Voigt, Cynthia. Dicey’s Song. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.
Reason read: to finish the series started in July in honor of Kids month.
When we catch up to the Tillerman family (after reading Homecoming) they are in Maryland living with the grandmother they never knew they had. Dicey is a teenager starting to come of age with homework and budding, albeit reluctant, friendships. Her two younger brothers, James and Sammy, are in thriving in school. Her only sister Maybeth is a musical prodigy. Her family is becoming self-sufficient. Everything should be great for Dicey as the eldest sibling. Her family is not on the run. They have a roof over their heads every night. They have food on the table at every meal. They have someone to look after them. They are all in school. But, for Dicey something is intrinsically wrong. For the longest time she had control over her family. Keeping them together and safe was all she knew. It is what she did best. When her siblings start exercising independence Dicey isn’t sure how to feel about it. Throughout the story she struggles to learn to let them go their own ways, together but apart. At the same time Dicey deals with the internal confusion of becoming a young woman without her mother’s guidance. My favorite moments were whenever Gram’s hardened exterior softened as each child reached for her love.
Author fact: Voigt has written over a dozen young adult novels.
Book trivia: Dicey’s Song is a Newbery Award winner.
Playlist: “I Gave My Love a Cherry,” “Amazing Grace,” “Who Will Sing for Me?” “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” “Pretty Polly,” “Amazing Grace,” Beethoven, and even though they didn’t name the song, I recognized the story of “Matty Groves” (thanks to Natalie Merchant).
Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Dicey’s Song.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 169).
Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Reason read: July is Kids Month. Read in honor of being a kid at heart. I still love this series.
The beginning of the adventure in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe begins innocently enough. To avoid the bombings of World War II in London, four siblings are taken to Professor Digory Kirke’s expansive mansion in the countryside for safekeeping. On their first rainy day they decide to explore the many rooms of their new home in a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek. Lucy, the youngest, stumbles upon a room where the only piece of furniture in it is an old wardrobe. She decides it would make a marvelous hiding spot until she discovers, just beyond the fur coats, a whole new world. From here, the tale turns fantastical with a land under an evil spell of constant winter that never reaches Christmas, fauns and centaurs and giants, talking animals, and good and evil magic all around. Now that I have sufficiently reminded you of the story, you know the rest.
As a child, I can remember the scene with Aslan and the Queen scaring the beejeezus out of me. My eyes would skim that scene as if reading it faster would make it easier.
Author fact: Clive Staple Lewis has a website here. I especially appreciate the timeline of his life.
Book trivia: Everyone knows The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia. However, it is Lewis’s preference readers start with The Magician’s Nephew as the true beginning of the tale.
Nancy said: Pearl aid she could remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the Introduction (p x).
Voigt, Cynthia. Homecoming. New York: Aladdin Press, 1981.
Reason read: July is National Kids Book month. Reading Voigt in honor of the month.
Picture yourself as a teenager with three younger siblings. What would you do if your mother left all of you in a car in a mall parking lot to never came back? Dicey Tillerman faces that dilemma after she realizes her mother has been “shopping” way too long. A full night and day too long. Looking back on the events leading up to this abandonment, Dicey understands her mother had been planning this escape from her children carefully, almost deliberately. Making them memorize the address to their great-aunt’s house; packing them bag lunches. The days before her departure were full of signs Dicey somehow missed or didn’t want to believe. Now, armed with bag lunches and a few dollars, she must protect her little family of siblings. Shepherding them along country backroads, hiding in bushes, camping on deserted beaches, and scrimping and saving only to buy the bare necessities, Dicey navigates her way down the coast of Connecticut from Peewauket, Massachusetts to their great-aunt’s house, hoping mother will be there. This is an all-too-real tale of a mother overwhelmed by life. Her children are fighters, though. Each child will warm your heart with their various personalities.
Quotes to quote, “A lot of people had little bits of her life now, and they were tied to her now, or she was tied to them” (p 306).
Author fact: Voigt went to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Book trivia: Homecoming is the first book in a series about the Tillerman family. I am only reading Homecoming and Dicey’s Song for the Challenge. Homecoming was also made into a movie in 1996.
