book, my mom brought up the subject of another book that we’ve had on the shelf for years. Having picked it up at a yard sale, when I was in my teens, she’s read it many times, but I’m still unsure of whether I have read it before. So, I went downstairs and found The Family at Dowbiggins, by Elfrida Dupont, and read it through. And I’m still not sure if I’d ever read it, but it doesn’t matter, because now that I have, I’ll have to keep an eye out for it in thrift stores.

Because, for some reason, it’s out of print, and it’s expensive, if you buy it used on Amazon. But Elfrida Dupont wrote quite a number of books, including a followup or two to The Family at Dowbiggins, so now I have to keep an eye out for anything that she wrote.

Dowbiggins is a huge, rambling old house in England, that Mrs. Conyers inherited from the original Dowbiggins family. But since she and her husband are having trouble making ends meet, they decide to take in paying guests. Of course, the children are up in arms over this, and hope to be able to scare away the visitors. But as one after another group of people arrive, they discover the different kinds of people that inhabit our world. One family may have some people that are wonderful, while others are unkind. Some start off spoiled and willful, but grow on you, as they finally get an opportunity to shine.

I like how the children are a wide variety, with some being studious and imaginative, while some hate school and only want to learn about farming. Young Jim might not like school, but he’s the right sort, and he really steps up to the plate when their unwelcome young guest gets into serious trouble. Rachel loves music, and does all she can to learn how to play the fiddle, even if she knows she’ll never be world class, she has the determination to succeed at something she cares about. Dabs discovers the value of having your family trust you, no matter what you’ve been accused of, while Harry tries to shoulder some of the burdens that his parents carry. This is just the kind of family that everyone wants to know, and Dowbiggins is a place that changes everyone that goes there.

So, if you’re in a new book store, take a look at The Penderwicks, but if you’re wandering through a used book store or an antique store, keep an eye out for anything by Elfrida Dupont. It sounds like she may have written a bunch of great books, but for some reason, they’ve fallen out of the public eye. And if you don’t want the one you find, feel free to mail it to me. I would be greatly interested in what you’ve found.

I hope you continue to enjoy your summer (or winter, if you’re in Australia), and share any fascinating books that you come across!

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