a pictured pause…

The paper for my UK class is finally starting to take shape… and by that, I mean a shape that doesn’t make me want to throw the laptop out the window. It’s quite normal for me to hate my research papers, because I can’t get them to say what I want them to say. Until about 24 hours after I’ve written them, I decide they weren’t so bad, after all. So, now that I know I have all day tomorrow to finish it, and I’m well into the fourth page, I can breathe more easily. 12287557_10153686755089976_285132929_o 12295085_10153686751844976_1654943065_oSo, before I go see how the Christmas tree decorating is going, I thought the least I could do is share a few of my latest pictures. Mostly taken at Thanksgiving, I can assure you that we dined most deliciously on all the food that you could desire. Oh, right, the cake pictures were taken before Thanksgiving, because my mom tends to bake cakes for parties at work. They’re addicted to her cooking and baking (as are we). And I was feeling all artistic after taking some of these.  : )12290528_10153693025334976_102409055_o12281770_10153697314914976_836887180_oMost of my brothers made it to town, along with my youngest bro’s dog. Bullet has been part of the family for almost a year now, I think, and we occasionally get “custody” of him when my brother has to go do military stuff. Now that my brother is MARRIED, then Bullet stays with my sister-in-law instead. However, Bullet’s a really nice dog, and we love having him to visit, too. This picture I included was taken after he realized that he WAS going home with Joe and Amanda, instead of staying with us. Or rather, he leaped into his bed in the car, and couldn’t be shifted, as if he was afraid he might get left behind after all. So, for a rescue dog that lucked into being adopted by a young man in the Air Force… life is good for him, and he just LOVES my brother and his wife.12318272_10153697411134976_1543031468_oAnd now, away I go, and by tomorrow, I should be ONE research paper closer to being done with this semester! Hooray!

the best of books, pt. 2…

If you’ve been following along with my last book post, I began this lengthy write-up for an Australian friend who wanted some book recommendations for her kids. And then it grew from there… except I got completely side-tracked by being back in school, and never finished it until recently. Or I suppose I can’t say I’ve finished it yet, since this is the other half? But honestly, I went through my entire book collection (not including what might be on my Kindle) and wrote down all the authors that would be excellent for teens and pre-teens to read. And these are all books that I enjoyed when I was a kid, or still enjoy, now that I’m a grown-up.

But if you’ve ever read any of my posts about books before, you’ll know that I have a bone to pick with bookstores that provide all sorts of fantastical books for the “young adults”, and deceive them into thinking that the only “good” reading is about vampires, werewolves, demons, and zombies. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are decent, and most of them are not. And that’s not even getting into the dystopian category, which is the new writing fad. I like to remind everyone that Barnes & Noble (and other brick-and-mortar stores) have a dreadful habit of putting a lot of the good reading in the “children’s section”. You know, the 12 and under section. Going to try and convince your teen to walk past the picture books, in order to find something good to read? But that’s where the Newbery Medal books are, as well as many other good books!

Sure, there’s garbage in the Childrens’ section, also. Every adult/parent needs to search through these books, and make good choices for their children or for themselves. There are a lot of fantasy tales out there… but there are still amazing family oriented stories like the Penderwicks (Jeanne Birdsall) and the Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner), with not fantasy involved. It can be done, people! And if it’s well-written, there’s nothing wrong with a retelling of a classic fairytale, or a new story about an amazing new world. Ask for advice from friends that read, and look for recommendations on Amazon and Goodreads! There are even books listing good books for children (and the one I found was printed in the 90’s, so I’m sure it has some good stuff in it.

Now, I’ll try and get off that rabbit trail and get back to work, talking about books that I love now and books that I remember loving from when I was a child. Remember, no matter what I recommend or the age group I suggest, check up on it yourself, and read along with your kids! Some of these books, I’ve read many, many times, and will continue to do so until I can’t read anymore (perish the day…). And so, continuing with my list of authors and some of their books…

Astrid Lindgren – Pippi Longstocking, Pippi in the South Seas, etc.. –  Ah, Pippi… for some reason, I didn’t have a copy of the first book, when I was little, so I grew up reading Pippi in the South Seas, though I had seen the movie version of the first book and loved it. It was always excessively comical, her amazing strength, despite her size, and how she didn’t think quite the same way as normal kids and people. Just really good fun for the readers.

Lois Lowry – The Giver, Number the Stars, etc.. – I always tell myself that one day, I need to read Number the Stars. Any author that can win TWO Newbery Medals with her books, as well as several Newbery Honor mentions… her books are known to be fantastic. But for some reason, I’ve never gotten around to it, because it’s well-known that this particular book concerns the Holocaust. Serious subject, not a long book… everyone should read it, including me. However, I’ve always been fascinated by her book, The Giver. Yes, I know some of you are aware that it’s being made into a movie, but I’m very skeptical of all the trailers. It seems like they decided they needed more action, and the trailer does not seem to be completely true to the book. I love Walden Media, but I do NOT want them screwing this up. When I first read it, I didn’t know what a dystopian future was, nor am I still sure it’s even set in our future. What is understandable that Jonas is just like every child in his village, waiting to see what his vocation will be, when he turns twelve. In their world, they don’t choose for themselves, but their leaders always choose correctly, as far as the children know. He has a family that loves him and jokes with him… but only when he meets the Giver himself will Jonas realize that his life is NOT in fact, normal. This book is part of a series, now, but it stood on its own when I first read it, and I’ve never needed another. The other books to follow are well-written, especially the last one (which I thought fell flat at the end, as if an end was required, but not enough heart was put into it), but I don’t find that they tie well together, and none of them ever held the fascination of the first. You and your kids can decide for yourself, of course.

M. I. McAllister – The Mistmantle Chronicles: Urchin of the Falling Stars – I actually have three books from this series, and I’ve only read the first one. They reminded me of the Redwall books, and yet they’re not QUITE as good. However, the characters and the drawings were delightful, and I think that anyone who loves animals would enjoy the adventures involved. But like I said, keep an eye on things, since I didn’t read the sequels.  : )  My opinion remains that no author can beat Brian Jacques, however.

Robin McKinley – The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, Chalice, Pegasus, Beauty, Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End – Please be warned… as much as I love McKinley’s books, I do not recommend them all. If they are not on this list, be very careful. Sunshine and Donkeyskin, especially, are NOT for children. Several of her other books are fun or strange, by turns, but the above list are my favorites. Well, except for Hero and the Crown. For some reason, her Newbery Medal book is not my favorite, but that’s not because it’s bad. My older brother really liked it, but I always found the dragon strangely creepy or dark… I can’t explain it. But this is personal preference, whereas the ones I warned you against have stuff you do not want your kids reading. Hero is actually the “prequel” of sorts to The Blue Sword, which is one of my favorites, and understandably, it won a Newbery Honor. My younger brother and I still rave about Harry’s adventures… Anyone would enjoy that one! Beauty and Rose Daughter are two different retellings of Beauty and the Beast, one having been written many years before the other, and the first was for younger readers. Both are excellent. Spindle’s End is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty and it’s probably my favorite of them all. Unless Pegasus beats it, but I’m still waiting for the Pegasus sequels. Again, some of her books are for young readers, and some are definitely NOT. Please be aware of it…

Marie McSwigan – Snow Treasure – This one is supposed to be based on a true story. I wouldn’t know, but it’s a fantastic story. Set during World War II, the country of Norway is invaded by Nazis, and the villagers must figure out how to rescue the millions of dollars in gold bullion that has been hidden from the Germans. The local children, with their sleds, are drawn into the race to save the gold bullion from the enemy, and get it safely to America. I never grew tired of this book, and eventually, the cover got worn off from too many readings.

Catherine Marshall – Christy – Loosely based on Marshall’s own time spent teaching in the Appalachian Mountains, Christy tells about a young woman from the city leaves her family to teach in the backwoods. The poverty of the locals is extreme, prejudice against her city ways is rampant, and while not set during the pioneer times, it might as well be for the little these people had. While the author writes very true to life, she doesn’t paint over the hardships… but unlike some books nowadays, she doesn’t glorify the hardships, either. Maybe “wallow” is the word I’m looking for. Some books can be very dark, because the authors seem to revel in the dirt. Marshall only tries to make you see the backwoods people through her heroine’s eyes, but people do die of disease or injury. Just be aware that an avid young reader can handle this, but you may want to read ahead of them, in case they’re not ready for it.

L. M. Montgomery – Jane of Lantern Hill, The Blue Castle, Anne of Green Gables series, Pat of Silver Bush (duology), Emily of New Moon (trilogy) – Oh, dear… I shall try my best to avoid one of my favorite “rants”. We’ll see how I do. But if you’ve read or watched Anne of Green Gables, yes, it’s a fantastic book and great movie. But you need to read the rest of the series. ALL of them. And while I enjoy the first two movies, which are an amalgam of 4-5 of the books, I have never and will NEVER watch the third movie, because it’s a load of hogwash. Gilbert does not go to war… but I can’t rant about that, because I may give away some of what happens in the later books. The truth is, I love Anne, but I love her children just as much, and it’s very possible that Rilla of Ingleside (#8) is my favorite. Rilla was Anne’s youngest daughter, if you’re wondering, and that book was set during WWI… but I won’t tell you any more because I can’t give away Dog Monday or anything else. But since I’m talking about Montgomery, please remember that these may SEEM like girl books, but they’re wonderful stories, and boys should take the time to read them, too. The mischief, the fun! And for the record, Anne may be the best-selling of her books, but she’s not my favorite character in the books. My favorite set is probably the Pat of Silver Bush duo, and probably because not only is Pat great fun, but those books contain Judy Plum. There’s never been a more amazing character, I’m quite sure. And yes, I love the Emily trilogy, as well, and everyone needs to read those, too.