Playlist: “Peggy-O,” “Water is Wide” by the Indigo Girls, “Greensleeves,” and “Who Will Sing for Me?” by the Stanley brothers.
Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Homecoming except to notate is is a good read for both boys and girls.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 22).
Robertson, Keith. The Dog Next Door. New York: Viking Press, 1950.
Reason read: April is National Dog Month. For the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge I needed a book with an animals in the title.
Thirteen year old Hal has wanted a dog all of his life. His neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Perkins, have never wanted a dog in their lives. Ever. Unfortunately, Mrs. Aylesworth, boxer breeder and sister to Mrs. Perkins, unceremoniously sends the Perkins a beautiful dog named Beau as a gift. So begins a dilemma with a seemingly easy fix: the Perkins should give Hal the dog. Right? Only, Hal’s parents think a dog would be too much responsibility for Hal and the Perkins, knowing Beau is a pure bred, think he could be sold for a lot of money (once they get over the guilt of selling a gift). Stalemate. As a consolation prize, Hal’s parents tell him he can build a treehouse in the back yard complete with a telescope. With the help of elderly boat builder and friend, Mr. Seward, Hal not only builds a shipshape treehouse, he develops a keen sense of responsibility. He watches helplessly as Beau, the new canine about town, is blamed for dog fights and attacks on community members. Beau is getting the reputation of being a vicious dog. Hal needs to set the record straight, but how?
The Dog Next Door was beautifully yet sparsely illustrated by Morgan Dennis. I wish there had been more illustrations.
Author fact: Robertson has written other books, but The Dog Next Door is the only one I am reading for the Book Lust Challenge.
Book trivia: This was a hard book to find. Not many libraries had it on their shelves. As an aside, my edition (published in 1950) had seen better days. It had pen marks, rips and holes.
Nancy said: Pearl mentioned The Dog Next Door when reminiscing about the books she used to read as a child. I have to admit, it was cool to hold a book old enough that my dad could have read the same copy. He would have been twelve years old and definitely interested in reading about a boy who longed for a boat and a dog of his own.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Great Dogs in Fiction” (p 104). Both Keith and the title of his book were left out of the index.
Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events #7: Vile Village. New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
Reason read: to finish the series started in October in honor of Halloween.
Once again, right off the bat, Snicket asks you to go read someone else’s book. He says, “And if you insist on reading this book instead of something more cheerful, you will most certainly find yourself moaning in despair instead of wriggling in delight, so if you have any sense at all you will put this book down and pick up another one” (p 6). With an introduction like that, how could you not keep reading Snicket’s book? Very clever. By now you know the format: Snicket is still offering meanings for words and phrases. The three orphaned Bauldelaire children are looking for a place to call home. Violet is a teenager and still very much interested in inventions. Klaus is on the cusp of turning thirteen and still loves reading. Sunny is still an infant with four teeth who still can’t speak in full sentences, but she loves to bite things. They have escaped (again) from Count Olaf and his band of wicked accomplices. Banker and Bauldelaire family friend, Mr. Poe, is still in charge of sending the Baudelaire orphans to their next town of tragedy. This time it’s V.F.D. (“Village of Fowl Devotees”), a mysterious town covered in crows. The problem is, no one in the town wants to be responsible for the children. As the name suggests, the community is devoted to their murder of crows. At a Council of the Elders, a timid and loner handyman who is too skittish to speak up at Council meetings, is order to become the children’s guardian. All day long they must do chores for the community and always be respectful of the crows, crows, and more crows. By day, thousands of them hang around in town but by night they roost in the Nevermore tree on the outskirts of town, conveniently right by the handyman’s house.
As an aside, I skipped from Book 3 to 7. By not reading books 4-6 I missed out on Violet working at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, Klaus being enrolled at Prufrock Preparatory School, and all three children living with a couple named Jerome and Esme Squalor. At the end of book 6 Duncan and Isadora, two of three triplets are kidnapped. In Vile Village it is up to Klaus, Violet, and Sunny to rescue them.
Additionally, what is pretty amazing about the series of unfortunate events the Baudelaire orphans experienced thus far is that they all happened in less than a year’s time. The fire that killed their parents, the escape from Count Olaf’s house, the escape from Uncle Monty’s house, the escape from Aunt Josephine’s cliff side mansion, the time in the Finite Forest, or at 667 Dark Avenue. Books 1-7 take place in less than 365 days.
Author fact: So far I have told you Lemony was a pen name, his birth month is February, and that I was born in the same month. My last author fact is that Lemony is married to illustrator Lisa Brown.
Book trivia: Vile Village is the seventh book in the series and the last one I am reading for the Challenge.
Nancy said: Pearl called the entire series “wonderful.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Just for Kids: Fantasies for Grown-ups” (p 174).
Snicket, Lemony. The Wide Window. New York: Scholastic Publishers, 2000.
Reason read: to continue the series started in October in observance of Halloween.
To recap the entire series thus far: Klaus, Violet, and Sunny Baudelaire are orphans. Their parents dying wish was for the children to be under the guardianship of a relative. Any relative. Throughout the series Mr. Poe, the family banker, has been responsible for placing the children with members of the family, no matter how distant. First came Count Olaf who tried to marry Violet in order to obtain rights to a substantial inheritance (due to the children when they came of age). Then came Uncle Monty who died of a bite from his own snake. Now, in The Wide Window, the children have been placed with Aunt Josephine who is a second cousin’s sister-in-law and has a phobia of nearly everything. Aunt Josephine lives in a huge house precariously balanced on a mountain ledge above Lake Lachrymose. Of course there is a wide window overlooking the water. Of course, Count Olaf isn’t far behind the children, having escaped every other time in the series. A master of disguises, this time he shows up with a peg leg and a patch over one eye, claiming to be Captain Sham.
As with other Lemony Snicket books, there is a formula to The Wide Window: the adults are oblivious to what is directly in front of them, readers will hear the phrase, “a word which means” a lot, and Snicket will urge his audience to read another book if they want a happy ending, “If you are interested in reading a story filled with thrilling good times, I am sorry to inform you that you are most certainly reading the wrong book…this is your last chance” (p 5). This is really quite clever because nine times out of ten one will keep reading just to witness the next tragedy.
Quote to quote, “A library is normally a very good place to work in the afternoon, but not if its window has been smashed and there is a hurricane approaching” (p 46). Sounds about right.
Author fact: Snicket was born in February…same as me.
Book trivia: Wide Window is the third book in the series.
Nancy said: Pearl has called all Snicket books wonderful.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Just for Kids: Fantasies for Grown-Ups” (p 174).
Farmer, Nancy. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. New York: Richard Jackson Book, 1994.
Reason read: October is National Fantasy Month.
The year is 2194 in Zimbabwe, Africa. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm takes place in a world of computer animated Dobermans and genetically engineered monkeys; a world where creatures called She Elephants (that aren’t actually elephants) mine for plastic in a toxic dump. Robots and rockets are the norm. Basically, insert your favorite sci-fi stereotype here. It is also a world full of ancient African cultures and traditions. Witchcraft, spirits, and powers beyond human recognition rule the landscape.
In this landscape are Tendai, Rita, and Kuda. They are the overprotected and bored children of General Matsika, Chief of Security. Matisika has too many enemies so homeschooling, work, play; essentially his children’s every blessed second is spent behind gigantic heavily guarded walls. Much to his father’s disappointment, Tendai, the oldest child, will never make a good warrior. Tendai is the gentlest and most sensitive of all the children. He has the ability to physically feel the harm done to others. Rita, the middle child, is fiery and headstrong; not afraid to speak her mind or start a fight with anyone, human or otherwise. Kuda, by default the youngest, is impetuous and bold; simply not afraid of anything.
Confined as they are, the three children are eager to break out of their homemade prison when given the chance. And rest assured, break out they finally do. There wouldn’t be a story otherwise. Once the Matsika children find a way to trick their babysitter, the adventure outside the fortified mansion begins and it is not what any of them expected. Sold into slavery, the children are forced to work along side the vlei people sorting trash for a tyrant so large she is called “She Elephant.” It is not a spoiler to say they escape from this predicament only to fall in the trap of another and another and another.