But if you’re looking for a SINGLE book of Montgomery’s to read, no series or trilogy involved, it’s a toss-up between Jane of Lantern Hill or The Blue Castle. Well, the best one is definitely The Blue Castle (probably my absolute favorite book), but I can see where the younger kids may enjoy Jane, first. While both books center on characters that have been lonely and put upon for their whole lives, Jane is a pre-teen who is sent to Prince Edward Island to meet her father, while Valancy is a 29 year old spinster who dreams of love that she thinks she can never have. Don’t be deceived by any blurb that’s ever been attached to The Blue Castle… you won’t believe the incident that brings Valancy out of her shell, and the hilarity that ensues. But no matter which book of L. M. Montgomery’s that you read, one thing never changes… even in her short stories… the characters are REAL. They are so well-written that you expect them to walk off the page, and you will adore them and break your heart over them, every time. It doesn’t matter how many hundred times I’ve read some of them, my heart still cries out over certain parts, and I still laugh over others. Sit your family down and read them ALL. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Robert O’Brien – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Silver Crown – If you’re like me at all, you were raised on not only Disney animated films, but on Don Bluth films such as The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and… The Secret of NIMH. I have no recollection if I knew beforehand that NIMH was based on a book or what, but if you’ve seen the movie, they really changed the storyline around a LOT. It’s still a good film, but concentrates on magical elements which aren’t in the story. That said, I finally got around to reading it, and it’s really a wonderful book (no wonder he won a Newbery for it), following the story of these super-intelligent rats that have made a home for themselves in the country, and how they work together with Mrs. Frisby to save her son. My memories of The Silver Crown are rather vague, but I just read a review of it on Amazon. That reviewer says that they’ve loved this book since they were 10 years old, but that it has a few mature or alarming incidents that some less mature readers might not be ready for. It all depends on your reader! But I do remember that the little girl wakes up with a silver crown next to her pillow, and must find out what it’s there for and what she’s capable of doing with it… Tantalizing, don’t you think?

Scott O’Dell – Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Black Pearl, Sing Down the Moon, etc.. – I’m pretty sure that O’Dell wrote about a million books, because I’m always coming across them in used book stores, and many are stories that I’ve never heard about. Many are historical fiction, but parents should also be aware that they do not all end happily. The one that I read the most was Island of the Blue Dolphins, and maybe some of the sadness of the book was a bit much for me, at the time… but I still liked it. What would it be like to be stranded on an island, alone, and to have to make your own clothes, a shelter out of whale bones, and befriend the wild dogs and the cormorants? And I’m pretty sure at that age, I thought the “elephant fight” was between real elephants, instead of elephant seals… but even that doesn’t change anything to a child’s imagination. You learn from these things. The Black Pearl was darker, as I remember, and tells the story of Ramon and his finding of a lustrous black pearl, which may set El Diablo after him… I don’t even remember what happens, I think I thought it was scary, at the time. It isn’t very long, however, so you can easily read through it to see whether your child can handle it. But I should perhaps mention that Island won the Newbery Medal, while Black Pearl won a Newbery Honor, as did Sing Down the Moon, which is a tale of soldiers forcing a Navajo tribe on a forced march (though I don’t know if I ever read it). Others of his stories involve Eskimos in the Iditarod, and pioneers all over America.

Baroness Emmuska Orczy – The Scarlet Pimpernel – Everyone should read this. I don’t care how old you are, this book is amazing. Yes, there are amusing movie versions, but even they never get it quite right. This is the story of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, made up of some of the rich lords of England, doing their best to save the aristocrats of Paris from the Terror, but it is also the tale of the beautiful Marguerite, married to the stupidest Englishman of them all… but is he really? Blackmail and intrigue are involved, and some of the best comedic scenes ever… I can’t even describe the wonders of this book. My older brother and I read my mom’s copy so many times that the cover came off and the book was falling apart, so we had to buy her a new one. This story doesn’t have anything too hard for the young folk to read, though the wording might be a little more formal than they’re used to. And for those that are worried about issues of a touchier nature, there is an episode with a Jew, near the end of the book, which talks about the qualities of their “race”, and isn’t very flattering. I only mention this in case your children take note of it, and you want to know what they refer to… but I had probably read the book a hundred times before I even noticed anything odd about it. All in all, a fantastic adventure/love story.

James A. Owen – The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica: Here, There Be Dragons, The Search for the Red Dragon, etc.. –I’ve been reading this series for about ten years now, and the last one was published this year. It’s very sad. But it’s an amazing series, and I highly recommend it! Especially if you not only love a fantasy adventure, but love literature. Because Owen involves three famous authors, right from the start of the first book… and as the books progress, you meet more of them. In this world of the Chronicles, there are always Guardians of the Imaginarium Geographica, a book of maps of the worlds of fantasy. In every century, there are new guardians and apprentice guardians, who can travel back and forth between our world to the Archipelago of Dreams. And the Archipelago itself? It’s where all our favorite magical lands are located, and some that have never been written about. For example, the land of Prydain. But the lands are not always exactly like how we read about them, because different authors/guardians use them for inspiration, or invent their own lands. And when they invent a new land in a book, it’s very likely that a new one will appear in the Archipelago. By the final book, I was amazed at how Owen could bring characters like Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Jules Verne, and many more, to life within the pages, and keep it from being confusing! But it doesn’t start that way. With the first book, John, Jack, and Charles are swept off on an unexpected adventure after the death of their mentor… and they are thrown headfirst into a guardianship that they know nothing about. You’ll meet the talking badgers, led by the wonderful Tummeler (who always calls the scholars “Scowlers”), as well as Captain Nemo, Mordred, and the descendants of Arthur Pendragon. It’s a wonderful tale, just right for all those book lovers and literature geeks… some of whom are still only kids. Be aware that there are a few dark themes, and some characters don’t make it through the story, as a result of run-ins with the Shadowborn (think something like a Ringwraith, but different). These are great for kids, but keep an eye on them, in case they can’t handle a few scary spots or the loss of a beloved character. You should read them with your kids, if you have the time… I just LOVE this series.

Linda Sue Park – A Single Shard – Set in long ago Korea, this story is of an orphan who dreams of becoming a master potter, and even travels to the Royal Court eventually, in hopes of achieving that dream…. It’s been several years since I read this, so my memories are vague except that it’s excellent and won the Newbery Medal. I find that I get it mixed up with one of the following books by Paterson, but Amazon says it’s for Grades 5-8.

Katherine Paterson – Bridge to Terabithia, Lyddie, Of Nightingales That Weep, Jacob Have I Loved, The Great Gilly Hopkins – Not every person likes Bridge to Terabithia, and I don’t even remember all of what I thought as a child, reading it. It ends sadly, so please be aware, for your child’s sake. But the other part that sticks in my mind is how the children go to a remote location and pretend it’s their own country, and they use their imaginations to make up the adventures they have. What child doesn’t love that kind of thing? But despite it being a Newbery Medal winner, the adventures they had in their own world… I didn’t remember much about it, until I saw the movie and then reread the book. But while it may have fantastical elements, this is a story of friendship between outcasts and how life doesn’t always pass us by, when the hardships come. So, you may want to read it before your child, or keep an eye on them, in case you find them in tears at some point. Still, an excellent book. Lyddie is much more of a farm story (I think), but Nightingales is a totally different ballgame. I’m not sure whether to recommend it for the kids or not, despite it being a fascinating story about a young girl in Imperial Japan… but the twist at the end and who she marries… it’s a good story, but is it appropriate for the kids? You might need to read this one ahead of your child. Or wait. Katherine Patterson is an amazing author, so no wonder she received a Newbery Honor for Gilly Hopkins and a Newbery Medal for Jacob Have I Loved. I’m pointing this out ahead of time, because I’m completely prejudiced when it comes to Jacob Have I Loved, and want you to understand that it’s probably a good book. But I have a history of disliking most books that I had to read in middle or high school, because we had to “dissect” them so much, or even because I just didn’t like the stories. Maybe I should re-read it, but I’ve yet to get past my dislike of several books I had to read in middle school (including Jack London’s Call of the Wild). This book deals with a pair of twins, one who feels like she is the least loved, and how she deals with her growing up years. The reviews are good on Amazon, so I’m just trying to be honest… you should probably give it the chance I’ve never been able to give it.  : )

Edith Pattou – East – A retelling of the tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, this story follows Rose as she lives in a land where significance is seen in the direction a child was facing when they were born. Rather than admit her child is a wild North-born, her mother hides the truth, but Rose can’t deny who she is. Eventually, she will go on a great adventure, in order to save her family, an adventure you will love to read about. Now I want to read this again, it’s been so long since I read it.

Donita K. Paul – DragonSpell, DragonQuest, etc.. –There is a genre known as Christian fantasy… I don’t know what you think of it, but some is good, some is strange. I really enjoyed this series, though it won’t stand up to Tolkien, by any means. Kale is a young girl who starts out as a slave, raised amongst a people not at all like her, sent on an adventure, where she encounters dragon eggs and then the small dragons that hatch from them. The people she meet tell her about the wonders of Paladin (you can see the parallels to Jesus), who himself is the servant of Wulder. It’s very obvious where the parallels are, and I’m not really a fan of stories that make it so obvious, because Jesus and God are… well, they’re not meant to be trivialized. But somehow, these books manage the parallels, and some of the characters like the Wizard Fenworth are enormously fun… and I love stories about dragons. So, while I think the early parts of the series are better than the later books, these are an enjoyable read, and you could probably have some interesting conversations with your children about what the author’s trying to say about us, as well as about God and Jesus.

Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson, The Heroes of Olympus – I enjoy mythology, just like I enjoy fairytales. So, I got a kick out of Riordan’s modern take on the mythology of old, both Roman and Greek. And even if these are written in a manner to imply it’s narrated by a teenager, the Percy books are still quite fun. However, I think Riordan stepped it up a notch when he reached Heroes, because he has to really work at mixing Greek and Roman mythology, and making sure the characters are believable. So, while I’m enjoying the second series more than the first, you have to read the first series to get to the second. And while I’m remembering, I started to read his Kane Chronicles, and didn’t enjoy them at all. Those are stories based on the mythology of Egypt, but I quickly stopped caring about the story or the characters.