General Matsika, consumed with remorse for letting down his guard for a second, hires a mutant detective agency called Ear, Eye, Arm to find his children. Ear has super sensitive hearing. Eye (you guessed it) has super sight. Arm is the most unique of all as he can feel empathy to the point of seeing into one’s soul. Together they chase the children from one entrapment to the other. The ending combines science fiction with ancient African customs for a Hollywood ending.
Apparently, I didn’t like any lines because I have nothing to quote.
As with any good fantasy, there has to be a connection to reality to help the reader connect. Instead of “jet” lag, individuals in 2194 experience “rocket” lag. Funny.
Author fact: Nancy Farmer wrote a bunch of really good stuff. Unfortunately, none of it is on my Challenge list. Boo.
Book trivia: The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm won a Newbery Honor award in 1995.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm except to describe the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Only For Kids: Fantasy for Grown-Ups” (p 174). I would definitely agree this would be entertaining for adults.
Lofting, Hugh. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1922.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of…nothing. I read the Story of Doctor Dolittle by mistake. I’m actually ending the series with the Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle has upped its game from the last installment. Adventures on the high seas! A riveting murder trial! A daring bullfight with five bulls in the ring! And that’s just the first half of the book. Our story begins with ten year old Tommy Stubbins, born to Jacob Stubbins, a cobbler of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, being introduced to Dr. John Dolittle because of a squirrel in need of medical attention. Such an innocent beginning to a wild adventure! Tommy is quickly fascinated by Dolittle’s endeavors to learn the language of shellfish and convinces his parents to let him live with Dolittle as an assistant fulltime. Could Tommy learn how to talk to animals, too? As we learned in The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Doctor John knows a little something about talking to creatures of all kinds. He already established relationships with the furry and feathered kind and contains a whole menagerie in his house and gardens. But what about those creatures living in the sea? While waiting to hear from his fellow naturalist friend, Long Arrow, Dolittle toils in his basement, struggling to understand shellfish.
In The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle the good doctor wants to learn how to talk to shellfish because of their prehistoric existence and goes to great lengths to obtain the knowledge. This quest takes Dolittle and Tommy to Spider Island, an unattached, floating island slowly drifting toward the South Pole. It is there they hope to find Dolittle’s frient, Long Arrow.
I think this quote would apply to any language, “Being a good noticer is terribly important to learning animal language” (p 43). Here are two more lines I liked, “No man stands any chance of going on a voyage when his wife hasn’t seen him in fifteen years” (p 104) and “…across the darkening sky, shreds of cloud swept like tattered witches flying from the storm” (p 190).
Author fact: Hugh Lofting went on to write many more installments of the Doctor Dolittle series.
Book trivia: In the Afterward written by Lofting’s son, Christopher, he explains how some of the original text and illustrations were inappropriate for children and had to be altered for the 1988 edition. As a soapbox aside, we used to say it wasn’t “PC” or “politically correct” to say things that would offend certain groups and yet (big inhale), we currently have a national leader who goes out of his way to offend as many people as he can.
Nancy said: Pearl said the first parrot she met in fiction was Polynesia (More Book Lust p 183). From Book Lust To Go Pearl was actually talking about another book that makes mention of the Dolittle books.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Parrots” (p 183) and again in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (p 190).
Joyce, William. Santa Calls. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.
Reason read: Christmas is in December. Santa calls at Christmastime. If you believe in that kind of thing.
When you are finished reading Santa Calls you might ask yourself, is that it? Is that all to the story? But, do yourself a favor – read it again. And again and again. It is the story of a little boy named Art who is often cruel to his little sister, Esther. Together, they receive a curious present which sends them, along with their friend, Spaulding Littlefeets, on a terrific journey to the North Pole to see Santa Claus. Before they can investigate Santa’s reason for the invitation, the children are confronted by a terrible queen and her evil minions. It is very reminiscent of the wicked witch and her flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. Once the children thwart the awful queen, (this is a book for children after all), they are back in Abilene, Texas in the blink of an eye. Was it all a dream? Esther doesn’t think so.
Author fact: Joyce dedicated Santa Calls to the Wizard of Oz, among others. Pretty cool.
Book trivia: Santa Calls was illustrated by William Joyce. Each page is a work of art. Enjoy them to the fullest.
Confessional: when I was a child, we would have a community get-together at the one room school. Us kids would put on a play for the adults, enjoy a potluck dinner followed by slightly off key carols. Everyone, children and adults, would eagerly look forward to a rousing (by this point drunken) “Jiggle Bells” because that would be Santa’s cue to stumble on stage with a bulging red sack of toys. Santa would be slightly tipsy and sort of off balanced as he made his way to sit on the edge of the stage; girls and boys lined up to sit on his lap. I was always a little shy of the fisherman hidden under the red suit and very wary of sitting on his lap. In an effort to be overlooked I would stand behind a curtain and stare up at the starry night; my eyes straining to see Rudolph’s shiny red nose. There were times I could have sworn I saw something glow.
Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Santa Calls except to summarize the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Christmas Books For the Whole Family To Read” (p 55).
Burch, Robert. Queenie Peavy. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1966.
Reason read: Burch died in 2007 on Christmas Day. Read in his memory.
The story of Queenie Peavy will stick with you. Poor Queenie has a father in the penitentiary and a mother slaving away at the local cannery. Queenie herself can barely stay out of trouble. Times are hard in Cotton Junction, Georgia so she protects herself by carrying a large chip on her shoulder. Anger constantly bubbles beneath her tough-as-nails exterior. Papa was found guilty of armed robbery and despite the truth behind the taunting, Queenie wants to hurt anyone who speaks of her dad. To further hide her pain she aims and shoots her hatred as easily and quickly as the rocks she is constantly throwing. She can hit any target without remorse. It takes the threat of being sent to a reformatory school to set Queenie down a different path. For one day she is determined to be a good girl, but how can she stay on that path when she has been the tough-as-mails girl for so long? Is she destined to always be a trouble maker? Burch paints a realistic picture of a girl trying to make her way during the Great Depression. I thought this would make a great movie!
As an aside, can I just say I had a hard time with skinning a squirrel for dinner? Why is that? People eat rabbit and quail and other small woodland whatnots. Why should a squirrel be any different in the grand scheme of things? Especially during the Great Depression in rural Cotton Junction, Georgia.
When Queenie churns butter I was suddenly filled with nostalgia for a school trip I took in the early 1980s. The entire school visited Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore, Maine. We just called it Norlands Farm. The boys milked cows and the girls spun wool…
Author fact: Burch draws upon his own experiences in rural Georgia during the Great Depression to finely articulate the life of teenager Queenie.
Book trivia: My copy was illustrated by Jerry Lazare. As an aside, my copy had an inscription. Sharie said she would never forget good friend Jo in 1973. I hope she kept her word.
Nancy said: Pearl said Queenie Peavy is suitable for boys and girls.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21).
Milne, A.A. Winnie-the-Pooh. New York: Yearling Book, 1954.
Reason read: Please do not quote me on this, but I read somewhere that Eeyore’s birthday is in December. Read in his honor if that’s true.
I had forgotten Winnie-the-Pooh started off as Edward Bear. Edward is a respectable name for a loveable, if not absent minded, practical, and decent bear. I didn’t know Pooh was a swan until Christopher Robin had other ideas and Winnie-ther-Pooh Bear was born. Who doesn’t know Pooh and his woodland mates: Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Roo? The adventures they have in Hundred Acre Wood are legendary. To bring you back down memory lane- Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit’s door. Pooh and Piglet search for a Woozie. Eeyore misplaces his tail. Piglet is rescued during a flood. Pooh and Piglet want to trap a Heffalump. The gang goes looking for the North Pole. Eeyore has a birthday…Every story has Pooh being slow-witted and honey-sweet.
In addition to being nice and thoughtful Pooh has the attitude of Ready for Anything. We could all learn a thing or two from Winnie-the-Pooh.
Lines I loved: the musings of Eeyore, “Inasmuch as which?” (p 45); the wisdom of Christopher Robin, ” a little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference” (p 122), the kindness of Piglet, “It’s so much more friendly with two” (p 134). Yes, yes, and yes.