J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter series – Of course, everyone has heard of Harry Potter. At this point, you’ve either read them all and watched all the movies… or you’ve still avoided them completely. Back in 2000, I was working in a book store and still avoiding them completely, because our store would put on really ridiculous parties for the days when a new book was published. My coworkers and I all avoided those books, because they were so popular and the kids in their costumes were SO annoying. Lightning bolts on foreheads? I didn’t know why and I didn’t care. I knew what all the covers looked like, though, and hated them. Some of you are still like this, I’m sure. Many years later, probably a year or three before the final book came out, I think I discovered that a cousin of mine, whose opinion I trust, had read and enjoyed them. I decided it was time to give it a chance, and I was hooked. You know what? They’re fun. I already like fantasy, and this was good writing with a believable world, and yes, everyone wishes they could magically make doors open and that they could fly on broomsticks. But while I truly enjoy the books, and I’m still working on getting one of my bookworm brothers to give them a chance (my less book-reading brother started them at Christmas, and then bought himself the series, reading them within two weeks), I understand the people that still avoid them. I was one of you, so I’m not going to judge… well, not much. But while they are not Tolkien by any means, they do have a very recognizable fight between good and evil, and we want for the good guys to win. If you don’t mind your kids reading about magic, then your whole family will enjoy these. Though you may want to keep an eye on them with the last book or two, because it can get pretty dark in spots. Also, for the movies… if you haven’t seen them, please be warned that the opening scenes of Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 is really creepy and scary. I was a bit horrified, and I knew it was in the book. And that isn’t the only frightening scene with the snake in the movie (or the book), so please be cautious.

Brittney Ryan – The Legend of Holly Claus – This is such a beautifully illustrated book, don’t miss out by getting a Kindle edition, even if they do include pictures. Ryan’s book tells the story of St. Nicholas, who is the ruler of the Land of the Immortals, and he is finally asked what HE wants for Christmas. He and his wife want a child, and so Holly Claus is born… but she has a spell cast upon her at birth (rather like Sleeping Beauty). She is raised by her loving parents, but someday must figure out how to break her curse. I love this story.

Ruth Sawyer – Roller Skates – I remember loving this book, though I only vaguely remember what it is about. It won the Newbery Medal, and follows the story of a little girl who goes around New York City (early 1900’s) on roller skates, making friends, and having adventures. I was younger than 10 when I read it, which is why I don’t remember what happened at all, except that it’s a wonderful book.

George Selden – The Cricket in Times Square Likewise, I don’t really remember what adventures that Chester the Cricket has with Mario, Tucker the Mouse, and Harry the Cat, just that it was a fun book (also a Newbery Honor book).

Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret –This is a good book, but technically, it isn’t very long. You see, this one won a Caldecott Medal, which is for illustrations. So, while it looks like a really thick novel, it’s mostly pictures. They’ll be fascinated to your kids, I’m sure, but I felt like I’d been robbed, when I realized the story wasn’t as long as the pages of drawings. The artwork is amazing, though, and the movie is good fun, too.

Elizabeth George Speare – The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Bronze Bow, The Sign of the Beaver, Calico Captive – Many years ago, I think my older brother gave me a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond for my birthday, and I never looked back. Kit Tyler arrives from Barbados in the colony of Puritans in Connecticut, to their great surprise. But while she is welcomed, they are not well-to-do, and don’t understand her outgoing ways. She knows how to swim, makes friends with Quakers, and wears silk dresses. But she comes to love her family and when Kit is accused of being a witch (think like in the Salem Witch Trials), what will happen next? This book definitely deserves the Newbery Medal it won, and remains one of my favorite childhood books. Speare also wrote other books that won the Newbery Medal (The Bronze Bow) and the Newbery Honor (The Sign of the Beaver), as well as an Indian captivity tale (Calico Captive). If you want to get some historical fiction, as well as learn how the main characters strive to get along or understand those that are different from them, these are excellent reading for you.

Johanna Spyri – Heidi My favorite version of this movie stars Michael Redgrave, Jean Simmons, and Maximilian Schell. Not Shirley Temple. Though, in a strange way, the Shirley Temple version is more true to the story. Well, maybe, I can’t remember exactly. But in the book, Fraulein Rottenmeier is a very strict lady who is not a big fan of Heidi, while the Jean Simmons version has her as a delightful woman who loves the girls. For once, I don’t care, I adore that movie. My heart stops every time Clara is left on the mountain to try and walk… Ok, I’m getting away from the point. This is a wonderful story of an orphaned girl who goes to live with her grandfather in the Alps, but when she has to leave him to go to the city, she becomes dreadfully homesick. However, she comes to love the spoiled Clara, who can’t walk, and hopes to make her better by coming to see her on the mountain. It’s a heartwarming, wonderful story that every boy and girl should read. And watch the 1968 television version of the movie… because Redgrave, Simmons, and Schell! That’s why! They’re amazing.

Trenton Lee Stewart – The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict – A mysterious ad in the newspaper brings any number of children to a building to go through lots of mind-boggling tests and riddles. The rewards for the winners? To create a society that will be able to go on a secret mission that only children can fulfill. These books are delightful, with their fascinating puzzles and riddles, with the children each finding many different ways of solving them. And after reading the trilogy, I really enjoyed the prequel, though it had less riddling and more development of Nicholas Benedict’s character. It was fascinating to see how he didn’t really believe in love, despite his extensive learning, because he had never seen love in action. You and your family will enjoy these books.

Noel Streatfeild – Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes  While Streatfield wrote several dancing stories after Ballet Shoes, that one is the first and best of the set. The story is about Great-Uncle Max (known as GUM) who brings back several baby orphans from his travels. Named Pauline, Petrova, and Posy, their family becomes poor while Gum goes away on his travels, so they set out to help their family earn some money. Along with learning to dance and act, the girls have many adventures in the process of finding out what they are good at and what they can become when they grow up. This is a WONDERFUL book.

Sydney Taylor – All-of-a-Kind Family – While this book is part of a series, they have mostly been out of print until recently, so I haven’t read them all. But my cousins and I love them. This is the story of a Jewish family in New York City, in the early 1900’s… a family with five girls. They are not precisely poor, but they are not rich, either. I grew up, delighting in how their mother makes dusting the front room into an adventure, how one of the sisters becomes so very stubborn that she won’t eat her dinner, but her parents lovingly expect obedience from her. The girls have adventures at the library and buying penny sweets at the general store, and always, they are celebrating the Jewish holidays with their family. One of my favorites was when they visiting their papa’s shop and found books that had been donated, and they took some of them home. Do these sound like very simple stories? But you see, the quality of writing is excellent, and the love of family and friendship is palpable. I wanted to sample the foods and see the book of paper dolls that they discovered… I still hope to read all of these books, someday. You should, too.

J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit – By now, you know that I compare many other fantasies to Tolkien. That’s because he sets the bar. And despite my mom being raised on LOTR and my older brother reading them through our childhood, I think I was intimidated by the scary picture of Gollum on the cover. I’m not sure, exactly. It wasn’t until the first trailer came out for the first movie, that I went and picked up a copy at the book store. And was hooked from the first word. Perhaps you think they’re too long or too wordy. Don’t be intimidated by the length, because the story is so amazing that it’s completely worth it, once you’re caught up in it. And while I love the movies, the books are so much better.

Mark Twain – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn I first read Tom Sawyer when I was very young, though I reread it a few years ago, and was amazed at all the details that I didn’t remember. The mischief that Tom would get into! I’ve since discovered that Twain wrote sequels to it, but most people don’t know of their existence, because they’re not in print. I have them on my Kindle, though I haven’t read them yet. And Huckleberry Finn is a harder read, but just as worth it. It often gets put down by certain literary critics because of how it was set in the American South when there were still slaves, and words are sometimes used that would be considered racist, nowadays. But you can make your own decisions about what you want to read and how to approach the truth about history, and how we can always treat people better and more kindly.

James Ramsey Ullman – Banner in the Sky – This Newbery Honor book follows young Rudi, whose father died trying to climb The Citadel, the unconquered peak of the Alps. Rudi would like to conquer that portion, in his father’s memory, but can he get past the heartbreak of his father’s memory?

Cynthia Voigt – Dicey’s Song, A Solitary Blue – I haven’t read all of the books about the Tillermans, but Dicey’s Song is about how she’s brought her siblings to her grandmother, and no longer has to be the one in charge. But can she figure out who she is and what to become, without her usual role? I only vaguely remember the Newbery Medal book, but some of Voigt’s other books have also won Newbery Honors, and they’re all supposed to be excellent books.

Gertrude Chandler Warner – The Boxcar Children – I didn’t get around to mentioning the Bobbsey Twins books or even the Nancy Drew books, because I don’t know if I ever read them, and remember… this list mostly includes what I own. But if your children like mysteries, those books can be looked up, also. But I grew up reading the stories about the Boxcar Children, a wonderful story about the Alden family, who make their home in a boxcar… and end up finding a grandfather. It’s been so long, I don’t remember how it happens, exactly. And while the series continues for many, many books, you may wonder how they always fall into mysteries. But why does it matter? They’re wonderful, fun books, and you’ll be glad your kids have gained such a love of reading, when they make their way through the entire series.

Kate Douglas Wiggin – Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – Written in 1903, this book was beloved by Mark Twain and Jack London, amongst others, and follows the story of young Rebecca, who is sent to live with her stern spinster aunts. They are unused to having a child live with them, but are trying to help out her mother, who has many children to look after. I haven’t read this since I was a little girl, but anyone who has ever read it will tell you it’s wonderful, and you’ll be thankful to have your children reading such a classic. But the Amazon reviews even suggest that adults continue to love it, also.

Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Little Town on the Prairie, The Long Winter, Farmer Boy, By the Shores of Silver Lake, etc.. – Of Wilder’s 9-book series, she won Newbery Honors for five of them. I’ve been wishing I could re-read them all, but we must have worn out my mom’s copies, some time ago. These are for school age children, I don’t care what country you’re from, and American kids (at least when I was growing up) were raised on them. Yes, maybe you’ve heard of the old TV show, but I’ve never watched it. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it’s nothing like the books, not at all. I even bought the series for one of my Aussie girls, for her birthday. These semi-autobiographical stories follow Laura Ingalls’ family from Laura’s early years in the big woods until she marries, while living on the prairie. How I loved to read about Ma and Pa making and baking food for the winter, and parties with family, and making snow candy from maple syrup… and that was before they reached the prairie! On the prairie, there were locusts and Indians and blizzards and other adventures. If I recommended any series of ALL the books I’ve talked about so far… this is the one that I most highly recommend. Boys and girls. My brothers and I read them and loved them. Your children MUST read them. And I’ve heard good things about the prequel and sequel series, which were written by Wilder’s daughter, but I have never read them myself.