Author fact: After serving in World War I, Milne dedicated the rest of his life to writing stories inspired by his son, Christopher. Interestingly enough, another famous author of stories for children, Hugh Lofting, had a son named Christopher who was also an inspiration.
Book trivia: Winnie-the-Pooh was “decorated” by Ernest H. Shepard. I just love that. As an aside, I seem to have taken the character of Tigger the tiger for granted. I just assumed he was always part of the gang from the start. He is nowhere to be found in the first book.
Confessional: when I was in my early twenties I met a man who adored Pooh Bear and all Pooh’s friends. This man became my first and only summer romantic. Now, whenever I see anything Pooh related I think of him.
Nancy said: Pearl said when she thinks of islands the first thing that comes to mind is the chapter in Winnie-the-Pooh in which Piglet is completely surrounded by water. Not exactly a statement about the book…
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade (1920s)” (p 175). Also in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Oceania, or Miles of Isles” (p 164). The inclusion of this book in Lust To Go was a head scratcher for me. In this chapter the title, Winnie-the-Pooh, is italicized instead of bolded like all the other titles. But because it is included in the index I put it on my list.
Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events #2: The Reptile Room. Harper Perennial, 2004.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Halloween and all things spooky.
The Reptile Room starts with a small recap of the first unfortunate event because it is important for the reader to know that Mr. Poe, a family friend from the bank, is still in charge of finding the Baudelaire orphans a suitable place to live. It is even more important to be reminded that Count Olaf escaped in the first Unfortunate book. When we meet back up with the children they have been shuffled off to their even more distance relative, Uncle Monty. Montgomery Montgomery is a world renowned herpetologist with a roomful of, you guessed it, snakes (hence the title of Book Number Two of the Series of Unfortunate Events). Of course, the snakes turn out to be the Baudelaire children’s downfall. I won’t say anymore than that.
True to form, the stylistic pattern for Lemony’s books is to constantly remind you to slam the book closed and not read another word; to go read another book if you want a happy ending. Dear reader, you also need to accept Lemony is going to define words every now and then. It’s all part of the schtick. It just is.
Lines I actually liked, “It is plenty difficult to wait for Halloween when the tedious month of September is still ahead of you” (p 27). Agreed. “You couldn’t tell how the Incredibly Deadly Viper looked, because the facial expressions of a snake are difficult to read” (p 67). Again, agreed.
Author fact: Last time I told you Lemony’s real name. This time I can tell you he was born in February.
Book trivia: I am reading an electronic version without illustrations so it’s only 78 pages long.
Nancy said: Pearl called the series “wonderful.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Only For Kids: Fantasies For Grown-Ups” (p 174).
Keith, Harold. Rifles for Watie. New York: Harper Collins, 1987.
Reason read: Veteran’s Day is November 11th, 2020. Read in honor of Civil War veterans long dead and gone but never forgotten.
One of the most interesting aspects of Rifles for Watie is that it is told from the perspective of multiple groups in and around the American civil war of April 1861 – April 1865. Keith visited actual battle locations to get a sense of the varying conflicts and not just the well known ones related to violent battle. Poverty, wealth, prejudice, pride, religion, gender, tribal feuding, slavery, freedom. Right or wrong, all of these issues collide.
Keith used diaries, journals, and personal letters to give Rifles for Watie first person authenticity. To personalize it even further, he used interviews conducted for his thesis. Between the years of 1940 and 1941 he visited with twenty two veterans and listened to their nostalgic reminiscing. These oral histories captured the large and small personal sacrifices of war. Ever in their debt, Keith was careful to give all twenty two individuals credit saying, “my obligation to all their memories is very deep” (Introduction, Rifles for Watie p 12). While General Watie and James G. Blunt were a real-life historical figures, the character of Jeffrey and the other soldiers in Rifles for Watie are Keith’s imagination; I would like to think of them as a creative combination of all the men Harold Keith interviewed.
My favorite segment was when Jefferey was having a passionate argument with Lucy. Every side of the conflict is laid bare; because there are more than two sides to every truth. Good guys aren’t necessarily all that good. Bad guys aren’t that bad. Dogs are just dogs.