Patricia C. Wrede – Dealing With Dragons, Sorcery and Cecilia, Snow White and Rose Red, The Seven Towers, Thirteenth Child, etc.. – The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which includes Dealing With Dragons are SUCH good fun. While being wonderful books, they don’t take themselves overly seriously, telling about Princess Cimorene, who is tired of being a princess and wants adventure in her life. So, she runs away to live with dragons. Who wouldn’t? You and your children will laugh over them. Sorcery and Cecilia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot starts off a trilogy set in an earlier time in England, but in a world that includes magic. So, if you want to imagine your Regency era (or maybe slightly later) while wizards were around, these are for you. My recollection says the kids will enjoy them, too, though they may be a little wordier than the dragon books. Snow White is a fairytale retelling, of course, and The Seven Towers is a standalone fantasy tale that I haven’t read in years, but should be fine for young teens. Take a look for yourself and see what you think. Also, I’ve recently been reading her newest series, which starts with Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic series), and takes place in a frontier America where magic exists. She explores what it’s like to be the unlucky thirteenth child, who happens to be the twin of an excessively lucky double seventh song, and how they grow up and explore the frontier. I think a mature reader of ten years old could handle them, but again, you know your kids best.

Johann David Wyss – The Swiss Family Robinson – Maybe you’ve seen the Disney movie, which is wonderful, but the book is quite different (while still amazing). In the book, there are more kids, and much more details about the many, many dwellings that the family builds on their new home, after they’re shipwrecked. And I’m telling you, the father of the family has SO much knowledge about everything, it’s fascinating, and I always  wonder what he read when he lived in a “civilized” land. But this book was written before all the countries and islands of the world had been discovered, so Wyss was able to create an island where every animal or tree or plant that he wanted could live. Penguins, flamingos, and everything else… they’re all there. But this is a classic, excellent story that every child will love reading, because who doesn’t want to know that they can survive if they’re shipwrecked on an unknown island? An excellent story.

Jane Yolen – The Devil’s Arithmetic, Briar Rose – Yolen is an interesting author. While she’s now well-known for writing a series of picture books about dinosaurs, some of her literature is much more serious. While Briar Rose is technically a Sleeping Beauty retelling, it is tied to the Holocaust and is no easy read. I’m not even positive that I’ve read it, but you’ll know best whether your teen can handle it. The Devil’s Arithmetic… now, I do remember reading that one. Set during more modern times, it tells of a young girl who has little appreciation for her grandparents’ having survived the Holocaust, but during Passover, she opens the door to symbolically let Elijah in… and is transported to the past. Along her historical journey, she begins to see signs of what she knows about the Holocaust and does her best to warn people… but they think she’s silly. She is swept away on the trains to the death camps… but will she survive to return to her family? This story is not an easy read, but no Holocaust book ever is. But Yolen takes an interesting route of showing you what the times were like, and how this young girl grows up and learns to understand her own family’s history.

Wow, I finished it! Wasn’t sure if that would ever happen!

But already, my previous book list has caused my Aussie friend to have some good memories of the book Baby Island, and how much she used to love it. This is what I’ve been hoping! That people will remember their old favorites, that they lost track of… or that they’d find new ones! So many books that showed up in our elementary school book fairs, school libraries, and the Weekly Reader style book pages that we would take home to order from! I still have an old favorite that I must have lost, but the title isn’t well-known and at the moment, I can’t remember the author. But I still remember the cover and the time travel involved, and how the teenagers went back in time and one of them got stuck in an old-fashioned elevator fancy wire elevator during a power outage… and there was a maid named Pegeen! I know that must sound idiotic, but this is the one book that always slips my memory, even though I bought it from a school Book List, and I think the author’s first name was Richard. Hopefully it will come to me later.

But while I was searching for authors by first name, I came up with this list on Wikipedia of Children’s Literature authors, and when I eventually finish this post, I may go back and see what books I missed. I’m sure there are many that I’ve read and never owned. Presently, I’m going to go see if Astrid Lindgren is on this list, because every child, boy or girl, should read the Pippi Longstocking books.

How nice! It wasn’t on this post, originally, so good thing I checked.  : )

Now, I really hope that this very long list will give you some excellent ideas of what to read, or for your kids to read, and take advantage of how Amazon says that “people who bought this book also bought”, and see where it takes you. You can find some excellent reads just by seeing what others are looking at, if they’re already looking at some of the classics outside of the recent run-of-the-mill fantasy novels. Enjoy and feel free to share if I’ve missed something that I shouldn’t have!

Thanks for being patient with me!

P.S.  I found it! After scrolling through pages of Richards on Amazon, I finally found Richard Peck… who wrote a lot of great books, too. Including a Newbery or two, I’m pretty sure. Anyway, the book I couldn’t remember was called Voices After Midnight. But be sure to check his books out, as well, when you’re looking for good reading!

the best of books…

Recently, I finally finished a beloved book series, The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, by James A. Owen. I discovered the series about seven years ago, and beginning with Here, There Be Dragons, I’ve never looked back until I finished The First Dragon. Yes, it is a fantasy series, but aimed at younger readers, it takes the readers into adventures in the imaginary worlds of the most well-known and best writers of literature. Not only into those worlds, you travel there with the writers themselves. I can’t imagine a better series to introduce children and adults to some of the best authors that have ever written.

But rather than write a whole review of the books, I had something else in mind with this post. After I posted a glowing review of the series on my FB page, an Aussie friend asked me for some book recommendations for her 13 year old, and asked if this series would be good reading for her son. I agreed that it would be a wonderful series for her kids to read, or for her to read aloud to the younger ones. In this case, her son has already read The Lord of the Rings, so I know he can easily handle this series.

Perhaps some of you would have chosen to ask if they’d read Harry Potter to judge their reading habits, but as much as I enjoy HP, the real way to judge a person’s reading habits is if they’ve read Tolkien. No contest. And this is no slam against you if you’ve never read LOTR, but in the case of kids, it tells you what length and subject matter they can handle. While LOTR has serious themes and storylines in it, it is never gratuitously violent or bloody. And Tolkien is… well, Tolkien. HP may be awesome fun, but Rowling is no Tolkien.10465795_10152468486919976_697175406_o

Ok, enough of that. I became interested in the subject of good reading for my friend, and suggested that I could take the time to go through my own books and make a list. However, as some of you know, I have a huge book collection, so not only did it take a little while, but I came up with a very large list. So, I told my friend that I was upgrading her list to a blog post, because some of you out there might be interested, also. With all the reading and studying I have to do for school, even at the beginning of the semester, I knew this would take me longer than originally planned.

My list includes some books that are on the Newbery Award list, but I decided to provide the link to the official list, which should be especially useful to Aussies, because they don’t have the Newbery Awards over there. If you’ve never heard of them, the Newbery Medal is awarded to one book every year, which is considered the best contribution to children’s literature in that year. Most years, they award several Newbery Honor awards, as well, for the runner-ups. I’m also including the link to the Caldecott Medal winners, which are awarded to the best illustrated children’s book of each year. I was raised on Blueberries for Sal and The Polar Express, so even your younger children can get in on some reading fun.

Just one warning to all parents and readers… these books are my favorites and those of my friends and family, but that doesn’t mean some of them don’t have serious themes. A few of them, I haven’t read for many years, and just remember them being wonderful, but I may have forgotten a serious element that you will object to. Quite a few of these are fantasy, but many are not. If you have objections to stories about magic or tales of fantasy, that’s your call. No matter what I recommend, you should use Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble’s websites to read other reviews or just read the blurb on the back of the book. You should always know what your kids are reading, no matter what I say about these books. That awareness will allow you to have good conversations with your children, or decide whether your child can’t handle that type of subject matter yet. YOU know your children best, so make your own decisions about these books, please. 🙂  Happy reading!

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Louisa May Alcott – Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, Eight Cousins (or the Aunt Hill), Rose in Bloom, An Old-Fashioned Girl Of course, everyone has heard of Little Women, but how many people have ventured beyond Alcott’s most well-known book? I tend to prefer Little Men to Little Women, because of the antics of the boys, and her writing quality goes downhill in Jo’s Boys. But the latter three on this list… I might possibly love them more than the first three. If you’ve never read the duology of Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom, then you need to, and An Old-Fashioned Girl is a wonderful story of how the Country Mouse met the City Mice and helped them out by being herself. Who doesn’t need a story like that to help them through life?

Alan Armstrong – Whittington – I think this one is a Newbery Honor book, and though I don’t remember much, I remember that it was a really good book.

L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Ozma of Oz, The Tin Woodman of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, etc.. Most of us were raised on the movie version of Wizard of Oz, but the original book and the rest of the series is even more magical for any child’s imagination, and I read and reread many of these when I was a child. Baum had a marvelous imagination, and when I was a child, I was enthralled at the idea of all kinds of queer creatures and objects coming to life in Baum’s stories.

Jeanne Birdsall – The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street It’s been a while since I read the first one, but I still need to get my hands on the rest of Birdsall’s books about the Penderwicks, because they’re a fun-loving and charming family that remind of what it was like when our children played outdoors with animals and each other, rather than staying inside on their computers.

Michael Bond – A Bear Called Paddington, Paddington Helps Out, etc.. – I read these for the first time, recently, and especially for younger children, the unthinking mischief of Paddington will be charming.

Carol Ryrie Brink – Caddie Woodlawn, Baby Island Caddie is the most famous of Brink’s books, as she won the Newbery Medal for it, but if I’m honest, I’ll say that my copy of Baby Island is so worn out that it lost its cover long ago.  The premise that two little girls could be shipwrecked with a boatload of babies to look after, and end up on a desert island… What’s not to love?

Frances Hodgson Burnett – A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, The Lost Prince, Little Lord Fauntleroy – Burnett is another author that gets short shrift over what I consider her best book. I grew up reading The Lost Prince, and as much as I love A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, the adventures of Marco and The Rat were just as fascinating, if not more so. And if your children (girls AND boys) have been raised on the movie versions of her books, then I tell you now that they NEVER get the story right concerning these books. Shirley Temple is amazing, but her movie version of A Little Princess is all wrong, and the same goes for The Secret Garden. Every child should read these books, and fall in love with the correct version of the story. Also, I never read Fauntleroy until I was in my twenties, but I found that story charming and great fun, as well.

Susan Butler – The Hermit Thrush Sings – It has been many years since I read this one, so I should probably reread it. Amazon refreshed my memory… this is a dystopian tale from before The Hunger Games and other books became popular. It’s a world where people live in numbered villages and very few people go out of the villages, because the animals are so dangerous. Leora is a young girl who is different in a world where they’re expected to be perfect physically and think in the same way. Amazon says it’s for age 12 and up, but I think younger readers can handle it… I don’t remember anything too dark for them.

Beverly Cleary – Beezus and Ramona, Ramona the Pest, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Runaway RalphI loved reading the Ramona books, when I was younger, and even further back, I know I read the Mouse books. Beverly Cleary is the voice of my childhood, and even the movie version of Beezus and Ramona is pretty good. These can be read by any age group, and parents will enjoy them as well.

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games trilogy – Since I don’t jump on every bandwagon of popularity, it took a recommendation from my cousin to get me to read these, several years ago. I enjoyed them so much that I’ve read them several times since then, though my younger brother doesn’t see the attraction. They’re a set of books to make you think, when you consider how our world of reality television affects our lives, and every parent needs to decide for themselves if their child can handle the violence of the Games. Also, I’ve heard about Collins’ other books, the series about Gregor the Overlander, but I haven’t read them. Always worth taking a lot, however.

Caroline B. Cooney – The Ransom of Mercy Carter – All American kids were raised on the stories of cowboys and Indians, and westerns… at least, they used to be. Not only was I raised on Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey (the best of the American Western books), but when I was in high school, I read everything in the Native American non-fiction section of the library. Without arguing with anyone on the treatment of the American Indians, I read every book of non-fiction and fiction that I could get on the subject, at the time. And that brought me to Cooney’s tale of Mercy Carter, which is based on a true story. Cooney’s books are normally more like The Face on the Milk Carton, which I have never read, but her other books are supposed to be good. The true stories of how some Americans were kidnapped and/or ransomed by the Native Americans, back during pioneer days, covers a lot of territory… some of them never returned to their families and some took the opportunity to be ransomed or to escape. Cooney wanted to explore the whys and wherefores behind Mercy Carter’s own story, and crafted this book as a result. You won’t be disappointed.

D. M. Cornish – Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy: Foundling, Lamplighter, Factotum – Cornish’s trilogy has a flavor of Charles Dickens to his writing, complete with his fantastic drawings and a glossary of his world. A world where monsters exist and are a serious danger, and young Rossamund is in the middle of it. The title of the trilogy is a little off-putting, I suppose, but the reason for it is more innocuous than you might realize. If your kids already read fantasy, then this may be for them, because it was written for young teens, or even pre-teens. While looking for an age recommendation on Amazon, I saw a write-up that said a grandparent had bought one of these for their 9 year old grandson. If you have a serious reader, who likes fantasy, on your hands, this series will be for you.

Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four, etc.. These titles are only a few of the books or short stories that Conan Doyle wrote about Sherlock Holmes. By now, we know that the movies and TV shows have enduring popularity, but everyone should look back on the books that began it. Readers of any age should be able to handle them, though the younger ones might be a little unnerved by The Hound of the Baskervilles. I was warned to not read it after dark, but I did it anyway, and was prepared. I’m not sure that my younger self would have been ready for it, though.

Sharon Creech – Ruby Holler, Chasing Redbird, Walk Two Moons, The Great Unexpected – These books are for any age, and though I don’t remember specific details of all of them, they’re very much along the lines of Caddie Woodlawn and other adventures for any age. Sometimes the stories contain magical elements, but several of them involve children in reduced circumstances, going through adventures they never expected.

Alison Croggon – The Books of Pellinor: The Naming, The Riddle, The Crow, The Singing – I would describe this series as slightly Tolkienesque, though not as good as Tolkien, of course. You can see where the description of the Hulls were probably affected by what we know of the Ringwraiths, and yet, this is still Croggon’s own amazing tale. Maerad is raised as a slave, having no knowledge of her background, until Cadvan rescues her. In a world of magical Bards, she must learn to control her powers and use them to save her world. I originally found the first book in a YA section in a Borders (remember Borders?), when YA could be for pre-teens, also. I’d guess these are for age 10 and up.

Karen Cushman – Catherine, Called Birdy; The Midwife’s Apprentice; Matilda Bone; The Ballad of Lucy Whipple – With several Newbery Honor mentions and one or two Newbery Medals to her name, Cushman’s books are for any age. If your kids like some history, several of her books are set in the 1400’s or 1500’s, while Lucy Whipple is (I think) during the pioneer days of America.

Charles Dickens – The Pickwick Papers – I didn’t start reading Dickens until recently, though I always knew OF him, because the characters in Little Women loved his books. So, if you get the chance, start your kids on these classics early, even if you have to read them aloud and do all the voices. I think Pickwick could be handled by most ages, but some others might wait a little while because there are some darker themes in Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, and Bleak House. And for the record, the recent BBC mini-series versions of some of these are amazing, and were helpful to me in getting into the story before reading them.

Julie Andrews Edwards – Mandy, The Last of the Really Great WhangdoodlesIn case you didn’t realize it, this is the Julie Andrews of The Sound of Music fame, and a published author, in her own right. My favorite is Mandy, which is the story of a young orphan girl who adopts a little house for her own, to fix it up, and where this project leads her. An adventure for any age, boy or girl.

Elizabeth Enright – Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze, Thimble Summer – I have only vague recollections of when I last read Thimble Summer, but this book won Enright the Newbery Medal for her story of Garnet’s special summer. Spiderweb was always one of my favorites, though, with the Melendys embarking on a summer of solving riddles and looking for clues, searching for the treasure at the end of the line. At one point, I realized that there were other books about the Melendy family, but I’ve never actually read any of them. But anything written by Enright will keep your children happily enthralled for their own summer.

Walter Farley – The Black Stallion, Man O’War – I have read the books, somewhere along the line, but these were more my older brothers line of reading. I always enjoyed The Black Stallion movie, but I was more into reading other horse books. Farley wrote many more, and they’re well-loved by girls and boys alike, so look them up!

Jean Craighead George – My Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves, etc.. – Again, my memories of Julie are very vague, as I was probably younger than ten years old when I read it. It won the Newbery Medal. But my favorite was the story of Sam in My Side of the Mountain, and how he learned to survive in the wilderness, even to the point of making friends with several animals and carving himself a home inside of a tree. Doesn’t every child, at some point, want to live in the wild and have their own hawk for a pet?

Elizabeth Goudge – The Little White Horse, Linnets and Valerians – It was sometime in my twenties when I came across The Little White Horse in a Borders bookstore, and I was caught from the very first word in the story. Any age could read this story of young Maria Merryweather and how she returns to her family home to discover an adventure in involving unicorns, lions, and a somewhat magical friend of hers. Who knew that an argument over favorite colors, pink or red, could cause so much trouble? I look forward to reading this with my own children, some day, and it didn’t take me long to go looking for Goudge’s other books. Actually, she’s written several books for adults that I haven’t read, but some of which I still would like to. However, Linnets and Valerians was also written for children, and it’s a charming story of a group of siblings that move to a village with their stern uncle and wondrous things begin to happen around them.

Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows – Like a lot of kids, I had seen the Disney version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Adventure, but for some reason, I don’t remember ever actually reading this book. And then I discovered Robert Ingpen, and I never looked back. Ingpen is an amazing illustrator from Australia (I learned this long before I went to AUS), and I fell in love with his version of Wind in the Willows. My family loves books with beautiful illustrations, and I would happily own any story that Ingpen had illustrated. While reading, it amazed me that I could not have read this wonderful book, despite loving the Redwall books as much as I do. So, don’t neglect this story, but find Ingpen’s version, if you can.

Shannon Hale – The Goose Girl, Princess Academy, Book of a Thousand Days, etc.. – While aware that Hale has written several other books, including two more that are supposedly a trilogy (?) that go with Goose Girl, I’ve never read the rest of the books of Bayern. That’s no slam, I just never felt the need to find them, when I finally heard of them. As I love re-tellings of classic fairy tales, I was delighted by this book’s ability to flesh out the story of the princess who had to become a goose girl, and then how she triumphed over her adversity. On the other hand, Thousand Days is a story of a servant girl who befriends a rich girl, and they are locked into a tower together for seven years. I think I read somewhere that it was based on a fairytale by Grimm, but I was never aware of it when I read it. Excellent reading for girls AND boys, because the boys need to be convinced that just because a girl is the main character doesn’t mean it isn’t a good story! I read plenty of adventure stories with boys involved when I was growing up, so the boys shouldn’t miss out on all the other adventures available.

Rachel Hartman – Seraphina – Fairly recently published, I’m looking forward to when Hartman’s sequel is published, which will continue the story of Seraphina, who struggles to hide her own dangerous secret, amidst the intrigues of the court, in a world where humans and dragons are still struggling to find peace with one another. This one can be read by the pre-teens, also.

Marguerite Henry – Misty of Chincoteague; King of the Wind; Stormy, Misty’s Foal – Do you remember that I mentioned horse books that I preferred to the ones my brothers were reading? While there were others, we read our way through Henry’s books about Chincoteague and the wild ponies that lived there. My older brother and I wanted to go there and see them for ourselves, and reading about them was the next best thing, for Chincoteague is a real place, even if most of the horses were fictional.

James Herriot – All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All – Do your children like animals? Or are you a grown-up animal lover? Herriot’s books were written for any age, and tell the true story of his own veterinary adventures in the Yorkshire countryside, though the names are changed. He doesn’t pull any punches with stories of cows in labor and some of the things that happen to the animals around him, but the language was never bad, and we read these repeatedly, when we were growing up. Still do. You can also find picture books of his dog stories, if you’re looking for something for the really young kids. Every person should have a steady diet of James Herriot’s veterinary tales.