An aside: My sticking point. Early on in Rifles for Watie Jeffrey’s family is violently attacked by rebel bushwhackers. The family manages to fend off the raiders, but not before the bushwhackers threaten a much more violent return. I was confused as to why Jeffrey would leave his family knowing they barely survived the first vicious attack. Yes, it gave Jefferey the impetus to join the war to fight the rebels, but what about his defenseless family back in Kansas? No matter. When he is home on furlough all seems fine and there is no mention of bushwhackers ever returning.
Author fact: Keith was dedicated to the state of Oklahoma where he was born, raised, lived, and died.
Book trivia: Rifles for Watie won a Newbery Award in 1958.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Rifles for Watie except that it explores one of the least well-known aspects of the Civil War.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction for Kids of All Ages” (p 114).
Lofting, Hugh. The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts Never Before Printed. New York: Duke Classics, 2012.
Reason read: Confessional! This was a complete and utter mistake! Pearl said any of the Doctor Dolittle books would be good to read and the only one she specifically mentioned (twice) was The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. But! It was indexed as the title Doctor Dolittle. Oh well. This was a fun little read which ultimately introduced me to the good doctor.
I would like to have known a real Doctor Dolittle. I can just imagine his house with its goldfish, dogs, rabbits, cats, mice, squirrels, hedgehog, cows, chickens, pidgins, horse, lambs, duck, pig, parrot, and owl…to name a few. You would think all of these animals would get in the way of Doctor Dolittle taking care of human patients when in reality, he preferred the animals to the people. When he learned to communicate with his furry and feathered friends it was game over. He gave up trying to cure the two-legged folks and concentrated on his true friends.
It is pretty high praise to be compared to Lewis Carroll. Hugh Walpole does just that to Hugh Lofting in his introduction to The Story of Doctor Dolittle.
As an aside, I would like to think Hugh Lofting influenced twentieth century pop culture. Dave Matthews sings about a “monkey on a string” and Shel Silverstein told of a crocodile with a toothache. Can you see Dave and Shel sitting down with Doctor Dolittle? I can.
Line I liked a lot, “Dogs nearly always use their noses for asking questions” (p 23).
Author fact: Lofting wrote the Dolittle stories for his children while he was stationed overseas in the form of illustrated letters. He dedicated Dolittle to “all Children. Children in Years and Children in Heart.” Very sweet.
Nancy said: Pearl said nothing at all since she didn’t specifically put this book on her list.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Do in the chapter called “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (p 190). Since “Doctor Dolittle” was in the index not as a proper title, I corrected it to read The Story of Doctor Dolittle.
Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: the Bad Beginning. New York: Scholastic, 2000.
Reason read: Halloween is October 31st. Same as it ever was. Read in honor of spooky stories.
This is a pretty horrible story, even if it is for older children. Unfortunate event #1: The parents of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire die in a terrible fire. In accordance with their parents’ last wishes, the children are to live with any next of kin. No one else will do. The judge happens to find distant relative, Count Olaf (unfortunate event #2). Olaf turns out to be a greedy son of a b!tch who will stop at nothing to get at the children’s rather large inheritance. I almost drew the line at incestual nuptials but was determined to finish the less than seventy page book. You can live through seventy pages of anything. What kept The Bad Beginning interesting was the frequent didactic definitions of words and phrases and the air of Victorian gothic mystery kept the story chilled. Truthfully, the all-out creepiness kept me engaged. Like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away. It’s no wonder there were sequels. No wonder most of the series were made into movies. It has even been a series on NetFlix.
Line I happened to like, “Sometimes, just saying that you hate something, and having someone agree with you, can make you feel better about a terrible situation” (p 15).
Confessional: When these books were all the rage (and then again when the movie came out) I wasn’t tempted to read them. Not in the least tempted. The same way I wasn’t drawn in by Harry Potter or the Twilight series, I had no desire to read Lemony Snicket.
Author fact: Lemony Snicket is the pen name of Daniel Handler.
Book trivia: Everyone knows the Unfortunate Events series was made into a 2004 movie. (One I have yet to see. Big surprise there.)
Nancy said: Pearl called the series “wonderful.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Only For Kids: Fantasies For Grown-Ups” (p 174).