Brian Jacques – Redwall, Mossflower, The Long Patrol, Marlfox, Martin the Warrior, Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, etc.. – I was visiting my cousins in New York State, when I was in my late teens, and they introduced me to the books of Brian Jacques. While I was there, I read through an entire shelf of his books, and as soon as I returned home, I began to add them to my own collection. The adventures of the animals of Redwall Abbey and Martin the Warrior are full of thrilling battles, delicious feasts (you’ll be drooling, I promise you), and fascinating riddles. I spent most of twenties in waiting for the next book to come out, every year, and when I found that Jacques had died, my heart just about broke. No more new stories? He was only three books into his Flying Dutchman series, too, which while not as awesome as Redwall, was very good. And I own a copy of The Redwall Cookbook, too, because life without shrimp ‘n hotroot soup would be extremely dull. Take your children to Redwall, and they’ll thank you for it!

Rudyard Kipling – The Jungle Book, Just So Stories – Like most of us, I grew up on the Disney version of Kipling’s book, but I did eventually read his collection of stories about Mowgli, and probably should read them again. Like Dickens, these are classics that every child should read, and teens should be torn away from the horrors of the YA Paranormal Romance section in the bookstores. Give them some GOOD stuff to read!

Louis L’Amour – To the Far Blue Mountains, Ride the River, Jubal Sackett, Sackett’s Land – While not every L’Amour book may be for children, my brothers and I (and my mom and uncles before us) were raised on these Westerns, especially the Sackett books. While his The Walking Drum is one of my favorites, it’s heavier reading than the Sackett books, and there’s nothing wrong with the language, nor are you subjected to unnecessary bedroom scenes. No, L’Amour knew they weren’t needed. His books were about pioneers and cowboys, mainly, but some were set in more “recent” times. You can’t go wrong with this author, though every parent should, of course, keep a close eye on what they’re having their child read.  : )

Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle in Time, The Wind in the Door, Many Waters, etc.. – Growing up, I was creeped out by the picture on my brother’s copy of Wrinkle in Time, which is probably what kept me from reading it until I was in my twenties. But knowing that L’Engle had won a Newbery medal for it, I eventually persevered and read her main five books and then a few more. Her books are very interesting, well-written, and… well, they can be quite strange. The fantastical parts, at least. They follow Meg Murry and her brother Charles Wallace as they travel into the unknown to save their father. I find her books making me wonder if she believes in a Creator God, or if she’s just trying to make her readers think about what is out there. Many Waters is a foray into a time-travel visit to the time of Noah, so she definitely delves into the ideas of faith, what is in the cosmos, and what is inside ourselves.

Andrew Lang – The Blue Fairy Book, The Crimson Fairy Book, The Violet Fairy Book, etc.. – I love fairy tales, especially when I don’t have to “dissect” them for any English Literature classes. I think I actually own all of Lang’s color books on my Kindle, but it’s not the same as having them in your hand. His series of fairy tale collections is a must for anyone who loves fairy tales.

Jane Langton – The Fledgling (Hall Family Chronicles) – Not for the first time, I found out that the one book I’ve read by a particular author was only one of a series, but I’ve never gotten around to finding or reading the rest. I just know that this book won a Newbery Honor award and it was about a little girl who discovered she could fly and made friends with the local geese. Or that’s what I remember about it. And if I could have a super power, I’d want to fly, and when I was younger, I dreamed about flying. So, this book was right up my alley, as a child.

Lois Lenski – Strawberry Girl, Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison, Betsy-Tacy – I only vaguely remember Strawberry Girl and I’m not even sure if I ever read Betsy-Tacy, but that means that I read them when I was very young. I was always reading above my age level, and these are wonderful books for children. But if you read my comments above concerning Mercy Carter, then you’ll realize why I had to pick up a copy of Indian Captive. Both are extremely well-written, but go in totally different directions, both geographically as well as story-wise. Lenski is a must-read author for children of most ages.

Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted, Ever, Fairest – I don’t have that many pet peeves, but if there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s when a fantastic books is made into a really, really, really bad movie. Why would anyone go read the book, if they’ve seen a perfectly dreadful movie? Doesn’t matter that it was my first introduction to Anne Hathaway, NEVER EVER let your child go see the movie version of Ella Enchanted. Because the BOOK was a Newbery Honor book and was an amazing re-telling of the Cinderella story, with an unforgettable finale. Yes, the premise of the story is that she has an obedience spell cast upon her, as a child, and she can’t disobey anyone who knows it. It’s a fantastic story, and it still has one of my favorite endings to any book for young people. And what the movie did with it! Excuse me while I go cool off… Before I forget, all of Levine’s books are wonderful, so pick up any you can get your hands on.

C. S. Lewis – Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Horse and His Boy, etc.. –With the arrival of the Narnia movies in theaters, a new generation was introduced to the beloved stories of C. S. Lewis. But no one should stop there, because The Chronicles of Narnia are so much more amazing than the movies could ever be. Any age can read them, and they’ll read them again and again. I certainly did. While I never went banging on the walls inside my closet, I have known people that did so, because of reading these books when they were children. What child wouldn’t want to discover a new world from the back of their wardrobe? According to Lewis’s books, boys can be total brats but learn to be brave and strong, girls can act silly or be selfish and then learn to do right… and you can’t change the past, but you can choose different actions to have an effect on your future. These adventures are for girls and boys of all ages, even for the grown-ups! I still love reading about Aslan, Tumnus, Puddleglum, Trumpkin, and many, many others.

Yes, I know, I had to call a halt. I plan to finish up soon, I promise! But since I began this post back in January and then got tied up with school, it’s about time I posted it… wouldn’t you say so? The rest of my list of authors are already waiting for me to fill in the blanks, in another post, but after wracking my brain to writing about over 30 authors, I need a short break. Remember, this is not a complete list, and there are many, many more wonderful books and authors out there! Take advantage of all the sources online to see what others think of the individual books and be fully aware of what your kids are reading, and I truly hope that this list will help you turn your children into avid readers with imaginations that know no boundaries.

Read on!

 

lizards after the rain…

On one of my magnolia hunts, I knew it was unlikely that some of the blossoms would even have survived the beating they took in the recent rainstorms. Nevertheless, I went to see if any buds had waited until the return of the sun. DSC_0361

I found that lots of flowers were so wet that they attracted a lot of bugs, making them less photogenic, for sure. But while looking at one magnolia, I noticed another inhabitant. Can you see him?DSC_0363

DSC_0364Before you get too worried, he isn’t in the first or the last picture in this post. Don’t want anyone straining their eyes for what isn’t there!  : )DSC_0369

DSC_0371After he jumped off the magnolia blossom, I watched the lizard crawl out onto a branch. I wished my camera lens could be longer, but did my best to get some pictures of him, before he ran away into the greenery. The petals of a magnolia would certainly make a comfortable bed for one of them, and probably a good place to catch bugs.DSC_0374

 

the local wildlife…

Our friendly neighborhood woodchuck (also known as a groundhog) has been pretty busy in our backyard, this last week. I caught him boxing daisies, a few days back. Well, it looked like he was boxing them, as he seemed to be hitting them in order to get them to bounce back into his mouth. Perhaps that’s easier than pulling them? Earlier, I saw him going over to the neighbor’s house, examining a ditch they’d dug next to the garage door. There weren’t any daisies in it, so I wasn’t sure what he was up to.

But while I had to explain what a wood chuck was to an Aussie friend of mine (it looks a bit like Mr. Beaver from Narnia, without the accent), I was remembering those really funny videos on YouTube, from BBC, about “talking animals”. Of course, the most famous one is the groundhog that constantly shouts for “Alan”, until it occurs to him that maybe the guy’s name was Steve. If you’ve never seen them, check it out (Talking Animals). I can’t find the one that was my original favorite, but it’s got most of the best in there. It’s also a pretty good example of some American animals that Aussies may never have seen before, like the groundhog, badger, and chipmunk.

Yes, I know beavers and groundhogs aren’t exactly alike, but I did look them up, and they look similar, as well as being related. I think a groundhog could even be called a “land-beaver”, in some instances.

We haven’t seen our local hawk or deer, recently. The deer (sometimes one, sometimes several) like to eat our crab apples, since nobody else does, and they’re welcome to them. And the hawk likes to perch on one of our volleyball net posts (perhaps he played volleyball in a past life?). I think he’s mocking us, because he knows we don’t have a good enough camera lens to take good pictures. He’s probably sticking his tongue out at us, whenever we peer through the shades, hoping to catch him unaware.

I guess this just means I’ll have to get a better, longer zoom lens for my camera, because I can’t have the local wildlife laughing at me, behind my back (or rather, behind my house).

chicks on the run…

A few of you may remember me writing about the little bundles of golden fluff that Emmie received for her birthday, and how things were going as we kept them in a pet carrying crate, in the house. Unfortunately, I returned from Sydney to find that the golden baby chicks were missing, or at least somewhere out of sight, so I asked what had happened.

Emmie informed me that the chicks had run away, as she hadn’t closed the latch on the cage completely, one evening, and the family had left the back door open when they went out. Her mom had meant to come back and fix that, but had forgotten. So, the family came home to find the chicks had flown the coop, so to speak.

Both Sadie and Emmie were full of the idea of how far the chicks must have run, though Bea gave me the sideline on what might really have happened (and the proof of where they “ran” to). But the little girls were much happier thinking about the “runaways”, and didn’t even seem upset. I suspect Emmie was more upset, the day it happened, though. Maybe when they’re a little older, they’ll find out where the chooks went.

She was promised some new chicks, so a few days later, Blackie and Flappie arrived. A serious contrast to the previous yellow chickens, these little ones with black feathers don’t even look like chickens, as far as I can tell. Yes, I know they come in many colors, but I just tend to associate baby chickens with being yellow.

With the temperatures being cooler at night, the chicks still slept inside, but the family fixed a large cage outside, so they could adjust to the world around them. We usually left the pet crate on top of the cage, so they had plenty of shade from that (and from some bath mats drying on top of the cage). That’s a good thing, giving them shade, because the sun can be brutal. But they’re still not big enough to take on any of the critters that can be found around the house, whether wild or domesticated.

So, I won’t be able to show you the “finished result” when they get quite big, but maybe my Aussie family will e-mail me some pictures to share. With their black plumage, they’ll be standouts amongst the rest of the red and white chooks, so Emmie will never have any trouble identifying them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed all my posts on the Aussie domesticated animal kingdom. We don’t have any pets in my American home, anymore, so I won’t likely have any more animal stories, for a while. Unless any of my friends have pets. We’ll see what I can come up with.

More posts upcoming, as I continue to dig myself out of my jet-lagged stupor. As for today, I was up at 6:30am, but I’m going to take a nap until lunchtime, now.

two views of Sydney, mine & Taronga’s…

Tuesday, April 3

I wasn’t sure my alarm would go off, so I kept waking up to check on it. Sure enough, it didn’t go off at 7am, like it was supposed to. Otherwise, I might’ve been late to meet my friend Laura, at Central Station. As it happened, I didn’t have any trouble with the buses, now that I know what the bus station looks like. The night I arrived, I got on the bus at a different spot, you see.

With forty-five minutes to kill, I was able to have a leisurely breakfast at Bruno Rossi, after wandering around Central for a bit. Bruno Rossi was right next to Hungry Jack’s and Krispy Kreme, but I find those doughnuts to be quite expensive over here, so I stayed away.

While finishing off my coffee, I watched the pigeons chase after crumbs, and took note of the really lovely wooden carvings all around the walls. I wonder how many people even notice them, when they come in?

Instead of catching a train to Circular Quay, Laura and I walked there, stopping to look at any number of interesting buildings, on the way. For example, the Three Monkeys Pub (see bottom right, in the above photo), which used to be a bank. My friend told me I didn’t want to go in there for a drink, because I’d probably get stabbed. Now, if that’s not a reason to stay away, I’ve never heard of one.

In case anyone wants to know, I occasionally mess around with filters and color changes on my photos, but all I use is Picasa. Their latest version, Picasa 3, has some marvelous effects that you can use on your pics. I’ve been using that program for a while now, to crop or otherwise edit my photos, but I try to leave most of them as-is.

I thought it was interesting how the Ikea advertisement for mattresses blended in with the design of the Victoria Buildings. Look closely, can you see where the ad ends and the building begins (two photos above)?

After stopping to take a look at the Queen Victoria statue, I noticed a wishing well that had some history with the Queen, as well, but it looked like it was attached to an ancient elevator… but I couldn’t find an entrance, even though I circled around. The puppy statue, above the wishing well, was cute, too.

The design of the Victoria Buildings is really quite lovely, from the tiled floors to the amazing castle clock hanging from the ceiling. When Laura pointed out the design of the ceiling, in the very center of the building, I was hard put to get it on film. I ended up placing my camera on the floor, right in the center of the floor design, and taking the picture from there. Yes, that’s looking straight up at the roof. Doesn’t look like it, does it?

We walked down the street, taking a look in at The Strand, one of the oldest shopping centers in Sydney, where we stopped in for candy at The Nut Shop. I didn’t get any, though the chocolate ducks were adorable and deliciously tempting. They reminded me of the chocolate animals that my brother and I got for Easter, when we were little.

With a few more stops to look at buildings, and some interesting inscriptions on the ground, we finally reached Circular Quay, where we planned to take the ferry to Taronga Zoo. You see, Taronga is across the bay, placed up-and-down a hill, with some fabulous views of Sydney.

After getting off at the Zoo Wharf, we rode the bus up to the top of the hill, entered the Zoo, and began working our way down. There were quite a few more animals that I have pictured, but all the photos weren’t wonderful. But wherever we looked, we seemed to find the Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Skyline in the background. I really wondered if the elephants and giraffes appreciate their view.

Which reminds me, Laura told me that the city’s debating whether to move the zoo, and use that spot for prime real estate. Too bad, because it makes it such a unique place to go and see the animals, possibly drawing in more visitors than it would elsewhere. Especially with several other wildlife places nearby, including the Dubbo Zoo and WILDLIFE Sydney.

The koalas were very funny in their positions in the trees, some of them seeming to use their heads to brace themselves, rather than their limbs. The snake house wasn’t exactly cute, if you know what I mean, but some of the statues alongside the cages were creepier than the inhabitants. See the giant snake statue outside of a snake cage? That was like meeting Nagini, frozen into stone. But I found that most of indoor displays had some beautiful sculptures of the animals to look at, when the other visitors were blocking your view of the actual exhibit occupants.

I wish we’d been able to get some pictures of the platypus. They were adorable! And quite a lot smaller than I’d expected. But even when they’re displayed in a dark room, with barely enough light to see anything, they still hide in the darkest of corners.

But though some people hadn’t been aware of it until they read the wall displays, I already knew that they have venomous spurs, so if you ever managed to come across one in the dark, you still don’t mess with them, because they know how to protect themselves. Despite being American, I remember learning all about Australian animals, when I was in school. We learned all about marsupials, though I’m not sure if they taught us that egg-laying mammals are called monotremes.

I would guess that this chapter of school was so memorable to us because the marsupials and monotremes are completely different from the animals that American children are used to. On the other hand, my Aussie friends have sometimes turned out very interested in animals that I think are normal, like raccoons, squirrels, and chipmunks, because those are the unfamiliar animals, for them.

Another example of the monotreme is the echidna, which looks a bit like a long-nosed porcupine. Also very rare to see in the wild, I was only able to see a glimpse of one in the zoo. He was hiding behind a bush, and I couldn’t get a closer peek. However, I’ve seen many examples of them in various statues around Sydney.

Taronga is known for being one of two zoos in Australia that have managed to breed platypuses. Also, they’ve had several elephant births, so Laura was telling me about the recent ones, when they thought the baby elephant had died. But miraculously, he was still alive. They were fun to watch play, though the elephant area is the most “fragrant” of them all.

I still think that giraffe hide looks fake, like it’s been printed on by a machine. Yes, I know it’s real, but it’s so funny-looking, up close, because of that! And they’re so wrinkly. God makes such amazingly beautiful and interesting creatures, don’t you think?

We took the Sky Safari Cable Car down the hill, when we were leaving, enjoying the view, and taking as many pictures as we could manage, on the way down. Then, we hopped out, took a few more, and then headed down the steps to the Ferry. And then, I stopped in my tracks, realizing I was missing my sunglasses. Now, since my travel pass hadn’t included the Sky Safari, we hadn’t taken it up the hill, when we arrived. But it’s included in the Zoo admission price, so then you can ride it all you want. Which is a good thing, because we got back on the Sky Safari, to go back and get my sunnies. I was slightly embarrassed, you understand, as it really looked like the two of us just couldn’t get enough of the cable cars.

But really, it worked out for the Zoo, because my friend bought something else, when we got back to the gift shop. I had already done my duty, resisting all the books and adorable stuffed animals, but I bought some sweet necklaces for my girls. Bea’s has a penguin on hers, Kit’s has a giraffe, Emmie gets one with a really funny pewter hippo, and Sadie has a panda.

So, in the end, we all got what we wanted, and Laura and I were agreed that we were NOT walking back up or down that hill, no matter what. Besides, we also found out that the gift shop lady had run after us, thinking we’d gone to the upper gate, but not checking the Sky Ride. Oh well.

Finally, back down the hill we went, and we paid very little attention to the view, at this point. I was getting tired, so it was nice to sit on a bench in the cool Wharf for a while. Then we got on a Fast Ferry back to the Quay, and had a lovely view from the back.

Upon arriving back at the Quay, we decided to take things a little easier, walking through the city, wandering through some gifts shops, and then Laura took me to Dymocks. Three stories of book store, and very reminiscent of the biggest Barnes & Noble stores I’ve been in… perhaps like the one in Boston Harbor?

Stopping to use the restroom, I found that this giant store only had one public bathroom, for guys and girls, and the kid that was using it was apparently reading in there. At least, that’s what the conversation sounded like, as his parents tried to convince him to hurry up, talking through the door. He kept wanting to know why he should hurry up? As the conversation continued, I had a hard time not smiling at the kid’s comments, because he wasn’t being obnoxious, it just sounded like he was genuinely confused over why he should come out early.

After the book store, we went back to The Strand, and I was able to admire the gorgeous tile, the colored glass in the windows, and the ancient elevator, though we walked up the stairs instead of using the lift. The second story had some seriously snazzy stores, with labels that I couldn’t dream of affording, or even fitting into. And I thought of a certain set of Attwood girls, when I went into Alannah Hill, which makes new, vintage-looking clothes. I felt very out of place, but wished some of my friends could have seen it.

Continuing to walk through the city, I happened to glance down an alleyway, and found a collection of bird cages hanging from wires. If there was an artistic reason for it, I didn’t see a sign anywhere. But it was still beautiful.

Going to the Myer food court, I got a coffee from Gloria Jean’s (very necessary), while my friend got a very healthy juice made out of beetroot, spinach, and I don’t remember what else. I kept telling her she didn’t have to drink it, while she made faces over it.

But then, I decided to get a baked potato with seafood and cheese topping, though not the first time I’ve had something similar. But this turned out to have smoked salmon, some strange looking mussels, and white things that looked like eggs, but weren’t. I tried the salmon, which was okay, but didn’t keep eating it. Then the cheese tasted weird, so I ate as much of the cheese and potato as I could, but finally didn’t finish it, because I was afraid my stomach would have a fit. I did take pictures, but when I looked at them later, I thought it looked pretty disgusting. So, I won’t put you through looking at pics of what I ate, but I thought Laura and I were about even with our interesting choices of food… except I at least got to have a white chocolate mocha, too.

I won’t go so far as to say that I’ve mastered the bus and train system, but I went back to Central with my friend, by train, and then found my way (with no trouble) upstairs, without getting lost in the tunnels, for once. Then, I made my way out of the building, and towards the bus station, and got onto the correct bus to take me back to my stop on King’s Street.

How delightful to arrive back at my abode, with the sky still a bit light! Of course, then Rachael asked me what I did for the day… and I drew a complete blank. I was a little tired, you see. It took me a few minutes to remember that we went to Taronga Zoo.

And now you know about it, too! So, tomorrow, the plan is to go to Paddy’s Markets, and then to Darling Harbour. I’m still debating over whether to visit the Museum of Sydney or to make my way to the Harbour Bridge Pylon, before making an early evening of it. We’ll see what tomorrow holds!

chicks in the house…

No, I’m not talking about my girls. We really do have baby chicks at our house, right now. Emmie was supposed to get them for her birthday, but they were late in arriving. These ones are supposed to help raise our family’s population of chooks, as we only have two or three. It always looks like more, though, because the neighbors’ chickens travel round with them.

After coming back from the Big W, one of the girls informed me they had gotten chicken, and though it sounded like they were talking about dinner, instead, I assumed the baby chooks had arrived. But then, I went in the house, and the container that had brought the chickens here… well, it looked like a takeout box. So, I cheerfully told Mrs. B about my “mistake”, and she laughed, as two of the girls walked towards me, carrying little balls of yellow fluff in their hands. Then we both laughed, and I decided I must be tired. But it really did look like a takeout box.

After getting my camera battery off the charger, I took a minute to capture the beautiful colors of the sunset, before taking a few pics of the sleeping chicks. I’m sure life will be interesting for the next few days, as the chicks have to stay inside for a while. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some more (and better) pictures.

For now, we have the chicks in a bedroom, with the door shut. I guess we can do that tomorrow, too. Because we still need to be vigilant, with three cats coming and going from the house. The chicks would be, well, sitting ducks, compared to the frogs in this house, which the cats usually chase. I’d rather we don’t have an “incident”, as I don’t want to have to tell Emmie why there’s a chicken missing.

there’s a story there…

I was going to make this into a Wordless Wednesday post, but then I was debating over how dull the subject of a bird’s nest might be. Very artistic, I’m sure, depending on your point of view. But then, I thought, there really is a story there, so wordless, this isn’t.

The kids were talking about a bird’s nest with eggs in it, but I thought they were talking about the nest in their playhouse tree, where they can see the nest but not reach it. The assumption being that there were eggs, because there are now nestlings. But I found out later that there was a nest under the house, and that’s why they knew there were eggs in it. Because the kids had peered into it.

Actually, what they told me was that Sadie found it, and removed the eggs (don’t ask me why), but when the others found out, she was told to put the eggs back. They now think the eggs will probably never hatch, because the smell of the eggs having been handled will keep the mama bird away. Last they checked, at least, the eggs were still there. And at this point, I have no idea what the end result is.

One reason I don’t know, I keep forgetting to ask. The other reason is that the location of the nest is in a very awkward spot, as an adult has to duck to walk around under the house, and also, the “rafters” are full of spider webs. I found that in order to see the nest up close, I had to get my head way up into the rafters, and to see the eggs, I had to rub my hair in the spider webs. No thanks. So, I used my camera, hoping to get a picture of the eggs. Well, my Nikon isn’t small enough to get in there and still be able to focus in the bad lighting. I have a picture of the nest, but not the eggs, because my camera just couldn’t get in there.

Why didn’t I use my Canon PowerShot, you ask? Well, the zoom froze, a month or two ago, and I haven’t used it since. Sure, it’ll still take pictures, but it’s very frustrating to not be able to use zoom at ALL. And when all is said and done, my Nikon takes better pictures, except when you want a really nice macro zoom shot. That’s when my Nikon argues with me. I say it’s a good shot, take the picture. The Nikon says, “NO! Most emphatically, I disagree, and therefore, I’m not going to do it”. Leaving me talking to the object I want to immortalize, insisting that it’s the camera’s fault, not mine.

Anyway, at this point, Sadie knows that she’s not supposed to pick up eggs, unless they were obviously laid by the chooks. And speaking of chooks, Bub went under the house today, and the next thing I heard was a shriek of fright, and her mom went to get her, and came out laughing hysterically, while her very startled baby clung to her. Bub had “peered” into the container that the chooks lay eggs in, and a chook leaped straight up onto the edge, freaking the baby out. Of course, in having what happened explained to me, I was a little confused, because it sounded like Mrs. B had said “peed into the container”, which made no sense to me, because Bub wears a nappy (diaper) and she isn’t potty trained yet. So, obviously, the heat had fried my brain, to lose track of that description.

So there you have it. A formerly wordless post that now contains about… 600 something words.

the wolf’s point of view…

There are many ways to discover new books to read. You can wander through Barnes & Noble, enjoying the smell of new paper and coffee, wishing that you could buy every book that catches your eye. Perhaps you’ll come across an antique store with novels that existed before your grandparents, the pages having long ago turned honorably yellow. Or maybe you notice them wherever you are, be it a friend’s home or the house you happen to be cleaning.

I spent eight or nine years of my life as a housekeeper, the first few spent in cleaning people’s homes, and the last five as the head housekeeper of a Bible camp. Whether I was vacuuming floors in South Carolina or bringing in fresh towels to a cabin in Pennsylvania, I had a hard time resisting the sight of a new book. At camp, I rarely had time to stop and look at books, so I made sure that no book was left open, face down, with it’s spine in danger of breaking, while I was nearby. I’m sure plenty of people found their books closed, with a piece of facial tissue stuck in them for a bookmark, and wondered what crazy person had been in their room.

It was in a house in South Carolina that I cleaned for a family that liked to read fantasy books. Of course, I read plenty of fantasy, at that point, so I wasn’t to be lured into reading just any book. If you start a new novel, get hooked, and find it’s part of a series, you might just be in trouble. And so, for several months, I attempted to ignore the stack of Jane Lindskold books that were scattered between the bedroom and the living room. Sometimes I dusted them, willing myself to not pick them up. They probably wouldn’t be any good, I told myself.

Eventually, I gave in and read the blurb on the back of one. From there, I probably looked them up on Amazon, curious to see what the reviews had to say. And then, I ended up at Barnes & Noble, where I bought one after the other. Thankfully, there were only three of the Firekeeper series, at that point. Now, there are six of them.

I opened the pages of Through Wolf’s Eyes, and I’ve never looked back. Perhaps you think that a story of a girl raised by wolves will just be a silly, modern version of The Jungle Book. This is no slam against The Jungle Book, but I don’t remember there being excessive details of the lives of the wolves and what it’s like to be part of a pack. To my mind, there’s no doubt that Lindskold did her research on how wolves think and behave.

Firekeeper has been raised by wolves, thinks like a wolf, and believes that, except for her two legs and a few other human characteristics, she is a wolf. She has been able to survive, partly because of the love and care of the wolves, but also because she carries a Fang, in its leather sheath, at her waist, and carries a small bag with the stones to create fire. This is where she got her name, because in the winter, she needed the fire to keep herself alive.

She has no memories of knowing any humans or even being a human, so when an expedition across the mountains brings a small group of men to her hunting grounds, she is astonished by the reality of others that look and act like her. With the blessing of the One Male and One Female of her pack, and the companionship of Blind Seer, she goes to investigate, and eventually reveals herself to them.

Earl Kestrel’s expedition is looking for the king’s son, and his lost settlement, in the hopes of bringing back an heir to the throne of Hawk Haven. The king’s other children have died, and there is plenty of infighting among his siblings and grandchildren, as they all strive to prove themselves fit to rule. Kestrel believes that if he can bring back Prince Barden, or his children, he will receive glory for having returned the heir to the kingdom.

Instead, he finds the burned out remains of Barden’s settlement, and nothing else… until Firekeeper steps into their midst. She does not trust them, so while Blind Seer watches, on the alert, from the forest, she starts to learn about her own kind. Kestrel and his men know that she is a wild woman, but they don’t yet know that she considers herself a wolf, or that there’s another wolf watching them.

Derian Carter, the member of the expedition that was brought for his knowledge of horses, becomes the man that Firekeeper trusts, so he becomes her “keeper”, teaching her how to talk, and making sure that she doesn’t attack anyone, as they head back towards civilization. Earl Kestrel believes he has found the daughter of Prince Barden, and returning the heir will give him more power. But Firekeeper is a law unto herself, and most of them don’t know what they’re getting into, bringing a two-legged wolf home.

If you’ve been looking at the cover picture of this book, you’re probably wondering why Blind Seer looks so huge, when wolves aren’t really that big. In Firekeeper’s world, beyond the Iron Mountains, the Royal Animals are larger and smarter than the Cousins, the smaller animals that we’re familiar with. Another Royal Animal, the falcon Elation, also accompanies Firekeeper on her journey to meet and understand humans.

Back in Hawk Haven, the descendants of the king continue to scheme and try to establish precedence over one another. We meet Elise Archer, the only daughter of the Baron Archer, who agrees to an arranged marriage with her cousin, Jet Shield. Jet’s sister, Sapphire Shield is another rival for the throne, and she feels betrayed by the engagement between Jet and Elise. But unbeknownst to everyone, it may be Melina Shield that  pulls the strings of her children, Sapphire, Jet, and her other Jewels, for isn’t Lady Melina rumored to be a sorceress? What would happen if a Shield became king or queen, and a sorceress rules from behind the throne?

The first book in the series takes Firekeeper from being just a wolf, to a wolf with a growing understanding of mankind. She still sees things through a wolf’s eyes, but she begins to understand friendship, love, and loyalty, among her fellow men. With Blind Seer at her side, she travels from forest to palace, and begins to move among both royalty and commoners. Her understanding of the inner workings of the pack even gives her some insight into the politics of the palace. But what if the king decides to make Firekeeper (known publicly as Lady Blysse) his heir?

I find Firekeeper’s story to be fascinating, from beginning to end, and it doesn’t end with this book. There are five more books in the series, so be warned that if you start, you may have to finish the rest. The following stories delve a little more into the fantasy realm, but it still revolves around Firekeeper’s learning more about humanity, while still remaining a wolf at heart. So, if you never found Mowgli’s life among the wolves to be detailed enough, then you’ll definitely want to consider Through Wolf’s Eyes.

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(Side Note: By the way, this book has one sex scene, so parents can be warned, depending on how you shadow your kids’ reading material. But I have no recollection of any more sex scenes in the rest of the books, so I don’t know if this makes the first book odd, or just not preferable.)